Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #65

Welcome to my weekly throwback book review! Each week I’ll be rereading and reviewing one or two books from my childhood. I was a huge reader as a child and these books shaped my life. I couldn’t possibly get rid of them, so I still have a large collection that I am sharing with all of you in the form of reviews.

#65 The Cereal Box Mystery: It’s just a normal day in Greenfield. The kids are out running errands, because apparently their housekeeper can’t go to the grocery store so she sends four kids with bikes to get their food. Benny is obsessed with a sugary cereal ‘Silver Frosted Stars’ and the stars that come inside the box, because if he collects enough of them, he can get a detective’s badge. So the kids buy three boxes and Benny opens one right away to start looking.

But we can’t just have a normal day in Greenfield. After they get the groceries, they see a thief running out of the local jewelry store who knocks their bikes over. He stole a very valuable cabochon ruby jewelry set. There are three witnesses to the crime: the store owner, a man looking for an engagement ring, and a woman who tries to stop the thief at the door. With no leads, the kids are on the case.

That night, the Alden’s home is broken into, and the only thing missing is one of the boxes of Frosted Silver Stars. When everyone has a big bowl of it in the morning from the opened box, Benny finds a special prize: a couple of pretty rings which he gives to his sisters. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

The kids investigate the case of the missing jewelry while they continue to be targeted at home by someone going through their trash, and grabbing another box of Frosted Silver Stars from their boxcar. They finally put two and two together and realize that Violet’s ring is a cabochon ruby, the thief slipped it into the cereal box when he ran from the store, and has been trying to steal it back ever since. But where’s the rest of the set?

It turns out that the woman who tried to stop the thief is actually a black belt in karate, so not only did she not stop him as she could have, they deduce that he slipped the jewelry to her. The kids set up a trap with the police to catch the two thieves red handed and save the day again. And Benny finds enough stars to get his detective badge.

I mostly remembered this one, it’s a pretty decent mystery as far as kids solving mysteries go. One thing I just don’t understand is why the thieves kept grabbing any box of cereal they could find. He slipped it into an open box but then stole a new sealed box. So he realized exactly what brand of cereal he stashed it in, but not the fact that it was already opened? Also, immediately following the robbery the woman accomplice offered to throw away the opened box for them, thinking it was damaged. It isn’t clear if she knew at that point that is where he stashed it. That would have been a very different story if the box ended up in the trash without anyone finding the ring.

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #64

Welcome to my weekly throwback book review! Each week I’ll be rereading and reviewing one or two books from my childhood. I was a huge reader as a child and these books shaped my life. I couldn’t possibly get rid of them, so I still have a large collection that I am sharing with all of you in the form of reviews.

What We Missed: The Soccer Mystery, The Growling Bear Mystery, The Mystery of the Lake Monster, and The Mystery at Peacock Hall Apparently the Aldens join a soccer team, visit Yellowstone, stay in a mountain lodge, and help yet another cousin with a mystery.

#64 The Black Pearl Mystery: In the bizarre perpetual summer that is their lives, the Alden kids are off on another vacation, this time to Hawaii. No lounging on beaches for them however, as they have another cousin in need of their help. Cousin Mary owns a pineapple plantation that is in dire need of business help. So the Aldens go with their grandfather in order to see how they can help, along with their other cousin Soo Lee, without her adoptive parents. Grandfather immediately leaves for another island… to take business meetings? It’s not quite clear. But he leaves the kids alone in Hawaii with his cousin where they are put to work picking pineapples.

No Boxcar Children book is complete without a cast of sneaky, sketchy characters. They first meet Mary’s manager, Joseph, who is friendly at first but becomes increasingly standoffish over the course of the book. There’s also the lady who runs another large plantation and a pineapple cannery, who wants to put Mary out of business. Lastly, there’s a strange couple who stay on the plantation with them, and always seem to be around when you don’t expect them. They claim to be looking at farms to purchase in the area, but do a poor job of actually pretending to do it.

The children learn of a story about a legendary black pearl that makes everyone clam up when they ask about it. Of course, this makes them want to know even more. They finally learn the story when they overhear Joseph telling the story to his grandchildren. Apparently it was a very valuable black pearl that was found, but brought bad luck to anyone who possessed it. It was then placed back into the ocean for five hundred moons, when it would then lose all of its bad luck. Apparently this legend happened approximately five hundred moons ago.

The Aldens go snorkeling just for fun, but they keep being warned away from the water, with their equipment getting stolen and false reports of shark warnings. It seems someone wants to keep them from looking for the pearl. They see something silvery in a cave underwater but are unable to reach it.

