What is your reading goal this year?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gregor the Overlander (Book #1) by Suzanne Collins

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "When eleven-year-old Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, baths, cockroaches, and rats--but the fragile peace is about to fall apart. Gregor wants no part of a conflict between these creepy creatures. He just wants to find his way home. But when he discovers that a strange prophecy foretells a role for him in the Underland's uncertain future, he realizes it might be the only way to solve the biggest mystery of his life. little does he know his quest will change him--and the Underland--forever.

I am so glad I found this book! This is a good, fun book. I was worried about it for my 4th grader since Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games is NOT 4th grader approved, but it turned out to be really good. It has a fun and different storyline, which catches you right from the beginning. It's a fast, easy read, and it has some fun twists and turns. The writing style is easy to read and draws you in. It is clean from start to finish (except for some war violence), which I love. I really liked the characters, especially Gregor and Boots, and thought their character development was good. I loved the relationship between Gregor and Boots. It was so cute how much he loved her and how he takes care of her and protects her. Not too many young boys would feel that way about their little sisters. Some of the Underland characters were developed well also. I thought it interesting that she used everyday, not so nice, creatures to become some of the best and nicest characters. I also like that this is a series so I know that my 4th grader has at least that many books to read before I have to find him something else to read. 

I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it! Hopefully I'll be posting the review for the second book soon. I love that you can have a great book that is clean. So great.

Rating: PG   Clean--no swearing or "physical intimacy". There is some war violence with characters dying. And some of the "big bugs" may scare younger readers.

Recommendation: 3rd or 4th grade and up. I enjoyed it. It's not Harry Potter, but it's enjoyable and a fun read.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket.) "In Beatrice Prior's Dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves or it might destroy her."

I loved this book! It is captivating, exciting, suspenseful, and action-packed. I really like Ms. Roth's style of writing. It pulls you in and keeps you reading. The characters are well developed, but there is also a hint of secrecy around them. I liked a lot of the characters, was scared of some, felt sorry for others, and didn't know what to think of some of them. Ms. Roth did a really good job of drawing the reader in.  I was confused with all the factions at first, and couldn't keep them straight, but by the  end I had it figured out. There are a lot of characters and trying to remember their names can also be a little difficult, but it works out in the end. There were some good twists and turns and the storyline is just so different and creative. I really liked Beatrice's inner conflict. I like how she tried, in subtle ways, to be both her old faction and her new faction.

The premise of the book is very interesting. It has a hint of "Matched", a spice of "Uglies," and a little bit of "Hunger Games," yet it is all its own. I have NO idea which faction I would choose, since I value all of the factions' qualities. I try to be a well-rounded person, so having to pick one would not be fun for me. The decisions they expect 16 year-olds to make are crazy! I can't imagine making one decision, at 16, that would determine the rest of my life. And how sad that faction comes before family. What good is it to have a family, then? Aren't families there to support us and help us? I found it so sad that when those kids needed their families the most is when they couldn't have them.

I was excited for the first 3/4 of the book that I might be able to let my 10 year-old read this book. It is filled with action and suspense but it is clean.....until the end. Oh man! There is considerable discussion at the end about "physical intimacy," and it plays a role in Tris making it into her faction(She has to pass a test of her fears. She doesn't have to actually do anything). The ending is quite violent as well, with main characters being killed.

I really liked this book and definitely recommend it (to those 13 and up)! The next book can't come soon enough.....

Rating: PG-13 (Discussion of "physical intimacy" and violence)

Recommendation: Probably 13 and up. They don't actually do anything, it is just discussed. And I think a 13 year-old could handle the violence.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? by Julie Donley, RN

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "What makes change so H.A.R.D.? we struggle to lose weight, change jobs, improve our relationships or our financial condition and even give up addictions. We succumb to our habits and accept a life of mediocrity, wishing it could be different and incessantly hoping for that magic solution. The reality is that we are creatures of habit and change can be uncomfortable. Change requires hard work, consistency and time. We perceive it as a chore and most of us just don't want to work that hard. Yet, there have been times in your life when you have made great change and it has brought you to a much better place. You were willing to do whatever it took to achieve the outcome you desired and you did it! You succeeded."

I really liked this book. Ms. Donley has overcome a lot of change in her life and she has some very good insights into making change easier. Her writing style is easy to read and understand, and she explains everything well. She definitely made me think I could make any change I wanted to! I really like how she talks about preparing ourselves for change. Sometimes we get frustrated because we keep saying we want to change but we don't do it. Well, her advice is to not feel guilty about that because maybe we really aren't ready yet. We need to take the time to prepare ourselves for change. We need to mull it over and when we are really ready we will do it! Sometimes the "ready" point comes by necessity like having a heart attack makes you eat healthier or a spouse passes away. Other changes though, like losing weight or giving up addictions, need time to prepare ourselves for. Ms. Donley's acronyms are helpful in remembering her steps.

Some of the book is repetitive, but I think that can be good and helpful in a self-help book. Sometimes we need to hear things over and over before they finally sink in.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to change something in his or her life, which is most likely everyone. :)

Rating: G Good, clean reading!!

Recommendation: Middle school and up, just because I don't think children really need to worry about it. It could help a middle school child who is dealing with major change, like a divorce.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free book in exchange for this review. That does not change my opinion, however, I am always honest in my reviews.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holy Stable by Heidi Hanseen

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "The heavenly gift of Christmas transforms hearts and homes. Create lasting memories as you experience with family and friends the shared affection at Jesus' birth. Mary and Joseph's devotion to God and sublime caring for each other will bring you to experience the story as never before. As Joseph searches for comforting words to offer Mary, he is attended by angel children who sing along to welcome Baby Jesus. Discover how sharing the gift of Jesus' love blesses relationships, as you enjoy the magic of children's narration, original music, and song."

This is a beautiful book! The gold-tipped pages are beautiful and give you a sense that what is in the book is important. The illustrations are well done and add greatly to the story. The story of Mary and Joseph is written in poem form and done very well. It is tender and not corny. The music on the CD is very soft and calming. The children's voices are so sweet and convey the message of Christmas well. I love the idea of having the music, narration, and a downloadable script all wrapped up together with the book. This will make having the Christmas pageant in your home or church much easier. You can use her narration or just the music. There are many ways to make it fit perfectly with your needs. Thank you, Ms. Hanseen for such a beautiful book. I will definitely be reading this one to my children this Christmas season.

Rated: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Great for everyone!!

Discloure: I did receive a free book in exchange for this review; however, this does not sway my opinion. All my reviews are honest.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What Are You Thinking? by Valerie Ackley

This children's book is so fun! I absolutely LOVE the message of this book! The book talks about how powerful our thoughts are, and how you can do whatever you put your mind to. It also discusses how if you have "yucky" thoughts when you wake up then you may have a yucky day, but if you use your power to change those thoughts into happy thoughts then you will have a much better day. What a powerful message! I think I tell my kids this at least three times every day! I also like the illustrations. They are big and bold and bright, which catches the children's attention. Some of the pages are a little overwhelming with all the different thoughts, but the overall message makes up for it. I highly recommend this book and will definitely be reading it to my kids over and over. Thank you, Ms. Ackley for such a positive book with a great message!!!

Rating: G Totally clean, hooray!

Recommendation: Everyone from 0-100 could use this reminder and this message.

