What is your favorite genre to read?

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!

I know it's past Christmas, but......

Merry Christmas!!!!

I have been completely preoccupied for the last six weeks! (You could probably tell that I have not posted as much as I usually do.) I have been subbing full-time for my daughter's class at school. Her teacher had a baby and asked me if I would sub her class for the next 12 weeks. Wow. It has been crazy! I haven't worked full-time in 14 years, since I had my first baby. That was when I taught first grade, but it has been 14 years! Let's just say that jumping back into it has been a HUGE adjustment for all of us. I'm halfway through! Six more weeks to go and then hopefully I can get back to my usual routine! I usually do my reading at night when everyone is asleep and I can't sleep. However, the last six weeks I have fallen asleep so fast that I haven't been able to do much reading. I did, however,  manage to read this book. I love this book! I have read it many times, but it's been a few years; so I was excited to pick it up again. 




The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Blurb (from amazon.com):

"The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.
None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale -- the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating -- has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year's pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever."

My Review:

I love this book! It's so cute and full of wonderful lessons; for Christmas time and all year long. The narrator is hilarious and engaging. She has a funny personality that makes you care about her and her story. The mom is so patient and usually has a positive outlook. The Herdmans are awful. I read this to the kids and I had to stop and talk about how unhealthy smoking is, and how stealing and setting fire to things are bad choices. However, it sets a great stage for what is to come in the story. Their bad behavior makes the change that much more poignant. I won't give it away, but some of the lessons learned are to actually think about the things we do, instead of just going through the motions, and to really think about the things we believe in. It also teaches the importance of not judging others, and to not gossip. It's a quick read, yet it is such a great book to read at this time of year. Reading this book helps put things in perspective. 

Rating: PG+ (It does talk about the kids smoking, burning things, and doing all sorts of bad things. It does have a religious overtone to it-just fyi.)

Recommendation: As long as mom or dad are sitting there discussing the poor choices that the kids are making, this book is fine for about first grade and up. As a silent read I would say third grade (but I would still recommend that a parent discusses it with them).


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Bookmarks!!!

I have a VERY talented friend! Her name is Colette, and she is the amazingness (Yes, I know that's not a word, but it describes her perfectly!) behind 

If you ever need any sort of printable (planners, calendars, fabulous subway art, 
bottle cap prints, candybar wraps, Halloween BOO signs....anything, go to her site first 
(I found that out the hard way! I spent hours searching on Pinterest for something and I finally found it! Guess whose it was?? Yep, Colette's; I should have gone there first and saved myself a lot of time!). Anyway, she has this darling FREEBIE printable bookmark
that she said I could share with all of you! I know my kiddos love bookmarks, and holiday
ones are the best! So please, check out her site, and go grab your cute
Christmas Bookmarks!!!


Here is the link:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Rare Nativity


A Rare Nativity by Sam Beeson (Images by Nina & Terral Cochran)

Blurb:

"We've all heard the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and we've all seen the traditional Christmas crèche. Now, author Sam Beeson and photographers Nina and Terral Cochran combine these two classic Christmas icons to create A Rare Nativity. Upon reading the first lines of the book, it's clear the narrator holds a bitter grudge as he sends his enemy crude and discarded gifts...Night after night the "gifts" pile up--shards of glass, rusty nails, gnarled twigs, and more. What the narrator's enemy decides to do with each of these odious gifts is nothing less than a Christmas miracle. The photographic creation of the rare nativity at the end of the book is both a work of art and a wonder to behold. Forgiveness is something we all need to give and receive, and A Rare Nativity opens our eyes to the act of forgiveness and the true meaning of Christmas. It's a universal message to be shared with readers of all ages. Christmas is a season for giving. Make it a season of forgiving."

My Review:

I have to admit that this book was not at all what I imagined when I opened the cover. When I think of Christmas books, I think of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, I think of angels and wise men, and I think of happiness and joy. I think of children smiling, of carols, and of family. I also think of yummy treats. When I opened this book I expected to find those things, or things that are similar. Especially thinking of the nativity, I think of Joseph and Mary with their baby in the stable. I think of angels, wise men, and shepherds. That is not what I found when I opened this book, and it definitely surprised me. This book is very different from every other Christmas book I have ever read, and I'm still trying to decide if that is a good thing or not. It opens with the line, "On the first night of Christmas I gave my enemy a briar from a tanglewood tree." This includes a picture of a burr-like thing; I'm assuming it's a briar. It goes on like that for many pages, with the narrator giving his enemy all these awful things. In the end, there is a good moral, it all comes together, and you understand. However, I felt like it focused way too much on the negative gifts and the enemy. Maybe it's because it's Christmas, but I just felt like it was 90% negative and 10% positive, and even though the positive was good, it wasn't enough to win me over. It's still a good book, and it's a good lesson to teach my kids, but unfortunately it will not be my new favorite Christmas book. If you're looking for something different this year, then A Rare Nativity will be just the book for you!

