What is your favorite genre to read?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy Book #1)


The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy Book #1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Blurb:

"In a faraway land, civil war is brewing. To unify his kingdom's divided people, a nobleman named Conner devises a cunning plan to place an impersonator of the king's long-lost son on the throne. Four orphans are forced to compete for the role, including a defiant and clever boy named Sage. Sage knows Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point--he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of duplicity and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together."

My review:

What an adventure! I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked Ms. Nielsen's writing style because it was smart and witty, it flowed well, and it sucked me in from the first page. It was a fast, easy read, yet it definitely packed a punch. It was full of surprises, sword fights, lies, competition, allies, enemies, secret tunnels, and arranged marriages. The character development in this book is very well done. All of the boys are lifelike, realistic, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Conner, Mott, and Cregan are scary, intimidating, and also lifelike. I completely got sucked into life in Carthya. I liked how each of the boys handled the situation differently, and in their own way. I liked the mystery and how the truth was finally found. I didn't like Conner at all! Imogen was an interesting character. I felt like a lot of the story line was directed around her, and I'm not sure why. It makes me wonder if maybe she comes in more in the second two books? Anyway, this is a fun story, and I have already called the library to put numbers two and three on hold! I can't wait! My 11 year-old also loved the book. 

This book doesn't have any profanity (thank you!!!) or "intimacy" (thank you!!!), but it does have some violence. A character is shot and killed right in front of the boys' eyes; it was brutal and traumatizing. The boys live in fear of being killed at any moment. Another, lesser character is killed also. They are pretty much in a competition for their lives, so there is some violence between the boys as well. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it.

Rating: PG+ ( There isn't any profanity or "intimacy," but there is violence. A main character is shot and killed right in front of the other main characters, and it is traumatizing to them. Another character is killed also, and there is some rivalry violence between the boys.

Recommendation: 4th grade and up.  This is a great middle-grader book, and I think both girls and boys will like it. It would make a great read-aloud as well.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Brilliant Nightmare (Book #1)



Brilliant Nightmare (Book #1) by Edita Birschbach

Blurb from an email the author sent me:

"Except for the occasional make-out session with her best friend Troy, Ruby doesn't expect much from her senior year of high school. The predictable, quiet days don't bother her because in her intense nightmares she's Lucie, a Czech teenager living under Nazi occupation. Ruby's pretty ticked off by the dreams and even more by her knowledge of Czech and German. Since her family has never made a peep in a foreign language, the only explanation of her linguistic super powers is that the nightmares are the memories of her past life. When a new girl and then a handsome exchange student arrive at school, the dreams become entangled with reality, shaking up Ruby and Troy's idyllic lives.
Romantic, suspenseful and mildly sarcastic, "Brilliant Nightmare" is a love story with a past."

My Review:

This book has a very interesting and unique concept, which I enjoyed. Ruby lives in today's times and is a normal girl in high school, except that she keeps having these realistic and awful nightmares. She doesn't dare tell her parents, or anyone else, except her boyfriend Troy. She speaks perfect Czech, and the only explanation is that her nightmares are actually memories of a past life. She was reincarnated to where she is now. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, Ms. Birschbach does a good job of making it seem like a reality in this story. The characters are well developed and interesting. It is written in high-school vernacular, which is perfect for high schoolers, and not so great for everyone else, but it is well done for what it is. I really enjoyed the story of Lucie and her family in Czechoslovakia. It was sad, yes, but it was also very touching and well written. I felt drawn to the characters there. Unfortunately, I did not feel the same way about Ruby and her current family. Ruby is not the kind of girl I would want my daughters hanging out with, and the things she and her friends do are not what I want my daughters to be doing at that age. I was not at all that way, and so I do not relate to Ruby at all. She really irritated me. She was very Bella Swan-esque in pining and whining for Troy while she was dating Adam, who was far superior to Troy. Ahhhhh!!!! She drove me crazy! She and her friends get drunk, are "intimate" with boys, swear, and do everything their mothers do not want them to do.  Some of her so-called friends are big bullies as well. So there you have it. Although the concept is interesting and unique, and had a lot of potential, it just fell flat for me. I didn't like the language, the under-age drinking, the "intimacy" scenes and pregnancy scares (twice with two different guys), or the main character. I really did not like that Ruby and Adam were "intimate" a lot, in her bed, in her house with her parents home, and that it was all she could talk or think about. I know I'm conservative when it comes to this topic, but I just do not think it's appropriate in books. I know that kids do it. It happens. But is that the standard we want to set for our children? I say no. 

I also read Part I of book #2 Brilliant Pain, and it was not what I had expected. I thought it was a little strange, but I didn't get to see what happened in Part II, so it could have come together.

I am not sure who this book would be for. Adults will not be interested in the high school vernacular, and it isn't appropriate for teenagers. Maybe college kids? 

Rating: R (Not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity, bullying, talk of "virginity" and losing it, and lots of "intimacy." There are many scenes, talk of it and about it. There is also a character that twice thinks she is pregnant and brings Planned Parenthood and pregnancy tests into the story.) 

Recommendation: Adult (College?)

