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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.


Monday, August 3, 2015

The Selection (Book #1)


The Selection by Kiera Cass

Blurb:

"The opportunity to be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her, and leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she begins to realize that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined."

My Review:

As I subbed at my kids' elementary school last school year, I often saw this book on the fifth and sixth grade girls' desks. Consequently, I wanted to see what all the excitement was about. So I was happy when my book group decided to read it this month. I love the cover photo. That dress is gorgeous! Who wouldn't want to wear that, right?? As I started reading I was at first shocked that fifth and sixth grade girls were reading this book. There is a scene right off the bat that is pretty much an "intimacy" scene. I read it twice because I wanted to make sure that I read it correctly. They end up not actually going all the way; but it's all but. Wow. I would not want my fifth or sixth grade girl reading that! So I wasn't quite sure what to expect the rest of the way. There were some good elements to the book. I liked the characters and thought the character development was good. I liked America, for the most part. She did drive me crazy in some instances. I didn't really know what to think of Aspen. Sometimes I liked him and sometimes I did not like him at all. There were some of the girls later on that were well developed. I liked Marlee. Even though I didn't like Celeste at all, I thought she was very well developed and could picture her exactly. I liked Prince Maxon too. I thought he was down to earth and real. The whole bit about the caste system was interesting. This book was just ok for me though; I seriously felt like I had already read it. Between Matched and Princess Academy, I really didn't see anything new. Maybe it's because I just read Princess Academy, but a lot of it was so similar that it felt like almost the same story, just set in a different time and place. The circumstances are a little different, but the similarities are uncanny. Towards the end I got a little more into it, but it never really became its own book in my mind. This book is written for a little bit of an older girl than Princess Academy is. 

The reason I would say that this book is written for an older girl is because there is some profanity; not a lot, but enough to make it more of a YA book than a middle-grader book. There are also a few scenes like the one I described above. They never go all the way, but almost, and they do everything except that. Also, it is a crime to actually be "intimate" with someone before you are married; consequently, they discuss this and use words and descriptions that I wouldn't want my middle-grader reading, even if she's had the birds and the bees discussion.

I liked the book; it was okay. I think I would have liked it a lot more if I hadn't just read Princess Academy, because they are so similar. It just seemed like I had already read the book, even though I hadn't.

Rating: PG -13 (Some profanity, a few almost "intimacy" scenes, kissing, discussions about "intimacy," and some violence with rebel attacks.)

Recommendation: Young Adult: 13 years-old and up