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Friday, January 20, 2017

Disneyland!

Hi Readers! I am in Disneyland with my family right now, so I'm using the hotel
computer to write this review of Lady of the Lakes. This is a Mac, and I have an
HP, and for some reason the formatting is all wonky. I'm so sorry!! I'll fix it when I get home. :)
~Monica

The Lady of the Lakes





The Lady of the Lakes

by
Josi S. Kilpack


Blurb:

"Walter Scott has three passions: Scotland, poetry, and Mina Stuart. Though she is young 
and they are from different stations in society, Walter is certain their love is meant to be. For 
years, he has courted her through love letters. She is the sunshine of his soul. Though Mina 
shares Walter's love of literature and romantic temperament, it's hard for her to know if she 
truly loves him or if she has only been dazzled by his flattery. When she meets the handsome 
and charming William Forbes, her heart is challenged. Who will she choose? But as every 
poet knows, "the course of true love never did run smooth," and on a windy morning in the 
lake country, Walter meets Charlotte. At twenty-six, Charlotte Carpenter believes she will 
never find love. After all, she is a Catholic-born Frenchwoman living in London with a family 
history shadowed by scandal. Though quiet, practical, and determined to live a life of 
independence, her heart longs for someone to love her and a place to call home. Passion 
and promises collide as Walter, Mina, and Charlotte must each decide the course for their 
futures. What are they each willing to risk to find love and be loved in return?"

My Review:

I have always enjoyed a sweet love story, and this one is no exception. This story has all the 
elements that make a good love story: poetry, romance, dedication, heartbreak, suffering, and 
true love. I love that Sir Walter Scott's poetry is written throughout the book. As a reader you 
can just picture him writing his poetry for the love of his life, and also to combat his heartbreak. 
The characters are well developed and realistic. I especially liked Sir Walter Scott's voice 
along with Charlotte's voice. Charlotte was one of my favorite characters. Her need for 
independence and her strong voice make for a great character. It was fun to see her grow and 
progress throughout the book. There were times when Walter's character was a little irritating; 
I just wanted to scream, "Get over it already!!!" Thankfully his brother and friend were there to 
help him! The story flows well, and the transitions from person to person are easy to follow. 
Josi Kilpack does a great job of describing the scene without overdoing it. Each character 
sounds and feels different as you're reading, so you don't need to keep checking the beginning 
of the chapter to figure out which character you're reading about. Reading this book definitely 
makes me want to go to Scotland and see where it all took place. I thought this was a sweet 
love story and I enjoyed it. 

There is no profanity or violence in this book. There isn't any "intimacy" either, except for some 
brief kissing and a few romantic moments. I love that it's clean and you don't need to worry about 
what the next page may hold! That's definitely a benefit to reading the proper romances!

Rating: PG (There's no profanity, violence, or "intimacy," except for a few brief kisses and some 
romantic moments.

Recommendation: YA and up (It is YA approved; girls will definitely enjoy it more than boys. My 
boys -15 and 13- would not enjoy this book, but girls will love it.)

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


Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Scrivener's Bones (Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians Book #2)


The Scrivener's Bones
(Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians Book #2)
by
Brandon Sanderson

Blurb:

"Grandpa Smedry is in trouble--Alcatraz to the Rescue! In his second skirmish against the Evil Librarians who rule the world, Alcatraz and his ragtag crew of freedom fighters track Grandpa Smedry to the ancient and mysterious Library of Alexandria. Hushlanders--people who live in the Librarian-controlled lands, such as Canada, Europe, and the United States--believe the library was destroyed long ago. Free Kingdomers know the truth: the Library of Alexandria is still around, and it's one of the most dangerous places on the planet. For it is the home of the scariest Librarians of them all: a secret sect of soul-stealing undead Curators. Can Alcatraz and his friends rescue Grandpa Smedry and make it out of there alive?"

My Review:

Have I told you how much I love this series? Well, let me tell you again--I love this series! I cannot remember the last time I laughed out loud this much reading a book. Seriously! I love the wit, the humor, the puns, the dialogue, the sarcasm, and the writing in this book. I was in the faculty room at school, eating lunch, and the other teachers kept asking me what I was reading because I was laughing so hard. I read a few parts to them, and I read parts to my husband because it's so funny. The part about the bazooka-wielding bunny is hilarious. I love how the author addresses the reader. I love how he inserts random comments throughout. The characters are very well done. Alcatraz learns and grows a lot during this book, and Bastille is...Bastille. We meet a few new characters in book two, and I like them as well. The bad guy is even more scary than the bad guy in the first book, but the way he is done is very clever. There's a lot of action in this book, and some cool new lenses are introduced. I like that the characters can't just use physical force to overcome their enemies, they also need to use knowledge. This is a great second book, and I highly recommend it! If you liked the first one, you NEED to pick this one up today!