Friday, November 4, 2011

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments Book #4) by Cassandra Clare

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "The Mortal War is over, and Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And--most important of all--Clary can finally call Jace her boyfriend. But nothing comes without a price. Someone is murdering Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine's Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to  a second bloody war. Clary's best friend, Simon, can't help her. His mother just found out that he's a vampire and now he's homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side--along with the power of the curse that's wrecking his life. And they're willing to do anything to get what they want. At the same time he's dating two beautiful, dangerous girls--neither of whom knows about the other. When Jace begins to pull away from Clary without explaining why, she is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: She herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace."

Wow. This book is so good. If you liked the first three then you definitely need to read this one.  It is action packed and has some crazy twists and turns. I wasn't sure where it was headed, but it is crazy. And the ending.....oh the ending. I closed the book and screamed, "NO! It can't end like that! AAAhhhhhh!!!" And then I thought....May is a very long time to wait for the next one (it's November). Oh man!

This book is a lot racier than the previous three and there is a lot of language. There is a lot of "physical intimacy" talk (and one scene in which they do all but, and you know it is their intent), along with Alec and Magnus' homosexual relationship. There is also a lot of violence. There is a part that deals with babies that is awful and grotesque and graphic. Haha...and I liked this book? Umm, yep!

Rating: PG-13 For all of the above paragraph.

Recommendation: High School Seniors and up.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Last Confederate Battle by John J. Cline

(Summary taken from the back of the book.) "The Last Confederate Battle is a fictional take of how the Civil War affected the lives of three brothers who were raised and who fought for the South in an unconventional war. Meanwhile, President Lincoln, vexed by war-profiteering and mysterious murders turns to Allan Pinkerton and New York City Chief of Detectives, Frank Stone for answers. Reconstruction brings the main characters together in search of peace and justice."

I am an American history fan so I was really excited to read this book. I liked the storyline and the plot of the book, and I liked the characters. The character development was good and some of the characters I felt like I had known for a long time. I liked Frank and Kaitlin and Andy and Veronica. I liked the brothers as well as Jubal and the Pinkertons. It was confusing at first because there are a lot of characters and they all started out in different places. I didn't know how it would all come together, but it did actually end up coming together in the end. I'm not always a fan of historical fiction, but I did like it.

What I didn't like was the violence and gore in this book. It is a war-time book. It was very hard to read at some points. Some of the things individuals in the book end up doing are awful. Horrible. Why Mr. Cline needed to include these gory details is beyond me. When a character is being shot at point blank, I understand the need to use everyday items as weapons, but going into such detail about what he did to defend himself is unnecessary (a pencil is used in this particular case and it is extremely yucky and awful). Andy and Mr. Hill, in particular, do some reprehensible things. This book is not for the faint of heart. I would not have finished it if I hadn't been doing a review, for that reason. There is also a lot of language in the book. There are violent deaths and things done to women that made me sick.

I ended up liking the story and the characters, but it was not something I would want to read again. I don't watch war movies because it is too much for me, and the same thing goes with books. I don't like the gory details. If things like that don't bother you then you may really like the book.

Rating: R (Remember, this doesn't necessarily follow the movie ratings) Violence, gore, death, war- time fights and war scenes, language, rapes

Recommendation: 18 and up. At least. It is sad because the characters grow on you, and the overall storyline is clever and comes together well. It is just really hard to read. I wish Mr. Cline had left a lot of those gory moments out of the book and I would have liked it a lot more.

(Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in return for this review. That does not sway my opinion either way. I am always honest in my reviews.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Velwythe: Resurrection of the Mind by Bonn Turkington

(Summary taken from the back of the book) "His mother vanished. His father killed himself. Vaan, now 21, has no friends, no money, no family, and no hope. All his dreams have vanished. Unable to escape the horror of his own memories, his life has been in stasis. But with a bit of luck and  a bit of effort Vaan manages to make his first real friend since childhood. Duncan, a man who has watched the growing railline destroy his entire home city, was disowned after denying his birthright. Vaan and Duncan become fast friends with troubled pasts. Now, with Duncan's help and the 'encouragement' of a local priest, Vaan decides his life has remained in a quagmire too long. Only by selling his house and everything he owns will he have a chance to become a wandering scholar. Every year around the FreePort Solstice Festival (and his birthday) Vaan has terrible nightmares of his father's chronic pain. But the night before the festival Vaan has a dream unlike any before. He wakes up thinking he has gone blind--but it isn't just that, he can feel something, something cold pawing at his head as though it is absorbing his very thoughts. After the horrible dream, leaving FreePort isn't just about getting an education. Ellred, a local priest, tells Vaan there could be more to his non-dream than he could ever imagine. But the only way to figure any of it out is if Duncan agrees to travel with Vaan to the very place Duncan can never return. And on their way to Alpine, Vaan's encounter with a small militia forces him to question his understanding of humanity and the very reality he thought to be true for so many years. But Velwythe is more than just the story of Vaan and Duncan. Visit Velwythe.com to explore the world Vaan and Duncan explore, participate in the story by communicating with the characters, vote on issues that will change not only the future books but the entire world and much, much more. No book world has been so complete and so accessible. Velwythe, not just a book, a whole new world."

I did not read this synopsis before I started the book, and I probably should have. It took me awhile to get into the book, and I was just starting to enjoy it when, at page 198 (out of 308), I reached the Epilogue. Huh? Doesn't the Epilogue usually come at the end of the book? I was just starting to like Vaan and Duncan and to care about what happened to them. I felt excited for Vaan's future and what it might hold.....and then the book ended with over 100 pages left. I was really confused. The Epilogue went back to what happened in the Prologue and actually maybe answered some questions while asking some more. The rest of the book was a history of the land of Velwythe and descriptions of the different places there. It also described how to go to Velwythe.com and interact with the book there.

This is a very clever idea. I went to Velwythe.com and took a look around, and there is a lot to look at. I found it overwhelming and a bit confusing, but I bet with time it could be very interesting.  At the website you are able to read more about the history of the places in the book, and supposedly suggest ideas and write articles for the lands' newspapers. Mr. Turkington has put a lot of effort into the site. I never found out where you go to add a city to the map or things like that, but it could be entertaining. Mr. Turkington will then take what happens online and add it to the following books.

It's a very clever idea; however, it is not for me. I barely have enough time to read a book, so I definitely do not have time, or the interest, to explore an online world. I think it may be really good for a teenage boy (or girl) who loves to game online because it will tie reading into online interaction. At the same time, I'd much rather my children not interact online and just read.....but if it's a way to get a child to read then it could be good. I did end up liking the story, but with all the other stuff I don't think I'll read the following books. I don't know if I'll let my children read it either, because my oldest is only ten, and although he could read the story just fine, I don't want him spending time living in an online world.

The book is fairly well written. There are some typos, it is a little slow at the beginning, and a few places are a bit confusing, but overall it is well written and easy to read. Vaan's character development is good, and I found Ellred intriguing. I liked Duncan and Jonas as well, and would have liked to learn more about them.

Rating: PG-13 (Violence, death, some scary creatures)

Recommendation: This is a hard one. I'm going to say 14 and up just because I think teenagers  may really like it, and it may pull them into reading. On the flip side, I don't know if it's healthy for younger children to get too involved with an online world.

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Crystal Prince

The Crystal Prince by Jeanette Clinger Hurley

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Escape into a world of spellbinding adventure, a world where kindness is king, a world where faith and imagination separate life from death, a world where love is the key that unlocks both mystery and magic...Escape into the world of The Crystal Prince. Come along and join the charmed Prince Xabian and the beautiful Jenevieve on their enchanted and courageous journey, as they discover...The heart is mightier than the sword, that faith conquers fear and that the true magical and transformational miracle of life is simple and pure...That love is the way, love is the only way."

