What is your reading goal this year?

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.