Saturday, January 24, 2015

National Readathon Day!!!


National Readathon Day!!!

What was my favorite day in elementary school? Why, readathon day, of course! Now that I'm a mom I don't get many readathon days, so I'm going to take advantage of it
being a national day and read to my heart's content! It may be a textbook for my American
History college course, but I'll be reading! 

If you want any information about National Readathon Day, there is more info. 

So go grab yourself a pillow, a blanket, a snack, and a great book. Get comfy and
get reading!!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Other Shakespeare

The Other Shakespeare by Lea Rachel


"What if Shakespeare had been born a woman? What would have happened to her? And, what would she have accomplished? Virginia Woolf first posed these questions in her acclaimed novel A Room of One's Own...and now maverick author Lea Rachel steps up to tell the rest of the story. The Other Shakespeare carries readers back to the sixteenth century to follow Judith Shakespeare, the older sister of William, as she tries to make a name for herself in a male-dominated society that consistently denies women their independence. Born with as much talent, creativity, and drive as her younger brother, she is stifled by the world around her and ultimately resorts to extreme measures to get accepted and have her talent recognized. Judith's story is rich with history, conflict, and drama and is sure to appeal to fans of Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare, and character-driven fiction."

My Review:

I love reading Shakespeare, so I was excited to read this book. Ms. Rachel did a good job developing the characters in this book. The Shakespeare family, especially, is well developed. You know exactly where they stand on certain issues, and they seem to go well with what I would expect of the time period. I liked William and Mrs. Mountjoy the best. I didn't really like Judith, which isn't great since she's the main character. I thought she was whiny, dramatic, arrogant, naive, and foolish. I liked her more at the beginning, when she and her siblings would play-act outside. After awhile, though, I started liking her less and less. I'm taking a college history class right now so that I can renew my teaching license, and this week I learned about presentism. Presentism is when we look at the past through today's values, standards, knowledge, etc., and pass judgment on those in the past because of that. It was kind of funny because I know I did that through this entire book. I definitely looked at Judith, and especially the men in the story, that way. I know I shouldn't because times were very different back then. This book was okay. It wasn't what I expected, which is fine. However, it just didn't click for me. I didn't like Judith at all. I didn't think it flowed well, and it seemed forced to me. Most of the book is written in "normal" (as in not Shakespearean) language, and then all of a sudden she would insert a quote or a line or two from one of Shakespeare's plays, and I didn't think it worked. It seemed forced to me. She would also put a few "anon's" in to make it try to work, but not all of it was written that way; it was inconsistent. It made it seem a little corny too. I wanted to like this book, but it just didn't work for me. There were some good things that came out of it though. Looking at the very few opportunities Judith had definitely made me grateful to be a woman today and not back then. My mom tells me stories of not being able to wear pants to school, and I've heard stories of women trying to prove themselves even fifty years ago. Today's world is very different, and I'm thankful for all the women that have gone before me who were trailblazers, and who helped changed the status quo for women in our country.

There is profanity in this book. There is a rape scene, and at least one "intimacy" scene. "Intimacy" is talked about as well. There are also a couple character deaths in this book. There are a few situations in this story that have Shakespearean resolutions. I don't want to give anything away, so that is all I'll say, but they were fitting for the story.

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity, rape, "intimacy," and a couple of character deaths.)

Recommendation: 17-18 years and up

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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Forgotten Garden

Throwback Thursday
This review was originally posted on 3/1/12. I loved this book!!!

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book--a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to on on, "Nell" sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book's title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales."

I loved this book! It is very well written and so engaging. It is a little confusing at first trying to figure out who goes to what time period, but in the end it comes together seamlessly. I loved the story and I loved the characters. The storyline is intricate and intimate. The characters are well developed and I felt as though I knew them personally, as if I were on the journey with them. I'm not usually one to try and figure out what happens, I usually just like to read and enjoy the book. With this story, however, I would lie in bed at night trying to piece it together. I would think I had it figured out and then the characters would say or do something that would make me think otherwise. And the cycle continued. In the end, I had a lot of it pieced together, but there were some twists thrown in the end that I hadn't anticipated.