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



Monday, December 29, 2014

Snow Crystals



Snow Crystals by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys

Summary:

"Did you ever try to photograph a snow flake? The procedure is very tricky. The work must be done rapidly in extreme cold, for even body heat can melt a rare specimen that has been painstakingly mounted. The lighting must be just right to reveal all the nuances of design without producing heat. But the results can be rewarding, as the work of W.A. Bentley proved. For almost half a century, Bentley caught and photographed thousand s of snow flakes in his workshop at Jericho, Vermont, and made available to scientists and art instructors samples of his remarkable work. In 1931, the American Meteorological Society gathered together the best of these photomicrographs, plus some slides of frost, glaze, dew on vegetation and spider webs, sleet, and soft hail, and a text by W.J. Humphreys, and had them published. That book is here reproduced, unaltered and unabridged. Over 2,000 beautiful crystals on these pages reveal the wonder of nature's diversity in uniformity: no two are alike, yet all are based on a common hexagon."

My Review:

Since I woke up to at least six inches of snow this morning, I thought this book would be very fitting for today. I love any nonfiction book that captivates and intrigues the reader, especially if that reader is a child. This book does just that. The text at the beginning is too difficult and technical for my girls (9 and 6), but that has not stopped them for pouring over each and every snowflake pictured in this book. When it was due at the library they begged me to renew it because they didn't want to let it go. It is fascinating! The beginning text is very interesting, yet a bit technical. It talks about the different types of snowflakes and how they are formed, it talks about how Mr. Bentley painstakingly photographed each and every snowflake, and it talks about different natural phenomena like dew, sleet, hail, and frost. I found it intriguing, but I read through it quickly because I couldn't wait to see all the beautiful pictures. It is amazing how intricate and detailed some of the snowflakes are! I had no idea that some snowflakes look like columns. Yes, they look like actual Roman columns, 3D and everything. There are many different shapes and configurations. No two in the book are the same. My favorite ones are the ones you think of when you think of snowflakes, with many delicate and intricate details. Frost is beautiful too! After reading this book, I can now look outside at all the snow this morning and not only see, but appreciate the beauty in it as well. This book would be fabulous for science teachers, art teachers, photography teachers, and all teachers looking to introduce more nonfiction books into the classroom. I highly recommend this book.

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone! (For a silent read I would say 5th or 6th grade and up to be able to understand the text, but everyone can enjoy the photographs.)


Wednesday, December 24, 2014



A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We all know the story. Scrooge is a mean spirited old man who doesn't like Christmas or anything happy, for that matter. He works with Bob Cratchett, and will not allow him enough fire to stay warm. He pays him very little and detests that he wants one day off for Christmas. He used to have a partner, Marley, but he passed away. Christmas eve Scrooge goes home and Marley's ghost comes to visit him. Marley's ghost carries heavy chains and tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts that night. So the ghost of Christmas past comes, then the ghost of Christmas present, and then the ghost of Christmas yet to be. Scrooge sees the Cratchett family with Tiny Tim, he sees himself dead, and he sees many of his good past memories. These memories and feelings are enough to give Scrooge the motivation to change his life.

I have heard the story before, I've seen a few different movie versions, and I actually acted as Mrs. Cratchett in third grade. So I like the story a lot; however, I have never read the real Charles Dickens' version. I really enjoyed it. I love the language in many of the classics. I love the attention to detail, the descriptions, and the feeling of this book. It did take a minute to get back into the language, but I loved it. I love the message of this story. I love that it teaches living life to the fullest and the importance of families. I love that it teaches that it's never too late to change. This is the perfect story for Christmas time. I think I'll make it an annual read, and maybe read it to my kids next year.

Rating: PG  (It's a great clean book for all ages. It might be a little scary for the little ones.)

Recommendation: Everyone can read and enjoy this book!

This review was originally posted on 12/24/11

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Santa Claus League


The Santa Claus League by Stephen Miller

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "Twas the night before Christmas...Julia Martin is the most incredible girl in school, and Mason Howell is hopelessly smitten by her. Julia is in charge of the local Charity Christmas party and she's pleased at how well everything is going...until her Santa Claus calls in sick. In a panic, she begs Mason to help her by wearing his grandfather's heirloom Santa Claus suit. Mason agrees, to impress the beautiful girl, but things don't go as planned...as soon as he puts on the suit, he gets all the powers of Santa Claus! Together with John Patton, Mason's best friend, they learn his grandfather was a member of an ancient league of men and women dedicated to helping St. Nicholas use Christmas magic to save the world. The three of them could become the newest members of the Santa Claus League...if they can learn the secrets of Christmas magic!"

