Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.
And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?

MY TAKE:
I usually like stories wherein people pretend to date each other and end up really dating each other, so I figured this was worth a try, especially with its use of The Art of War.

In The Art of Lainey, Lainey's boyfriend breaks up with her, and Lainey wants her back. Using the principles of The Art of War, based on her friend's suggestion, she recruits Micah, whose girlfriend also broke up with him, to be her pretend date to make their former significant others jealous. However, just as their plans begin to succeed, Lainey realizes that she may have started developing feelings for Micah.

I thought this was a cute, fun read that's perfect for a beach day. The story itself isn't groundbreaking or anything, but if you're looking for a sweet, light story, this one is a good bet.

It was kinda funny to see Lainey and Bianca trying to interpret lines from The Art of War and try to fit it into dating and relationships. Some lines and comparisons work better than others.

While I liked the story, sadly, I wasn't really a fan of Lainey. She was shallow and she had melded her identity with Jason to the point that she couldn't imagine senior year without him. She really needed some sense shaken into her. Now, with heroines like these, usually I end up disliking them more and more until I hate them by the end of the book. With Lainey, that didn't happen, and that's all thanks to Micah. I thought he was an interesting guy. Physically, he's not my type, but he's the kind of guy who I can easily be friends with, so it was a little bit like watching a guy friend date. It says a lot about Micah, I think, that he was able to make me like Lainey more. They had good chemistry, and their relationship progressed at a relatively normal pace.

I actually liked Bianca much more than Lainey. I just wish she figured more prominently into the story.

THE GOOD:

  1. Lainey and Micah have chemistry.
  2. It's not insta-love.
  3. There are plenty of likable supporting characters. 

THE BAD:

  1. Lainey can be pretty shallow and stuck on her fantasy future senior year. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Standing up for yourself is about more than flinging barbed-wire insults around. Its about picking your battles, knowing when to fight, knowing exactly what and who is worth fighting for. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like stories about pretend relationships that become real.
  2. You like heroines who are athletes.
  3. You like bad boy/punk rocker love interests. 

RATING:
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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review: Afternoon on the Amazon (Magic Tree House #6) by Mary Pope Osborne


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!
Vampire bats and killer ants?
That's what Jack and Annie are about to run into when the Magic Tree House whisks them away to the Amazon River. It's not long before they get hopelessly lost. Will they be able to find their way back to the tree house? Or are Jack and Annie stuck forever in the rain forest?
Visit the Magic Tree House website!
MagicTreeHouse.com


MY TAKE:
I wasn't too happy with the Night of the Ninjas book, but I decided to give this book a chance since I think the series could be great.

In Afternoon on the Amazon, Jack and Annie head to the Amazon to find the next item that help save Morgan.

After reading Night of the Ninjas, I was a little wary about trusting all the information found here. Everything seems okay, though, even if it's not very detailed. At the very least, it's a good way to pique children's curiosity about the Amazon.

As for Jack and Annie's adventure, it was actually okay. There was always something going on, and the kids got to see a few animals and insects, albeit most of them were a bit scary. From the previous books, I know that Annie has a way with animals, but here, there was at least one instance when I thought that the way she was able to communicate with the animals was almost magical.

THE GOOD:

  1. It can encourage kids to learn more about the Amazon.
  2. It's an easy read for young readers.
  3. It can encourage discussion between kids and parents. 

THE BAD:

  1. Some kids may find the Amazon's animals a little scary based on their depiction here. 

READ IT IF:

  1. Your child likes animals.
  2. Your child is interested in learning about the Amazon.
  3. Your child liked the first books in the series. 

