What is your reading goal this year?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ragesong: Alliance (Book #4)

Ragesong Alliance (Book #4)
J.R. Simmons

Blurb (from goodreads.com):

"The Dread King's apprentice surrounds Klyle's final stronghold as he tries to unite the southern territories. With Brael's forces closing in on the exiled king, the need for an alliance with the Riders of Southern Reach grows stronger. Together with the peace-loving Treespeaker and the wildly beautiful Kishahk of the Stoneriders, Klyle must unite the remaining free territories and prepare for the inevitable invasion. 

Jake, Sam, and their companions discover an ancient warrior with a sure knowledge of the Trichord, their only hope to win the fight against Brael and his Elites. The journey takes them through savage lands with familiar foes as an old enemy stalks them. Will their quest for the legendary artifact end the war? Will they even survive the journey to find it? 

When Brael changes tactics and moves to end an alliance before it can even begin, the war comes to Klyle. Can he find a way to convince the Riders of the danger Brael poses before its too late?"

My Review:

Wow! The action continues in this new book of the Ragesong series. Jake and Sam meet a couple of new characters that will hopefully be able to help them in the fight against Brael. These two new characters are definitely unusual and unique! There's a bit of mystery surrounding them too; are they good or evil? Klyle continues his quest to rally the southern territories, and they may meet up with a few old friends as well. This book did not disappoint--except the cliffhanger ending!! Ahhhh!!! So hopefully there's a fifth book coming soon! I liked learning about the new characters, and I liked that they introduced a few new tricks that Sam and Jake didn't know about in regards to ragesong. It was fun watching Jake and Sam as they improved their skills and continued to learn about their companions, themselves, and each other. This book is definitely action-packed, full of mystery, young love (or young lovers' spats), and character development. I thought it was well written, as were the first three. The character development was done well, and it was easy to read and understand. If you enjoyed the first three in the series you will for sure want to read this one!!

There is no profanity (yay!) or "intimacy," besides maybe a brief kiss. There is some tension between our two young heroes, which is kind of annoying, but doesn't really amount to much. There may also be some jealousy. There is quite a bit of fighting and violence in this book, as well as in the previous books. They are in a war, so there is fighting, and some of it is graphic.

Rating: PG-13 (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy," but there is quite a bit of fighting, and violence, and some of it is quite graphic and descriptive.)

Recommendation: 13 years-old and up (YA approved!)

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

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hail to the Chief (An Ellis the Elephant Story)

Hail to the Chief
(An Ellis the Elephant Story)
Callista Gingrich


"Ellis the elephant is back, and he's headed to the White House! In Hail to the Chief, the sixth in Callista Gingrich's New York Times bestselling series, Ellis meets some of America's greatest presidents and discovers how they have led our country throughout American history. Join Ellis as he travels back in time to encounter:
  • George Washington as he is sworn in as our first president.
  • Andrew Jackson as he welcomes thousands of Americans to the White House.
  • Abraham Lincoln as he delivers the Gettysburg Address.
  • Theodore Roosevelt as he builds our national park system.
  • Lyndon Johnson as he signs the Civil Rights Act.
With beautiful illustrations and charming rhymes, Hail to the Chief will delight young and old alike with a glimpse at the leaders who helped make America an exceptional nation."

My Review:

What a great book! I love that it's a darling picture book with colorful illustrations, and yet it's packed with information! Children will think they're reading about a cute little elephant, and yet they're learning about American presidents and history. You know me, I hate it when authors push their agenda onto children through books and movies, and I was worried that this book might do that; it did not, thankfully! It is an unbiased look at several of America's former presidents; Republican and Democratic alike. The only agenda in this book is to get children excited about American history by helping them learn about former presidents. I even learned a few things! It's written in poem format, which is great because learning to rhyme is also an important skill for children to have. It's not forced rhyming, either. It flows well and is easy to read and understand. My copy is hardback, which I love for its durability. The illustrations are very well done. They're colorful, interesting, and full of great details. Not all the former presidents are highlighted in the book, but there is a little blurb on each of the presidents in the back of the book. (*Update 1/6/17: I had a reader contact me regarding the blurbs. She felt like the blurbs were biased, so I read through them. I think most of them are unbiased and informational. There are a few, especially with the more current presidents,  that are slightly biased. I didn't feel like they were extremely biased, but there was a hint. Still, I think the benefits of the book outweigh the negative. If you feel the blurbs are biased then you could take those pages out, since they are not a part of the actual story. The story itself is unbiased.*)  I highly recommend this book for old and young alike! This book should be in every elementary school library in the United States!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone!

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians (Book #1)

Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians (Book #1)
Brandon Sanderson


"On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand in the mail, an inheritance from his lost parents. When it is immediately stolen, he learns that it is no ordinary bag of sand. With it, the evil Librarians who secretly rule the Hushlands--Librarian-controlled nations, such as the United States, Canada, and England--will finally overtake the Free Kingdoms as well. Alcatraz and his ragtag band of freedom fighters must stop them, once and for all."

