Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Revolutionary Summer


Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis

Blurb: 

"A distinctive portrait of the crescendo moment in American history from the Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian Joseph J. Ellis. The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country's founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them. In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain's Admiral Lord Richard Howe and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, showing how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other. Revolutionary Summer tells an old story in a new way, with freshness at once colorful and compelling."

My Review:

By now you should all know how much I love American History. That is one of the reasons I slacked off my blogging at the beginning of the year. I took an American History college course so that I would have enough credit to renew my teaching license (yay!!). I have read 1776 a bunch of times, and I love it every time. Needless to say, I was really excited to read this book! It took me awhile to read it (hence my lack of blogging lately......), but it did not disappoint! It isn't quite as easy to read as 1776 is, but it is still so well written. I loved how Mr. Ellis delved into the British side of it as well as the American side. It was interesting to learn the intentions and different strategies of the Howe brothers. I know I have heard about them before, but I really enjoyed getting into their heads a little more. I have to say, I am so glad that they made the atypical blunders and missteps that they did; it made our cause possible against such a formidable foe. This book went quite a bit into the politics of the day and how the political feeling of the day actually hindered our win. The people felt that a national army went against everything they were fighting for; therefore, the Continental Congress, even though they wanted a national army, was never able to actually provide General Washington with that luxury. Washington had to win the war with a piecemeal of state militias. The terms were about one year, and the personnel were constantly changing. Crazy! There were many things (I would say miracles, others may have another word for it.....) that had to come together in just the right way for us to win. Thankfully, it worked in our favor. This book is well written, very informative, and packed full of information. I learned a lot, and enjoyed reading it. If you are an American History fan like I am, then you definitely need to read this book, and if you aren't, then you should still read it! 

Rating: PG-13 (It's war. It describes certain battles where many people died.It's not overly graphic, but does spell out what happened during these battles.)

Recommendation: 14-15 years-old, depending on the YA's maturity level. This book would be great for a history class. Every American should read this book so we remember where we came from and the lives that were lost to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cover Reveal!!!

Sooooooo.....................I have a new segment for you! I don't know how often I'll do it, but we'll try it out! I have a cover reveal to show you! This is a new book from J.Scott Savage, and it will be out in the Fall of this year. Are you ready???? Drumroll  please...................


Pretty neat, right? Have I peaked your interest yet? Well, just in case, here is a little more info.:


Author Note:
Like many of my books, the inspiration for my new series Fires of Invention came from the collision of two ideas. The first time the story occurred to me was while I was watching the musical Wicked with my wife. The moment I walked into the theater and saw the huge mechanical dragon above the stage, I thought, Wow! I have to write a story about that! A few weeks later, I was talking with my nephew, who is probably the most creative kid I know, but whose inventiveness often gets him into trouble, and I thought, What if a kid who had the talents of my nephew lived in a world where creativity was against the law? What if the kids were building . . . a steam-powered dragon? Bam! I had my story.

Powered by great feedback from my agent, Michael Bourret, my good friend and author James Dashner, my publisher, Chris Schoebinger, and the song “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons, I wrote the entire first draft of the first volume in the series, Mysteries of Cove in four weeks. This book is unlike anything I have ever written. There are elements of City of Ember, Dragon Riders, and Hugo in it all mashed up together in a world I fell in love with from the moment I started writing.

I think what’s most exciting to me about this book is that it’s about giving yourself the freedom to imagine. To take chances. Too often we limit ourselves by only trying things we’re confident we can succeed at when what we need to do is give ourselves permission to fail. Often it is when we attempt things with no idea of how we can possibly pull them off that we achieve our greatest successes.

Book Description:
STEAMPUNK! Plus Dragons!
Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and "invention" is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion-an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlikely anything they've ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on-and quite possibly their very lives.