RATING:
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Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: The Further Adventures of An Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Everyone's favorite idiot is back, in this hysterical follow-up to An Idiot Abroad Safely home from his latest travels, Karl Pilkington has decided it is time to share his hard-earned wisdom of the world. Taking the Bucket List of "100 Things to Do Before You Die" as his starting point, Karl combines brilliant stories from his recent adventuresto Alaska, Siberia, and beyond with entertaining, highly-opinionated views on what other people aspire to do with their lives. He tackles such questions as Why on earth would anybody want to run with the bulls in Pamplona, or go "storm chasing" through Tornado Alley? and Why would anyone ever want to have lunch with the Queen, or touch hands with the Pope? A fitting finale to two years of eventful globe-trotting, this companion guide is frank, funny, and strangely inspiring.
MY TAKE:
I've been a fan of Karl Pilkington since I first saw An Idiot Abroad years ago on TLC.

In The Further Adventures of An Idiot Abroad, Karl recalls his adventures for the show, focusing on things that people usually put on their bucket lists.

It was a pleasant surprise for me to realize that I have seen most of the episodes that he recounts in this book. It reminded me of the first time I saw those episodes and couldn't stop laughing at his antics and his observations. I don't remember seeing the Route 66 episode, though, which was too bad as it sounded quite interesting.

Karl is a pessimist, and some people may find that grating. To be honest, though, it didn't really bother me as I was too busy laughing at his reactions to the things that Ricky and Stephen make him do. What I love about his observations and reflections is the fact that while a few of them are simplistic or uninformed, he does make a lot of good points as well. It's almost like a child's logic. They make funny comments sometimes, that actually makes sense in a way, if you think about it.

He also doesn't pull any punches when it comes to sharing what he thinks of his experiences and the places he visits. A lot of times, he says it to the native he interacts with, but there are times he only says it to the camera or in a voiceover, if I remember it correctly. That's one of the things I like about him. If I was visiting a place, I'd want to know about the negatives too, just so I can be prepared.

THE GOOD:

  1. Karl is very funny.
  2. He makes good points.
  3. It's a good companion to the show.

THE BAD:

  1. Some may find Karl too pessimistic. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You love an Idiot Abroad.
  2. You like people who say what they mean.
  3. You are a fan of Karl Pilkington.  

RATING:
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: Paper Towns by John Green


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Who is the real Margo?
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew...

MY TAKE:
I've been meaning to read John Green's novels for some time now and I figured Paper Towns was a good place to start.

In Paper Towns, Quentin has had a crush on Margo for a long time now. One night, Margo shows up at his window and invites him to join her on an epic mission. The next day, Q thinks things will be different and he and Margo can be closer friends. However, Margo is gone and it might be up to Q and his friends to find the elusive Margo.

Based on the synopsis, I thought this would be like Thirteen Reasons Why. For awhile there, I thought I was right too. However, later on, it became clear that this was more like 500 Days of Summer. That is, it was a love story that wasn't a love story.

Paper Towns centers around Q and Margo's friendship/relationship, but this was also about identity, friendship and understanding others. It's been awhile since I read a book that tackled these topics with that kind of maturity. I remember I quote I read once that said that the teens on Dawson's Creek didn't talk like teens. There was a little bit of that here, particularly in Quentin's narration and his conversations with Margo. It's not a bad thing, though. Some teens do talk like that and even those that don't can appreciate their sentiment. Anyway, the rest of the dialogue does sound like typical teen conversation, right down to the cursing and crude language.

Quentin was just okay for me, overall. I did like him a lot when he was with Radar and Ben because their chemistry was fun to watch. Ben is kind of a frat-guy stereotype, but I liked Radar. He's nice and sweet. As for Margo, I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about her. She was really wild and unpredictable, but broken. Q placed her on this pedestal, which i think was quite fitting as there was something unreal about her persona, which as it turns out, wasn't her true self anyway.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's not your typical love story.
  2. It's a journey of self-discovery too.
  3. There's an epic road trip here. 

THE BAD:

  1. The crude language in a couple or so dialogue can put off some sensitive readers. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“If you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all.” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You liked 500 Days of Summer.
  2. You don't want to read a typical love story.
  3. You want to read a story that has a strong friendship between the main male character and his friends that doesn't fall apart because of a girl.