In the end, Joseph shows them a box containing a large black pearl. He had found it while diving where the children had been snorkeling and saw their treasure. The cannery woman claims the pearl as hers since it was found close to her property; she’d hired divers to find the pearl and tell everyone else that there were sharks. The mysterious couple had also been diving for the pearl, and they were the ones to steal the children’s snorkels.

Apparently Joseph had been the one in the legend to find the pearl in the first place, and he had given it to Mary’s husband but the bad luck had continued so it was placed back into the ocean. Mary and Joseph decided together to use the proceeds from the black pearl to help out the plantation.

I don’t have much to say about this one. It was a nice safe mystery where the kids didn’t actually do much sleuthing for once. All they wanted to do was enjoy Hawaii and help out with the plantation, and they ended up helping find the pearl anyway. It was one of the newer ones/last ones I bought, and I didn’t remember much about it at all. Overall, pretty forgettable.

The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook by Josie Brown

25253781I downloaded this book during an ebook sale quite a while ago and just now got around to reading it. I was not compensated for this review in any way.

Donna is just your typical housewife, going into labor with her third child, when she is told her husband has been killed. Following that shock is the news that he was a secret spy on an important mission. Donna is in need of a job when her husband’s former boss offers to have her trained for the same position. So she starts her double life: by day she’s a soccer mom, by night she’s out getting information and killing people.

Finally, she gets the news: they’re closing in on the group who had her husband killed. And she wants revenge. But who can she really trust?

Just when you think you know where this story is going, it twists… then twists again. I’ve always been good at guessing where a book is going to end up, and I love when they surprise me. This book will keep you guessing right to the end. There’s a whole series of books, no surprise there, but this book doesn’t leave a terrible cliffhanger to leave off on. It’s a good opportunity to continue the story with characters you like if you want to.

The Baby-Led Weaning Family Cookbook

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This book will be released on August 2, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

As I am planning on baby-led weaning our son when he’s old enough, I jumped at the chance to read and review this book. Baby-led weaning is basically just placing large pieces of food in front of your child and letting them explore. This book is a fantastic concept, meals that are full of large chunks of food for baby to pick apart and eat, but still tasty enough to serve to the rest of the family.

It starts out with an overview of baby-led weaning with tons of great tips, and then proceeds with dozens of recipes that have components baby can grasp and feed themselves. All of the recipes seem really easy, no more than 4 or 5 steps each. I’ve saved a couple to try later, such as delicious sounding bean burgers.

Overall this is an amazing resource if you want to try baby-led weaning but don’t want to prepare an extra meal for your baby, and still want them to eat well. Some of the recipes I do not think I will be trying however. There are a few stew and soup recipes that while they are full of large pieces of food, I feel like it is way too messy for a baby to eat with their hands. BLW is messy in general, no need to make it more so, at least in my opinion.

Also, some of the recipes involve ingredients that I just wouldn’t normally buy, such as lamb. However, this collection does an amazing job of giving you options so that your baby can try as many different foods as possible. If you try cooking from this book, not only will your baby eat well, but the rest of your family will as well.

This book also reminds you of the foods your baby shouldn’t be eating by noting on the side what parts should be served separately to the rest of the family such as anything too salty, or things to leave out completely such as mayo, which contains uncooked egg.

There is a wide range of recipes to choose from, so any family can benefit from using this book. They’re sure to find something they will like.

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #58

Welcome to my weekly throwback book review! Each week I’ll be rereading and reviewing one or two books from my childhood. I was a huge reader as a child and these books shaped my life. I couldn’t possibly get rid of them, so I still have a large collection that I am sharing with all of you in the form of reviews.

#58 The Mystery at the Alamo: Right on the heels of their big trip to San Francisco, with no mention of it whatsoever, the kids and their grandfather take a trip to San Antonio to visit the Alamo, because their grandfather has a friend there. As always. Man this guy knows a lot of people. They are unable to take a tour of the Alamo because there’s a movie being shot on the premises, so they go over to watch.

The second they step foot on the set, the director hires the children to be extras, and asks them to recruit another boy as well, 14 year old Antonio, named after the city. The five children meet the cast and crew of the movie and don’t even get a chance to settle in before things start to go wrong.

Jessie is instructed to hand a bouquet of flowers to the leading lady Claire, who immediately starts sneezing because someone added ragweed to the bouquet. Violet identifies the offending plant and it is removed. In their next scene, the steps on the set break as Claire walks down them. Either she wants to be fired so she can return to LA, or someone has it out for her.

There are plenty of suspects, from her understudy who would love to take her part to the leading man who wants more lines. The children are determined to get to the bottom of it.