Author Bio:
J. Scott Savage is the author of the Farworld middle grade fantasy series and the Case File 13 middle grade monster series. He has been writing and publishing books for over ten years. He has visited over 400 elementary schools, dozens of writers conferences, and taught many writing classes. He has four children and lives with his wife Jennifer and their Border Collie, Pepper, in a windy valley of the Rocky Mountains.
INSTAGRAM: jscottsavage


.........Are you excited yet???? Me too!!! I'm already on the list to review it when it comes out later this year, so I'll let you know what I think!!!...............Stay Tuned!!!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Princess Academy


Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Blurb:

"High on the slopes of rocky Mount Eskel, Miri's family pounds a living from the stone of the mountain itself. But Miri's life will change forever when word comes that her small village is the home of the future princess. All eligible girls must attend a makeshift academy to prepare for royal life. At the school, Miri finds herself confronting bitter competition among the girls and her own conflicted desires to be chosen. Yet when danger comes to the academy, it is Miri, named for a tiny mountain flower, who must find a way to save her classmates--and the future of their beloved village."

My Review:

My sister is always complaining that because my boys are oldest, I don't have enough good middle grade/YA book ideas for girls. I try to keep up with my boys, and so I haven't really read any good books in that age group for girls. Well, this review is just for her! I read it with my book group this month, and I am pretty sure we all enjoyed it. This book is well written. It's easy to read and understand, the character development is really good, there are some fun surprises along the way, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Hale's writing style. What girl doesn't dream of being a princess someday? This academy will give one lucky girl just that chance. I loved the individual personalities of the girls. It definitely took me back to my school days. The characters reminded me so much of my friends growing up. There are some that are extremely competitive, some that are loud, some that are timid, some that are angry no matter what, some are very studious, and some are always getting into trouble. I did not like Olana at all. She was the teacher at the academy, and she wasn't very nice. Miri drove me crazy at times, but at other times she was so strong and brave and courageous. She is a great character for these girls to be reading about because she has a lot of good, strong qualities. She has her moments, as do we all, but she is smart, fun, a little mischievous, courageous, and a good friend. I loved it when she took the information back to her village! There is some drama with other girls, but it's not the main story. There is a scene that is tense and may bring out the nail-biting, but it's not overly dramatic. It adds a different dimension to the story and spices things up a bit. I also loved the quarry-speech. It's very clever, and I loved how Miri studied, tried, learned, experimented, and ended up including all the girls. The ending is a bit of a surprise, and there are some fun moments. I really enjoyed this book! 

I loved especially that this book is clean! There is no profanity, no "intimacy," except for maybe a small kiss, and although there is a little bit of violence, it isn't gory or graphic. Nothing inappropriate happens. (Yay! Thank you!!!) It is great for fifth and sixth grade girls for sure. The fourth grade girls may be a little young, so I would recommend that the parents read it to make sure it is ok for their daughter. 

Rating: PG (Some very minor violence, and maybe a tiny peck of a kiss.)

Recommendation: Fourth Grade Girlies and up (If your daughter is in fourth grade then I recommend that you read it first to make sure you feel it is ok for her. If you have a daughter in fifth grade or above then she should be fine reading this book.)



Monday, May 4, 2015

That Night


THAT NIGHT by Chevy Stevens

*This post was originally written on 7/9/14. I'm reposting it because it is now out in paperback AND.....I have a copy to give away! The first person that comments below saying they would like it, gets it!) 

