What is your reading goal this year?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Janitors (Book #1)

Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "The magical, secretive society of JANITORS will sweep the country in the fall of 2011. Have you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelve year- old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world? Janitors is book 1 in a new children s fantasy series by debut novelist Tyler Whitesides. You ll never look at a mop the same way again."

My boys (ages 11 and 10) read this book awhile ago and have been telling me and telling me and telling me that I need to read it. They loved it. It made it even better that Tyler Whitesides actually came to their school and signed their book. I had so many other books to read that I hadn't gotten around to it...until now. If you've read my blog before, you have probably heard me say that I taught first grade before I had children. When I go back to teaching, I will not see the school in the same light. Ever. Do you trust the janitors? Or are they the bad guys? This book is a fun and fast read. It is filled with betrayal, action, crazy dust creatures, friendship, big messes, and lots of cleaning supplies. And these are no ordinary cleaning supplies! Mr. Whitesides has created a fun world filled with magic and secrets. The characters were well developed and realistic. I could picture the principal perfectly. I loved the descriptions of him. Spencer and Daisy seemed like cute, normal kids. I thought they were childish enough that it felt realistic, yet brave enough to make it exciting. I loved Spencer's mom. She's awesome, and I could definitely see myself acting that way in order to protect one of my children. The janitors were a little crazy, but great characters. I really enjoyed learning about how the creatures affected the students. Hahaha!!! Now we know why we tend to fall asleep in class, or why we sometimes get distracted while we walk down the hallways. Did I mention the cleaning supplies? I want some of them. Yep, I think I want a broom. That would be great. The story line was a little predictable, but it didn't stop me from reading. I liked this book a lot and I know the kids like it! And, the best part? It's clean! Love it! Now......I just need to dig through my kids' rooms to find book #2!

Rating: PG+ (One of the main characters does die. It's sad but not detailed or gruesome. They do fight the bad guys and the bad creatures.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up

Monday, August 26, 2013

Longing For Home

Longing For Home by Sarah M. Eden

(Summary taken from an email sent to me by the publicist) "Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace."

How is this for an opening sentence: "Eighteen years had passed since Katie Macauley killed her sister."? Wow, right? You want to keep reading, right? Well, I did! That sentence definitely grabbed me, and I was hooked from the start. I haven't read a good old-fashioned love story in a long time, and it was fun to get lost in the story. This story is full of everything you need for a love story: cheese, sap, and a handsome main character. Yes, it's a little cheesy, but you know what? That's what good love stories need! I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written and the characters were very well developed. Katie is a bit of a mystery throughout the book. You don't learn her whole story until almost the end of the book, and so you think you like her, but you're unsure of how she "killed her sister." I kept wondering if I would change my mind about her when I knew the truth. You learn bits and pieces as the book unfolds, and I ended up liking her even more. Tavish is an interesting character. First off, I love that name, and if I were having another baby boy (I'm not) then I would seriously consider naming him Tavish, because it's great name. Ms. Eden might be starting a trend in baby names. Anyway, you meet him on page two or three, and you know from then that he will most likely be a love interest in Katie's life. And Joseph is also a good character. I didn't like him at first because of the circumstances, but the more I learned about him the more I liked him as well. I also fell in love with his daughters. The townspeople in the book are instrumental in setting up the decision that Katie needs to make. I didn't envy her situation and definitely felt bad for her. I love that she is a strong female character. She works hard and even though she likes having the men in her life, she shows that she can take care of herself and isn't whiny or frail. I loved learning about the Irish people and their history. I thought it was so sad that prejudice against the Irish was so strong here in America. I know I like to look back and think that everything was perfect among the different nationalities of our "melting pot." I guess it wasn't perfect, but I'm hopeful that there were people like Joseph to help calm everyone down and bring them together. 

I loved that this book was clean. (Yay!) There wasn't any language, and only a couple small kisses. There was some violence against the Irish people, but nothing too harsh. I think I might like this new "Proper Romance" category from Shadow Mountain. I really did enjoy this story. Like I said, it's been a long time since I've read a good old-fashioned love story, and I forgot how much I enjoy them! 

Rating: PG+ (It's clean except for some acts of violence against the Irish people, and they aren't too harsh.)

Recommendation: 12 and up. And yes, it is YA approved!!!

