Book Review: 100 Cupboards

100 Cupboards: Book 1 of the 100 Cupboards by [Wilson, N. D.]

Twelve-year-old Henry York wakes up in the middle of the night to discover that the plaster is falling off the walls in his room to reveal a hidden cupboard, so what does he do? He stays up all night scraping more plaster off to reveal more cupboards. These aren’t just ordinary cupboards, though. Most of them are locked, but the ones he can open lead to strange places that they couldn’t possibly lead to. The mystery deepens when two letters come to him through the doors. But that’s not all that makes it through. Evil finds a way out as well.

Henry discovers secrets that his family has been keeping for years and finds out that he’s not who he thinks he is. Only by working together can he and his family and friends survive.

Wilson does a great job of describing the typical family life. The adventure starts off a little slowly, but we have a rich account of Henry’s experiences as he gets settled in to his new life in Kansas. Suspense begins to build once the cupboard doors are opened and Henry gets a glimpse of what’s waiting inside.

4 Stars

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Book Review: The Shadows

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Creative and curious Olive moves into a huge old house with her mathematician mom and dad. While her parents love her, they don’t really understand her, and she’s often left to her own devices. She explores her new home and is fascinated by all the things left behind when the previous owner died. One item that she finds when she’s rummaging through the closets and dresser drawers is a pair of old glasses. When she puts them on, she sees things move in the many paintings lining the walls of the old house. But that’s not the strangest thing she learns. She finds out that when she wears the glasses, she can actually enter the paintings.

With help from the three talking cats who lived there with the previous owner, Olive explores the creepy basement, scary attic, and the worlds painted in the pictures. She makes friends and enemies and tries to ignore the resentful vibes given off by the house itself.

Her journey of exploration and discovery lead her not only conquer the evil she encounters but also helps her find her courage.

West creates an exciting world and some wonderful and realistic characters. I highly recommend this book.

5 stars

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Book Review – The Ever After

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May Bird is a bit of an outcast. She lives with her mom and her hairless cat, Somber Kitty. She doesn’t have any friends, and is constantly being taunted by her schoolmates. One way she deals with the teasing of the other kids who just don’t understand her is to disappear into the woods surrounding her old West Virginian home. There, she can become a warrior princess and leave all her troubles behind. One day, she falls into a lake in the woods behind her house, and spirals down into a whole new and incredibly strange world.

There, she is surrounded by ghosts and specters and must be careful not to fall into the hands of the evil Bo Cleevil.

Anderson had created a wonderful, colorful, and elaborate world full of imaginative creatures and items. We watch as May gains confidence and begins to take charge of her life. This is an excellent “coming of age” story.

It might be a little scary for small children.

4.5 Stars

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FREE E-Book. Today Only.

A potion that turns people into trees, monstrous panthers, a band of Xandi who seem to want them dead… When Molly and her friends travel through one of the impossible doors in the generator room, they find themselves in a strange land full of dangers they never knew to expect. Are the Xandi that live here as evil as the Gardener says, or is the Gardener the one who can’t be trusted? And what is in the mysterious bunker that is rumored to hold the greatest weapon ever known? Molly and her friends must stop the evil that threatens to rise. They just have to figure out who the evil ones are first.

Get your copy here: here. Reviews are welcome.

The Forest of Faces

Diamonds, a Neptunian’s Best Friend

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Diamond rivers, diamond icebergs, diamond rain: some scientists believe that all of these can be found on the planet Neptune (and Uranus). Scientists have done experiments recreating the pressure and temperature that can be found on Neptune and discovered that when diamonds are liquefied and then re-solidified, they act much like water. The solid diamonds will float in the liquid diamond like an iceberg in water. Of course it wasn’t easy to melt the diamonds. It took pressure that is 40 million times greater than what is felt at sea-level on Earth. Coincidentally, that’s the level of pressure that diamonds would encounter on Neptune.

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As for the diamond rain, apparently, with enough heat and pressure, tiny diamonds can form in the methane in the atmosphere of Neptune. Based on research done at UC Berkeley, if pressurized liquid methane is heated to over 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, diamond dust can form and rain down on the planet.

Isn’t that cool? So, when’s the next rocket to Neptune? I want to book my ticket.

The Bleeding Tree

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This is the Dragon’s Blood tree. The Dragon’s Blood tree “bleeds” when it is cut. Well, not really, but it’s red sap certainly looks like blood. People throughout history have used this unusual sap, or dragon’s blood, for many things ranging from dyes and medicines to glue, breath fresheners and alchemy.

