Sunday, March 31, 2013

In My Mailbox



In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FROM NETGALLEY:




The Emerald Ring (Cleopatra's Legacy) by Dorine White
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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review: Follow Your Money by Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

A vital introduction to the way money flows.
In order to become a savvy consumer, it’s important to understand what happens to money once it leaves your pocket. This engaging, kid-friendly book takes a look at the route money takes as it goes to pay for everything from raw materials, salaries, and transportation to packaging, marketing, and advertising.  
Using examples that are relevant to kids, Follow Your Money explains who gets what when you buy pizza, movie tickets, CDs, clothes, and other goods. Readers may be surprised to learn that a $10 movie ticket only translates into a $.05 profit for the theater once all expenses are paid. And for those who opt for designer instead of no name jeans, the huge difference in price has almost nothing to do with material or production costs and everything to do with profit.
Other topics include an easy-to-understand summary of how banks and credit cards work, as well as answers to questions such as “Why do things go on sale?” “What’s the best way to save money when you buy a cell phone?” “Which food item is the most profitable for a restaurant: a burger, a veggie stir-fry, or a salad?”
Brightly illustrated with graphic breakdowns of all the elements involved in monetary transactions, this book helps demystify the process while helping kids make informed financial decisions.

MY TAKE:
If you or your child has ever wondered where the money you pay goes to and how much businesses more or less profit from items you buy, then this book is for you.

In Follow Your Money, you get a glimpse at sample breakdowns of costs for items like pencils, coffee, and pizzas. You also get to read different factoids about money and why costs for certain items are such.

I found some of the additional facts to be interesting, and the variety of items talked about means you get a sampling of how different types of items are priced. Over the course of the book, though, the breakdowns got a little boring and monotonous. On the bright side, the layout and the illustrations help make the book a little more interesting and a bit less boring.

I think this book is best read with someone who you can discuss the content with. For example, a parent can read this to his/her child and they can go over each item and breakdown and discuss if the breakdowns make sense and if it would be profitable to sell those items.

Thanks to NetGalley and Annick Press Ltd. for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. You get an idea of how and why items are priced as such.
  2. It's a good book to read with your kids.
  3. It makes the topic of money interesting to kids.

THE BAD:

  1. It can get boring looking at so many price breakdowns.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
The word "salary" (what someone gets paid in a year for doing their job) comes from the Latin word for salt, because people in Rome were paid in salt.
READ IT IF:

  1. Your child is inquisitive.
  2. You or your child have wondered how items are priced.
  3. Your child likes informative books.

RATING:
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Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: Ripped A Jack the Ripper Time-Travel Thriller by Shelly Dickson Carr


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

After her parents were killed, Katie left Boston to live with Grandma Cleaves in London. It still seems like a bad dream. But she's doing okay, even making new friends.
A bit of a history buff, Katie likes living in a city where so much has happened, likes walking the same streets as the authors of Dracula and the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. This cool, bookish teen is working on her British accent and even learning some Cockney rhyming slang from handsome Toby.
When a museum visit with friends turns funky, Katie finds herself in a long, uncomfortable dress, wearing a ridiculous hat. What happened to her jeans and high-top sneakers? Where's her iPhone? It's London, 1888. Smart, gutsy Katie realizes she's here to stop a serial killer. She can't bring her parents back, but maybe she can save these women. Katie 's read about the Ripper, knows the names of his victims, even knows where and when they were killed. She's watched her fair share of CSI, knows about profiling and forensics. Surely she knows enough to save the lives of his victims. But how will changing history affect the lives of those she loves most?

MY TAKE:
I've always had a thing for mysteries and a lot of historical fiction books, so the idea of a YA mystery book that focused on one of the greatest mysteries of all time really intrigued me.

In Ripped, Katie travels back to Victorian London after making a wish and touching the raven's claw fissure in the London Stone. She finds herself right in the middle of Jack the Ripper's reign of terror, but what does this have to do with her wish?

I wasn't quite sure where the story was going at first. That is, it seemed to me like they were just after who Jack the Ripper was. As such, through most of the book, I was guessing who he could be. I actually did guess correctly but as I was so focused on the whole mystery and if Katie could actually change things, it never occurred to me to put two and two together and realize the significance of Jack the Ripper's identity on Katie and the other characters. For that, I give kudos to this book. It's definitely an intelligent, intriguing plot.