Rating: PG (There's no profanity or "intimacy." There is some violence as they fight the bad guy. There are some injured characters as well, but none of it is too graphic or too scary.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (It's a great middle-grade/YA book!!)



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Viking Age: Everyday Life



Viking Age: Everyday Life
During the Extraordinary Era of the Norsemen
by
Kirsten Wolf

Blurb:

"The Viking age comes alive in this vivid, abundantly illustrated exploration of its people and their world. What kinds of houses did the Scandinavians live in? Were they literate? What kinds of clothing did they wear? How did they view death? Filled with a wealth of information on every aspect of the Viking age, this fascinating and informative book answers these questions and many more. You'll explore all aspects of line, including marriage, settlement conditions, crafts and industries, language, health and medicine, food and drink, boatbuilding, politics, warfare, and sports."

My Review:

This is the third in the Everyday Life series that I have read. I've read Ancient Egypt and The Middle Ages, and this, surprisingly, has been my favorite! It's crazy because I thought I'd like the Egypt one the best. Learning about the Vikings has never particularly interested me, but this book did a great job of explaining everything and making it interesting. One of the reasons I didn't love the other books as much as I thought I would was because the writing was very technical and difficult to read. It took me forever to read them! This book was actually written very well. It brought the Vikings to life, and even though the writing was still a bit technical, it was understandable! I thought it flowed well, was fairly easy to read and understand, and it did a good job of explaining everything in a way that readers could enjoy. There are many pictures and illustrations, and I found it so fun to look at and study them. I liked learning about their coins, jewelry, homes, and their raids. I hate to say it, but "How To Train Your Dragon" is about as much as I did know about the Vikings before reading this book. Now though, I feel totally educated! Ms. Wolf did a great job with this book! 

Rating: PG+ (There isn't any profanity in this book. There is talk of marriage and the things that go with it-not too detailed, but it is discussed. There is a little bit of violence when they discuss raids and warfare and such, but once again, it's not too graphic.)

Recommendation: 12 or 13 years-old and up (The language may be too difficult for some of the 12 and 13 year-olds, and younger children most likely won't be interested anyway.)

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



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

Chestnuts



Chestnuts
by
Gilbert Ohanian

Blurb:

"Is there a bully in your life that you don't know how to deal with? I had one too. It prompted me to write 'Chestnuts: A True Story About Being Bullied,' a book outlining practical strategies for defending against bullies and resolving the conflict and aggression that often plagues victims of bullying. Inside these pages, I will take you through my own harrowing journey with bullies--from boarding school beat-ups, to violent attacks from crazed skinheads on the streets of London, to bullies in a public school of America. In each chapter a reflection of my personal story will show you what I did wrong, and how you can actually defend yourself in this modern day and age."

My Review:

Bullying is something that, as a teacher, I do not put up with. As a mom, I don't put up with it. There's definitely a zero tolerance policy on bullying in my house. However, a couple of my kids have been bullied at school. My children have been physically harmed, and they have been verbally and emotionally bullied as well. Our school does have a zero bullying policy, but it's not always easy to see happening when it's verbal or emotional. When I have brought it up with principals and teachers they have taken it seriously and it has stopped. It's not as easy when the kids are in junior high, so it's been more difficult to take care of there. Anyway, I'm telling you this to let you know that I am no stranger to bullying. I think it is a topic that needs to be discussed continually with children at home and at school. This is a very important subject, and so I was glad to hear from Mr. Ohanian about reviewing his book. His story is tragic. It broke my heart to read about everything he went through during his childhood. There were definitely things that his school leaders could have done differently to help him, and there were things that he also could have done differently, but looking back doesn't change anything. What happened, happened. I'm glad that he was brave enough to speak out and tell his story. It's important for people to read about and understand the dynamics of bullying. There are some good aspects to this book. Speaking out against bullying is always important and beneficial. He gives some good ideas on how to deal with bullies, and he writes about the things he could have handled differently. Those are all good things. Reading about his story will definitely help others to speak out against bullying. Unfortunately, this book needs to be edited. A lot. It's written from the heart, but he discusses several situations that are not relevant to the story at all. Also, it may be written from the heart, but there are many grammatical errors and portions of the book that do not flow well or transition well. One other thing that bothered me was that he is not a psychologist or doctor. I understand that he lived through these situations, but I wasn't sure if the advice he gives in the book is just his philosophy or if it's sound advice from bullying experts. Does that make sense? He does cite many articles in this book, so I know that he did research into best practices. I hesitate to state these things because he has endured a lot of criticism in his life, and I don't want to add to that. It is a very sad story, and I feel terrible that he had to endure such hardships in his life. I think this book has a lot of potential, and I hope that he will find a great editor and publish a second edition.  

