What is your reading goal this year?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Who Needs A Man?

Who Needs A Man? by E.J. Russell

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Lydia gets dumped on Christmas Day. Pregnant. It changes her forever. For the better. Nothing will ever be the same because Lydia has taken control of her life. She thinks. A topical, funny and light hearted look at making a modern choice, being pregnant, single motherhood, family and friends. This is Lydia's story, take the journey with her through heartache, recovery, life changing decisions, pregnancy and birth."

Awhile back I read Return to the Aegean by E.J. Russell. Besides some profane language, I really enjoyed the book and Ms. Russell's writing. This book, however, left me very disappointed. Maybe it's my situation and my life. I love my husband and I can't imagine my life without him. He occasionally travels for work, and I dread it when he goes because it's hard to take care of the kids all by myself. I have gained a huge appreciation for single mothers over the years. I don't know how they do it. Who needs a man? I do! I don't want to do it by myself. I want and need everything he is. Also, I love what my husband does with and for our children. He brings things to the table that I am not able to. It's both of us working together that make our family run, and we both have different talents and areas of expertise to give to the kids. So, you can see that I do not relate at all to this book. This woman gets upset when her boyfriend breaks up with her. She is pregnant and he leaves her all alone. Yes, that would be awful. I get it. Then she loses the baby and is sad. Rather than live her life and try to meet someone new, she just decides to give up on men altogether and have a baby all by herself with a donor. Had I gone into this book reading it for humorous pregnancy anecdotes then I may have enjoyed it. She is kind of a whiny pregnant woman, and I just kept thinking, "Then why did you get pregnant?? Don't complain."  She just frustrated me. Like I said, I don't relate to her at all. There may be women who do relate to her, and they may really enjoy this story. Other than the fact that I wasn't a huge fan of the story, I didn't love the writing. The journal entries made it a bit choppy, and the writing just didn't grab me. The characters were ok, but not developed enough. Unfortunately, this book just fell flat for me. I was really disappointed because I did enjoy Ms. Russell's previous book. However, if you relate to Lydia and her story then you may enjoy this story. Maybe I'm just too traditional in my views to enjoy this book. 

There is profanity in this book. There isn't any violence, but there is a lot of talk about break-ups and miscarriages. There is also talk of in vitro fertilization and other ways to get pregnant. There is talk of donors and lots of talk on pregnancy and delivering a baby. Needless to say, a younger reader would not be interested in this book, and it isn't appropriate for them.

Rating: R (Language, and the whole premise of the book is not appropriate for younger readers.)

Recommendation: Adult

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Escucha Means Listen

Escucha Means Listen by Talia Aikens-Nunez

(Summary taken from an email sent to me by the author) "This bilingual picture book journey through our world introduces children and toddlers to the sounds around them in English and Spanish. From the blaring sound of an ambulance to the buzzing of bees,Escucha Means Listen is written mostly in English but sprinkled with Spanish to introduce children to the language."

This is a darling book! The pictures are bright and colorful, and the little girl is so cute! Not only is it a book children will love, it is also one they can learn from, which I love! The little girl tells you to listen (escucha), and then she takes you on this journey of sounds. From the ambulance (la ambulancia) to the squirrels (las ardillas), and everything in between, children will hear the sounds, learn the words, and love every minute of it. I love that the Spanish versions of some of the sounds are very different from the English sounds, but some of them are the same. This would be great for a beginning Spanish class. It is also great for people like me who speak some Spanish, but who don't have a clue how to teach it to their kids. It's just an all-around fun book. I really enjoyed it! I read it to my 5 year-old daughter and she said she liked it. I recommend this book for everyone!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone!!!

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lost Lake

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future. That was half a lifetime ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby's past. Her husband, George, is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that's left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the southern George heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires. It's a lot, but it's not enough to keep Eby from calling this her final summer at the lake, and relinquishing Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door. Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness and heartbreak and loss. Now she's all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope, too, thanks to her resilient daughter, Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer...and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago."

