What is your reading goal this year?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turn of Mind

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind is a spellbinding novel about the disintegration of a strong woman's mind and the unhinging of her family. Dr. Jennifer White, recently widowed and a newly retired orthopedic surgeon, is entering the beginning stages of dementia--where the impossibility of recognizing reality can be both a blessing and a curse. As the story opens, Jennifer's life-long friend and neighbor, Amanda, has been killed, and four fingers surgically removed. Dr. White is the prime suspect in the murder and she herself doesn't know if she did it or not. Narrated in her voice, fractured and eloquent, a picture emerges of the surprisingly intimate, complex alliance between this pair--two proud, forceful women who were at times each other's most formidable adversaries. The women's thirty-year friendship deeply entangled their families, and as the narrative unfolds we see that things were not always as the seemed. Jennifer's deceased husband, James, is clearly not the scion he was thought to be. Her two grown children--Mark, a lawyer, and Fiona, a professor, who now have power over their mother's medical and financial decisions respectively--have agendas of their own. And Magdalena, her brusque live-in caretaker, has a past she hides. As the investigation intensifies, a chilling question persists: is Dr. Jennifer White's shattered memory preventing her from revealing the truth or helping to hide it?"

Although some people may find this book a little slow, I found it intriguing and couldn't put it down. My grandpa had dementia, and I found this book to be true-to-life from a loved one's viewpoint. It brought back many memories of times I spent with my grandpa towards the end of his life. I loved Ms. LaPlante's writing style. It was a little difficult to understand at points, but that was because it was written from Jennifer's point of view. The story does not progress chronologically. It progresses as you see flashes of Jennifer's memory, and then you put the events together. People also confess things to Jennifer, because they don't think she will remember, and you are able to piece things together that way as well. The question of "Did she really do it?" nagged at me constantly and bothered me when I wasn't reading. Ms. LaPlante did a very good job crafting this story.

I will definitely treat people with dementia a little differently because of this book. It would be so hard to see only strangers where others see family and life-long friends. This is not a happy book. It is a bit of a downer, but worth the read. There is a bit of language, and a couple of "f" words at the very end of the book. There is a murder scene along with affairs, drug dealing, and fraud, among other things. I didn't love the ending, because I was really disappointed in someone, but it worked with the storyline. This is not a book I'll read again, but I'm glad I read it.

Rating: PG-13+ (Murder, language, affairs, drug dealing, fraud)

Recommendation: 18 years and up

Friday, December 7, 2012

Shifted Perspective

Shifted Perspective: Book One of The Tails of Change series by J. Bridger

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me)
"Caleb Byrne is a bright high school senior who has enough to deal with between college choices, taking care of his single dad, and dealing with his headstrong girlfriend Joanna and an eccentric set of cousins in California. He was managing to get by until the day he woke up a Cocker Spaniel. Even if it only happens monthly and is more embarrassing than painful, the so-called ability is something that he's anxious to be rid of.
He didn't realize his transformations would drag him into a hidden society of canine and lupine shape shifters as well as a family legacy he hates. To make matters worse, after moving to Los Angeles to learn more about his heritage from his Aunt Moira and his cousin Kalista, Caleb now struggles through life-and-death matters. He keeps angering the werewolves in charge of the shifter world, especially Kalista's boyfriend Peter, the Southern California alpha's son, who also happens to be grade-A sociopath. Worse, Caleb's floundering to keep his secret from Joanna.
While his family offers him some support, they may not be enough as Caleb realizes that the rules in shifter society---number one is supposed to be don't kill humans---are not so ironclad. Some werewolf out there is leaving a blood-soaked trail across the Midwest and it might just be with the alpha's blessing..."

This book surprised me. It's not really a spoof on other paranormal books, but it kind of is. Caleb's ability is not "cool" like a werewolf or anything, so you kind of need to read it with that in mind. I think it's supposed to be a little humorous, just because the situation he finds himself in is a little humorous. There is a more serious side to it, though, with people all over the country being killed by a rogue shifter. Caleb, Joanna, and Penny find themselves in a dangerous position, and it could have been fatal.

The book is written well, with the exception of a few spelling and grammatical errors. It flows well and is a fast, easy read. The characters are well developed and interesting. Even though Caleb's ability may be a bit corny, it is a nice change of pace, and I like that. I like Joanna, Penny, and Kalista as well. I felt for Caleb's dad, and can only imagine what went through his mind when he found out. I think he took it very well. The plot has a twist at the end that surprised me and definitely made me want to read the next book.

There is some language in this book, which makes it inappropriate for younger readers. There is also some violence associated with a rogue shifter murdering people. There are some innuendos about "physical intimacy" but it never happens. I liked the book and would recommend the book with the previous warnings.

Rating: PG-13 (Language, violence, and innuendos)

Recommendation: 14 and up

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kirby Puckernut and the Christmas Surprise

Kirby Puckernut and the Christmas Surprise by Alicia Richardson

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Kirby Puckernut is Santa's cleverest little elf. While dreaming up marvelous toys for good girls and boys, Kirby has his best idea yet--a real elf in every home, all through the holidays, spreading Christmas Magic! Santa finds the perfect family and allows Kirby to serve as the test elf for the first momentous visit. Fun and adventure are at every turn, but not everything goes as planned....Will Kirby's idea be a success?"

If you're like me, you love Christmas books. I love Christmas books! I try to have books for every holiday, but I have at least three times more Christmas books than any other holiday. I like to get a new Christmas book every year, and this year's book is fabulous! It's a cute story, well written, and it talks about the "Christmas Magic." It is not just about the presents, it's about the feeling of Christmas, the opportunities for service, and about thinking of others during Christmas. The characters are believeable and quite life-like. The 13 yr-old girl Izzie has a grumpy attitude about Christmas and no longer believes in "Christmas Magic." She thinks it's only for babies. Unfortunately, her feelings and how she behaves with those feelings, impact the entire family, especially her younger siblings. It's a good story about attitude and family.

The illustrations in this book are amazing! I love them! They are beautiful and bring the book to life. I had all four of my kids squished around me on the couch, even my 11 yr-old, and they were captivated with the story and the pictures.

On a side note, you can purchase your own "Kirby" on the author's website, and have your own personal elf this season. I didn't do that, but it could be fun!

I really enjoyed this book and so did my kids. I'm sure we will be reading it over and over before Christmas comes. I definitely recommend it!!! It's a new Christmas favorite.

Rating: G (Clean and great for everyone!)

Recommendation: Everyone will enjoy this book, young and old.

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


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

(Summary taken from the book jacket) "Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist--books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement."

