What is your reading goal this year?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Raising A Reader

Raising A Reader

Today's tip for Raising A Reader is to:
Find the genres and topics that interest your children. 

Let them pick books out to read! They usually know what they like. If not, start with their hobbies and talents. Children will easily get bored and disinterested if they are reading things they aren't interested in, just like adults! So, if you have a dancer, try books about dancing--fiction and nonfiction. If you have a scientist, find books that relate to science. If you have a baseball fan, find books about famous baseball players, the game of baseball, etc. If that doesn't work, keep trying. Try fiction, nonfiction, sci-fi, fantasy, biographies, mysteries, magazines, or even comic books (Yes, I know......but you may need to start somewhere!). I've noticed that a lot of books, even novels, are now written in graphic novel format, which looks more like a comic book. This might be a good way to transition from comic books to novels. You could try audio books too. Some children may also be more sensitive to having the main character the same gender as them. If you have a girl, try books that have strong female main characters, or opposite for a boy. Anything you can get them to read is a good place to start, and then you can build from there. If you're still stumped, ask the child's teacher what the other kids in the class are reading. Many times children will talk about the books they're reading and give good reviews. This may interest your child. It's fun to read what *everyone* is reading, and be in the know! Librarians are also very helpful when it comes to finding good books. You are always welcome to search my blog as well! I have a pretty good list for many different age groups.
Fiction: Fantasy
Fiction: Adventure
Nonfiction: Adventure, Biography
Fiction: Sci-Fi
Realistic Fiction
Click on any of the above books for my reviews.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is "never going to stand by and say nothing again." This powerful, timeless story has been reissued with a new letter from the author’s daughter Helena Estes, and with the Caldecott artist Louis Slobodkin’s original artwork in beautifully restored color."

Where have I been? Seriously....1945 and I've never even heard about this book. I love my daughter's second grade teacher; her class book group has introduced me to a couple of great books, and this is one of them. And it's timeless. Bullying is still an issue today. I felt so bad for Wanda because she had so much conviction each time she said she had 100 dresses all lined up in her closet. She would even bring it up. I asked my daughter as we were reading it why she thought Wanda would always bring it up, and she didn't have an answer. Why bring up something that the other girls will bully you for? I loved the surprise at the end that answers this question. I love how it all comes together, and I love that Wanda was telling the truth! The descriptions of the other girls are perfect. I have been listening to the girls at my kids' school, and although I haven't heard any bullying, their voices and attitudes sound about the same as the girls in the book. This book is written well. The descriptions are right-on, along with the feelings and attitudes of the teacher and students. I love Maddie. I love that she recognizes the girls' behavior as terrible. I wish she would have stood up for Wanda in the moment, but it is her internal torment that teaches the lesson in the book. It is her conscience that allows the reader to see the consequences of bullying; both to the child being bullied and to the bully. She may never be able to go back and fix the situation with Wanda, but she can definitely make a difference in the future. 

This is a wonderful story that is full of life lessons. It was a great opportunity for my daughter and I to discuss the issue of bullying in a safe and comfortable way. Reading this story allowed my second grader to see the consequences of bullying without me (or her teacher) just preaching to her. My daughter could read most of the story herself, although it was fairly difficult for her. There are some really good vocabulary words that were a little more difficult to read: incredulously, stolidly, arithmetic, exquisite, deliberately, and I'm glad I read it with her to help her with those words. It was also a really good way to discuss the issues. I highly recommend reading it with your child. I definitely recommend every second/third grade girl reading this book. Let's stop bullying while these girls are still fairly little.

Rating: PG (Bullying)

Recommendation: Second grade and up as a silent read, and K and up as a read-aloud.

This review was originally posted on 11/21/13.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mercy Snow

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker


"In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a steady rhythm of life. But one day, a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course of destruction. June McAllister, the wife of the local paper mill owner, discovers a dark secret about the crash that threatens to upend her picture-perfect life. She will do anything to cover it up. But the recently arrived Snow family, a group of itinerant ne'er-do-wells, has different ideas--especially Mercy Snow, whose brother is blamed for the accident. She will do anything to save him. The stakes reach new heights when a skeleton is discovered on the Snow's land, not far from the crash site. As June and Mercy move closer to the truth of the crash, even the oldest bonds will be tested, and Titan Falls finds itself leaving history behind as it moves into an uncertain future."

