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I'm a mommy, wife, chauffeur, zookeeper, reader and book reviewer

Monday, December 31, 2012

A diamond, a box and tea bag staples

The Billionaire's CurseThe Billionaire's Curse by Richard Newsome
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Great-aunt Geraldine has died and all the nieces’ and nephews’ families from around the world have gathered. They all want to know what is their share of the Billionaires’’ wealth. Gerald could care less. He has never met his namesake and would rather be skiing with his mates. Gerald is stunned when the reading of the will reveals he has inherited the majority of the wealth.

As he learns about his distant aunt, Gerald discovers connections to a diamond, a legendary box, and tea bag staples. But what he really wants to know is if any of it has to do with Geraldine’s death. After a few close encounters with a tall, thin man who smells of bleach, Gerald teams up with the Valentine twins to find answers.

Richard Newsome is an Australian so there are definite British undertones in the storyline such as disinterested parents and bumbling cops. It is probably best for upper elementary to middle grade boys. While the storyline is interesting, I don’t think I’m curious enough to read more in the series.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

An ok Christian pirate tale

Isle of Swords (Isle of Swords, #1)Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Declan Ross captains the William Wallace as a pirate. He is not your usual bloodthirsty fellow, however. He has moral standards and pirates mainly for survival. If only he could find enough treasure so he could retire with his daughter Anne and convince her that the pirate’s life isn’t for either of them. Along the way they find a badly beaten young man with amnesia and must deal with the notorious pirate, Bartholomew Thorne.

The point of view changed a lot, because the author explored the thoughts of more than two characters. Though there were hourglasses to indicate the changes, it was sometimes a bit confusing.
It was interesting how he wove religion into a pirate tale with some old Catholicism, tradition and legend.

I think the first chapter should have been a prologue as it introduced us to the main villain but then involved such a minor character that I wondered by the end of the book why the Batson used that scene as the backstory when others would have been better.

The best part of the story was the suspense—built as the author dropped little clues along the way that drove me to turn the next page. While this book is cleaner than most pirate books, it is still a bloody tale. I would recommend it to an older middle grader to young adult. (If you are looking for a pirate tale for younger kids, check out James R. Hannibal’s Pirate: Midnight Passage.)

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Not as acary as Peretti

Darkness RisingDarkness Rising by Lis Wiehl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dani Harris is a forensic psychiatrist who is supposed to be on a break to deal with any stress brought on by working on a murder case. Even though the case of declared closed, Dani can’t let it go and continued following clues.

Tommy Gunderson is a former football player, a wannabe detective, and school friend of Dani’s. Together they are finding clues to something much bigger than one boy killing one girl.

Having read Peretti in high school, Wiehl’s writing is not as dark or frightening—thankfully. I enjoyed it and would like to read the rest of the trilogy

I received this book free from the publisher in order to give my honest review.

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C.S. Lewis Sci-fi

Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, #1)Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ransom is backpacking when he runs into a former college schoolmate. While he never got along well with Devine, Ransom never expected to be drugged and kidnapped. Soon he found himself in a strange room where he didn’t know which end was up. Later Professor Weston informed him that it was a room in a spherical ship which was travelling through space.

After landing, Ransom managed to escape and discovered different creatures, language and way of life. When he runs into Devine and Weston again, he learns that they want to conquer each planet and eventually the universe.

Lewis always has an interesting way of painting his analogies and metaphors. His Narnia series is great so I look forward to reading more of this Sci-fi series.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A new favorite

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For many this book is among required reading usually in high school. Somehow I had avoided reading it until it was highly recommended by my book club.

Once I started I couldn’t put it down. I finished in about a week. The style is similar to Huck Finn, but with a female protagonist.

Scout is growing up in the South, when blacks aren’t really slaves anymore but are still segregated. Some people, like her father, consider blacks as human and equal. Others still view them as separate and unequal.

Since Scout’s mother died, her father allows her to figure out life in her own way—traipsing around in overalls, instead of dresses, with her brother Jem. Aunt Alexandra wants to teach Scout to be a lady, but to do so goes against Scout’s dad’s philosophy of life.

In some ways, Harper Lee expresses some rather forward thinking. However some parents may not want their children reading about rape, though I think it was dealt with tactfully.

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Not the type I would have chosen, still worth the read

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hitler is slowly rising to power and Liesel is having to grow up. As a German, if you weren’t for Hitler you were a threat. First her father disappears. Next her mother is chronically ill and finds she can’t afford to take care of herself or her children—Liesel and her brother. Liesel’s mother arranges with an agency for her children to be put in foster care. Then her brother doesn’t make it—he dies on the train en route.

Leisel is still placed with the Hubermans. While in there care, she learns about war time, injustice, and how different people deal with tragedy.

