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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.