[Review] Sabriel by Garth Nix

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins. 2021.
Genre: Young adult. Fantasy fiction. Dystopian.
Pages: 368.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase @ Amazon.
Audience: Readers of young adult fantasy books.
Rating: A very good story-well-written-engaging. It is not my kind of story though.

My copy is a 25th Anniversary Classic Edition.

Link @ Amazon.

Sabriel is book one in a series of six books. The link is to Amazon to see the list of all the books.

Garth Nix’s Goodreads author page.

Website for Garth Nix.


Sabriel is a teenage girl aged 18. She has just finished the last term at a boarding school at Wyverley College.

A strange creature of death came to her school and delivered a sack with her father’s tools (he is the Abhorsen.) Principally his sword and silver bell. She immediately knows her father is in danger, probably dead, but maybe not beyond the gate of returning him.

Her father is a necromancer. A person who communicates with the dead in order to help understand and change events. Black magic is used. Often affiliated with a warlock or witch.

The plot of the story is Sabriel’s journey to the other side (the Old Kingdom) in order to find out what happened to her father and help him.

My Thoughts:

Now, isn’t this a book I usually read. No. But I wanted to read a story that is out of my usual. I wanted to read a story that appeals to young adult audiences so I can be informed. Informed about why the enticement to read this type of story.

As far as the storyline, plot, ending, characters, and all the events that unfold. The book is highly imaginative and readable.

I can understand the allure of the story. Sabriel is an antihero. She has an interesting upbringing. She has interesting abilities. She has a father who does not have the norm type career. She has been educated in a posh school for “young ladies.” But she does not overtly stand out with beauty and popularity. She is noticeable in her own way. If a person is observant.

Magic, charms, and spells are used to bring strength and power to help combat evil. These are tools of control that a human can use.

There are internal and external conflicts. The external conflicts are immense.

It is not a scary book. It is not an edge of the seat thriller. It is a journey, with a trial of testing during the journey.

The story is dark. It is depressing.

To an extent, people read fiction and especially fantasy fiction as a way of escaping real life. Except, Sabriel is an escape to a world of darkness and death. The spells and charms and tools of being an Abhorsen does not protect the person from danger and death. There is a limit to the ability of even an Abhorsen.

If a young adult is already depressed, is reading this story going to make them feel better? Will it lift them up? It is possible it will help them escape for a time.

I’m reminded of the reasons people engage in horoscopes, tarot cards, sorcery, etc. It is a way to control an outcome. A source of protection. A way of feeling strong and powerful. It is a person who wants to rise above and take charge of their life. It brings a security and satisfaction if only for a time. In the end, the reality is death comes to all. What then? In this story, there is a series of gates with horrible entities that haunt and beguile and torture. Sheesh.

I do not believe in, nor will I agree to ever ban a book. Nope. If my children were younger and wanted to read this story, I’d at the least say, “let’s read it together and talk about it afterwards.” Conversation after a story is a great way for families to connect.

My final thoughts:

Death comes to every living thing. We do not have control over it. We can eat healthy. Exercise. Do everything in our knowledge and power to do the right things to live a healthy long life. But death is certain. We do have a choice about what happens after our body dies. I believe in the afterlife. I believe that when I die my spirit is going to go somewhere. I am promised that I will have eternal life with Jesus Christ.

Rarely do I talk about my faith on this blog. But this book brought it up. I cannot let it go.

Will I read a book like Sabriel again? Probably not. It is well-written. But it is not the kind of book I enjoy reading.


[Review] The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Publisher and Publication Date: Original publisher and date is George M. Hill and Company in 1900. My edition is Kindle E-Book. The Kindle copy is no longer available as I purchased it at Amazon a while back. Other e-book editions are available.
Genre: Children’s fiction and fantasy.
Pages: 137.
Format: E-Book.
Source: Self purchase from Amazon.
Audience: Readers of Children’s stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link for an E-Book edition @ Amazon.

I believe there are a total of 14 in the series.


The film with Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale was released in 1939. It is titled The Wizard of Oz.

