What is your reading goal this year?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Colony East

Colony East by Scott Cramer

(Summary taken from the press release sent by the publisher) "In a terrifying world where an epidemic has killed off most of the world's adults, fifteen-year-old Abby struggles to keep her brother and sister safe. 
When a new, deadly disease spreads among the survivors, Abby must make the dangerous journey to Colony East, an enclave of hidden scientists caring for a small group of children for reasons unknown.
Abby fears that time is running short for the victims, but she's soon to learn that time is running out for everyone outside Colony East."

I loved the first book in the series Night of the Purple Moon, so I was very excited to read book two. It did not disappoint!!! I loved this one as well. I just get caught up in Mr. Cramer's writing style and story telling. The characters come to life in this book, even more than they did in the first book. It was interesting to note the differences in how Jordan and Abby reacted in each of their most difficult moments. It surprised me because I thought they would have been opposite. I really saw that Abby is human. She pretends to know-it-all all the time, but she does have a different side to her when push comes to shove. This book introduces some new characters, and elaborates on some old favorites. Toby became a favorite character. I love to see how the children come together in some of the areas, and yet it pains me to see how kids in the other areas just collapse into chaos. And, introducing the adults was very creative. I had no idea how Mr. Cramer would manage to find some adults alive, but he did. Do I like them? Would I act like them? Wow. I'm a rule follower, but I don't know......Pique your interest? Yeah, crazy. I liked Dawson. I liked that he might have a sliver of humanity in him after all. I didn't like most of the other adults. It took me awhile to understand that the cadets Dawson kept talking about were so little. Oh my goodness. They're so little, yet they are treated like full-on adults. I didn't like that part. I just wanted to hug and console them. I do love how resourceful a lot of the children are. 

There are deaths in this book, and some are quite violent. There are some gang-like violence scenes. There are a few gun shots and lots of sick and dying children. There is no profanity (that I can remember). There are some flirtations between a few of the children, and a couple of kissing scenes, but that is as far as it goes. 

I really liked this book, and am now counting down the days until book #3 is released!!!

Rating: PG-13 (Deaths, violence, gang-like violence, some gun shots, sick and dying children, kissing)

Recommendation: 14 and up.

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

They are doing a giveaway with this tour! If you are interested, click below!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Book of Mysteries

The Book of Mysteries by Fran Orenstein

(Summary taken from an email from the publisher) "Enter The Book of Mysteries at your own risk with Tyler and his best friend, Zack who live in an apartment house in New York City. Tyler’s uncle, a scientist and explorer, sends Tyler to a find a disappearing bookstore, an ancient bookseller, and The Book of Mysteries, where exciting and danger-filled adventures await them. In The Wizard’s Revenge, they enter the strange world of Balara. The boys, with the help of a Balaran girl and a dragon-slayer giant, must un-mask and force a wizard to release a fire-breathing dragon from a deadly spell. There is mutual attraction between Tyler and Esmara, a Balaran girl who helps them, and sometimes Tyler forgets that she is just a character in a story. In The Gargoyles of Gothica, Tyler and Zack face marauding gargoyles, when they must retrieve the king’s magic scepter stolen by his evil stepmother. Without the scepter, the countryside of Gothica will wither and die. Aided by identical twin Goth Princesses, Lily and Ivy, the boys cannot return until the quest is fulfilled. The third book, The Centaurs of Spyr, pits our heroes against armies of mythical beasts at war. They must save the colony of helpless humans and their guardians, the talking trees.  Zack finds first love and Tyler becomes a hero, but this could be their last adventure, for they may not be able to go home, unless the Centaurs agree to broker peace and the bookstore hasn’t disappeared."

I love the premise of these books. That's why we read, right??? So we can become a part of a story. I love that the boys are able to pick a story, jump in, and live in the story land. I can't tell you how many stories I've read in my lifetime that I wish I could be a part of. The premise of these books relates to every reader. The main characters Zach and Tyler are cute boys. They are 13 and act like it. They're a little forgetful, they act tough but are really scared, they try and impress the girls and yet they get tongue-tied when they try to talk to the girls. I could just see my 12 year-old and his friends. I thought each of the stories were well thought out and were fun. There was just enough action and suspense to make it good, but not over the top. Each story had lessons to be taught, and the reader learns them while the boys do. Friendship, working together, working hard, thinking things through before acting, and helping others are only a few of the lessons taught. Every 13 year-old needs to be reminded of these things (don't we all sometimes???).  The magic of reading is also an underlying theme. Just by opening a book we are transported to places we could never imagine. I liked the characters in the different lands, and thought they interacted well with the boys. I liked that each story had a candy store, book store, and pharmacy, especially the candy store. I thought it was funny that the boys needed chocolate.....sounds a little too much like me.