(Summary taken from shereads.org)
"They said she was a murderer.
They said she killed her sister.
But they lied.
As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.
Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.
Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.
But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all."
July's SheReads selection is "That Night" by Chevy Stevens. This is the first time SheReads has selected a suspense, murder mystery, and I was excited to read it. Chapter One intrigued me. There is this woman who is getting out of prison after what sounds like a very long sentence. I wondered what she had done to be imprisoned for so long. I wondered why she didn't have any family to pick her up or get her new clothes to wear. I wanted to know more of the story. And then I got to Chapter Two. Chapter Two flashes back to this same woman when she was in high school. Her name is Toni, as you later figure out. And that is where I lost interest. Seriously. I've read a bunch of the SheReads reviews of this book, and so far I'm the only one who didn't enjoy it. I think this is why: I am 100% opposite of Toni. I'm opposite in every way. I could not relate to her at all. Yep, I'm the one who was called "good-goody" and "teacher's pet" in school. I'm the one who would study rather than go to a party. I've never done drugs, smoked, or tasted alcohol. Those things never interested me in school, and they don't now. I know I'm in the minority in this so others may feel differently, but I just couldn't relate to her. I found her extremely unlikable and disagreeable. I cringed at all the things she did and started praying that my kids won't do those things. I didn't relate to Ryan either. Or Nicole. Or the friends. Or her parents. Ok, Toni's dad is probably the one person I kind of liked. But he wasn't that great either. It's not that I judge her, or anyone, for choosing those things, I don't, I just do not do them myself, and therefore can't relate to those experiences. The writing style was ok; there were some twists and turns that I hadn't anticipated. The character development was good. Even though it flashed back and forth between the present and the past it was fairly easy to follow, so that wasn't the problem. The problem was that I didn't like Toni or Ryan or really anyone. I couldn't find a way to like them or care about them. I also felt like Toni being bullied in high school, prison, the half-way house, and after was unrealistic. I didn't like her victim mentality. It just kept going and going. I did feel bad that they had been in prison if they were innocent, like they claimed, but that's as far as it went. And if she were that worried about being bullied, why would she go back there? Why not move somewhere completely different and get a fresh start? The other problem for me was the language. There is so much profanity in this book that I found it distracting. And it's not that easy to skip words, it's them plus dozens of the "f' word. And the teen-age intimacy, drug use, smoking. All of it put together just made this book completely unappealing to me. 
There is a gruesome murder, lots of teen-age intimacy, smoking, drug use, stealing, lying, fighting, and way too much profanity. There are dozens of "f" words and lots of the other words. I guess it did do a few things for me: if I had ever thought of wanting to go to prison (which I haven't)--I FOR SURE don't want to now! Also, Toni does realize that her drug use was a problem and she ends up quitting. So that was a positive.

Rating: R (Murder, teen-age intimacy, smoking, drug use, stealing, lying, fighting, lots of profanity, including many "f" words)
Recommendation: Adult (This book is NOT appropriate for YA or anyone younger than an adult.)

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.



Monday, April 27, 2015

Shel Silverstein

I have been teaching an early morning poetry class at my kids' school. It's for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, and we have been having so much fun! Each time we come to class I spotlight another poet, and Shel Silverstein is one of my favorites! I have a couple of his books, but I had no idea how many he has! I went to the library and checked out a bunch more for the class, and we have enjoyed going through all of them. I thought I'd put all the poetry that's on my brain to use on my blog, and do an author spotlight. Enjoy!

Shel Silverstein


Shel Silverstein Bio. (Taken from www.shelsilverstein.com):

"And now . . .a story about a very strange lion—in fact, the strangest lion I have ever met." So begins Shel Silverstein's very first children's book, Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. It's funny and sad and has made readers laugh and think ever since it was published in 1963.
It was followed the next year by four new books. The first,The Giving Tree, is a moving story about the love of a tree for a boy. In an interview published in the Chicago Tribunein 1964, Shel talked about the difficult time he had trying to get the book published. “Everybody loved it, they were touched by it, they would read it and cry and say it was beautiful. But . . . one publisher said it was too short. . . .” Some thought it was too sad. Others felt that the book fell between adult and children's literature and wouldn't be popular. It took Shel four years before Ursula Nordstrom, the legendary Harper & Row editor, decided to publish it. She even let him keep the sad ending, Shel remembered, “because life, you know, has pretty sad endings. You don't have to laugh it up even if most of my stuff is humorous.” Shel returned to humor that same year with Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? and A Giraffe and a Half
If you had a giraffe . . .
and he stretched another half . . .
you would have a giraffe and a half . . .
is how it starts, and the laughter builds to the most riotous ending possible.
The fourth book in 1964 was Uncle Shelby’s Zoo: Don’t Bump the Glump! and Other Fantasies, Shel’s only book illustrated in full color. Shel combined his unique imagination and bold brand of humor in this collection of silly and scary creatures. Shel’s second collection of poems and drawings, Where the Sidewalk Ends, was published in 1974. It opens with this Invitation:
If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!
Shel invited children to dream and dare to imagine the impossible, from a hippopotamus sandwich to the longest nose in the world to eighteen flavors of ice cream to Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out.
This was followed by The Missing Piece, published in 1976, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, published in 1981—two companion fables that explore the concept of fulfillment.
With his next collection of poems and drawings, A Light in the Attic, published in 1981, Shel asked his readers to put something silly in the world, not be discouraged by the Whatifs, and turn on a light in the attic.
A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC
There’s a light on in the attic.
Though the house is dark and shuttered,
I can see a flickerin’ flutter,
And I know what it’s about.
There’s a light on in the attic.
I can see it from the outside,
And I know you’re on the inside . . . lookin’ out