Things continue to go wrong every day, all geared to make Claire look bad. Finally, a ring is borrowed from the museum to be used in the movie, and it goes missing, resulting in the police being called and the movie in jeopardy of being shut down. The children have their suspicions, so they follow one of the actors, the leading man’s stand-in, to a diner where he discusses getting Claire fired with her agent, so she could go film another movie. Mystery solved.

I have a lot of thoughts on this book. I liked this one growing up because I was born in Texas, and we took a trip to the Alamo after I read it. I was really excited to see the ring featured in the book (I don’t remember if I actually did). I have questions about the movie they’re shooting. Why did they have to film it on location? Is it a fictional movie or a documentary? Because they state that Claire is playing a woman who was at the Alamo, and the man is playing Davy Crockett. But at some points in the movie filming, Claire is giving the children a tour of the Alamo museum and talking about the history. It’s a bit strange.

Also, this cover. First of all, that picture of the boys is going to suck if she’s taking it from that close up, and they’re not even looking at her. And what is up with that camera? This book was published in 1997, and I’ve never seen a modern camera that looks like that, it almost looks like a camcorder. Their grandfather takes the film to be developed in an hour as well, that camera doesn’t look modern enough to be able to do that.

Diary of a Fat Girl by Moira Mugweni

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I downloaded this book during an ebook sale quite a while ago and just now got around to reading it. I was not compensated for this review in any way.

Bernadette is tired of being the fat one. The fat friend, the fat sister, she’s just tired of it. She’s leaving for NYU at the end of the summer and she’s determined that this summer is going to be the summer she gets fit. She goes to a gym to get a personal trainer but is disappointed at how expensive it is. That is, until the owner’s son catches her and offers to train her himself for half the price.

Warren is a tough coach, but he doesn’t let her give up. He puts her on a diet and has her out of bed at 6 am to work out. At least he’s nice to look at. They get closer and closer over the summer as Bernadette loses the weight and gains confidence in herself. Except he’s not the only one to notice the change…

She reaches out to a boy she met on a school trip that she ended up sleeping with, as she feels they never got closure. Fred is very interested in reconnecting and she looks forward to the day they can meet again when he’s in town. Except she can’t get Warren out of her head either.

Bernadette spends the summer improving herself and her relationships, including bonding with her twin sister who she had grown apart from. Both guys have their own secrets, so that’s not an easy decision for her to make, but she has the help of her friends.

This book left off on a serious cliffhanger, which I hate, but I do like her journey and where she is at the end of the book (pre-cliffhanger). The two guys into the same girl (that we’re supposed to consider unattractive) thing is a bit overdone but unlike most books, I feel like she made the right choice and didn’t get hung up over the decision and string us along.

 

 

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #57

Welcome to my weekly throwback book review! Each week I’ll be rereading and reviewing one or two books from my childhood. I was a huge reader as a child and these books shaped my life. I couldn’t possibly get rid of them, so I still have a large collection that I am sharing with all of you in the form of reviews.

#57 The Mystery in San Francisco: The Aldens are back with their Aunt Jane and her husband Andy. They’re on business in San Francisco so the kids flew out to join them and have an adventure.

Their aunt and uncle have a friend who owns a fishing boat, so when the kids start hanging around to learn about the fishing industry, of course things start to go wrong. The restaurant the fisherman Charlie supplies to complains of rotten fish, boats come untied and float away, and they see people on the dock in the middle of the night when they stay overnight on a boat. When the kids go out on a fishing expedition, they find that someone has taken the fuel and cut the radio wire.

While sightseeing around the city, the Aldens keep seeing a woman who looks just like Charlie’s assistant Kate but she denies ever being at those places or otherwise has an alibi. A second fishing trip results in finding the nets cut. Someone seems like they’re out to get Charlie, or at least ruin his fishing business. And the kids keep seeing a mysterious man hanging around the docks in a suit. What is going on?

Thanks to a broken lantern that Henry finds, proving one of the other fishermen was on the dock causing mischief, they identify the person responsible for all the issues. He’s a newer fisherman hoping to get an advantage. The mysterious man in the suit is a private investigator hired to figure out who was causing trouble, and Kate’s lookalike is her twin sister, working with him. So the Aldens spend another vacation solving a mystery.

This one was interesting simply because I’ve visited San Francisco a number of times myself, so I was familiar with a lot of the places they visit like Pier 39. One thing I found hard to believe was the fact that the kids’ aunt and uncle were renting a house on Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. Those houses are worth millions of dollars these days.

Overall this was a fun one, I like when they visit places that exist in real life and you learn a bit about real places. I learned that Alcatraz means pelicans, which were the first residents of the prison island.