My Review:

One of my book group friends recommended this series to me about a year ago, and I got them at the library for my son, but never had the chance to read them myself. I got them again for my daughter to read, and was finally able to read the first one. I have to say, this book is so much fun! The voice in the book is hilarious! It's told in first person, and I don't think I've read another book where the first person narrator is so engaging and humorous. Alcatraz is pulled into this crazy world of evil librarians and conspiracies, and even though he's the supposed hero, the first words in the book are, "I am not a good person." It's a (fictional) autobiography of Alcatraz and his life story. I love how he says in the book that the evil Librarians will advertise it as a fictional book (because they don't want the truth out), but it's really an autobiography. So fun. It is very well written, engaging, creative, imaginative, and humorous. Yes, there are some scary parts where Alcatraz, Bastille, Grandpa Smedry, and Sing are in grave danger and have to fight those evil Librarians, but the way they're written makes it seem not so bad. I love the idea of the different lenses (Want more info. on the lenses....read the book!), and how there are more continents on the earth that those evil Librarians have gotten away with not teaching us about. Hahaha!! I knew some of those librarians were secretly evil! Alcatraz is a great character. He's definitely not perfect, but in the book that imperfection becomes his strength, which is a great lesson! I love that part too. Grandpa Smedry is awesome too. Bastille is a little rougher around the edges, but I liked her more as the book went on. If you're looking for a fun middle-grader/YA series, look no further! There are five books in the series; as a mom, I love finding series for my kids to read because then I know I have five good books in a row for them to read. I highly recommend this book!

Rating: PG (There is no profanity and no "intimacy." There is some violence with characters being tortured-it's not too graphic, fighting with different weapons, and lots of stuff breaking. Of course there is a bad guy, and he's a really good bad guy!!)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (It's a great middle-grader/YA book!)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sting (Book #2)

Sting (Book #2)
Jude Watson


"Never do a favor for a friend. So why is March McQuin dangling upside-down twenty feet above a stone floor in the middle of the night, instead of tucked in bed like a regular kid? Along with his twin sister, Jules, he's set on stealing a set of stunning diamonds. It should have been an easy job, in and out. Except another thief got there first. March and Jules are lucky to escape with their lives, and one measly stone. Now the botched heist has created a world of trouble. The stone they grabbed was the Morning Star, one of a trio of famous sapphires, and it's cursed. The theft puts the twins and their friends in the crosshairs of Interpol, the FBI, and a vicious adult gang of criminals. And worst of all, the only way to break the curse and set everything to rights is by pulling off two more impossible heists...and stealing the other two sapphires in the set. Break out the black gloves. Lay out the masks. There's a full moon coming, and jewel to steal..." 

My Review:

Well, the gang is back at it! So much for going straight... Once again, even though I don't want to cheer for kids as they commit crimes, I found myself hoping they would make it. Geez! "But they're just sweet kids," the little devil on my shoulder says. Then the angel on my other shoulder is screaming, "But they're breaking the law and stealing from rightful owners; they need to be caught and go to jail!" Yep, it's wrong, but the book is so well written that you just can't put it down, and you can't find it in you to root against them. This book gets a little more into the roll of each character, and there's more friction between the friends. I didn't love that aspect of it, but they definitely learned some valuable life lessons as a consequence. They learned that they have to stick together, they need to be able to forgive and forget, and they need to be able to trust each other. I did like learning more about each of the characters; you definitely see more of their flaws, but that isn't always a bad thing. There are more twists and turns in this book, and lots of surprises. A few new characters are introduced; some good and some not so good. Unfortunately, these kids are quite adept at their trade. (Hey Kids-don't try this at home!!) If you enjoyed the first book, you will for sure like this one! I worry about second books sometimes, but this one did not disappoint!

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy." There is, however, some violence. There is fighting, police chases, car crashes, and of course the fact that these children are criminals.)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up (This is a great middle-grader and YA series!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Loot (Book #1)

Loot (Book #1)
Jude Watson


"On a foggy night in Amsterdam, a man falls from a rooftop to the wet pavement below. It's Alfie McQuin, the notorious cat burglar, and he's dying. As sirens wail in the distance, Alfie manages to get out two last words to his young son, March: "Find jewels." But March learns that his father is not talking about a stash of loot. He's talking about Jules, the twin sister March never knew he had. No sooner than the two find each other, they're picked up by the police and sent to the world's worst orphanage. It's not prison, but it feels like it. March and Jules have no intention of staying put. They know their father's business inside and out, and they're tired of being pushed around. Just one good heist, and they'll live the life of riches and freedom most kids only dream about. Watch out! There are wild kids on the loose and a crime spree coming...

