What is your reading goal this year?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Castle of Fire

Castle of Fire (Adventures of Jonathan Moore Book #2) by Peter Greene

"The once-orphaned Jonathan Moore is now reunited with his father, though soon leaves the comfort of family and London on what is considered by all to be a 'peach' of a mission. However, with the arrival of another midshipman holding a severe but unexplained grudge, life aboard the HMS Danielle is anything but pleasant. Why are the new midshipmen his enemies? Who is stealing food from the ship's stores, and why must Jonathan and Sean sneak into a heavily guarded Spanish fort in the middle of the night to do some burglary of their own? In the second book of the Adventures of Jonathan Moore Series, Jonathan must capture a stolen British ship from blood-thirsty pirates, solve the mystery of the surprising stowaway, and defend his honor and his life during a fierce duel to the death with a murderous adversary. Alone and vastly outnumbered, the crew of the Danielle engages in a violent battle on the wild seas south of the farthest tip of Africa. Only Jonathan, Sean, and an unexpected guest can turn the tide of the struggle by unlocking the secret of a mysterious island and re-igniting the ferocious power of the Castle of Fire!"

I loved the first book in this series, Skull Eye Island, and my boys did too. Since I received the second book, a long time ago, my boys have asked me many times if I have read it yet. Well, I finally got to read it! Good ol' Jonathan is back at it, with his trusty friend Sean. The characters are the same, with the exception of a few more. The characters in this book are so fun. I love their personalities and their relationships. There are a few grumpy old (and young) sailors, and even a few happy ones have their moments of temper, but they each have their place on the ship, and each makes for a great story. There is a lot of action in this book, as there was in the first book. There's sword fighting, pirates, cannons, stealing pirate ships, a little romance, a stowaway, friendship, and much more. 

I didn't love this book as much as I did the first, unfortunately. I thought it started slowly and didn't really get into the story or the action until half-way through the book. I was disappointed. However, the end of the book was great and got back into the adventure and the fun of the first book. The ending made reading this book worth it. There were a lot of grammatical and spelling errors in this book, which drove me crazy. I hope there is another edition out that has fixed all the errors, but I'm not sure if there is. This book is clean, though, and that is fantastic! I love it when I can hand a child a book and not worry at all about questionable words or content. If you liked the first book in the series then you should read this one. Push through the beginning and you'll love the ending. 

Rating: PG (Fighting pirates, sword fighting, a few minor characters die)

Recommendation: 9 years old (Fourth Grade-ish) and up. My boys read Harry Potter in third grade and Fablehaven in second grade. If that is the case then this book would be fine for third graders. It's no worse than Harry Potter. There are some sailing terms they may not understand, but that is a quick (google) fix. 

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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Raising a Reader

Today's tip is one of my favorites!!! Why? Because I get to do what I love and not feel guilty! 

Be A Good Example!!!!

Yep, that's it! Be a good example and read, read, read. Read all sorts of different genres, and if you can, let your children see you reading, and let them see that you enjoy it. Children mimic their parents' attitudes towards many things, and reading is one of them. If you have a good attitude about reading then they most likely will too.

A good idea is also to talk to your kids about what you read. If it's a history book then you can 
talk to them about it. Talk to them about that time in history and if you remember it or not. Maybe their grandparents lived through that time, maybe you did. This gives them an opportunity to get to know the person and the events. I know my kids are always asking about the books I'm reading. I try to summarize the plot and discuss a few of the characters, because it teaches them those skills. And it teaches them to pay attention to those things when they read. 

If your children are old enough to read the book you are reading, and it's appropriate for them, then recommend it to them. Have them read it after you do, and discuss it together. I love doing this with my kids. We've had some very good discussions.

Here is a list of books that I have read and then recommended to my boys that they've enjoyed:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

( My sixth grader did read this book and did enjoy it. There was just one page I didn't let him read that was about naked women or something.)

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

These are just a few of them, but we've had some very good discussions and some fun times together discussing these books. It's like your own mini book group in your own house. So fun!!

