Friday, May 31, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I laughed, I cried, and I laughed and cried some more while reading this wonderful (pun intended) book. Different characters including August himself tell the story about his first year in school, which, due to his facial deformity and the many surgeries it required, is 5th grade. Kids can be cruel to someone who looks different and Auggie certainly experiences some of that. But, kids can also be accepting and loving and protective of their friends who are different and we see that love and kindness towards Augie too. I highly recommend this fantastic book both for children and adults.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

OCD, the Dude, and Me
Totally uber fantastic book! I loved it! I could tell from the beginning, without having looked at the book jacket blurb that it was written by a high school English teacher. Her insight into teenagers is superb and the story of Danielle, who suffers from OCD and her journey through her senior year of high school in which she makes a friend or two, deals with the trauma in her past, learns social skills and gets over her crush on a handsome guy who is a jerk is just totally awesome! Written in the form of essays to her English teacher and for her own personal journal and in letters to her aunt and a friend, this is a book that I could not put down and now I am sad it is over.
I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Narrowing Path by David J. Normoyle

The Narrowing Path

Similar to Hunger Games, teenagers are set up to fight one another for the right to survive. This novel, however is bloodier than Hunger Games and the "green path" is not really defined, rather the reader has to try to figure out what is going on. The book cover is misleading because there is not an actual physical "path".
I am not sure that I really understand the premise of the story. Apparantly, every 6 years, a star is too close to earth or whatever planet they are on and the heat is too intense to survive. In Arcandis, there are only a limited number of places in the Refuge, caverns underground where people can live through the Infernam. For some reason, the teenage boys of the noble families are pitted against one another in a bloody fight/game/strategy to survive and be chosen for one of the 6 spots available for young men of nobility.
The girls, however, are allowed to survive as long as a noble man will agree to take her as one of his many wives.
Bowe is 13 and the only remaining member of the Bellanger family - one of the 4 noble families in this city. He decides to buck the rules, and save not only himself, but others as well in an attempt to change the bizarre rules that his city follows.
I found the story to be interesting, but confusing, and in need of better editing. I got the book free to review from Netgalley.

Tiger Babies Strike Back: How I Was Raised by a Tiger Mom But Could Not Be Turned to the Dark Side by Kim Wong Keltner

Tiger Babies Strike Back: How I Was Raised by a Tiger Mom But Could Not Be Turned to the Dark Side

I did not find this book to be a fast read. The writing is vividly descriptive as the author, Kim, tells her story of growing up in San Fransisco as a second generation Chinese daughter of a "tiger mom". Her mother's parenting style was one that pushed her children to succeed by comparing them negatively to other people's children, and one that lacked physical affection. Kim felt unloved and decided not to raise her daughter the way she was raised. Eventually, she moved away from San Fransisco in order to get away from her controlling family.
I am not Chinese, but have many friends who are and I have seen both the tiger mom style of parenting and the more relaxed style of parenting that Kim advocates among my Chinese friends and acquaintances.
I think that moms - Chinese and not - will enjoy this memoir and the author's views of parenting

Friday, May 24, 2013

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger
YA Paranormal Romance with a different twist. That is refreshing. No vampires or werewolves. Something I had not read before. Wind sylphs. Yes, Vane and Audra are not human, they are sylphs - creatures of the wind. A battle is going on and Vane is the most important player. But he does not know it because his memory has been wiped clean. Except for the girl who haunts his dreams.
Audra kind of pissed me off. I am still waiting to see a truly strong female character in a book. I am tired of wimpy women. Audra has made herself into a warrior woman, but she has done so because she feels guilty for the deaths of Vane's parents and her father and so she is willing to sacrifice herself in order to save Vane. Underneath her strength, she is a winey, self-deprecating wimp. So sad. So, of course, instead of her saving Vane, he saves her. How romantic. NOT!
But, if you are a fan of YA paranormal romance, which apparently relies on the females to be wimps, then you will like this book. It is a well written story and I enjoyed reading it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Aging Cure by Jorge Cruise

Glowing testimonials, trademarked terminology, photos of processed food products.
I got this book free to review from Netgalley in kindle format.
It is poorly formatted and is
like a giant infomercial.
It is totally useless, pseudo-scientific and a stupid waste of time.
It is an insult to anyone with any intelligence.
I rarely write bad reviews and try to find something good to say about any book.
I guess the good thing about this book is that I got it for free.
Please don't waste your time on it - it has no redeeming value.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix

Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix
I gave this book a 4 star rating because while parts of it would rate a 5, other elements only rate a 3. Set in 1960 in the Kentucky, this is a romance between Sarah and Owen. Sarah is a librarian, Owen is a shape-shifter who writes children's novels about shape-shifters under a pseudonym. The story is a good story and well told, but some of the wording is awkward and the paranormal element is not well thought out. It is definitely an adult novel due to the sexual aspect, in which, I found some of the awkward wording. To me, describing Owen as an "aroused male" sounded more like Animal Planet than something romantic. Although, perhaps that was the point since he is a shape-shifter? The story does have some really good elements though and I enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Accidental Time Traveller by Janis Mackay

Accidental Time Traveller
Set in modern day Scotland, 11 year old Saul meets a girl who has been transported there from 200 years past. As he tries to help her to find her way back in time, he learns how to deal with bullies, to be grateful for what he has, and makes a new friend. I think that elementary and middle school age children may enjoy the story, but some of them will have trouble with the language. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag
I think this is a lovely and unique book. Having been betrayed by a professor who she had a crush on, Alba, a very intelligent young woman with a type of synesthesia that allows her to see people's emotions coloring their words when they speak (which does make one wonder how she did not see the professor's betrayal), stumbles upon a house on Hope Street that she had never seen before. Drawn to it, she knocks on the door and enters into the magical house which will change her life. The house has hosted a score of famous women at various times in their lives and helped them to overcome their doubts and become the famous women that they were. The photos of these women line the walls of the house and the women can speak to the residents of the house and give them advice. Two other troubled women are staying at the house when Alba is there and the woman who has run the house for many years, Peggy, is having a crisis of her own. With ghosts and magic, family secrets and intrigue, a love of literature and a huge dose of feminism, this book is a page turner and a keeper. I received the book free from Netgalley to review and I highly recommend it!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I think I just picked it because the title sounded interesting - something my husband often accuses me of - and he is right.
Anyway, Josh tells his story of growing up with Tourette's in a Mormon family. I did not realize that he was Mormon when I got the book, I was more interested in the Tourette's aspect of it, but it was fun to learn some things about the Mormon religion. One story that Josh shares from the book of Mormon is about some guy who chops off a bunch of bad guys' arms and dumps the arms at the king's feet. As a child, Josh thought that was a really interesting story. I find it disarming that this was done to the enemy army. I would think they would be up in arms about that. I wonder if the shepherds ran to the king to bring the arms to him. If so, would that be an "arms race?"
After that, those guys probably needed a hand.
This is now my favorite story from the book of Mormon - it is the only one I know too, but it is totally my favorite. Josh tells a bit about the Mormon religion and his struggles with God and religion in a real and refreshing way.

I also love that Josh was reading Stephen King and everything that he could get a hold of in elementary school. I did that too. I loved Edgar Allen Poe when I was in elementary school. I would check out the maximum number of books allowed at school - 5 or 6 a week and then have to walk home carrying a stack of books that was nearly bigger than I was. Josh's love of reading lead him to become a librarian. I became a middle school reading teacher. I would like to go back to school some day and become a librarian. Josh tells some interesting stories about dealing with the public in the library - from sad to funny. When our house was on the market and we had tons of showings, we spent a lot of time in our local library and we found out that there are homeless people who hang out there (I did not think that would happen in the neighborhood we lived in, but it does) which is one of the issues about library patrons that Josh discusses.

Josh tells about his wife's miscarriages, their failed attempt to adopt and the wonderful child they now have. He worries that his son may also have Tourette's, but he is sure they will be able to work through it if he does.

I learned a lot about Tourette's from this book, which was not difficult since I knew very little about it before I read this. I have only met two people with Tourette's that I am aware of - both when I was working customer service at a dept. store. One woman had been waiting in line and when she got to the counter she just randomly shrieked. It actually did not even startle me. She apologized and told me that she had Tourette's and I told her that I substitute teach during the day and that after that, random shrieking didn't really faze me. We had a good laugh about that. She seemed like a nice lady.

Anyway, Josh has suffered a lot with his Tourette's and due to that it took him 10 years to get through college. I was surprised at the physical problems that Tourette's can cause in addition to the mental and emotional anguish. Josh has learned how to reduce his tics by body building and breathing techniques and he is willing to give advice to other people who also have Tourette's.