This book took me awhile to get into because it is so different, but it is very well crafted and the language is beautiful. It is very descriptive, and strangely, that is what threw me at first. There were images that didn't make sense to me, but then I just decided to read on and enjoy the imagery. I LOVE books, so I related to Liesel, although I don't think I'd steal them. I loved the characters in this book, and they are developed so well. I think my favorite character was Liesel's foster father. I picture him as so gentle and loving and patient. I also picture him as fun and happy. He's also a hard worker and very compassionate. Liesel's foster mother is definitely rough around the edges, but I think she is also a very loving woman, she just shows it in a different way. Rudy. Rudy is Liesel's best friend and what a character he is! I love the scene where he runs like Jesse Owens. I felt so bad for Max. What a terrible time in our world history. Yet, how wonderful that there were still people with common sense and courage to help the Jews. I loved that Liesel loved him so much. I cried when I read the book he wrote for Liesel.

The story in this book just drew me in. What an amazing story of survival, hope, despair, courage, and love. Like I said, the imagery is beautiful, and yet a little confusing at times. This is not a happy book. It's World War II in Nazi Germany. There are Jews paraded down the street, there are many deaths, and war violence. There is a suicide hanging. The children steal. A lot. There are bombing raids and bomb shelters. However, there is also enough hope and love and courage and survival that it's not too depressing. I was left with hope that challenges can be overcome and difficult situations can be worked through. I was also filled with hope because there are still good people in the world. I really liked this book and recommend this book with the previous warnings.

Rating: PG-13 + (Language, violence, death, war violence, cruelty to Jews)

Recommendation: 16 and up. This may be too early for some kids, so I recommend that parents read it first to make sure it is appropriate for their child.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dark Matter Heart

Dark Matter Heart (Book #1) by Nathan Wrann

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me) "A new town. A new school. A new beginning. Seventeen year-old Cordell Griffin, and his mother, moved from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest to deal with his "sun allergies," and bizarrely restrictive "human blood diet". Cor has one goal: To blend in and be invisible. Unfortunately for him, no matter how far he goes, danger and tragedy lurk around every corner. "

Mr. Wrann hooked me on this book from page one. Cor's character intrigued me from the very beginning. Why was he hiding under a blanket in the car? Why did he and his mom need to leave Los Angeles? Why is he a fugitive? Is he in trouble with the law? And, in order to find the answers to these questions, I kept reading and reading and reading. I liked the character development in this book. I really liked Cor, Taylor, Caitlyn, and Mr. Gifford. Cor did make me nervous hanging out at scary parks in the middle of the night with a murderer nearby, but as I read I understood a little more. I pretty much knew what was going on before Cor did, but I kept reading because I couldn't stop. Although it has a storyline that is similar to a lot of current books, it does have a different twist that makes it interesting.

I loved this book.....until I got to the last few pages. Oh man. I was really disappointed. In what had been a fairly clean book, suddenly there was a barrage of "f" words and other harsh language. There was a graphic rape scene and graphic murders. It became very violent and gory. I, the reader, felt violated after reading the last couple of pages. I didn't like it at all. And the sad part was, there was a really good twist at the end, and I just felt blah. Even though I really want to know what happens in the next book, I don't know if I'll read it because of those last few pages. I wish it hadn't ended on that note, because I really want to read the next one. I just don't know if I want to read it if it is going to continue to be that violent and graphic. I may give it a shot just because I'm kind of hooked, but I'll let you know.

Rating: R (Language, including a few "f" words, violence, a rape scene, murders, graphic descriptions)

Recommendation: College and up

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Beau and the Beanstalk

Beau and the Beanstalk by Lee Baker

(Summary taken from www.mediaguests.net)
"Beau and the Beanstalk is being released as a revolutionary Interactive App. Children will be able to read along with the text as Lee Baker narrates the story as well as hear the characters speak as they interact on their PC, Mac, ipad, iphone, Android pad, Android phone or Kindle Fire.

Author Lee Baker created a fun new book for children of all ages to enjoy. A reverse on the classic tale, Jack and the Beanstalk, Baker's Children's book Beau and the Beanstalk is about an adolescent giant who is ridiculed in a magical kingdom in the clouds and climbs down a beanstalk to meet Jack, a hack-magician with a love of fire tricks, who will do anything to be the star of the circus.

This book is an instant hit with parents and educators. The book teaches values like overcoming difficulties, taking care of mistakes, standing up to bullies and choosing the right friends. The illustrations will immediately draw the reader into the story."

This is a fun book! It's not like your ordinary picture book you read to the kids at bedtime. This book will definitely engage younger readers because it is on the computer and it is fun! The story line is really cute and a play on your typical "Jack and the Beanstalk." The illustrations are wonderful and it was fun clicking on all the characters to see what they had to say. There are some really good lessons for kids in the story as well. It teaches taking responsibility for your actions, that bullying others is not okay, and that if you work hard enough you can overcome whatever problems you may have. It isn't very long and will for sure hold the children's attention. There are some scarier pictures, but they aren't too bad and should be okay with the kids. I enjoyed reading this story and will definitely open it up for my kids tomorrow. I think all my kids will enjoy it, even my 11-year-old son. I did receive it for my PC, but I think I'm going to look for it for my android phone, that way I have it at those unexpected times when I need something to keep the kids busy and all I have is my phone.

Rating: PG (A few pictures are a little bit scary, bullying, some fighting)

Recommendation: Everyone! Just make sure with the really little kids that you go through it beforehand to make sure it's not too scary. It will be fine for my four-year-old, but it might scare yours--all kids are different.

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Flurry by J.G. Hewitt

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me) "Laurel Fairchild is high born. She is a gifted student and athlete. Parker is an acrobat in a travelling circus. He is street-smart and charming. They were never supposed to meet but fate intervened. Laurel knows the circus boy and his secrets will be her unraveling and lead to her execution but like a moth to a flame, she cannot resist him.