I enjoyed this book. It is a fast, easy read that packs a huge message. The story takes you from a warm, welcoming castle to a hideous cave hide-out. From nice and loving people to mean, hard-hearted ugly creatures. Prince Xabian has a choice to make: let bitterness and hatred take over or make the best of a difficult situation. The message of love is powerful and strong. I thought the contrast between the people of the castle and the Ganthites was striking, and I enjoyed seeing the transformation of the Ganthites. I find the message useful in everyday life. I tell my kids almost every day that they have a choice to make to have a positive attitude or have a bad day. This book reinforces that message and more. I liked the illustrations as well.

I did have a few unanswered questions. For instance, how did a pillow get in the cave and how did it turn into his crystal pillow? How did these same people live for a thousand years? It is fantasy so these questions maybe don't need answering, but they were confusing to me. Overall, I thought it was well written and I enjoyed the message. I would recommend it. If a 4th grader is going to read it by himself I would suggest going through with him and pronouncing the difficult names.

Rating PG: Some violence (kidnapping, fighting, harsh treatment of the Prince)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up. As stated earlier, if a 4th grader is to read it by himself I would go through and help him with the pronunciation of the difficult names beforehand. I would also discuss the book with him afterward and talk about the message of love and making each day the best it can be. It is a great book for a teaching moment! This may be too much for some 4th graders, so it is always best for each parent to read it first and decide what is best for each student.

Disclosure: I did receive a free book for this review; however, that does not sway my opinion of the book in any way, I am always honest with my reviews.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Down By The Cool Of The Pool

Down By The Cool Of The Pool by Tony Mitton

(Summary taken from the back of the book) "Join sprightly Frog and his energetic farmyard friends as they frolic down by the cool of the pool. Where will the fun end?"

My daughter brought this book home from school today. I had never seen it before, and it is so much fun! I may need to get this one! Frog and all his friends: Duck, Pig, Sheep, Goat, Pony, Cow, Donkey, and probably more, dance by the pool. It's fun because each animal does something different. It's fun to act it out and almost sing along. They fall in the pool and do they stop dancing?? No, of course not! They keep dancing in the pool. So much fun!

Rating: G!!! (Good clean fun)

Recommendation: Newborn and up! It's great for everyone. I think toddler to kindergarten will enjoy it the most, because they are still into dancing along, but I bet even my older boys would like it if I read it to them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gotcha Gas: Debacle Near Roswell by M.A. Banak and Bill Weimer

(Summary from the Introduction page) "For some people, the simplest explanation will never do. In July of 1947, a top-secret US Army weather balloon crashed near the town of Roswell, New Mexico. To locals arriving at the crash site, the flower-like designs on the reinforcing tape of the balloon (it was made in a toy factory) were interpreted as alien hieroglyphics. Initially, the US Army seemed to agree, but suddenly issued a retraction. Since then, numerous books, tabloid exposes and television shows have forged contradictory and convoluted accounts of this incident into an entire industry. Which is good. This way, the story of what happened in Gotcha, New Mexico, that July day will remain forgotten, but for a chosen few..."

This book is sold as an e-book. Unfortunately, I don't have an e-reader. Fortunately, the authors were so nice that they actually printed me off a PDF copy. Mr. Banak asked me if I would review their book for them and, of course, I agreed. 

I didn't really know what to expect from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story takes you from a normal day in today's world back to 1947 in New Mexico. And the day you end up in is anything but normal!  In the story you see how one little situation can snowball into something completely out of control, and it is hard to watch (hard to watch in a cringe sort of way....because you can't do anything to stop it). And it makes you wonder what really happened in Roswell.......

I have to admit, I got caught in the story and I enjoyed the ride! There are a lot of characters and it is somewhat confusing keeping them all straight, but in the end they all end up--sorry, not going to tell you, but it all comes together in the end. This story is fantastical and so when you begin reading you need to just sit back and enjoy the fun. Don't get caught up in everything that couldn't possibly happen, just let the book take you for an entertaining ride. And don't let the title scare you away. Gotcha is the name of the city, and there is a gas station nearby. That is all you need to know.

 I enjoyed this book.  It is very different from what I have been reading, and it was a fun change of pace. I would recommend it. The writing style can be a bit confusing at times, but it's not hard to get right back on track. Mr. Banak and Mr. Weimer have big imaginations and the story has so many twists and turns you have to hold on tight so you don't go flying!

Rating: PG (No language or "physical intimacy" scenes. There is no real violence, just pure craziness.)

Recommenation: 12 and up. Not because of anything bad, just because I know my ten year-old doesn't have a clue about Roswell, New Mexico or Area 51, and I know he doesn't know what a deed is. I think at 12 years-old it will be easier to understand. I think this age group will really enjoy this book.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book in return for this review. That, however, does not sway me to give a positive review. I always give my honest opinion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

City of Glass

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments Book Three) by Cassandra Clare

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters--never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.  As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her new found powers to help save the Glass City--whatever the cost?"

I was so excited to read this book--and it definitely met my high expectations. It was a little predictable, but I didn't care. This book actually took longer for me to get into than the first two did, but once they got to Idris I was, once again, hooked. I did get a small whiff of "Twilight" in this book, which was a little disappointing. Clary started to sound like Bella for a minute, whining and confused between best friend and who she really wanted to be with, which is gross since it's her brother. In the end, though, she found her strength and independence and got over it. It's a fast easy read, which is always fun. I think Ms. Clare's writing style is captivating and it always puts me right in the action. There is suspense, action, romance, betrayal, fighting, long lost friends, new found alliances, and lots more. If you have read the first two you will definitely want to read this one! I really enjoyed it. Bring on Book Four!!

Rating: PG-13 (language, violence, homosexual relationships, kissing, innuendos with almost "physical intimacy" scenes)

Recommendation: High school seniors and up.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just Fine the Way They Are by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Mr. John Slack, keeper of a tavern beside a rutted road in the early 1800's, thought things were just fine they way they were. So did Lucius Stockton, who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid-1800's. So did the owners of the railroads when the first Model T appeared in 1908. The need to move around the United States more quickly, more comfortably, and, now, more "greenly" means things will never be just fine the way they are."

I did not read that summary before I read the book (maybe I should have). I opened up the book and fell in love. The illustrations are amazing. The story is fun, educational, and historical. I love it when children's books authors add history and make it interesting. I don't know if all the people the book highlights really lived, or if they are just fictional, but the historical facts are supposed to be accurate. It's a fun way to portray the evolution of transportation in the United States. I thought it would be a great tool for parents and teachers. I loved it! I was very excited to read it to my kids.....

....Until I got to the second to last page. And then I got so sad. And a little angry. The book takes a sad turn when it goes political on the second to last page. Oh, I can't tell you how sad it made me. After looking at all these happy, light, airy illustrations, this page is dark and ugly.

Sorry, just let me stand up on my soapbox for a minute: I do not care what political affiliation you are. I don't care who you vote for or campaign for. I don't care what side your opinion of the political arena falls in. As an adult, I don't care. I'm a big girl and I can listen to what you have to say and weigh the issues. I can take that information and make up my own mind. Unfortunately, children do not have that power. Children are influenced by everything around them, for good or bad. They do not have the power to look at the facts and make up their own minds. That is why politics should be left OUT of all children's literature and movies. I find it very distasteful to try and slip a political agenda into a picture book. And it doesn't matter if it's a political agenda I agree with or disagree with, it should be left out. I would have been completely fine with Ms. Wooldridge skipping the second to last page and leaving in the last page. Both those pages are heavy in sarcasm, which children do not understand, but the last page is ok. Concluding with how the transportation we have now will probably not be what we always have is fine, and true. Even saying how we should not be the ones holding back the innovation would be fine. Unfortunately, she did not do that. She had to ruin this great book by adding her political views.