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hate Is A Strong Word

Hate Is A Strong Word by Angela Myers

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Hate is a Strong Word is a tale of teenage love, lust and loss told from the perspective of two volatile main characters who have separately come to the realization that they have nothing left to lose. The couple meet online under anything but routine circumstances, and their relationship has a life of it's own from the start. Watch them fall in love and run away together as they navigate their own personality flaws, inhibitions and mental instability. Can two damaged young people keep themselves and their relationship alive as they traverse the country from Buffalo New York to Denver Colorado on the run from their families, police and their past?"

Normally I try and start a review with everything positive; in this book there is only one thing, and that is the relationship that Michael had with his Aunt Ang and Uncle Frank. That part of the story was so sweet and tender. I loved his Aunt Ang. She seemed like such a wonderful lady, and Uncle Frank like a great guy. Taking Michael in couldn't have been easy on either of them, but they did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do. I liked that part. Unfortunately, that was the only part I even remotely liked. I didn't like it from page one. In fact, you could say that I hated it. The language was awful. It was so bad that I lost track of how many "f" words there were. And that wasn't the only word used. Oh no, they were all used. A lot. This book is dark. It's ugly. There are suicide attempts, abusive parents and children, and domestic violence scenes. There are people doing drugs, getting drunk, and beating each other up. There's a very detailed and disgusting rape scene. There are very detailed instructions on cutting. There are some very disturbing scenes that happen in the psych ward at the hospital, and there is a teen pregnancy. Nothing except that small scene with Aunt Ang is happy or has any redeeming qualities. The ending isn't even happy. Reading this book made me feel yucky and disgusted. Had I not been reviewing it, I would have stopped reading and deleted it after I read two pages. I do not recommend this book for anyone, especially not YA readers. I'm sorry. I feel bad writing such a poor review, but I have to be honest. 

Rating: R+ (I don't even know what is higher than an R.) Rape, domestic violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, profanity, suicide, cutting, teen pregnancy. It's dark and very disturbing.

Recommendation: None. I do not recommend it for anyone. 

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ragesong: Awakening

Ragesong: Awakening by J.R. Simmons

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "When the peaceful kingdom of Fermicia is enslaved by a power-hungry renegade, its only hope lies in a band of unlikely heroes: two children whose musical abilities allow them to harness the power of Ragesong, and their shape-changing guides. Jake starts his first day of junior high completely oblivious to the fact that he has been chosen for something incredible. That same afternoon, he learns that he has been marked as one with the power to save an entire kingdom. Through the course of his journey, Jake discovers that his advanced musical abilities are peculiarly connected to a mysterious power known as Ragesong. Joined by a shy, young girl with similar musical talents and two Changelings that hold a fierce loyalty to their homeland and king, Jake must learn to harness this ability in order to survive the dangers of a hostile new world."

This book completely surprised me! It grabbed me from the start. It is written well, and I really enjoyed it. The characters make this book. Mr. Simmons' character development is very good. Jake and Sam are so cute and remind me of my son and my niece. They're innocent and cute. They're past cooties, but haven't started the "crush" stage yet. They are actually both talented with different instruments, and they like having fun. They have also been able to rise to meet different challenges in their lives. The Changelings, Joraus and Swyf, are fun characters too. I thought it was interesting how they changed into different animals. It is a lot more complicated than you may think. Their personalities are serious with a touch of playfulness. They know when to have fun and when to be no-nonsense. I loved the game they played with each other, and I enjoyed their flirting and their budding romance. The story line, although a little far-fetched, was great. I thought it was well thought out and felt realistic enough to keep me tuned in. I did think it was a bit much to ask two thirteen-year-olds to save the world, but it has been done before, right?? (Harry Potter, Fablehaven, Farworld) I loved the idea of Ragesong, and how it connected with the musical instruments. It was very unique, creative, and I liked how it connected with their physical abilities.

This book didn't have any profanity at all (thank you!) and no intimacy. A budding romance and maybe a small kiss, but that's it. There is quite a bit of violence in this book, and that is the only thing making me give it an older rating. Quite a few people die, and some of them in gruesome ways. Some of the descriptions are quite detailed and gory. I did like it that Jake didn't want to kill anyone, and when he did he was remorseful. I thought that made him a stronger character. I did enjoy this book and do recommend it with the previous warnings. 

Rating: PG-13 (Violence, some of it gory, gruesome, and detailed.)

Recommendation: 13 and up. (YA approved!!!) 