Rating: G (It's clean)

Recommendation: Everyone

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


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#GivingTuesday

Global Literacy Infographic
 https://www.grammarly.com/grammar-check

Infected


Infected by Nicole Trump

Blurb:

"I try to steady my breathing as I hide from one of the Infected, the man with hatred in his eyes who is stalking me. He wants nothing less than my life. If I am caught, I will be taken mercilessly. Jo is special. She has been chosen to be one of a handful of people to be frozen in time, saved for a later time, when the Infected may have taken over, and humanity will have to be restored. But as Jo goes to her freezing chamber, she wonders if this is as much an honor as everyone seems to think. She's right. Jo and her companions awaken to a world completely different from the one they left. Immediately attacked by Infected they used to call friends, Jo and her fellows, Todd and Finn, must fight for survival and run for their lives. Setting out across rough terrain in search of other uninfected humans, they learn what it means to be in constant danger. Will Jo, Todd, and Finn be able to find their fellow humans before the Infected overtake them? Will they even see the next day?"

My Review:

I'm not much of a zombie fan, so I was a little hesitant to read this book. However, in the end, I thought it was entertaining. The twist of Jo, Todd, and Finn being frozen was interesting, and it added some different plot twists along the way. I liked Jo, Todd, and Finn, and thought they were fairly well developed. Jo is usually a strong female character, but she does have her moments. I liked some of the people that helped them as well, and I thought they were good characters. The plot doesn't go a long way; I felt that some of the time seemed like they were walking in circles, but it had some surprising turns to keep the reader interested. I liked reading about the relationship between Jo and Todd. It was kind of strange with how young they were, I felt as if I were reading about an older couple, but even that is explained.

There isn't any profanity that I can remember in this book. There really isn't any "intimacy," although there is some kissing and cuddling. There is quite a bit of violence though. There are a bunch of Infected killed, and there is some graphic fighting. Overall, though, I was entertained.

Rating: PG+ (Little to no profanity, no "intimacy," some minor kissing and cuddling, but a lot of violence, and some of it is graphic.)

Recommendation: 12 and up. This book is fine for older middle-graders (6th grade)

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Saturn Run


Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein

Blurb: 

In 2066, a Caltech intern notices an anomaly – something is approaching Saturn, and decelerating. Space objects don’t decelerate. Spaceships do. A flurry of meetings produces the inescapable conclusion: Whatever built that ship is at least one hundred years ahead in technology, and whoever can get their hands on it will have an unmatchable advantage. A conclusion the Chinese share when they find out themselves. The race is on, and a remarkable adventure begins – an epic tale of courage, treachery, resourcefulness, and astonishing discovery, as the members of a hastily thrown-together crew find their strength and wits tested against adversaries both of this earth and beyond. What happens is nothing like you expect – and everything you could want from one of the world’s greatest masters of suspense.

My Review:

I usually enjoy a good sci-fi story, so I was excited to read this book. This book has a lot of science and detail in it; you can tell the authors put a lot of time into researching the technology and science of it. Some of the technology in the book is actually quite interesting. The different engines, the heat shields, the eggs (little personal space transporters), and the unusual gadgets on the ship especially caught my attention. The writing got a little technical in a few spots, but it wasn't too bad, and it didn't last long. The characters are fun. Many of them are well written; some of them are a little cliche, like the intelligent, good-looking, stuck-up, spoiled, lazy, ivy league Sandy, who doesn't really deserve to be there, but is. I like that the President of the United States is a woman, Santeros. Also, the commander of the ship is a woman. She goes by Fang-Castro. The story is somewhat predictable, but there are a few surprises along the way that hold your attention. You could feel the characters' excitement, fear, worry, stress, and feeling of accomplishment at every step of the way. I don't have any idea if any of it is really possible, but it's a fun and unique story. 

There is a lot of profanity in this book. A lot. And much of it is the "f" word, which is extremely annoying and distracting. There is violence in this book as well, with several characters dying, and some intense fighting scenes. There is also quite a bit of "intimacy." There are scenes, innuendos, jokes, and bets. Without all the profanity and "intimacy" I would have enjoyed this book more. All that stuff is so distracting and irritating. I wish authors would leave it out (ok, I'll step off my soap-box now....)!

Rating: R (Profanity, including a lot of "f" words, violence including fighting scenes and several characters dying, and a lot of "intimacy," with scenes, innuendos, jokes, and full-on, ship-wide bets with a lot of money.)

Recommendation: Adult. This book is NOT appropriate for YA readers, or younger.

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




Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Last September


The Last September by Nina de Gramont 

Blurb:

"Brett has been in love with Charlie ever since he took her skiing on a lovely Colorado night fourteen years ago. And now, living in a seaside cottage on Cape Cod with their young daughter, it looks as if they have settled into the life they desired. However, Brett and Charlie's marriage has been tenuous for quite some time. When Charlie's unstable younger brother plans to move in with them, the tension simmering under the surface of their marriage boils over. But what happened to Charlie next was unfathomable. Charlie was the golden boy so charismatic that he charmed everyone who crossed his path; who never shied away from a challenge; who saw life as one big adventure; who could always rescue his troubled brother, no matter how unpredictable the situation. So who is to blame for the tragic turn of events? And why does Brett feel responsible?"