The Crystal Treaty requires Laurel to compete in the Stadia Games at seventeen to be ranked for her Senior year when she will be forcibly married in a mass wedding to a husband that she neither knows nor wants, or face death by stoning. In a post-apocalyptic world, the Earth's surface has been drained of water and civilization destroyed. There are no clouds, no trees, no rain. There is no freedom. There is only the Realm, which is ruled by a Guild of power-hungry Barons who command the Division, a brutal army that maintains social order through violence among the working class serving the Realm’s elite for a meager daily water ration. It has been this way since time immemorial but the catastrophic events at this year’s Games are going to change everything, not the least of which for Laurel and Parker."
I enjoyed this book. It is another book about controlled society, but it does have a different twist. It has some elements of "Matched" and "Divergent" and a few from "Hunger Games," but it does throw in its own twists and turns. I liked the main characters, Laurel and Parker, and thought they had a lot of courage. I thought the character development in this book was good.  I enjoyed the story and did get drawn in.  I liked the images of the circa and the interesting things they did. It reminded me a lot of Cirque du Soleil and the things they do. This story made me thankful to be able to go to my tap and get water whenever I want to. It also made me very thankful for the freedoms we have, and that we don't have arranged marriages.
There were a lot of grammatical and spelling errors in this book, which was annoying, but they can be fixed. I did continue reading, but there were some errors that I had to read and reread several times before I could figure out what was happening. There were also some graphic scenes in this book that I don't think are appropriate for younger readers. There was a murder that was too descriptive and made me sick. It was very graphic. There isn't any "intimacy" besides some kissing. I don't remember any language, but there may have been a couple of words. I also got confused with all the characters. I had a bit of trouble remembering which person came from which group, and who that person was in the group.
I did enjoy the book, though, and will read the next one. I recommend it with the above warnings.
Rating: PG-13+ (Graphic murder, violence)
Recommendation: 16 and up. As always, I recommend that parents read this book first to see if it is appropriate for their children.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Little Woody Stories

Little Woody Stories by Woody Dykes

(Summary taken from the back cover) "In a land far, far away called Wichita there was a magic street called Rutan. This street had a tree-lined tunnel that covered the sky. On this magic street lived a tribe of Indians called the Rutan Indians. These are their stories. I am the last of this tribe. These are stories of my childhood when I lived in Wichita, Kansas, on Rutan Street. I was six to eleven (I think) during this time. The stories are true and actual, to the best of my memory. I had two friends who shared most of these adventures with me--Eddie Kangus and Larry Rochillen. This was my crew. Tall Larry and Loud Mouth Eddie--the Rutan Indians. These stories are called "Little Woody Stories" by my family and friends. ~Woody Dykes"

This book reminds me of stories my grandparents would tell me when I was growing up, especially my grandpa. Some of them are very funny and some of them make me cringe (like the one where he jumps off the roof with the red spring shoes on). They also remind me of stories my dad would tell of things he did growing up, and yes, some of them remind me of things I may have done (but don't tell my kids.....). It's fairly well written and I like Mr. Dykes' humor. It's a fast, easy read (I think it took me less than an hour), and is ok for the older elementary-age kids. I had my son, who is in 5th grade, read it, and he liked it as well. He also read it quickly and the only thing I was concerned about was him getting some not-so-good ideas from the stories. We had to look up the definition of mercurochrome and google "Kit candies," but it was great to turn a fun story into a teaching moment. I like the "Lessons Learned" bit at the end of each story. This is a fun book and would be fun as a read-a-loud as well.

Rating: PG (Just don't get any ideas......) I had to tell my son that if I ever found a hole cut in our roof he wouldn't leave his bedroom....ever....

Recommendation: 4th or 5th grade and up. Parents may want to read it first to see if it is appropriate for their child. And, if nothing else, it may bring back some fun childhood memories.

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

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within these nocturnal black-and-white-striped tents awaits an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander throughout a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air. Welcome to Le Cirque des Reves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved--the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them--are swept up in a wake of spells and charms. But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance."

Dreamy, fantastical, magical, and mysterious are just a few words I would use to describe this book. I definitely got caught up in the fantasy and enjoyed this book. Ms. Morgenstern's character development is really good and I felt like I knew the characters very well. I especially liked Celia and Marco. I didn't particularly like Hector or Alexander, but I loved the Burgess twins and Herr Thiesson. I also loved Poppet and Widget. I could not believe how Hector and Alexander treated their "children," and it made me sick. I loved the role that each person played and thought it fit perfectly. I loved the circus and wish there was something like that for us today. I would love to see the wishing tree, the labyrinth, the cloud maze, and I would love to smell the smells and see the sparkling lights. I would also love to see the illusionist's show. I don't know if I would be a follower, but I'd for sure go if it came to my city. I felt so bad for Celia and Marco and hoped they could figure something out. I'd also really like to see that clock!

The flow of the book confused me sometimes and the timing was even more confusing. There were chapters that would go backwards in time. I had to go back to the beginning of chapters several times to make sure I knew where I was in the time frame. I thought it made the flow quite choppy and a little confusing. There was some language in this book, and there is an "intimate" scene. There is also the death of a character.

Overall, I did enjoy the book and would recommend it with the previous warnings. It is very different and fun, with a hint of mystery and magic.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, "physical intimacy," and the death of a character)

Recommendation: 18 years-old and up. As always, I recommend that parents read it first to make sure it is appropriate for their child. Each child is different and has different tolerance levels.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Return to the Aegean

Return to the Aegean by E.J. Russell

Thalia grew up on Katafigio, a small island in Greece. She left years ago and has not returned, until now. She has her reasons for not returning all these years, and is now hoping to find some answers and some peace. Will she find them?

Haha....that is my lame excuse of a summary. Now you know why I usually copy the summary from the book or other sources. Unfortunately I couldn't find a summary for this book so you have to suffer through mine.

Moving on....I enjoyed this book! It has mystery, romance, and betrayal. What more could you ask for, right? How about beautiful descriptions of Greece's scenery? Ms. Russell's descriptions put you right on the island. They are very well written and definitely make me want to visit Greece. I could almost smell the ocean and feel the breeze. Ms. Russell also has very good character development. I don't really relate to Thalia at all, but it didn't matter because I could find enough of a connection that I felt for her and wanted her to find the truth. I liked a lot of the people around her. For example, I really liked her friend Irini and her step-mom Sophia. They helped to ground Thalia, and I related to them more than I did to Thalia. They were a good connection for me. I also liked Petros, Villi, and Manolis. They all helped Thalia in some way or another, and with each of these people around her she was able to begin the process of healing. And that is how it is in real life. The people we surround ourselves with are the people that ground us, love us, help us, and help make us who we are. It's the relationships in our lives that bring us the most fulfillment.

I liked Ms. Russell's writing style and thought it was easy to read and it flowed well for the most part. There were a few typos, and there were also some sentences I read twice and still wasn't sure where she was going with them, but it wasn't enough to deter me from continuing. There were also some Greek words I didn't know the meanings of, but there is an index in the back so I could look them up. I did have some unanswered questions, one of which still bothers me. I can't go into too much detail without giving it away, but someone knew the whole time what had happened. Why doesn't this person just tell Thalia when she sees her? She knows Thalia is looking for the truth. It would have saved a lot of trouble. It also would have taken away half of the book, which is probably why. But this is a trusted person. I still don't get it. And Thalia was never upset with her for not telling her the truth from the get-go. My only explanation would be that she wanted Thalia to find out on her own, and that maybe it would help her move on easier. I still enjoyed the book, but this point is still a little frustrating for me.

