Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"You're something else," Gabriel whispers to me as he escorts us to the elevator. Just before the doors close between us, I smile.
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Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: Honey Badger Don't Care by Randall


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
Sweet Jesus--a riotous wildlife book for adults! The mononymous Randall, narrator of the You Tube sensation (15 MILLION views) "The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger," is the wild new voice of nature. In Honey Badger Don't Care(tm), Randall presents a dozen crazy, badass animals of the wild kingdom as only Randall could. Don't be stupid--buy this book!
MY TAKE:
When I first saw the title, I immediately thought of Sue Sylvester's code name for Terry Schuester on Glee. I guess Sue got the name from the video.

The narrator for this book is the same person who narrates the video. As such, I knew that I had to look for and watch the video to make the experience more authentic for me. For those who, like me, haven't seen any of the videos, I have embedded one of the videos below.


Now, imagine that video in book form and you have Honey Badger Don't Care. While the book title mentions the Honey Badger, the book also features other bad-ass endangered animals. My favorite of the animals included in this book is the emperor tamarin because it looks like a kung fu master. :P

I found the writing style to be entertaining and funny, although it could get a little bit tiring occasionally. The layout is also quite colorful: think Time Almanac for Kids.

Thanks to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for e-copy.

THE GOOD:
  1. Informative but not boring.
  2. It promotes animal conservation.
  3. Its writing style is funny and tongue-in-cheek.
THE BAD:
  1. There are a lot of swear words.
  2. The writing style might not appeal to everyone. If you like the video, though, chances are, you'll like the book.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
They also eat various insects, including beetles, which they love---but, hey---who isn't a beetles fan?
READ IT IF:
  1. You like honey badgers and other bad-ass animals.
  2. You like funny educational books.
  3. You don't mind books with a lot of swear words.
RATING:
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review: Mr. Popper's Penguins (Enhanced) by Richard and Florence Atwater


SUMMARY FROM OPENROADMEDIA.COM:
Mr. Popper has penguins in his fridge, an ice rink in the basement, and a family for whom life will never be the same

How many penguins in the house is too many? Mr. Popper is a humble house painter living in Stillwater who dreams of faraway places like the South Pole. When an explorer responds to his letter by sending him a penguin named Captain Cook, Mr. Popper and his family’s lives change forever. Soon one penguin becomes twelve, and the Poppers must set out on their own adventure to preserve their home.

First published in 1938, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a classic tale that has enchanted young readers for generations.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Richard and Florence Atwater including rare photos from the authors’ estate.
MY TAKE:

I first found out about Mr. Popper's Penguins when I saw the trailer for the Jim Carrey movie. I've never heard about the book before so I was surprised to learn that it was a book first before becoming a movie.

Mr. Popper's Penguins, the book version, is set in the 1930s and chronicles the life of Mr. Popper, an Artic and Antartic enthusiast, and his family after the arrival of a penguin from the South Pole.

I really liked the old-school-style writing of this book. By that I mean, it's very whimsical and kinda makes you feel like it's your grandmother who's reading the story to you. It's the kind of book that you just know, even though you're only in the first chapter, is a feel-good story. The illustrations evoke that same feeling.

It's not hard to be drawn into the Poppers' world. The penguins are quite lovable, particularly Captain Cook who seems super cute and smart.

While the story ages well, I'm a little bit glad that when they made the movie, they didn't follow the story too closely. I feel like this is one book wherein the left-to-the-imagination version is better than the movie version.

Thanks to NetGalley and Open Road for the e-copy. For more info on Mr. Popper's Penguins, and to purchase a copy, please click here.

THE GOOD:
  1. Interesting story.
  2. Cute penguins.
  3. Simple storytelling style yet vivid descriptions.
THE BAD:
  1. Compared to the conflicts we see in most modern books, the conflict in this book doesn't seem climactic enough.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Now a penguin may look very strange in a living room, but a living room looks very strange to a penguin.
READ IT IF:
  1. You like animals, especially penguins.
  2. You like classic children's books.
  3. You like stories about families who go on adventures.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
In 1932, Richard Atwater and his wife, Florence, took their two daughters to see a documentary film about Richard E. Byrd’s Antarctic expedition. Mr. Atwater was very impressed by the movie, and he decided to write a book about the penguins from Antarctica. When one of his daughters objected to children’s books about history, he started to write a magical story about a group of penguins, which would later become Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Richard Tupper Atwater was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1892. He studied at the University of Chicago and taught Greek there while in graduate school. He later went on to work as a writer for the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers. Florence Hasseltine Carroll was born in 1896 in Chicago, Illinois. She also obtained two degrees at the University of Chicago, where her Classical Greek teacher was a young man named Richard Atwater! They married in 1921. Florence taught high school French, English, and Latin, and she also wrote a number of articles for the New Yorker and the Atlantic.