The only downside for me was Katie herself. She's impulsive, doesn't think before she speaks and she's selfish. There were times when she was actually okay, especially the last chapter, but for the most part, I found her really frustrating. It's a good thing that the story was compelling, otherwise I would not have been too eager to continue the book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Members' Titles for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. The plot twists are not that predictable.
  2. It's a good way to familiarize yourself with Cockney slang.
  3. You get to see the nice and not so nice parts of Victorian London.

THE BAD:

  1. Katie can be annoying.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Katie was surprised to see Major Brown and Reverend Pinker at the sideboard scooping up heaping portions of poached eggs, roasted tomatoes, kippers, bacon, and sausage onto their plates.
READ IT IF:

  1. You are fascinated by the mystery of Jack the Ripper.
  2. You like novels set in Victorian London.
  3. You like time-travel stories.

RATING:
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: The Boardwalk Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
The Aldens are visiting the New Jersey shore and enjoying the beach and the boardwalk attractions. A family friend has just bought an amusement pier, and the children are excited to help out. But there are rumors that the rides aren’t safe, and someone has stolen a zombie from the haunted house! Can the Boxcar Children find out what’s behind all the trouble? 
MY TAKE:
As a Boxcar Children fan, this one was a must-read for me.

In The Boardwalk Mystery, Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny tag along when their grandfather heads to Oceanside, New Jersey. There they meet Mr. Hanson and his family. Mr. Hanson has just bought an amusement pier, but things aren't going so well because someone is vandalizing the attractions at the pier.

This book stays true to the spirit of the series. The characters, especially Benny, are as lovable and helpful as ever. The idea of amusement park mysteries isn't exactly new, but it's hard not to like this one anyway, because it feels light-hearted and you're transported to a nice, simpler time. The mystery isn't that difficult to solve either, although you might not get it 100% correctly.

This book definitely makes me eager to read the other books, or at the very least, go back and read the very first book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Albert Whitman & Company for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. The kids are lovable.
  2. It can make you long for amusement piers and carnivals.
  3. It's a nice, quick read.

THE BAD:

  1. The mystery isn't that hard to figure out.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Just then Mack delivered a large, hot pizza with bubbling cheese to their table.
READ IT IF:

  1. You like The Boxcar Children.
  2. Your kid likes reading mysteries.
  3. Your kid likes amusement parks.

RATING:
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Hashbrown Winters and the Whiztastrophe by Frank L. Cole


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Losing to a girl in laser tag is the pits—especially if it’s to Melanie “Thumbs” Nottingham. So the Hashbrown gang comes up with a plan that will guarantee their success. But when plans go awry and they’re sent to another dimension, it’s up to Hashbrown to set everything right. This hilarious installment is sure to keep you laughing to the last page.
MY TAKE:
This is one of those books that, I think, can get young boys interested in reading if they aren't already.

In Hashbrown Winters and the Whiztastrophe, Hashbrown and his friends are tired of losing to Thumbs group and come up with a plan to win the Laser Tag Lightning Competition. While they succeed, things don't go exactly as planned and they are sucked into quite an amazing adventure.

I found the book quite interesting, partly because of the plot twists and partly because Hashbrown and his friends are all lovable. Hashbrown and company are your typical boys, or at least, your typical boys who aren't overachievers. They're the kind of characters that little boys can definitely relate to, especially since they're always up to something fun.

The plot is kind of ingenious, and it does have a positive message, especially for young kids who feel like they're losers or underachievers. There needs to be more books like these for young readers.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bonneville for the e-ARC. Publication date of Hashbrown Winters and the Whiztastrophe is on April 9, 2013.

THE GOOD:

  1. Hashbrown and his friends are likable.
  2. There are plenty of funny moments.
  3. The book has an important message.