This book is so much fun! I really enjoyed it. It is a fast, easy read (I read it in a couple of hours.), and is a lot of fun. The characters are well done and mostly believable. There are a few minor things in their characteristics that aren't fully realistic, but it didn't distract from the story. Mason and John have a good relationship and I liked both of them. I liked Mason's sense of humor and John's excitement for life. I thought Julia was a really cute character and was the perfect fit with Mason and John. This book takes a lot of questions regarding Santa Claus and explains them....in a fun and exciting way. It is great for both boys (lots of action and getting away from bad guys) and girls (Julia is sweet and there's some kissing action going on). There is a hint of a Christian theme in the book; they talk about prayers at meetings and things, but it is not overpowering and is not a part of the main story line. I love how it explains Santa and I love the Santa Claus suit. I loved the descriptions of the smells and sounds surrounding Christmas, and how each person had an individual scent and feeling surrounding him or her. John's car is amazing and so creative, and I loved the Rudolph explanation as well. This book doesn't give away any Christmas magic, but it explains it well, so it is safe for believers and non-believers alike.  I'm going to turn it over to both my boys (12 and 10) and I think they will both enjoy it. I am glad it's clean and that the characters purposefully try not to hurt anyone. This is a great Christmas book and I recommend it. It is entertaining and fun.

Rating: PG (Some minor violence, some scary bad guys, and some kissing)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up (If that 4th grader is ok with some kissing. The characters are 17.)

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

*This review was originally published on 12/9/13


Monday, December 22, 2014

Ragesong Uprising (Book #2)


Ragesong Uprising (Book #2) by J.R. Simmons

Summary (from amazon.com):

Exiled Fermician king Klyle, now free from the clutches of Brael, works ceaselessly with Changelings Joraus and Swyf to resist to the evil spreading through his kingdom. Though the seeds of rebellion stir faintly in the hearts of his people, fear of the Dread Lord makes recruiting difficult. Not knowing where else to turn, Klyle wonders if children of legend who once rescued him from his mountain prison might be the key to saving his kingdom. 

Three years later after rescuing Klyle, Jake and Sam can’t forget their wondrous and frightening journey. Fully aware they might be summoned back at a moment's notice, the two friends work diligently to prepare. When the Changelings come calling, the teenagers are whisked away once more to the beautiful and dangerous Fermicia. Their connection with Ragesong has grown more powerful than ever, but will it be enough to take on the might of the Dread Lord and his powerful new apprentice?


My Review:

I enjoyed the first book in this series, so I was excited to read the sequel. All of my favorite characters were back, and a few new were added. I love Jake and Sam, and I really liked the growth and development of these two in this book. They both learned a lot about themselves and each other in this book, and I enjoyed watching them find themselves.  I like that Sam and Jake were able to do things that showed off their own strengths. They are not one person, they are two individuals with different strengths and weaknesses, and they are able to help each other because of that.  
Klyle is still a good, strong character in this book, but he did kind of annoy me with his prejudices. I guess we will someday know why he won't accept Sam's choice. Hopefully that little piece of information will be in the next book? I still hate Brael, but I still really like Joraus and Swyf. I enjoyed learning a little bit more of their history and of their people. The character development in this story is well done, as usual, with Mr. Simmons' writing. Mr. Simmons has a way of pulling you into the story and not letting go until the end. The ending was realistic and fit well in the story. I wasn't a perfect, tied up nicely with a bow, type of ending, which is good, and it did leave you hanging a little. Of course, it just gets you excited to read the next book. I thought the plot progressed well, and I learned a lot about each of the characters and their history. If you enjoyed the first book you will definitely like this one!

There isn't any profanity (that I can remember)...thank you!!! There isn't any intimacy either...thank you! There is though, quite a bit of violence. They are fighting a war. Some of the details are quite graphic and gruesome, which is why it receives an older rating. A lot of people die, and of those deaths, some of them are quite graphic. I really enjoyed this book, and can't wait for the next one!

Rating: PG-13 (No profanity or intimacy, but lots of violence. They are fighting a war, and there are many deaths, injuries, and graphic details.)

Recommendation: 13 and up (YA approved!!)

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

(It's only $.99 on Kindle right now!)

Craziness!

I am so sorry I haven't posted in a long time! My computer just up and died a few weeks ago, and I had to get  new one. Then, I started subbing at my kids' school. Hahaha......yeah, that did not help at all with my time. I haven't had a chance to do anything. With Christmas break starting soon I hope I will just be able to read and write reviews. I would love to get a few more books in before the end of the year!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays 
to all my fabulous readers out there!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1)



Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1)

Summary:

"The sign is small, tucked into the corner of Mr. Clutter's bookshop window: "Adventurers Wanted. Apply Within." No one but fifteen-year-old Alex Taylor even seems to notice it is there. And for Alex, who has wished for a changed in his life, it is an irresistible invitation. Upon entering Mr. Clutter's shop, Alex is swept away on an incredible adventure to a faraway land filled with heroic warriors, mysterious elves, and hard-working dwarves. Alex becomes the eighth man in a band of adventurers seeking the lair of Slathbog the Red--an evil dragon with a legendary treasure. Along the way, Alex and his new friends must battle dangerous trolls and bandits, face undead wraiths, and seek the wisdom of the Oracle in her White Tower. Alex's adventure takes him to distant and exotic lands where he learns about courage, integrity, honor, and, most importantly, friendship."