The film is so ingrained in my mind it is hard to imagine reading the story without picturing Judy Garland as Dorothy. While reading, I quickly picked up on differences in the film and book.

Most know the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But for those who do not know. Dorothy is in her farmhouse where she lives with an aunt and uncle when it is picked up by a tornado and set down on top of a witch in a new land far from her Kansas home. Her aunt and uncle did not travel with her. She wants to go home despite being in this bright and vibrant colored land. If you remember in the film, it is drab gray everywhere until she opens the door to this new Technicolor land.

She is told to travel a long journey to see Oz and he will help. Along the way she meets kindred folk: Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Lion. Each of them has a reason to see the great and wonderful Oz.

Oz wants help before he gives help to Dorothy and her travel partners. So, they embark on a new journey. They meet the terrible Wicked Witch of the West!

I almost forgot her dear friend and constant companion, her little dog Toto.

My Thoughts:

The film, The Wizard of Oz, is such a wonderful, beautiful, and endearing memory for me. Because I picture mother sitting beside me while watching it. I remember the different ages I have been while watching it. I remember watching it with my own children and grandchildren. The Wizard of Oz is a treasure in film. It is remarkable for its era. I could go on and on.

The book is memorable and remarkable because of its unique legacy in story. Remember it was published in 1900. What an imagination Baum had. I remember a Victorian fantasy story which was written by George MacDonald, Phantastes. I do not think there were many others like it.

So often films are not better than the book. In this case, I believe the film enhanced the book and complimented it. It certainly gave it a timeless quality.

For the book, I knew what to expect. It was fun to spot the differences. I will not share in review those differences but let the readers find them.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a splendid story of moral teaching, adventure, friendship, and endurance.

It has internal and external conflicts.

It has memorable and fascinating characters.

The book I have rated very good. I rate the film excellent.

Unfortunately, there is a popup ad right on the screen.

[Review] The Boxcar Children, Book One by Gertrude C. Warner

Publisher and Publication Date: Originally published by Rand McNally and Company in 1924. E-book created in 2014 by South Oxford Press.
Genre: Children’s fiction. Mystery. Grades 2nd to 6th.
Pages: 160.
Format: E-Book.
Source: Kindle. Amazon purchase.
Audience: Readers of children’s stories.
Rating: Good.

My e-book copy is no longer available at Amazon.

It is available at Project Gutenberg.

Website for The Boxcar Children.

The first 19 books were written by the original creator, Gertrude C. Warner. Other writers have written the continued stories in the series but acknowledge Warner as the creator. Most of the stories are mystery. A few of the stories are considered special. As of the newest book set for publication in March of 2023, there are 161 books.


Four siblings are left as orphans. Their names are Henry, Jess, Violet, and Benny. They leave their home not knowing exactly what they should do. They find an abandoned box car and live in it. They stay together. They work together to find things to use in their new home. Henry has a little paying job. Things go well with the children until Violet becomes sick.

The time period for the story is about the time it was written, 1924.

My Thoughts:

The Boxcar Children, book one, is a first time to read for me.

I’d heard of the book and further stories written because my eldest son had read a few of them. I’d also heard reviewers remark about the books. On my Kindle there are seven children’s stories. Actually, one of them has all twelve books in that series, Five Little Peppers. So, a final total of 19 children’s stories to read. I’m determined to read all of them this year.

I am a member of a classics reading challenge that is a Facebook group. For the month of January, the classic to read is a Children’s book, but I will be reading several.

I like this story. I am not in love with it.

The Boxcar Children is a story with moral and teaching points. It is endearing. It is sweet and innocent despite the children’s circumstance and plight.

I love how the children look out for one another. I love how they work together to overcome obstacles.

There is a closure of sorts at the ending because the children now have a better hope for the future.

[Review] Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Classic. 2013. Originally written in two parts, 1868 and 1869.
Genre: Fiction. Classic literature. American literature. Young adult.
Pages: 534 printed pages.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: American literature readers. Readers of Louisa May Alcott who are drawn to young women’s stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

I can’t believe my copy is $59.95 on Amazon. I paid a fraction of that amount at the discount store, Marshalls.