He urged readers to catch the moon or invite a dinosaur to dinner—to have fun! School Library Journal not surprisingly called A Light in the Attic "exuberant, raucous, rollicking, tender and whimsical." Readers everywhere agreed, and A Light in the Attic was the first children’s book to break onto the New York Times bestseller list, where it stayed for a record-breaking 182 weeks.
Yet Shel did not set out to write and draw for children. As he told Publishers Weekly in 1975, "When I was a kid . . . I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn’t play ball, I couldn’t dance . . . so I started to draw and write. I was lucky that I didn’t have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style."
Shel Silverstein was born in 1930. He grew up in Chicago and created his first cartoons for the adult readers of thePacific Stars and Stripes when he was a GI in Japan and Korea in the 1950s. He also learned to play the guitar and to write songs, including “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” sung by Dr. Hook. He performed his own songs on a number of albums and wrote others for friends, including his last, in 1998, “Old Dogs,” a two-volume set with country stars Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, and Jerry Reed. In 1984, Silverstein won a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album for Where the Sidewalk Ends—“Recited, sung and shouted” by the author. He was also an accomplished playwright: His credits include the 1981 hit The Lady or the Tiger and The Devil and Billy Markham. He and David Mamet each wrote a play for Lincoln Center’s production of Oh, Hell!, and they later cowrote the 1988 film Things Change. A frequent showcase for Shel’s plays, the Ensemble Studio Theatre of New York, produced The Trio in its 1998 marathon of one-act plays.
Shel Silverstein will perhaps always be best loved for his extraordinary books. Shel’s books are now published in more than 30 different languages. The last book that was published before his death in 1999 was Falling Up (1996). Like his other books, it is filled with unforgettable characters, such as Screamin’ Millie, who screamed "so loud it made her eyebrows steam." Then there are Danny O’Dare the dancin’ bear, the Human Balloon, Headphone Harold, and a host of others. Shel was always a believer in letting his work do the talking for him. So come—wander through the nose garden, ride the little hoarse, and let the magic of Shel Silverstein open your eyes, tickle your mind, and show you a new world. NEW WORLD
Upside-down trees swingin’ free,
Busses float and buildings dangle:
Now and then it’s nice to see
The world — from a different angle.

Shel Silverstein’s legacy continued with the release of a new work, Runny Babbit. Shel’s first posthumous publication, conceived and completed before his death, was released in March 2005. Witty and wondrous, Runny Babbit is a poetry collection of spoonerisms, which twist the tongue and tease the mind!
Way down in the green woods
Where the animals all play,
They do things and they say things
In a different sort of way –
Instead of sayin’ “purple hat,”
They all say “hurple pat.”
Instead of sayin’ “feed the cat,”
They just say “ceed the fat.”
So if you say, “Let’s bead a rook
That’s billy as can se,”
You’re talkin’ Runny Babbit talk,
Just like mim and he.





Then a new collection of Shel Silverstein’s poetry, Every Thing On It, was published in 2011, comprised of 140 never-before-seen poems and drawings that Shel had completed before his death. Say Hi-ho for the toilet troll, get tongue-tied with Stick-a-Tongue-Out Sid, play a highly unusual horn, and experience the joys of growing down! This book is filled with Shel Silverstein’s blend of humor and poignancy that bends the brain and opens the heart.
THESE BOOTS
These boots are a little too big.
It’s a fact I am forced to admit.
I am clumsy and slow,
But in ten years or so
If my feet only grow,
They’ll fit.

Shel Silverstein’s incomparable legacy is apparent in each one of his books and continues with every reader he inspires.