I thought a lot about family and self worth while reading this book. If I suddenly found out I wasn't who my family said I was, would it change my relationships with them? Blood doesn't change who loves you and takes care of you does it? I'm sure I could see myself trying to find my blood relations, but I don't think I would distance myself like Nell did. Anyway, that was really interesting how each character reacted. I liked that in trying to find Nell, Cassandra was able to find and heal herself as well. I really liked the romantic touch weaved through the story. I found it was interesting how different people saw the same evidence differently, and I liked how the storyline continued through different times and people and never skipped a beat. It was mostly clean. There were a few words throughout, and there was a scene that involved "physical intimacy" of two unmarried people. That whole part of the story is strange, but I guess fits. It definitely made me uncomfortable.

I highly recommend this book! It made me think a lot about how the choices we make not only affect us, but they affect those around us, and they can sometimes set in motion a chain of events we would never have anticipated. Thank you, Ms. Morton, for a very good read!

Rating: PG-13 (Death of a few characters, some language, and "physical intimacy.")

Recommendation: Senior in High School and up. This is a tricky one. Because of the nature of the "physical intimacy" scene (It doesn't go into a ton of detail, it's just the people who are doing it and why they are doing it.), I think the reader should be a little more mature. As an adult, don't let this description stop you from reading it. I promise, the rest of the book is fabulous and makes up for it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Anni Moon and the Elemental Artifact

Anni Moon and the Elemental Artifact by Melanie Abed

Blurb from the publicist:

"Although Anni doesn't know about Elementals, Funk, Zephyrs, excited talking Bat-Rat creatures and, least of all, Dragons - all that changes when her best friend Lexi is kidnapped and Anni is pulled into the Elementary world. 

In a race against time, Anni sets out to save her friend. Along the way, she finds allies among the Elementals, but is also presented with a choice - one that might help save Lexi.  If Anni agrees to an ancient, open-ended contract, will her sacrifice cost her more than she's bargained for? Or will it land her in the middle of an age-old war between the humans, the Elementals, and the dreaded Fectus? "

My Review:

This is a very unique and creative story. It is written fairly well. The character development is well done. I liked both Anni and Lexi, but I liked Lexi more. Anni drove me crazy at times because she's impatient, she doesn't listen, she gets into trouble, and she doesn't care. Sometimes it may have helped her, but most of the time it got her into more trouble. Unfortunately, Lexi isn't in the entire story, so that was sad. Some of the other characters were fun. I liked Daphne, Squirt, Brat, and Oliver. I also liked Mrs. OggleBoggle. There are some fun names in this book! I got hooked at the beginning of the book, but the middle just kind of dragged on and on. I didn't think it helped the plot at all; it just kind of wasted time. Anni didn't learn much or gain much, it just was. Once she traveled, though, it started getting good again. I liked the ending and thought it had some fun surprises and twists. 

There were some grammatical errors and some typos, and I'm not sure if it was just my copy with my Kindle, but there were a bunch of pages where the words were all mixed up from other pages. I'd find the missing sentence two pages after where it should have been, and I couldn't read any of those pages because they were so messed up. There was no profanity (thank you!!!) and no "intimacy" (thank you!!!). There was some minor violence, but it wasn't too bad. Overall, I liked the story. It was fun and different. I think the middle-grader girls will really enjoy this story.

Rating: PG (No profanity or "intimacy," and only minor violence.)

Recommendation: 3rd to 4th grade and up. I think girls will enjoy this book more than boys, but I will recommend it to my boys.....I'll let you know if they read it.

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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Raising a Reader

Raising a Reader

Today's tip for raising a reader is a great one! It's something I have always done, and it's easy! It can be a little tricky to keep track of sometimes, but it's worth it! In my house it is absolutely necessary because my boys read so much that I could not afford to continue buying them books! 
Today's tip is:

Get your kids their own library cards and use them regularly! Go to the library!

The kids love having their own card because they feel so grown-up, and it's a great 
motivation to read! 

They take better care of the books because they know it is in their name!

And the best thing is that there are endless amounts of books! There are so many different subjects and authors, and it's great to help find topics that the kids are actually interested in and will read! (And it's free!!! Seriously, I'd be spending hundreds of dollars a month in way!)

