Friday, April 18, 2014

Goldtown Adventures Series - a Kregel Review

I was given the opportunity to review two books written by Susan K. Marlow. The books are part of a series called Goldtown Adventures, and their titles are Canyon of Danger and River of Peril. These are children's books that are appropriate for ages eight through twelve, and since the main character is a boy, they would probably be most appreciated by boys, though I'm sure girls would enjoy them, too.

Canyon of Danger is Book Number Three in the Goldtown Adventures series. You can read the first chapter of it at this link, if you'd like.

Book Description
Jem Coulter's pa, the sheriff of Goldtown, is away on a trip to deliver a prisoner to Sacramento, and he has left Jem in charge of the ranch-along with Aunt Rose, that is.
No sooner is the sheriff gone then trouble starts-a dead calf, a mysterious stranger, and then Pa's horse, Copper, and his prize rifle are stolen. And Pa's deputies seem unconcerned. Jem and his cousin Nathan find Copper's tracks end at a dark canyon up in the hills.
Jem remembers an old Indian legend Strike-it-rich Sam is fond of retelling about people disappearing and no one ever seeing them again. What is the real story of the canyon of danger? Have thieves found the perfect hideout?
Readers ages 8 to 12 will be entertained by the adventurous spirit and historical lure in this fast-moving series that teaches about life in the post-Gold Rush days of 1860s California. Quick-paced plots and unforgettable characters make these books fun for the whole family.

My Thoughts
Let me just say first that this is a book that would've interested me when I was a kid. I probably would have turned away because it had a boy on the cover, but if someone had told me it was an interesting book, I'd have read it anyway. This is a book you want to read anyway! When I sat down to read, I wasn't able to read very far before my infant needed my attention, but I managed to finish the first chapter. Boy, was the first chapter a gripper! That is my mark for a keeper. If the first chapter doesn't reel me in, I've no real desire to keep going. This one was not one of those.

I was very impressed with the plot. There was enough excitement to draw in a child, and the story line didn't get too overwhelming, nor was it frightening. The characters were all very believable, and I felt like I "knew" Jem.

To take this on a personal level, I have a nine year old son who is very picky about what he reads. There aren't as many wholesome books for boys of this age, I feel, as there are for girls. It was nice to find a series of books that weren't just good, clean fun, but adventurous, too!


River of Peril is the second book that I read. It is Book Four in the Goldtown Adventures series. You can read the first chapter of it at this link.

Book Description
Jem Coulter thinks his family is just on a sightseeing trip to the big city of Sacramento. Then armed bandits hold up the stagecoach for the secret stash they're carrying: gold for the Union Army fighting the distant Civil War! Suddenly war isn't so far away; it's right there on the road to Sacramento, with Jem's father, the sheriff of Goldtown, fighting against the rebel army's Knights of the Golden Circle.
When the family finally reaches the city, they think they're safe at last. Setting out to see the sights, Jem, his sister Ellie, and their cousin Nathan make a new friend. But is Henry the pal they think he is? With a father who is a die-hard Confederate, could Henry be in cahoots with the thieves?
River of Peril gives readers ages 8 to 12 the fast-moving, exciting adventure they've come to expect in this series, as well as a glimpse into the history of post--Gold Rush and Civil War life in 1860s California, with stagecoaches, steamboats, stowaways--and lots of gold!

Jacob's Thoughts
My nine year old reviewed this book. He thought that Jem was a realistic character and said that he would have liked to have had Jem as a friend. He thought it was odd that a kid would have a rifle and shoot it. What a difference between current day and 1860's America! He liked the fact that when Jem was in trouble, he called on God to help him. Jacob thought it would be fun if he could be on an adventure with Jem. Jacob is not a fan of reading, but he enjoyed reading this book. 

My Thoughts
This was a well thought out story. I loved the steamboat adventure. I thought that Susan did an excellent job describing life on a steamboat. Her research has shown in this book, and the historical tidbits make the book seem like history come alive. Also, like Jacob, I thought it was nice to see a character cry out to God when he saw that he needed help. 

This is a series that is easily read. Its chapters are short--relevant to the age of 8-12 year olds. This series would be perfect for a family read-aloud or for individual use. I haven't read the first two books in the series, but each of these books has been perfect for stand-alone, so don't be afraid to read them out of sequence. Susan does a wonderful job of informing the reader about who the characters are, so there's no concern about trying to figure out who is whom.

Susan has enrichment guides that go along with each of the books in this series! Check them out--they're perfect if you homeschool, if you are a teacher in a private school or a parent who just wants a little enrichment in your child's life.

I received Canyon of Danger and River of Peril as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Kregel Blog Tours. My comments and opinions are my own.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Periodically, it's crossroads time. You know what I mean. I can't help but be sad when it comes, because I'm consistently indecisive by nature. The "what if's" always present themselves, and I get anxious that I'll choose the wrong path for myself. As I often tell my children, the decisions that I [or they] make affect everyone around me. Unless you live on a deserted isle with no one around you, your choices are going to have an impact. That can be bad, but it can also be good. I'm trying to accentuate the positives.

Getting used to having a fifth human being in our home has been delightful and a conundrum all at the same time. Living in a small home always presents challenges, but ultimately we've made it work. I hate clutter, though, and feel like we're about to burst at the seams.

I digress.

Now that our third son has been born, we've had some definite changes. These first four months have been hectic. The first two months, especially, were borderline nightmarish because I'd had four places decide to open up on my incision line, little Joel was suffering from acid reflux, and I was trying to keep up with my pumping schedule.

Now that he's almost five months old now, I'm fully healed, and his reflux is certainly manageable. For almost two months, he's been able to sleep in his crib. No more recliner sleeping for mom or dad!

Writing has been in my head again. It is a never-ending battle to find time to write. It's easy to put it off sometimes, because it's a lot of hard work. Last week though I felt a nudging to begin again. It all happened in four days. On Thursday, I began brainstorming for an Easter story that we need to have written for next Saturday's youth event at church. On Friday, I talked to my mom and she was encouraging me to start writing again. On Saturday, I began writing the Easter story, and on Sunday I finished it. I guess those four days were the kick start that I needed. Now I'm doing research again, getting thoughts together, taking notes, and all that fun stuff. I'm anxious to get the story writing started, but I've learned that it's useless for me to start writing if I've not done my homework. I just hope and pray I can be patient enough to learn what I need to learn and get my prepping done before getting down to the fun stuff.

In addition to writing being on my mind, I've also got to do some research for my son's high school "career". He'll be a freshman in just a few months, and I feel a bit anxious to make sure everything is perfect on my end. All of his school work to this point has been in preparation for these last years. It's quite a nail-biting experience for me. This is the big time for me as the teacher. This is the big time for him as the student to make a good impact on his future. Above and beyond that, though, I want his high school years to be memorable. I want him to have an exciting high school learning experience. Shoot, *I* want to have an exciting high school learning experience with him! Ha!

For now though, the only changes I'm interested in on a large scale are the changes I'm seeing outside. I bought some tulips and daffodils today, and I plan on going outside, grabbing a bag of topsoil and filling pots with beautiful flowers. THAT is the kind of change that I can handle for today!