 
            


WHEN I AM GONE
When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter—someone new?
Someone better—maybe YOU!
















Thank you Shel Silverstein for
hours of entertainment and for teaching
kids that poetry can be fun!!!


        Pictures and text taken from: www.shelsilverstein.com
Visit this site for more info.!

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Heart Revealed


A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack

Blurb:

Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?

But when Amber's social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?


My Review:

I have only read one of Josi Kilpack's other books, and that was Lemon Tart. It was one of her Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery Series, and I liked it. It was entertaining and I enjoyed the recipes in it. When I was asked to review this new book I was excited, especially since it is a different genre for her. I have read a few of the proper romances and have enjoyed them, so I couldn't wait to read this one. I was hooked from the start. It is very Jane Austin-esque with the setting in England and the season of balls, debutantes, and beautiful gowns. I enjoy reading about this time period, so I got all giddy when I realized that's what it was. Miss Amber Sterlington is "the rage of the season." She is the one who turns the men's heads and is never in want of company or a dance partner. She is beautiful with long dark hair and bright eyes. She has a distinctive voice and is confident in herself. Unfortunately, she is arrogant, mean, uncaring, and unlikable. I didn't like her at the beginning of the book. At all. She was rude to her servants and her sister, and she only cared about herself. She looked past many eligible men because of her station, and if they didn't fit her desire she would not give them the time of day. Then the unthinkable happens. This "unthinkable" thing was different than what I expected. I thought it was kind of corny at first, but then I saw where it could take the story and I realized that it does happen to people; it is a real thing. It may not be very common, but it actually fits here. The story is written well. It flows well, is easy to read and understand, and the character development is very good. I especially liked Suzanne, Mr. Richards, Fenton, and Darra. The growth that occurs in Amber, Darra, and Suzanne is fun to watch. Lady and Lord Merchant were characters that I did not like. I couldn't believe how they treated Amber. I couldn't imagine treating my children like that-ever! I enjoyed the lessons taught in this book. Unconditional love, treating others with respect and kindness regardless of their station, loyalty, friendship, and hard work were only a few.    

The story was somewhat predictable; I had the who figured out right away, it was just the how that I wasn't sure about. It was cheesy and sappy, but that is what makes a romance a romance right? I also felt that there was a lot of time spent on getting to the ending, and then the ending was super fast. I wouldn't have minded a few less pages to get there and a few more pages to slow the ending down a bit. I think the decision made at the end was made quickly, and before much was known (I'm trying to say it so it doesn't give it away....), but that's also part of a romance, so it was ok here. I loved that it was clean. It is definitely a proper romance. There is some kissing. There is a slight allusion to symptoms that might be the result of an STD. There is not a name associated with it, and it never actually says it. A younger reader would probably not even pick up on it. It's so brief that I almost passed right over it. It's not a reason to bypass this book. Other than that it is squeaky clean, which is great. There is no profanity or violence. If you enjoy the proper romance genre the you will definitely like this one.

Rating: PG (Some kissing and a brief allusion to symptoms that might be the result of an STD--by the way, it's not an STD and the symptoms are not associated with that. It has nothing to do with that. It was simply speculation by another character that was briefly mentioned. I feel like I'm making it more than it was. It really was so vague and brief. I debated whether or not to even mention it, but I thought I better just in case. There is no "intimacy," profanity, or violence.)

Recommendation: 13-14 and up. It is YA approved, and it's great for adults too. 

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.




Monday, April 6, 2015

The Impossible Race (Cragbridge Hall Book Three)



The Impossible Race (Cragbridge Hall Book #3) by Chad Morris

Blurb:

"In the final book of the Cragbridge Hall trilogy, Abby, Derick, and their friends must utilize their skills in time travel and technology to survive roving bands of dinosaurs, race through space, build robots, and fight virtual dragons. It's known as the Race--an annual tournament where teams of students compete in the hopes of winning an unbelievable prize. But before their year's competition, Derick and Abby receive a terrifying message from the future: Charles Muns's plan to control history is going to succeed. It will cost countless people their lives and change the destiny of the world. And there is nothing anyone can do to stop him. Despite the danger, the twins gather their friends and enter the Race, ready to compete against the best of the best in order to claim what might turn out to be a key of ultimate power. Can they complete the Race in time and stop Muns? Or has the future already been written?"