Happy Reading!!!! 
(And now you can do it guilt free, knowing it's good for the kids!!)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Silent Sister

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

"Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. It was a belief that helped shape her own childhood and that of her brother. It shaped her view of her family and their dynamics. It influenced her entire life. Now, more than twenty years later, her father has passed away and she's in New Bern, North Carolina, cleaning out his house when she finds evidence that what she has always believed is not the truth. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why, exactly, was she on the run all those years ago? What secrets are being kept now, and what will happen if those secrets are revealed? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her new-found reality."

Imagine waking up one morning and finding out that everything you've known about your family for your entire life is a lie. A deception. Nothing is actually what you thought it was. This is pretty much what happened to Riley MacPherson. It didn't happen over night, but it did happen within a few weeks after her father passed away. I can't even imagine. Not only is Riley dealing with the passing of her father, but she is also dealing with his finances, his estate, and his lies. I could not put this book down. It grabbed hold of me from the beginning, and I was hooked. The writing in this book is so well done. It's captivating, engaging, and you feel as if you too are caught in this web of lies. The characters come to life on the page. I love that they are so realistic and life-like. They are not perfect, they have their flaws, and yet they are real. Riley could be your next door neighbor. There were a few instances that I felt she accepted her new realities a little too easily, but I think she was desperate and since I've never been in that situation, her reactions could be completely realistic. Riley's brother Danny is an interesting character. I can understand where he is coming from, and why he feels the way he does, and I feel bad for him. He also kind of scares me, actually. I am not sure if I believe his reaction at the end of the book because it seems completely out of character. I don't know if the feelings he felt in that moment were enough to change his mind that much. Jeannie and Christine are such fun characters, and I think they add a lot to the story. I like that they have history with the family and are there for Riley when she needs their help. Verniece and Tom add a depth to the story, along with a few surprises. They scare me a little as well, especially Tom. I feel bad that he was put in the position he was put in, but I don't think he deserved what it was that he wanted from Riley. The ending was almost too perfectly put together, but it was decent. I still loved the book.

There really is no way to talk about this book without giving anything away. After I finished it last night I thought and thought about how I could try and describe the situation without spoiling it, and I'm just not sure it's possible. There's so much going on, and because so much of it is truth coming out after years of lies, discussing it at all leads to realizations and secrets found out. So, I'm going to leave it at this: I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. It was a roller coaster of emotions, and at some points I wasn't really sure who to cheer for. I don't like feeling as if I'm cheering for the "bad guy," but is it a "bad guy" or is it a victim or an underdog? I could feel Riley's emotions with her: anger, confusion, stress, worry, love, fear, a yearning for something other than what she had, sadness, and so many more. The emotional pull of this book leaves you feeling as if you've experienced it in person. Ms. Chamberlain's writing style grabs hold of you and doesn't let go. Even after I finished the book I couldn't stop thinking about it. (I'm dying to talk to someone about this book!!! If you read it I'd love to hear your thoughts!)

There isn't a whole lot of profanity in this book, except for the "f" word. And there are many of those. It is mostly one character who says it. There are a lot at the beginning of the book and a bunch at the end, but the middle of the book doesn't have as many. The character who uses the word constantly isn't in the entire book. There is a murder, rape, and some "intimacy" where you know it happens but it doesn't go into a whole lot of detail. There is also a lesbian relationship. This is the first book I've read where the lesbian is the first person narrator, and she falls in love. It doesn't go into a lot of detail, but enough to know what is going on and to set up the relationship. Overall, I really liked this book. There were a few times I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep reading because of the language and content, but I'm glad I did. I would recommend it if you're ok with the above warnings.

Rating: R (Language, especially the "f" word, murder, rape, "intimacy," a lesbian relationship)

Recommendation: Adult. This book is not appropriate for younger readers.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

(I took this summary from the back cover of the book.) "As an infant, James Clyde was deposited at a children's home by his wounded, blood-soaked grandfather. As a result, he grows up under a cloud of mystery. Eleven years later when he hears about his strange past, he vows to uncover the truth. But before he can, his grandfather hands him a magical and mysterious diamond of Orchestra. With the aid of his friends, Ben and Mary Forester, James must protect the diamond from evil forces. Soon, however, their lives are in grave danger. They are being hunted by a sinister man dressed in black and his blood-thirsty army. Outnumbered, James finds he must use the power of the diamond to escape their clutches--or become another victim of their murderous quest. So begins a journey that will transport them to an alternative world where they must confront the mysterious man in black for a final, winner-takes-all battle..."