My Review:

This book is one of the shereads.org books of fall. I was excited to read this book because the ladies at shereads usually pick great books to read. I was not disappointed! I loved the writing style of this book; I got sucked in right from the beginning. I liked how the author incorporated the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson in her story. I have always enjoyed her poetry, and I liked how it was woven into the story of Brett and Charlie. The characters were well developed, real, and interesting. There were times I liked Brett and times I didn't. I felt the same way about Charlie and Eli too. That is what made the characters life-like, I thought, was that they weren't perfect. They made mistakes, like we all do, and how they learned from or reacted to those mistakes told you a lot about their character. The relationship between Brett and Charlie made me crazy at first because it was so one-sided. However, I came to see how they fit together and complimented each other. I didn't like how they treated each other at times, but no one is perfect, right? The relationship between Brett and Eli was fascinating. Eli's character was well done. I'm not going to give it away, but he was written well, and with everything going on, it would be hard to accurately describe a character with those characteristics. I've never been around someone with his diagnosis, but as an uninformed reader, it seemed accurate. The transitions between the flashbacks and reality were seamlessly done, and I never got confused. You all know me, I do not read to figure out what's going on, I just read. So I didn't see the surprise at the end coming. It was a good and bad twist. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the twist: Did it make you feel better or worse about the situation? I enjoyed this book! I thought it had some great lessons on marriage and never letting your guard down. Marriage is something you constantly need to work on and work for--together. It's also something you should not take for granted. You aren't ever going to change someone, so you need to love what you have, even with idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. Forgiveness in marriage is a necessity. Life is short, so live life to the fullest each day, and love those around you with all you have because you never know what tomorrow brings. Wow. That's a little deep, but that's what I got out of this book. Also, mental illness is real, and those with mental illnesses need love, support, and good doctors. We've come a long way with mental illness in the past few years, but I think it is something that still needs more research, and a change in how we view people that struggle with it. So anyway, it's a good book. :)

There is some profanity in this book. I was excited because there wasn't a lot at all, and then when you get to about page 120ish, there are several "f" words all at once. Ugh.....I hate that. And then, that was it. Once you get through those few pages it's fine. Weird. I hate it when authors just throw them in to throw them in. It's irritating. There is some violence as well. There's some domestic violence and death. Some of the scenes are graphic. There is some "intimacy," but it doesn't go into a lot of detail. You know it happens, but it isn't described in detail. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it with the above warnings. 

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity, including a few "f" words; violence, including domestic violence and death; "intimacy" scenes and innuendos. They aren't too graphic or descriptive, but you know it happens.)

Recommendation: Adult

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


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Blackberry Winter


Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Blurb: 

"Seattle, 1933. Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, good night and reluctantly leaves for work. She hates the night shift, but it's the only way she can earn enough to keep destitution at bay. In the morning--even though it's the second of May--a heavy snow is falling. Vera rushes to wake Daniel, but his bed is empty. His teddy bear lies outside in the snow. Seattle, present day. On the second of May, Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge awakens to another late-season snow storm. Assigned to cover this 'blackberry winter' and its predecessor decades earlier, Claire learns of Daniel's unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth--only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways."

My Review:

I really liked this book! I was hooked from the first page. I loved the writing style; it sucked me in, and I felt as if I lived in Vera's world. I loved the language and the descriptions. I thought the characters were well developed and realistic. I especially liked Vera and Claire. I felt for Vera. I wanted to scream at her not to leave Daniel by himself that night, but unfortunately, my screaming would not have helped the situation. I cannot imagine being so destitute that leaving my baby home alone would even be an option. Her emotions were so realistic and raw. I cried when I read it. I liked Claire a lot too. She was making me nervous with Dominic, but I ended up liking the connection it brought with it (I won't give too much away). I hated the relationship she had with her husband, and it definitely made me grateful for the wonderful relationship I have with my husband. I can't imagine going through what they did, though. That would be awful. There are some great lessons for marriages: the importance of communication, and working together to get through difficult situations. I also thought you might each need to handle trials in different ways, but somehow you need to find a way to bring those ways together, or you end up too far apart.  I also liked the title, how it fit the story, and how it wove its way into little details here and there.

There were some parts of this book that were predictable, and there were a lot of "coincidences," but I still couldn't put it down. There is some profanity in this book. There is some violence as well. There is also "intimacy." There are a few scenes along with innuendos. It wasn't too detailed or graphic, but it was there. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would definitely like to read more by this author. I would recommend it with the above warnings.

Rating: R (Profanity, violence, and "intimacy," including scenes and innuendos.)

Recommendation: Adult (This book is not appropriate for YA readers.)


Monday, October 19, 2015

The Heir (The Selection Series Book # 4)





The Heir (The Selection Series Book #4) by Kiera Cass

Blurb:

"Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon--and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has 0 interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection--no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her...and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought."

My Review:

I didn't expect this book to be written from a different perspective than the other ones, but it was. It was written from the point of view of Eadlyn, daughter to America Singer and Prince Maxon. I have to say that just changing the point of view kind of turned me off to the book at first. Once I knew it wasn't America's story I kind of lost interest. But, I'd read all the other books so I decided to read it. It wasn't as good as I hoped it would be, but it turned out okay. It was quite predictable, but I still kept reading. The characters were done fairly well. I liked her brothers Ahren, Osten, and Kaden. I didn't really love Eadlyn. She was difficult to relate to, kind of bratty, and hard to please. You can kind of see why she is that way, with how she is raised, but it was a little irritating. Out of all the Selection boys I'd have to say that I liked Kile, Hale, Ean, Henri, and Erik (even though he's not an official candidate). Each of these guys were respectable and seemed like nice, normal guys. Although some of the dating scenes were cheesy and predictable, I did begin to kind of soften towards the story as I continued reading. This book is okay. If you read the others then you will most likely want to read this one, just know that it is different.