I'm with Arthur on this one:

Ready, set......GO to the library!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Best Nest

The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman

Oh, how I love this book! This is one of my childhood favorites, and I love that my kids enjoy it now! Mrs. Bird is expecting a baby, and decides she wants a new home. She and Mr. Bird travel everywhere looking for a new house. They find a few they like, but they are already occupied, and they have some close calls. Finally, it begins to rain and Mr. and Mrs. Bird get separated. They are sad and wonder if they'll ever see each other again. The sky is filled with lightning and thunder, and suddenly Mr. Bird crashes into something! What is it? Well, you'll have to read to find out!

This is a beginning reader, and my first grader can read it well. It's a fun, fun read-aloud, and it's a great silent read because it is easy enough for the beginners to read. It's fun to guess where the birds will end up, and it's fun to see the places they thought would be good homes. I love the illustrations and I love that the kids love reading it. Next time you're at the library or a book store, check this one out, you won't be disappointed!

Rating: G (Clean!!! Yay!)

Recommendation: Everyone!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Perfect Mother

The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton

Blurb sent to me from the Publisher:

Being in a country abroad, faced with language and cultural barriers, what is a a mother today when her daughter is involved with a murder investigation. Nina Darnton, seasoned journalist-turned-fiction writer, explores this idea in her upcoming suspense novel, THE PERFECT MOTHER, in which she poses a universal question of motherhood:  do you stand by your children unconditionally, or do you risk uncovering the terrifying truth that you may not know who they really are?

The Perfect Mother is a psychological thriller, inspired by the Amanda Knox case, but centered around the mother, Jennifer Lewis. Jennifer adores her daughter who she’s proudly sent her off on a Princeton Junior Year Abroad program in Seville, Spain. When a middle of the night phone call reveals that her daughter is being held on suspicion of murder, Jennifer rushes to her side, convinced of her daughter's innocence. But as she sees the case develop But as she investigates the crime, she experiences a roller-coaster of emotions--incredulity, anger, grief, betrayal--as she begins to wonder if she ever really knew her daughter at all.

Mary Higgins Clark calls The Perfect Mother “a haunting page-turner that will keep you up all night.” All readers who loved the recent works of Gillian Flynn, Mary Kubica, and Kate Atkinson will be excited to learn about this upcoming release.

My Review:

What a nightmare! I didn't closely follow the Amanda Knox case, but I cannot imagine going through this situation. Of course, I think it is human nature to think of ourselves as "The Perfect Mother." We like to have quality activities for our children, we like to help them clean up their messes, we like to be there for them in every moment of need, and we like to do everything we can to take away any source of pain. We don't want our children to suffer, and we want them to have everything we didn't have when we grew up. In this book, Jennifer Lewis learns the hard way that sometimes giving our children all the answers may not be the answer. Unfortunately, children must learn for themselves at some point. They need to suffer pain so they can appreciate the good times. They need to learn to think for themselves, and learn to stand on their own two feet without their mothers. ( :( This is sad and hard, unfortunately.....I'm definitely not good at it.) This book is written fairly well. Ms. Darnton's writing style pulls you in and definitely grabs your attention. The story line is every parent's worst nightmare, so it holds your attention. The character development is well done. I liked Jennifer at the beginning of the book, but the further I got into the book, the less I liked her. When she gets that first phone call you just feel so bad for her and her family. The reader sees her as "The Perfect Mother" at that point. As the story goes on, you get a glimpse of her shortcomings, and that's ok, because no one is perfect. However, something about her attitude or her character changes. It's not just the imperfections, it's how she handles them, and you begin to see a darker side of her that's not so pretty. Jennifer's husband Mark is an interesting character. It's kind of funny that there were a few times in the book that I related to him more than I did to Jennifer. He works hard and is gone a lot of the time, but he seems more down to earth and connected to reality than Jennifer is. He is better able to see that their daughter, Emma, may not be who they thought she was. And don't get me started on Emma. Wow. (Insert sarcasm) What a winner. She is an extremely unlikable character. I really didn't care if she ended up rotting in jail for the rest of her life. I hoped they'd find her innocent just for her family's sake, but as for her, I didn't like her at all. She is ungrateful, arrogant, indifferent, and manipulative. Overall, I liked this book. It has some good lessons in it, and a huge surprise at the end. I won't tell you what I thought about it because I don't want to ruin anything, but let's just say I hope Jennifer doesn't forget about it. Ahhhh......I want to say more. But I won't. :)

