What is your reading goal this year?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Find Me by Jenna Hollenstein

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me) "Originally published in Italian as Cercami, Find Me contains lively poems on the left-hand side of each page and colorful illustrations on the right. As you turn each page, the poems are read aloud by a narrator, which allows children to listen or to read along. The poems provide clues as to how to interact with the illustrations on the right. Whether it’s ferreting out a crocodile hidden among pairs of scissors, or charming a friendly snake out of his basket, children with love interacting with Find Me."

This is the first book I have read on an ipad, bought from itunes. I am quite familiar with itunes for music, but I did not know they had books. That is, until Ms. Hollenstein contacted me. This is so much fun! It is a cute concept and the fact that it is on an ipad/pod makes the kids automatically think it's fun. I love that it is poetry. Poetry seems to be something that children are not as familiar with these days, and to make it available in this format is a great idea. The poetry is written well and the illustrations are very cute. I love the pages where the animals move or the objects are animated. Most of the pictures are easy to find, but a couple of them took a second look before I found them. I had hoped that a few more objects on each page would also be animated, but they weren't. That's ok. There is at least something on each page. This is something kids could do instead of a game, that would be entertaining and educational. I'm not sure how much they'll enjoy it the second, third, fourth time, etc., once they know where everything is, but I think they'll still like it. I watched a few of them a couple of times because they were so cute. I love the concept of this book and think it is really well done. Yay for creativity, imagination, and uniqueness!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Great for everyone!

Click HERE to purchase this book on itunes.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Emma and the African Wishing Bead

Emma and the African Wishing Bead by Valerie Redmond

(Summary taken from the back cover) "Emma and the African Wishing Bead" is a story about two girls, separated by an ocean and united by their dreams. It is about the beauty we all have to offer the world when we follow our passions, believe in ourselves, and unleash our true potential."

I am in love with this book! It is fantastic! The story is well written, and the pictures are bright and beautiful. The content of this story is so needed today. This book tells the story of a girl who finds a bead on the beach. She just knows it is magical, and it is. How is it magical? Well, the story takes you back in time and shows you where the bead started out, in Africa. A little girl found it while sitting under a tree by the river. Her grandmother explains that it is a wishing bead. When you find one you sit and think about everything you are thankful for, then you put the bead on a string and tie as many knots as things you are thankful for so it stays on tight. Then you make a wish on the bead. Everyday you think of your dream and you plan how you can achieve that dream. Then someday, when the bead falls off, you let it be and you do not pick it up. Your dream will come true, and someone else will find it, and it will make her dream come true in the same way. Such a wonderful story for girls (and boys) to hear. You learn about the child living in Africa and how she just wants to be able to go to school, or have a well in the village so she doesn't need to haul water from the river to her house. I know my kids take running water for granted. I know they take their education for granted. I love stories that help my children see outside of their small world. I love that this story takes them out of our nice home and into an area where people don't have all the things we take for granted. I love that they can learn about how other people live, and I love that it teaches them to dream and to work hard for their dreams. 

Another great thing about this book is that, by purchasing this book, you can actually help a girl in Africa go to school. Half of the proceeds go to the Canadian Harambee Education Society (CHES), "a non-profit organization which provides secondary school scholarships to girls in Kenya and Tanzania." You can also purchase your own wishing beads by going to: www.wishingbead.com . These beads are handmade in Kenya at the Kazuri bead factory. You may find out more about the company at www.kazuriwest.com . 
I received a bead with my book and it is beautiful. I hope it never breaks off because I don't want to let it go. 

There are so many things to love about this book! I highly recommend it for girls and boys of all ages. Having a dream and then making that dream come true (not just waiting around for someone else to make it happen) is something every child (and lots of adults too) can learn from. Also, learning about the world around us is so beneficial for children. It's good for me too; it never hurts to be reminded how blessed we are. I love uplifting children's books, and this one is my new favorite!