There is some language in this book, so be prepared. There was also too much about "intimacy" for my tastes, especially in a YA book. It is discussed and there is at least one almost-scene. There is kissing. One of my biggest turn-offs with this book is the violence. There is quite a bit of domestic violence in this book. The guys in the Selection aren't as respectable with her as they should be. There is one scene, in particular, where the guy's intent is rape. It doesn't happen, but you understand that the intention is there. I was not a fan of that scene.

Rating: PG-13 (Profanity, domestic violence, including an almost-rape scene, and discussions about "intimacy," along with an almost-scene.)

Recommendation: 13 and up (YA). This book is not appropriate for middle-graders.


Monday, October 5, 2015

World Teachers' Day

Happy World Teachers' Day!!!
A HUGE Thank You to all my kids' teachers and all my teacher friends, you are all wonderful!!!


World Teacher Day

Image from our friends at grammarly.com (https://www.grammarly.com/plagiarism-checker)

Westly: A Spider's Tale


Westly: A Spider's Tale by Bryan Beus

Blurb: 

"This is the tale of a caterpillar named Westly, destined to become a Monarch butterfly--and the next king. But sometimes things don't turn out the way we plan. When Westly emerges from his cocoon, not as a beautiful butterfly, but as a spider, he is rejected by the butterfly kingdom and undertakes a journey to discover who he really is. Adopted by the other bugs, the 'dirt eaters,' Westly is determined to make a difference, to belong, to be loved, and most importantly, to become who he was born to be. Delightfully illustrated by the author, Westly: A Spider's Tale is a story about discovering one's true potential, learning that being different is not a bad thing, and that even misfits can grow up to be heroes."

My Review:

Move over Aesop, here comes Westly! This is a modern-day fable; it is a fast, easy read, and has many great lessons in it. Westly is so surprised when he emerges from his cocoon, and so is everyone else. He doesn't know what to think, and neither does anyone else. He runs away from his lifetime home, and while he is out and about, he learns a lot about himself. Westly is a good, real character. He isn't perfect, but he tries really hard. He has realistic emotions and reactions to different situations. The other characters around him are also well developed. You can easily picture all the different personalities and stereotypes, and you can almost pick someone out from your past to play all the parts in the story. The book is well written. It has an interesting story line with some surprises along the way. I love all the different lessons that Westly learns along his journey. It's ok to be different. Being different gives you individual strengths and weaknesses, which is a good thing. You won't always fit in, and that's ok; don't let that bring you down. Bloom where you are planted. Do the best you can wherever you are. Family is important. Be wary of those around you who want to deceive you. (You know, the wolves in sheep's clothing.)  Have a positive attitude. Do your best. Sometimes we make mistakes, and that's ok; what is important is learning from those mistakes and doing better next time. Take responsibility for your actions, even if it's hard. I liked the book and think my kids will enjoy it. I'd say it a good middle-grader read. This book would elicit a great discussion in a classroom. 

This story does get a little scary in a few parts. It doesn't have any profanity or "intimacy," (thank you!), but it does have some minor violence. There is a "bad guy," and there are some characters that are lost (killed). There is some fighting against the bad guy.  

Rating: PG+ (No profanity or "intimacy," but there is some violence with fighting and the death of some characters.)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up.

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

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven



The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Blurb:

They existed only in your imagination …. Until now!

With over 3 million copies in print, the Fablehaven series by New York Times best-selling author Brandon Mull is one of the most popular middle-grade fantasy series to date. Now, first time ever, The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven provides a visual discovery of the series, and is loaded with insider’s knowledge and hand-scrawled notes. Readers can actually see the mystical creatures from the series like dragons – each one has a name, a special power, and looks distinctly different from the others, but until this book there was no illustrated guide. The book is also a springboard to the Fablehaven sequel series, Dragonwatch (releasing Fall 2016) and features clues to the characters and creatures fans will find in the upcoming books.
My Review:

What is a KArKADAnn you ask? Well, let me tell you. "A creature of Living Mirage, the karkadann is a formidable animal resembling a rhinoceros with one sentient horn. It is known for its fearsome roar and its speed in charging opponents." And what is a THylACine? Well, I know that one too! "Also known as Tasmanian tigers, thylacines look like large, striped greyhounds with long tails. Some of these creatures are gifted with the power of speech. Many thylacines reside at Obsidian Waste."And how do I know about these creatures, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I just finished reading The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven. It is a book written over time by all the different caretakers at Fablehaven. In it you will find descriptions of just about every creature or living thing that you will find at the preserves around the world. These descriptions usually include a picture (Done by the amazing Brandon Dorman!) and anything you would need to know about this creature, demon, or plant. This will help prepare you for your future caretaking job, or it will help you as a visitor to a preserve to know what is friendly and what is not. These descriptions are well written and very informative. Here is a quote from Grandma Sorenson that is in the guide:

 "Running toward danger is foolhardy....But so is closing your 
eyes to it. Many perils become less dangerous once you 
understand their potential hazards."

The following quote by Coulter is very helpful:

"I tell my secrets only to people I know I can trust. 
Otherwise the secret becomes a rumor just like that."

And one more from Dale:

"Smart people learn from their mistakes.
But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes
of others."

For Fablehaven fans, this is a great addition to the series. It would have been very helpful to have while reading the series, so that at a glance you could figure out what the different creatures are that you  are reading about. So run, don't walk, to get your copy of The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven. Don't leave home without it.....you never know what you will run into (It's a scary world out there)!