There is profanity in this book, although not a lot. Except there are a couple "f" words. Rape is discussed. Also discussed is a college group that is "intimacy"-related, with a name for that group that is not kid-friendly. "Intimacy" is also discussed, and there is one time that there is a love scene, but there are no details, you just know that they did it. There is also a murder, and it is graphic.

I liked the book, and think it would make for a great book group discussion.
Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity (including a couple "f" words), rape, "intimacy," and murder.

Recommendation: Adult

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy Book #1)

The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy Book #1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen


"In a faraway land, civil war is brewing. To unify his kingdom's divided people, a nobleman named Conner devises a cunning plan to place an impersonator of the king's long-lost son on the throne. Four orphans are forced to compete for the role, including a defiant and clever boy named Sage. Sage knows Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point--he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of duplicity and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together."

My review:

What an adventure! I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked Ms. Nielsen's writing style because it was smart and witty, it flowed well, and it sucked me in from the first page. It was a fast, easy read, yet it definitely packed a punch. It was full of surprises, sword fights, lies, competition, allies, enemies, secret tunnels, and arranged marriages. The character development in this book is very well done. All of the boys are lifelike, realistic, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Conner, Mott, and Cregan are scary, intimidating, and also lifelike. I completely got sucked into life in Carthya. I liked how each of the boys handled the situation differently, and in their own way. I liked the mystery and how the truth was finally found. I didn't like Conner at all! Imogen was an interesting character. I felt like a lot of the story line was directed around her, and I'm not sure why. It makes me wonder if maybe she comes in more in the second two books? Anyway, this is a fun story, and I have already called the library to put numbers two and three on hold! I can't wait! My 11 year-old also loved the book. 

This book doesn't have any profanity (thank you!!!) or "intimacy" (thank you!!!), but it does have some violence. A character is shot and killed right in front of the boys' eyes; it was brutal and traumatizing. The boys live in fear of being killed at any moment. Another, lesser character is killed also. They are pretty much in a competition for their lives, so there is some violence between the boys as well. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it.

Rating: PG+ ( There isn't any profanity or "intimacy," but there is violence. A main character is shot and killed right in front of the other main characters, and it is traumatizing to them. Another character is killed also, and there is some rivalry violence between the boys.

Recommendation: 4th grade and up.  This is a great middle-grader book, and I think both girls and boys will like it. It would make a great read-aloud as well.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Brilliant Nightmare (Book #1)

Brilliant Nightmare (Book #1) by Edita Birschbach

Blurb from an email the author sent me:

"Except for the occasional make-out session with her best friend Troy, Ruby doesn't expect much from her senior year of high school. The predictable, quiet days don't bother her because in her intense nightmares she's Lucie, a Czech teenager living under Nazi occupation. Ruby's pretty ticked off by the dreams and even more by her knowledge of Czech and German. Since her family has never made a peep in a foreign language, the only explanation of her linguistic super powers is that the nightmares are the memories of her past life. When a new girl and then a handsome exchange student arrive at school, the dreams become entangled with reality, shaking up Ruby and Troy's idyllic lives.
Romantic, suspenseful and mildly sarcastic, "Brilliant Nightmare" is a love story with a past."