THE BAD:

  1. Some of the things that Hashbrown or his friends does are kinda gross.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
I've updated the menu and I'm kind of in the mood for Mexican food.
READ IT IF:

  1. You want to encourage your child to read.
  2. Your kid likes underdogs.
  3. Your child likes laser tag.

RATING:
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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!
Nodding at Snow Cone, we both placed a cardboard box filled with gifts on the floor in front of the locker.
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Double Crossed A Spies and Thieves Story by Ally Carter


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

The worlds of Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls collide in Ally Carter’s fast-paced, high-stakes and tantalizing new novella. Get a behind the scenes glimpse as Ally delivers an irresistible thriller that is full of her signature style and savvy twists.
Macey McHenry—Glamorous society girl or spy-in-training?
W.W. Hale V—Heir to an American dynasty or master thief?
There are two sides to every coin. Whether these two can work together is a tossup.
Born into privilege, Macey and Hale are experts at mingling with the upper class. But even if they’ve never raised an eyebrow at the glitz, neither teenager has ever felt at home with the glamour.
When Macey and Hale meet at a society gala, the party takes a dangerous turn. Suddenly they’re at the center of a hostage situation, and it’s up to them to stop the thugs from becoming hostile. Will Macey’s spy skills and Hale’s con-man ways be enough to outsmart a ruthless gang? Or will they have to seek out the ultimate inside girl to help? 

MY TAKE:
I've actually never read any of the Heist Society or Gallagher Girls books, even though I've been meaning to, so I came into this not knowing who was who and what I should expect.

In Double Crossed, Gallagher Girl Macey and thief W.W. Hale V find themselves in the middle of a heist at a society gala. This short story also includes excerpts from Heist Society and I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You.

Since this is really just a short story, there's only so much that can be done plot-wise and character development-wise. However, given those limitations, this story was actually quite interesting. The mystery of the thieves and their mastermind is quite obvious when you think about it, but the fast pace and Macey and Hale's bantering help keep you from dwelling too much on the mystery before the proper time.

I didn't find Macey, Hale or Kat all that interesting, but perhaps it was because most of the short story focused on the heist and not so much on the characters.

Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Book Group for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are plenty of interesting things going on.
  2. You get to see spies and art thieves in action.
  3. It whets your appetite for the other books.

THE BAD:

  1. There's not as much character development as with a regular novel.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Situated on the Upper East Side with a glorious view of the park, the Athenia Hotel was supposed to be some kind of Olympus, high in the clouds above the mere mortals, a place for playing and drinking and dancing like gods.
READ IT IF:

  1. You like spy novels.
  2. You like strong heroines.
  3. You've always wanted to be a spy.

RATING:
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

In My Mailbox



In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FROM NETGALLEY:



Hashbrown Winters and the Whiztastrophe by Frank L. Cole
The Boardwalk Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Ripped A Jack the Ripper Time-Travel Thriller by Shelly Dickson Carr
Follow Your Money by Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka
Native Americans A Visual Explanation by S.N. Paleja
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Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review: The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

Things I know about Reece Malcolm:
1. She graduated from New York University.
2. She lives in or near Los Angeles.
3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week.
4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon.
5. She’s my mother.
Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much.
L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love.
But then the Reece Malcolm list gets a surprising new entry. Now that Devan is so close to having it all, can she handle the possibility of losing everything?

MY TAKE:
I was looking for a YA book that wasn't your typical boy-meets-girl kind of thing, and this book seemed to fit the bill.

In The Reece Malcolm List, Devan moves in with her biological mother whom she has never met before. As she learns more and more about her mother, she puts it down in a list in her notebook. In addition to dealing with her mom, she also has to make it work at her new school and with her new friends.

In a way, I guess I was expecting a Sarah Dessen-esque, introspective and emotional novel. This book, for me, was actually more like an episode of Glee. Devan reminds me so much of Rachel Berry. She's competitive, talented and aware of it, and she's a huge fan of musicals. She's what I imagine Rachel Berry was like before Season 1 of Glee.

Devan's new friends are an interesting bunch, however, I didn't really feel a deep connection with any of them. I was more sympathetic to Devan's mother Reece and her boyfriend Brad, though. Reece and Brad felt real and natural, like they were based on real people, so they felt more well-rounded than the other characters.

There were three major storylines throughout the book: Devan's relationship with her mother, Devan's school life and friendships, and Devan's lovelife. I didn't find Devan's lovelife all that compelling. I felt like the story would have been just as strong had the focus just been on Devan and her mother and her schooling. The book's strength really was Devan and Reece's interactions. Everything else seemed to pale in comparison with their scenes together. It was still an enjoyable read, though, especially for the beach when you're looking for something light.

Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. Devan and Reece's interactions felt genuine.
  2. You get a peek of life inside a performing arts school.
  3. It's a light read but not necessarily fluffy.