Since it is told from the perspective of death through the eyes of a poor, young, non-Nazi, it definitely sheds a different light on that time period. The writing style seemed disjointed and didn’t capture my interest until about half-way through; though Zusak does paint some unique word picture. Still, The Book Thief was well worth my time and I would recommend it to young adults and up.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Lots of effects, but that's about it

300 tells you a little about Spartans and how they are selected and trained as warriors. King Leonidas takes 300 of the best warriors to fight the Persians supposedly against the wishes of the Oracle. There is no character arc and little story at all. It’s war with lots of visual and sound effects of slicing, dicing, and blood splatter. There were some scenes that I found disturbingly weird like the Persian king’s harem tent. If you’re into movies for effects, you might like it. If you like movies for the characters and storyline, you probably won’t.

My kids didn't even like it (warning, spoiler)

Jessica Alba plays a spy turned mom who is so sneaky no one in her family knows. Of course, by the end of the movie her husband and all the kids are involved, including the baby and the original Spykids are reunited. My family enjoyed the first three Spykids movies so of course we had to see the fourth. They shouldn’t have bothered making the fourth. There is too much bathroom humor including poopy diaper and vomit bag ammo. It wasn’t even funny. In fact, I didn’t think it was worth my time to review, but my older daughter said I should warn others—so my kids didn’t even like it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Just a fun movie

Just Like Heaven Elizabeth is a workaholic doctor trying to get an attending position at a hospital in San Francisco. She loves helping people but sacrifices her social life. On one late night she is in a car accident. David has withdrawn from society out of depression and ends up renting Elizabeth’s apartment. Her spirit keeps hanging around but he is the only one who can see her. This is a funny romantic comedy not a scary ghost story. There is a good twist part way through, though it is a bit predictable.

Reminds me of the old movies I used to watch with my dad

Red Tails It’s 1944 and Blacks in the military is an experiment. They are kept in their own unit in Italy and not given any important missions so they can’t really succeed. One black colonel and one white colonel believe in the 532nd and are in the states to convince those in charge that this black unit is capable of serving. Though it has the typical language of a war movie, the blood is less than I expected. It is a bit more lighthearted than most war movies, though I suspect this is to expand the viewing audience for more people to learn of the Red Tails story.

I'm not a cat person, but ...

Into the Wild (Warriors, #1)Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rusty has always been a house cat, a pet, but he dreams of life beyond his backyard – beyond his neighborhood even. One day he ventures into the woods beyond his yard and meets wildcats for the first time. Impressed with his fighting instinct, they invite him to join their clan. Rusty finds his new life strange and intriguing and adapts quickly and is given a new name--Firepaw. Then again he has to adapt quickly as there is trouble among the four clans of wildcats. Accusations and rumors are flying. But it is to Firepaw’s advantage that he is a newbie to the wildcat life and not entrenched in tradition. He must trust his own instincts to find the real truth of what is going on.

I am a dog person, not a cat person, yet Hunter describes the wildcat life to the point that I began to imagine them as primitive people. The language is clean, the fights are not overly violet or gory though there is blood splatter. This one is much better than her Seekers. I would recommend this to upper elementary and up.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cute idea, bad language

Velcro: The Ninja Kat (Volume 1)Velcro: The Ninja Kat by Chris Widdop
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There is a mysterious cat hiding in the shadows dressed all in black. The Ninja Kat is attacking the military unity called the Devil Corps run by the Devil Dog. By dressing in black and hiding in the shadows, the Ninja Kat uses the element of surprise to outwit the Devils. Without surprise, no other weapon seems to stand a chance against the Devil Corps who have Magic and technology at their disposal. When the Ninja Kat is finally overpowered, the Kat teams up with a group of Hamsters with courage and determination and the ability to develop new technology.

The premise of the book is good, intriguing even. It’s cute how Widdop uses a hamster’s store bought habitat as the hamster’s city. I enjoyed picturing cats using martial arts and dogs as soldiers. Unfortunately these cute elements are contrasted against bad language making it inappropriate for elementary and middle schoolers. Parents concerned about language should be aware even at the young adult level.

When the author started talking about the mysterious Black Magic, I was also disappointed. Black Magic and hamsters fighting in balls became too predictable for me. I wanted to like this story by I just don’t think I can recommend it to anyone.

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Children's series by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1)Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At 11, Gregor’s life seems to have hit bottom. His 7-year-old sister Lizzie gets to go to summer camp while he has to stay home with his grandma who is battling Alzheimer’s and his 2-year-old sister Boots so his mom can go to work. His dad disappeared.

Gregor didn’t think he could feel any lower until he and Boots get sucked into Underland. This he hit rock bottom. They discover a world where humans exist normal size but bugs and rodents are giant and can talk.

At first Gregor seems stuck in this hidden world, until he learns of a prophecy and the hope this his dad might also be stuck in Underland.

This is a great page turner that I would recommend to upper elementary to middle grade.

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Sink or Float?

Hope Floats Birdie learns on a TV talk show that her husband has been sleeping with her best friend. She packs up her car and drives to her mother’s home in Texas. Her mother still lives in the same house as Birdie grew up. She talks to many people from her past as she tries to figure out her future. This is a story of how some people will do anything to make other happy, when all it does is make everyone miserable. While it does show the dangers of being a people pleaser and trying to be someone you’re not; some will find it hard to see this message past the character of Justin attempting to date a married woman.