This is definitely a book for adults. There is quite a bit of language, including a few "f" words. They caught me by surprise and I didn't really think they needed to be there. There is also a lot of "physical intimacy." Some scenes have more details than others, but it is a prevalent part of Thalia's lifestyle. There is also an attempted rape scene and a murder, which is difficult to read because of how it happened and the people involved. I do recommend this book, with the previous warnings, and for the correct age group.

Rating: R (This does not follow the movie ratings exactly, it is just my way of saying that it is NOT appropriate for younger readers.) Language, "physical intimacy," attempted rape, and a murder scene.

Recommendation: College and up

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, and I thank Ms. Russell for the opportunity to read and review her book.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Not a Princess

Not a Princess by I.D. Gallagher
(Summary taken from amazon.com)
"So you've met Mr. Right, your very own Prince Charming.
But what if you're Not A Princess?
Susan, an average girl from the North of England, is getting ready to marry the man of her dreams, BJ, with the melodious voice and eyes the colour of melted chocolate. Perfect, in every way.
And then she realises he is not who she thought he was.
Will she ever fit into his world?
Is there going to be an Happy-Ever-After?"

I loved this book! Need I say more? Ms. Gallagher pulled me in from the beginning. I loved her writing style and the tone of the book. It was easy to read and follow, and kept me turning the pages. It flowed well and continued to keep my interest. The character development is really good and I felt like Susan was my best friend. I felt like I was right there with her. I related well to Susan. Oh, and I would LOVE to have her closet! I really liked B.J., V.J., and Victoria. I also liked Mary, Quinn, and Miriam. There was just enough mystery to make me keep reading, but not enough to make it too dramatic. There was a point when something happened in the storyline that was a little corny, but I just kept on reading. In another book I may have rolled my eyes and put the book away, but in this book it just fit and worked fine. (Sorry, I don't want to ruin the surprise!)

This book definitely ended too soon. I was not ready to be done with Susan yet. I kept trying to turn the page on my Kindle to see if there was more, but unfortunately there wasn't. The author is from England and so there were some words that I had to guess the meanings of, but it wasn't enough to really confuse me or anything. It was kind of fun learning some English words.  I loved that this book was clean! There wasn't any language or "physical intimacy" scenes. There was some kissing, but even that wasn't too detailed. There was a discussion of maybe after the wedding what to expect that night, but the actual word was never used and it was quite vague. They also discussed sexual purity before marriage. That is almost a quote and that is as far as it goes. It's not in-your-face either. It's not like a political or judgemental statement. There is a murder in the book, but it is tastefully done (if that is possible). It doesn't go into a lot of detail, you just read more about the emotions and reactions following it.

I really liked this book and recommend it with the previous warnings. I would say it is an actual Young Adult approved book!

Rating: PG-13 (A discussion of sexual purity and about waiting until the wedding night, a murder)

Recommendation: 13 and up. As always, I would recommend that a parent read it first to make sure it is appropriate for his or her child.

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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Night of the Purple Moon

Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Space germs wipe out virtually everyone who has passed through puberty....For months, astronomers have been predicting that Earth will pass through the tail of a comet. They say that people will see colorful sunsets and, best of all, a purple moon. But nobody predicted the lightning-fast epidemic that sweeps across the planet on the night of the purple moon. The comet brings space dust with it that contains germs that attack human hormones. Older teens and adults die within hours of exposure. On a small island off the coast of Maine, a group of teens and children struggle to survive in this new world, but all the while they have inside them a ticking time bomb--adolescence."

Just thinking about this actually happening freaks me out. Can you imagine? I can't imagine my ten-year-old having to take care of his siblings and fight for their survival. Crazy. I liked this book. It is an interesting and different concept, which is good, and it definitely gets your attention. I felt so bad for these children and wished I could help them. Mr. Cramer's character development is really good, and I felt like these kids lived in my neighborhood, like I have always known them. I can't imagine having to bury my friends like they did. They took it surprisingly well and did a pretty good job of keeping life as normal as possible. I liked how each of the kids kind of ended up with a specialty, just like adults do. The book is well written and flows well. The story is captivating and draws you in. It's a fast, easy read.

I didn't like the language in the book. I like to live in my dream world and think that children ages 14 and younger shouldn't use bad language. One of the worst offenders was an old man at the very beginning, and I was disappointed. This book is about children this age, and yet, I am not going to allow my ten-year-old to read it. Mr. Cramer took a book that could have been great for the late elementary school readers as well as the early junior high kids, and made it inaccessible to them because of some language.  It wasn't filled with language, but enough that I'm uncomfortable recommending it for elementary age kids. It also ended quite abruptly, and left me hanging, but it is a trilogy, so what do you expect? Of course I'll need to read the next one because I have to see what happens to these cute kids!

I liked it, though, and would recommend it with the previous warning.

Rating: PG-13 (Language)

Recommendation: 14-15 years and up. As usual, parents should read it first to judge for their children.

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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Coming Home

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "This is a novel to be savored, a curl-up-under-the-covers kind of old-fashioned reading experience hardly anyone knows how to write anymore. In telling the story of Judith Dunbar and her loved ones, Rosamunde Pilcher writes with warmth, wisdom, and clear-eyed insight about every family. This is a totally involving story of coming of age, coming to terms with both love and sadness, and, in every sense of the words, Coming Home."

This is a really long book. There are 728 pages in the version I read. I did enjoy it, though. I haven't read a "classic-type" book like this in a long time, so it took me about 150 pages before I got into it and could read it a little faster. The language is beautiful. I loved the descriptions and pictures that Ms. Pilcher paints with her words. I could almost smell the sea and feel the cool breezes.The character development is well done as well. I love Judith and feel for her. It felt like she could be my cousin or neighbor. I love Nancherrow and the people that live there. I also really like Aunt Lavinia and Judith's aunts and uncle. The story is about Judith's life growing up and how her family and those around her are affected by the war, and how they each end up "coming home." It has a cozy feeling to it, and it does make you feel like you are home. It's familiar.

I didn't like the transitions at all, however. You'll be right in the middle of a story with one character, then there is a little symbol on the page and all of a sudden you are reading about someone completely different. It threw me off every time. It takes a second to figure out who you are reading about and what he or she is doing. I also thought it ended quite abruptly. For having 728 pages I thought it needed about 30 more to finish it. There is some language in this book, including the "f" word a few times. There is also quite a bit of promiscuity. For some reason I had in my head that people living at the time of WWII wore chastity belts or something. Hahahaha. Nope.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I don't know if it is considered a classic, but it has a "classic-type" feel, which I enjoyed because I haven't read one in so long. I would recommend it with the previous warnings.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, "physical intimacy," and some war atrocities.)