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

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Janitors Deal on Amazon

In the next few weeks I will be reviewing all 3 (Yes! Even the new one!) of the
Janitors books by Tyler Whitesides. (My boys are so excited for the new one they can't stand it!)
So, in preparation for the excitement, I want to let you know about this great deal!

Through the month of August the first book Janitors is free on Kindle!!!

Grab it here:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Requiem (Book #3)

Requiem (Book #3) by Lauren Oliver

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "This exciting finale to Lauren Oliver's New York Times bestselling Delirium trilogy is a riveting blend of nonstop action and forbidden romance in a dystopian United States.
Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has transformed. The nascent rebellion that was underway in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.
After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven. Pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels.
As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain of the Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor. Requiem is told from both Lena and Hana's points of view. They live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.
With lyrical writing, Lauren Oliver seamlessly interweaves the peril that Lena faces with the inner tumult she experiences after the reappearance of her first love, Alex, the boy she thought was dead. Sophisticated and wide-ranging, Requiem brings the Delirium trilogy to a thrilling conclusion."

What is the one word I would use to describe this book? INTENSE. Wow. It is everything in the first two books and more. If you read the first two....you've probably already read this one! Once again, the writing style is fast-paced and action-packed. There are a lot of the same characters as in book two, and a few more are introduced. I loved that it went back to Hana. I really liked her in the first book, and it was fun to get back to her and bring her back into the story. For the most part, I liked the direction the book took, and felt it was a good ending for the story. It didn't wrap everything up in a perfect little package, but it wrapped it up enough that I felt like it was realistic and it was a good ending. 

There was a lot of violence in this book. They are at war. People die, including a main character. There is fighting and everything that goes with a war. There is quite a bit of language, including a few "f" words. I also thought it was a little "Twilighty" (Yes, I just made up that word) with Lena and those two boys, but not quite as bad. It did make me a little crazy though. 

I enjoyed the book a lot and read it very quickly. I think I actually read the entire series in a matter of three or four days (Keep in mind, I was on vacation at the beach and read for the good part of the day as I sat lounging in the sun. Here....just in case you want to be jealous or go there too. It was fabulous.) Hopefully I described each individual book correctly because I read them so fast they kind of blended together in my mind. I definitely recommend this book and series, but not as a YA series. 

Rating: R (This doesn't follow the movie ratings exactly, it is just my way of saying that it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Profanity, including a few "f" words, violence, war-time atrocities, death.

Recommendation: 18 years-old and up

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Light To My Path

A Light To My Path by Lynn Austin

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Kitty, a house slave, always figured it was easiest to do what she'd always done--obey Missy and follow orders. But when word arrives that the Yankees are coming, Kitty is faced with a decision: will she continue to follow the bidding of her owners, or will she embrace this chance for freedom? Never allowed to have ideas of her own, Kitty is overwhelmed by the magnitude of her decision. Yet it is her hope to find the "happy ever after" ending to her life--and to follow Grady, whom she loves--that is the driving force behind her choice. Where will it lead her?"

My book group chose to read this book this month, and I am so glad they did. I love Ms. Austin's writing! I loved it in A Woman's Place, and I loved it in this book. Her writing is so real in this book. The images she portrays with her words are so vivid and full of life. I got sucked in from the first page, and I only put it down when I had to feed my kids or sleep....you know, the important things. Of course, as you all probably know by now, I love American history, especially the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. So, any historical fiction around these times usually piques my interest. It took me a few chapters to figure out which characters belonged to which city and time, but once I did, it wasn't a problem. From there I just fell in love with some of the characters and absolutely detested others. There were definitely some very extreme emotions there. I hated white people (and I am one) throughout most of this book. Their actions made me physically ill and very angry. The extreme hatred and anger that Grady carried in this book transferred to me. Missy Claire, Missus Goodman, Coop.....nope, didn't like them at all. However, Anna, Delia, Joe (soldier), a bunch of military personnel, and even Massa Fuller, at times, I really liked. I had a very difficult time with Grady throughout a good portion of the book. His anger and hatred are contrary to my personality, and I felt bad for him, but I also didn't trust him. I didn't want Anna around him at all in the beginning. The character development in this book is very well done. Whether I liked them or not, I felt like I had known them all for a long time.  