Will I read this to my children? Yes because 97% of it is fabulous. However, I will be skipping the second to last page, and most likely the last page as well. I will just skip over to the timeline in the back, which is a very good resource.

Rating: G Good, clean book, except for the last two pages filled with sarcasm and a political agenda.

Recommendation: 1 and up! The little kids will love the illustrations of the trains and other forms of transportation. My recommendation: skip the second to last page and maybe the last page. Teachers, especially, should stay away from the politics in this book. If my child came home from school touting something political he had learned from a picture book I would not be very happy.

I wish I had a better review for this book because the beginning is so great!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Adventures of Dod

The Adventures of Dod by Thomas R. Williams

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "Years ago, a father went missing. Recently, a grandfather died. Now, fourteen-year-old Cole finds himself inexplicably transported to the world of Green, a place where he must use his special abilities and unique friendships to solve mysteries and, ultimately, try to stop an evil villain named The Dread."

First let me explain how I came about this book. The elementary school my children used to attend received a few boxes of this book, intended for each student in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. A few people in my book group work at the school and the principal asked if our book group would review it before they handed them out to the children. Interesting. So, of course, we decided we better review it.

I'm torn with this one. Usually I know exactly what I want to say. I just finished all 507 pages and I don't know. I'll start with this.....it was okay. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. Do I want my 4th grader to read it? I don't know. The first few pages are quite violent, and there are some violent scenes in it following that (poisonings, sword fights, scary creatures, characters dying), but the whole story is not that violent. My problem with this book is that I kind of don't get it. I know it's part of a series, but there are so many unanswered questions, so many things that just don't make sense to me. There are a ton of characters and places and I couldn't keep any of it straight. Things are not explained very well in the book. For example, Cole, the main character, ends up in this other world. He's never been there before, but yet he "remembers" some things. Huh? He has memories of some events and places and people that he's never been to or met. How? Why does he know some things but not others?  How does he know anything at all? Maybe I shouldn't try so hard and just enjoy the read, but I can't. It really bothers me. I don't understand how he can just take some one's place and no one notices. Also, what are coosings and pots?  There are a lot of made up words that just are not fully explained or clarified. Another thing that bothered me was that the first chapter ties into the book, but it's not easily apparent. When I finished I went back and read it again and it still took me a minute to figure out how it played in.
The story itself is okay. It's interesting and could be really good, I think. There are twists and turns and surprises. There's suspense, drama, action, and a little flirting. It's just that there is so much to it that isn't fully explained, and it's so long that it takes away from the plot. My 4th and 3rd graders kept asking me if they could read it and they could, I think. My 4th grader has read all the Harry Potters and Fablehavens, and together we've read all the Percy Jacksons, so I think, in that sense, it would be okay for them to read. I just don't know if they could keep it all straight, since I couldn't. If I hadn't been reviewing it I don't know if I would have finished. I think they may lose interest because it's so confusing. I do think it is better for 4th grade boys....girls may not like it as much. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to put it all together, but it shouldn't be that hard. It's too bad because I think it could be really good. I wish he had left out a lot of the extras that ended up taking away from the storyline. Or, I wish he had just clarified and defined things a little better. An index in the back with character names and a map would have helped a lot!

I did really like the morals and lessons in the book, though. Dod doesn't pick fights, he just fights the ones he needs to. He sticks up for and respects women. He makes good decisions based on memories of his family members teaching him those things. He shows respect for elders and most authority figures and he is humble in his accomplishments. I like those things a lot and liked that part of the storyline.

Rating: PG (almost PG-13) Violence, death, but no language or "physical intimacy"

Recommendation: I guess I'll stick with 4th grade and up. If your child has read books like "Harry Potter" or "Fablehaven" then he or she should be fine reading this, if they can keep up with the characters and places.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Gift of Love

A Gift of Love by Dr. Claus

(Summary taken from the press release) "[A gift of Love] is a children's picture book written through the eyes of a second grade student not far from ground zero on September 11, 2001. As this story unfolds, you will discover how one brave New York City firefighter, father and husband, can inspire a nation and show us all how love for each other is as strong as any form of destruction. A Gift of Love highlights the love of a father for his family, his love for his community, the love of a nation and the ultimate in love. Follow a little girl as she goes from pajamas to pancakes and as she gets ready for her first day of school. Discover the events that happen at breakfast as the family prepares for the coming day."

I received this book awhile ago, but I thought I would highlight it right before the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001. This book is not happy, but neither was anything else that happened on that day. I am not from New York or Washington D.C., and I did not know anyone that died on that day. But as an American I felt sadness, fear, confusion, anger, panic, and many more emotions.

This book follows a second grade girl on September 11, 2001. It discusses the events that occurred in a very personal, intimate, and child friendly way. This book definitely requires a parent reading with the child. It serves as a good introduction to what happened and allows for discussions to begin from there. It will be easy to adapt the discussions from there to the maturity and level of each individual child. It teaches that love is more powerful than hate, and it teaches the importance of family. I think it also teaches that we should not take those that we love for granted, and that we should enjoy each moment we have with each other. You never know what will happen.

The illustrations in this book are not my favorite, but they are okay. The content and story make up for the illustrations.

I can't say I'm excited to read this book with my children, but I think it will help a lot. With the ten year anniversary on Sunday (My oldest is not quite ten yet, so none of them were alive on September 11, 2001.) I know there will be stories about it everywhere, and I want to discuss it with my kids before they hear it elsewhere.  I will for sure read it with my two oldest, and I'm still trying to decide if I should read it to my third. My youngest is still little so I probably will not read it to her yet.

Thank you, Dr. Claus, for writing a story to help us parents discuss some difficult things with our children. It focuses on hope, not hatred or destruction, so it doesn't leave parent or child with feelings of fear or hopelessness.

Rating: PG (The events of September 11, 2001 are discussed, and there is the death of a main character.)

Recommendation: 5 and up. This totally depends on the maturity of your children. My third is 5 and I'm not sure with her yet. For younger children (who can't read) you could change the story a little to make it a little more on their level.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Ruin

The Ruin by Kenneth Fenter

(Summary taken from the last page of the book) "Kenneth Fenter's The Ruin is part coming-of-age novel, part Robinson Crusoe, part history lesson, and wholly deserving of an audience of both adults and teenagers. The novel follows Clifton Kelly, a bullied 8th grader in the early 50's, and him as an adult celebrating his last day of teaching. Cliff's retirement day turns tragic when a fellow teacher is murdered by her own son, who then goes to Cliff's sister school and kills students there. The boy's bloody response to bullying triggers Cliff's memories of being bullied during school, and his own response to it."

I really liked this story. It isn't a really fast read, but it is thought-provoking and interesting. It kept me reading. I liked the characters in the book and thought they were well developed. They were believable and I felt I could relate to many of them. I think almost everyone has dealt with bullying on some level, and so the scenes with Cliff and Hector will relate to a lot of people. I could relate to Mrs. Campbell as a teacher, and as a mother I could relate to Cliff's mother.