My Review:

I picked up this book, and book #2 Sting, at the library because my 11 year-old daughter wanted to read them. Of course, I had to read them first since my older boys hadn't read them, and neither had I. I really didn't know what to expect, but boy was I surprised! The writing style is easy to read, entertaining, and flows well. It's narrated in third person, and is very well written. The characters jump off the pages because they're realistic and have great personalities. March is a great character. He's witty, smart, and a good leader. Jules is also a good character. She is talented and uses that talent to help her and her friends. Izzy and Darius are great secondary characters. They definitely fill in the gaps and add depth to the story line. The characters are not perfect, which is good. Mistakes are made and lessons are learned. There are twists and turns along the way, along with betrayal, success, failure, lies, and friendship. So yes, I actually really liked this book. My 15 year-old son enjoyed it also! There's only one thing: they're thieves. Yep! That's the only thing I didn't like. I hate it when you're encouraged to root for the "bad guys," like in the movie The Italian Job. Unfortunately, that is what happens here; to make it even worse, they're kids. So you're cheering for these kids to successfully steal things. Not allowing my kids to read these books definitely crossed my mind because I didn't want them getting any ideas. Kid thieves = no bueno. But with that in mind, it's a really good book. Darn! They got me! They sucked me in! Just make sure you have a little chat with your kids before they read it to tell them that what the kids in the book do is NOT ok. :)

Rating: PG (There's no profanity or "intimacy." There is some violence with the death of a character, some fighting, and a few chases. Also, these are children who are thieves.)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up (It's a good middle-grader and YA book.)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Last Descent (Movie)

The Last Descent


"When John Edward Jones climbed down into Nutty Putty Cave in November of 2009 he wasn’t prepared for the adventure ahead of him. As he explored a lesser-known area of the cave, he slid down into a narrow impasse 10 inches high and 18 inches wide. Stuck upside down for over 28 hours, John was left with few options but to call for help. The unique topography and geological makeup of Nutty Putty cave created intense difficulties for the rescue team that risked everything to save John’s life. Over 150 feet below the surface and the end of over a thousand feet of tunnels, a unique friendship is formed as John and his rescuers share their lives, loves, losses and dreams. As the rescue attempt proceeds John unfolds the turns in his life that show what is most important, and he tells the story of a love worth risking everything for." 

My Review:

I remember hearing about this story several years ago in the news. I cannot imagine being trapped underground in a cave, upside down and unable to move. That would be awful! Consequently, some of this movie is difficult to watch. You know what is going to happen and so you find yourself yelling at the tv (I watched it on DVD), telling him to stop. It doesn't work, unfortunately, he gets trapped. The story of John and his wife is so sweet and touching. It's a little cheesy in parts, but it's a good love story, what do you expect? And then comes the part about the rescuers and their attempts to help John. There's no cheese there, only hard work and dedication. I've been in a couple of caves in my life, but they're just the big ones with stalagmites and stalagtites, and they have tour guides that walk you through. I'm definitely not adventurous enough to go into the really crazy caves! And this movie definitely doesn't change my mind! The acting is well done, I thought. John's character did a really good job. Like I said, there may be a few cheesy parts here and there, but overall it is well done. The story flows well and just pulls you in. There are some really good morals and lessons in this story. I love how John expresses the importance of family and faith. Definitely take your kleenexes! I'd say 3.5/5 stars.

View the Preview Here:

Rating: PG (There's no profanity or "intimacy," except for some brief kissing. There isn't any violence either, but the man is stuck upside down in a cave for over 24 hours, and it's difficult to watch him suffer.)

Recommendation: 13 years-old and up. I know my 11 year-old daughter would not want to watch this movie, and I wouldn't want her to. I'd be fine with my 13 and 15 year-old sons watching it. I know it says it's PG, not PG-13, but it's quite deep and a little too much for those younger kids.

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

(P.S. It's not too late to order this for Christmas!!)

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Nightingale

The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah


"In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says good-bye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn't believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requistions Vianne's home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive. Vianne's sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gaetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others. With courage, grace, and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of World War II and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion, and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime."

My Review:

I loved this book! You should know by now that I enjoy reading WWII books, and have read many of them. This one is definitely close to the top of that list! This book is very well written. It flows well, it transitions easily, and you find that the characters are among your best friends. The characters are very well developed and realistic; so much so that you find yourself laughing when they do (although there's not a whole lot of that in this book), crying when they do, and fearing for your life as they do. The story can be a little slow in a few places, but overall it moves at the perfect pace and draws you into life in Carriveau. I definitely relate more to Vianne in this story. I'm a rule follower and tend to not take scary chances on things that may get me in trouble or put someone I love in danger. I wish I had more of Isabelle in me. For sure. Vianne may surprise you though! The story of Rachel and what happens to her and her family just breaks your heart, and the story of Von Richter will make your blood boil. Then a character such as Beck will come along, and make you feel a little better about the world. My book group and I looked it up, and there was such a route as what the Nightingale took, which is interesting to note. I had heard a lot of good things about this book before I read it, and let me say it did not disappoint!! I highly recommend it.

There is language in this book, including at least one "f" word. There is also some "intimacy" including scenes and innuendos. There is quite a bit of violence in this book. It is a war, so there is fighting and bombings, there are deaths of some of the characters, and a few of them are quite graphic and difficlult to read.