Richard’s first children’s book was Doris and the Trolls, about two children who follow a cat named Mitzi to a land of mischievous trolls to rescue the Ting Tang Fairy. His second was a children’s operetta called The King’s Sneezes. In it, the Fiddlers Three have been sent to the dungeon for laughing when King Nicholas sneezes, and it’s up to young Max Luckyfoot to cure him.
Richard had completed a manuscript called Ork! The Story of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, when he suffered a severe stroke in 1934 and was forced to stop writing. He lived until 1948, but could never write again. So Florence took over.

After two publishers rejected the book, Florence rewrote the story, keeping many parts the same but adding more realistic events. (In the version written by Richard Atwater, Mr. Popper draws a penguin on a mirror with shaving cream and it comes to life!) The revised manuscript was accepted and published in 1938.

Florence lived until the age of eighty-three and died in 1979. Mr. Popper’s Penguins remained a bestselling book throughout her lifetime, and has enchanted children and adults for over seventy years. It has won many awards, including the Newbery Honor, and has been translated into many languages.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: Naomi and the Horse-Flavored T-Shirt by Dan Boehl


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
Endless Ranches is a town like any other town in Texas. Everybody works for the paste company, eats paste for breakpaste, plunch, and dinner, and walks to work. But things were different before the factory came to town and all of the horses disappeared.

Fourteen-year-old Naomi knows something is not right, but nobody talks about it. Naomi’s mom changes the subject when Naomi asks about her missing father and one of her teachers disappears after he tells the class about the town’s past. But on her birthday, Naomi’s mother gives her an amazing gift that unlocks the truth about Endless Ranches: her father’s horse-flavored T-shirt. Accompanied by Sammy, a teenaged farmer forced to steal paste so he can feed his brothers and sisters, Naomi uncovers a devious Paste Company plot to subdue the townspeople and raise an army of mindless white people.
MY TAKE:

As a foodie, I definitely don't want to live in a world wherein the only food is paste. I wonder, though, if I grew up eating only one kind of food, would I care?

Naomi grew up in Endless Ranch, a small town in Texas, in a world wherein there is no more gasoline. In this world, people eat paste and everything they need is produced by the paste factory. Weird, right? I mean, eating paste, what's the nutritional value of that? Also, even the names of their movies, books and songs contain the word "paste".

The bizarre eating habits of the Endless Ranchians are not the main point of the story, however. Nor is it the missing horses or the horse-flavored t-shirt.

In this dystopian society, the biggest issue is corporate greed. Think of the Paste Company as the greedy corporations and the Endless Ranchians as the 99%, although a lot more oppressed, and you get the picture. I'm not exaggerating about the Paste Company. Some of the dialogue that the Paste Company's CEO and scientist said is very reminiscent of what corporations say.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dan Boehl for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:
  1. Well-developed world.
  2. Interesting premise.
  3. It's anti-corporate greed.
THE BAD:
  1. Some readers might find it hard to relate to some of the characters.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
"We don't have a TV at my house," he said. "We got reality, so we don't need it."
READ IT IF:
  1. You love horses.
  2. You want to ease into reading dystopian literature.
  3. You are anti-corporate greed.
RATING:
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
The land was theirs, but so were its hardships.

Strawberries -- big, ripe, and juicy. Ten-year-old Birdie Boyer can hardly wait to start picking them. But her family has just moved to the Florida backwoods, and they haven′t even begun their planting. "Don′t count your biddies ′fore they′re hatched, gal young un!" her father tells her.

Making the new farm prosper is not easy. There is heat to suffer through, and droughts, and cold snaps. And, perhaps most worrisome of all for the Boyers, there are rowdy neighbors, just itching to start a feud.
MY TAKE:

I'm a fan of Newbery Medal books so I grabbed this title immediately when I saw it on NetGalley.

The book centers on the life of Birdie Boyer and her family and their relationship with their neighbors. It provides a detailed look at farm life and what goes into running a farm. Of course, this was set in the olden days, so farm life is probably easier now, but still, there's a lot of work that goes into maintaining a farm.

Reading this was slow going at first because I had to sound out the dialogue in my head. For example, one of the characters said "bed-kiver" instead of bed cover. As the story wore on and started to engross me, however, the phonetic spelling stopped bothering me. The story was able to bring out my emotions, but I felt that the resolution of the story came too easily.

Thanks to NetGalley and Open Road for providing an e-copy.