I had mixed emotions with Cliff's reaction to Hector's bullying. From Cliff's standpoint I see it as a good thing for him. I see how he needed to heal, and how he was able to. From a teacher's standpoint I would think of myself as a failure for not doing more to help the situation. From Cliff's mom's point of view I was furious with him. I could not believe he did that! If one of my children did that I would be furious! I would also be upset with myself for not doing more to prevent the situation to begin with. I felt so bad for her the entire time.

I liked the descriptions in this book. Not being familiar with the area, I needed a lot of description, and that is what I got. Mr. Fenter's descriptive language is beautiful. His descriptions of Cliff's daily activities were so vivid I felt as if I were watching the story through binoculars.

I did have one problem with this book and that was all the typos. There were a lot of typos in the book and it really bothered me. There were some sentences that I just had to guess on. Hopefully he will fix that for future editions. Other than that and a few swear words, I really enjoyed this book.

Rating: PG-13 (Some language, a high school shooting with a teacher and students dead, details about Santa Claus that younger readers may not know, and details about surviving in the wild.)

Recommendation: 14 or 15 and up. I think by this age teens will be able to learn from the story, read it, and enjoy it, without being overwhelmed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Matched by Ally Condie

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket)"Cassia has always trusted their choices. It's hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one...until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path no one else has ever dared follow--between perfection and passion."

It was Tuesday and my Book Group was on Thursday. I still didn't have the book. I headed to the book store and they were out. Then I went to another book store. Phew, they had it. I got home and started reading......and I didn't stop until the next afternoon (Wed.) when I finished. I really liked this book. It's a fast, easy read. It is reminiscent of "Hunger Games" and has a hint of "Uglies" in it as well. Ms. Condie's writing style is close to Ms. Collin's style in "Hunger Games," but it is much lighter. The premises are similar in that the people in this book live in a very controlled society, which seems to be a popular theme right now.

I felt an instant connection to the characters in this book. The character development is very good, and you feel like you live in this neighborhood and the characters are your long-time neighbors. I felt deep loss when Cassia's grandfather passed away, and I felt anger when events happened at the end of the book. This book just drew me in and I couldn't put it down. I also loved that it was clean. There was no language, no "physical intimacy," besides kissing, and very little harsh violence. You do see some violence but a lot of it is hinted at, and it is related to the controlled society. I also liked that this book made me think. A lot. I thought a lot about the lines I would draw between safety and freedom, between having a "perfect" life (no sickness, a perfect marriage partner, the perfect job for me, dying at the perfect time, etc.) and a perfect life (the life I make for myself, the choices I make, and learning and growing from trials). The thing I couldn't handle was them destroying the library!!! No! And it may seem crazy that she didn't know how to write the letters, but with computers and texting, that one isn't too far off....

Rating: PG There is some kissing and some violence connected with the controlled society.

Recommendation: 13 or 14 and up. I'm going to say this right now, but it will depend on the next book in the series. If the next book ("Crossed" comes out Nov. 1, 2011) gets more violent or she adds language or something, then this may change. For right now, yes, I can say it truly is a young adult book!

And yes, I can't wait for Nov. 1st to come!

Monday, August 22, 2011

City of Ashes

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments Book Two) by Cassandra Clare

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal.  But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go--especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil--and also her father. To complicate matters, someone in New York city is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings--and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?"

I was really excited to read this book and it did not disappoint. It kept up the high-paced action and drama of the first book and added a few twists and turns. There were some things that really surprised me and some things I wondered about. A few questions were answered, but more are asked. There is no closure and you're left hanging once again. I really like Ms. Clare's style of writing except that sometimes she'll end a paragraph and then start the next paragraph at a completely different place. I had to go back a couple of times to make sure I hadn't missed anything, but that is just how she writes. So there are some transition issues but overall it's a fast and easy read. It is, once again, quite violent. There are some graphic scenes and quite a few deaths. There is love, betrayal, fighting, friendship, and magic. The characters are well developed and I like her descriptions a lot. I really feel like I'm in the middle of the action. There are some "physical intimacy" innuendos, with some kissing, but they never actually do anything more than kiss. I'm hooked for sure, so look forward to my review of the next book soon (hopefully).

Rating: PG-13 Violence, gory deaths, fighting, "physical intimacy" innuendos, kissing. There are also the homosexual characters (Once again, I know and love people who are homosexual--it just kind of feels forced, like a statement rather than a storyline, in this particular book.) and some innuendos from them. There is also language in this book as well.

Recommendation: I'm sticking with high school seniors and up.

I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the next one!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

City of Bones

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Book One) by Cassandra Clare

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder. Much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons--and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It's also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? And how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...."

I didn't know what to expect with this book. I do not usually read the summary beforehand so I did not expect it to be about werewolves, demons, Shadowhunters, etc. I don't know why. Anyway, the book immediately captured my attention. I have read a lot of good books lately, but none of them have really grabbed me. I'll read at night and that is usually it. This book, however, grabbed me enough in the first page to keep me reading. I read all the next day and then every second I could after that. (My house and children suffered, but....oh well. It was only one day, right??) I really liked the characters in this book. They were all believable. Ms. Clare did a very good job with the character development. I really liked Clary. I liked her a lot more than I liked Bella in "Twilight." She is a strong, independent character and doesn't just whine or need a man all the time. I liked Jace as well. I felt a connection to Simon because he seems kind of nerdy, and that is what I was in school. I was not into Dungeons and Dragons, but I was nerdy.

I liked the plot and thought it was well done. There is a twist at the end, and I did somewhat anticipate it, but there was still some doubt in mind. I liked Ms. Clare's style of writing. It was fast-paced from the beginning and really kept me reading. There were some "lazy" writer moments, like when she just stops a paragraph mid-thought and then puts two or three spaces in between the next paragraph, which may or may not continue where the last paragraph ended. This didn't really bother me in reading it. There was also an unresolved question I had with a fight scene. The main characters are fighting a demon and are in trouble. They can't get out because the door is locked, but then someone comes and busts open the door from the outside. Huh??? How did that happen? Anyway, it still didn't slow down my reading.

I did not like the language in the book. For a young adult book it had a lot of language in it. A lot more than I expected. There is also a homosexual character in the book. I thought it seemed out of place and awkward. Don't take me wrong, I have people I know and love that are homosexual, but in this particular book I thought it seemed forced. It seemed more like a statement than a part of the storyline.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read number two!

Rating: PG-13 (almost an R) There is a lot of language in this book. There is also the homosexual character, violence (killing demons), and death.

Recommendation: High School Seniors and up. I know, it's kind of harsh, but I don't think it's appropriate for children any younger. I wouldn't want my 13 or 14 year-old (if I had one) reading it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Unbelievable Adventures of a WWII German War Bride

Unbelievable Adventures of a WWII German War Bride: Collection of Acts of Kindness in War and Peace by Ingeborg M. Johnston

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "'Unbelievable Adventures of a WWII German War Bride' by Ingeborg M. Johnston is a gripping, heroic, and at times humorous memoir of one girl's survival in war-torn Berlin and the extraordinary life she created for herself and her family in post-war America. From nursing wounded German officers to making fools of Russian soldiers, to talking her way through situations that would have resulted in prison for many, Johnston's courage and chutzpah will leave you wide-eyed with amazement. How could one young woman break all the rules, take on Germany's top industrial leaders...and win? How does one young woman marry an American and make a life in a country that was recently the enemy...and immediately become an important part of her new community? This is the story of hope and dreams, of courage and risk-taking, of falling in love and following her heart, a bigger-than-life story that cannot be missed."

