What is your reading goal this year?

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised. In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis."

After I saw the new movie titled "The Monuments Men," I learned that it was based on a book. You know me, I'd usually rather read the book than watch the movie. I liked the movie a lot, and couldn't wait to get my hands on the book. And then I got my hands on the book. This may be the ONLY time you ever hear me say this, but (it hurts to even say it.....) I liked the movie more than I liked the book. Ouch! I can't believe those words just came out, but it's true. I can see why they made the changes in the movie that they did; it made the story so much more exciting and interesting. Don't get me wrong, the story to be told is very interesting, and I wanted to learn about it, and there's a lot of good information in the book. The characters in the book, these Monuments Men and women who helped, are great people and are great characters. They each have their own qualifications and stories. Also, in the artwork that they saved are many famous and well-loved pieces that I have heard about. The problem for me in this book was too much information. There were so many different people that I had a difficult time remembering who was who. Many of the names are German or French and I had a hard time keeping track of these unfamiliar names. Also (and this is probably my fault), I hadn't heard of most of the works of art discussed in the book, so they didn't mean anything to me. The first 200 pages were very slow going; it's not a fast read, at all. I was hoping it would be written a little better. I didn't think it flowed very well, and you add to that all the different people and places, and it became confusing and kind of boring. It wasn't until I hit page 200 that I finally started getting used to the names and places, and the story picked up a little. It took me about three weeks to read this book, and I'm used to reading one to two books a week. So I was getting a little irritated, and it is now a week late at the library because it took me so long to read it. If you're interested in the history of the story, it's worth reading. Just know that it's different from the movie, and in a more drawn-out and confusing way. Of course, it's more true to what actually happened than the movie is, but it just didn't have the same feeling for me. If you're a history buff or enjoy learning about WWII, then I think it's still worth reading, just be prepared for a long read.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, WWII atrocities-it doesn't go into a ton of detail on these, but they are mentioned)

Recommendation: High School and up

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Uncle Flynn

Uncle Flynn by Simon Dillon

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me) "When timid eleven year old Max Bradley embarks on a hunt for buried treasure on Dartmoor with his mysterious Uncle Flynn, he discovers he is braver than he thought. Together they decipher clues, find a hidden map and explore secret tunnels in their search. But with both police and rival treasure hunters on their tail, Max begins to wonder if his uncle is all he seems..."

I liked this book. I liked the characters, especially Max. I also liked Uncle Flynn. I thought they were developed well. Uncle Flynn is quite mysterious; there isn't a whole lot of history or detail in regards to him, but it definitely makes him more intriguing. The writing is okay; it moves a little slowly in some parts, but then the action will pick up in others. There are some surprises and twists that made the book more exciting and interesting. There are a few unbelievable parts, but it's ok because by the time you get to them you're hooked and you just keep reading anyway. I liked the adventure and mystery in this book. I enjoyed the story and thought it was entertaining. I think that the middle-grade and early YA crowd will especially enjoy it.

There were one or two swear words and some close calls with a panther. There are some bad guys who try throughout the book to capture or kill Max. 

I enjoyed this book and am now excited to hand it over to my 12 and 10 year-olds. I think they'll enjoy it as well.

Rating: PG+ (One or two swear words, some minor violence)

Recommendation: 5th grade and up (As far as content goes, I think it would be okay for fourth graders, and maybe even a really good third grade reader, but the way it is written lends itself more toward a reader that is a little bit older.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Raising A Reader

Raising A Reader

Having a good home library is my next tip for raising a reader. It is important to have a wide variety of good books: picture books, chapter books, nonfiction and fiction. A wide variety of topics is also a good idea. You also want to make sure you have books that are at the correct level for your child. If the books are too easy then the child will not be challenged and will easily bore. If the books are too difficult then the child will be more likely to be frustrated and not enjoy reading. If money is an issue then the county library is a great resource. At my house we usually visit the library either every week or every other week. Thrift stores can also be a great place to find books. 