Rating: PG+ (There is no profanity or "intimacy," except for maybe a brief kiss. There is a lot of violence in this book. He is beaten-up, harassed, and bullied. Some of the stories are difficult to read because of how harsh they are.)

Recommendation: 13 years-old and up (YA)

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



Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ragesong: Alliance (Book #4)


Ragesong Alliance (Book #4)
by
J.R. Simmons

Blurb (from goodreads.com):

"The Dread King's apprentice surrounds Klyle's final stronghold as he tries to unite the southern territories. With Brael's forces closing in on the exiled king, the need for an alliance with the Riders of Southern Reach grows stronger. Together with the peace-loving Treespeaker and the wildly beautiful Kishahk of the Stoneriders, Klyle must unite the remaining free territories and prepare for the inevitable invasion. 

Jake, Sam, and their companions discover an ancient warrior with a sure knowledge of the Trichord, their only hope to win the fight against Brael and his Elites. The journey takes them through savage lands with familiar foes as an old enemy stalks them. Will their quest for the legendary artifact end the war? Will they even survive the journey to find it? 

When Brael changes tactics and moves to end an alliance before it can even begin, the war comes to Klyle. Can he find a way to convince the Riders of the danger Brael poses before its too late?"

My Review:

Wow! The action continues in this new book of the Ragesong series. Jake and Sam meet a couple of new characters that will hopefully be able to help them in the fight against Brael. These two new characters are definitely unusual and unique! There's a bit of mystery surrounding them too; are they good or evil? Klyle continues his quest to rally the southern territories, and they may meet up with a few old friends as well. This book did not disappoint--except the cliffhanger ending!! Ahhhh!!! So hopefully there's a fifth book coming soon! I liked learning about the new characters, and I liked that they introduced a few new tricks that Sam and Jake didn't know about in regards to ragesong. It was fun watching Jake and Sam as they improved their skills and continued to learn about their companions, themselves, and each other. This book is definitely action-packed, full of mystery, young love (or young lovers' spats), and character development. I thought it was well written, as were the first three. The character development was done well, and it was easy to read and understand. If you enjoyed the first three in the series you will for sure want to read this one!!

There is no profanity (yay!) or "intimacy," besides maybe a brief kiss. There is some tension between our two young heroes, which is kind of annoying, but doesn't really amount to much. There may also be some jealousy. There is quite a bit of fighting and violence in this book, as well as in the previous books. They are in a war, so there is fighting, and some of it is graphic.

Rating: PG-13 (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy," but there is quite a bit of fighting, and violence, and some of it is quite graphic and descriptive.)

Recommendation: 13 years-old and up (YA approved!)

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


Friday, December 30, 2016

Hail to the Chief (An Ellis the Elephant Story)



Hail to the Chief
(An Ellis the Elephant Story)
by
Callista Gingrich

Blurb:

"Ellis the elephant is back, and he's headed to the White House! In Hail to the Chief, the sixth in Callista Gingrich's New York Times bestselling series, Ellis meets some of America's greatest presidents and discovers how they have led our country throughout American history. Join Ellis as he travels back in time to encounter:
  • George Washington as he is sworn in as our first president.
  • Andrew Jackson as he welcomes thousands of Americans to the White House.
  • Abraham Lincoln as he delivers the Gettysburg Address.
  • Theodore Roosevelt as he builds our national park system.
  • Lyndon Johnson as he signs the Civil Rights Act.
With beautiful illustrations and charming rhymes, Hail to the Chief will delight young and old alike with a glimpse at the leaders who helped make America an exceptional nation."

My Review:

What a great book! I love that it's a darling picture book with colorful illustrations, and yet it's packed with information! Children will think they're reading about a cute little elephant, and yet they're learning about American presidents and history. You know me, I hate it when authors push their agenda onto children through books and movies, and I was worried that this book might do that; it did not, thankfully! It is an unbiased look at several of America's former presidents; Republican and Democratic alike. The only agenda in this book is to get children excited about American history by helping them learn about former presidents. I even learned a few things! It's written in poem format, which is great because learning to rhyme is also an important skill for children to have. It's not forced rhyming, either. It flows well and is easy to read and understand. My copy is hardback, which I love for its durability. The illustrations are very well done. They're colorful, interesting, and full of great details. Not all the former presidents are highlighted in the book, but there is a little blurb on each of the presidents in the back of the book. (*Update 1/6/17: I had a reader contact me regarding the blurbs. She felt like the blurbs were biased, so I read through them. I think most of them are unbiased and informational. There are a few, especially with the more current presidents,  that are slightly biased. I didn't feel like they were extremely biased, but there was a hint. Still, I think the benefits of the book outweigh the negative. If you feel the blurbs are biased then you could take those pages out, since they are not a part of the actual story. The story itself is unbiased.*)  I highly recommend this book for old and young alike! This book should be in every elementary school library in the United States!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone!