THE BAD:

  1. Some people may not connect with a lot of the characters.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
"Pasta's always fine," says my mother, as Brad says, "I can definitely accommodate pasta."
READ IT IF:

  1. You like musicals.
  2. You like Glee.
  3. You want to read a YA book about the heroine's relationship with her mother.

RATING:
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Motherhood The Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

A look at one of the toughest jobs on earth, from the woman who perfectly captures life’s humor and heart
Anyone who thinks motherhood is easy has never had children. To care for children, a husband, and oneself is a superhuman task, and any woman who appears to be expert at doing all three simultaneously is not Supermom—she’s a good actress. For three decades, Erma Bombeck chronicled motherhood’s daily frustrations and victories. In this classic anthology, she presents all sorts of mothers, and even a stay-at-home dad, on good days and bad. With hilarious anecdotes and deep compassion, she shows that there is no other profession that demands so much, and rewards so highly.This ebook features an illustrated biography of Erma Bombeck including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s estate.

MY TAKE:
I remember browsing my grandmother's old magazines and reading Erma Bombeck's witty columns, so I thought this one might be a fun road.

Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession is a collection of essays on motherhood. This includes essays about adoptive mothers, mothers of special children, and stepmothers.

I imagined that this would be a laugh-out-loud sort of book, but even though it wasn't all that funny, it was infinitely more inspiring and thought-provoking than I thought it would be. I think the biggest reason why I didn't laugh as much while reading this book was because of the generation gap. That is, there were references to TV characters and some other things that I can't really relate to. If you're not really interested in comedy and are after the motherhood aspect of the book, then there are definitely a lot of essays you'll like from this book.

A lot of mothers will be able to relate to pretty much everything in this book. It looks at both the nice things and the not-so-nice things about being a mother. Motherhood really is one of those those things that you can't truly appreciate unless you've been there. However, the book's essays comes pretty close to giving us a feel for what it's like to be a mother.

Thanks to NetGalley and Open Road for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. It has essays about all kinds of mothers.
  2. You don't have to be a mother to appreciate it.
  3. The message of the stories can stand the test of time.

THE BAD:

  1. Some of the pop culture references are no longer relevant today.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
If you want to stir up a hornet's nest, just ask mothers, "Who are harder to raise - boys or girls?"
READ IT IF:

  1. You are a mother.
  2. You want to be a mother someday.
  3. You wonder what life is like for mothers.

RATING:
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Hidden by Marianne Curley


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Ebony has always known that she is different. Her violet eyes mark her out, and her protective parents have kept her in a gorgeous valley, home-schooled, safe from everything - almost as if she's being hidden. But she's changing: glowing, getting more and more beautiful, and stronger than anyone knows. Ebony can't stay hidden for ever, and when she meets complicated, intense Jordan, something explodes inside her - something that can be seen from the heavens; something that changes everything. Ebony is a stolen angel, concealed on Earth. Now the heavens have found her, they want her back.
MY TAKE:
The book's synopsis really intrigued me so, though I haven't read any angel books in awhile.

In Hidden, Ebony is your typical teenage girl, albeit one with purple eyes and is a quick healer. She only realizes how special she is, though, when she meets Jordan and feels a crazy connection to him.

Where do I begin? Well, there's a lot of potential in this series. I mean, there are angel warriors, a love triangle/square of mortals and angels, and evil fallen angels. It's practically a recipe for success. However, I can't help but feel like it didn't quite live up to its potential.

Much of my problem with the book was Ebony. She annoyed me almost as much as Bella Swan. She's stubborn to the point of stupidity; she's got guys fighting over her even though she herself says she's not that special or beautiful; and she doesn't really seem to know what's good for her. The insta-love between her and another character made me cringe too. I mean, obviously it was because it was meant to be that way given what they were, but still, I felt like it was contrived. Or maybe it was just because I disliked Ebony so much by then.

This book's saving grace is Jordan and his story arc. Jordan is human, believable and likable. He does stupid things but somehow it's not as annoying as when Ebony does it. His relationship with Thane and Adam is really the driving force of this novel and it's what keeps this from being your run-of-the-mill YA paranormal romance novel. In fact, I wouldn't mind it if majority of the next book will be about Jordan since, from what I've read so far, he has some very interesting choices to make.

As for the book's plot, it was okay. I didn't really get into it until about 1/3 of the way in, but once the angels entered the scene and everything started to become clear, I was hooked.

Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. The plot has a lot of potential.
  2. Jordan is a solid character.
  3. Even with some uninteresting/annoying characters, the story is compelling enough to make you keep reading.

THE BAD:

  1. Ebony can be quite annoying.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
'There had better be bacon on the menu.'
READ IT IF:

  1. You like books with angel protagonists.
  2. You like Bella Swan.
  3. You like interesting male characters.

RATING:
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: New York a la Cart Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks by Siobhan Wallace, Alexandra Penfold


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Divided into neighborhood sections (Uptown, Midtown, Downtown, the Boroughs, etc.) New York a la Cart will spotlight the best of the Big Apple's cart cuisine, profiling 50 vendors and including their most popular recipes. There are terrific "only in New York" stories here: the IBM exec who quit his six-figure job to flip Belgian waffles, the banquet hall chef who followed his dreams from Bangladesh to 46th Street, the second generation souvlaki masters carrying on their family traditions, among many others. With full-color photos that capture the local color as well as the delicious food, New York a la Cart is a celebration of the food-cart scene — but most importantly, offers more than 60 recipes so that readers can make their favorite street food at home.
MY TAKE:
I've never been to New York but I've always wanted to go. That's why I like reading and watching about all things New York.

In New York a la Cart, different carts in New York are profiled by area. You get to learn about each cart's history, their specialties, and even their plans for the future. You'll also get a couple or so recipes patterned after the recipes for each cart's specialty.

I really, really enjoyed this book. Granted, the only truck/cart featured here that rang a bell with me was Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, which I knew about thanks to Anthony Bourdain's The Layover. However, you don't need to be in New York to enjoy this. That's the best thing about this book, I think. New Yorkers and tourists can use this as a guide to what trucks to look out for and which dishes to try. They can also use it as a cookbook for when they're craving their favorite food cart specialty but they can't buy it from the cart at the moment. For those of us who live far away from New York, we can try those specialties from the comfort of our homes.

The recipes are labeled as easy, medium or challenging, and vegetarian or gluten-free. This is very helpful for people like me who aren't too comfortable with their cooking skills or tend to blanch when they see a lot of ingredients for one recipe. The recipes include drinks, desserts and main courses, so this should cover most of your cravings.

The book is almost 300 pages long, but it feels like it only talked about a small amount of carts, even though it covered uptown, midtown, downtown, and the outer boroughs. Perhaps there should be a sequel? :)

Thanks to NetGalley and Running Press for the e-ARC. Publication date of New York a la Cart is on April 2, 2013.

THE GOOD:

  1. It covers as much of New York as possible.
  2. You get to try recipes which are based on the actual recipes of the vendors.
  3. You can use this as both a guide and a cookbook.

THE BAD:

  1. It feels too short, despite being almost 300 pages.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Carts in Chinatown distinguish themselves from their tonier uptown counterparts by offering super cheap snacks like fried fish balls, plates of noodles, and egg rolls priced from $1 and up.
READ IT IF:

  1. You're a foodie.
  2. You live in New York and are on the lookout for food carts/trucks you haven't tried yet.
  3. You want to replicate a favorite dish from one of the featured food carts/trucks.

RATING:
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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!

The history of street food in New York City is a tapestry woven from the threads of the immigrant experience.
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Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: The Gold Dust Letters by Janet Taylor Lisle


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

While searching for her fairy godmother, a young girl uncovers a world of magic
It starts with chocolates. Dreaming of a box of chocolates that never empties, Angela writes a letter to her fairy godmother asking for one. To her surprise, the fairy writes back! A letter appears on her mantelpiece from “Pilaria of the Kingdom of the Faeries,” written on ancient parchment with purple ink, and covered in a gold dust that vanishes as soon as it flies into the air. Is this really a letter from the land of magic? And if so, what does it mean? Angela and her two best friends begin investigating the mystery, searching Angela’s house for clues. But out of the blue, more letters appear on Angela’s mantelpiece. Pilaria is lonesome, and as curious about the girls’ world as they are about her kingdom. What they learn from their correspondence with this enchanting godmother will change everything they know—about magic and reality—forever. This ebook features a personal history by Janet Taylor Lisle including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s own collection.

MY TAKE:
I enjoyed Julie Kagawa's The Iron Fey series, and I usually like fairy stories so I thought this might be interesting.