My Review:

I love this series! My boys and I have been counting down to book three since we finished book two. May I say that it did NOT disappoint!! Wow. This book is action-packed from the beginning. Not only does it continue with the history and excitement of the first two books, but it adds more! Think space, robots, and the future. Seriously, could it get any better? Well, now think spies, betrayal, dinosaurs, dragons, mythology, deadlines, and even more secrets. Abby, Derick, Carol, and Rafa are there, and this book adds many more fun characters. I love how Abby never gives up. Her attitude is so great. She is such a great, strong female character. You see a little bit of a more vulnerable side of Derick, and Carol is still as hilarious as ever. There isn't as much history in this book as there was in the previous two, but there is still some, and there are other twists and turns that make up for it. I love how this series makes being smart and trying hard in school a good thing. I love how it shows that doing your best in school translates to success in other areas in your life as well. I love the lesson of never giving up and thinking through problems, and I also love the lesson that the future may not be set--work harder and/or smarter, try something different, think of things in new ways, and your future is in your hands. You have the power to do whatever you want to do in life. There are some fantastic new inventions in this book that I really wish I had. Someone needs to invent them for real! And did I mention the illustrations and cover art? Brandon Dorman has definitely outdone himself this time. This book is the perfect way to end this series (Does it have to end??). Everything does get tied up nicely, but it's a middle-grader series, and that's of course how I wanted it. I can't wait for my boys to read it, they are going to love it!

Another great thing about this book is that it is clean! Yay! There is no profanity and no "intimacy." There is a little bit of violence when they are fighting robots, and Muns is still evil, but it's not too bad.

Rating: PG (No profanity or "intimacy." There is some minor violence when they're fighting robots, and Muns is still his evil self.)

Recommendation: Third Grade and up (Boys and girls will enjoy this book, and it would make a fabulous read-aloud.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Then The Witches Multiplied



Then The Witches Multiplied by Edita Birschbach

Blurb (from goodreads.com):

"I didn't know what heartbreak meant until he decided to make me one of his girlfriends. He introduced me to such agony that I thought I would never laugh again. I never should have gotten close to somebody like him.

I was too naive, too sheltered by my family, my friends and the regime. The Communist Party wouldn't acknowledge the existence of anything paranormal, and so for decades the witches were allowed to breed without restriction. Even if our leaders had known that the witch males had been coming out of hiding, they wouldn't have told us. The omnipotent Party honchos treated us like children, keeping us in blissful ignorance and scaring us with the specter of capitalist monsters. But they didn't know that the times were quietly changing."

My Review:

The beginning of this book was very intriguing. I liked the descriptions of life in Czechoslovakia, and the descriptions of the witches definitely kept me reading. The first person voice of the main character was well done and I liked her. I found her experiences interesting and the character development was very good. I especially liked her friends, Zita, Zlata, Sysel, and the Pavels. I loved that there were three Pavels, and they were only known by their last initial. Her experiences with the Brontosaurs were sometimes humorous and sometimes frustrating, like when she and Zlata just rode off on their bikes to the camp and their parents didn't know where they were or what they were doing. Her experience with the witch in the graveyard was kind of creepy, but it hooked me. I couldn't wait to learn more about these witches and what they do. Then when she meets a certain someone, the story goes downhill. She gets into this abusive relationship, and yet even though she knows what it is doing to her, she won't give it up. This is also when the profanity and "intimacy" begin. The ending disappointed me. It just ended, and I didn't feel like the plot had really progressed; I didn't learn anything about the witches, and the main character was left in a bad situation. Maybe there is a planned sequel, but I felt that with the title "Then the Witches Multiplied," I should have seen at least a little more of the witches. They definitely didn't multiply in this book. I was left feeling let down and a little confused. Bummer. It started out so well!

Rating: R (Profanity and a lot of "intimacy," with an abusive relationship)

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  


Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Secret Life of Bees



The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Blurb:

"Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna." 