My Review:

This book has a very interesting and unique concept, which I enjoyed. Ruby lives in today's times and is a normal girl in high school, except that she keeps having these realistic and awful nightmares. She doesn't dare tell her parents, or anyone else, except her boyfriend Troy. She speaks perfect Czech, and the only explanation is that her nightmares are actually memories of a past life. She was reincarnated to where she is now. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, Ms. Birschbach does a good job of making it seem like a reality in this story. The characters are well developed and interesting. It is written in high-school vernacular, which is perfect for high schoolers, and not so great for everyone else, but it is well done for what it is. I really enjoyed the story of Lucie and her family in Czechoslovakia. It was sad, yes, but it was also very touching and well written. I felt drawn to the characters there. Unfortunately, I did not feel the same way about Ruby and her current family. Ruby is not the kind of girl I would want my daughters hanging out with, and the things she and her friends do are not what I want my daughters to be doing at that age. I was not at all that way, and so I do not relate to Ruby at all. She really irritated me. She was very Bella Swan-esque in pining and whining for Troy while she was dating Adam, who was far superior to Troy. Ahhhhh!!!! She drove me crazy! She and her friends get drunk, are "intimate" with boys, swear, and do everything their mothers do not want them to do.  Some of her so-called friends are big bullies as well. So there you have it. Although the concept is interesting and unique, and had a lot of potential, it just fell flat for me. I didn't like the language, the under-age drinking, the "intimacy" scenes and pregnancy scares (twice with two different guys), or the main character. I really did not like that Ruby and Adam were "intimate" a lot, in her bed, in her house with her parents home, and that it was all she could talk or think about. I know I'm conservative when it comes to this topic, but I just do not think it's appropriate in books. I know that kids do it. It happens. But is that the standard we want to set for our children? I say no. 

I also read Part I of book #2 Brilliant Pain, and it was not what I had expected. I thought it was a little strange, but I didn't get to see what happened in Part II, so it could have come together.

I am not sure who this book would be for. Adults will not be interested in the high school vernacular, and it isn't appropriate for teenagers. Maybe college kids? 

Rating: R (Not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity, bullying, talk of "virginity" and losing it, and lots of "intimacy." There are many scenes, talk of it and about it. There is also a character that twice thinks she is pregnant and brings Planned Parenthood and pregnancy tests into the story.) 

Recommendation: Adult (College?)

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

Monday, December 29, 2014

Snow Crystals

Snow Crystals by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys


"Did you ever try to photograph a snow flake? The procedure is very tricky. The work must be done rapidly in extreme cold, for even body heat can melt a rare specimen that has been painstakingly mounted. The lighting must be just right to reveal all the nuances of design without producing heat. But the results can be rewarding, as the work of W.A. Bentley proved. For almost half a century, Bentley caught and photographed thousand s of snow flakes in his workshop at Jericho, Vermont, and made available to scientists and art instructors samples of his remarkable work. In 1931, the American Meteorological Society gathered together the best of these photomicrographs, plus some slides of frost, glaze, dew on vegetation and spider webs, sleet, and soft hail, and a text by W.J. Humphreys, and had them published. That book is here reproduced, unaltered and unabridged. Over 2,000 beautiful crystals on these pages reveal the wonder of nature's diversity in uniformity: no two are alike, yet all are based on a common hexagon."

My Review:

Since I woke up to at least six inches of snow this morning, I thought this book would be very fitting for today. I love any nonfiction book that captivates and intrigues the reader, especially if that reader is a child. This book does just that. The text at the beginning is too difficult and technical for my girls (9 and 6), but that has not stopped them for pouring over each and every snowflake pictured in this book. When it was due at the library they begged me to renew it because they didn't want to let it go. It is fascinating! The beginning text is very interesting, yet a bit technical. It talks about the different types of snowflakes and how they are formed, it talks about how Mr. Bentley painstakingly photographed each and every snowflake, and it talks about different natural phenomena like dew, sleet, hail, and frost. I found it intriguing, but I read through it quickly because I couldn't wait to see all the beautiful pictures. It is amazing how intricate and detailed some of the snowflakes are! I had no idea that some snowflakes look like columns. Yes, they look like actual Roman columns, 3D and everything. There are many different shapes and configurations. No two in the book are the same. My favorite ones are the ones you think of when you think of snowflakes, with many delicate and intricate details. Frost is beautiful too! After reading this book, I can now look outside at all the snow this morning and not only see, but appreciate the beauty in it as well. This book would be fabulous for science teachers, art teachers, photography teachers, and all teachers looking to introduce more nonfiction books into the classroom. I highly recommend this book.

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone! (For a silent read I would say 5th or 6th grade and up to be able to understand the text, but everyone can enjoy the photographs.)