What is your reading goal this year?

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.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Wampum Exchange

The Wampum Exchange by Rosemary McKinley

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me.) "Long Island author, Rosemary McKinley has written a young adult historical novella, The Wampum Exchange, set in 1650, Southold, New
York. A twelve-year-old boy has a chance meeting with a Native American
boy and their worlds connect in a most interesting way. The tale is told
through their daily lives, giving the reader a glimpse into life in
America. Middle grade readers, as well as adults would enjoy reading
this story."

This is a short, fun little story about life in 1650 in Southold, New York. It looks like Ms. McKinley put a lot of time into researching life in that area and in that time period, and it shows in this story. There are some fun facts about the time period woven into the storyline, and I think it's a great way to teach children history. They are learning and they don't know it! I didn't know much about the wampum and so it was fun for me to learn as well. The story is written in a very simple style, but that makes it easy to read. The characters are fairly well developed, and the setting is well described. There are some really good descriptions in the story.

I enjoyed reading this story and will most likely read it to my kids. I have it in e-reader format, so it's not one I can just hand over to them to read. It will be a good time to talk about life during that time period and discuss our country's history, which I definitely enjoy doing. This would be a really good story for elementary school children to read in class, or have read to them. You get a fun story and history included! Of course, it is historical fiction, but it's based on as much fact as Ms. McKinley could find. I liked this story and recommend it, especially to teachers and younger readers.

Rating: G Clean!

Recommendation: Third grade and up.  This would be a great silent read or read-aloud book.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Babe Magnet

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Babe Magnet by Chad Stone

(Summary taken from http://middleagedbabemagnet.blogspot.com) "Confessions of a Middle-Aged Babe Magnet is the almost completely true story of one man's brave adventure into dating again in the 21st Century. The hero (me!) jumps headfirst into the dating pool with the goal of becoming a self-professed Babe Magnet. The story unfolds as a humorous memoir that’s also an insightful dating and relationship guide for men of all ages. For women, the book offers a unique, unvarnished look into the mind of a real man—revealing how a single man thinks and why he behaves as he does.

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Babe Magnet is a journey of modern self-discovery that is laugh-out-loud funny in some places and poignantly tender in others. Fascinating, funny and heartfelt, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Babe Magnet is proof that love is possible at any age— as long as you’re willing to embrace it."

I have to get this out of the way, and I'm sorry to the author (and his character in the book), but this character (Chad Stone) is a complete jerk. There, I said it. I feel better now. After 25 years of marriage he leaves his wife because he fell out of love with her. He admits he didn't try and work it out at all. So, because he is selfish and lazy he devastates his wife and son, and destroys a family. Then he goes on to write this book and make money off of his ex-wife and son's heartbreak. If he had spent half the time he spent becoming a "babe magnet" for other women, and became one for his wife, or if he had spent the time wooing her back instead of wooing other women, he might have been able to save his relationship.........

........That being said, I ended up really enjoying this book. It was well written and humorous. It was also VERY enlightening. As a woman, I had NO idea men thought about certain things as often as they do. I learned a lot about men and how they think and what makes them tick. I am happily married, thank goodness, and my husband thought it was hilarious because I kept asking him if he thought about things that way, or as often as Chad did in the book. As a married woman I think it actually did help make my marriage better because I talked to my husband in great length about how we could make sure this didn't happen to us. I think it would be very beneficial to women who are dating to read. Really. Read it. I think it also helped to make sure my daughters will not be dating.....ever. It's a must-read for mothers who have daughters in dating mode.

I was a little disappointed with the ending. It ended very abruptly, and could have used another thirty or so pages to wrap it up, but I would still recommend it. There is language and an almost constant presence of thoughts about, yearnings for, and a few scenes of  "physical intimacy." This guy thinks about it non-stop. This is definitely not a book I would have ever chosen on my own, but I liked it. So, do you think the women in the book will figure out it is written about them?? (Like in The Help?)

Rating: R (Yep, lots of language and lots of "physical intimacy." He thinks about it, talks about it, wants it, and has it.) I actually can't believe I liked the book, just because of the content.

Recommendation: Married and up. Women who are in college and dating may want to read it as well.

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