Munchkin Monday Book Review, a day late: Oliver and Jumpy, Stories 43-45, by Werner Stejskal

Product Details

Is this your first encounter with Oliver and Jumpy? Yes? Then let me tell you about them. Oliver is an elegant tomcat, and Jumpy is his best friend. They are always on the lookout for new adventures together. Oliver lives in a treehouse on the mighty oak tree. He is the most famous cat in the country. Oliver and Jumpy have already been in many illustrated stories and new ones are being published all the time. (Author’s introduction to the series)

Author Werner Stejskal has written nearly 50 children’s stories about Oliver the tomcat and his best friend, Jumpy, all published as e-books. The book containing stories 43-45 was my first encounter with his work. As always with kids’ books, I read them aloud to my kids (2.5 and 5 next week!) because I feel like an adult-only review of a children’s book is just silly – of course, it matters what I think as a mother, but it’s essential to see a kid’s reaction to a book in order to really judge its worth. So, one day I sat down on my bed with my kids and my Kindle and we read the stories. Here’s a brief synopsis of each story:

Story #43, Flying Carpet: Oliver and Jumpy travel to Africa (probably Egypt, given the references to the pyramids and the sphinx) to rescue a princess in trouble. When they get there, they’re given a magic, flying carpet that takes them exactly where they need to go to help the princess meet her prince.

Story #44, Birthday Party: Oliver’s friends throw him a surprise birthday party, with paid singers, elephant rides, and a mud-ball fight. He thinks it’s the best birthday ever!

Story #45, Magic Berries: Jumpy eats magic berries that change his size. In order to change back to normal, he has to complete a quest without succumbing to any of the temptations along the way: free ice cream, hot dogs, and soft drinks.

All in all, I was underwhelmed by the books. They were fine – they’re short, and engaging enough, but I feel like (except for maybe #45) they generally lack a message. I like to learn from what I read, and I like the same for my kids. I also don’t particularly care for how often Oliver points out how well-known he is… sort of a “look how great I am!” attitude that I don’t particularly want my kids to adopt. On the plus side, the illustrations pair really well with the stories, which is really nice, and the stories are generally harmless entertainment.

What did the kids think? It’s hard to tell. Honestly, I think they were much more interested in getting to “turn the page” on my Kindle than they were in the stories. I’m not sure if that’s just because they’d never used a Kindle before (I never let them touch it!), but they also have never asked me about the stories again (not even to have a chance to touch the Kindle again). So, I’d say their verdict is pretty similar to mine.

So, three stars. Generally fine, nothing to rave about but not bad, either. That said, I don’t think I’m a fan of e-books for young kids. Maybe I’ll change my mind as my five-year-old gets older and reads more on her own, but for now…we’ll stick to paper.

*This book is currently available on Amazon for free. I obtained my free copy of the book for the purpose of reviewing, at the request of the author.

Book Review: Cape May by Holly Caster

Cape May by [Caster, Holly]

Spoiler Alert – This review includes some spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happens, don’t read past the second paragraph.

When author Holly Caster contacted me and asked me to review her novel Cape May, I was interested mostly because I’m from New Jersey and I welcomed the opportunity to read a little about Cape May, even fiction. I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever been there (maybe I’ve passed through once?), but my parents and my sister and her husband enjoy spending time there, usually staying at a small bed and breakfast. So, that made the premise of the story even more interesting: the main character, 60-year-old Joanna, seeks a change, planning to move from New York City to Cape May to open her own bed and breakfast. Perfect, right? I thought so. I was less sure about the rest of the premise: in the process of pursuing her dream, she falls in love with a man who is not her husband, whom she had married on a whim—and not for love—twenty years earlier. The specter of infidelity made me slightly less interested in reading the book, but the book jacket’s description ends thus: “How will her late awakening affect the future and her three-decade relationship with [her husband] Brian?” I figured the story could go either way – Joanna could choose rightly or wrongly; the idea that she would remain faithful to her husband seemed just as plausible as her choosing infidelity. So, I said yes and agreed to read the book.