Rating: R (Profanity, including at least one "f" word. "Intimacy," including scenes and innuendos. Violence including war atrocities, murder, bombings, fighting, and the death of several characters.)

Recommendation: Adult

Monday, November 28, 2016

Winter Sky

Winter Sky
Chris Stewart


"In  a bombed-out Polish village during World War II, a young resistance fighter finds that he is suddenly alone and trapped between two opposing armies. He is one of Poland's 'Devil's Rebels' fighting desperately to save his homeland, but an injury has erased his memory and his only possession is a torn photograph of a couple he assumes are his parents. The woman appears to be holding the hand of a young child whose image has been ripped off. Could the child be him? Caught in the crosshairs of the retreating German army and the advancing Russian forces, the village holds nothing but destruction and despair until a mysterious young woman offers a small glimmer of hope that may represent his last chance--news of a refugee train departing from a nearby town, headed for American installations at the border. But complications arise when the resistance fighter is betrayed by his own countryman and hunted by the German SS officers who are determined to kill him before they retreat. Desperately searching for a home and family he can't remember, he is persuaded to rescue two children who are doomed to die without his help. As time runs out, the former rebel is faced with an impossible choice. Standing at the crossroads of saving himself or risking his life for strangers, what would motivate a young man at the brink of salvation to make one more sacrifice?"

My Review:

I've read many World War II books; some true and others fictional; some about soldiers and some about everyday citizens; some about Jews and others about those who helped the Jews; some about people from Holland and others about people from Germany, Italy, or the United States. It doesn't seem to matter who it is that the story is describing, I'm always fascinated by the strength of the people in these stories. We always hear about "The Greatest Generation," and I think there is a lot of truth to that. The people in these stories seem to be bursting with courage, bravery, determination, a good work ethic, a sense of pride in their country, strong morals, and the ability to do the right thing even when it seems impossible or could have grave consequences. This book is no different. Lucas is an interesting character because he can't remember anything. He doesn't know who he is or where he is from. Why do the townspeople stare at him? Why do they not want him there? Where should he go and what should he do? I can't imagine being in that position. I like Lucas as a character. I think he is well developed and real. I like that he has flaws, and that he also has strengths. It is interesting to watch him as he begins to slowly figure things out a little bit, and to see how that affects him. Is he who he thought he was? Is he who he wants to be? Aron and Cela are also great characters. They too have such great strength. Even though they are fictional, I like to hope that there were children as wise and strong as they are in the story. My kids can be wussies sometimes, but then other times they surprise me with the things they can handle. I hope they'd be as strong as Aron and Cela if they had to be. The story line in this book has a few surprises; I may or may not have figured them out before, but it plays out well. I thought this book was well written. There is such a good moral to this story. It is inspiring and uplifting. I really enjoyed it, and I highly recommend it!

Rating: PG-13+ (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy." There is quite a bit of violence though. It is a war and people are shot at, and shot and killed, with at least one character dying, and that death is graphic.There are also descriptions of the starving and war-torn villagers.)

Rating: 14 years old and up. 
  • I'm debating on this one. I'll let my 15 year-old read it, but I'm not sure about my 13 year-old. I may see how my fifteen-year old handles it first. The thing is, it can't be much more graphic than the last Harry Potter, and he read that when he was in third grade. This is more real though, which is harder to read. 
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 
  Ransom Riggs


"A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of peculiar photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its decaying bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine's children were more than just peculiar. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive."

My Review:

Months ago my book group decided to read this book in October for Halloween. At that point I got on the library's website and there was a very long waiting list for this book. I managed to get the book a few days before book group, which I was really excited about. Then I got sick. And I did nothing but read and sleep for two days. I missed book group, but I finished the book. I love the uniqueness of this book. I love that it's based on real collections of old photos. When I started reading this book I didn't realize that the photographs were real. These photos are old, and peculiar is definitely a good way to describe them! I enjoyed looking through the photos; that was one of my favorite parts of this book. The writing is well done; it is easy to read, flows well, and is interesting. There are twists and turns along the way that keep you turning pages. As you read you become involved in the lives of each of these different characters and you begin to care about them. You begin to be scared, happy, and worried about them. Jacob is a good kid. He witnessed a horrible scene and was thrown into a world that he didn't even know existed. I liked him as a character and thought he was well written. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It's a little dark, a bit depressing, and very peculiar, but at the same time it speaks of loyalty, friendship, and taking care of those who can't take care of themselves. 

Rating: PG-13+ (There is some profanity. There's not a ton, but the words used are a little harsher than just the "normal" ones. There's no "intimacy" besides the hint of romance and some almost-kissing. There is some violence. Animals are slaughtered and several characters die in graphic ways.)