I think overall the story would be great for fourth graders and up.......except the author did something that irritates me to no end (and this is the reason I started my blog to begin with). She put two or three lines in each book that make it completely inappropriate for the younger readers. Even though the story is written for the younger readers, and they would love it, they shouldn't read it. In the first story, Revenge of the Wizard, on page two, the uncle is talking to Tyler and says they need to have a discussion. Tyler says he's already had that discussion and the uncle says, "I'm not talking about SEX." And then there is a point where one of the boys says something like (sorry, I can't find it so I'm summarizing), "Why do you always think about sex?" Then, book two The Gargoyles of Gothica starts with Tyler looking at porn on his laptop. It never actually says that, it is just heavily implied because his dad walks in and he slams the computer shut and hopes his father didn't see what he was looking at. Sex is also mentioned again later in the story. Book three is ok, as far as I can remember. Why? Why do authors need to add those things? They had nothing to do with the story and actually didn't fit at all. They seemed very out of place in this story. The rest of it was clean except for a few swear words. There were only a few. So, why add those first few instances?? Ugh. It really irritates me. Obviously, you wouldn't want your child to read this unless you've had "the talk." I talked about it a lot with my husband and we decided we will let our 12 year-old read it because he's had "the talk." I don't think he'll understand the porn scene, but I will discuss it with him before he starts. I will not be letting my 5th grader read it because he hasn't had "the talk" yet. Why make a book inappropriate and thus cut your readers in half? I still hesitate with my 12 year-old reading it, but we will discuss it with him, and let him know that we don't think or talk like that in this family. Now, I know I'm a lot more strict with books and media than other people are. If you are comfortable with a younger child reading about sex and porn then the rest of it is fine for him. 

I did really like the stories and think the kids will enjoy them. I hope if the author prints another edition that she will take those few sentences out because it ruins the rest of it. Other than that, I liked the stories and think the kids will enjoy them. 
Rating: PG-13 (A few swear words, boys talking about sex, a boy looking at porn)

Recommendation: After you've had "the talk." I would say 12 and up. I guess I do know kids who have discussed it with their parents at age 11. It will be different for each kid, and the parents should read it first to see if it is appropriate for their child.

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fern Valley

Fern Valley: A Collection of Short Stories by Aileen Stewart

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Follow the adventures of delightful young farm animals who are just like you. Fern Valley is home to a group of wonderful animals who have fun and face some of the same problems children everywhere do. Roberta and Mildred Cornstalk are creative chickens dealing with the loss of their beloved granny, and they're looking for something to do to cheer them up. Want to know what adventures they find? Want to know what happens to Roberta and Mildred's brother, Edward, when he goes fishing, what birthday surprise is in store for Betsy Woolrich, or what lesson Kimmy Curlytail learns when she keeps something that isn't hers? Then follow this endearing cast of characters as they enjoy their time together and learn important lessons. A perfect addition for any child's personal library and a joy for families to share, Fern Valley is a collection to be treasured for many years to come."

This is a fun little collection of short stories. The characters are really cute. They are written mainly for younger children; maybe through age nine. I don't think my 6th and 5th grade boys would be too interested in reading them silently. As a read-aloud, however, I think they would sit and listen. Even big boys still get interested in mom and dad reading out loud. Even for younger children I think they would be better as a read-aloud, just because there are some difficult words for stories geared toward younger children. For example, the words "rummaged, array, brooches" are all on the same page. I know my 2nd grader would not know those words, and she would struggle to sound them out. Don't get me wrong, I think they are great words, and I definitely think children should increase their vocabulary. However, younger readers may not understand them or be able to sound them out. That's why it would be great as a read-aloud because you could stop and discuss those words. Thus, adding them to the children's vocabulary. The characters have some fun experiences, and some not very good ones. I think there is a good assortment of girlie stories and boy stories. There are some really good lessons taught. It's a fast, easy read, and it's fun to have some short stories. I haven't read short stories like this in awhile, so it's a fun change of pace. I will be reading these to my children.

Rating: G (Clean! Yay!)

Recommendation: Good for everyone. Older children may not be interested in reading them silently, but they would most likely enjoy them as a read-aloud. I'd say up until age 14 maybe, as a read-aloud, and probably 9 reading silently. 

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hello, We're the Fuzzwippers

Hello, We're the Fuzzwippers by Marilynn Halas

This is a very cute story about these little fuzzwippers. They look like cute fuzzy balls. I received one with my book, but I'm not sure if they come with all the books. These fuzzwippers come from many places throughout the world, with the hope of sharing one thing with the children they come to: "You are loved, no matter what." That is always a great lesson for our children, and one they need to hear and see often. There are four of these books listed on the website, and each has an uplifting and special message for the children. In a world filled with stress, violence, profanity, unemployment, etc. it is wonderful to have uplifting messages to read to my children. My kids have read this book and loved it, especially because they got to play with the little fuzzwipper while they read it. 