First of all I must say.....do not judge this book by its cover. The cover looks very cheesy and childish. The story, however, is very different. I think this book needs a new cover. After I finished it, I handed it to my 11-year-old son. He's read everything, so I was excited to give him something different to read. He took one look at it and rolled his eyes. I told him it was good and to give it a chance. About three hours later he brought it back and said he was finished, and it was, "Awesome!" I enjoyed the story. I liked James and thought he was a likable character. I liked Mary and Ben as well. I liked the mysterious grandfather, but wished I had known more about him in the beginning. You learn more about him as the story goes on, but some of that info. would have been good to know earlier. The kids in the story sometimes act their ages, but sometimes act a little too old. They are a little too brave in some circumstances, but it is fantasy. The transition from one place to another was well done. I definitely wish I would have known more about Orchestra and the diamonds, but I think we learn more as we go along. This book has some mystery, some action, some fun, some villains, some heroes, some sacrifice, some fighting, some flying, and some surprises. It is a little predictable in places, but is surprising in others. I thought it was creative and different. 

There are some spelling and grammatical errors, and it could have used maybe a little more editing. The grandfather could have used more development, along with why he didn't keep James with him full time. There were two swear words, and some fighting violence. There are a couple of gruesome murders. Overall, I liked the story. My 11-year-old son loved it. 

Rating: PG+ (Two swear words, fighting violence, and two gruesome murders, along with fighting)

Recommendation: Third or Fourth Grade and up (The violence is no worse than Harry Potter, so if your child read Harry Potter in third grade, like mine did, then this will be fine in third grade. However, there are those swear words, so be aware of that.)

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

Friday, September 12, 2014

Liebster Award

Awhile ago, on August 24th exactly, Felicia from A Silly's Girls Thoughts nominated me for a Liebster Award! Thank you Felicia!!! I had no idea what that was, so I googled it. Apparently, a Liebster Award is an award given to bloggers from bloggers. 

So, here are the rules:
  • Link and thank the person who nominated your blog
  • Answer the eleven questions they asked you
  • Pick eleven bloggers with less than two hundred followers to nominate
  • Ask them eleven questions
  • Let them know that you’ve nominated them by commenting on one of their posts

Okay, here it goes:
1. If you had to pick max three favorite books, what would it be?
     -Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
2. If you had to pick max three of your least favorite books, what would it be?
     -Allegiant (Divergent Book #3) by Veronica Roth, Mockingjay (Hunger Games Book #3) by Suzanne Collins, and Lord of the Flies by William Golding
3. Do you ever read a book, not so much because you think you will like it, but because it's one of those books you feel like you have to read?
     -Yes. I have tried to read Moby Dick so many times because I think I should like it, but I don't. I don't like it. (Shhhh!!! Don't tell!)
4. What's your thought on audio books?
     -I have never listened to an audio book.
5. Do you re-read books?
     -I used to. I would re-read all my favorite books, but I don't have time now.
6. What's the best school-assigned book you've read?
     -It's been a long time, but I liked The Great Gatsby.
7. Are you the type to usually root for the hero or the villain?
     -Oh, the hero. For sure. 
8. What's the one thing you wish everyone knew?
     -I wish everyone knew the joy of reading.
9. If you had the power to fix one thing you think is wrong with the world, what would it be? (And if you can, what would you do?)
     -Wow. That's deep. Well, I think I'd make sure that every child in the world had food to eat and clean water to drink, and a safe, warm place to stay. (Oh, and I'd definitely make sure they could read!)
10. If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, fiction or real, who would it be?
     -I'd love to meet George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.
11. What got you into blogging?
     -I got tired of reading books full of profanity and other stuff I didn't want to read, and I wanted a place to go that would rate the books like movies are rated. I couldn't find it, so I created it.