Recommendation: 16 years-old and up. ( I have a 15 year-old son, and I didn't feel comfortable with him reading that profanity, so I decided to make him wait a year or so longer. I know he hears profanity at school, but that doesn't mean I feel comfortable having him read it.)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Real Liddy James

The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey


"Forty-four, fit, and fabulous, Liddy James is one of New York's top divorce attorneys, a bestselling author, and a mother of two. Armed with a ruthless reputation and a capsule wardrobe, she glides through the courtrooms and salons of the Manhattan elite with ease. What's her secret? Liddy will tell you: "I don't do guilt!" This is the last thing literature professor Peter James wants to hear. Devastated by his divorce from Liddy six years earlier, the two have a tangled history his new partner, Rose, is only just sorting out. But Rose is a patient woman with faith in a well-timed miracle and she's determined to be sympathetic to Peter's plight. Together, Liddy, Peter, and Rose have formed a modern family to raise Liddy and Peter's truculent teen and Liddy's darling, if fatherless, six-year-old. But when Rose announces she's pregnant, Liddy's nanny takes flight, the bill for a roof repair looms, and a high-profile divorce case becomes too personal, Liddy realizes her days as a guilt-free woman might be over. Following a catastrophic primetime TV interview, she carts her sons back to Ireland to retrace their family's history. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things are still far from simple, and Liddy will have to come to terms with much more than a stormy neighbor and an unorthodox wedding if she ever hopes to rediscover the real Liddy James."

My Review:

I think I'm about as opposite from Liddy James as is possible! She's from New York; I've been there once. She's a divorced high profile attorney, and I've been married for 18 years, am a stay-at-home mom/substitute at the school, and I've never been in a court room. She has red hair and I'm blonde (no blonde jokes, please :). However, we are both mothers, and that definitely counts for something, right? Liddy may not be likable or relatable all the time, but she is an interesting character. Even though I don't have much in common with her, there were still a few times that I could relate to Liddy. I thought she was well written and developed. She was not my favorite character though. Rose felt like she could be my friend. She was much more on my level. I liked her a lot. Whereas Liddy felt contrived, Rose felt real. I definitely related to Rose and her concerns for Matty and Cal, and wanting to stay at home. Peter was a great character as well. You could just imagine his eye-rolls a few times with the women in his life and all their drama. He may not have been perfect, but who is? Rose and Liddy weren't perfect either, and that's what made them more believable as characters. I really liked the first 3/4 of this book. I liked the writing and the flow and the characters. I liked the story line and the dialogue. Then the last 1/4 of the book came along. It was ok, but it just didn't seem to fit. It was kind of a whole different story. I get that it was a last minute rash decision that Liddy made, and maybe it was necessary, but it just.....well, it was ok, but anticlimactic. I'm still glad I finished, but I had high hopes for a better ending. This would make a good book group pick, I think. It could make for some good discussion!

Rating: R (There is little to no profanity and no violence. There are, however, some adult themes and issues addressed. "Intimacy" is talked about and discussed, but there are no scenes. There is an affair, divorce, and drugs are briefly discussed.)

Recommendation: Adult (May be ok for some 18+)

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined

The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined 
by Salman Khan


"A free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere: this is the goal of the Khan Academy, a passion project that grew from an ex-engineer and hedge funder's online tutoring sessions with his niece, who was struggling with algebra, into a worldwide phenomenon. Today millions of students, parents, and teachers use the Khan Academy's free videos and software, which have expanded to encompass nearly every conceivable subject; and Academy techniques are being employed with exciting results in a growing number of classrooms around the globe. In The One World Schoolhouse, Khan presents his radical vision for the future of education, as well as his own remarkable story, for the first time. With a shrewd reading of history, Khan explains how the crisis in contemporary education emerged, and why a return to "mastery learning," abandoned in the twentieth century and ingeniously revived by tools like the Khan Academy, could offer the best opportunity to level the playing field, and to give all of our children a world-class education now. More than just a solution, The One World Schoolhouse serves as a call for free, universal, global education, and an explanation of how Khan's simple yet revolutionary thinking can help achieve this inspiring goal."

My Review:

As an educator, finding ways to improve education is important to me. I have utilized Khan's math videos over the years as I have tried to help my junior high kids with their math. Over the summer I was the mean mom who had all four of her children doing homework every day. Yep, even the junior high kids. And this year instead of buying workbooks or printing my own worksheets each day, I had my kids do the Khan Academy math. It was awesome! They thought it was their favorite program out of all the ones I've tried (I've tried a lot). I loved that there are videos and tips for when the kids get stuck.