In The Gold Dust Letters, Angela writes to her fairy godmother and unexpectedly gets a reply from a fairy. She tells her friends who are skeptical about her story and together they decide to see what's really going on.

This story had some really nice elements. The idea of writing to fairy godmothers and the fairy writing back was a great starting point. However, the fairy part of the story isn't really the most important thing about the plot. It drives the story forward and leads to an interesting conclusion and opens up the path for sequels to the book. The most surprising thing about this book, I think, is how family plays such an important part in the plot and the characters' growth. I thought that made the book more interesting and elevated it to being more than just another fairy story.

However, I wasn't as wowed by the story as I thought it would be. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but it feels like something was missing. I guess it was mostly because I couldn't really relate to the characters. Except for Angela, who was the main focus of the story, I didn't really feel like I knew the other girls. For example, even though Poco's penchant for talking to animals was stated time and again, I didn't really know anything else about her. Perhaps if the book had been a little bit longer, I might have been able to get to know the characters more and become more invested in their adventures.

Thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Young Readers for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. Family plays a big role in the story.
  2. It's a fresh take on fairy stories.
  3. There's a lot of potential here.

THE BAD:

  1. The book feels a little bit too short.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
They tasted the strawberries and sipped the golden liquid (it was honeyed lemonade).
READ IT IF:

  1. You like fairy stories.
  2. You don't necessarily believe in fairies, but you do believe in magic.
  3. You like stories about family.

RATING:
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

In My Mailbox



In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FROM NETGALLEY:

New York a la Cart Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks by Siobhan Wallace, Alexandra Penfold
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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: Mosey's Field by Barbara Lockhart, Illustrated by Heather Crow


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

Mosey, a long-legged, lumbering kind of dog, has a napping place in the middle of a corn field, but when the plow comes through, followed later by the planter, Mosey can no longer find his spot. As the corn grows, Mosey's adventures in the field include exploring tunnels in the corn rows, chasing rabbits, finding relief from the summer’s heat, and, at the end of the season, experiencing the terrifying (to him) appearance of a combine. Mosey's Field illuminates the beauty of the rural landscape, the change in seasons, and the progression of agricultural methods. While Mosey continues the search for his special place, children are not only connected to the environment, but the important concept of where food comes from. Early Reader; Ages 5-8.
Barbara Lockhart, a retired kindergarten teacher, lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where she's been watching fields for years. Heather Crow is an award-winning artist and art teacher. She lives in Easton, Maryland.

MY TAKE:
There's something about this book that grabbed my attention.

In Mosey's Field, Mosey the dog has a favorite spot on the farm wherein he's always resting. However, he has trouble finding it again once the field has been planted.

The story itself was just okay for me. Mosey's adventures weren't particularly compelling, but I did like that it showed what life in a farm was like and how the crops are grown. There's also a short feature at the book about corn, which people might find interesting.

My favorite thing of the book was actually the illustration style. It reminds me of the impressionist paintings. It might not appeal to everyone, but if that's your sort of thing, you'll definitely enjoy looking at the pictures while reading.

Thanks to NetGalley and Schiffer Publishing Ltd. for the e-ARC. Publication date of Mosey's Field is on March 29, 2013.

THE GOOD:

  1. The illustration style is very pretty.
  2. It's a great way for kids to learn about farming.
  3. The feature about the corn is a nice touch.

THE BAD:

  1. Some people may not find Mosey's story super interesting.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
In a very little while, the whole field was harvested and the truck was piled high with golden corn.
READ IT IF:

  1. Your child wants to learn more about farming.
  2. You like children's books with pretty, impressionist-style drawings.
  3. You like children's books with additional trivia at the end of the book.

RATING:
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: The Legend of Papa Balloon by C.R. McClure, Illustrated by Steven Kernen


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

Papa Balloon is the story of a unique, mysterious figure who magically appears in a land where the people have become divided and are in need of greater understanding and empathy for each other. Traveling through each of the four villages in this land and accompanied by the children who discover him, Papa Balloon teaches the villages a profound lesson in a simple way. Colorfully and brightly illustrated, and a page-turner of a tale, it is the perfect book for any parent who wants their children to learn about treating the traditions and viewpoints of others with respect, while putting forth the belief that we, as a group, are more united than we realize. Early Reader; Ages 5-8.
C.R. McClure resides in Pennsylvania with his wife and daughter. He is actively engaged in the promotion of spiritual coexistence. Steven Kernen is a muralist and caricaturist. He and his wife and children live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

MY TAKE:
This sounded like a cute book, and I was more or less right.