The result? Mixed. On the first count, regarding reading about Cape May, I definitely enjoyed the description of the town, the old houses and bed-and-breakfasts, and just generally reading about being in a “Seaside Resort,” as the author terms it on the book jacket. It made me miss living by the beach, and I could practically hear, smell, and taste the ocean while I read about Michael showing Joanna around Cape May.


My lingering overall impression of the book is just sadness. No, heartache. The novel’s central characters experience such profound heartache, most of it inflicted by those close to them, that I just felt—and still feel—so sad. I feel sad for Joanna that she wound up unhappy in her marriage, but more sad for Brian that he wound up with a selfish, unfaithful spouse. I can find no room in my heart to be happy for Joanna and Michael as they embark on a life together, living Joanna’s dream of running her own bed and breakfast. None. Instead I just feel disgust for them.

It’s unfortunate that I wound up disliking the story so much, because the writing is great. The story is engaging and emotional – I literally had tears rolling down my cheeks when I read it (and I don’t think it’s because I was newly pregnant…though it could be). I cried for all of the characters as they navigate their unfortunate circumstances: Joanna, for her adolescent mistakes, for her decision to settle with Brian, for her indecision and heartache when she becomes involved with Michael. For Brian, and for Michael, as Joanna’s indecision drags each of their hearts through the ringer. And for much more. It’s just so, so sad what people do to one another, intentionally or not, as they navigate life and love. I also just have a really hard time reading (especially fictional) accounts of people making such bad choices…

In any case, this book gets 3 stars. Usually 3 stars means “it was good enough/it taught me something.” My rationale in this case is basically that while I didn’t particularly care for the story, I really do think it’s an excellent piece of writing and the author deserves credit for crafting a well-written and emotionally compelling story.

**Many thanks to Holly Caster for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Jungle Eyes

Jungle Eyes (Jungle Eyes Trilogy) (Volume 1) by Lindsay Marie Miller is part one of an adventure-romance trilogy set in 1899. Wealthy New Yorker Henry Rochester, fleeing his mother’s matchmaking efforts, boards a ship with a friend and thus embarks on what is supposed to be a one-year adventure sailing across the Atlantic. Instead, his ship sinks, killing everyone on board except for Henry. Improbably, Henry washes ashore on a deserted island inhabited by a young woman named Elaine, who washed ashore herself years prior after a similar shipwreck. Together they battle both the jungle’s natural dangers and human menace, facing wild animals, poisonous plants, extreme weather, and pirates. Inevitably, they fall in love and navigate their new relationship while trying to survive their circumstances.

Jungle Eyes is engaging light reading, with constant motion; there are no dull moments in the story. I read it within a day or two, and enjoyed being transported to another time and place. To read it, though, the reader must suspend any notions of reality. I find it completely fanciful and improbable. Plot elements like Henry’s shipwreck are treated very lightly, as is the fact that Elaine spends so many years alone on an island at such a young age without parents to guide her. In that regard, Elaine’s temperamental interactions with Henry make a lot of sense, but the link is never drawn by the author. Fanciful elements like Elaine’s friendly relationship with a panther and Henry’s ability to navigate a ship on the Atlantic with no more than a week’s experience at sea round out the fantastical story.

Reading Jungle Eyes was a bit like watching a fun romance movie. It offered an entertaining way to spend some time, but I don’t need to do it again and I’m not so interested in the sequel. You may feel differently if you enjoy this kind of superficial, surreal love story. It’s not my usual kind of reading, and for me, this falls into the “good enough” category, and earns 3 stars.

Rating: 3 stars

Buy the book: Jungle Eyes (Jungle Eyes Trilogy) (Volume 1)

*Many thanks to author Lindsay Marie Miller, who provided a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.