Okay, I nominate:

Here are your questions:
1. What was your favorite childhood book?
2.  Have you read a book that has changed your attitude towards something?
3.  Why did you start blogging about books?
4.  How many books have you read so far this year?
5.  Who is your favorite character (out of all the books you've read)?
6.  Why do you like or relate to that character? What is it about them that you like?
7.  If you don't like a book do you finish it or stop reading?
8.  Do you like to watch movies made from books? Why or why not?
9.  Where is your favorite place to read?
10. If you could meet any character from any book, who would it be and why?
11. If you could jump into any story and live it, what story would you choose and why?

Thanks again for the nomination A Silly Girl's Thoughts!!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Believe (Movie)

(This movie summary is taken from an email the publicist sent me.) "In the early 80’s the legendary Manchester United football manager Sir Matt Busby helps a wayward boy fulfill his dream.

Having lived with football all his life and survived the tragic 1958 Munich plane disaster in which 8 of his promising young players were killed, Matt, still haunted by the ghosts of the “Busby Babes” comes out of retirement for one last coaching challenge, to transform a young group of scallywags into a dream team to compete for the upcoming Manchester United Football League Cup.

A funny and touching family film, Believe tells the story of how Matt is finally healed, while continuing to inspire generations of dreamers and leaving the world’s greatest football team as his legacy."

I know what you're thinking......a movie??? Yep! I do occasionally pull my head out of my books. This time it was because I was invited by Deseret Book to attend a media screening for this upcoming movie "Believe." Well, it's a soccer movie, and I feel like I live on the soccer fields with my kids these days, so I thought it might be fun. I grabbed my amazing sis (Yes, amazing. She got all the talent. Here's her site, you should check it out: http://www.crookedpinkie.com/) to come with me, and guess what? It was the two of us and two other guys in the whole theater. Hahaha....it was as if they played it just for us. 

There are a lot of inspirational sports films out there. My husband and I just went and saw this football one a couple of weeks ago. They're all very similar, right? You have the underdog and then you have the bullies. You have either an old famous coach or a brand new coach. You have some sports. You have some drama. And then you have success. Well, the only thing different about this movie is that it involves children's sports. I thought it was cute. I liked the coach's character, and thought he did a good job. He was into it, but it wasn't over done. He was believable. I also liked Georgie's character. He is a really cute kid, and I thought he did well in this movie. He was realistic and not too cheesy or unbelievable. He was likable even though he did some not very likable things. Coming from a mom's perspective, I thought the mother in this film did a good job. I think I would have reacted in the same way that she did. I liked that the education part of it was so important. I liked the relationship between coach and players. There was some humor and some drama, some cheese and some inspiration, and overall I liked it. It's predictable, and yet still enjoyable. I liked it, but I think my 12 year-old soccer player would love it. I am going to suggest to his coach that the team go see it together, because it has a good message of believing in yourself and dreaming big, then working hard to accomplish your goals. 

The film takes place in England, and there are some times where I thought the British accents were difficult to understand. Also, I thought that there were some things that could have been explained or developed more, but overall I enjoyed it. It's clean so it's kid-friendly, which is fabulous. It would make a great team building activity for all those soccer teams out there. 

Rating: PG

Recommendation: I'd say 6 and up. The six-year-olds might be a little bored, and may not understand everything, but I think they'd at least sit through it. 

Disclosure: I did receive a free ticket to go see this movie in exchange for my honest review.

Here are some links in case you want to know more about this movie:

Or you could watch the trailer:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Animal Motions

Animal Motions by Melissa Pilgrim

(This summary is taken from an email the author sent to me.) ""Animal Motions" is a fun, easy to follow, low-impact movement routine told as a story in a colorful picture book for ages 3-6.  Follow Eric as he stretches and moves his body at the start of his day by using his imagination to become some of his favorite animals.  Travel with him to the jungle, the desert, the forest, the ocean—-and don’t forget to keep your body moving!  It’s inspired by the theatre games I used to play with my young actors in Chicago at my theatre there, and I’m hoping it helps all children everywhere stay “creatively fit!” 