Rating: G (Clean!!!)

Recommendation: Everyone!!!

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 
P.S. I have not checked out either CHES or Kazuri. I am not endorsing them or giving my stamp of approval; I'm simply putting the info. on the book on my site so you can go check it out if you want to.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile by Bob Brier and Hoyt Hobbs

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "The civilization of ancient Egypt is perhaps best known for its omnipotent pharaohs, monumental pyramids, and remarkable sculptures and paintings, all of which still captivate us today. But what was life there really like? Ancient Egypt comes alive in this vivid, abundantly illustrated exploration of its people and their world. Ordinary citizens in ancient Egypt lived and worked in much the same ways as the average European of the eighteenth century, but are better, dressed more practically, and lived better--in houses with patios, latrines, and cooling systems."

I enjoy learning about history, and although my favorites are United States history (the Revolutionary War and the Civil War especially), I do enjoy learning about world history as well. So when the publisher contacted me to review this new series of the everyday lives of ancient cultures (Egypt, Vikings, Middle Ages, and Greece), I jumped at the chance. I will eventually get to the others in the series, but I chose to read Egypt first. First off, this is a nice hardcover book. It has a lot of interesting pictures and graphics. I love looking at the stone carvings and the ancient paintings. I went through the whole book and looked at all the pictures before I even read the first sentence (shhhhhh.....don't tell) because they were so interesting. The book started out very heavy in detail about the different dynasties and the history of Egypt. Although it is probably a good thing to start a book that way, I thought it was written very much like a text book and was, I hate to say, quite boring. I almost stopped reading. Almost. I'm glad I kept reading, because after that it got a lot better. It is still written more like a text book than I was hoping for, but when  it started describing religion in ancient Egypt it started to get much more interesting. I enjoyed learning about their religion. From there I found some chapters kind of uninteresting (government), but I found others (work and play, food, clothes and other adornments, arts and crafts) full of interesting facts and I enjoyed reading them. Did you know that one of the lesser pharaohs' household ate over 2,000 loaves of bread and 300 jugs of beer daily? Did you know that the ancient Egyptians ate about 3,780 daily calories from grain alone? Wow. Luckily their jobs required hard manual labor, which allowed them to burn off those calories. Did you know that even with all our technology and knowledge, we still aren't sure how they managed to build those huge pyramids? Crazy. Khufu's Great Pyramid "required that more than two million blocks weighing from two to more than sixty tons be formed into a structure covering two football fields and rising in a perfect pyramidal shape 480 feet into the sky." They needed over 25,000 workers (they signed up, they weren't slaves), and they had to work fast in order to finish before their pharaoh died. Khufu reigned for 20 years, so that is how long they had. "The math indicates that, with about 2 million stones to place and at most twenty years to position them, given a work-year of 350 days and a work-day of ten hours, approximately thirty blocks were placed per hour. That is, one block was delivered to its position in the pyramid every two minutes." Crazy, I know. 

So, I was hoping that the book would be written a little less like a text book, but it was very informative and I ended up liking it. There were some areas that I just wasn't interested in, but I'm sure other people (boys) will enjoy learning about their warfare and government. In fact, I'm sure that is what my husband would like reading about. He probably wouldn't care about their cosmetics or fancy clothes. In other words, there is something for everyone in this book. There's a history nut in every family, right? This book is perfect for them, and a great, informative read for the rest of us. It would be a great addition to a junior high, high school, or college world history class as well.

Rating: PG+ (It does describe mummification, which is gross. It mentions that a lot of times Egyptians worked naked because it was so hot, and it mentions briefly some dancing party where the girls were naked except for a sash around their waist.....my husband wanted to attend that kind of party......haha...just kidding, he would die if he knew I said that.)

Recommendation: 12 and up (About 6th grade, maybe a mature 5th grader. I will let my 12 year-old read it if he wants to, my 10 year-old I'm not sure yet.)