The story may be quite depressing a lot of the time, (It reminded me a lot of The Kitchen House) but there is so much to gain from this book. The lessons that Grady and the other slaves learned through their experiences are lessons we all need to learn. Holding on to anger and hatred and revenge only ends up hurting us in the end. Learning to forgive is difficult, but through forgiveness we gain freedom from the burden of hatred. There is also a lesson of faith in something greater than yourself, and also faith in yourself. Surrounding yourself with good people, and the help that others can give you during difficult times are also wonderful lessons to learn. The power that music has to heal and bring out different emotions at different times in our lives has a big part in the book. There are some things in this book that are hard to read because of their harshness, and because of the emotions they provoke in the reader. This is a book about the reality of slavery in early American history, and it isn't a pretty, happy fairy tale. It's awful and painful to read about. However, I think it is important that we all remember what took place so that we can make sure it doesn't happen ever again. To anyone. It's important to look at the way we treat the people around us and be a little more patient, a little more kind, and a little more understanding. It's also important to stand up for what we believe in, and help those around us that have fallen on hard times. Even though it provoked a lot of negative emotions, I did like this book. The growth that takes place in the characters is amazing, and made it worth the read. 

Rating: R (This doesn't follow the movie ratings exactly, it is my way of saying that it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Rape, murder, mistreatment of slaves, war, and other atrocities. Minor profanity.

Recommendation: 18 and up

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Book Lovers' Day!!

Book Lovers Day
Illustration by Ghergich & Co.

Happy Book Lovers' Day!!!

Everyone take a minute today to sit back and enjoy a good book! I think this may be my new favorite day!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pandemonium (Book #2)

Pandemonium (Book #2) by Lauren Oliver

(Summary taken from amazon.com)
"The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence, behind a wall of smoke and flame.
In this electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller Delirium, Lauren Oliver sets Lena on a dangerous course that hurtles through the unregulated Wilds and into the heart of a growing resistance movement. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite."

Wow....wow. What else do I say? If you liked Delirium, you need to read Pandemonium! I was so mad at Lena throughout this whole book! I could NOT believe that she just left Alex at the fence at the end of Delirium. Ugh. Stupid girl. She didn't even look back. And throughout this whole book she just assumes he is dead. But he's not, right? I mean.....he's tough and smart....he got away, right??? AAhhhhhhh!! This book is full of twists, turns, and surprises. Lena joins the resistance and does ok. She meets a lot of new people, and gets captured. I didn't like the story line as much as I did the first book, but it was still a page turner and I read it in a day or so. Like I said, Lena drove me crazy in this book. I did like the growth she experienced, and I liked that she became stronger as a person. She learned to think for herself, which was really good. I didn't really know what to think of Julian. I never knew if I should trust him or not. And I kind of felt the same way about Raven. I think she was good, but there was a side of her that I didn't trust. I think part of it was that they didn't really trust each other. None of them did. They had to band together to survive, but it was as if they had to  prove themselves trustworthy every day.

There is a lot of violence in this book, and some of it is quite graphic. There is also profanity, including several "f" words. There is some kissing, but no real intimacy scenes. This is NOT a YA approved book. I did like it. I read it in a day or so. If you liked the first book, you really need to read this one!

Rating: R (This does not follow the movie ratings exactly, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Profanity, including the "f" word, lots of violence, kissing.

Recommendation: 18 and up.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London's most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn't come easily to her--and perhaps never will. Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There's only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d'Orsey. So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d'Orsey's story weaves through the decades, from 1920's New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London. But these perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva's past and Grace's future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be."

This book fascinated me. The characters were very well developed and complex. Grace seemed like your typical 1950's wife, but she actually had dreams for herself beyond being a socialite. It reminded me of some of the women in A Woman's Place. She didn't care about the parties or the big events, she wanted to go back to school and feel more important. Her husband seemed like the typical 1950's husband who wanted his wife to be in her place and didn't want her to be too smart or think for herself. I did not like him, and it made me very grateful for my husband, and that I live right now, not back then. I really felt for Grace. She was in a very difficult position. When she went to France and began learning about Eva, I got completely lost in the story. It is written very well. I loved Ms. Tessaro's writing style. I enjoyed reading about Eva's experiences as a child and the people she met. Some of the ladies at the hotel like Sis and Rita seemed like hard working, great women who took care their own. I liked them. I didn't like Vanessa or Mr. Lambert from the first time I saw them, and I wish Eva had made different choices with both of them. However, something about Madame Zed and Andre Valmont intrigued me from the start. Neither one of them were wholesome or perfect, but they were fun characters because they had a little bit of mystery and drama surrounding them. The story line had so many interesting twists and turns, and I couldn't stop thinking of the characters, even when I put the book down, which wasn't very often. I enjoyed learning about the art of making perfume, and thought it fascinating how the ingredients came together. It was just like Eva's life: so many different people and experiences shaping her into who she became. Just like the different perfumes that had layers and depth, so did her life. 