Anyway, slight tangent....the book! I have always been impressed with Khan Academy, and was really excited to read Mr. Khan's book. Wow. After reading this book I have hope for some great things in education, especially math education. Although I can't say that I agree with everything Mr. Khan presented in this book, he sure does have a way of getting the reader excited about education. He has some great ideas. This book flows so well. He does a very good job of presenting his ideas in a non-boring way (at least that's what I thought). My favorite part about his philosophy is that the kids learn the math material and watch the videos at home the night before and then get the chance during class to do the homework, ask questions, and truly understand the material. This just makes so much more sense to me. I'm dealing with this right now in my house. I have ninth and eighth grade boys, and they bring home difficult math homework. My husband is super smart in math and science. He has two bachelor degrees and two masters degrees, and all of them have something to do with math or science. So usually if my boys have math homework I send them to my husband. Even though he is super smart, they will sometimes be up until 11:00 or later because it's tough and my husband has to relearn it. Even if he remembers it, they are probably teaching it in a new way now, and he'll need to learn how to do it the new way. Switching the process around like Mr. Khan wants to do is brilliant. It eliminates the need to stress parents and kids out by allowing the teacher to help with the homework. The only problem I have is with the early readers. I still think the current model is best because there are more things involved with reading, but who knows, maybe I'd be surprised. I enjoyed reading about how Khan Academy is implementing its philosophy in whole schools, and the successes they've had there. If you like to learn about education and want to hear Mr. Khan's philosophy, this book is for you! I'm definitely recommending it to all my teacher-friends!

Rating: G (It's clean)

Recommendation: High School and up. I don't know if high school kids would even be interested in this, but it could be a good basis for a research project or something. I think adults will definitely enjoy it more.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween Reading!!!

Happy Halloween!!!

Do you need some good Halloween books to read today? Click HERE or on the "Halloween Books" link on the left side of the page!

Happy Haunted Reading!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Things We Wish Were True

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen


"From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house. Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts--until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors' intertwined lives begins to unravel. During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it's impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?"

My Review:

I was excited to read this book because Marybeth Whalen is one of the amazing SheReads.org ladies! Let me tell you, this book did not disappoint! You know when you're sitting at the neighborhood pool or park over the summer with your friends and you get all the neighborly gossip? Well, this book brings that juicy gossip to life. Overall, this book is well written. There are a lot of characters, and it took me a minute to figure out who they all were, but once you get them all straight it's not too bad. The time changes from present to past events, and it's usually fairly easy to figure out in what time period you're reading. Even though there are a lot of characters, they are very well developed. Each character has his or her own personality and place in the neighborhood, and Marybeth does a great job of bringing them to life on the page. You seriously feel like this is your neighborhood and you are sitting right there with all the characters at the pool. Cailey is a cute character. She is well written and usually easy to like. Zell is an interesting character. She seems like the mom of the neighborhood. She is older and her kids have moved out, but she isn't ready to stop taking care of little ones, so she likes taking care of everyone in the neighborhood. There is a little bit of mystery surrounding her, though, and it makes you wonder what happened. Bryte seems like a fun young mom. These are just a few of the characters that I liked in the story. The book may seem simple on the surface, but there are many facets and layers to the story, and as each one unravels, more of the truth is revealed. There are quite a few twists and turns in this book that keep you turning the pages. And no, I could not put it down! My children may have been a little bit ignored as I read this book; oops! 

Rating: R (There's some profanity in this book, but not a whole lot. There is "intimacy." There are innuendos, talk about it, and it does happen, but the scenes are not detailed at all-pretty much you know it happens and that's all. There's no violence. I rated it higher because there are adult themes in the book that I don't think are appropriate for younger readers.)

Recommendation: Adult (May be ok for 18+)

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

[Book Review] Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution (Book #2) by J. Scott Savage

Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution (Book #2) 
J. Scott Savage


"After finding a compass and clues left by Kallista's father, Leo Babbage, Trenton and Kalista head west aboard their homemade mechanical dragon to search for the missing inventor. The teenagers hope to find answers about their mountain city of Cove, but instead, they find only a blackened forest, ruined buildings, and a small underground city. Almost immediately, Trenton and Kallista are caught up in a civil war between a clan of scavengers called Whipjacks and the Order of the Beast, people who believe that dragons are immortal and divine. Stranded in a new city, the two friends meet Plucky, a Whipjack girl with mechanical legs, and Ander, a young member of the Order who claims humans are able to communicate with dragons. Can they trust anyone, or have they unknowingly stepped into a trap? And high above in the sky, the dragons are gathering..."

My Review:

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention, so I was excited to read this second book. It did not disappoint! Trenton and Kallista may have been the same, there was that same feeling of searching for answers, and yes, the mechanical dragon is there too, but other than that, this book is very different from the first one. I liked that we really got to know Trenton in this book. We get to see his strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures, and we get to see him using his creative/mechanical abilities. There are a few new characters in this book that we get to know quite well. Plucky, Ander, and Cochrane are a few of the new characters. These new characters definitely have different names! There is a lot of tension in this book because Trenton and Kallista are constantly wondering who they can trust, and they're somewhat at odds with each other as well. There are some surprises in this book that totally threw me off, and then there were parts that were a bit predictable. I loved it when Trenton and Kallista were able to fly the mechanical dragon together. What a neat thing for them to be able to experience. Too bad there's not a "Build a Mechanical Dragon That Flies" kit I could purchase my boys for Christmas! Overall, this book is well written. There were a few parts that I saw as a little superficial, and a couple of places that I didn't think fit well, but other than that this book is well done. The characters are done well and the story is exciting and full of action. I didn't love the place where they found themselves, I thought it was a bit off, but because I enjoyed the first book I'll give it some leeway. I did enjoy the book and would recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the first book.