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. It's full of mystery, tradition, lies, cover-ups, young love, betrayal, loyalty, growth, and survival. The writing just draws you in and doesn't let go. You get sucked into this world of Titan Falls and its paper mill. The character development is so well done. I felt like I was a part of their world. I liked June at the beginning of the book, but by the end my opinion of her had done a 180. I liked Fergus and his wife Hazel. She was a little odd, and quick to bow to others' wishes, but I liked her. I liked the Snows. Mercy, Hannah, and Zeke. I felt bad for them and their poor circumstances. I liked Mercy's drive to be independent. I liked how she worked hard to take care of Hannah. Even though Zeke isn't in the book for very long, I liked him. There's a lot said about him, some good and some bad, but I think deep down he's a good guy. I liked Nate and felt bad for the position he was in. Ms. Baker's use of words and description allows the story to come alive as you're reading, and I love it when that happens. There were a few things that were predictable, but there were also some surprises. Either way I kept on reading.

There is some profanity in this book, including a couple of "f" words. You know me, I wish it didn't have any, but overall it's not too bad. There is some minor violence including the death of at least one character and a couple of animals. There's a teenage "intimacy" scene, and the description of a rape that happened before the story began. Neither one has too much detail.

I think this would make a great book group read, and I think there could be some very good discussions. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it with the previously stated warnings.

Rating: R (Profanity, including a couple of "f" words, violence including the death of a character and a few animals, an "intimacy" scene and the description of a rape that happened before the story began.)

Recommendation: Adult

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Horn of Moran (Adventurers Wanted Book #2)

The Horn of Moran (Adventurers Wanted Book #2) by M.L. Forman


"The land of Alusia is on the brink of war as two men have each claimed the throne. Only the true king can sound the Horn of Moran and prove his nobility. But the Horn has been lost for years. If it is not found--and soon--it could mean the destruction of an entire nation. It wasn't that long ago that young Alexander Taylor embarked on his first adventure, where he discovered he was a wizard and destroyed the fearsome dragon, Slathbog. Now he joins a band of seasoned adventurers who have been called up to retrieve the legendary Horn of Moran. Their journey to the mysterious Tower of the Moon will take them through an enchanted forest, into battle against a goblin army, past the watchful eyes of griffin guards, and face-to-face with a sphinx and her deadly riddles. With his sword, Moon Slayer, and the wise counsel of his wizard mentor, Whalen Vankin, Alex must use all his wizard and warrior skills to fight a darkness that may consume them all."

My Review:

This is such a fun series! This is middle-grader adventurer, fantasy heaven. You have the wizard-in-training, young Alex Taylor, who is such a great character. I love this kid. He's so humble (most of the time), teachable, courageous, giving, caring, thoughtful, and intelligent. He trusts in himself enough to conquer some very difficult challenges, yet he doesn't become over confident or arrogant. He constantly asks questions to learn and understand new things. He's a good friend. He's honest and has integrity. Sindar may be a new character in this book, but I really like him as well. He's a good balance for Alex. He has the experience to help Alex on this journey. Of course Bregnest, Andy, and Halfdan are great adventurers, and I like that we got to know each of them more in this book. There were some of the same characters in this book as in the first, but we were able to meet a few new characters as well. What I really liked in this book was watching Alex grow into his role as wizard, and gain confidence and trust in his abilities. My boys didn't think this book was as exciting as the first book was, and I can see their point. The quest is different. It's not as flashy or exciting, but it is so important, and holds a deeper meaning to those that it will impact. Alex is able to grow more because of the nature of the quest. It requires more of his intelligence, and he must dig deeper into his abilities in order to achieve success. It is definitely more taxing on him in a different way. Another thing I love about this book is the emphasis that is put on the honor of the characters. There is constantly talk about their honor. If they do this then it increases their honor, but if they do that then it decreases their honor. What a great concept to have in a middle-grader series. I don't think enough importance is put on honor today. I know that years ago your name and your honor meant everything. Unfortunately, I think we don't do that as much today. We should, though. So I love that this book teaches that concept to middle-graders and early young adults. I thought it was a great second book in the series, and I definitely recommend it.