My 11-year-old son told me I had to read and review this book. He loved it! Then my 13 year-old son read it and loved it, and so I finally got around to reading it. It reminded me a little of The Book Of Mysteries by Fran Orenstein. There are a few similarities, but in the end they are very different stories. I felt the innuendos and talk of "intimacy" in that book was too much for the age group, and there isn't any of that in this book.....thank goodness! Alex sees a sign in a window advertising the need for adventurers, and thus begins his great adventure. This book is a great middle grade book. I liked it. I enjoyed getting caught up in Alex's world, and in his adventures. It was mostly well written. It was a little predictable, but there were also a few good surprises. The character development is really good. There are some very interesting characters in this book, and it was fun getting to know them. I liked Alex, Arconn, Bregnest, Andy, Halfdan, Thrang, Skeld, Tayo, and Iownan. Their names are all unique and different, which I liked. The descriptions of the places they visit are very well done. I felt as if I were right there with them. I also liked to see the growth of Alex, and I enjoyed watching his relationship with his horse Shahree blossom. The bond they had was quite touching to read about. Some of the conversations seemed one dimensional and trite to me, but it didn't seem to bother my boys at all. I also thought it had too many perfect endings. There were some trials and some hardships, but they all ended up perfectly in the end. One part of me really likes that because of course you want everything to turn out perfectly, but the other part of me thinks it is too unrealistic.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was fun to get caught up in the story and in the lives of these adventurers. There are at least two more books, I think, and I'm excited to read them. I'll let you know when I get there. There is some violence, but it is mainly against fantasy characters like trolls, dragons,  and wraiths. Speaking of the wraiths, they scared me. They reminded me a lot of the Ring Wraiths in Lord of the Rings. They gave me the creeps, and I was glad when the story moved past that point. That part is scary, and may not be suitable for younger readers. There is at least one point where they fight other humans. There is no profanity that I can remember, and there is no "intimacy."

Rating: PG+ (Violence in the fighting of other humans and fantasy characters, it is also scary in some parts.)

Recommendation: 4th grade (9-10 years-old) and up.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This is the Turkey


This is the Turkey by Abby Levine

This is a fun story! It's written in rhyme, which is always fun, and it's actually well done. It is clever and full of some fun surprises. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and so cute! I love the expressions on the faces. I love that, although exaggerated a bit, it is real. Life with family on Thanksgiving never turns out perfectly, and instead of getting upset and angry, you just need to learn to roll with it. Also, we all make mistakes, and it's okay. We shouldn't "cry over spilled milk," but be thankful for what we do have. I think this book is so cute!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let's Celebrate Thanksgiving


Let's Celebrate Thanksgiving by Peter and Connie Roop

We got this book a few years ago in a book order from the school, and I actually like it. It has some very good information about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. It isn't a fictional story, it is facts and information about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans involved in that first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony in 1621. I love that they tried to make it accurate. The Pilgrims did not wear black and white clothing, and the Native Americans did not live in teepees. It talks about the Mayflower, the hardships that the Pilgrims faced, how Squanto and Massasoit fit in, how the Wampanoag tribe helped the Pilgrims, and what they probably ate at that first Thanksgiving. As far as I can tell, the information is accurate with what I have researched myself. So that part is great for the parents! Then there are fun jokes and fascinating facts interspersed with all the information to make it more fun for the kids. For example, "The Mayflower traveled at a speed of 2 miles an hour. That is about 48 miles a day." And, "If a Pilgrim threw a pumpkin into the air, what came down? Squash!" Hahaha..... The illustrations are bright and colorful, and they are well done. They are still cartoony (is that even a word??), but they try to be more accurate than most illustrators do. I also like that they talk about different Thanksgiving celebrations around the world, and that there were a few Thanksgiving celebrations before the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony.

I like the accurate information in this book! I like that the authors took the time to do the research and teach the children correct information. I love the illustrations! We talked about Thanksgiving last night in our family, and my 11 year-old son kept giving all these correct answers. When I asked him where he learned it (because I'm sure he didn't remember it from last year, and I'm pretty sure he didn't learn all of it in school), he said it was from this book. Yay! Love it!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Mayflower


Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

This book describes the events that happened before the Mayflower left England, during the voyage across the Atlantic, and after the Pilgrims decided to settle Plymouth. It describes the ever-changing relationships between the Pilgrims and the Natives, in great detail. Philbrick spends a lot of time describing King Phillip's War of 1675-1676, of which I did not even know. This war was devastating to both the English and the Native Americans alike, and yet it is not very well publicized. The book takes you into the early 17th Century and debunks the common myths about the first Thanksgiving and even Plymouth Rock.

I really liked this book. Both my husband and I come from Pricilla Mullins, a young girl who traveled on the Mayflower, and who was orphaned early on. The book does not go into a lot of detail about each individual on the ship, which is what I was expecting, but more the main characters and the situations they went through in general. Philbrick's writing is not as captivating as David McCoullough's, but is good and I felt as if I too suffered through that first winter. He is really good at not taking sides, or showing too much of a bias. I felt for the Natives and the English alike. He shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of everyone involved. I enjoy history books, especially when they involve my ancestors, so even though it took me a long time to read (I renewed it three times at the library), I learned a lot and was glad I had read it. I would recommend this book for high schoolers and adults. I was really glad to learn the truth about what happened, instead of the fluff and sentamentality that we now seem to take as truth.

