What is your favorite genre to read?

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.