RATING:
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.
She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

MY TAKE:
This book was a wonderful end to a series that I have loved every chapter of.

In Mortal Heart, the focus is now on Annith. She has longed to go on an assignment for the convent, but the abbess refuses to give her one. In fact, the abbess wants Annith to become the next convent seeress, effectively keeping her within the convent for the rest of her life. This does not sit well with Annith and she leaves the convent to confront the abbess. There's a very good reason why the abbess won't let her use her skills in the real world, and when she finds out, Annith's life will be forever changed.

While this wasn't as amazing for me as Dark Triumph was, I still thought it was brilliant. The major plot twist was one that was hinted at several times, but the hints don't make absolute sense until the appropriate time. You are likely to get a good part of the answer but the full story will likely be a surprise for you.

Most of the story's focus is on Annith's journey and her love story. The battle at the end, as well as their long-shot plan, also features that love prominently. I'm not really complaining, though, because I did like Annith and Balthazaar together. I thought their story was going one way at first, and I was okay with it because the hellequin were pretty badass. However, when the truth was revealed and my growing suspicions were proven correct, I thought, well, it could be cheesy but the way it was explained had me totally on board.

I was also happy to see Ismae and Duval, and Sybella and Beast. It reminded me of how much I liked those two, especially Sybella who is a girl after my own heart.

THE GOOD:

  1. It was a terrific conclusion to the series.
  2. The plot twists were great, but not completely out of left field.
  3. The characters are complex. 

THE BAD:

  1. The romance plays a little heavier on the story than some people may like. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Even if we are lost or wandering, He will find us—always, He will find us—and try to bring us home. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like strong heroines.
  2. You like complex characters.
  3. You liked the first two books in the series.

 RATING:
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

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!

"That's right. I'm in charge now. You might be the Master of this infernal school, but you are not my Master and you will never be. You said it yourself: the Storian won't write because it is waiting for my choice, not yours. I choose whether I take your ring. I choose whether this is The End. I choose whether this world lives or dies. And I'm happy to watch it burn to dust if you expect a slave instead of a queen."          

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Tangled (Tangled #1) by Emma Chase


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Drew Evans is a winner. Handsome and arrogant, he makes multimillion dollar business deals and seduces New York’s most beautiful women with just a smile. He has loyal friends and an indulgent family. So why has he been shuttered in his apartment for seven days, miserable and depressed?
He’ll tell you he has the flu.
But we all know that’s not really true.
Katherine Brooks is brilliant, beautiful and ambitious. She refuses to let anything - or anyone - derail her path to success. When Kate is hired as the new associate at Drew’s father’s investment banking firm, every aspect of the dashing playboy’s life is thrown into a tailspin. The professional competition she brings is unnerving, his attraction to her is distracting, his failure to entice her into his bed is exasperating.
Then, just when Drew is on the cusp of having everything he wants, his overblown confidence threatens to ruin it all. Will he be able untangle his feelings of lust and tenderness, frustration and fulfillment? Will he rise to the most important challenge of his life?
Can Drew Evans win at love?
Tangled is not your mother’s romance novel. It is an outrageous, passionate, witty narrative about a man who knows a lot about women…just not as much as he thinks he knows. As he tells his story, Drew learns the one thing he never wanted in life, is the only thing he can’t live without.

MY TAKE:
I don't usually read books from this genre, but I was looking for a little something new in the romance department, so I decided to give this a try.

In Tangled, Drew is a playboy who gets pretty much anything he wants. One night, a woman turns him down and later on he finds out that she's his new colleague. He has a policy about not dating women he works with, but he's willing to make Kate an exception.

Plot-wise, there really isn't much that's new here. The playboy changes for the girl, it's been done before. However, the way it was portrayed was funny and no-holds barred, which was very entertaining. Usually, plot predictability bores or annoys me. Here, I was too busy enjoying the lines to care.