Rated: PG-13+ (war atrocities)

Recommendation: High School and Up

*This post was originally published on 11/23/09

Thanksgiving Week!!!

Welcome to Thanksgiving Week!!

Each day this week I will review Thanksgiving Books. Some will be for adults and some for children, so check back each day to see what's new!

(Thank you snowvillageinn.com for this nice image!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Adventures of Geo the Pebble


The Adventures of Geo the Pebble by Jay Gerald

Summary:

"Have you ever picked up a pebble and wondered where it came from and the adventures it has had? This is the story of Geo, who was born at the top of a mountain and traveled all around the world to end up in the palm of your hand."

My Review:

This is a cute story. It is fun to see what happens to Geo on his travels, and it definitely makes you think more about the rocks in parking lots and up in the mountains. It's too bad that rocks don't have some sort of tracking device so you can see where they have been. There is some humor, and a little potty humor (which isn't my favorite, but the boys and little ones will love it). The illustrations are bright and colorful. They aren't my favorite style, but they are well done. This book would be fun for a social studies class to read. This book is also great for boys because it's about rocks and it's not frilly or princessy. It would be fun to use this book as a kick-off to a rock unit. It would also be fun to have a class rock that children could take on vacations and such, and take their pictures with it all the different places they go. Then they could each write about it a class rock journal. 

Rating: G (Clean! There is that one little potty word, but even though it's not clean, it's clean-hahaha!)

Recommendation: Everyone!

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



Monday, November 17, 2014

Raising A Reader: The Power of Reading

Raising A Reader:
The Power of Reading

I recently heard this story and thought I should share. It's an amazing success story, and 
kudos to his mom for realizing the importance of reading!

Ben Carson

Ben Carson said of himself, “I was the worst student in my whole fifth-grade class.” One day Ben took a math test with 30 problems. The student behind him corrected it and handed it back. The teacher, Mrs. Williamson, started calling each student’s name for the score. Finally, she got to Ben. Out of embarrassment, he mumbled the answer. Mrs. Williamson, thinking he had said “9,” replied that for Ben to score 9 out of 30 was a wonderful improvement. The student behind Ben then yelled out, “Not nine! … He got none … right.” Ben said he wanted to drop through the floor.

At the same time, Ben’s mother, Sonya, faced obstacles of her own. She was one of 24 children, had only a third-grade education, and could not read. She was married at age 13, was divorced, had two sons, and was raising them in the ghettos of Detroit. Nonetheless, she was fiercely self-reliant and had a firm belief that God would help her and her sons if they did their part.

One day a turning point came in her life and that of her sons. It dawned on her that successful people for whom she cleaned homes had libraries—they read. After work she went home and turned off the television that Ben and his brother were watching. She said in essence: You boys are watching too much television. From now on you can watch three programs a week. In your free time you will go to the library—read two books a week and give me a report.

The boys were shocked. Ben said he had never read a book in his entire life except when required to do so at school. They protested, they complained, they argued, but it was to no avail. Then Ben reflected, “She laid down the law. I didn’t like the rule, but her determination to see us improve changed the course of my life.”

And what a change it made. By the seventh grade he was at the top of his class. He went on to attend Yale University on a scholarship, then Johns Hopkins medical school, where at age 33 he became its chief of pediatric neurosurgery and a world-renowned surgeon. How was that possible? Largely because of a mother who, without many of the advantages of life, magnified her calling as a parent.
This story was told by Tad. R. Callister. 1 

Wow, right? I love this story! That is the power of reading for you! 
And that's how you raise a reader! 
Happy Reading!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Raising a Reader

Today's tip for

Raising A Reader

is to:

Have The Kids Read Books At Their Reading Level

If a book is too difficult to read then it will not be enjoyable and the child will not understand what he or she is reading. If the child spends the whole time sounding out words then her comprehension will suffer. And what is the point of reading if you don't understand? At that point the kids just get frustrated and they begin to say that they don't enjoy reading. Well, of course they don't! They're not experiencing getting caught up in a story because they don't understand the story. 

So, how do you determine if a book is too difficult for a child to read? 

Give It A High Five!


Open the book with your child. Open to a page, any page. Have the child read that page. If there are more than five words on that page that the child needs to sound out, or doesn't know the meaning of, then that particular book is too difficult. Yes, he might be sad because all his friends are reading it and he really wants to, but you have to be strong. I promise, he will not enjoy it if he gets frustrated. Sometimes that can be a huge motivation for kids to improve their reading. And, there is always the option of you reading that book to him!