This book is clean, thank goodness! There isn't any profanity and there isn't any "intimacy" at all. There is some violence though. The people are attacked by dragons and at least one character dies.

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy." There is a little more violence in this book, but it is not too bad. The dragons attack and at least one character dies.)

Recommendation: Third grade and up. (Great for Middle Graders and YA)

*This post was originally posted on 10/24/16, and was updated on 11/3/17.

Mysteries of Cove Trilogy:

Mysteries of Cove: Embers of Destruction Book 3 by J. Scott Savage
Book #3

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fablehaven Book of Imagination

Fablehaven Book of Imagination by Brandon Mull


"Unlike the other Fablehaven books, this one is only half-finished....The missing ingredient is you! Begin by writing your name in the space provided on the front cover. Then get ready to write, draw, solve, and create, guided by the many activities inside!...The secret world of enchanted preserves is waiting for you to jump in--just make sure to avoid any deep pools filled with naiads!"

My Review:

WARNING!! This book may cause fighting, tugs of war, and hair pulling between siblings (don't ask me how I know this...) I took this book out of the envelope and I immediately had all four of my children surrounding me, pulling at the book, yelling in my ears that they should get it first, and trying to open the pages to see what was there. Yeah, you'll definitely need one per child if you want to avoid similar situations in your house! This is such a fun idea! In the electronic age it's so great to give children another option, and a fun one at that! They already love the Fablehaven characters and creatures, so to be able to use those as a basis for some creativity is genius!! The kids (or you...) get to draw their own magical preserve, create a codename, draw a dragon's head, make a potion, bake a dessert, make a rain stick, write secret messages in wax, make ogre stew, make a magical web, and make a unicorn horn, just to name a few! So fun, right? And I LOVE the quotes throughout this book! One of my favorites is: 

I also loved the quotes from the characters in the books! One of my favorites is Seth's quote:

Right? If dragons were cute little fluffy things we'd be totally disappointed. This book is so much fun! I had to safeguard it until I wrote my review, but now I'm sure the book will be fought over and thoroughly enjoyed by all my children, including the 15 and 13-year-old boys (Shhh!!! Don't tell them I said that...) It's lots of fun and Fablehaven lovers will definitely enjoy it!!

Rating: G (Clean!!)

Recommendation: Everyone, especially Fablehaven fans!!

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

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden


"The small town of Savage Wells is barely big enough for the people who call it home; it certainly isn't big enough for more than one sheriff. Yet when famed lawman Cade O'Brien rides into town, he finds he's not the only man ready to take on the job. What's more, one of his competitors is a woman. Paisley Bell loves her town and the eccentric people in it. She's been the acting sheriff for months and isn't too keen on relinquishing the job to anyone else. Not only does she love the work, but she also needs the income to take care of her ailing father. It's a true battle of the sexes, and sparks fly between the two as Cade and Paisley banter and boast, neither one ready to acknowledge the attraction they have for each other. But when Paisley's former beau shows up, along with a band of bank robbers, Savage Wells is suddenly faced with the kind of peril that only a sheriff can manage. Who will be man enough-or woman enough-to step up, claim the badge, and save the town?"

My Review:

This is a proper romance, and it definitely lives up to that name! It is predictable, sweet, fun, and a bit cheesy; all of which make for a great love story. You know from the get-go who the main players are and where it will all go, but that doesn't mean that the journey is any less enjoyable. The characters are fun and mostly well developed. The banter between the two main characters is sweet and definitely cheesy, but that's what we love in a romance, right? There are enough other facets to the story that there are a few surprises here and there, and they add a different depth to the book. My grandpa had dementia, so I know how difficult it can be to care for those suffering from it. Reading about Paisley's father brought back memories of my grandpa. I liked that Paisley was a strong female character. I liked that she wasn't perfect, she had her hard moments and her shortfalls, but overall she was determined, strong, and usually a likable character. I liked the eccentricities in the town, like the Ribbon Emporium in the jailhouse. Those things definitely made me want to visit there. Overall, this is a sweet love story that draws you in, and I love that it's clean! There are a few typos, but I do have the Advanced Readers Copy, so those may be fixed in the actual published edition.

Rating: PG-13 (There isn't any profanity-thank you!- or "intimacy" besides some kissing. There is some violence-it was the wild, wild west remember- with shoot-outs and a character dies.)

Recommendation: I'd say it would be ok for a YA (13+) reader or older. Girls will definitely like this more than boys will.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016



I just looked at when I posted last and it was almost a month ago! Oops!! I kept thinking my schedule would calm down once school started, but that didn't turn out to be the case. It has been crazy!! I started and quit what I thought was a teaching job (long story), and that was on top of my normal subbing and being in charge of all the reading tutoring at my kids' elementary school. Needless to say, I have not had a moment to post. I have been reading, though, so I have a few books sitting on my desk ready to be reviewed. I'll get to those soon, I promise! Don't give up on me. :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Before The Fall

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley


"On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs--the painter--and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family. With chapters weaving between the after-math of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members--including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot--the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage. Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together."

