The Black Pearl ★★★★★

blackpearlbig (custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Black Pearl
Series: ———-
Author: Scott O’Dell
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: MG Historical Fiction
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback Edition

 

Synopsis:

A young man, Ramon Salazar, recently turned 16 is made a partner in his father’s pearl business. He learns to grade and buy and sell the pearls the small fleet his father owns brings in each trip. However, what he really wants is to go diving with the fleet. His father allows him to come out with the fleet but only as a handler, not a diver.

The best pearl diver in the fleet is jealous of the opportunities that Ramon has and constantly needles him about not being a diver. This “Sevillano” claims to come from Spain and spins stories of all the exploits he has done. Eventually, it gets to Ramon and when the fleet makes a week long trip, he heads out to an Indian diver and begs him to teach him. Ramon learns how to be a diver and is shown a cave where Manta Diablo supposedly lives. The Indian tells him to not dive in the cave, as Manta Diablo will come after anyone who takes something from him.

Ramon can’t resist the lure and gets a huge clam which gives up a huge perfect “black” pearl. The Indian warns him that he is now cursed by Manta Diablo. Ramon heads home and gives the pearl to his father to show that he is a great diver, and to get back at the Sevillano for all his jibes. The father haggles with the local merchants and in a fit of pique at their stinginess, gives the pearl to the local Roman Catholic Church.

The next week the fleet is destroyed by a huge storm and only the Sevillano survives. This convinces Ramon that the pearl is indeed cursed and he steals it back from the church to take back to Manta Diablo’s cave. The Sevillano catches him and forces him to go to Mexico City where they can sell it for a huge fortune.

On their way, they are overtaken by a huge manta ray. After several incidents, the Sevillano harpoons the manta and eventually jumps on it to knife it to death. A rope wraps around him and he and the manta plunge into the depths never to be seen again. Ramon rows back to his village, returns the pearl to the church and realizes that he has grown up.

 

My Thoughts:

I had read and bought this back in elementary school at a book fair I believe. I enjoyed it a lot as a kid so I was kind of hesitant to dive into again and potentially ruin it. Kind of like how I got fed up with Lucky Starr by the end of the series. Some childrens books just aren’t meant for adults. However, since it was only 96 pages I figured I could pitch on in and rip through it at lunch times. Which is what I did.

What a great book!

This is the kind of adventure story that can capture the imagination of a young boy. O’Dell knows how to write for a youthful audience without churning out simplistic slop. Ramon deals with some huge issues and O’Dell gently guides the reader along that journey and makes a youngster think about what might change in their life and how would they respond? I love, Love, LOVE the fact that at no point is Ramon an angst-ridden whiny baby. O’Dell doesn’t buy into the lie that young people have to be coddled and that anything “tough” will destroy them. He shows that THROUGH adversity is how a man is forged. Phrack, it is refreshing to see that in a middle grade book.

Keeping in mind the target audience, I loved this story. O’Dell writes a character that inspires the reader instead of pandering to them. It is no wonder that O’Dell won so many awards and honorable mentions back in his heyday.

First 5star review of the year. While probably not a real contender for best book of the year, I think that a 96 page story about a 16 year old young man that can inspire a 40 year old like this deserves some attention. Ramon’s quiet fortitude and steady action is what is needed in more books today.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful ★★★☆½

hauntedhouseful (custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful
Series: ———-
Editor: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 262
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories that purport to deal with haunted houses, things that go bump in the night and other such supernatural goings ons.

 

My Thoughts:

This was part of a “Young Readers” series put out with Hitchcock’s name on it. He wrote an introduction to each book but each consisted of short stories by other authors. I think I was introduced to these when I was 10 or 11 and I loved them. This particular one I re-read because I own it and needed a paper book to read while on lunch breaks. Kindles don’t deal well with sitting in a bookbag in sub-freezing weather for 8’ish hours.

Honestly, besides one story with a ghost and one story that involves a supposed haunted house, this book was more a collection of “boys adventure” stories than anything. Also, several of the stories are from other collections or novels. For example, one of the stories was the Sherlock Holmes “Mystery of the Red Headed League” and a long excerpt from “Tom Sawyer” that involved the story with Tom getting lost in the caves and finding treasure. Several of the other stories I am guessing were also parts of series that I simply wasn’t aware of.

That doesn’t mean they were bad stories, it’s just that the cover is extremely mis-leading. I did find the Sherlock Holmes story too long and the same for the Tom Sawyer excerpt. They weren’t nearly as short as the other short stories. I can easily see a 10 year old getting bored by them and putting the book down.