THE GOOD:
  1. Detailed look at what farm life was like in the late 1800s to early 1900s.
  2. You feel Birdie's emotions easily.
  3. It's a Newbery Medal book.
THE BAD:
  1. I got a bit disoriented when there was a change in the character focus very early on.
  2. Resolution came too quickly and easily.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
It was nice to be a new girl in a new school and sit in the side row by the open window.
READ IT IF:
  1. You're curious about farm life.
  2. You're curious about what life was like in the 1900s.
  3. You're looking for a book that will make you feel all sorts of emotions.
RATING:
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: How to Make a Golem and Terrify People by Alette J. Willis


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
"You think you're a fairy godmother or something?" I asked. "Or something," Michael agreed.
Edda is tired of her nickname, 'Mouse', and wants to be braver. But when her house is burgled on her twelfth birthday, Edda is more afraid than ever. That is until new boy Michael Scot starts school. There's something peculiar -- and very annoying -- about know-it-all Michael. He claims to be a great alchemist who can help Edda overcome her fears by teaching her to build a golem. But surely they can't bring a giant mud monster to life? Can they?
Winner of the Kelpies Prize 2011.
MY TAKE:

I've been hearing a lot of good things about How to Make a Golem and Terrify People, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it since I'm not a fan of horror books. I'm glad I gave this a chance, though, because this book is a page-turner.

Edda is a young girl who feels that she's not very brave. She's scared of Euan, a bully at school, and after her house was broken into, she's become even more terrified. Michael, the new kid at school, helps her face her fears by helping her to create a golem to protect her and her home. Edda soon learns, however, that you should always be careful what you wish for.

Despite the title, this book isn't a horror book. It's more of a fantasy/thriller kind of book. It was well-paced and the descriptions were vivid, which was very important since the book is being told from Edda's point-of-view, and as an artist, Edda should be able to describe things well.

Michael was an odd character. Not only was he a weird character, by description, I also couldn't really tell if he was a good guy or a villain. Even by the end of the story, I couldn't tell exactly. I would like to think he's a good guy, though.

Thanks to NetGalley and Floris Books for providing me with an e-copy.

THE GOOD:
  1. Interesting story and plot twists.
  2. Good pacing.
  3. Vivid descriptions.
THE BAD:
  1. Edda is an artist so it would have been cooler if there were more illustrations.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
"Well, I could," he said, oblivious to my sarcasm. "But it would leave certain traces, certain odours and it's best if I keep my presence a secret."

Yeah, the odour of pompous twit, I thought to myself.
READ IT IF:
  1. You like fantasy/thriller stories.
  2. You're looking for a page-turner.
  3. You want to read something fun.
RATING:
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: The Holy Land: An Illustrated Guide to Its History, Geography, Culture, and Holy Sites (Illustrated Bible Handbook Series) by George W. Knight


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
Visit the Holy Land, wherever you might be—with this beautifully illustrated guide to the history, culture, geography, and key sites of Bible places. This brand-new, “readable reference” transports you to the land where Abraham, David, and Jesus lived, explaining the what, when, where, and why of their stories—and many, many more. The Holy Land identifies nearly twelve dozen key locales, providing details on their history, setting, and importance. Fully illustrated in color, with helpful maps and intriguing sidebars, The Holy Land is great prep for those visiting the Middle East—and an equally great read for “armchair travelers” who want to better understand the Bible story.
MY TAKE:

I'm not a fan of flying, so travel books are the perfect way for me to travel.

The Holy Land: An Illustrated Guide to Its History, Geography, Culture, and Holy Sites (Illustrated Bible Handbook Series), as the name suggests, contains history, images and trivia about the places mentioned in the Bible. The places are arranged by location so if you're actually touring these places, it makes it easier for you not to miss any important locations.

The descriptions for each entry are very thorough and seamlessly mixes historical events and passages in the Bible. I guess it would be best read with a Bible in hand.

Thanks to NetGalley and Barbour Publishing, Inc., for providing me with an e-copy.