The text of this book is from the original in 1868,1869.

Goodreads page for Louisa May Alcott.

Further links of interest:

Women’s History.

Brittanica (with pop up ads.)


Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888.)


Little Women is the story of the four March sisters. Their names are Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

When the story begins, their father is away as a soldier in the Civil War. The family home is in Massachusetts. Their mother is Marmee.

Little Women is a sentimental and charming story of four different in temperament and personality sisters.

The story shares their lives over a period of several years beginning at Christmas time 1863.

My Thoughts:

This review has possible spoilers if you’ve not read or seen Little Women.

I did not fall crazy in love with the story; however, I did enjoy reading Little Women. This is a first time to read it.

What I love about Little Women:

  1. The genre for this story is not just one but several. Some examples are American literature, classic literature, coming of age story, and young adult.
  2. I love the variety of personalities shown in the four sisters. Jo is independent, an individual, outspoken, a writer. Jo makes a choice to do something different than most young women of her era do. She relocates to another city to learn the craft of writing. Meg is the most maternal figure with the exception of Marmee. Meg wants to get married and have children. She is the domestic sister of the bunch. It is through her story that I see represented a young married couple with young children. Beth is the peacemaker. She is meek and mild. She has inner strength and fortitude. She is a pianist. Amy is prim. She is an artist; oil painting is her media. Her role as the youngest of the sisters is presented as the spoiled one, the baby of the sisters who is a bit meddling and annoying.
  3. The story shows stereotypes in the characters. For example, Marmee is patient, nurturing, wise, and loving. Jo is a strong exception. She chooses a different path. I love her gutsy personality. I love her outspokenness. I love Jo’s individualism. And, I love seeing the imperfections in the sisters. However, I do not believe Alcott shows imperfections in Marmee. Marmee seems like an angel-above it all-hovering over the family like a Madonna.
  4. I love Laurie. He is an asset to the story in more than one way. He is an important part of how I see the family. Through his eyes and feelings and behavior, I see the sisters too.
  5. I love the descriptions of nature. Alcott writes of crickets and squirrel, and other creatures of nature. One of my favorite sentences in the book is referring to the sun and horizon. “The sun was low, and the heavens glowed with the splendor of an autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds lay on the hill-tops; and rising high into the ruddy light were silvery white peaks, that shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City.” Page 141.
  6. There are references to the book The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyon in this story. I love The Pilgrim’s Progress and I’m thinking of rereading it soon.
  7. I love knowing what happens to the family after they are settled in life. This gives the book a solid closure.

Final Thoughts:

I wonder why Marmee is depicted as perfect.

I wonder what her thoughts and voice would reveal.

I wonder if Laurie loves Jo because of “his” image of her (independence and outspoken nature.) But I don’t know if they would be happy together as a romantic couple.

Mr. March has a small role in the story. It is almost completely about the women with the exception of Laurie.

I’d read in the introduction that Alcott did not want to write a sentimental type of moral story. However, this kind of story paid the bills. Later, she made revisions to the original text. It must have pained her (to a degree) to change words in a text that she did not enjoy writing in the first place.

[Review] Half Notes from Berlin by B V Glants

Publisher and Publication Date: Anchor Media. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Young adult historical fiction.
Pages: 256.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and B. V. Glants. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers with an interest in Holocaust stories, and those who read young adult fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

B.V. Glants was born in Soviet Ukraine and immigrated with his family to suburban New Jersey when he was ten years old. Raised on family stories ranging from his grandparents’ fight for survival in WW2 to his parents’ confrontations with Soviet antisemitism, he now lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and daughter.

B.V. Glants is a lay leader at a Jewish day school, a Wexner Heritage Program member, and a technology entrepreneur, most recently having cofounded Tonic Health (sold to R1, NASDAQ:RCM) and Turnkey Labs. That hasn’t stopped him from earning an MFA at California College of the Arts and attending writers’ conferences at Squaw and Sewanee. He writes historical fiction from a Jewish perspective, focusing on how major historical events challenge and transform the lives of everyday families. Half Notes from Berlin is his first published novel.