Rating: PG (Clean! Some of the creatures are scary or evil.)

Recommendation: Second to third grade and up. My boys read Fablehaven when they were in second grade, so this follows suit. It may be too difficult for a second grader, so third grade may be more appropriate.

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


Monday, September 28, 2015

[Book Review] Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention (Book #1) by J. Scott Savage


Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention (Book #1)
 by 
J. Scott Savage

Blurb:

"Trenton Coleman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city build inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and "invention" is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, who died in an explosion--an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity. Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they've ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on--and quite possibly their lives"

My Review:

What a fun book! This story just comes to life on the pages. The characters are well developed and really great. I especially liked Trenton, Kallista, and Simoni. Trenton is the main character, and I feel so bad for him! He doesn't end up where he wants to end up, job-wise, and he feels like he's been betrayed and like he is missing a huge part of himself. However, he finds ways to use his......gasp! creativity (creativity is frowned upon in this story), and he might even make an.....gasp! invention or two (the word "invention" is considered profanity in Cove). He's a very likable character who is easy to relate to. He may make me nervous in some situations, because I'm definitely a rule-follower, but he has a cute personality and reminds you of your best friend growing up. Simoni is a cute character as well. She is more like me, a rule-follower, but she is a cute character. Kallista is a little more on the wild side, you may say. She is a bit of a rebel and is.....don't say it! creative. She may bring out a different side of Trenton, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. She is smart and thinks outside of the box, or mountain, in this case. The story line is fun and adventurous, and has enough action to satisfy the boys and enough girly stuff to capture the girls. Both Trenton and Kallista are strong characters, and each have their own abilities that they bring to the table. The history of Cove is interesting, and I enjoyed hearing how the whole city-in-a-mountain works. There's a bit of mystery to the story, and I liked how Trenton and Kallista worked together to solve each of the pieces of the puzzle. This is a fun middle-grader story, that I think both boys and girls will enjoy. I love the message of this book as well. Creativity and invention are wonderful things; learning to think outside of the box is an excellent skill to have.

I love that this is a great story, and it's completely clean! There is no profanity (thank you!!), no "intimacy" except for 13 year-old crushes, and very little violence. It is a fantastic middle-grader story that boys and girls will enjoy. I was hooked from the beginning! It's a fast, easy read, and I recommend it. It would make a great read-aloud as well.

Rating: PG (No profanity or "intimacy," and very little violence.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up.

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

*This post was originally posted 9/28/15 and updated on 11/3/17.

Mysteries of Cove Trilogy:

Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Revolution Book 1 by J. Scott Savage
Book #1
Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution Book 2 by J. Scott Savage
Book #2

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Tale of Light and Shadow: Secrets of Neverak (Book #2)


A Tale of Light and Shadow: Secrets of Neverak (Book #2) 
                                                                                                            by Jacob Gowans 

Blurb:

"Horrors await Henry and his friends after the disastrous battle at the Iron Pass. Crippled and broken, Henry must rely on his friends more than ever as they travel through strange new lands. New allies and foes find them at every turn, but which are friendly and which are deadly? Isabelle, now a slave in Neverak, finds herself surrounded by enemies, uncertain about the fate of her friends, and must rely on only herself to survive. Meanwhile, the Emperor moves forward with his plans of conquest, spurred on by the Seer's dark prophecy--but he has not forgotten who defied him. Return to the world of Atolas, where swords and daggers extend life or end it, where feuds and friendships influence kingdoms and courtships, and where magic is feared by all but a few." 

My Review:

It's always an adventure with Henry, Maggie, Ruther, and James! That Iron Pass must have messed with their values and their minds because they sure started doing some naughty things! I was actually disappointed in how they acted in Borderville. This book picks up and leaves off exactly where the last one ended. It is well written. The descriptions in this book are good. I definitely will not be traveling the Iron Pass any time soon! I like that these characters are not perfect. I like that they struggle with things, because it makes them seem more real. I liked Maggie more at the beginning than I liked Henry, Ruther, or James because she stayed more true to herself. The things that begin happening to her are a little confusing at first. Her first four visions are quite confusing for her and the reader. As bad as I feel for them, I feel equally as bad for Isabelle. She is definitely not in a good spot. Brandol and Atticus surprised me with some of their actions, and the evil Emperor is still just that--evil! I definitely do not want to meet him in a dark alley. If you enjoyed the first book you definitely need to read this one!

There is violence in this book. There are some gruesome fighting scenes, and an execution. Isabelle is a ("intimacy") slave for the Emperor. There isn't any profanity. There are a few value things that are added in this book; for example, gambling and stealing.  

Rating: PG-13 (There is violence in this book, including an execution of a character. There isn't any profanity, but Isabelle is a slave (concubine) to the Emperor, and there are discussions and scenes related to that. There is also gambling and stealing, along with holding someone at knife-point.

Recommendation: Young Adult (13-18)

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


                                                               

Light and Shadow (Book #1)


A Tale of Light and Shadow (Book #1) by Jacob Gowans

Blurb:

Enter Atolas, a world where feuds and friendships influence kingdoms and courtships. Henry and Isabelle have secretly sworn to marry despite his lowly station. Though Henry is but a carpenter, his devotion drives him to commit an unthinkable act that may cost both of them their lives. Meanwhile, a secret, dark prophecy has set in motion events that will affect not only them, but the thrones of rulers throughout all of Atolas, threatening to eclipse the world in shadow. But all is not lost while hope remains in the guise of an unlikely hero and the strength of friendship.