THE GOOD:
  1. Beautiful photos.
  2. Nice layout design and choice of colors.
  3. Thorough descriptions for each entry.
THE BAD:
  1. People who are more interested in the sights than its actual Biblical significance might not appreciate the Biblical passages and references.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Many visitors to the Holy Land are surprised at the small size of the country.
For example, after visiting Israel in the 1860s, Mark Twain observed: “The word Palestine always brought to my mind a vague suggestion of a country as large as the United States. I suppose it was because I could not conceive of a small country having so large a history. I must try to reduce my ideas of Palestine to a more reasonable shape.”
READ IT IF:
  1. You've never been to The Holy Land but have always wanted to go there.
  2. It's been awhile since you've read the Bible and you would like a refresher course.
  3. You're reading the Bible and have a hard time imagining the setting.
RATING:
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: The Naked Foods Cookbook: Easy, Unprocessed, Gluten-Free, Full-Fat Recipes for Losing Weight and Feeling Great by Margaret Floyd, James Barry


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
Why go out to eat? Cooking at home is easy, healthy, delicious, and affordable—and with the right techniques and ingredients, preparing a home-cooked meal can be quicker than picking up take-out. Cook Naked, the anticipated follow-up cookbook to Margaret Floyd’s Eat Naked, shows readers how they can create whole, organic, and fresh “naked” meals that maximize the natural nutritional value of food. Unlike commercially available prepared foods and restaurant dishes, naked meals contain no harmful additives, preservatives, or empty-calorie fillers. Because cooking naked is well-suited to people who need energy for busy lifestyles, this cookbook is organized around the time it takes for readers to prepare each type of dish: “in a rush” recipes take ten minutes or less, “every day” recipes take twenty minutes or less, and an “impress the neighbors” section offers more time-intensive recipe selections. Readers who seek to control the quality of ingredients and nutrients in their food will turn to this cookbook time and time again for affordable, naturally delicious meals they can feel good about eating and serving to others.
MY TAKE:

Getting this book was no-brainer for me because it combines the two goals that I've been trying to accomplish for a long time: eat healthier and learn to cook something other than fried food.

What does it mean to "eat naked"? Basically, it means eating "clean, whole, unprocessed food". Sounds like a tough order in today's world wherein we don't really have a lot of time and money and the most convenient way to get a meal is by ordering takeout or having someone else cook it for you.

The Naked Foods Cookbook is not just a cookbook; it's also a guide to the naked foods lifestyle. Aside from explaining the basics, the book also teaches you how to stock your refrigerator and kitchen. For beginners, there are also descriptions of cooking techniques and there are tables to help you tell how "naked" the food you are eating is.

Some of the concepts discussed in the book, like local produce being good because it tends to be fresher and buying it helps the local economy, are already familiar to me. I did learn a few new things, though. For example, it turns out that freezing is probably the best way to preserve food because it's the least damaging and easiest way to preserve food.

The recipes are divided according to what type it is (breakfast, entree, etc.) and it is indicated at the heading of each recipe how quickly you can expect to finish each recipe.

I thought about trying one of the recipes and posting the results here, but for most of the recipes, I either didn't have all the ingredients or I didn't have a needed equipment. There's one recipe I have tried before, though. My family has its own variation on the coconut milk recipe, but it's pretty close to the one found in the book.

One thing's for sure. This book makes me want to go ahead and grow vegetables in our garden.

Thanks to NetGalley and New Harbinger Publications for providing me with an e-copy. Publication date for The Naked Foods Cookbook is on May 1, 2012.

THE GOOD:
  1. The recipes are divided by meals (breakfast, lunch, etc.) and there are weekly menus, so it's easier to look for recipes you want to try.
  2. There's a condiments section. Make your own condiments! :)
  3. It's indicated how long/easy each recipe is.
THE BAD:
  1. Some ingredients may not be readily available.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
If you're like us, then you know: If it's in the kitchen, you'll eat it.
READ IT IF:
  1. You want to start eating healthier.
  2. You have no time for food that takes a long time to cook.
  3. You're curious about "naked foods".
RATING:
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Non-fiction Feature: Having Fun While Saving Money by Janiera Eldridge

For our very first Non-fiction Feature, we have a special music-inspired, complete-the-sentence interview with Janiera Eldridge, the author of Having Fun While Saving Money.


COMPLETE THE SENTENCE:

1. What the world needs now is
more money and less fighting over it!
2. I like it in the city when
the lights are burning bright and the music is thumping.
3. I can't win, I can't reign, I will never win this game without
some coffee and a hella amount of motivation.
4. I've got my heart set on
becoming a professional author.
5. It's time to try
yoga,
I think I'll try
sushi since my cravings for it has recently sky rocketed.
6. You can try as you may, bring me down but I say
you're hater and will get yours some day.
7. If I were a boy, even just for a day, I would
go out of the house looking anyway I pleased because glamor can be overrated.
8. You know I really got a thing for ___ guys.
blue eyed dark haired
9. When you try your best but you don't succeed
try,try,try again and never ever give up!
10. Tonight, we are young so let's
light up the town and get lost on each other, this night is meant for two.