I really liked this book! I loved the feeling of magical fate in this book. I loved the feelings of letting go (Hahaha.....guess what is playing on my ipod right now?? Yep, "Let It Go" from "Frozen." Funny.) and moving on. I loved the lesson of not being a victim and of taking control of your own life. The characters are very well done and I loved almost all of them. Kate is such a good character. I loved the first words of the first chapter: "'Wake up Kate!' And, exactly one year to the day that she fell asleep, Kate finally did." Wow, right? I was intrigued from the start. Why had she been asleep for a whole year? What had caused that? Was she in a coma? And as I read I became more and more entranced with Kate's story. I loved her daughter Devin. You know that sleep Kate had been in? Well, it was more of an indifference for the world around her. She was in mourning after the death of her husband. She had functioned almost normally, she just hadn't been quite as awake as normal. She had thought her daughter hadn't noticed. She had. I love this line: "'I've missed you,' she said, then ran away again, leaving Kate standing there, shocked. Kate didn't think anyone knew. But Devin did. She knew Kate had been asleep all this time." I love the writing in this book. It's easy to read and understand, and it just pulls you in. It's very well done. I love many of the other characters as well. I loved Eby and George and their relationship. Their honeymoon was awesome. I wish my husband and I could have done that! I love the love that Eby has for him, and him for her. I love all the ladies at Lost Lake. They are a fun and eccentric group! Hahaha......it makes me wonder what kind of old lady I will be. :) I really enjoyed watching the growth and coming alive of both Kate and Devin in the story. There's a hint of magic in the book, and it caught me as corny at first, but then I just got lost in the story. There are some surprises that caught me off guard, and they brought the story together. It was a little slow in parts, but not enough to make me stop reading. I love personal interest stories. I'm amazed at how different people live. 

There are only a few profane words in this book, and they are minor ones. I'd say it's 99% clean. There is an attempted suicide, but you don't know that until after, and there is a suicide, but it is kind of more background information. There is also a house fire that ends up killing two people, but it happened before the story takes place, so it is also a background story. There is one character, Selma, who is quite the "lady." She has had seven husbands, and they were all married when she seduced them. With her comes the aura of all things "intimacy" related. There aren't any scenes, but there are innuendos and she talks about it. 

I really liked this book. I liked the hint of mystery, romance, and magic. I loved the lessons of family, moving on after bad things happen, finding yourself, not letting others run your life, and loving those around you. I definitely recommend this book!

*Favorite quotes*
"You can't change where you came from, but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don't like the ending, you make up a new one." (pg. 254)

"When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone. Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it again."

Rating: PG-13+ (Minor profanity; suicide; "intimacy" innuendos and talk of, including seducing married men; a house fire that kills two people )

Recommendation: 14-15 and up, depending on the maturity of  the reader. Parents should read it first to decide if their child is mature enough.

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

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Emblazed (The Division Chronicles: Book Two)

Emblazed (The Division Chronicles: Book Two) by Connie L. Smith

(Summary taken from an email from the author) "After all the preparations, Nicholai’s warriors stand on the threshold of warfare, the demons entering the realm in battalions and the world unknowingly depending on the army’s success to continue intact. But the battle is only the beginning of deadly struggles, and the soldiers will soon realize how little they know, how many things are at stake, and how much they have to lose. Love, hate, hope, despair, anguish, joy… The journey is a gauntlet of emotion and combat, threatening their resolve as much as their lives. Will their training and ties be enough, or will the complications and the forthcoming evil forever cripple the world’s last hope of survival?"

I liked this sequel! I liked that we got to see more of the characters, and got to know them better. I thought the fighting scenes were described well and were well thought out. It was a little violent, but not too much. There were a few main characters that died, which was sad. And one of those was especially gruesome and painful. I liked watching the progression of A.J. and Julius' relationship, along with the relationship between Johnny and Kenna. I liked it when the characters found that the abilities they knew they had were able to perform in different ways. I liked watching the individual characters being tested and finding they could do more than they thought they could. This book is a lot less choppy, and the different points of view continue throughout the entire book. I would have liked more description about the Division. What did it look like? How could they tell it was there? Could they touch it and open it up from their side? Could they see into the other side? If so, what did it look like? I'm still curious to know why A.J and Julius' relationship is so important, and why Nicholai won't interfere, in fact, he seems to be pushing it along. Book Three??? This one also ends very abruptly......