Recommendation: 18 and up

Monday, September 24, 2012

Linked Through Time

Linked Through Time by Jessica Tornese

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Fifteen-year-old Kate Christenson is pretty sure she's about to experience the worst possible summer at her grandparents' rural farm in Baudette, Minnesota. Without cable, cell phones, or computers, she is headed for total isolation and six tedious weeks of boredom. Until the storm. A freak lightning accident has Kate waking up in 1960. But she is not herself. She's the aunt she never met but has eerily resembled her entire life. Thrust into living a dirt-poor, rural farm existence, Kate struggles to make sense of her situation--a boyfriend with a dark side, a "townie" who steals her heart, and the knowledge that 1960 is the very summer her aunt drowns in the local river. But was the drowning an accident or a suicide...or something much worse?"

This book was a fun surprise. I really enjoyed it. I like Ms. Tornese's writing style because it is easy to read and flows well. Her character development is well done and she hooked me almost from the very beginning. I really liked Kate and her dad, and I really liked Sarah and her siblings. If I had older brothers I think I'd want them to be like Sarah's. They had their moments, but for the most part they were loving and protective. I felt for Kate as she tried to figure out what had happened when she woke up in the past, and as she tried to get used to everything that had to be done. It would be hard to jump into someone else's life.

There were some great lessons to be learned in this book as well. Some of them included: a hard work ethic, learning to live without technology, not taking the things we have today for granted, and loving your family and watching out for them. Also, being a strong woman who can say "no" and get out of an abusive situation. Kate (Sarah) is a good role model for today's girls. She knew the situation was out of hand and knew she needed to get out of it. And, I love that she did it thinking of her aunt.

There was a little bit of language, here and there, but the worst of it was the domestic violence and the abusive boyfriend. There were a couple of attempted rape scenes that were difficult to read. There was also the murder of a character. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book. I liked the characters, the story, and the lessons learned.  I would recommend it with the previous warnings.

Rating: PG-13+ (A little bit of language, domestic violence, attempted rape, and the murder of a character)

Recommendation: 16 and up. As with any book, parents may want to read it first to see if it is appropriate for their child. A mature 15 yr-old may be ok with the attempted rape scenes, while an immature 17 yr-old may not be.

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

Monday, September 10, 2012

Deep Connections

Deep Connections by Rebecca Graf

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me) "It is the story of a woman who finds herself falling in love and being stalked at the same time. She has no idea why the stalker is obsessed with her. The man she is falling in love with risks his life to protect her. As the stalker becomes more obsessed, more deaths occur. It is only when she discovers why she is the target that she realizes that she has to make a decision that will impact everyone around her. A sacrifice is demanded of her."

This book is full of romance, action, suspense, sacrifice, and surprises. What could be better? Although the premise of the book is somewhat violent and a little graphic, I really enjoyed it. Ms. Graf's character development is really good, and I felt like Brenna was my good friend. I also liked the whole Lightfoot family. The evil in the "bad guy" just oozes from him. I did not like that guy at all, in fact, I could say I hated him. He creeps me out just thinking about him. And his purpose in stalking Brenna is pure evil. I liked the chemistry between Brenna and Slaton, and felt bad for poor Eaton.

This is not a story to read by yourself at night, in a dark and quiet house. Believe me, I tried it, and I actually got a little nervous. It has a good amount of suspense and scariness, and I just couldn't put it down. I had to know what happened.

There are a few typos and grammatical errors in this book, but I got an advanced copy, so they may have been fixed by now. They definitely didn't stop me from reading it. There is language, violence,   death, and attempted rape. Some of the scenes are quite graphic. With all this, I still really liked it. There are enough happy and light-hearted parts that it make it enjoyable to read, and they make you really care about what happens to the characters.

Rating: R (This does not follow the movie ratings exactly, it's just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) There is language, violence, the deaths of a few characters, and a couple of attempted rape scenes. The choice she needs to make is also a very grown-up decision.

Recommendation: 18 and up. I recommend it to the correct age group. It is not appropriate for younger readers. As with anything, if a parent is worried, she should read it first to see if it is appropriate for her specific child.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

[Book Review] Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Photo Credit: goodreads.com

Ender's Game


Orson Scott Card

Blurb (from www.hatrack.com):

"Andrew "Ender" Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast. But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender's two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military's purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine's abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails. Newsday said of this novel "Card has done strong work before, but this could be the book to break him out of the pack." It was. Ender's Game took the sf world by storm, sweeping the awards. It won both the Hugo and Nebula, and rose to the top of national bestseller lists. Copyright © 1985 Orson Scott Card"

My Review:

Wow. I knew this book was sci-fi when I started reading it, but I didn't have a clue as to what it contained. It is very heavy. It is full of action and violence, with war, and with some deep intellectual thinking. As a mother I hated it. I hated it because I have a six-year-old, and I can not imagine letting someone take her away to space to train for war. I can't imagine being ok with never seeing her again. And then seeing how they treated him at six years old. I know these are very smart children, but they are still children, and I think they should be treated as such. To allow these children to treat each other this way, in fact to engineer it to happen that way, is awful. They had so much stress and responsibility at such a young age that it made me sick.

As a reader, though, I did like this book. It is very well crafted and written. Besides the higher up officials that speak at the beginning of certain chapters, in a different font, the character development is really good. I felt like I knew Ender inside and out, and I remember from my own childhood meeting people like his friends in the book. I never really knew who to trust as his friends, but I think that is part of the draw of the book. The higher up officials become more well-known as the book goes on, and they, too, begin to come to light. There are many twists and turns that I didn't expect in the book, and it definitely made me want to keep reading. It was a bit of a slow read for me, but it wasn't for lack of motivation, it just isn't an easy read. There are military terms and physics, and things like that, that require thought before going on. I was very surprised by the twist at the end. You know me, though, I tend to just read and not really think about what will come next. The very end with the giant (you'll understand when you have read it), was a bit of a stretch for me, but I guess it was fitting.

There is a lot of language in this book. I was hoping it would be good for my ten-year-old, but no such luck. Along with the language there is a lot of bullying and violence and death (it is a war). Also, I don't think he would understand it at this point anyway. He'd like the video game aspect of it, but wouldn't understand the physics or the intellectual arguments. Mr. Card correctly predicted many things, and it was kind of creepy. For example, the nets on the computers and the portable desks that had something similar to email on them (today's tablets). Crazy! I do recommend this book with the previous warnings. It is geared more toward boys, I think, but I'm glad I read it. I don't know if I'll read the other books in the series, though.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, violence, death, war)

Age Recommendation: 14 or 15 and up. I'd suggest parents read it first before allowing their children to read it. Parents know their children best and can tell whether a child could handle it or not.