There is no profanity (hooray!) and no "intimacy" (thank you!). There is some minor violence when they battle different creatures along the way. Alex makes it a point to not kill innocent people or creatures, so a lot of what could happen doesn't. A character does die, and so do a bunch evil creatures.

Rating: PG+ (No profanity or "intimacy." There is some minor violence when they battle different creatures. A character does die, but it isn't graphic in the description.)

Recommendation: 4th-5th grade and up. It's a great middle-grade to early young adult read!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Secrets of Midwives

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth


"Meet Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, daughter to Grace, granddaughter to Floss, and the reserved twenty-nine-year-old beauty and soon-to-be-mother at the center of Sally Hepworth's The Secrets of Midwives...Neva is thirty weeks pregnant when her mother and grandmother discover the secret she's been hiding: a bulging belly beneath her forgiving hospital scrubs. Neva, however, is still determined to keep all other details surrounding her pregnancy secret, and refuses to divulge the father's identity to her family or her co-workers at St. Mary's Hospital. "I'll be raising this baby alone," she says. "For all intents and purposes, there's no father. Just me." Grace, however, finds it impossible to let the secret rest. Suspecting one of Neva's co-workers is the father, Grace presses Neva for more information, clamors for clues and, in the process, unintentionally distances herself from her daughter. Amidst Neva's displeasure with her, Grace comes under investigation by the Board of Nursing and her license is suspended following a complaint made by an antagonistic doctor. Ignoring her suspension and unbeknownst to her family, Grace continues to deliver babies in secret. For Floss, a retired midwife, Neva's revelation transports her to a time 60 years earlier when she became embroiled in the affairs of her best friend, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's husband--affairs which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for Floss and her family."

My Review:

Are there any men here? Men, you are excused. This book is not for you, so you are off the hook! Now, are they gone? We can continue :)...If you mothers are like me at all, you jump at the chance to share your birthing stories with whoever will listen. It's especially fun to listen and compare, right? Well, this book is kind of like that; it's a whole book of birthing stories from different perspectives. It's different and kind of fun! I loved Neva from the start, and was hooked on this book from the beginning. Neva is very likable and mostly realistic. She seems just like your neighbor two doors down that you chat with on your way to the mailbox or the park. She has a fun personality, and I liked her a lot. Grace is a little less likable. She has a few rougher edges and can get a little annoying. She does not like ob/gyns or hospitals. At. All. She hates them, in fact. This does get a little old at times. Floss is a cute lady. She seems to have a good relationship with Neva and usually with Grace as well. She is homosexual and has a partner named Lil. I loved Patrick! He's a sweetheart. Every girl needs a Patrick! The story interweaves the perspectives of Neva, Grace, and Floss. They each have secrets, and some are more predictable than others. However, I thought they intermingled well, and there was enough to keep me hooked. I couldn't put the book down! This is just a cute, fun book. It is very heavy on birthing and birthing details. If you haven't had children then this book may be too much for you. It also has a strong (very strong) angle against doctors and hospitals. Grace hates them, as I said. Neva is a little less judgmental and a little more understanding. She works in a birthing center which is attached to the hospital, so she interacts with doctors and ob/gyns all the time. She helps to even things out a bit, but this book definitely advocates home births with midwives and no doctors or hospitals. It might have bugged me more, but I just tried to take it as another perspective. I hope women will do their research and make their own decisions, and not let a fictional book make their decisions for them. There was a scene where I thought they were a little too careless with the home birth, but the other ones seemed fine. This would be a great book group book! I enjoyed this book. It doesn't have any powerful themes (except for home birthing and midwives), except maybe that telling the truth from the beginning may be the best answer. It's entertaining and different. 