It helped lunch time pass tolerably well for a week or so, so I consider it to have succeeded at what I wanted it to do. I don’t have any desire to go search out any of the other “Alfred Hitchcock’s….” anthologies however.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Despicable Me (2010 Movie)

despicableme (small)Yeah, you probably thought I was going to talk about MYSELF didn’t you? Don’t try to deny it, I can see into your mind and I know your naughty thoughts!  Since I lied to you all in my 2018 in Review post and promised more movies in 2019, I figured I’d start the year off right with a movie that I absolutely love. Thanks to Orangutan Librarian for doing a post on Minions and reminding me to get this ball rolling.

I was late to this party (as is the case with almost all the movies I watch, excepting John Wick) but my goodness, I’m solidly in now.

Basic premise is that Gru is a villain who keeps getting upstaged by another younger villain. Gru decides he’s going to steal the moon but needs the prototype of the Shrink Ray to do so. Of course, Young Villain has already stolen the Shrink Ray. Gru adopts 3 girls who are selling girl scout cookies so he can slip robot cookies into the Fortress and steal the Shrink Ray. Gru ends up fully taking on the roll of the girls’ father and it begins to affect his performance as a villain. His resident mad scientist, Dr Nefario, gets the girls put back in the orphanage so Gru will concentrate on stealing the moon. Gru does steal the moon only to have Young Villain steal it from him. Young Villain also kidnaps the 3 girls to have leverage over Gru. Turns out the Shrink Ray isn’t permanent so Gru has to rescue the girls AND return the Moon so it doesn’t destroy the city. In the end Gru adopts the girls and everyone starts disco dancing at the girls’ performance of Swan Lake. Sigh, those silly minions!

 

The first thing that hooked me was the Minions:

minions

Boatloads of semi-stupid, nearly indestructible minions who talk in indecipherable french and love bananas. They are funny and got enough laughs to get their own movie later on.

They also are the window into who Gru truly is. He cares about his minions and knows all their names and their families. He’s not evil, just a villain. Gru starts off as a real bad ass and I loved him in that role.  How can you not love somebody who walks into a coffee shop, hollers out “FREEZE RAY!” and proceeds to walk up the line freezing everyone, grabbing the coffee and pastry for the first customer and then walking out the door?

freezeray (small)

Freeze Ray!

 

Then the girls come onto the scene and you know that Gru is going to turn into the man with a heart of gold.  Each of the girls is very unique and heartwarming in their own way.

285949c9cfa3ed1a9c4b821cfcc2365e-agnes-despicable-me-despicable-minions

 

 

Vector and his Father, who runs the Bank of Evil,  make for great “real” villains and are so ham handed and over the top and silly that there isn’t a shred of doubt that Gru will prevail. Kind of nice to have the Good vs Evil be so clear cut. Of course, for the target audience of 10 year olds, I’m sure it’s breathtakingly tantalizing if Gru will be The Good Guy or not!

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The ending is the perfect blend of silly, sappy and funny all rolled into one. Gru disco dancing with the girls is just priceless and is worth almost the whole movie just for that.

disco

 

 

Overall, this was so much fun. There were a lot of clever ideas and humorous gags and  I’ve been re-watching this regularly several times a year. Not tired of it yet! It also has heart in just the right amount to make me all manly blurry eyed. Completely recommend this. If you have watched Despicable Me, what did you think of it?

Next month I’m thinking of going over either The Transporter with Jason Statham or RED with Bruce Willis. Feel free to let me know your preference if you have one.

 

redtransporter

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Little Grumpy Cat that Wouldn’t (Grumpy Cat) ★★★★☆

littlegrumpycatthatwouldnt (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

 

 

 
Title: The Little Grumpy Cat that Wouldn’t
Series: Grumpy Cat
Author: Little Golden Book
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Children
Pages: 24
Format: Board Book

 

Synopsis:

Grumpy Cat meets lots of other friendly little animals and has a horrible time until they leave her alone.

 

My Thoughts:

Another cute little Grumpy Book by Little Golden Books. Unfortunately, Little took the easy route and simply used the better known Grumpy Cat meme answers whenever one of the friendly little animals would ask Grumpy Cat a question. Whether that answer made the most sense or not. Dinged ½ a star just for that.

My second, and definitely biggest issue, is how this book tries to brainwash the children with it’s politically correct gender politics. Grumpy Cat is referred to as a female. Now, just because the real life grumpy cat is a female and it is a female in A Very Grumpy Christmas doesn’t actually mean that Grumpy Cat IS a female. Grumpy Cat is kind of like zen, more of a state of mind than a state of actually being. You wouldn’t go up to a zen monk who was meditating, push him over and feel him up, would you? At least, I hope you wouldn’t. If you would, please don’t follow my blog any more! Dinged ½ a star for that.