There isn't any language, which is great. It is more violent and gruesome, in some cases, than the first one. It is not over-the-top though. There are two relationships, and the couples kiss. It doesn't go any father than that, but there are some innuendos, and hints that they might want it to go farther. They are in a war, so there is fighting and some gory descriptions of monsters dying. Johnny still smokes quite a bit, but at least it is not a main focus in this book, and there are no more drunken parties. 

Rating: R (No language, some innuendos, kissing, a character who smokes, violence-including fighting in a war with monsters and a few main characters dying, one being especially gory and gruesome.) The first book is R, so I'll just keep this one at the same level.

Recommendation: 18 and up.

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

While Beauty Slept

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "And so begins Elise Dalriss's story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel's tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered--and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. As the memories start to unfold, Elise is plunged back into the magnificent, opulent world behind the palace walls she left behind more than half a century ago, a labyrinth where the secrets of her real father and the mysterious fate of her mother connect to an inconceivable evil. Elise has guarded these secrets for a lifetime. Now it is time for her to tell the tale....."

I'm definitely a sucker for a fairy tale, especially one with a princess involved, so I was very excited to be asked to review this book. I didn't really know what to expect, but the intricately woven tale I found when I opened this book just sucked me right in. It is told from the vantage point of Elise Dalriss, who grew up on a farm. When she and her family came down with the pox, she almost died. Her mother and a few of her brothers did die. Her mother's last words were to tell Elise to leave the farm and go find her aunt, and then find an old acquaintance. Her mother had sewn several gold coins into the seam of her dress so Elise could leave the farm. What Elise finds when she gets to her aunt's house, and then afterward to the castle in hopes of finding a job as a servant, boggle her mind. She has never seen such extravagance. Elise ends up, after awhile, as the queen's personal attendant. The story goes on to tell the reader what happened at the castle, and how it was far from what we now know as the story of Sleeping Beauty. The story is well written. It is written more like historical fiction than fairy tale, and I did like it that way. I don't know if any of the information is historically accurate, but I thought it made the story seem more real. Many of the characters were well developed: I loved Elise, Queen Lenore, and Rose. I also really liked Flora, but wish there had been a little more on her. I liked Mrs. Tewkes a lot as well. I thought Ms. Blackwell did a good job of setting the scene of the castle. Her descriptions were well done but not over-the-top. Even though I've never lived in a castle, I felt like I was there. I loved the little pieces of honesty between the King and Queen; I loved their brief moments of unguarded love and the moments they were free to be themselves. I thought Elise was a good narrator and was able to bring all the pieces together. The ending was hard for me. I think it was fine and fitting, but it wasn't the direction I thought it would go. It also wasn't as happy as I had wished it would be. I didn't expect it to be pure happiness, but it was more depressing than I had hoped it would be. It definitely makes me thankful to be born when I was and where I was. I've always been intrigued by castles, knights, and princesses, but I'll take my circumstances (and vaccinations) any day. Besides, I have my knight-in-shining-armor, so who needs a prince?? 

There really isn't any language in this book. There is a bit of violence: you know that they are at war, and there is a murder. There is also some "intimacy." You know when the King goes to the Queen in her bed at night; there are some mischievous young men in the castle that put their hands places they shouldn't. There are a few actual "intimacy" scenes. I really enjoyed this book. It totally sucked me in. It was a bit depressing at the end, but the time period was a difficult one in which to live. I liked the format of it, and was enthralled by the characters and story. I liked her take on the popular fairy tale, and the format almost made it seem very realistic. 

Rating: R (No language, a murder and a war, and some "intimacy" innuendos and scenes.)

Recommendation: Adult

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

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Avatar Battle (Cragbridge Hall Book Two)

 The Avatar Battle (Cragbridge Hall Book Two) by Chad Morris

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "The adventure continues as Abby and Derick begin their second semester at Cragbridge Hall, the most prestigious secondary school in the world. The year is 2074, and Abby and Derick are busy designing their own virtual worlds and learning to control new robot animal avatars, but when their Grandpa Cragbridge admits them into the Council of the Keys--a secret group of people who have keys to travel back in time--strange things begin to happen. One by one, members of the council are found unconscious and unable to wake, their keys stolen. Now Abby, Derick, and their friends must scramble to figure out who is behind the attacks before they become the next victims, which would give their enemy the power to change the past--and forever alter the present and future."