There is some language in this book, including one "f" word at the very end. There are a lot of innuendos in this book. "Intimacy" is laced throughout. There isn't necessarily a big scene or anything, but it is a theme that runs throughout. There is a scene where two men are in bed together, but you don't see anything happen. You also know that a girl was raped, but it isn't described. Relationships are described, and you know that "intimacy" is there, but it is more just hinted at and talked about, rather than described. I didn't love the choice that Grace made at the end. I understand where she was coming from and why she did it, but I didn't love the choice. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the glamour and glitz, the characters, and mystery of this book.

Rated: R (This doesn't follow the movie ratings exactly, it is my way of saying that it is inappropriate for younger readers.) Language, including one "f" word, and a definite theme of "intimacy" laced throughout. There is a rape and a scene with two men asleep in a bed.

Recommendation: 18 and up, at least. 

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

Friday, August 2, 2013

I Am Wolf

I Am Wolf by Joann H. Buchanan

(Summary taken from an email from the publishing company) " “You can’t fight who you really are, Jonah . . .you are wolf.” When Jonah unknowingly creates an unnatural creature, he is thrust upon a path of unremitting shadows and unrelenting torment from the creature he becomes connected to in Joann Buchanan's novel I am Wolf: Children of Nox.

Seven teens, the youngling pack from the tribe of Tibolt, join forces with Jonah, their newest member. Together, they must stop the “unnatural,” who brings horror wherever he travels. As the murderous creature makes his way east to Tennessee, it becomes a race against time to save a small child of destiny known as the Dream Maker.

'I wanted to write a different kind of paranormal series that was not your typical werewolf novel," Joann Buchanan says. "I felt this was a story that needed to be told.'"

I have mixed emotions about this book. On the one hand, I loved Jonah and his friends. I thought they were very likable and the budding teenage romances were cute. I also liked the adults in Jonah's life and thought the Native American aspect was very interesting. Ms. Buchanan's character development was really good with these characters. I especially liked Jonah, Bobby Joe, Big Sal, Daniel, Alaynee, Cara, and Jeanne. Although some of it was bordering on corny, I enjoyed it. They just seemed like normal teenagers, with a twist. I liked the way they interacted and had fun, but yet they could be serious when they needed to be. I liked that they put an emphasis on the importance of family and how loyal they were to each other. On the other hand, I detested Ralph. I know that Ms. Buchanan did that on purpose. This guy is creepy, a pervert, a drunk, a jerk, and has some very serious mental illnesses that need to be treated. I know you are meant to think of Ralph as despicable, and it worked. Definitely worked. It worked so well that I seriously hated reading his sections. I cringed and got angry, and it was awful. I think Ms. Buchanan went too far with him. I felt yucky when I read about him, and I could just feel evilness radiating from him. He is pure evil. I did not want to read anymore about him. It was such a contrast to the cuteness (and sometimes cheesiness) of the other characters, that it made him stand out even more as evil. Ugh. His character is what dropped my rating to a 3 star. I hated it. I think she could have portrayed him as evil without going that far. I (an adult) had nightmares about Ralph. I would wake up trembling because he would tear my friends' heads off in my dreams. It was awful.

This book had quite a bit of language in it. However, that was the least of my worries. Ralph rapes at least two girls, he kills many people in extremely violent ways (and enjoys doing it), he kidnaps a child, he plots to kill another child, he "pleasures" himself (yuck!), and it all just makes you feel gross and violated. It's too bad, because I really liked the other part of the book with Jonah and his friends. 

Rating: R (This does not follow movie ratings exactly, it is just my way of saying it is VERY inappropriate for younger readers.) Rape, murder, violence, "pleasuring himself," kidnapping, and pure evil.

Recommendation: At least 18 and up. I might even say older, but it depends on the reader. Definitely not anyone younger.