A funny thing about kids (and adults too), we are visual, and we do judge books by their covers. Think of a grocery store. How is the cereal stocked on the shelves? The front "covers" face you, the boxes aren't stocked sideways. Why is that? It's because the bright colors, cartoon mascots, titles, and pictures stand out and make you want to buy them. Books should be stored that same way. Children are more likely to pick up a book if they can see the picture on the front than they are if they just look at the title on the spine (the way libraries stock the books). I just bought some black plastic crates and store my books in those. When I was teaching I saw rooms that had raingutters screwed into the walls and books stored in them. Pinterest has some fun ideas to make your own. Here are a few ideas:

Have fun and be creative! But most importantly, have books available for your children. The more the better!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Runaway Ralph

Runaway Ralph (Book #2) by Beverly Cleary

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "Ralph is the only mouse living at the Mountain View Inn who owns a motorcycle--which means he has the perfect opportunity to explore the mysterious "summer camp" nearby. Ralph isn't sure what a summer camp is, but he's determined to find out. One night, fed up with his younger relatives' pesky demands to borrow his motorcycle, he takes off for Happy Acres Camp. But once he gets there, he's confronted by a watchdog, a grouchy gopher, and an entire family of cats. Then he's captured by an unhappy boy named Garf. Ralph is desperate to escape....but maybe he needs to help Garf before Garf can help him."

Ralph is at it again, and this time he is even more adventurous! He actually leaves the hotel and travels to the summer camp. This is a fun sequel to The Mouse and the Motorcycle. My daughter (going into third grade) just finished it, and she loved it as much as I did. I'm so happy that this new technological-savvy group of kids can still enjoy a classical fun story. I love that I can share with her the books I loved as a child, and that she enjoys them as well. This book not only has action and adventure, but it also has some good lessons. Ralph learns that he can't "judge a book by its cover," when it comes to human friends, and he learns that sometimes solutions to problems take time. There is even a lesson about jumping to conclusions and judging someone to be guilty without giving him a chance to explain or share his side of the story. All these lessons are pertinent today. Even though Garf comes across as grumpy and isolated, you know that he just wants a friend, and he wants to be trusted. This book has some fun characters in it, and is well written. It's a fun series. It would also make a great read-aloud. My daughter is going into third grade next year and was able to read it on her own. It's about a second grade reading level, it may be okay for a really high-level first grader. As a read-aloud I'd say preschool and above.

Rating: G (It's clean! There are a few scenes that may be a little scary for some preschoolers, but that's it!)

Recommendation: As a read-aloud: Preschool and up. As a silent read: Second grade and up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jack and Yani Love Harry Potter

Jack and Yani Love Harry Potter by Mary E. Twomey

(Summary taken from an email the author sent me) "Best friends Jack and Yani do everything together. After Yani’s thirtieth birthday party, however, she decides to leave town on a spontaneous vacation to visit all the sites of the young adult fiction novels she loves, hoping that when she returns, she’ll have buried the secret flame she has for Jack. Forced by his friends to go on a road trip to track down Yani, Jack learns a lot about his best friend by reading the novels she’s been obsessed with. From vampire hunting in Forks to searching for wizards in Florida, Jack confronts his greatest fears –that he just might love Harry Potter…and perhaps, Yani."

This is a really cute book. It's different and a little quirky, which makes it a fun read. It's mostly a girlie book, but there might be a few men out there that can handle the cheese. Yes, it is cheesy and cutesy, but it's actually ok in this book. The characters are well written and mostly true-to-life. I liked Jack and Yani a lot. They are the couple that everyone knows they should be together, except they don't know it. I related to Yani because I have read and liked a lot of YA novels, as you can see from my reviews. I've read the Twilights and the Harry Potters and enjoyed them. I also liked Jack. He seemed like a nice, down-to-earth kind of guy. Their friends are the best. They force Jack on a road trip to go find Yani. It's a very long road trip that goes from one side of the country to the other, and I'm glad they didn't all kill each other in the process. This book is written fairly well, and it's a fast easy read. I did like it. It's good for pure entertainment and a light-hearted read. Is this book all plausible and likely to happen in real life? Ummmm......no. But, that's why we read fiction, right?

There is some language in this book. Most of the language comes from one character, and that is a little humorous because one of the friend couples has a little girl, and they try to get him to stop swearing in front of her. So every time he swears they remind him to stop. Yes, I agree. Stop the swearing. There is (lots of) kissing and some innuendos. 

Rating: PG-13 (Some language, kissing, and some innuendos.)

Recommendation: 13 and up. YA. And, mostly just the girls will like it.

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