My boys and I loved the first book in this series, and they have been asking me for months when the new book will be coming out. Finally I get to tell them it is here! And boy, it did not disappoint! Abby and Derick are great characters, along with Carol, who adds a lot of humor, and Rafa, who adds some mystery. I might have liked this one more than I liked the first book. Maybe??? I loved the new gadgets and tricks. I thought the build-your-own world bit was awesome. I love that there are so many lessons in these books. I think it's great that Grandpa Cragbridge makes them work for their answers. I like how it describes Abby thinking and thinking and trying out new ideas and using knowledge she gains from her classes. I also like that she doesn't always succeed, but when that happens she just keeps on trying. I feel like I'm constantly telling my kids to keep trying, don't get discouraged, get back up and try again......it's much better coming from a fun book than from mom's mouth....again. The characters in this book have flaws (Abby performing lowest in the school and Derick actually failing at some things) and they know it. I love that they don't get too down on themselves and stop trying. It's a great lesson for all of us. The avatars are so fun, and the cover by Brandon Dorman is amazing. I love the history lessons as well. I actually learned a lot about the Hindenburg. I did feel like this book had a little less history than the first one, but it had more action. If I had a complaint that is what it would be; I wish it had a few more history lessons in it.  If you enjoyed the first book, you definitely need to read this one!

There is no language and no "intimacy" except some minor flirting between Carol and Derick. There is some violence, and a few characters do get injured. It's a little scary in parts. There is a fun twist at the end that surprised me! My 12 year-old son has already read the book as well, and he loved it. He specifically commented to me about that surprise twist at the end. Crazy and unexpected, for sure!

Rating: PG (No language or "intimacy." There is some violence with characters being injured, and there are definitely bad guys.)

Recommendation: Third grade and up. This series is great for young and old, boy and girl, and would make a great read-aloud.

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

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Longing For Home: Hope Springs (Book Two)

Longing For Home: Hope Springs (Book Two) by Sarah M. Eden

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Katie Macauley gave up her lifelong dream of returning to Ireland in order to make a home for herself in Hope Springs, Wyoming, but her future has never been so uncertain.
Katie’s heart still remains sharply divided between playful Tavish and steady Joseph, though she feels ill-prepared to make a decision. Furthermore, the town is more divided than ever with both the Irish and the Reds stealing property, burning buildings, and endangering lives. In the midst of the growing unrest, tem­peratures drop quickly, too quickly, and Irish nightmares of famine and cold resurface as the little Wyoming town struggles to beat the harsh winter.
Katie makes one sacrifice after another to keep the peace and help see her loved ones through the difficult days ahead, but will her efforts be enough? Can the town make amends before their hatred consumes them all? And will Katie find the love she has been searching for as well as a home to call her own?"

I enjoyed the first book and thought it was a nice sweet love story, so I was excited to read book two and find out what would happen to Katie. The most pressing question, of course, was which man she would choose. Would she choose fun, happy, and cute Tavish, or would she choose stable, thoughtful, and handsome Joseph? I really couldn't decide which one I wanted her to choose because they were both men of integrity and had hard work ethics. They each held qualities she valued and needed in her life.  I had no idea which way it would go, and would have been happy either way. I wondered how Ms. Eden would bring about Katie's decision, and I thought it worked well.  It made sense and I was thrilled for Katie. Unfortunately, some not-so-good things happened along the way. Do you remember the feud? Well, lets just say that it is still there and escalating. A bunch of main characters die or are severely injured. I can't imagine living with such hatred. I can't imagine living my life specifically to hurt a whole group of people. I cried. Yes, I definitely cried during parts of this book. There were some tears of joy, but there were also tears of sadness and sorrow.  I love that Katie is a strong female character. I love that she works hard and has a positive outlook even when life brings her down. This book is fairly well written and is a fast, easy read. I enjoyed this book and did like the ending. I thought it was a good sequel.

Rating: PG -13 ( No language or intimacy; there is quite a bit of violence, and there is a death.)

Recommendation: 13 and up

Disclosure: I did receive this book in exchange for my honest review.