Other than that, this was another great instance of Grumpy Cat standing up for all of us who hate other people and company and pretty much life itself. We have our Champion now!

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition ★★★★★

phantomtollbooth (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition
Series: ——
Author: Norton Juster
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover

 

 

Synopsis:

Milo is a discontented, bored little boy. Until one day he gets a tollbooth and goes on an adventure to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. With his friends Tock the Watch-Dog and the Humbug, Milo will learn the importance of words and numbers and just how they can affect everything.

Milo completes his adventure and once back home realizes just how big of a place our world is and how much there is to do. No more boring days for Milo!

 

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books I read as a kid and that has stuck with me ever since. I couldn’t remember every detail, but the clever word plays and number games always stuck in my head. So when I saw this 50th Anniversary Edition a couple of years ago I had to pick it up. Of course, it’s taken me several years to actually get around to reading it.

It is a children’s book so some things are childish. But even now, I never felt like Juster was trying to talk down to his audience or dumb things down. I enjoyed the heck out of this. I had forgotten just how quickly everything happens. Bam, Bam, Bam.

If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend you do. It is good even for adults. If you happen to know some kids, I’d even higherly recommend this to them.

This 50th Anniversary Edition had a forward from Maurice Sendak [which was actually from the 35th Anniversary Edition] and several “How the Phantom Tollbooth Affected Me” stories from various people at the end of the book. I wasn’t impressed with Sendak’s blabbing and will definitely be skipping that if I read this again. I WAS looking forward to the various stories at the end, but sadly, I only recognized 1 or 2 names and nobody told a good story. It was all the same “I love it, my children loved it, the dog loved it.” blah, blah, blah. It did make me wonder who all those people were whose names I didn’t recognize. Maybe someday I’ll care enough to look them up, but not now.

To end. The story was fantastic, the addons, ie the forward and the stories at the end, not so much. Ignore those, read the story and have a wonderful time! I’m giving it my “best book of the year” tag as well.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge

Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons (Calvin and Hobbes #7)

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This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

 

Title: Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons
Series: Calvin and Hobbes #7
Author/Artist: Bill Watterson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 128
Format: Kindle digital scan

 

My Thoughts: 

Another fine collection by Watterson. I found myself laughing a lot more in this collection than in the previous one. I don’t know if that is because this was truly funnier, or if it was because more time had elapsed since my last C&H read.

I’ve got a few more collections left. Once I’m done with those, I don’t know that I’ll ever plan on re-reading these. As a teen, C&H enthralled me. As an adult, they’re amusing me. I suspect that as a mature adult, they will come across as tedious or shallow. I don’t want that and I’d rather never read them again and keep the good memories.

Finally, is that title a mouthful or what? I had to go to Wikipedia and just search out Calvin and Hobbes and then copy/paste the title or else I would have gotten it wrong.

star40full-custom

The Last of the Sky Pirates (Rook #1) (The Edge Chronicles #5)

3ba95efed8771d8f671c2c3812ef4943This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

Title: The Last of the Sky Pirates

Series: The Edge Chronicles

Author: Chris Riddell & Paul Stewart

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Genre: Children’s SFF

Pages: 386

Format: Kindle digital edition

 

Synopsis:

50 years after Twig sailed off to find his shipmates, things have changed on the Edge. Shrykes and Guardians of the Night control the city and the glades. Stone Rot has destroyed all flying ships. The Librarians now hide in the sewers, sending out their best and brightest to make new discoveries in the Deep Forest.

Now Rook must make the journey to the Free Glades where he will learn how to survive the Deep Forest.

Along the way, he will learn skills, make friends, meet Legends and find that only those close to you can truly betray you.

 

My Thoughts:

I was very glad that this was not another Quint book. Being a continuation of the story from Twig’s time is good. At the same time, when Rook meets Twig and hears his story, it is SAD. All the potential Good is spent on an unfulfilled search by Twig. He never got back to Riverrise, never got back to his shipmates, never got back to the Stonespeaker Girl.

But this was Rook’s story. However, you can see the similarity between Rook now and Twig then. It doesn’t bode well for Rook’s future. As a children’s story however, it works well. It makes the child the hero and the adult the sad figure that bad things happen to.

I am done with this series though. It is meant for children and what a child will pass over or not even notice, bugs the heck out of me. I don’t want to read this into the ground. Part ways while we’re still on speaking terms, so to speak.