I hope this helps!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Secret Teddy Society: Breaking the Code


Secret Teddy Society: Breaking the Code by J.S. Gilmore

Summary (From an email sent to me by the author):

Teddies don’t have claws - at least not real ones.  That’s what Waldo was thinking as he watched his best friend turn into a Were-bear by the moonlight. Waldo had no idea that a string of events would unwind all because he and Bobby Bear were caught going after the milk in the fridge by James, a stay-at-home dad trying to write his first book. Nothing happens in the teddy world that the Council doesn’t find out about because of the Teddy Network; and "no moving in front of a human" is the first rule of the Teddy Code. It’s only a matter of time before a punishment is determined for the two bears - but what and when? Sometimes the waiting can be worse than the punishment itself. Fluffy hasn’t been heard from since he was caught moving.
  James begins to write about the daily adventures of Bobby Bear and Waldo not realizing the harm that he may be causing to the Secret Teddy Society.
Waldo’s timing for breaking the Code couldn’t have been worse! The teddy world had been quiet for the last hundred years or so, but that is about to change. The Teddy Council is facing the evils of power and corruption, a product of human influence. Ballinger is convinced that Theodore is too old to run the Council and will stop at nothing to prove it.
This book provides a rare look inside a secret culture we know very little about.

My Review:

I was very curious about this book because I thought my girls (9 and 6) might like it. Cute little teddy bears come to life, what could be better? It starts out with a brief history of the teddy bear and how teddy bears began coming to life. Then it starts right into the middle of a crisis with a teddy running to the Council with some urgent news. Already this book is different than I thought it would be. The writing is good. The descriptions of places and events are done well. I could definitely picture everything that was going on, and thought the imagery was great. The characters come to life on the page. Waldo and Bobby Bear along with James, Bobbie, Tiffany, Elvis, Fluffy Bear, Dakota, and Lyle are such fun characters. I especially liked James, Bobbie, Waldo, and Bobby Bear. James' personality is outgoing and fun, and he seems like a great dad. Bobbie is sweet and fun loving. She loves her dad and her bears! Waldo and Bobby Bear are hilarious. I love the names they create for ice cream and marshmallows. This book has great potential! The problem I have with this book is that it is a tale of two stories. It doesn't know where it belongs or which way to go. One part of the story is cute and sweet, with loving teddy bears who come to life and like to drink milk. They love being hugged and love Bobbie, their human. James writes these cute little stories about the bears and reads them to Bobbie's class. This part of the story is perfect for K-3 little girls. But then there is the other part of the story. It is dark and scary with were-bears (instead of werewolves), zombie bears, a drunk, scary homeless man living in a cardboard box in an alley, and two teenage kids who try to steal a car and want to run over a teddy bear. There is also a ferocious dog, an intimidating Council, and two swear words. This part of the story is not good for those K-3 girls. I'm not sure who the target audience is. It is too much for the little girls, but I don't think the 3rd-4th boys would like the cute, sweet part of it. I also don't know if I would want a 3rd-4th grade boy reading about the drunk homeless person or the teenagers stealing the car. I wouldn't want them reading the swear words. And older kids wouldn't be interested in the cuteness of it. So, that's my dilemma. This book has potential, but I just don't know who the target audience is. I think I may have my 11 year-old son read it. If I do, I'll let you know what he says.

Rating: PG+ (Two swear words, a drunk, scary homeless man, two teenage boys who steal a car, zombie bears, and were-bears)

Recommendation: ??? I'm stumped. 4th-5th maybe, but then they might be too old for the sweet part of the story. I'd also discuss the previously noted events with them as they go.

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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Five Love Languages


The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Summary:

"He sends you flowers when what you really want is time to talk. She gives you a hug when what you really need is a home-cooked meal. The problem isn't your love--it's your language! In this international best seller, Dr. Gary Chapman reveals how different people express love in different ways. In fact, there are five specific languages of love: Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. What speaks volumes to you may be meaningless to your spouse. But here, at last, is the key to understanding each other's unique needs. Apple the right principles, learn the right language, and soon you'll know the profound satisfaction and joy of being able to express your love--and feeling truly loved in return."

My Review:

I love this book! I've read it several times, and each time I read it I get something new out of it. The first time I read it, I couldn't believe how accurate it was, and I tried to put the principles into practice. I thought I was. But then my husband kept getting upset about a certain situation every time it happened. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. So, I went back and reread this book. Then it clicked! Oh my. Yes, I'm a little slow. But, once I figured out how to speak his love language, it has been so much better. I knew his love language before, it hadn't changed, but it took me awhile to figure out how to speak it in his way. It's so simple, yet so complex. Loving someone should be easy, right? Well, it's even easier if you know how to do it according to what that person wants and needs. There is a quiz that you and your spouse can take to determine your love languages, and then there is a whole chapter devoted to each love language. It's written well and is easy to understand. He uses lots of real life examples of people that he has worked with, and they are very helpful. What's great is that it takes things that our spouses might "nag" us with, and it puts them into perspective. So, if your wife keeps nagging you to do things around the house, then her love language may be acts of service. Maybe you've been bringing her home flowers often and you can't figure out why she's still upset, it's because gifts is not her love language, acts of service is. Does that make sense? I love it. It's also great because the same principles apply to our children. You don't need to give the children the quiz, once you know the languages it's pretty easy to spot them in your children. For example, I have one child that needs words of affirmation constantly, while another constantly wants hugs. Do you see how that works? That way you can make sure you're speaking your spouse's love language and also your kids so everyone feels loved in their own way. If you are married or in a dating relationship I highly recommend this book. 

Rating: R (It does talk a lot about "intimacy" between husband and wife.)