Ms. Johnston is an amazing woman! She has lived a life full of adventures and a wide variety of experiences. She is an inspiration to all. She is a good story teller and vividly brings her life to life on each page. I especially enjoyed her descriptions of what it was like growing up in Berlin and then what it was like during the war. Her tale of leaving Germany is nothing short of miraculous and I was amazed at her courage and bravery. After arriving in America her "adventures" continue. She may not have considered all of them adventures as she was living them, but she has lived her life to the fullest and has tried to find the good in everything she has experienced. I enjoyed this book, though, at times, I felt like an intruder into some intimate family details. For example, learning about her daughters and one of her daughter's divorce made me feel a little uncomfortable because it is so personal, but she must have given her permission. She also tells where her daughters live now, and that too, made me feel uncomfortable. Overall, though, I learned a lot about how to live and enjoy life, and how to make the most of bad situations. I love that she took combat training on a T-34 at age 79! What a great example she is! And I love her theme of always finding ways to perform acts of kindness.

Rating: PG-13 (Some WWII war descriptions)

Recommendation: High school and up. I think the parts of her during the war would be great to read to a high school classroom learning about WWII. I recommend this book to all who need an inspirational story and who would like to learn how to live life to the fullest.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Birds Can Fly and So Can I

Birds Can Fly and So Can I: A Giraffe Soars from Dream to Reality by Noa Nimrodi

(Summary taken from the back cover) "A delightful giraffe has a lofty dream--to fly in the sky with the birds. Will her dream remain a vision, or will it--along with her other undiscovered talents--soar to reality?"

This is a fun little story with a big lesson to be learned: you can make your dreams a reality if you work hard and keep a good support group around you. This lesson is sometimes hard to teach because you don't always see an end result as quickly as you might like. Ms. Nimrodi's book allows children and adults to talk about achieving their dreams while reading together. Children can see that sometimes we may have dreams that really are impossible (like a giraffe flying), but it is still okay to dream. While dreaming we may find other talents we have and we can use those talents to help others and to make our other dreams come true.

I recommend this story to parents, children, teachers, and anyone else who has ever dreamed of doing the impossible.

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Great for all ages, birth to 100+!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Alice Liddell Hargreaves's life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she's experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. but as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only "Alice." Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year--the golden summer day she urged a grown-friend to write down one of his fanciful stories. That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice--he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice's childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war. For Alice the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey."

What a clever idea for a book! To take a story we all know so well and to try and determine what happened after the book was written. I really liked the premise of the book, and I ended up really enjoying it. I was concerned at the beginning because it was so creepy. This 30 year-old man, Mr. Dodgson (his pen name was Lewis Carroll), spends way too much time with this young child. He takes her picture, and her sisters' pictures, and one afternoon he spends a whole afternoon alone with her. He has her change into this threadbare gypsy costume and takes her picture. As a mother I was completely creeped out. I would not want my children hanging out with this man at all! Then one afternoon there is an "incident" that you don't really find out about until the end. This "incident" fractures the ties between Mr. Dodgson and the Liddell family. The story then follows Alice in her early twenties and then jumps to the end of her life.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this book. First, do not let your children hang out with creepy older men. From there I learned that we should not define ourselves or anyone else by one action, especially if that action occurs as a youth. After the "incident" Alice's mother says she is ruined for the rest of her life. How sad to tell an 11 year-old that because of one action her life is over! I also learned the importance of being a good mother. Alice yearned for her mother's attention. When her mother was sick, she did give Alice that attention, but when she recovered she pushed Alice away even further. If Alice had had a good relationship with a loving mother her life may have turned out differently. Spending time with our children when they want it, not when it is most convenient for us, is another lesson I learned. I also learned the importance of a good father to children as well. Very little is said about Alice's father, except that he is busy with his job as a Dean at Oxford. He is always busy and doesn't give Alice any attention either. Maybe if she had been able to spend more time with a father who cared about her then she would not have sought love from another man. I also learned to not play favorites with my children. How sad that Alice grew up knowing that her mom thought she was a disappointment while her sister could do no wrong. The last thing I learned from this book is to not look back and live in the past. Live right now. Enjoy and love what you have right now. Alice spent years wishing she were with her first love, and consequently was not able to enjoy the time she did have with her husband. He was with her, he loved her now, and she missed a lot of love and contentment because of that choice.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much information in the book was accurate. A lot of the people and places and things that happen in the book did happen in the life of the real Alice Liddell. I did not know much about the story surrounding "Alice in Wonderland," but now I do thanks to Ms. Benjamin. I would definitely recommend this book! I love it when I can learn so much from a work of fiction.

Rating: PG-13 (I added the "13" because even though it is clean--no language or "physical intimacy" or violence, there are some adult things that happen. The whole bit with Mr. Dodgson and then later with Mr. Ruskin just isn't appropriate for younger readers. A couple of Alice's sons do die in war and that is a difficult part to read. )

Recommendation: High School and up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Compliment Quotient

The Compliment Quotient by Monica Strobel

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Learn how developing the one, simple practice of giving compliments boosts your joy, and sustains and enlivens all of your relationships--especially with yourself. You can achieve: a greater sense of well-being and joy in your daily life , deeper connections with your loved ones, more positive impact in the world, and rekindled romance."

I really liked this book. Ms. Strobel's style is simple and easy to read, yet it is packed with information. I really like the idea that just adding more compliments in your day can change the atmosphere of your home (or wherever you are). It seems so simple, but according to her you can achieve a lot with just that one thing. Ms. Strobel gives many examples in the book, which I liked, and thought it made the book more personal. I liked the breakdown of the book, and that she not only said to do it, but showed you how to do it. It is broken down into relationships as well, which is great because I don't compliment my husband the way I do my son or my father. Ms. Strobel just makes it seem so easy! My one complaint (if you can call it that) is that it is written more towards women. I like that it is geared more toward me, but at the same time I think it would be great for men to read as well.

I have been trying to add more compliments into my day and it is harder than it seems. When you walk into the kids rooms and they are messy, then you walk down the stairs and trip on toys, and then you go to the door and find shoes everywhere, it is hard to find compliments, but when I have held back my complaints and complimented instead it has changed my attitude. I have a long way to go, but I really like the idea.

Rating: PG-13 (No language, she does talk about husband and wife relationships, including "physical intimacy." It is clean, just helping to enhance that relationship.

Recommendation: Married and up (just because it does talk about that relationship between husband and wife). I think it would be great to discuss with children and teach them about compliments and how to give them, but I wouldn't have them read the book until they are older.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Inch Principle

The Inch Principle by John T. Condry and Paul E. Carpenter

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Each year, John Condry and Paul Carpenter teach thousands of people to manage, motivate, and communicate more effectively. The Inch Principle compresses their training into 21 Million Dollar Inches of Management. Together these 21 inches will increase your ability to confront any management challenge with confidence. If you want to achieve anything big, challenging, magnificent, or unprecedented apply these 21 Million Dollar Inches of Management."

I am a stay at home mom. I do have my degree in elementary education, and I did teach, but I haven't taught since my first son was born. I am NOT in the business world at all. I help with PTA and in my kids' classes, and I help with tutoring at the school, but I'm not in charge of anything and all I have to manage is my family. This book was advertised as being helpful to anyone in any situation, not just business (see above: "If you want to achieve anything big, challenging, magnificent, or unprecedented apply these 21 Million Dollar Inches of Management.") It was an easy read, I understood everything and how it would help in business mangement, but I did have trouble relating it to me. My husband is a manager at his work and I recommended it to him because he deals with these issues every day. He always talks about being in meetings all day, and there is a principle for that, etc. I think for people in business it is a great book and will help a lot. There are a few of the principles that I could maybe see using as a PTA president or even maybe a teacher with a class, but all the examples in the book relate to business. I think if the authors had wanted it to relate to a larger audience they would have added examples to fit other situations, and they did not.

