What is your reading goal this year?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Last September

The Last September by Nina de Gramont 


"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


"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


"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


"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


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.