What is your reading goal this year?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bitter Greens

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth


"Novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by Louis XIV. An old nun comforts her with the tale of a young girl sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens.... Taken from her beloved parents, Margherita is given to the courtesan Selena Leonelli. The famous red-haired beauty lives at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of seduction and betrayal. Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does. Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman."

My Review:

I received a copy of this book from the publishing company and I was so excited to read it! I love the story of Rapunzel, and couldn't wait to see how it all unfolded. This book is well written and well crafted, except that there are a lot of different characters, story lines, and time periods, and it was difficult to keep it all straight. I gave up looking at the dates at the beginning of each chapter because it didn't help. Once I started reading and figured out who it was talking about, then I was fine. The language in this book is beautifully done. The story is captivating and hooks you from the beginning. The character development is well done and it feels like you have known each of the characters for many years. I couldn't put the book down. Well, at the beginning. I was so intrigued. Then I got to the middle of the book and....ugh. It was way too much. This is not "Tangled" people. Think Brothers Grimm: dark, awful, gory, yucky, horrible. Rape, murder, suicide, prostitution, kidnapping, to name a few. The rape scene is....there are no words....disgusting, evil, and horrendous. It was way too much for me. I just about threw the book in the trash. Seriously. But I plugged through. The ending, thankfully, got better, and I found myself right back into it. There were a few surprises, and a few "Ahhhh....now I see."  moments. If you take out the whole middle third of the book then I liked this book. With the middle, it's iffy. Definitely do not go into this book thinking it will be a happy, cute fairy tale. It's too bad, because this could have been really good, it was just too much for me.

There is profanity, a horrible rape scene, prostitution, "intimacy," murder, suicide, kidnapping, and some other creepy, yucky things (why is her hair so long?).

Rating: R (Profanity-including a couple of "f" words, a horrible rape scene, prostitution, "intimacy," murder, suicide, kidnapping, and some other creepy, yucky things.)

Recommendation: Adult. Please do not let children and YA read this book, it is not appropriate for them at all.

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

Peer Pressure vs. True Friends (Surviving Junior High)

Peer Pressure vs. True Friends (Surviving Junior High) 
     by Dr. Orly Katz

Blurb (Taken from an email sent to me by the author):

"The book deals with everyday issues such as: self esteem, peer pressure Vs. true friend, body language intuition & leadership, positive thinking, and more...And include true life stories about growing up with tips, helpful rules, Illustrations, simple to do exercises and fun ‘test yourself’ questionnaires."

My Review:

This is a great book to help teenagers deal with all the pressures of life and school at that age. It is written to help children take control of their environment, to not be victims, to stand up for themselves, and to feel confident about themselves. It does say ages 12-16, but I would recommend that parents read it first to see where if their child is ready. The lessons that are taught in this book are so relevant and so needed today. Every student will benefit from reading this book. I love that it teaches teenagers how to say "no" to bad situations, and I also love how it helps kids learn and understand the consequences of some of their actions. Dr. Katz does have a chapter on the internet and how to use it properly, or what can happen if you use it improperly, and I think this one might be the most important. With the invention of the internet, bullying, spreading lies and rumors, and many other situations are so much worse than they were when I was a teenager. Now those lies can be spread to hundreds of people in a matter of seconds, and they will always be out there. Yes, that internet chapter is very important. I think this book is greatly needed today; it is a great resource for parents and teachers alike. 

There are a couple of examples in this book that may make a few parents uncomfortable with their 12 year-old reading them. I have a soon-to-be seventh and eighth grader, and I thought a lot about it. In the end I decided that I probably will discuss the situations with them. I guess there is a lot of stuff out there and I'd rather them be prepared. I will not have them read the book alone, though, I will be reading and discussing it with them. One of these examples is of a girl who gets asked to prom and her date asks her which hotel she wants to stay at after. They would be spending the rest of the prom night together, alone, in the hotel room. The word is never used, and what they would actually be doing there is never discussed, but kids will know what she is talking about. (At first I did not want my sons reading this, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided that they probably should. The prom is not relevant to them yet, but I know that kids are being "intimate" at very young ages, so I do think it is a lesson that they should hear....very supervised though.) The other situation is when there is a pool party and a very well endowed girl has a huge wardrobe malfunction and her whole, large, breast comes out of her bathing suit for everyone to see. (I was really against my two sons reading this story at first, but we go to the public pool sometimes, and really, it could happen. The lesson taught with the story is very important, and I think it is probably good for them to think about what they would do in a situation like that before it happens.) 

Overall, I think this is book has some valuable lessons in it that teenagers need to hear. It is well written; it is not condescending, but it is written on their level. I think kids will relate to her examples and her writing style. I recommend this book to all young adults.

Rating: PG+ (This book is clean, but discusses some very sensitive topics. "Intimacy" is discussed in a round-about way, and it does talk about a girl's breast hanging out of her bathing suit.