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The tree is rare and can be found on some small islands in the Indian Ocean, particularly on Socotra Island. The inhabitants there use the dragon’s blood sort of as a panacea to cure many and most medical problems.

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But even without the benefits of it’s unique “blood,” this tree would still be a beautiful addition to any landscape.

The Verdict: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 6

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“The boy’s fate is for the council to decide, Red Bear” said a gray-haired man stepping up out of the hut behind him.

Red Bear growled and pushed past as the old man motioned for them to enter the hut. The angry native stomped across the bridge and out of sight.

Lem walked through the doorway and looked nervously at all of the stern faces sitting around the center fire. He stopped just inside, not sure what he was supposed to do. Running Wolf walked up behind him and led him to a pile of furs on the floor. Lem slowly sank down onto the unusual seat. The gray-haired man walked around the fire and sat down cross-legged in the only other empty spot.

“I am Standing Elk, the chief of the underland tribe. Your presence here causes us great trouble, offlander.”

Lem looked away embarrassed. His curiosity had led him into a great many problems in the past, but never anything like this before. He didn’t know what to say.

“I’m sorry.”

“Perhaps,” replied Standing Elk, “but that does not change the facts. The facts are these: our underland tribe has remained a secret for over one hundred years. During that time, we have not had to face the trials from the offlanders that our brothers who chose to stay on the surface have endured. We will not easily give up the freedom that we enjoy here. Therefore, we will not take any risks that our location might be found. “

“Um, ok,” Lem stammered. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”

“No, you will not,” Standing Elk sighed sadly.

Lem began to panic. Were they going to kill him after all? “Wh…what do you mean?”

“I am sorry, but we cannot allow you to leave here. Do not worry. We will not go as far as Red Bear suggested, but you will not set foot up on the surface again.”

“B…but, but, wait. That’s not fair. I have to go back. My mom and dad… You can’t do this!” Lem grew angrier and angrier as the reality of what Standing Elk meant began to sink in.

“I am sorry, but that is my final word. Running Wolf will find you a place to live and help you get settled in. You are his responsibility now.”

Lem glanced over at Running Wolf still shocked at what the chief had said. Running Wolf didn’t look pleased.

“But my parents,” Lem all but shouted as an idea occurred to him. “They’ll look for me. They’ll get the whole town involved. You don’t know them. Won’t it be dangerous to have everyone searching the forest? They might find you anyway.” Lem smiled triumphantly.

“We will ensure that the search takes place on the far side of the island. There will be no danger to us. Running Wolf.” Standing Elk looked at the native boy sitting next to Lem and nodded dismissingly.

Running Wolf nodded back and stood up. “Come.” He looked down at Lem who was still sitting there dumbfounded.

“But…”

“Come!” Running Wolf repeated sternly. He grabbed Lem’s arm and pulled him to his feet.

“B…but…” Lem stuttered as Running Wolf pulled him out of the hut. He couldn’t believe it. He was a prisoner! He’d never see his family again. His eyes scanned the cavern walls as Running Wolf pulled him back across the bridge and down the path. He’d have to escape. That’s all there was to it. But as he looked around, he realized that would be all but impossible. Guards stood at each entrance. He knew that he’d never be able to get past them.

It began to grow difficult for him to breathe, and his chest felt unusually heavy. Lem feared he might have a panic attack. He forced himself to calm down. They can’t keep me here, he thought. My parents will find me. Or if they don’t, I’ll be able to escape. I can do this! They can’t watch me all the time. It won’t be easy, but I will. I will get out of here! I will!

The Hidden Village: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 5

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Surrounded by stern-faced natives all with arrows notched and pointed at him, Lem began to think that maybe he should have listened to Running Wolf and left the dragon alone.

Nervously, he watched them. For what seemed like an eternity, no one moved. Then, one of the men jumped down to a lower ledge on Lem’s left and started to speak in a language he didn’t understand. Lem watched the man feeling confused. Surely they must realize he didn’t speak their language. Suddenly, a voice behind him made him jump as it replied in the same language. Lem turned to see Running Wolf standing there, eyebrows drawn together and lips pursed angrily.

“You should not have come,” he growled at Lem. “The hidden village is forbidden to all offlanders.”

“What will they do to me?”

“I do not know. None has ever dared to intrude before.” Running Wolf sighed. Even though he was angry at Lem, he couldn’t help also being impressed. When he said that no offlander had intruded before, what he really meant was none had ever been able to find them. But he was also upset. He had been assigned the task of watching Lem ever since the first time he had entered the forest. He would definitely get in trouble for this.

“Come. We must go see Big Elk. The council will decide your fate.” Running Wolf jumped down to a lower ledge to the right that Lem hadn’t seen before and hurried off without looking back.