The beautiful, full-page watercolor illustrations are done by the very talented Ira V. Gates."

This is a fun new children's book! I read it to my kids this morning. My six-year-old laughed and loved it, my eight-year-old said it was ok, and my eleven-year-old just shrugged. So there you go. It says ages 3-6 and that's spot on. Eric wakes up in the morning and stretches his body. He moves like many different animals, and each animal is a different position or stretch. My kids were eating breakfast when I read it to them, but if we had all been sitting together I would have made them follow along. I think this is a fun concept. It gives kids a more exciting way to stretch and move. Not only is it great for families, it would also be great for preschool, kindergarten, or first grade classrooms. (There are lesson plans to go along with the book on her website, which I will give below.) It would also be great for a younger dance or gymnastics class as well. The illustrations are so bright and colorful. They are captivating and really bring the story together.  

The website that coincides with this book is a great resource for parents and teachers. The website is: www.animalmotions.com . There are lesson plans and a mini poster that you can print for kids to color. Also, there is an app that goes along with the book! It goes through all the animal motions and the kids can follow along. So fun! (It's FREE on amazon.com for android today, Sept. 4th, so grab it while you can! It's also FREE on itunes today!!!)

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: It is recommended for ages 3-6. I think even toddlers could do it.

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

Here is the link to the app on amazon:

Here is the link to the book:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Transformed by Debbie Kump

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Thirteen-year-old Jessica Davis’ dull and average life ends abruptly when a vivid dream turns shockingly real, exposing dangerous family secrets. Flung into a world of shape-shifters, Jessica must begin training on a remote South Pacific Island. At first, homesickness seems her primary concern as she forges new friendships in this lush, tropical paradise. Yet her situation quickly deteriorates when she finds herself despised by a vengeful classmate and haunted with frightening visions of the guy she loves. While confronting these challenges, Jessica grows to realize her true potential, eventually discovering that not only has her physical appearance transformed…but also her soul."

I like the uniqueness of this book. Yes, a girl goes through a transformation, but it isn't a vampire hunter or a werewolf or anything of the sort. It's different, which is good. The part at the beginning when she transforms is quite funny. Jessica's voice is well done. Now, it is teenage talk, but the teenage talk is done well. She adds humor and is a fun character. She is fairly well rounded for being thirteen. Shredder, Dylan, and Allison were done well also. Even though they are young, they are dealing with some very adult issues. Speaking of, I usually do not like political issues in children/middle-grade books because children aren't old enough to form their own opinions of certain issues. They don't have all the information and can't/don't usually make an informed opinion, they just believe everything that is set before them. Anyway, in this particular book it was ok because it wasn't the focus of most of the book, and it doesn't come across as bullying the "other side," which I would have a problem with. And, I'll just step right off that soapbox and get back to my review. It's a clever story with some interesting twists and turns. I do think that some of the kissing and such that goes on doesn't really fit the age group. I know a lot of thirteen-year-old girls and boys, and they don't usually go around kissing. They're just barely getting past the cooties and starting to form little crushes. So, that seemed a bit off, but luckily it only happened a couple of times. I do think the drama and emotions were very close to the norm though. There were some hard issues dealt with in this book: bullying, low self esteem, being different, dealing with your past, and standing up for yourself.

There aren't any swear words in this book; however, she does use the Lord's name a few times. She says, "Oh my.......," which may not bother some people but it does bother me. Luckily, it's really only a few times. There is some violence in this book. The characters fight the "bad guys," and people do get hurt, and a main character dies. There isn't any "intimacy," but there is some kissing and lots of thinking and dreaming about crushes.

I liked this book, I think my boys (11 and 12) will like it. It does have a female main character, but there are enough boys and action that I think my boys will like it. Girls of this age group will also like it. There are some grammatical errors, some cheesy parts, and some parts that aren't written the best, but it was a cute story.

Rating: PG+ (Fighting violence, using the Lord's name, some kissing, the death of a main character, but no swearing or "intimacy.")

Recommendation: 5th grade and up

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