My Review:

Sword fighting, love, friendship, adventure, sacrifice, betrayal, and gold are a few words I would use to describe this book. What an adventure! I enjoyed this book. I thought that for the most part it is well written. It isn't a super fast read for some reason; it took me awhile to read it. The character development is done really well, and as you read you find yourself drawn to this new world. Henry and Isabelle are favorite characters; they are flawed, for sure. They are realistic characters that try their hardest to be all they need to be, but they do fail. I liked Maggie a lot too. Ruther is an interesting character, and you never really know if you can trust him or not, so it adds a little bit of tension to the mix. Brandol is a dull character who got annoying. You just want to scream at him to toughen up. The story is unique and creative. There's a hint of fantasy in it, but you never see anything more than just that far away hint. I love the friendship lessons that are taught in this book. Even though they may argue and distrust each other sometimes, you see how strong the bond of friendship can become. Henry, especially, shows how important that is. The evil Emperor is a great villain. You just love to hate him in this book. There are a few cheesy parts in this book, but it's fun and entertaining. I enjoyed it.

There are a few things in this book that make it inappropriate for children younger than 13. One of the characters is meant to be sold into slavery as a "concubine" to the evil Emperor. It doesn't go into a lot of detail, but you know that means that she will be his "intimacy" slave. Also, one of the characters is a drunk. He drinks constantly throughout the whole book, and there is at least one scene where several of them are drunk. There isn't any profanity, which is great. There is also quite a bit of violence in this book as the friends fight for their lives against a massive army. Some of the descriptions are quite graphic and are gruesome. I think the cover art is a little bit cheesy, and it's not my favorite, but I have seen worse.

Rating: PG-13 (There isn't any profanity, but there is talk of a woman character being sold into slavery as one of the Emperor's concubines, It doesn't go into more detail than that, but it is implied that she will be an "intimacy" slave. There is also some domestic violence, the deaths of a few characters, and some fighting. Some of the fight scenes are very detailed and can be gruesome.

Recommendation: Young Adult (13-18) and up

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



Thursday, September 3, 2015

The One (The Selection Book #3)



The One (The Selection Book #3) by Kiera Cass

Blurb:

"The time has come for one winner to be crowned. When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown--or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose--and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants."

My Review:

I have to say, if nothing else, this series is entertaining. It's good for a vacation where you put your feet up, grab the sunscreen and a beach chair, and enjoy a few minutes reading. Although it is quite predictable and more of the same, I was entertained for a minute, and that is a good thing. You get to know each of the girls more in this book, and you get to see some of their more creative and skilled sides. You get to hear a few of their ideas for the future, and you get to see quite a bit of kissing (...not quite sure if that's a good thing???) You see a different side of Prince Maxon and his parents, and you get way too much of the Bella Swan (excuse me......America Singer) show; she drives me crazy! Pick already! Make up your mind!!! Seriously. Even though the premise was very predictable, there were a few surprises in the details, which helped. I do love the cover art though! The dresses are gorgeous and definitely catch your eye! If you enjoyed the first two books then you should read this one for sure.

There is some profanity in this book. There are a few innuendos, and an almost-all-but "intimacy" scene. Remember that the law is still that you need to be a virgin when you get married, and it is discussed. There is a lot of violence in this book. Some of the violence is known but not discussed, while other scenes are quite graphic. Several main characters die, and their violent deaths are described in detail.

Rating: PG-13 (Profanity, a lot of graphic and descriptive violence, the death of several main characters, and lots of kissing. There is also an almost-all-but "intimacy" scene.)

Recommendation: 13 and up/Young Adult (This book is not appropriate for middle-graders)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Janitors: Heroes of the Dustbin (Book #5)



Janitors: Heroes of the Dustbin (Book #5) by Tyler Whitesides 

Blurb: 

"Although their enemies are powerful, their allies few, Spencer and his team of Rebels are not giving up! But what chance do a handful of kids and one rescued janitor have against the combined evil of the Founding Witches and the Sweepers? Can the Rebels close the source of all Glop and stop the Toxites once and for all--or is the world doomed to fall under the control of the sinister Bureau of Educational Maintenance? This explosive series finale is a gripping ride through conflicted loyalties and daring escapes, unexpected alliances and betrayals, and an ending you'll never forget!"

My Review:

Hahaha.....my boys have been waiting and waiting for this book to come out! From the second the ARC came in the mail they have been drooling over the amazing cover and begging me to finish so they can read it. Brandon Dorman has definitely outdone himself this time; the cover art is fantastic and does a great job of setting the stage for this finale! So does the book live up to all this hype? Yes! I loved it! It is nonstop action from the beginning to the end. Many of our favorite characters are back for round five, and they may find a few new ones along the way. Of course Spencer, Daisy, and Dez return. I won't spoil the fun about who else is there; let's just say I love Mr. Whitesides' character development. I love Spencer and Daisy in this book. They have come so far from the first book, and I have enjoyed watching them grow and progress through the books. They learn some hard lessons in this book, but the lessons of friendship, loyalty, bravery, dedication, hard work, determination, and trust are lessons that the characters and the readers will not forget. It's so good for these middle-graders to see these characters and to learn the lessons along with Spencer, Daisy, and Dez. Spencer and Daisy, especially, are very well done. They never waver. I enjoy Mr. Whitesides' writing style. It's a fast, easy read, and is easy to understand. I just got sucked in and couldn't put it down. The descriptions are so life-like and believable, and you feel like you are in that landfill or at Welcher Elementary School. There really is nonstop action in this book. One thing after another, after another. I hope all the characters went home and slept for a few days. I felt tired just reading about it. It's exciting adventure too. There are witches, sweepers, pluggers, toxites, thingamajunks, lots of glop, monitors, rebels, and one General Clean. If you liked the first four books, you definitely need to read this one! You will not be disappointed!