Lem only paused for a moment. He knew that if he followed the young native, he would undoubtedly face some punishment for his actions, but this hidden world was too tempting to leave. Anyway, he reasoned to himself, it wasn’t as if he could escape. He didn’t have any illusions that he would be able to get away from them if he tried.

Lem looked over the edge of the platform he stood on and cautiously climbed down to the one below it hurrying to catch up to Running Wolf.

They walked down a pathway beside the stream, through the rocky cavern. Lem couldn’t see the guards anymore, but he knew they were still there, watching him.

Up ahead, the ground rose higher, and a large archway loomed over the path. As they walked nearer, their road became rockier. They had to climb over the large boulders that had fallen away, or been knocked out, to create the opening. At one point, Lem even had to scramble up a large stone on his hands and knees. Watching his feet the whole way, he didn’t notice what lay on the other side of the archway until he made it to the top of the hill and stood directly underneath it.

On the other side, the whole scene changed. Gardens grew high up on the ledges soaking up the sunlight that streamed in from the various holes in the ceiling. Huts, that appeared to be made from some sort of thick bark, lined the walls of the cavern and another tall waterfall ran down from high above on the far side to feed a stream that met the other one in the middle. More trees and flowers dotted the floor and ledges in the unusual village.

Lem gazed around in wonder. It was beautiful, and the people milling about working on their everyday tasks seemed to be happy, especially the children who hovered nearby, curious about the intruder.

But the most surprising sight of all was the dragons. Lem counted seven that he could see. Some of them slept quietly in the shadows, but others ran around with the children or lay down next to the huts.

“Tame dragons?” Lem mumbled in surprise.

“Yes,” answered Running Wolf a little reluctantly. “But they can still be dangerous to strangers or when they feel threatened. You would be wise to avoid them.”

“Is that the one that came to the school?” Lem asked excitedly pointing to a dragon with an unhealed would on its leg. The dragon sat in front of a hut with a little boy who watched Lem’s progression curiously.

Running Wolf frowned but didn’t say anything. He just kept moving ahead. Lem tore his eyes from the dragon and looked at the path in front of them hurrying to catch back up. Their destination seemed to be a large round hut set on a rock platform in the middle of the cavern. The stream split in two and circled the platform coming together again on the other side. A small bridge led over the stream to the hut.

As they crossed the bridge, the door swung open and a tall native man, who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, stormed out. Through the open door, Lem could see a circle of older men sitting on the floor around a fire inside.

“So this is the intruder,” growled the newcomer glaring at Lem. He leaned down and stared Lem straight in the eyes. “You know our secret now,” he hissed. “I hope you realize that this means we cannot let you live. You must die. And I will take great pleasure in the being the one to kill you, offlander.” His lip cured up in a snarl and a maniacal gleam lit up his eyes at the thought.

The Secret Cave: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 4

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Lem walked to his P.E. class with a familiar sense of dread. He’d never liked P.E. which shouldn’t be surprising since he often tripped over his own feet just walking. Running, though, running was something he could do. It’s surprising how good a person can get at running when that person has a habit of annoying other people.

Yesterday, their P.E. teacher, Coach Ketter, had told them that they would play dodge ball today. He really hated dodge ball. It hurt. And now that he had made a group of enemies at this new school, it hurt a lot.

Lem ran through a list of excuses in his mind as he slowly trudged toward the gym. Inwardly, he felt along his body. Did anything hurt? Even a little? For a brief moment, he thought he might have felt a slight pressure in his head. That was good. He could say he had a headache. It kind of ached. Well, he could feel it at least. That could easily grow into a headache, couldn’t it?

As he contemplated the exact definition of “ache,” he walked past the science room and looked in longingly. Now, that was a class he liked. He’d gladly trade gym for three or four extra science classes. Glancing through the door into the back of the room, he stopped suddenly and took a quick step back. There they stood. The native boys he had seen on his first day.

Almost two weeks had passed since Lem had followed the dragon into the woods. Even though he hadn’t seen Running Wolf again since then, he still nervously felt like he was being watched every time he even went close to the tree line on the school property. But he hadn’t tried during school hours. He hadn’t dared after the lecture he received from missing class that first day.

Today felt different. P.E. was his last class of the day. He wouldn’t mind skipping it. Running Wolf and his friends had a science class, so he didn’t have to worry about them. He just had to think of a good excuse to convince Coach Ketter to let him leave.   

Butterflies fluttered in his stomach as he walked down the hallway with renewed vigor. Excitement at the possibility and nervousness at the danger fought within him until he almost felt sick. He might have to go throw up before he left, but at least he had his excuse now.