I was so excited that for the first 153 pages there was no profanity! I noticed when the first word was because it surprised me. Unfortunately, it was an "f" word. Out of nowhere. Lame. And unneeded. Then toward the end there is another one. There are a few other words, but that's it. Lame. It would have been better without those few words. There is "intimacy" in this book as well. Those babies have to be conceived somehow, right? So, yes, there are a couple of scenes and discussions about it. There is also some domestic violence.

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity, including the "f" word, "intimacy" scenes and discussions about. Also, lots of birthing details.)

Recommendation: Adult Women (The men might faint if they read this......:)

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

Thursday, February 5, 2015

When the Emperor Was Divine

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka


"On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her house, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family's possessions. Like thousands
of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert. In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today's headlines."

My review:

I have read many books on World War II. Some of them fiction, some of them nonfiction. I've read Unbroken, The Hiding Place, A Woman's Place, and The Monuments Men just to name a few. Most of these books focus on either hiding the Jews, the men who fought in the war, or the women they left behind. This is the first book I have read coming from the perspective of a Japanese American in the United States during World War II. It is definitely a hard period of our history to think about or discuss. I think we all want to pretend that it never happened. Unfortunately, it did happen. So the next best thing would be to learn about it and prevent it from happening again. Just the fact that it is from that perspective makes it worth reading. It was interesting to learn about. I guess I've never thought too much about it. Unfortunately, it wasn't my favorite style of writing. The characters are called "the woman," "the girl," and "the boy." I guess I can see where she was coming from when she wrote it like that. My guess is that these people pretty much had their identities stripped from them, and not using names kind of shows that. They aren't real people, they're just women and children and men. There aren't real faces to go with them. I understand that, but I felt like I never had a relationship with them. I didn't get to know them. Really know them. I hate to admit it, but it was almost as if I didn't care what happened to them because they didn't mean anything to me. Once again, that might have been what the author intended, but I didn't like it. I almost felt disassociated from the book. I was observing it, but I wasn't too involved. Even without names the characters were somewhat developed. You learned a little bit about them as the story went on. I felt bad for them and was embarrassed that they had to be there at all, but it just wasn't a story that I got sucked into. It was okay. I am glad I read it and was able to learn a little bit more about that difficult period in time.

Rating: PG-13 (There's no profanity that I can remember, and no "intimacy." There is some minor violence. A dog is killed brutally. There are some harsh things that happen in the internment camp.)

Recommendation: 14 -15 and up. This one's tricky. I go back and forth on whether I'd want my 13 year-old reading this book. I think he could, and he would understand it, but it's just a really heavy topic. The dog scene was difficult for me to read, and so I think I'll have him wait a year or so, just until he matures a little more.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Runaway King (Book #2 of The Ascendance Trilogy)

The Runaway King (Book #2 of The Ascendance Trilogy) by Jennifer A. Nielsen


"Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting his kingdom may be his only way of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom? The stunning second installment of "The Ascendance Trilogy" takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King."

My Review:

Wow! This book is quite the roller-coaster ride! It is action-packed from the first page until the last. There is always something going on in this book! There is never a dull moment. There are a few surprises too. Jaron is totally crazy. Seriously. For a second book in a series this one does not disappoint. I didn't like it as much as the first one, but it is still good and definitely worth reading. You learn a lot more about about a few of the characters, and you get to meet a few new ones as well. Let's just say that they are a rowdy bunch; I would not want to hang out with them! I think you do see how Jaron grows as a character in this book. I think it takes awhile, but towards the end of the book you begin to see him maturing, and that is a good thing. I like Ms. Nielsen's writing style; it's easy to read and just sucks you right into Carthya and Jaron's life. The characters are well developed, and fun. The ending though......total cliffhanger!!! Ahhhh!!! Must. get. third. book!!!

There isn't any profanity or "intimacy" (Thank you!!!). There is some violence: sword fighting and theft mostly. If you liked the first book then you definitely need to read the second one!

Rating: PG+ (No profanity or "intimacy," but there is some violence. There are a bunch of sword fighting scenes, a couple characters die, and there are a few scenes with theft in them.)

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.