Recommendation: College and up. I don't think high schoolers need to read it, unless they will be getting married shortly after....



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Quotable Quotes

Today's quote is by Neil Gaiman. He wrote "The Graveyard Book." In his Newberry Medal speech he said:

"Reading is important.

Books are important."


He continues....

"There. We who make the stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Love and the Goddess


Love and the Goddess by Mary Elizabeth Coen

Summary:

When cookery teacher Kate Canavan's perfect life falls apart she moves to Galway City. Kate's friend James urges her to love and nurture herself, but mischievous Ella persuades her to dust off her unused dating skills. So Kate explores the world of on-line dating using the name of a Greek Goddess. In the midst of a mad dating frenzy, Kate has a traumatic health scare which convinces her to drop everything and go in search of a guru. 

My Review:

Kate is a fun character. She's just your normal girl next-door. She's been married for 20-something years, and has a daughter in college. She works as a culinary teacher at a college and enjoys her life. Then everything changes. This book is about how she deals with that change and what she does to pick up the pieces and move on in her life. I like Kate. At first I thought I was kind of like her, but then when I got further into the book I realized that I'm not anything like her. But that's ok. Kate needs time to heal, and she finds herself traveling in order to do that. She finds a healer and a shaman to help her, and even though I don't really believe in those things as she does, it was interesting to read about. She also tries out online dating; some of her experiences were hilarious while others were scary. To me, this book is part Eat Pray Love (which I didn't love), and part online dating frenzy. It's different from Eat Pray Love because her reasons for finding the healer and shaman are very different, but some of her experiences are similar. I thought this book was well written. It has some fun characters in it, it has some light moments and some very serious ones as well, and it has some good messages in it. I felt bad for Kate because she hadn't envisioned going through any of it, but it was interesting to see how she coped. I didn't agree with all the decisions she made, or even where she ended up, but I, of course, wished her the best. There are some good messages about taking care of yourself and finding peace and solace in your life. It also talks about being brave and trying new things, which is good. I didn't like the messages of giving up too soon on important things, or of the unmarried "intimacy." She almost went from one extreme to the other, instead of finding a good in between balance. 

There are a lot of English (as in Great Britain) words and phrases in this book. Most of them I could figure out the meaning using the context, but there were a few that stumped me. There is some language in this book, and a lot of "intimacy." There are a few scenes and lots of discussions about it. There's even an almost-rape scene, which I did not like, and didn't think it fit well in the book. The man has an addiction to "intimacy." There are also a couple of people who are gay in the story. 

****GIVE AWAY!!!!!****
I do have a copy of this book to give away! If you are interested, you may either:

1. Comment below about which goddess you think best fits you or any funny online dating experiences you've had

2.  Comment below about why you should win. 

Pretty much, just comment and then I'll take all the comments and draw a name. You need to comment by tomorrow, November 5th. I'll do the drawing at the end of tomorrow. Good luck!!!

Rating: R (Language, a couple of gay characters, and lots of "intimacy.")

Recommendation: Adult

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


Monday, November 3, 2014

Bunny Cakes


Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

Summary:

It's Grandma's birthday, and Max's sister Ruby says they are going to make Grandma an angel surprise cake with raspberry-fluff icing. But Max has a better idea: an earthworm birthday cake topped with Red-Hot Marshmallow Squirters. Now if only he can figure out a way to add Squirters to Ruby's shopping list...Brimming with color and fun, Bunny Cakes is a wonderfully satisfying story young readers will want to indulge in again and again.

My Review:

We love Max and Ruby at this house! I admit, Ruby can be a bit bossy sometimes, but, she kind of reminds me of me. I have hopefully grown out of my bossy stage, but I may have been a little like that when I was little. I know, hard to believe, right?? I was first introduced to this book by the Read For The Record 2014 day, October 21, 2014. I worked with our school's reading specialist to help our whole school read it. 

This is a fun book. I like the colorful illustrations, Max's persistence is, as usual, annoying to Ruby, and I love that he was able to find a way to make his cake at the end. My girls (6 and 9) enjoyed it. I like that Max shows determination in writing and getting his point across. It's just a fun picture book, and there may be some cooking instruction as well!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone



Friday, October 31, 2014

Frankenstein


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Summary:

"'I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.' A summer evening's ghost stories, lonely insomnia in a moonlit Alpine room, and a runaway imagination--fired by philosophical discussions with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley about science, galvanism, and the origins of life--conspired to produce for Mary Shelley this haunting night specter. By morning, it had become the gem of her Romantic masterpiece, FRANKENSTEIN. Written in 1816 when she was only nineteen, Mary Shelley's novel of 'The Modern Prometheus' chillingly dramatized the dangerous potential of life begotten upon a laboratory table. A frightening creation myth for our own time, FRANKENSTEIN remains one of the greatest horror stories ever written and is an undisputed classic of its kind."