So, this is a business book. There is a lot of information in it, and I think it will help those in managing positions, and also those who want to move up the corporate ladder. If you are in the business world I would recommend reading it. It doesn't take very long and I think it could have some long term and short term benefits.

Rating: G (It's clean!)

Recommendation: High School and up. It would be really good for a high school business class, and for anyone who owns a business or works at one.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Buddy's Tail

Buddy's Tail by K. Anne Russell

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Buddy Boutonniere, a big-hearted standard Poodle, subsists in the bare backyard of a tract home in the desert city of Yucca Dunes. MacKenzie, a Border Collie, and Javier, a Chihuahua, provide Buddy with companionship and bring him food when his neglectful owners forget to provide for him. When Buddy's owners decide to move, Buddy meets a wonderful lady who visits his house with prospective buyers. The poodle's humans try to sell their dog and Buddy goes through a series of unsuitable living situations. The final family returns Buddy to the tract home not realizing the owners are away. Buddy dies, but is brought back to life by Sonny, the Good Shepherd. Sonny grants Buddy's wish to go live with the wonderful lady, in return for his promise to go with Sonny when he comes back for him. Buddy has a happy life with the lady and her dog, Skootch. Years later, Sonny comes for Buddy. True to his word, Buddy goes without complaint. Sonny takes Buddy to Haven, the canine paradise, where he is reunited with MacKenzie. Their only responsibility is to help guide other dogs to Haven. Buddy excels at guiding, but on a mission to bring back a bomb dog from Afghanistan, Buddy breaks the rules and helps a human, the dog's Marine partner. Buddy is dragged before a tribunal, where MacKenzie defends him. With the help of the marine and a little girl, MacKenzie convinces the judges that Buddy is not an offender, but a hero."

I was really excited to read this book. I'm always looking for good books for my 9 yr.-old to read. As I've stated in the past, he's read all the "Fablehaven" and all the "Harry Potter" books and loved them. I do not read the back cover summary before I read a book, and therefore, I was not prepared for the storyline of this book. I do not know if I would have read it if I had known beforehand what would happen. After finishing the book I read a lot of reviews on Amazon.com and was taken back. Most of the reviewers loved the book and think it is great for children. I, on the other hand, have a very different opinion. I will not be letting my 9 yr.-old read this book. It seems silly, since he has read some pretty scary and dark books and I was fine with it, but this is different. This book disturbed me, as an adult. The only reason I finished the book was because I was reviewing it.

Ms. Russell's writing is good. I like her style of writing. There are some confusing parts because each chapter jumps from time to different time, and different dog, but you eventually figure out what is going on. It's the content of the book that I didn't like. It is fiction, but it is "too close to home." Buddy is very neglected by his owners. I don't like animal cruelty and it is good to teach your children about responsibility with animals, but watching an animal die because of neglect is disturbing. Also, the whole bit with the Hummer man is awful, to say the least. This cruel man, who drives a Hummer, kills one of the dogs' friends and seemed to enjoy it. So all these dogs hate this man. In the book they chase after him barking every time he drives by. Then in the story, you read about this Hummer man who hits a little girl with his car and drives away, leaving her critically injured. This Hummer man also ends up killing another one of the dogs later in the story. It's difficult to read because it is so upsetting. 

After MacKenzie dies, because the Hummer man hit her, she goes to Haven, which is canine paradise. She guides other dogs to Haven when they pass. Buddy eventually passes and also becomes a guide dog. Ok, I'm Christian and I believe in Heaven and life after death, but how do you discuss this book without bringing that up? I have my degree in elementary education and I'm very aware of the separation between church and state. What if there is a child in the class who doesn't believe in Heaven? This book is fiction, as I said, but it is so "real." It's not like discussing a fantasy "Heaven," if that makes sense. In Haven Buddy has to go and get a bomb dog who dies in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb explodes under his vehicle. Ok, I know this is on the news a lot, but that doesn't mean I let my 9 yr.-old watch it! Why would I want him to read about it? He's only nine. He doesn't need to worry about soldiers and their dogs dying in Afghanistan yet. Someday he will, but not yet. And that scene was particularly disturbing for me to read.

The morals of the story are good: be kind to and responsible with animals, loyalty, friendship, helping each other. They are all good lessons to learn, but I do not feel the means to accomplishing this is the correct way. In my family we have had pets die, and it's devastating to children. Even the 1 in. long fish who dies brings out a flood of tears. Reading about these terrible deaths would not help, I don't think, to lessen my children's sadness when a pet dies. I think it just puts disquieting images in their heads and makes them worry about things they don't need to worry about yet. The book states it is for children 9 and up, but it was too much for me. I would not recommend it for 9 yr.-olds.

Rating: PG-13 (Awful doggy deaths, animal cruelty and neglect, a hit-and-run accident, a roadside bomb explosion in Afghanistan that kills a Marine and his dog)

Recommendation: High School and up, maybe. It may be hard for a high school sophomore to handle. Really, this is just too much. I wanted to stop reading after the hit-and-run accident which left a little girl in critical condition in the hospital. Had I not been reviewing the book I would not have finished. The book does state for 9 yr.-olds and up, but I would strongly suggest waiting. I really hope it does not find its way into 4th grade classrooms. I don't think the beneficial lessons learned are worth the painful images in the delivery method.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Summer Fit

Summer Fit (www.summerfitlearning.com)

(Summary taken from the back book cover.) "Keeping brains thinking & bodies active during school breaks is entertaining and engaging with Summer Fit workbooks and online games and activities. Created by educators, fitness trainers, and parents, Summer Fit activities focus on key areas of child development, including academics, physical fitness, and core values. Right now it might feel like a million years away, but the first day of the new school year will be soon upon us. With Summer Fit, your child will take a seat better prepared to handle the mental, physical and social challenges of the new school year."

I have the K-1 Summer Fit book and I'm very impressed. You may not know it, but I have my degree in elementary education, so I was very interested in these books. Last summer I drove my kids crazy because every day they had 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of homework. I spent a lot of time on the Internet searching for the correct math problems and reading activities for my kids to do. They learned a lot and did great, but it took a lot of effort on my part. This book makes it easy! All I have to do is buy a book (I haven't seen the older books so I'm hoping I won't have to supplement.).

This is a great idea. Why didn't I think of it??? The summer is broken down into weeks and then days. There is a page for each day of summer (I haven't counted, but it's got to be really close.). On this page there are some brain activities like math problems or reading activities. There are also some physical activities. The kids not only have to exercise their brains but their bodies as well. There are cardio and strength exercises that switch off. There are lots of ideas and there are more online as well. Then each week there is a value. The first one in this book is Honesty. There is a picture of Abraham Lincoln and it discusses his nickname "Honest Abe." It talks about how honesty is important and why. I hope the values are the same in each book so it will be easier to discuss with my kids all at once, but I'm not sure. For each week there is a certificate to complete when the child finishes the weekly activities and there is an incentive. The incentive could be whatever you want. It could be a treat, but it could also be a trip to a local museum or a picnic at the park, or a family game of kickball in the backyard. I love this! There are also a lot of activities, games, and more challenging work pages online.