In The Legend of Papa Balloon, a mysterious figure named Papa Balloon appears in a world filled with balloons, and the people expressed their love of the Light using the balloons.

After the first few pages, I immediately felt that this book was about the different religions/religious sects. Of course, this could probably apply to other things too, however, religions were the first thing I thought of. Now, some may be turned off by the idea of religion, but I wasn't. I actually agreed with the idea in the book. In fact, that's exactly how I feel about the different religions and the different sects in the different religions. I doubt that there's one religion that's better or more correct than the others. I feel like, in the end, it's really just one God, in many different forms. I don't think that God would punish people who were in a certain religion even though they were good in life. I think it's more important to do good and be kind than it is to belong to a particular religion. I know several people from different religions who are very religious but outside their places of worship, they don't seem to follow their religion's teachings.

This book has a very positive message, which is great. The illustrations are simple, but that's okay because the message is more important here.

Thanks to NetGalley and Schiffer Publishing Ltd. for the e-ARC. Publication date of The Legend of Papa Balloon is on March 29, 2013.

THE GOOD:

  1. The message is important and worth the read for kids.
  2. Papa Balloon is a cute character.
  3. The message and the book transcends cultures.

THE BAD:

  1. Some people may not be a fan of the religious undertones.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
And those gathered around realized that the Light contained all the colors and that it falls on everyone equally...no matter who they are or where they live.
READ IT IF:

  1. You believe that no religion is better than the others.
  2. You want to teach your kid about tolerance.
  3. You want to teach your kid to be open-minded.

RATING:
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Witch Twins by Adele Griffin


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:

Claire and Luna may be witches, but there’s no easy spell to stop a wedding!
Though identical on the outside, ten-year-old twins Claire and Luna Bundkin are as different on the inside as peaches and peanut butter. Claire is mischievous and Luna is a dreamer, but they do share a favorite hobby: witchcraft. Whether it’s making breakfast or washing dishes, there’s nothing a five-star witch can’t accomplish with a wave of her pinkie finger. But there are two strict rules: Don’t tell Mom, and don’t try any spells without Grandy—their magical grandmother—watching. When Claire and Luna’s father announces that he’s getting remarried to a loudmouthed Texas woman named Fluffy, the twins know they need to do something to stop the wedding. Fluffy wouldn’t be a bad stepmother, but Claire and Luna know that she would lure their father to far-away Houston. A spell might be the only way to save their Dad, and they’ll try anything. Even if magic usually lands them in a pot of trouble. This ebook features a personal history by Adele Griffin including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s own collection.

MY TAKE:
I usually like books with witch heroines so I wanted to give this one a try.

In Witch Twins, Claire and Luna are young witch twins who are hoping to become one-star witches and get their kittens. However, something more urgent needs their attention: their father is going to get married to his girlfriend! What are the twins supposed to do now?

I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. It's kind of like a combination of Sweet Valley Kids and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The language used, the tone of the story, the adventures, and, of course, the twins, is very reminiscent of the old Sweet Valley Kids series I used to like when I was a kid. That's not to say that it feels like a copy. The fact that the twins are witches means that they get to do all sorts of fun things and get to be a bit more mischievous than Jessica and Elizabeth.

Just like my favorite twins, Claire and Luna do learn to do the right thing and everything works out for the best. It's a great feel good story for both the younger set, as well as those my age who remember liking the old '80s books, like Sweet Valley and The Babysitters Club. There just aren't enough books like that these days.

Thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Young Readers for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. Claire and Luna are interesting characters.
  2. The witchcraft in the book isn't boring and derivative.
  3. There's a cute subplot about Claire and Luna's grandfather.

THE BAD:

  1. There's a lot going on.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
In the kitchen, Claire's nose (which was good enough to smell an avocado) picked out crescent cookies, sugared popovers, and chicken soup made with garlic, rosemary, barley, and allspice.
READ IT IF:

  1. You liked Sweet Valley Kids, The Babysitters Club, and other similar books.
  2. You like books about witchcraft.
  3. You're looking for books that are good for young girls.

RATING:
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