Berlin, Germany. 1933.

Hans believes he and his family are safe from persecution.

Then, he discovers his family’s dirty secret: his maternal grandparents were Jews who converted to Christianity.

Driven by the desire to understand who he is and whether his mother’s blood is tainted, Hans befriends Rebecca, the only Jewish girl he knows. Perhaps if Jewish blood isn’t evil, his mother will be ok.

To be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany is dangerous.

But to fall in love with one is unthinkable.

Desperate to keep both his family’s true heritage and his love for Rebecca a secret, Hans attempts to navigate this terrifying new world. He’s disconsolate when his Jewish mother is kicked out of the Berlin Conservatory. He’s disgusted by his Aryan father’s aims to acquire a Jewish business on the cheap.

Worst, he must watch helplessly as his classmates target Rebecca with increasing violence and malice.

But when his school announces it will expel Jewish students, Hans is determined to fight for Rebecca — and the lives and souls of his family.

“…[a] beautifully written historical debut explores themes of identity and resistance…their gripping stories will stick with readers long after the last page.” –BookLife Reviews – Editors Choice

“A mesmerizing novel, moving and intelligent.”–Kirkus Reviews

This is the link for the Kirkus Review: Half Notes from Berlin.

My Thoughts:

I’m excited to share my thoughts about this story for two reasons:

  1. This is a first published story for Glants. I love to discover new authors. I love to read a first published story.
  2. This is a favorite genre.

I want to first share a few thoughts about the genre and the summary that’s been given. The book is presented as a historical fiction story, and the summary that’s given is brief or vague.

When I am browsing books there are several factors, I want to have clear information about. Half Notes from Berlin is a historical fiction story, but it is also young adult fiction and a coming-of-age story. Not all readers of historical fiction want to read those other two types of books. I happen to love all three genres.

I also enjoy having a strong summary to read. It is the summary that sets the tone as to what I can expect. It is a prompt and a teasing and a setting of the stage for the full story.

Kirkus Reviews gives a strong summary of the book, and you can read it at this link: Kirkus Reviews.

I have come to expect that when I read historical fiction there is almost always a reflecting back from the narrator of the story. Often there are dual time periods. This is a form or structure in a story that I dislike. I don’t mind reflecting back-what I don’t like is the back and forth, and back and forth between the dual time periods. I love it that Half Notes from Berlin stayed in the past (with brief thoughts from the man who is telling the story), AND it stayed in a short period of time, the spring of 1933. This pivotal and significant period of time in the life of a 15-year-old young man. It is during this time period that changed the course of his life.

One of the best points of this story is I felt engaged because of the main character, the 15-year-old young man named Hans. He is exactly how I’d imagine a young man of his age to be. In his interests, vulnerabilities, stubbornness, and rebellion. He has strengths and weaknesses. He has a vision of what his life is and what it can become. He is a lone child of parents who are at odds and unhappy. His parents do not work together as a team. As a result, his grandparents are a source of stability. Yet, all of the adults have failed to be honest with him.

Hans has a group of boys he hangs around with in school. He joins a youth choir with the help of a female classmate who is an assertive kind of girl.

Hitler’s influence and ideology has seeped or poured into the youth groups or movements of Germany. Hans is unsure of the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, he has a building interest in another girl in his class. He is drawn to her, I feel, because she is different. There is something remarkable about her. She is vulnerable; however, she is strong. She is a Jew. The growing hate and abuse escalate among the other classmates towards her.

The story has several inner and outer conflicts that pull me along because I have to know what will happen.

I am glad the story is over a period of several weeks in the spring of 1933. This gave time to examine closely the various events and impact of the people.

I wish the story had allowed Hans’ mother’s character to develop more. She is a character with much more going on in her mind and past life. There is a revealing of some things of her past, but I am left wanting to hear her voice-her thoughts.