Recommendation: Junior high and up. I do recommend that parents read and discuss it with their children.

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Peer Pressure vs True Friends (Surviving Primary School)

Peer Pressure vs. True Friends (Surviving Primary School) 
     by Dr. Orly Katz

Blurb (Taken from an email sent to me by the author):

"The book deals with everyday issues such as: self esteem, peer pressure Vs. true friend, body language intuition & leadership, positive thinking, and more...And includes true life stories about growing up with tips, helpful rules, Illustrations, simple to do exercises and fun ‘test yourself’ questionnaires."

My Review:

This is a great book for elementary school children. It is written to help children take control of their environment, to not be victims, to stand up for themselves, and to feel confident about themselves.  It says ages 9-13, which is about 3rd to 7th grade; I would feel comfortable reading it with my seven-year-old, who is going into second grade. This book is well written, and is written in a way that kids will relate to. It doesn't talk down to the children, yet it is written on their level so they will understand.  Dr. Katz uses many examples of situations that may occur in elementary school and how to handle them. I love the chapter about saying "no" to things if they will put us in bad situations. I also enjoyed the chapter on Energy Drains. I think it is really good for kids to know the difference between tattling and reporting. When I was teaching I hated the endless, "He did this..." or "She did that..." My students knew I did not like tattling. My kids know the same thing now. However, reporting things like abuse or bullying is a completely different story, and it's so important for children to know the difference. These are just a couple of examples of what is discussed in this book. I think it is a great resource for parents and teachers alike. I will definitely be reading it to my children. It will be a good way to open the door for discussion on each of these topics. I think as parents we sometimes struggle with how to discuss the hard stuff, and this book makes it a lot easier. It could be read silently by the children, but I think it's one that will be more effective if parents read it with their children. There are questions at the end of the chapters for the children to answer to find out where they stand on each issue, and I think it could be eye-opening for some children. I highly recommend this book. 

Rating: PG (Totally clean! It does discuss some difficult topics though.)

Recommendation Second grade (about 7 year-old) and up

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

Thursday, July 9, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Blurb (From amazon.com):

"The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature."

My Review:

This is one of my all time favorite books! It is a classic and still a great read! I read it in school and have reread it several times. I appreciate it more every time I read it. Atticus Finch is a single father raising his two children, Jem and Scout. He has a nanny that cooks and takes care of the children, and she is an African-American woman. Next door to them lives Boo Radley, who never comes out of the house. The story goes through the trials of being a single father, growing up in the 1930's, and the relationships between races at that time. Atticus is a lawyer who is asked to defend an African-American boy accused of raping a white girl. Harper Lee did a very good job in this book. It is very well written. I love the way she writes. I love her descriptions, her character development, and the way she seamlessly traverses difficult subjects. I love the lessons that are taught in this book. It is timeless. The issues brought up in the book are still in the news today; I love books whose messages are relevant to all ages and eras. I wish some of the issues in this book were no longer issues today; however, since they are still issues, books like this are great to help us see beyond the trees and into the forest.

There are some very adult issues discussed in this book that may be too much for younger readers to understand and deal with. (Do I really want to go into rape with my 11 year-old son? No.) There is the rape trial and other racial issues. With that said, older junior high students (9th grade) and high school students will definitely benefit from reading this book.

 Rated: PG-13 (Racial issues and a  rape trial.)

Recommendation: High School and Up. This is a great read for a high school English class. This book may be appropriate for a mature 9th grader as well. As is always the case, I recommend that parents read this book first to determine whether or not their child is mature enough to handle the issues discussed.


*This review was originally posted on 4/28/09, but has been updated. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Chocolate Touch

The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling


"John Midas loves chocolate. He loves it so much that he'll eat it any hour of any day. He doesn't care if he ruins his appetite. He thinks chocolate is better than any other food! But one day, after wandering into a candy store and buying a piece of their best chocolate, John finds out that there might just be such a thing as too much chocolate....."

My Review:

Too much chocolate? No! I don't think so! Or, at least I didn't think so....until I read this book! Unfortunately, John has to learn the hard way that there is such a thing as too much chocolate! Bummer, right? I mean, who wants to eat broccoli instead of chocolate? No one! This is a cute story. It's so fun, and it teaches a good lesson too. It's well written, engaging, has good character development, and my kids loved it (I started reading it to my girls-7 and 9, and my boys, 13 and 11, joined us...they loved it too!). It's a great read-aloud! And, I guess even the big kiddos enjoy it! I loved the descriptions in this book; I could just picture the expressions on the characters' faces, and almost taste that delectable chocolate. And what is even better? This book is totally clean; there is no profanity, violence, or "intimacy" (Yay!).

Rating: G (Totally clean!!!)