*This post was first published on 8/29/12, and was updated on 1/4/18.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Earth Angel Training Academy

The Earth Angel Training Academy by Michelle Gordon

(Summary taken from the author's website) "When Head of the Earth Angel Training Academy, Velvet, receives a call from an Elder on the first day of term, she knows that the new class will be unlike any other she has taught.

While experiencing the most tumultuous time of her very long existence, Velvet must remember her buried past, and open her eyes to the future so that she can prepare the Earth Angel trainees for the toughest missions of their existence - to Awaken the humans before the world ends.

Time is running out..."

I didn't know what to expect with this book, but I really enjoyed it! It is very different from everything else I have read lately, and that is a bonus in and of itself. Ms. Gordon's writing style is light and fun and easy to read. The character development in this book is really good. I fell in love with Velvet, Aria, and Amethyst right from the beginning. I love the names of the characters as well. Some of the characters are a little hard to relate to, like the ones that are shaped as shapes (like rectangles), but it's fantasy, right? So you just find yourself going with it and in the end it works. Ms. Gordon has created a very fun place to live. I would love to be able to snap my fingers and change the decor in my house or transport myself from one area to another.

The really great thing about this book are the lessons taught, and the fact that it really makes you think. No matter what your thoughts are on heaven or what happens when you die, this book makes you think. Are there really people in heaven trying to help us here on earth? Did we know some of the people around us before coming to earth? How do we become "awakened," as she calls it, or how do we remember who we really are? This book is a fun and light-hearted way to make you think about those things. Even though the questions may be deep, the storyline is mostly light and fun. There are a few heavier moments, but everything ends up happily.

There was some language in this book, which I thought didn't really fit in. I mean, can you picture angels swearing? I don't know. I thought it was awkward and took a good story for kids to read and made it not kid-friendly. Not only that, I just didn't think it fit in the storyline. There was a kind of suicide scene.  It was a little different since she was already dead, but still a heavier part in the story. There was lots of talk of love and some times when you knew things happened but they were never described.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I do recommend it with the previous warnings. I thank Ms. Gordon for allowing me to read and review her book.

Rating: PG-13 (Language, suicide, and some innuendos)

Recommendation: 14 and up. Like any book, you may want to read it first to make sure it is appropriate for your child.

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

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vote For Me! (Please!)

Hooray! An unknown fan nominated my blog for skinnyscoop.com's Top 25 Book Blogger Contest! I'm honored to be on the list with so many great book review blogs. If you could please vote for me I'd really appreciate it! I'd love to be on their Top 25 list! Simply click here and scroll down until you see my picture and my name "The Readathon." You do need to sign in, but you may sign in with Facebook so you don't need to set up another profile if you don't want to. Thank you so much!!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tiger's Quest

Tiger's Quest (Book #2) by Colleen Houck

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Kelsey Hayes's eighteenth summer was crazy. The kind of crazy that nobody would ever believe. Aside from battling immortal sea monkeys and trekking the jungles of India, she fell in love with Ren, a 300-year-old prince. When danger suddenly forces Kelsey on another Indian quest with Ren's bad-boy brother, Kishan, the unlikely duo begins to question their true destiny. Ren's life hangs in the balance--and so does the truth within Kelsey's heart. Tiger's Quest, the thrilling second volume in the Tiger's Curse series, brings the trio one step closer to breakin the ancient prophecy that binds them."

I really liked this book. I didn't love it as much as the first one, but I did really like it and am glad I read it. If you liked the first one you should definitely read this one. Like the first one, the whole premise is kind of corny, but you know what, you just go with it and it's entertaining. This is a great book to read when you don't want to think, you just want to be entertained. It is part "Indiana Jones," part "Twilight," and part fairy tale. It's a fast, easy read, and is clean! It's a great young adult book. There is an occasional kiss, but that is about all.  It's fun and well written. I like Ms. Houck's writing style because it flows well and is easy to read.

I like the characters in the story. Kelsey is a strong character, which I like, but she is also human. She does have a little bit more of Bella (from "Twilight") in her in this book, but not enough to make you crazy. It's more of a real, or natural, side of her. You learn a lot more about Kishan in this book and that was fun. He's quite the character. Mr. Kadam I really like, and Ren, of course. I think girls will like this series more than boys will, but there are some action/adventure parts that boys will like too.

Rating: PG-13 (Once again, not for content, but it's probably better for a little older young adult.)

Recommendation: 14 and up. Yay! A true young adult book!

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pulling Up Stakes

Pulling Up Stakes by Harriet Kimble Wrye

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, psychologist Harriet Wrye felt a millennial call to "pull up stakes" in her life, as she did with tent and llama stakes each day whenever she and her husband backpacked in the high Sierras with their llamas. Inspired, she closed her Los Angeles psychoanalytic practice of thirty years, they leased their house at the beach and set out on an odyssey into the "back of beyond." Creating a sabbatical away from the familiar, her journey became a life-changing spiritual pilgrimage that led to a deep practice of letting go of assumptions, habits and patterns, and stepping into freedom."

I didn't know what to expect from this book and ended up liking it. There were some aspects of the book that were exciting and tense, some that were scary, some that were quiet yet profound, and some that were easy to relate to. However, there were also some parts that were too personal (and should have been kept in a personal diary), some that were way too long and drawn out, and some that I couldn't relate to at all. Ms. Wrye is definitely a great example of staying healthy and fit and active as you grow older. She had some incredible experiences that I know I will never experience, and it was interesting to learn about the different parts of the world that she visited. I will never be able to visit all of those places, so it was wonderful to learn about them and the people that live there. I could relate to a lot of what she was trying to let go of. I too have a lot of anxiety that I would love to let go of, and even though my children are still young, I could totally see myself trying to control them in their teenage years. It was good to be able to learn from her experience with that. I too worry about my husband and his safety and health. I know I tend to pack everything "just in case" and so it would be good to shed some of that and know that I would be fine with less.

Even though we are very different, she and I, we both share a love of family and feel that family is everything. We come from very different backgrounds and live very different lives, but as mothers we can connect just because we love our children and want the best for them, and want them around us. I'm glad I was able to take some of these things away from the book. I think it is amazing how fit and active she is as she grows older. I would love to be that healthy and fit in my 60s and 70s.