ABOUT JANIERA ELDRIDGE:
I'm 20 years old and not always sure where I want to go in life all I know is that I love to write! I've worked as a freelance writer for the past 2 years which mixes what I love to do with something I have to do, work! I write entertainment news when I'm not reading or studying at Entertainmentparadise.net.
Even though my first book is non-fiction my next book will be fiction. There are a lot of crazy characters in my head just dying to get out! I'm a reading and movie addict and nothing makes me happier than a good book or movie (except for the love of my wonderful family). I'm currently pursuing a business management degree although my dreams to make a career writing will never fade.


ABOUT THE BOOK:
A book packed with ways for you to have fun with your family, friends or by yourself without spending a lot of money. It even gives you ways to have fun and make some money. There are no get rich quick schemes, just ways to have fun and earn rewards while doing it!You also will keep plenty of money in your wallet along the way!



Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: 50 Underwear Questions by Tanya Lloyd Kyi


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
You are what you wear (underneath)!

Most of us take our underwear for granted, but throughout history our undies have revealed a lot about who we are (king or peasant), how we work (in fields or factories) or the shapes we value (manly calves or tiny waists).

The third book in Annick's 50 Questions series tackles questions such as "What's that smell?" (Medieval Europeans thought bathing made you sick) and "Did boxers arrive in the Nick of time?" (When blue jean model Nick Kamen stepped out of his denims to reveal his boxers, sales of the underwear soared.)

Underwear has played a role in ancient crusades, city sieges and even modern economic predictions. Obviously, it's time to uncover the facts about everything from loincloths and T-shirts to bloomers and lingerie. Young readers will laugh their pants off at the accompanying cartoons and get the bare, but fascinating, facts about the history of our unmentionables.
MY TAKE:

I'm a trivia buff, so I was definitely excited to read this book.

As the name suggests, 50 Underwear Questions answers 50 underwear questions. The books are divided by time period, starting with ancient times up to the present. I learned quite a few new things thanks to the book. For example, the word "jocks" came from the term "jock strap".

The topic can be a little bit boring for kids and those with short attention spans (like me), that's why it's great that there are activities, like how-tos, jokes and discussion questions, which help to break the monotony. The illustrations and bright colors are the book's strong points, as it matches the playful tone which the author uses.

Thanks to NetGalley and Annick Press for providing me with an e-copy.

THE GOOD:
  1. Funny illustrations and bright colors.
  2. Creative layout and elements.
  3. Witty quips.
THE BAD:
  1. The topic can get boring sometimes.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
It can't be bath time yet. It's only March!
READ IT IF:
  1. You like trivia.
  2. You enjoy learning new things but don't want to read a boring encyclopedia.
  3. You want to learn about the evolution of underwear.
RATING:
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: The Travelling Restaurant: Jasper's voyage in three parts by Barbara Else


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
In the reign of Lady Gall (Provisional Monarch of Fontania), the word ‘magic’ is forbidden...

When 12 year old Jasper Ludlow’s parents flee the city, he gets left behind and finds refuge on The Travelling Restaurant, a sailing ship captained by old Dr Rocket and crewed by feisty Polly.

Jasper faces challenges, adventures, storms and hungry pirates. Should he go in search of his parents, or his lost baby sister? Who should he trust? And why is Lady Gall hunting him?
MY TAKE:

The world needs more feel-good stories right now and The Travelling Restaurant is definitely a good one.

When his family flees his town in order to escape Lady Gall, Jasper gets left behind ala Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 1 and 2. He ends up on The Travelling Restaurant and, along with the ship's captain Dr. Rocket and the ship's cook Polly, he sails off in search of his family. Along the way, he must dodge Lady Gall and her minions.

The Travelling Restaurant has an old-school vibe reminiscent of the Boxcar Children and Encyclopedia Brown series. Of course, that could just be me, but I felt like I was reading an old series that made me feel like a kid again.

Since majority of the story takes place on The Travelling Restaurant, food descriptions abound. As a fan of food-related books, movies and television shows, this was a big bonus for me. The author makes use of parentheses and changing font size to insert side comments or to emphasize certain points, which was a good idea and makes me think that this would be a fun book to read aloud.

Thanks to NetGalley and Gecko Press for the e-ARC. Publication date of The Travelling Restaurant is on March 1, 2012.

THE GOOD:
  1. The plot. Though you can kind of guess where the story is going, there are still enough surprises and twists to keep it from being boring.
  2. The food. What's not to like about sentences like these?
    There were cream cakes, cream pies and creamy milk shakes. There was runny cream in jugs, and bowls of whipped cream.
  3. The dialogue and writing style.
THE BAD:
  1. Some people might find the style a little bit old-school or boring.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
"Decide while you're packing?" Jasper suggested.
"Decide while we're packing!" said Dr. Ludlow as if he'd thought of it himself.
READ IT IF:
  1. You like action-adventure books.
  2. You like food.
  3. You like stories about princesses, princes and magic.
RATING:
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Fiction Feature: Nate Rocks the World by Karen Pokras Toz

For our very first Fiction Feature, we have a guest post from Karen Pokras Toz, the author of Nate Rocks the World.