Recommendation: Everyone! This book is especially great for all the chocoholics out there..... :)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Delilah Dusticle

Delilah Dusticle by A.J. York

Blurb (From an email the author sent me):

"Delilah Dusticle has special powers, she can completely eradicate dust. With her quiver pouch of special dusters Delilah can run up walls and reaches places others just can’t. As a maid in the Fenchurch-Whittington house Delilah’s unusual skills soon lead to her being promoted to Chief Dust Eradicator and Remover. Until one day a broken heart leads to her powers taking an expected turn."

My Review:

This is a fun, cute, and quirky book. It's very unique and imaginative, which I liked. The main character, Delilah, is a fun character. I wish I had her dust eradicating power! I could definitely use that in my house right now!! The character development is well done, and I really liked Delilah and Abi. The book is written fairly well. It's a simple story, but it has some good lessons in it. I liked the lessons of forgiveness and friendship. I also liked how Delilah was able to grow as a character, and learn to love herself for who she was. I liked her ingenuity and how she picked herself up and moved on from her heartbreak. There is also a good lesson about not jumping to conclusions when a friend is late or misses something. We never know all the circumstances. I liked this story. It's a fast, easy read and is a cute story. 

There is no profanity, no "intimacy," and no violence (Yay!). There are a few grammatical errors and some typos, but clean other than that. (**Update as of 7/7/15. I received an email from the author stating that she has published a second edition of her book and has had professional editors go through and fix the grammatical errors and typos. I haven't had time to read the new edition, but I trust her; that problem is fixed! Yay!) 

Rating: PG (She has a crush on a boy, other than that there is no profanity, violence, or "intimacy.)

Recommendation: Upper middle-grader (5th or 6th grade) and up. 

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

Saturday, July 4, 2015


1776 by David McCullough

(Summary taken from the book jacket) "In this stirring book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with general George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence--when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper. Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King's men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known. Here also is the Revolution as experienced by American Loyalists, Hessian mercenaries, politicians, preachers, traitors, spies, men and women of all kinds caught in the paths of war. At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books--Nathanael Greene, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston  in the dead of winter. But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost--Washington, who had never before led an army in battle."

Oh how I love this book! I have read it a few times and definitely recommend that every American read this book at least once. I like to read it every 4th of July, just to remind myself of what our country stands for, and of the price that has been paid for our freedom. What a miracle our country is. There are many stories that I know I didn't learn in school. McCullough is a very good writer. He's engaging, interesting, and knowledgable. This doesn't read like a history text book, it is very well written. I love this book! Yes, yes, yes! Every American citizen from Junior High up should read this book or have it read to them. (Now do you want to know how I really feel??? =)

Rating:  It was a war, so some of it's not pretty, but there's no language or "intimacy."

Recommendation: 14 years-old and up. Every student (and U.S. citizen) should read this book!

*This review was first published on 7/1/10.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Revolutionary Summer

Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis


"A distinctive portrait of the crescendo moment in American history from the Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian Joseph J. Ellis. The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country's founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them. In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain's Admiral Lord Richard Howe and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, showing how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other. Revolutionary Summer tells an old story in a new way, with freshness at once colorful and compelling."

My Review:

By now you should all know how much I love American History. That is one of the reasons I slacked off my blogging at the beginning of the year. I took an American History college course so that I would have enough credit to renew my teaching license (yay!!). I have read 1776 a bunch of times, and I love it every time. Needless to say, I was really excited to read this book! It took me awhile to read it (hence my lack of blogging lately......), but it did not disappoint! It isn't quite as easy to read as 1776 is, but it is still so well written. I loved how Mr. Ellis delved into the British side of it as well as the American side. It was interesting to learn the intentions and different strategies of the Howe brothers. I know I have heard about them before, but I really enjoyed getting into their heads a little more. I have to say, I am so glad that they made the atypical blunders and missteps that they did; it made our cause possible against such a formidable foe. This book went quite a bit into the politics of the day and how the political feeling of the day actually hindered our win. The people felt that a national army went against everything they were fighting for; therefore, the Continental Congress, even though they wanted a national army, was never able to actually provide General Washington with that luxury. Washington had to win the war with a piecemeal of state militias. The terms were about one year, and the personnel were constantly changing. Crazy! There were many things (I would say miracles, others may have another word for it.....) that had to come together in just the right way for us to win. Thankfully, it worked in our favor. This book is well written, very informative, and packed full of information. I learned a lot, and enjoyed reading it. If you are an American History fan like I am, then you definitely need to read this book, and if you aren't, then you should still read it! 

Rating: PG-13 (It's war. It describes certain battles where many people died.It's not overly graphic, but does spell out what happened during these battles.)

Recommendation: 14-15 years-old, depending on the YA's maturity level. This book would be great for a history class. Every American should read this book so we remember where we came from and the lives that were lost to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

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

*This review was first published on May 20, 2015.