This book does not have any profanity or "intimacy." Violence, though, is rampant. At least one character dies and there is a lot of fighting. Some of the fighting is against people and some against monsters and other creatures, but it is violent. It is a war to save the world, you know, so it isn't pretty in some parts. My only complaint (that is actually too strong of a word, but it'll have to do...) would be that it did kind of get all wrapped up in a nice, pretty bow at the end. It is a middle-grader book, though, so I really wouldn't expect anything other than that. 

Rating: PG+ (No profanity or "intimacy," but there is quite a lot of violence. They are fighting a war to save the children of the world.)

Recommendation: Middle-Graders: 3rd (for a mature third grader) to 4th grade and up. My eighth grader and seventh grader love this series. 

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

This book comes out Sept. 8th!!!


Friday, August 28, 2015

The Elite (The Selection Book #2)


The Elite (The Selection Book #2)  by Kiera Cass

Blurb:

"The Selection began with thirty-five girls. Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's heart is fiercer than ever--and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen? America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want--and America's chance to choose is about to slip away."

My Review:

If you liked the first book then you will like this book. It's about the same as the first. I didn't feel like much happened in this book, except that it was narrowed down to six girls. You learn a little bit more about each of the girls, and some of it isn't good. The whole Halloween scene was fun, but the aftermath was not. There is a disturbing scene that follows the festivities, and it's not fun to read about. I guess you learn a little more about America and Maxon in that scene, along with the other characters, but it's hard to read. America drove me crazy in this book....decide already!!!! She's very Bella Swan-esqe, and it's not very becoming. It gets annoying actually. There is a small surprise in this book, and it's a fun one. It tells a lot about Maxon, and that's a good thing. But there are also a few parts where Maxon doesn't look so good. And that about ties it up. It's a lot of the same. I actually liked it better than I liked the first one because I didn't feel like I had read it before (See my review of "The Selection.") The way the society is set up drives me crazy. They have t.v., but only one secret computer. They have phones, but only a few, and they don't use them unless it's urgent. Other than that, they write (which is a good thing). It's hard to see that they're in the future when there are no computers, cell phones, tablets, and they live in castles and wear fancy dresses and not pants. I don't know, it's just a little strange to me. The one thing this book is good for is entertainment. It's a mixture of "The Bachelor" and a little of "The Hunger Games," with a hint of "The Princess Academy." I liked this book, but just because it was a little entertaining.

This is not a middle-grader book. There is some profanity, violence, beatings, abuse, and some all-but "intimacy" scenes. There is a scene, too, where she wants it to go far, dresses and acts the part, but it ends up not happening.

Rating: PG-13 (Some profanity, violence from the rebels, death of characters, beatings, abuse, and some all-but "intimacy" scenes.)

Recommendation: YA and up or 13 years-old and up (I do not think it is appropriate for middle-graders.)


Monday, August 24, 2015

The Secret Keeper


The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Blurb:

"During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future when she sees her mother speak to a stranger. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy's ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, she begins to unearth the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds--Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy--who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a spellbinding mix of mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love told in Morton's signature style."

My Review:

I loved The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and so I've been excited to read something else by her. Needless to say, I was really happy when my book group decided to read The Secret Keeper this month. I had high expectations, so I hoped this book would live up. Did it? Ummmm....yes, mostly. How's that? Maybe it's because I was reading a large print edition (it's the only copy the library had), but it took me awhile to get into this book. However, as I read it I became more and more intrigued by this story. The characters were well developed and were real. They all had something in their past or present that made them imperfect, and more real-to-life. Each one had a story, and it was fascinating how the story unfolded and their lives became intertwined. Some of it was a little predictable, but there were some surprises and some "Aha!!" moments. I think the character I had the most difficult time relating to was the young Dorothy. Wow. She drove me crazy most of the time; with her fantasies, her vengeance, and her belief that she was so exceptional, I had a hard time with her. The older Dorothy, however, I understood. I can understand the devoted and happy wife and mother. Ms. Morton did a great job of tying it all together, and bringing it to life. Even though it was not a happy time in England, I did enjoy learning a little about WWII England. I wish I could see some of Jimmy's photographs. I didn't love the title of this book. I thought it was bland and could have been a little more creative. Overall, I enjoyed it. I didn't like it as much as I liked The Forgotten Garden, but I enjoyed it and am glad that I read it.

There is some profanity in this book, but not a lot, really. There is some minor war violence, and some characters do die; there is a murder. There is also some domestic violence, and a brutal scene with that. There is an "intimacy" scene, along with some talk about it, and a few innuendos. The scene is a little detailed, but not overly so. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it with the above warnings.

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There is war violence, with a murder and the death some characters, along with a domestic violence scene. There is some minor profanity. There is also an "intimacy" scene along with some talk about it and a few innuendos.)

Recommendation: 18 years-old and up


Monday, August 17, 2015

Will My Child Be Ready?