So many people ask me where I came up with the idea for Nate Rocks the World, my middle grade novel about a 10 year old boy who draws cartoons that come to life in his head, starring himself as the hero. My answer is always the same – my three children of course. My oldest son is an artist, my daughter, when she was younger loved to make up stories with all her dolls and animals, and my youngest son loves to role-play.

But it’s not just my three children. The truth is, there is a lot of myself in Nate Rocks. I am a dreamer. I always have been, and I suspect I always will be. No - I didn’t dream of being an action hero or a cowboy as Nate does. My dreams usually involved singing and dancing on a stage (which looking back now is quite funny since I was the shyest little girl ever and really can’t dance or sing.) My favorite show was The Donny and Marie Show. For those who didn’t grow up in the 70s – this was what was called a “Variety Show.” There were a bunch of them on – Sonny & Cher, Captain & Tenille, & The Jackson 5 to name a few. But my favorite was Donny & Marie. They would come out on ice skates and sing, do some comedy sketches, and sing some more. My parents always let me stay up late on Friday nights to watch them.

I used to pretend I was Marie Osmond – I had the big hair and big teeth, so it was only natural. My parents had wood floors that I could pretend ice skate on with my socks. Then I would use what ever I could find to be my microphone. Marie was ‘a little bit country’, but I preferred to be rock n roll. My cat was my audience as I put on my show. Sometimes I would tape record it on our clunky old machine, never to be played for anyone’s ears but my own. It was fun being an international superstar in my own head.

Dream big and rock on!


Karen Pokras Toz is a writer, wife and mom. Karen grew up in Orange, Connecticut and currently lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and three children.
In June 2011, Karen published her first middle grade children’s novel for 7-12 year olds called Nate Rocks the World. The second book in the Nate Rocks series, Nate Rocks the Boat, is to be published in the spring of 2012. Karen is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Association of Independent Authors (AIA), and the Independent Author Network (IAN).
ABOUT THE BOOK:

Ten-year-old Nathan Rockledge cannot catch a break. After all, life as a fourth-grader can be hazardous - what with science projects to deal with and recess football games to avoid. Everyone, including his best friend Tommy, seems to have bad luck when hanging around Nathan. Throw in an older sister who is a royal pain, a dad who is stuck in the past, and a mom who keeps trying to poison him with her awful cooking, and poor Nathan’s life as a fourth-grader appears to be completely doomed.

Armed only with his sketchpad, his imagination, and his wits, Nathan Rockledge navigates the perils of the fourth grade in style, to emerge heroic, as Nate Rocks, proving that even a ten-year-old can accomplish great things.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:
Author Karen Pokras Toz has a definite five star winner right here. Nate more than ROCKS! Great book for kids of all ages and for parents too. Characters that are true to life and a story that will definitely make you smile, laugh and endear you to one smart and talented young man named NATE!

I picked this book out to upload to my Kindle to "bribe" my son into reading....it's always a fight. He LOVES the book and thinks it is his own autobiography! He too has a 13 year old sister that acts just like Nate's older sister. He read for almost an hour the other night and wouldn't even let me read one page to him, he wanted to do it himself. My son is a 10 year old 4th grader and I could not have found a book more perfectly suited for him! THANK YOU to the author!!
-KristyS, Verified Amazon Reviewer

This is a fascinating and fun story that middle grade boys are going to love. Toz definitely has a finger on the pulse of this market. She knows what’s exciting to them and uses it to create a page-turner that will leave them wanting more.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NATE ROCKS SERIES:

Website: www.karentoz.com
Blog: http://kptoz.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/karenptoz
Twitter: www.twitter.com/karentoz
Amazon: http://amzn.to/txbX0Z
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/uviYpn
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5009570.Karen_Pokras_Toz
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQgnRIqW6G4


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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: I Dare to Say edited by Hilda Twongyeirwe


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
A young woman at last finds love, only to discover, after the death of her baby and her man, that he was married, had eight children, and died of "slim," or AIDS.

A girl hides under a blanket in her dormitory while the Lord's Resistance Army, in search of child brides, pushes an armed child soldier through the window so they can take their pick of the terrified girls.

Not long after her ritual genital mutilation, a girl on her way home from school is beaten by four men, then delivered to an old man who will be her husband, a standard marriage practice.