My Review:

Talk about intense! I was hooked from the very beginning. The characters and their lives were so intriguing. They were well developed, real-to-life, and each of their stories drew me in. There were times I liked Scott and times I didn't, but overall he just seemed like an ordinary guy who was thrown into a very difficult situation and really didn't know how to handle it. I can totally see how he could go from hero to suspect with the media as it is today, and that it sad. Seeing it from that perspective made me think a lot about the media and how things are reported. It was also a good chance to take a step back from some of the current stories and look at them from a different perspective. It's easy to get caught up in the feelings of the moment, and easy to forget that there are real people with real lives behind the stories. Anyway, that was a little bit of a tangent, but it was part of the story. The story was well crafted, and transitioned easily in between the past and the present. As each piece of the puzzle is put into place, your mind tries to figure out if that piece is the one that matters, or the one that caused the horrible tragedy. You'll think you've got it figured out, and then comes the next piece that has just as much cause for scrutiny. I thought this book was well written with surprises, twists, suspense, and a human element that holds the whole thing together. I couldn't put it down!

The only negative I have about this book is the language. Oh boy! It has so much language that had I not been reviewing it I would have stopped reading it. Had it been a movie I would have walked out. Boo. Why? Why does it need the language? Why ruin a great story line with such distracting profanity? It's irritating and disappointing. As a reader it is very distracting. There are the normal words, and then there are way too many "f" words. There is also an interesting "intimacy" scene that isn't, but it is. There's drug use, and there is also the violent situation that the whole book is based on where lots of people die. It's too bad; I would love to recommend this story to my friends and family, but I can't because of the language. However, if profanity does not bother you, you will love this book.

Rating: R (Not recommended for YA or younger readers) There is so much profanity, especially the "f" word. There is an "intimacy" scene that is, but it isn't. There is also drug use and a violent situation where lots of people die.

Recommendation: Adult

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

This book is a SheReads.org book of summer!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Will From Ashes (Book #2)

Will From Ashes (Book #2) by Mark Minson

Blurb (from amazon.com):

Life for Will O'Reilly has become a mess. MAIM is killing extraordinary talents. He requires permission to even leave his house and he has fallen in love with a member of The Council of Magic. Although violence is repugnant to him, his survival starts depending on it. The chaos bends him to the breaking point. When he finally snaps, he finds himself without the official protection of The Council.

Unfortunately, what Will thought was just a battle is about to turn into all out war

With his friends dying around him, Will fights for his own life. Can he find a way to stop MAIM? Will the cost of survival be too high to pay?

My Review:

As you may recall from my review of Mark Minson's first book Kyle By Fire, we have been friends since high school. He talks about this creative writing class he took in high school; well, I was in that class with him. So, I might be a little biased because he's my friend, but I promise my review will be honest. I enjoyed Kyle, so I kept bugging Mark about finishing book number two. I know, I may or may not have annoyed him just a little bit because I kept asking him if it was finished yet. I might have acted a bit like a three-year-old on a long road trip..."Is it finished yet? Is it finished yet? Is it finished yet?" Hahaha...oh well, it worked! I have read the book and it did not disappoint! In fact, I may have liked this one even better than the first one. I just really liked Will's character. I loved his voice in the book. You could tell that he was a good guy. I liked that when he fought with the bad guys he purposefully would cast spells to disable his opponents, but not kill them. That shifts just a little toward the middle and end of the book, but you see what he's up against and you feel for him. You can tell that it bothers him too. I think the magic in this book is so fun. When Will uses the elements of the earth around him in spells I think it is so cool. Another part I really like is when Will makes up new spells. I like seeing his thought processes and his trial and error. I like how it's logical, and yet it's not at the same time. The magical fights in this book are very intense and fun to read. Nicole was a good supporting character in the story. Her character does  good job of adding a different angle to the story and softening it a little bit. Mark did a good job writing these characters. Also, the bad guys are really bad. Wow! They're evil. Although the ending may have been a bit predictable, there were some twists and turns along the way that made it exciting. This book is well written, exciting, and so fun. If you liked book number one, you'll definitely enjoy book number two!

There isn't any profanity in this book (yay!), and there isn't any "intimacy." There might be a kiss or two, but that's as far as it goes. There is quite a bit of violence. Will has to fight a lot of bad guys in this book. He tries not to kill anyone, but there are a few deaths, and some of the scenes are quite intense. It's not over-the-top gory and graphic though. The only thing I told Mark was that there were still some grammatical errors and a few typos in the book. He promised me he'd go through it again, so those should be fixed.

Rating:  PG+ (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy," except for a few kisses. There is quite a bit of violence with a lot of magical fighting. There are a few deaths.)

Recommendation: Fifth grade and up (10-11 years-old and up)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Also, the author happens to be my really good friend, but I promise my review is honest and fair.