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


Friday, December 23, 2016

Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians (Book #1)



Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians (Book #1)
by
Brandon Sanderson

Blurb:

"On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand in the mail, an inheritance from his lost parents. When it is immediately stolen, he learns that it is no ordinary bag of sand. With it, the evil Librarians who secretly rule the Hushlands--Librarian-controlled nations, such as the United States, Canada, and England--will finally overtake the Free Kingdoms as well. Alcatraz and his ragtag band of freedom fighters must stop them, once and for all."

My Review:

One of my book group friends recommended this series to me about a year ago, and I got them at the library for my son, but never had the chance to read them myself. I got them again for my daughter to read, and was finally able to read the first one. I have to say, this book is so much fun! The voice in the book is hilarious! It's told in first person, and I don't think I've read another book where the first person narrator is so engaging and humorous. Alcatraz is pulled into this crazy world of evil librarians and conspiracies, and even though he's the supposed hero, the first words in the book are, "I am not a good person." It's a (fictional) autobiography of Alcatraz and his life story. I love how he says in the book that the evil Librarians will advertise it as a fictional book (because they don't want the truth out), but it's really an autobiography. So fun. It is very well written, engaging, creative, imaginative, and humorous. Yes, there are some scary parts where Alcatraz, Bastille, Grandpa Smedry, and Sing are in grave danger and have to fight those evil Librarians, but the way they're written makes it seem not so bad. I love the idea of the different lenses (Want more info. on the lenses....read the book!), and how there are more continents on the earth that those evil Librarians have gotten away with not teaching us about. Hahaha!! I knew some of those librarians were secretly evil! Alcatraz is a great character. He's definitely not perfect, but in the book that imperfection becomes his strength, which is a great lesson! I love that part too. Grandpa Smedry is awesome too. Bastille is a little rougher around the edges, but I liked her more as the book went on. If you're looking for a fun middle-grader/YA series, look no further! There are five books in the series; as a mom, I love finding series for my kids to read because then I know I have five good books in a row for them to read. I highly recommend this book!

Rating: PG (There is no profanity and no "intimacy." There is some violence with characters being tortured-it's not too graphic, fighting with different weapons, and lots of stuff breaking. Of course there is a bad guy, and he's a really good bad guy!!)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (It's a great middle-grader/YA book!)



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sting (Book #2)


Sting (Book #2)
by
Jude Watson

Blurb:

"Never do a favor for a friend. So why is March McQuin dangling upside-down twenty feet above a stone floor in the middle of the night, instead of tucked in bed like a regular kid? Along with his twin sister, Jules, he's set on stealing a set of stunning diamonds. It should have been an easy job, in and out. Except another thief got there first. March and Jules are lucky to escape with their lives, and one measly stone. Now the botched heist has created a world of trouble. The stone they grabbed was the Morning Star, one of a trio of famous sapphires, and it's cursed. The theft puts the twins and their friends in the crosshairs of Interpol, the FBI, and a vicious adult gang of criminals. And worst of all, the only way to break the curse and set everything to rights is by pulling off two more impossible heists...and stealing the other two sapphires in the set. Break out the black gloves. Lay out the masks. There's a full moon coming, and jewel to steal..." 

My Review:

Well, the gang is back at it! So much for going straight... Once again, even though I don't want to cheer for kids as they commit crimes, I found myself hoping they would make it. Geez! "But they're just sweet kids," the little devil on my shoulder says. Then the angel on my other shoulder is screaming, "But they're breaking the law and stealing from rightful owners; they need to be caught and go to jail!" Yep, it's wrong, but the book is so well written that you just can't put it down, and you can't find it in you to root against them. This book gets a little more into the roll of each character, and there's more friction between the friends. I didn't love that aspect of it, but they definitely learned some valuable life lessons as a consequence. They learned that they have to stick together, they need to be able to forgive and forget, and they need to be able to trust each other. I did like learning more about each of the characters; you definitely see more of their flaws, but that isn't always a bad thing. There are more twists and turns in this book, and lots of surprises. A few new characters are introduced; some good and some not so good. Unfortunately, these kids are quite adept at their trade. (Hey Kids-don't try this at home!!) If you enjoyed the first book, you will for sure like this one! I worry about second books sometimes, but this one did not disappoint!

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy." There is, however, some violence. There is fighting, police chases, car crashes, and of course the fact that these children are criminals.)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up (This is a great middle-grader and YA series!)