This is a funny and interesting book and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

Being Henry David
I received this book free to review from Netgalley. Some free books are just not even worth reading all the way through. This book, however is amazing. I totally loved the story of Hank, who has lost his memory and goes in search of himself by going to Walden Pond because he finds a copy of Walden with him when he awakens with no memory, only that book. His journey is amazing and he finds friends and helps other people and in the end, finds himself. I thoreauly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fyrelocke: Jack Boomershine and the Prophecy Untold by R. Christopher Kobb

Fyrelocke by R. Christopher Kobb
What a fun story! Jack is a normal, kind of geeky 12 year old boy who makes all kinds of electronic gadgets. His best friend Chase is obsessed with finances. When Jack is mysteriously lead to a purple rock, his life changes. He and Chase are drawn into a magical mystery, transported to England and Jack must survive using only his powers of observation and a little sleight of hand. Lots of unexpected twists of plot, magic, humor and adventure abound in this fun book. I highly recommend it!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)
Teen. Dystopian. Paranormal. Romance. Quick Read. Lacks depth.
This book is typical of the genre but is written with lots of crossed out words and repitition to indicate the main character's lack of sanity or shatteredness or something. It is not very original and is lacking in detail and development of characters and concepts. Juliette, who is 17, because in all teen romances the girls are 17, has strong superhero type powers but she chooses not to use them because she has never learned how to control them, does not want to hurt anyone and she is a wimp.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Church of Lies by Flora Jessop

Church of Lies by Flora Jessop
A sad and interesting story. It is horrible the way that Flora was abused and so many other women and children are abused within the FLDS system. This book brings to light not only the abuse that she suffered, but the rampant abuses in that community and the failure of our government to protect the women and children within those communities. I do not think that women and children should be allowed to be abused under the guise of "freedom of religion". It sounds like Flora is doing the best that she can to help save people out of the FLDS.  It would be good if our government would too.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Max is in 3rd grade. He is different. He has autism. He also has an imaginary friend named Budo. Budo knows that he is an imaginary friend. He also knows that when Max stops needing him and believing in him, he will disappear. When Max is kidnapped, only Budo can help him. If he does not help him, he could stay with Max because Max would continue to need him and believe in him for much longer. Budo knows that Max needs to get away. If he helps Max, Budo may no longer exist. Budo is afraid of not existing. He loves Max though and in the end, his love for Max trumps his fear of no longer existing.
This book is incredibly beautiful, imaginative, sad, and happy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves by James Matlack Raney

Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves
This book is quite an adventure as 11 year old Jim Morgan learns what real treasure is. Having been raised for the past 5 years by his aunt, Jim is a spoiled brat when his father returns from sea. When his father is killed for his treasure, Jim barely survives and winds up among the homeless children thieving on the streets of London. With gypsies,magic, pirates, trasure, and Dickensian child thieves, this is a rousing adventure that children are sure to enjoy.   

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

Letter to a Christian Nation
While this book is written in a deliberately antagonistic way, the author makes some very good points. The book is well written and funny and I enjoyed reading it. I am not an athiest - I was raised in the Reform Jewish religion and then became a born again Christian in a very conservative group that definitely fits the description of the audience that the book is written to. Even so, I find that I agree with most of the points that the author makes, and while I find his antagonistic attitude rather rude, I do understand where he is coming from and why. I liked the book and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Eat, Fast, Slim: The Life-Changing Fasting Diet for Amazing Weight Loss and Optimum Health by Amanda Hamilton

Eat, Fast, Slim by Amanda Hamilton
This book explains the concept of intermittent fasting as a way to lose weight and become more healthy as opposed to traditional dieting. She explains how long term calorie restriction, which is how traditional dieting works, can actually make people prone to weight gain and how fasting can lead to weight loss, reduce inflammation, help adults to concentrate better and more. She explains the difference in fasting for men and women and shares a variety of fasting plans including the 16/8 lifestyle fast, 5/2 fasting, and juice fasting. She includes recipes and recommends eating whole foods rather than heavily processed foods. I have tried this and found that it is easier to have two "fast days" of eating 500 calories than it is to diet traditionally. On a traditional diet, I feel deprived and cranky. On a "fast" day when I eat 500 calories or less, I know I can eat what I want the next day so I don't feel deprived. I actually kind of enjoy the feeling of hunger on a fast day because I know it is doing something good for my body.
The book is well written and researched and I highly recommend it. I got this book free to read from Netgalley and I did find chapter 10 to be oddly formatted and difficult to follow. I am hoping that is something that they will get straightened out.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Road to Tater Hill by Edith M. Hemingway