Will My Child Be Ready? by Emily Freeman and Merrilee Boyack

Blurb:

"A missionary's training does not begin when he or she enters the doors of the MTC. Well before that, each missionary's mother can begin laying the groundwork that will prepare her child to diligently and wholeheartedly serve the Lord and His children. Mothers have an immeasurable influence and a significant responsibility in raising up young men and women who are prepared to do the work of the Lord. The good news: that responsibility can begin wherever you and your child are on the path of preparation. Whether your child is two, eight, or eighteen, this unique resource written by mothers who have sent children on missions (and some who have also served as mission presidents' wives) will help you build the foundation of faith, endurance, and hard work that every missionary needs."

My Review:

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (you may have heard of it as the Mormon Church or LDS Church). When our young men turn 18 they are encouraged to serve  a two year mission. When our young women turn 19 they may also serve a mission, but it is up to each young woman to decide if she would like to go. Young women serve for eighteen months. Missionaries go out across the world to teach people about our church. They pay their own way. Missionaries serve because they love God and His Son Jesus Christ, and they want to share the message of our church. I don't always review church books because I don't want it to seem like my blog is too churchy or preachy. However, I have two sons and two daughters, and some of them may choose to serve  missions someday, and I want them to be ready if they do. So, I decided to review this one. 

At first as I was reading this book I began to get overwhelmed and stressed over everything I wasn't doing that they said I should be doing. I didn't serve a mission when I was younger, so I sometimes feel like I don't know what I need to prepare my children for. I talked to my husband about some of it, and he calmed my fears. He let me know that it's okay. This is a great guideline, and can be a huge help, but not to get too worried about it because look at what we are doing. We are doing a lot of things right. It made me feel a lot better, and I enjoyed reading the rest of the book. It is written by different women who are mothers, mission presidents' wives, and some who have served missions of their own. It's well written, easy to understand, and is full of real-life examples. I loved reading their stories. When you think about it, a lot of what they suggest is stuff we should be doing anyway: saying daily individual and family prayers, family and individual scripture reading, weekly Family Home Evening (Monday nights are set aside as family time where we spend time as a family having fun and learning about the Gospel), church attendance, and teaching our children how to cook, do laundry, etc. A lot of what they say is to make sure our children know how to live on their own by knowing how to cook, how to do their own laundry, how to handle finances, how to work hard, and even how to ride a bike (a lot of missionaries ride bikes around). One of their main points is teaching our children how to live without their technology, which is difficult for many youth today. In the end, I found this to be a really good resource. If I try and check off every box I will make myself crazy, but I'm glad to have a framework and an idea of what I need to do. In some areas I could pat myself on the back, and then on others I have major work to do. This book is well written, with lots of personal stories and examples, and I enjoyed it. I may not be perfect (I know you're all shocked, right.....I am not perfect??? What??), but at least I have an idea of what I need to work on. I would recommend this book to any mother who may someday have a child serve a mission. 

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: 13 and up. It's written for mothers, but I don't think it would hurt for future missionaries themselves to read it. 

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



*If you would like to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) then you may click the link on the left sidebar or visit: www.mormon.org.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Middle Ages


The Middle Ages by Jeffrey L. Singman

Blurb:

"How were homes furnished during the medieval period? What did the fashionable aristocracy wear? What types of money were exchanged? What were the daily routines inside a typical monastery? How did most people travel? Filled with a wealth of information on every aspect of medieval times, this fascinating and informative book answers these questions and many more You'll explore all aspects of life: childhood, health and disease, entertainment, knights and other soldiers, medieval minds, and more." 


My Review:

This book is packed full of information! Everything you want to know about the middle ages, plus some you didn't even know you wanted to know! It discusses aspects of everyday life for all classes of people plus the monks living in the monasteries. I didn't know that there were a couple different kinds of monks and that monasteries were not all the same. I also didn't know that people other than kings lived in castles. What? I know, right? Who knew? Many castles were occupied by feudal lords. Castles were one way that the lord would be able to protect himself and those living under him from raids and wars. Kings would use the different castles as they traveled around their lands. The knights would use the castle as a "home base" in which to defend themselves and the land. They could retreat there if needed. Castles also served as a "reminder of the lord's authority." The castle would also hold supplies "to arm his troops in case of war." He used the example of Dover Castle, in England.
 
Something else he discusses in depth is Cluny Abbey in France. If there is anything you want to know about it, this is your book!


This book also goes in depth about clothing, money, soldiers, knights, leisure time, the women in the middle ages, the family, and many more. For instance, the average family had around "two or three living children." However, the mother would give birth to five or more. There was a very high rate of child mortality. It wasn't uncommon for extended families to live together. I learned some new words too: Partible inheritance was when all the male children in the family could inherit "part of the family's wealth." And if there were not any sons then the daughters would split it. Primogeniture inheritance was when the family's wealth went to the eldest son. 

This book had some really good information in it. Seriously. If you want to learn about the middle ages then this is your book! I did find it a little dry and slow in many parts. It is packed with information, and it reads like it does. It reads like a text book, which is good, but not always that engaging or captivating. I learned a lot, and I'm glad I read it. 

Rating: PG+ (It does discuss marriage and some of the things that go along with that......it doesn't go into detail, but it does mention it.)

Recommendation: 12-13 years-old and up. Younger children won't be interested in this book anyway, and they won't be able to understand it. 

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