There were some aspects of the book, though, that I just had a hard time getting through. I would have been happy if it had been 200 pages shorter. She threw in a few political comments, and you know me, that is not my favorite thing in nonpolitical books. I found it hard to relate to some of her experiences. I did, though, learn a lot about living in the moment and finding joy in the journey and in the everyday, not just in reaching the destination.

I would recommend it because it was interesting learning about the different places she visited and people she met there. She had some really good insights and she is a great example of staying healthy, fit, and active as you grow older. She and her husband area also good examples of keeping your marriage vibrant and healthy.

Rating: R (This does not follow the movie ratings, it is my way of saying that it is not appropriate for younger readers.) There was language, including a lot of "f" words. She and her husband definitely love each other, and she doesn't describe these moments, but she tells you that they were there.

Recommendation: College and up. I don't think younger readers would get a lot out of it. I don't think it would interest them, and I don't think it is appropriate for them.

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dancing in the Storm

Dancing in the Storm by Shelly Maguire and Beth Huffman

(Summary taken from the back of the book) "What turns an angry adolescent and then a defiant teenager into an indomitable businesswoman who faced so many obstacles in life that she defied all odds for success? Told at the age of nine that she had a lethal disease that could take her life by the age of 18, for Shelly Maguire this was all she had to hear to push herself to the limits and stop at nothing to reach her goals."

What an inspiration! I will never complain about a hangnail or a cold again. Shelly has gone through so much in her life and always comes through with a positive attitude. This book is full of hard work ethic, positive attitude, and determination. It is also filled with love of life and very little complaining. These are many of the qualities I'm constantly trying to teach my kids, and it's tough. Shelly, however, has them down. She faces each challenge head-on and never gives up. She seems like a wonderful person and is a great example to all of us. I'm glad I had this opportunity to sneak a peek into such an inspirational life.

The format of this book was not my favorite because it seemed choppy. Once it got to where Shelly did most of the writing it flowed much better. I enjoyed this book a lot and recommend it, especially for someone who needs to stop feeling sorry for himself/herself.

Rating: PG+ (It is clean. There isn't any language or violence. I don't remember any "physical intimacy" scenes, but it does talk a lot about her relationships and a previously failed marriage.)

Recommendation: 16 years and up. I don't think children younger than this would "get it" or enjoy it.


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

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Shells of Chanticleer

The Shells of Chanticleer by Maura Patrick

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me)
"Come to Chanticleer, a magical land without chores or parents that abounds with festivals and forests, bountiful buffets, and the deliciously addictive warm caramel sugar that’s the only thing to drink. In Chanticleer there’s no reason to worry as eliminating your childhood fears is why you are there. But in Chanticleer it’s best to learn your lessons quickly and get out, as those who can’t, or won’t learn, are subject to a hideous fate.
For Macy Winters, keeping one step ahead of the powers that be seems easy enough. She has friends in the right places and a swooningly romantic secret boyfriend who she thinks will protect her. Unfortunately, she has caught the eye of Crispin Sinclair, the sinister artist whose creative visions make Chanticleer both delightful and terrifying. Can she escape his plans for her or will she discover that getting out of Chanticleer safely is harder than she imagines?
Enter a world of secrets where no one is quite who they seem to be, where what you dream comes true, and where what you fear … happens.

A mysterious world that, like life itself, is more complicated than it seems."

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, and I have to say I was surprised. The concept of the book is very different from anything I have read before. It was a little mysterious with some adventure and romance. It is an easy read, which I liked, and I do think it is young adult appropriate. I liked the main character. She was not perfect, but ended up not being too wimpy. She learned from her mistakes and became stronger as the book went on. The character development was good, and I liked a lot of the characters. There are some things in this book that are just strange, and a little creepy. The shells, for example, are creepy. I didn't think that part of the book was resolved as well as it could have been. At first Macy thought they were creepy and wanted nothing to do with them, and then she was just okay with it? (Sorry, I don't want to give it away, so this explanation will be a little vague.) And the whole concept of who the staff members are is strange. And, the whole thing about Macy having an "old soul" was a little creepy to me. I didn't like that they allowed (and encouraged) her at such a young age to make such a monumental decision, especially if she wouldn't remember making the decision......

I did like this book. It was entertaining and different. It had some good lessons about overcoming fears and being your best self. It was a little strange and a little deep in some places. It was not as dark and sinister as the summary makes it out to be. It is clean and that is why I think it is appropriate for young adults.

Rating: PG (It is clean-there was one swear word I think, but that is all. There wasn't any "physical intimacy," besides a kiss, and no violence.)

Recommendation: 13 or 14 years old and up. I think parents might want to read it first to make sure the concept isn't too much for the younger or less mature readers.

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dancing on Broken Glass

Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn't have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They're both plagued with faulty genes--he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy's twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there's no denying their chemistry. Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work--and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won't blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days--and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is."

Grab your box of kleenexes ladies, you're going to need it! This book is amazing. And heart-wrenching. It's one of those books where I could see where it was going and thought about quitting before I got there, because I didn't know if I could handle it, but I just couldn't put it down. I was so involved in these people's lives that I had to see what happened. Ms. Hancock's character development is so good that I thought of myself as the Chandler's next door neighbor. I knew all the neighbors so well that I could have just moved on in and felt right at home. Nevermind that I have never been to Connecticut, I felt like I lived there.

As much as I cried, you'd think that I didn't like this book, but no, I can't say that. It is amazing. It is very well written and draws you in from the first sentence. I had a roommate in college that had bipolar disorder, and I could tell in seconds whether or not she had taken her medicine that day. That has been my only experience with bipolar disorder, but she had a lot of the same tendencies that Mickey has in the book. Thankfully she never crashed far enough to need hospitalization, but she had her up and down days. I could not imagine what Lucy went through being married to Mickey, but when you love someone you will do anything for them. I loved that message in the book. If Lucy and Mickey could make their marriage work through all those hard times, anyone can. Yes, it's hard, but you do it. You keep your commitment and love each other through the best and worst of times. I also loved the connection Lucy and her sisters had. I loved Charlotte and Harry and Jan. I highly recommend this book. Just grab your box of kleenexes and lock yourself in your bedroom where you can cry in peace.

There is some language in this book. There are also a few love making scenes, but they are tastefully done and very romantic. There are also some tragic deaths that are heartbreaking and difficult to read. However, there is also hope and inspiration, dedication and love.  I love how the title fits in.

Rating: R (This rating does not follow the movie ratings, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Language, love making, death of a main character.

Recommendation: College and up. I really want to say married and up, because of the love making scenes, but they are tasefully done. For some, married may be better. This is definitely an adult book, though, and not appropriate for young adult readers.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you Ms. Hancock for allowing me to read and review this book, it was an honor.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cleopatra's Daughter

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony's vengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their orphaned children--ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander--are taken in chains to Rome. Delivered to the household of Octavian's sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian's family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts."