In I Dare to Say, African women speak out in their own words, sharing poignant tales of womanhood, revealing how they cope and survive, and confiding their dreams and hopes for themselves and their children. They tell not only of atrocities and pain but also of motherhood, marriage, love, and courage, a testament to the bond among women from all cultures.

Dramatic, sometimes heartbreaking, often inspiring, I Dare to Say vividly brings to life how political instability, ethnic rivalries, and traditional religion shape the daily life-as well as the future-of rural African girls and women.
MY TAKE:

Where do I even begin? It took longer than I expected to finish reading this book, because I felt so angry while reading. My anger wasn't because the writing was terrible. I was angry at the experiences that the women in this book went through.

I Dare to Say is a project of FEMRITE, the Uganda Women Writer's Association, and their partner organizations Austrian Development Corporation, African Women Development Fund, Africalia, German Embassy in Uganda, and IRIN. The book is divided into four parts. The first part is about surviving abuse and the second part is about facing AIDS, while the third part is about resilience and surviving war and the fourth part is about female genital mutilation.

Through this book, we are able to get a peek into the lives of African women. Prior to reading this book, I was already aware of the poverty, civil wars and other issues that are plaguing Africa right now, but to actually read stories of real women and not just news articles, it made more of an impact emotionally.

Some of the stories got my blood boiling. Let's just say that I'm not a fan of women being treated like second-class citizens. And what's worse, it's not just the men who are treating women poorly. Women, whether it's relatives or co-wives, treat their fellow women badly sometimes too. The appalling health conditions really bothered me as well. In college, we saw, sometimes firsthand, the struggle that the poor and those living in far-flung areas have to go through to get access to healthcare. The women in these book had to go through the same things and it just makes me sick.

Growing up in a country which, according to Newsweek, is the 17th best country in the world (out of 165 countries) and the best country in Asia to be a woman (based on: "justice and treatment of women under the law; access to health; access to education; economics and workforce participation; and political power"), I have been blessed with plenty of opportunities that I may not have gotten had I been born elsewhere. The women in I Dare to Say were not afforded the same opportunity and for some of the women in this book, they felt resigned to their fate and felt a fierce loyalty to their culture. However, it's easy to see the strength that majority, if not all, of the women featured have to get through their ordeal.

What's great about this book is that it's not a one-sided book, showing only the negative things. For example, we see good husbands and bad husbands, and get to hear the story of female circumcisers and the women who underwent female genital mutilation.

All in all, this is a very good book that people should read, even if they're not a fan of heavy reads and memoirs.


Thanks to NetGalley and Lawrence Hill Books for providing me with an e-copy. Publication date of I Dare to Say will be on February 1, 2012.

THE GOOD:
  1. The stories are powerful and moving.
  2. Different issues are covered and from different angles instead of just one.
  3. You get a real feel for the culture of the women.
THE BAD:
  1. It's a pretty heavy read at times.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
I wondered why culture and customs are always invoked and become sacred and unchangeable only when women try to fight for their rights.
READ IT IF:
  1. You would like to read stories about the ordeals and triumphs of African women.
  2. You are curious about African culture.
  3. You want to read an interesting biography.
RATING:
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriel


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.
MY TAKE:

I wasn't too optimistic while I was reading the first few chapters of Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe. I found Chloe to be a bit needy and insecure, and I thought that her (former) friends were kind of shallow and extremely mean. By the 5th chapter, though, I was hooked.

From being one of the more popular girls at school, Chloe suddenly finds herself a loser. Her former friend Brie has smeared her reputation with baseless lies. Adding to her woes is her new guidance counselor who vetoes her independent study program and urges her to do her independent study program on the school's radio station.

Chloe's voice was very authentic, and I had no trouble imagining this high school junior and her life. The neediness and insecurity that Chloe showed is typical of most teenage girls, and thankfully, by the end of the book, she had already learned to control it. Her growth made it easier to like her and sympathize with the events that happen in her life.

Another thing that the novel had going for it was the way that Ms. Coriell portrayed the characters' relationships. The dynamics between the characters felt unforced and genuine. Trust me, I know what it's like to have an ill grandmother and a worried mother who would simultaneously want to help my grandmother and want to freak out, and what it's like to have best friends turn on you. Ms. Coriell definitely got it right. I'm also very glad that Chloe didn't go Bella (read: co-dependent) on Duncan, although there were a couple of moments when it felt like she was on the verge of it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Amulet Books for providing me with an e-copy. Publication date of Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe is on May 1, 2012.