My Review:

I love this book!!!! It has some kind of a hold on me, it's strange, but I love it! I love the writing. Sue Monk Kidd is an excellent writer. I love the detail, the description, the characters, the plot, the feeling, everything.....except the language. The first 50 pages have A LOT of language in them. After that it isn't too bad; there are a few words here and there. If you want to read it but don't want to read the first 50 pages then call me and I'll tell you what happens. Or, the summary above sums it up pretty well. I love how true to life it seems, even though it happened many years before I was born. I love the conflict in each of the characters. The character development is excellent. Each of the women feel like your best friend or next door neighbor. I also enjoyed watching the growth that each of the characters made over the course of the book. The symbolism with the bees is a wonderful addition that adds depth to the story. I just really love this book. Okay, I hope you don't get your expectations too high now, but it's really good.

Rating: R (Remember....this rating does not follow the actual movie ratings...it's just my method of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) There is A LOT of language in the first 50 pages and I wouldn't recommend it to someone who doesn't want to read a lot of language, and it is not appropriate for children or early teens. Language, some racial conflict, and death.

Recommendation: I would recommend it (with the warning above) to 18+ years. I definitely recommend it, even if you need to skip the first 50 pages!




*This review was first published on 2/23/10

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gift From The Sea



Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Blurb:

"In this inimitable, beloved classic--graceful, lucid and lyrical--Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea. Drawing inspiration from the shells on the shore, Lindbergh's musings on the shape of a woman's life bring new understanding to both men and women at any stage of life. A mother of five, an acclaimed writer and a pioneering aviator, Lindbergh casts an unsentimental eye on the trappings of modernity that threaten to overwhelm us: the time-saving gadgets that complicate rather than simplify, the multiple commitments that take us from our families. And by recording her thoughts during a brief escape from everyday demands, she helps readers find a space for contemplation and creativity within their own lives. With great wisdom and insight Lindbergh describes the shifting shapes of relationships and marriage, presenting a vision of life as it is lived in an enduring and evolving partnership. A groundbreaking, best-selling work when it was originally published in 1955, Gift from the Sea continues to be discovered by new generations of readers."

I haven't ever read a book quite like this. It's been around for a long time, and I had never even heard of it until my book group decided to read it this month. It's a fast, easy read, but the implications of it are not an easy fix. It's funny because she wrote this a long time ago, yet it rings true today; probably even more than it did then. Ms. Lindbergh was able to take a two week vacation, away from her husband and children, to write this book. She recommends it to every woman. Yeah, right! There is no way I could just up and spend two weeks by myself on the ocean shore without my family. It's hard enough to find time to spend on a family vacation. So, some of her advice is great, but not very practical. Of course it's easy to figure things out when you have that much time all by yourself with none of the demands of children or husband calling your name every few minutes! I'm sure I could figure out lots of things if that were the case; however, a lot of the advice she gives is actually really good. She says that we women need to simplify our lives. We need to get rid of distractions and find ourselves. I agree with her. Yes, we do! But how do we do that today? It's something every woman needs to find for herself, there is no magical wand. She says we need to make ourselves a priority, which we probably do. Unfortunately, that is difficult because so many things seem to be more pressing than time for me. I enjoyed her descriptions of the shells and how she related them to different times in a woman's life. I liked a lot of what she said. The problem was, she never really said how to accomplish it, or if she accomplished it when she arrived home to her husband and five children. If nothing else, it was a good reminder to try and take some time for myself once in awhile, and try to simplify as much as possible. Also, it was a great reminder to live in the now; to enjoy life as it is today and not just bide my time until that "someday" happens. Life isn't about the destination, it's about the journey, right? Sometimes that is hard to remember. Even though the answers are not clean, I would recommend this book to every mother. It won't solve all your problems, but it's a nice break from the busy-ness of life and motherhood, and it might help you at least get the thought process started on how to achieve simplification and enjoy life today.

Rating: PG-13+ (There isn't any profanity or violence, but there is talk of "intimacy" in the marriage relationship. It's not graphic or detailed, but it is discussed because it is an important part of a marriage.)

Recommendation: Adult (It is written for adult women, and I think they will enjoy it most)