My Review:

I have read this book a few times, and I reread it today because I realized that I haven't ever reviewed it, and I thought it would be perfect for Halloween. This is definitely a classic. I love the language and the rich vocabulary in this book. It does take awhile to get back into it, after reading many current novels, but I love it. Mary Shelley did a great job with this book. Although it is well known, the current trend is to call the monster Frankenstein, when in reality, it is the scientist that is named Frankenstein. The creature is never given a name, except for Fiend, Monster, and Creature. This book is morbid, if you think about it. And, even though technology may eventually be to where we could possibly create life, I hope we never do. The creature that Frankenstein creates is a very interesting character. He begins his life with hope and joy and innocence. The more humans that revile him, the more angry and fiendish he becomes. At times you feel sorry for him and at other times you are repulsed by him and his behavior. There are many human traits discussed in this book, and many of them are still with us today. This book is well written. The characters are very well developed and come to life on the page.

There are a few swear words, but they actually aren't really used as swear words in the book. There is no "intimacy," but there are several murders. There is also the ethics of giving life to a monster. I actually really do like this book, even though it is morbid.

Rating: PG 13+ (Several characters are murdered)

Recommendation: 14 and up


It's Halloween


It's Halloween by Jack Prelutsky

There are lots of children's picture books for Halloween, but this one is fun because it's a little longer and even has chapters! It's great for the second/third graders who want to read something a little more than a picture book. It's written in lyrical form, which is so fun, and it's all about the kids on Halloween. There are ghosts and goblins, jack-o-lanterns and witches. There are some tricksters, some goblins, and even a scare or two. The illustrations are cute and fun, and it's a story all the kids will love.

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone (Silent Read: End of first grade, second grade, third grade)



Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Dark


The Dark by Lemony Snickey

I didn't know Lemony Snicket wrote picture books until I picked this one up at the library. It's a cute story about Laszlo, who is afraid of the dark. He knows that sometimes the dark hides in the closet or behind the shower curtain, but it is always hiding in the basement. Then, when night comes, the dark comes out of hiding and spreads out around the house. One night the dark visits Laszlo in his bedroom. What happens after that helps Laszlo to not be so afraid. It's a well written story, it's clever, and the illustrations are simple yet well done. This story would be great for a child who really is afraid of the dark, and it's fun for Halloween as well. It has a good twist that teaches some valuable lessons.

I enjoyed this story, and my kids love it. I'm sure it is one of those books that we will check out and recheck out often.

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Halloween Play


The Halloween Play by Felicia Bond

This is a cute little story. Roger's school class is putting on a Halloween play. They practiced, sent out invites, and were ready to perform. Roger had an important part in this play and he was a little nervous. He had to wait a long time, and then it was finally his turn! This is a short book but it is cute and fun. The kids like it. Kids who have been involved with school performances will definitely relate. The illustrations are well done and tie the story together nicely. This is a fun book to add to your Halloween stack.

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

[Book Review] The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


The Graveyard Book 
by 
Neil Gaiman

Summary:

"It takes a graveyard to raise a child. Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy--an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack--who has already killed Bod's family."

My Review:

I had never heard of this book until my book group decided to read it this month. I really didn't know what to expect, and you know me, I do NOT read the backs of the books or summaries about the books I read, before I read them. I like to be surprised and I like to be taken on a journey. Well, this book did both. It definitely surprised me, and I was definitely taken an an incredible journey. I was a little hesitant about reading it when a family is murdered on the first page. The descriptions of the murders and the murderer have enough detail that you know it's awful and you know you never want to meet the man Jack, but thank goodness it doesn't go into too many gory and gruesome details. It's bad, don't get me wrong, but this is a middle-grader book, so it could be worse. From a mother's point of view, this part was horrible to read. Thinking about that baby made me sick to my stomach. And then even when he was out of immediate danger, really thinking about the logistics of what was happening still made me sick to my stomach. Luckily, the characters in this book save the day. As the reader you know that the baby is safe and that he will somehow be taken care of, and that is enough to immerse you in this world that Mr. Gaiman has created. The characters are so well developed. There is a hint of mystery to all of them, especially Silas, and it is just enough to make you wonder......Mr. and Mrs. Owens, Josiah Worthington, Caius Pompeius, Mother Slaughter, Scarlett, Mr. Pennyworth, Liza Hempstock, and Miss Lupescu each have their own places in this story, and they fit perfectly. This book is written and crafted very well. It does kind of jump from one random situation to another sometimes, but it doesn't take away too much from the story and it's not difficult to figure out what is going on. I really enjoyed this book. It's so different and unique, and so well crafted, that it's hard to put down. The graveyard becomes a well known and familiar place, and I will definitely think about graveyards differently when I pass by them now. The cemeteries around me are a little different because they aren't too old or creepy, but I went to Boston years ago and went to a graveyard that had a couple of the Founding Fathers' gravestones in it, and it was a little more spooky.

There isn't any language or "intimacy" in this book, but there is a family that is murdered, and there is a murderer on the loose that wants to murder again. It is a graveyard, so there are ghouls and ancient scary guys. There are a few situations that may be scary to some readers. I love how Mr. Gaiman puts all the different elements and characters together; his use of language is very creative.

Rating: PG+ (A family is murdered and the murderer is on the loose, graveyard characters and situations that could be scary to some readers.)

Recommendation: 6th grade and up (I would not go younger than 11 years-old)