Road to Tater Hill by Edith M. Hemingway
My 11 year old daughter read this book and told me that it was wonderful and that I had to read it. She was right. It is a sad, sweet story set in 1963 - the year that I was born - about a 10 year old girl whose baby sister was born prematurely and died the next day. The story deals with her mother's depression and how an elderly neighbor woman helps Annie to deal with that and her own feelings of sorrow. The story is well written and beautiful, funny and sad, and hopeful. I highly recommend it.

My Mother Killed Christ: But God Loves Me Anyway by Katie Roberta Stevens

My Mother Killed Christ by Katie Roberta Stevens
Interesting, bizarre, creepy, sad and funny at times, this book chronicles the author's life as a child of a mentally ill mother. The book kind of wanders around a bit and parts of it had me thinking that the apple did not fall too far from the tree. She tells about both her childhood and her adulthood showing how her neglectful and strange upbringing lead to problems in her adulthood.
I enjoyed the second part of the book, about her adult life as a teacher more than the first part as she went back and forth through the years describing her childhood.  One of the parts that struck me as funny was that when reading a reference to the Madonna, her students thought it was the singer and when she told them it was the virgin Mary, the students giggled at the word "virgin" and most of them had no idea what she was talking about.  After one student explained the concept of the virgin Mary to the class, they laughed that she got knocked up and that was the best excuse that she could come up with and that people actually believed it.  The story about sharing her classroom with a night time nursing class and the missing part of the body model was hilarious too.  While the author's Catholic school education and the way the nuns treated her was good, the creepy priest who made out with her seems to fulfill icky stereotypes and I am not surprised that she does not take part in any organized religion now.          

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien

Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien
This is a decent ending to the trilogy. I think the first book is the best one, but the other two are good also and Promised is an ok ending to the series. Gaia finds that leadership is much more difficult than she realized as she tries to make peace with the people of the Enclave and join their communities. I really was not thrilled with the torture parts of the story and I thought that Gaia was rather stupid to allow herself to be caught more than one time. I realize that trilogies and series are all the rage now, but sometimes it may be best for an author to just write one really good book than to start out with a great book and then try to make it into a set of books that goes downhill after that.

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
I do NOT like books with unhappy endings. At all. I knew from the beginning this book would not have a happy ending, but in the end, it was much sadder than I thought it would be. It really was a wonderful book, and I read it all today, but I hated the ending. If you like Nicholas Sparks books - of which I only read one and I hated the ending and will never read any of his books again - then you will probably love this book.
I don't want to make it sound like it is a bad book - it is actually fantastic. But, if you are like me and don't like books with sad endings then just don't read it. Really.
I am giving a 4 star rating because of the ending, but other than that, it really is a 5 star book.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The New Kid by Temple Mathews

The New Kid by Temple Mathews
Will, is the New Kid in high school AKA Harry Potter/Percy Jackson/Jimmy Neutron/Jack Templar/Timmy Turner/Vladmir Tod/Daniel X/ and all the other teen/preteen boy heros who have some sort of superpowers and save their families/friends/and the world because the adults are too stupid or incapable of saving themselves and the world.
In Will's case, he is a demon hunter with super human strength trying to defeat the Evil One and rescue his father. Lots of fighting, superpowers, James Bondish weapons that Will himself created, a bit of romance, lots more fighting, and of course, saving the world from evil. I think that preteen and teen boys may enjoy the book although I did not find it to be very original.

My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi

My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi

Wow. Totally Amazing. I read this whole book today. I could not put it down. Sixteen year old Lucy is devastated when her boyfriend dumps her. She goes out partying with her best friends, gets majorly drunk and wakes up the next morning with the hot musician she met the night before. When she later realizes that she had unprotected sex with him, she gets tested and learns that she is HIV positive.
The issue is handled in a believable, well written and interesting story and includes HIV/Aids info at the end as well as discussion questions. I think this should be a must-read for teens. I got this book free to review from NetGalley. It is really an uber fantastic book and I highly recommend it!