THE GOOD:
  1. Believable characters. The characters were so well-fleshed-out that it felt like there were no minor characters.
  2. Cute love story.
  3. Chloe. Chloe was a character that might annoy you at first, but she's actually quite loveable. Think Polyanna, but less saccharine-sweet.
THE BAD:
  1. Chloe's shoe obsession. I'm not a fan of shoes, so I didn't really get the whole shoe love that Chloe had going on. If you're a shoe fan, though, I think you might find Chloe's observations accurate and her shoes envy-worthy.
  2. There was a twist near the end of the story that felt unnecessary.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
I raised Duncan's hands to my lips. First I kissed one palm, then the other. "When you feel lonely, I'll be there."
Duncan stared at his palms and wrapped his fingers around my kisses.
READ IT IF:
  1. You like YA novels with a believable cast of characters.
  2. You like YA novels were it's not just about the lead female character getting a boyfriend.
  3. You like fashionable heroines.
RATING:
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Make way for Claudette the giant slayer in this delightful, fantastical adventure!
Claudette’s fondest wish is to slay a giant. But her village is so safe and quiet! What’s a future giant slayer to do?
With her best friend Marie (an aspiring princess), and her brother Gaston (a pastry-chef-to-be), Claudette embarks on a super-secret quest to find a giant—without parental permission. Can they find and defeat the giant before their parents find them and drag them back home?
MY TAKE:

I've always been a fan of strong heroines. There are too few of them, in my opinion, so Giants Beware! is a welcome addition to the world of (children's) books.

Like Lady Alanna and Lady Kel from Tamora Pierce's Tortall, Claudette is a brave girl who thirsts for adventure. When I first saw her on the cover, I thought Claudette was a boy. She looks quite boyish with her short hair and tunic.

Claudette is a tough-as-nails girl who doesn't back down from bullies who try to hurt her, her friend Marie or her little brother Gaston. Gaston is by far my favorite character, because he's a cutie pie who wants to be a pastry chef. He reminds me of those kids on Junior Masterchef. Too bad there are no recipes at the end of the book for the dishes he comes up with, because they sound delicious. Aside from becoming a pastry chef, Gaston also wants to make swords. It may sound a little weird to be a pastry chef/swordsmith, but I think it's a brilliant idea to add this to the storyline. When we were kids, we had lots of dreams and we knew that you can have more than one dream come true at a time. Some of us forget that as we grow older.

The authors should definitely consider shopping this around to networks like Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, because this has all the elements needed to make a hit television series for both pre-teens and adults alike.

Thanks to NetGalley and First Second for the e-copy. Publication date of Giants Beware! is on April 10, 2012.

THE GOOD:
  1. Interesting characters. All the characters are interesting, charming and funny.
  2. Drawing style. The drawing style is cute and makes me feel like I'm watching cartoons.
  3. Story. The story isn't just about one character, and there are virtually no cliches here.
THE BAD:
  1. There are weird thin white lines on the pages. I'm not sure if this will appear in the finished product, but this is probably just a product of scanning the pages.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
READ IT IF:
  1. You like strong heroines.
  2. You want a good quest story that doesn't follow the usual formula.
  3. You want an entertaining read that doesn't take too long to finish.
RATING:
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Tall edited by Donnie Lemke


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS.COM:
Four larger-than-life American folktales come alive in this collection of comics from award-winning creators and rising stars! The tall tales include Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Johnny Appleseed.
MY TAKE:

Since I didn't grow up in the United States, I'm not familiar with the stories in this book. I mean, I've heard of them, especially John Henry and Johnny Appleseed, but except for Johnny Appleseed, I didn't really know much about their stories. This book was a great way to familiarize myself with the stories of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry and Johnny Appleseed.

Since I wasn't familiar with the story before reading the book, I'm not sure how faithful they were to the original story. At the end of the story, though, there are some factoids about or related to the legend, to elaborate the story, so I think the stories are as accurate as they can get. :P

Each story was illustrated by a different person. My favorite style was the one for John Bunyan, since it seems more light-hearted. :) My favorite story, though, was the one about Johnny Appleseed.

Thanks to NetGalley and Stone Arch Books for the e-ARC. Publication date of Tall will be on February 1, 2012.

THE GOOD:
  1. It's a great way to educate kids about these folk tales.
  2. The facts at the end of the story inject some history/facts into the legend so that kids can understand the story behind the folk tales.
  3. The different drawing styles keeps the stories from appearing to be continuous.
THE BAD:
  1. Illustrations and the coloring are nice but the color seems to be a bit faded.
FAVORITE QUOTE/S:


READ IT IF:
  1. You or your kids are not familiar with these folk tales.
  2. You want to revisit these stories, but don't want to read a boring book.
  3. You like comic books.

RATING:
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