As he entered the gym, he stopped smiling and tried for a believably sick expression as he approached his teacher.

“Coach Ketter, I don’t feel good. My stomach feels weird. Can I be excused from class today?” Lem tried to control his voice, pitiful enough to earn sympathy but not so pitiful that it sounded fake.

Coach Ketter looked at Lem carefully. He didn’t believe for a moment that the boy was sick. It didn’t take a genius to realize that Lem hated P.E., but he felt sorry for him. Coach Ketter knew Lem would get clobbered in dodge ball. For some reason he seemed to be the one all the others went after. He sighed.

“Ok, you may be excused, but I expect to see you back tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir!” Lem said a little too enthusiastically.

Coach Ketter raised his eyebrows knowingly. Lem clutched his stomach and said, “Thank you,” in as sickly a tone as he could manage and exited quickly before his teacher could change his mind.

He hurried to the bathroom and waited for the bell to ring. He didn’t want to run the risk of being seen and having to abort his mission. When it seemed that the coast was clear, Lem snuck onto the hall and rushed toward the side door intentionally avoiding the hallway with the science room. Once outside, he hurried into the woods.

It took him a little while to locate the spot where he’d lost the dragon, and when he did get there, he had to dig around in the bushes to find the hole where the dragon had disappeared.  Grabbing the small flashlight that he had carried hooked to his belt every day since he’d first followed the dragon here, he carefully aimed it down into the hole leaning back a little in case the dragon was inside. He’d expected to find a small burrow or other type of dragon lair. What he didn’t expect to see was a tunnel that appeared to grow wider the further in it went. His light didn’t shine far enough for him to get a good look, but he felt pretty sure that this was a cave that opened up further in.

Sitting back on his heels, he took a moment to think. If he was wrong, and this was a dragon’s burrow, he would be an idiot to crawl inside. But he hadn’t seen any dragons, and he was pretty sure it had opened up. He’d read a lot about animals, and he remembered reading that komodo dragons would sometimes dig “shallow” burrows. This wasn’t shallow. But, then again, this dragon looked different than any picture of a komodo dragon that he had ever seen, and he had watched the thing disappear down into this hole. Arrggg! His curiosity almost felt overwhelming, but his sense of self-preservation wouldn’t be ignored.

A rustle behind him made him turn his head sharply just in time to see a squirrel run up a tree. He let out a sigh of relief. He’d thought for a second that Running Wolf had followed him. That decided it. He might never get an opportunity like this again. He had to check it out. If he didn’t, he’d never forgive himself.

Lem looked around on the forest floor and picked up a thick stick. It would be difficult to carry this down the hole with him, and it probably wouldn’t do much good against a dragon, but he wasn’t about to go down there without some sort of weapon.

Pushing the stick in front of him with one hand and holding his flashlight in front of him with the other, Lem crawled awkwardly into the hole scooting along on his elbows for several yards until the passage opened up enough for him to stand. As he walked along, the walls seemed to be closing in making his path narrower and narrower. Disappointment began to rise in Lem when it seemed like the passage came to a dead end.

“No!” he complained loudly. Exasperated, he looked around frantically shining his flashlight in every direction, but he could see nothing except shadows. Refusing to give up so soon, Lem walked up to a wall and began examining every crevice determined to circle the entire space. About three quarters of the way around, he found a crevice that was more than a crevice. The opening couldn’t be seen from where he had been standing before, but it could clearly be seen from the opposite angle. It was wide enough for him to walk into even though it was a bit tight in places.

With renewed excitement, Lem pushed through the narrow passageway. To his surprise, the cave tunnel began to get brighter as he walked. Before long, he didn’t even need his flashlight. He quickly turned it off and clipped it back on his belt. Not only did the path get brighter, it also grew wider. He had to continually remind himself to be cautious to stop himself from running. Finally, he turned a corner in the tunnel and stopped to stare in wonder. The passage opened up into a huge cavern. Small holes sprinkled around the top let in sunlight, and trees and other plant life dotted the floor and clung to the walls everywhere. A large waterfall fell down into a stream that flowed through the length of the cavern.

Lem stood on a ledge overlooking the beautiful scene and gazed at it in wonder. But his wonder quickly turned to fear as an arrow swooshed by his face and stuck in the wall right next to his ear. Looking around in alarm, he saw seven island natives standing on ledges high above. All of them had arrows pointed directly at him. He gasped in alarm tightly clutching the stick he still carried. Well, he’d done it now. His curiosity had finally killed him. Lem lifted a shaking hand to wave.

“Um, hi?” he said smiling nervously.