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Greater Thief

The Greater Thief by Alexandra Carey

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "The Greater Thief is a literary crime story of gangs, justice, and faith, set around a notorious London estate. It is inspired by the true stories of young men who have been through the UK criminal justice system, and questions the easy assumptions all around us about crime and urban poverty. There is a murder on the street. Alice is there. Josh is there. And everyone believes he is guilty, except for her. Paul, the Parish Vicar, holds the key to proving Josh's innocence but first he must find the courage to forget himself. Alice will stand face to face with the reality of the men who want Josh dead, and Josh's discovery about his father's past unravels the code that governs his life. All three must risk what they hoped never to lose, as the things they believe in are tested with fire. With a combination of myth, tall tales and hip-hop rhythms, this modern fable explores the intersection between everyday crime and loyalty in an ever-expanding city."

Alice is an interesting character. She likes poetry and still lives with her father, who is a higher-up police officer. Josh is a rapper/drug dealer. How the two of them got together I will never understand. When the book starts, though, they are not together. They broke up several months prior to the beginning of the book. She obviously still cares for him, though, as the rest of the book deals with her trying to free him from prison and clear his name. Although parts of this book showed potential, it just wasn't my style or taste. I have never done any drugs and I am not a rap fan. I couldn't relate to Josh at all. I do like poetry, but I never really understood Alice either. She was willing to give up everything for a boy she had broken up with several months prior, and I didn't find that realistic. Paul, the Vicar, I didn't get either. He secretly loved Alice enough to give up everything for her to help her old boyfriend? I just couldn't wrap my brain around it. I mean, I would do anything for my husband or kids, but I am married and they are my kids. There were a lot of grammatical errors and the language was terrible. There were a lot of "f" words and other words as well. The content was just as bad. There was a graphic murder, a stabbing, drug dealing, smoking, situations where children were put into situations where they should not have been, and others. I didn't feel like the plot went anywhere, and the ending didn't resolve anything. Unfortunately, I did not like this book at all.

Rating: R (Not suitable for younger readers) Murder, a stabbing, language, drugs and drug dealing, smoking, violence, and children put into inappropriate situations. 

Recommendation: Adult

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

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Husband's Secret

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret--something with the potential to destroy not just the life your built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive...Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all--she's an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But a letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia--or each other--but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband's secret."

I have to admit, I really wanted Cecilia to open that letter. I wanted to know what it said. As I was reading, I thought a lot about what I would do, and decided I didn't know. Hahaha.....but I'd probably open it. There were parts of this book that I liked. As a whole, I liked the characters and thought they were well crafted. I liked the epilogue at the end because it was quite thought-provoking. It is so true that we never know how the decisions we make affect our lives. We don't know what changes come about in our lives because of the choices we make. I liked that the book really made me think in that regard. However, other than that, this book is really not my style or taste. Think back to when you were 13 years old and you would sneak downstairs with your BFF to watch "Days of Our Lives" while you thought your mom wouldn't notice. Do you remember how scandalous it all felt and how you knew you should turn it off but you couldn't because you had to know who had an affair with whom, and if so-and-so would come back to life? And you had to keep looking over your shoulder to make sure your mom wasn't standing there? Well, that is how I felt reading this book. It felt like a big ol' soap opera. Scandals and affairs and murder. The language was terrible and the content was not my favorite. There was a lot of "intimacy," and not in a good way. It took awhile for the characters and different stories to come together. Maybe it was just me, but it took me forever to figure out how they fit in the story, and even then, I'm still not sure how Tess fits in. She's kind of connected, but not like Rachel and Cecilia. I haven't watched a soap opera in years and years, and I don't want to. I really don't care to read one either. However, if you like the style, you may really enjoy this book. 

Rating: R (This book is not for younger readers) Murder, affairs, intimacy, language.

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. (This book was supposed to be reviewed for SheReads.org a few months ago, but I did not receive it in time to do a review at the correct time.)