I liked this book. It wasn't my favorite book or anything, but it was entertaining. It was written fairly well. There were some words she used at certain points that didn't make sense with the time period, and it was kind of confusing with English and a few Roman terms thrown in. I know we couldn't read it if it were written all in Latin, but it was almost choppy with some terms thrown in here and there. The story was entertaining and it was fun to think about how these people really lived. Ms. Moran tried to stay true to these people, but you just never know. There were some of the Roman traditions that I was not too fond of, like the Columna Lactaria, a column where people just left their unwanted babies and strangers could stop and feed them if they chose to. I don't know if this tradition is a true one, but I did not like it. I also didn't really like the whole fertility celebration.

The character development was pretty good. I really liked Selene and Alexander, Octavia, Marcellus, and Julia. I did not like Pollio at all. I felt for Selene and Alexander. How sad to lose your family and kingdom, and everything you know, in one day. And then to be paraded around Rome. I didn't love the title. Selene makes a big deal about how her name is spelled with a "K" (Kleopatra) and then the title has it spelled with a "C"???

This book has some language in it. It also has beatings and harsh treatment of slaves, with some dying. It also has gambling and it discusses "physical intimacy" in marriage and out of it, with prostitution included in the mix. Then there is the "Liberalia" celebration, which I did not like. Let's just say I learned a new word. Yeah, they decorate floats of men's private parts and parade them down the street. Not a great image to have in your head, right? I'm glad I'm not Roman.

Overall, I liked the book. It's good for a quick and entertaining read. I like the history involved, and knowing that most of the people were real. And, there is a glossary at the end of the book. I wish I would have known that as I was reading.

Rating: R (language, deaths, beatings of slaves, killing of a newborn baby, "physical intimacy" and prostitution)

Recommendation: High School Senior and up. This is NOT a good young adult book. It may be too much for some seniors.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenageer, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will."

Wow. What a story! And I complain when I have a headache. This story helps you see perspective in your life. I had no idea what our troops went through as Japanese POW's. I had no idea that many POW's were even taken during the war. What they went through sickened me. The brutality of the captors was unimaginable. I compare this with a book I read a little while ago called "A Woman's Place." In that book there are a few POW's that work in a ship-building factory with the women in the book, and they are treated so kindly compared to what our men went through.

This book is nonfiction, but is very well written. It does take a little longer to read than a good fiction book, but it is worth it. Mr. Zamperini is definitely a hero and an example of bravery, courage, and patriotism that we should all learn from. The things he and the other POW's went through were horrible. It is a privelege to be able to hear his story and learn from it. I am so thankful to all our service men and women for serving our country.

This book, although a really good book, is filled with many things that are extremely difficult to read.  There is language, torture, rape, fights, beatings, war atrocities, deaths, and a lot of physical and mental anguish. I know, it sounds depressing. And a lot of it is. However, there is also so much to take away from this book. There is so much to learn from these men and their bravery, determination, and courage, that it is definitely worth reading. I'm not one to search out books with the above characteristics, but I came away from this book with so much.

Rating: R (Language, torture, rape, fights, beatings, war atrocities, deaths, physical and mental anguish, and "physical intimacy.")

Recommendation: College and up. This is way too much for younger readers. It's a great teaching tool for WWII, but more for a college history course.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Last Olympian

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson #5) by Rick Riordan

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of a victory are grim. Kronos's army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan's power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it's up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time. In this momentous final book...the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy's sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate."

I have loved all of these books, especially since I have been reading them aloud to my boys. Even though they are 10 and 8, I love reading to them, and I like to hope that they still enjoy it as well. These books have all been action-packed and fun, and this one was no exception. There were the usual characters plus a few new ones, and I enjoyed seeing how the series came together in the end. I thought it ended well and my boys liked it, except for the kissing scene (oohhhh-I won't tell you who was kissing), which I think they liked but they won't admit it. Hahaha. There were some good twists and turns in the storyline, and some surprises. Some of it was a little predictable as well, but not enough to make us dislike it. There was a little more violence in this book, and some of it was a bit graphic, but it was a war for Western civilization, so it was expected.

I still love that Mr. Riordan can take mythology and make it so fun. My boys know so much more about mythology than I ever did at their age. I took a mythology class in college......

I highly recommend this series! It is fun with a bit of hidden education in it, which I love.

Rating: PG+ (Lots of fighting, especially against monsters, some main characters die, no language, and a kissing scene)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up. If your child has read the previous ones then he/she should be fine with this one. It is a little more violent, but my third grader did fine with it. I still recommend a mythology lesson with these books, if they are not being read aloud.

Monday, June 18, 2012

1378 Oak Street

1378 Oak Street by Lovely Whitmore

(Summary taken from www.amazon.com)
Kid's today don't know how to play... Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia in the 80's was filled with fun, friendship and lots of adventure. Especially for me and my siblings, on Oak Street!

We weren't rich, but we learned to take what we had and have fun with it. We played restaurant, made mud pies and had barbecue chicken made out of sticks and dirt. There was never a dull moment as we fought monsters, played chase and took turns riding one bike. It was a time when imagination reigned supreme and dreams were the stuff of life.

Take a walk down my memory lane. Take off your shoes, grab a cup of lemonade and stay awhile...you'll enjoy your visit to Oak Street. A heartwarming story the whole family will enjoy.

This is a short novelette and it is a fun story.  I went the entire story thinking it was autobiographic, and then on the last page she says that it is fiction, and that it is loosely based on her experiences. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed, but that's ok. It  was still fun to read. I agree with her that children do not play enough these days. I'm always kicking my kids outside. I
I like the tone and voice of this story. Ms. Whitmore's writing definitely makes you feel like you are standing right there on Oak Street watching the story unfold. I related to some of her experiences, but not all of them. I shared a room with my sister, as did she, and we had some fun times together. My siblings and I also made plenty of mud pies out in the sandbox, so that was a fun memory to remember. The experiences she had with the neighbor kids were interesting. They were not very nice. Thankfully I didn't have neighbors like that.
I didn't love the ending of the story, but it was ok. It just seemed out of place, I thought, but it did have a purpose. It was fun to read about life in another part of the country.
Overall I enjoyed the story. I would recommend it.
Rating: PG (It's clean!)
Recommendation: 13 and up. It is clean, but some of the subject matter might disturb some of the younger readers (They eat goat at a bbq and there is a church scene with them getting baptized at the end. Also at the end a thief runs into their house and there is a police standoff.)
Disclosure: I received a free book in exchange for my honest review.