As a teacher I would definitely recommend these books to parents, and as a parent I am so glad that I don't have to do all the work this summer! I love that it is not just for the brain, but for the body as well, and I love that it allows me to have fun with the kids while they are learning. I have the K-1 book but now I need the 2-3 and the 3-4 books as well!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Prince Etcheon and the Secret of the Ancient

Prince Etcheon and the Secret of the Ancient by Joann Arnold

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Etcheon always believed he would live and die in his small village that he moved to with his grandmother, Granna Fela--safe, loved, and protected. But with Granna's death comes new information about Etcheon's royal heritage and destiny, which suddenly throws him in the middle of a battle against a wicked king. On the run from hideous beasts sent to kill him, Etcheon is saved by a mysterious girl, a tree with magical powers, and several amazing animals. With his new friends to protect and teach him Etcheon undertakes a journey that will challenge his abilities and define who he needs to become--a warrior-prince charged to save his people."

I really enjoyed this book. It is a little "Eragon," a little "Lord of the Rings," and a little "Harry Potter" all rolled into one. It has everything you want: love, war, wizards, magic, magical creatures, good vs. evil, mystery, and suspense. It is "clean" and very creative. Ms. Arnold has a fun imagination. At first it really reminded me of the story of "Eragon." A boy, who doesn't know who he is, needs to be schooled and mentored, and so is hidden away while he learns. As the story progresses it takes on a "Lord of the Rings" feeling with wizards and evil wizard creatures. Although it may have some of the elements of these books, it is very different and stands alone in its storyline. There are some twists and turns that surprised me, which made it a fun read.

I felt like I really knew the characters and thought Ms. Arnold did a very good job with their development. I wish we had gotten to know a little bit more about Granna Fela and Mr. Otherton, and how he fit into the kingdom. Did he live in the Hidden Kingdom? And which time period did Granna Fela come from? I also wish we had gotten to know Etcheon's parents a little more. Some of the time travel was a little confusing, especially with Etcheon's time frame. It took me a little while to realize how long he had been gone from his kingdom was much different than his age would suggest.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun and easy read. I would recommend it if you are in the mood for a good fantasy story.

Rating: PG (Some death, some war scenes, no language and no "physical intimacy."

Recommendation: 9 and up. I am going to hand it over to my 9 yr-old after school. I know that he is ready, though, because he just finished the last "Harry Potter" and has also read all of "Fablehaven." If a child hasn't read those you may want to read it first. It fits in the same category as those books do. It is fine for some but may be too much for others. As always, I suggest parents read it first just to make sure it is a good match for your child. Thank you Ms. Arnold for saving me, I didn't know what to suggest to my son to read next!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Miracle Pill

Miracle Pill by Tres Prier Hatch

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Television and restaurant chef Tres Hatch lost 110 pounds without dieting. This bonafide "foodie" shares the '10 Truths' she learned during the process of changing herself from a person who battled her weight to someone in harmony with her body--without sacrificing her love for yummy food."

Since I just reviewed "Turbocharged" I was interested to see the difference in the two books. And, wow, what a difference! They are completely different! "Turbocharged" asks you to give up grains, dairy, and sweets for the rest of your life. I knew I couldn't do that. "Miracle Pill" teaches moderation and compensation. Ms. Hatch has a fun style of writing. It is very easy to read and understand, and it is filled with personal anecdotes. I really like the concept of this book. Ms. Hatch teaches a lifestyle and thought change. If you want to eat Thanksgiving dinner, she says, then go ahead. Then the next day cut out sweets and carbs and eat mostly fruit and veggies. If you want a bagel for breakfast, go ahead, but then maybe don't have a roll at dinner. She teaches you to look at the food you eat and recognize what you still need to eat (more whole grains, more fruit, more veggies) or what you have had enough of (I don't need to eat another grain because I had toast at breakfast, etc.). I like it because it is more me. I can do this. I can add more fruits and veggies (which I did say I could also do after I read "Turbocharged") to the meals I make, and I can help my family be more healthy. Her focus is being healthy for the rest of your life.

Ms. Hatch also has a great idea with exercise. Moderation. She says all you need is moderate exercise 5 days a week, for 30-50 minutes. She walks and then will add a short jog in the middle of her walk. She asks you to make sure that your exercise program is something you will be able to do until you are 80!!

I really like that this book is easy to follow and do. She gives a lot of examples and even has some good recipes at the back of the book. She makes this more into a workbook giving places to fill in answers and write goals and steps down. It's not just about losing weight, it's about being healthy. And, she even suggests you have one treat a day!!! That's the best part! I think this is more my style and will definitely be implementing this in my life and with my family.

Rating: G It's family friendly and clean!

Recommendation: Late middle school and up, unless the entire family is reading it and implementing it together. I don't like stressing younger kids out about their weight, unless they are truly obese and need to take efforts now. This book isn't just about weight though, it is about being healthy. It is great for the entire family to do together!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Liquid City

The Liquid City by Curtis J. Hopfenbeck

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Shadoe Kilbourne is the consummate intellectual assassin, with an impressive arsenal of both wit and weaponry at his disposal. As Seattle's most successful nightclub owner and restaurateur; he is also a man of great resource, humor and humanity. His lethal charms and deadly ideologies are a devastating double-edged sword; brandished at will to put the bad guys in their place and get the good girls back to his. Driven by vengeance, derived from a painful and poignant past we can only speculate on, his ties to the highest echelons and lowest corridors of humanity also make him him the perfect middleman for those who seek to solicit his fervor and favor in the hunt for his brand of justice, both inside and outside of the law."

Mr. Hopfenbeck definitely has a very large vocabulary! This book is full of "big" words, and it is very refreshing. At first I thought maybe he was just showing off, but as the book goes on I realized that they fit the character well. I was skeptical because I thought the words might seem forced, but I got pulled into the story and enjoyed the writing a lot. The main character, Shadoe Kilbourne, is very hard to get a handle on. My feelings on him changed from page to page and sometimes from paragraph to paragraph. Do I love him because of his charity and generosity or do I hate him because of his brutality? Do I like him because he is likable and fun or do I dislike him because he is telling three women at the same time that he loves them? His trusty side-kicks are humorous, yet brutal as well, but the three of them together are hilarious. I love the banter back and forth and I really enjoyed the tennis ball bouncing scene.

The characters in this book are all different and interesting. They have good depth and are well portrayed. I enjoy Mr. Hopfenbeck's writing style, and even though there are some cliches and a few corny references to the Utah culture, I enjoyed this book. It does have language in it along with some brutal deaths and violence. The topics discussed are serious and sobering: drugs, alcohol, human trafficking, prostitution, and gang violence are only some of them. The book does not make light of these issues at all, but does try to show the seriousness of them and shows how Mr. Kilbourne and his associates try to combat them. I would not recommend that anyone follows their lead, but I guess they get the job done. Despite the heaviness of the topic, Mr. Hopfenbeck does a good job of throwing in some humor and love as well.

Rating: R (Remember this does not follow the movie ratings, it just means that younger readers should not read it.) For the above stated reasons: drugs, alcohol, prostitution, human trafficking, gang violence, death, shootings, domestic violence.

Recommendation: 18 and up. I don't want to be discussing what a mercenary is with my 15 year-old boy. I wouldn't want him to get any ideas. And I don't want to be discussing human trafficking or prostitution with him either. (Or a daughter of the same age.)

I would recommend this book with the above cautions. I am not one for violence but I did get pulled into the story and I love it when the good guys (is that what they are?) win. I look forward to hearing more from Shadoe Kilbourne and his associates Deity, Gio, Koda, and Rama.