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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ragesong: Alliance (Book #4)


Ragesong Alliance (Book #4)
by
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)
by
Callista Gingrich

Blurb:

"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)
by
Brandon Sanderson

Blurb:

"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)
by
Jude Watson

Blurb:

"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)
by
Jude Watson

Blurb:

"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
(Movie)

Blurb:

"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
by
Kristin Hannah

Blurb:

"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