Rating: G (Clean!!)

Recommendation: Great for all ages!!!

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

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "France, 1916: Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of the World War I, Edouard's portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer's dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie decides to risk everything--her family, her reputation, and her life--for the chance to see her husband again. Almost a century later, Sophie's portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting's true worth, and a battle begins over its troubled history. Was the painting looted during the war? Who is to pay retribution? And who is the true owner now? As the layers of the painting's dark past are revealed, Liv's life is turned upside down all over again. And her belief in what is right is put to the ultimate test..."

I loved this book! It is reminiscent of The Firebird, with a twist of The Hiding Place. I didn't like it as much as I liked each one of those books individually, but it was really good. I thought the writing was excellent. Most of the characters were developed very well, and they each fit right where they needed to in the story. Liv is kind of a hard character to grasp onto at first, but as you get to know her better she grows on you. She becomes much softer and you can see the reasons why she is who she is. I liked Paul a lot. He just seems like a good, down-to-earth, normal guy. He made a difficult choice at the end that I applauded, but was scared for him too. I think he did the right thing. Both Paul and Liv had flaws, which is good because I don't like it when characters are too perfect. Mo was an interesting character. I'm still not sure what I think of her. She added some humor and a flair of color to Liv's clean and white lines. I really loved the other half of the story, though. Sophie and Helene were excellent characters. Their depth and strength was inspirational. I don't know if I could have done what they did. I don't agree with the decision Sophie made, at all. I thought a lot about it, and I just couldn't have done it. I don't think that is what my husband would want me to do either. Now, I won't tell you if it paid off in the end, but knowing the consequences doesn't change my mind. I can't imagine the inner battles that went on in these women's minds. The Germans had taken almost everything from them, and then they are asked to cook for them. Awww, what a struggle it must have been. I loved Liliane. I didn't like the decision she made at the end either, but I don't blame her. The strength she had to go behind the German's backs was also inspirational. Would I have been brave enough? I wasn't sure how the two stories would fit together, but, in the end, it was almost seamless. I liked the ending and thought it brought everything together well. I thought Ms. Moyes did a really good job of wrapping it up, but not too perfectly. I do like the perfect ending sometimes, but I don't think it would have fit the book. I really enjoyed seeing it all come together, and thought the surprise guest at the end was a fabulous touch.

There is language in this book, especially the "f" word. There are several of them. There is  a bunch of other language, and the Lord's name is used as well. There is a mostly rape scene. I say mostly, because she kind of knew what she was getting herself into, and purposefully went, but she didn't realize how bad it would really be. There is a very violent and gruesome suicide. There is also war violence and poor treatment of the people by the German occupiers. There are some deaths. Happy, right? There are actually some happy moments, some inspirational people and experiences, and it makes it worth the sadness and harshness of the rest. It makes me so thankful to be where I am, at the time I am. I am so blessed! I definitely recommend this book.

Rating: R (This rating does not follow the movie ratings, exactly, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Language, including the "f" word, rape, suicide, war atrocities, death.

Recommendation: 18 and up.

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

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world's most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling--a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths...all under the watchful eye of Brown's most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale. As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object--artfully encoded with five symbols--is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation...one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom. When Langdon's beloved mentor, Peter Solomon--a prominent Mason and philanthropist--is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations--all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth."

This book is a typical Dan Brown book. I liked it, but it was very formulaic and somewhat predictable. The places, names, and institutions involved may be different from his previous books, but the story is very similar. There is the evil guy, Mal'akh, and he wants something. In order to get it, he has to kidnap someone and torture him, and then Robert Langdon is there, of course, to figure out the meanings in the symbols. Robert will hopefully save the day with his knowledge. There's a girl too.  At the beginning of the book, Mr. Brown states that, "All rituals, science, artwork, and monuments in this novel are real." You can definitely tell that Mr. Brown did his homework and knows a lot about the different rituals in Masonry, and the science of Noetics. I did find all that information very interesting and would like to know a little bit more about it. I liked Katherine, Warren Bellamy, and Dean Galloway. I thought they each added something a little different to the story and thought they were written well. Mr. Brown definitely toned this book down. I thought Angels and Demons was a little too much, and this one brought it down a notch, which was good. The language wasn't as bad, and the evil character was evil and insane, but not quite as grotesque as in Angels and Demons. Don't get me wrong, there are some yucky scenes that are hard to read, but they are not as bad as they were in other books. I did like the book okay, and there were some things that I did really like, but it just didn't capture my attention like Mr. Brown's previous books did. I may have been in the wrong frame of mind to read it. I was in a really bad car accident a few weeks ago and was really stressed to find a new car and deal with insurance companies, and even though I did read, my mind wasn't too into it. If you like Mr. Brown's books, you will most likely like 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.) Language, murders, torture scenes.

Recommendation: 18 and up