Drew narrates the story, and unlike some romance novels wherein the prose is so romantic that it makes you think "Why doesn't my significant other talk like this?", here you'll have no trouble believing it really is a rich, red-blooded American male speaking. Drew curses a lot, and he can be pretty crude sometimes. Of course, if you have plenty of guy friends, it's not really all that shocking or off-putting.

I enjoyed the story as Drew explained it. He addresses the reader throughout the book and even interrupts a scene to make a point. If you've ever seen the movie The Emperor's New Groove, you'll know that scene wherein his llama self is crying and Kuzco stops the film to explain things. That's was this was like. It's actually funnier than it sounds.

Drew and Kate are described as being both attractive and brilliant, so I'm pretty meh about them as individuals. However, I do like them together. The sum is definitely greater than its parts.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are some very hot scenes here.
  2. Drew sounds like a guy's guy.
  3. There are some really funny lines. 

THE BAD:

  1. Drew can be a real jerk. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Women fall in love quicker than men. Easier and more often. But when guys fall? We go down harder. And when things go bad? When it's not us who ends it? We don't get to walk away.
We crawl. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like playboys who become good guys.
  2. You are looking for a sexy book.
  3. You are looking for a romance written from the guy's point-of-view. 

RATING:
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Sunday, November 22, 2015

In My Mailbox


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

FROM NETGALLEY:


Pippa Morgan's Diary by Annie Kelsey

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washedup child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.
MY TAKE:
I was reluctant to start this book because of the reviews, but I'm glad I tried it anyway.

In An Abundance of Katherines, all of Colin's ex-girlfriends are named Katherine. After the latest breakup, he and his best friend go on a road trip and end up in a small town filled with interesting people. While there, in an attempt to understand why all of his ex-girlfriends dumped him, and also because he's feeling the pressure of being a former child prodigy, he decides to formulate a theorem that can predict how a relationship will turn out.

The most common criticism I found of this book was that Colin was whiny. While I agree that he was a downer sometimes, I found his whining and self-centeredness tolerable, if only because I thought he might have Asperger's or something. I did like his best friend Hassan more, though. He's funny and positive. Also, for some reason, I kept imagining him as Rusev the WWE wrestler, even though Hassan is Arab and not Bulgarian.

The whole Katherine thing, while unlikely, was an interesting plot point for me. Obviously, the endgame romance was predictable and I'm not a real fan of the girl, but the getting there was actually fun.

I was fascinated by Colin's theorem. I mean, I pretty much forgot everything that wasn't basic mathematics, algebra and geometry after college, so I couldn't make sense of the formula on its own, but I had no trouble understanding the explanations Colin gave. I'm interested to see if this works on real-life couples as well.
 
THE GOOD:

  1. There are plenty of great quotes.
  2. It touches on topics that teens will be able to relate to.
  3. The theorem is actually interesting. 

THE BAD:

  1.  Colin can be a downer sometimes.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like math.
  2. You like stories with something to say.
  3. You've ever wondered why you're always getting dumped.

RATING:
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Friday, November 20, 2015

Review: Night of the Ninjas (Magic Tree House #5) by Mary Pope Osborne


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!
Have you ever met a real live ninja?
Jack and Annie do when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to ancient Japan, where they find themselves in the cave of a ninja master. Will they learn the secrets of the ninja? Or will the evil samurai warriors get them first?
Visit the Magic Tree House website!
MagicTreeHouse.com

MY TAKE:
I am fascinated by ninjas so I was excited to read this one.

In Night of the Ninjas. M needs Jack and Annie's help, and the answer may lie with the ninjas.

I was right in assuming that M was now going to play a bigger part in Jack and Annie's adventures. The first clue in their quest leads them to ancient Japan wherein they meet ninjas and samurais.

While the ninjas in the book moved and acted, for the most part, like real ninjas, there were a couple of moments in the book that I kinda had to stop and think "Really?", because that was not how I remembered it from the books and documentaries I have seen about ninjas (and samurai, for that matter). One example was the presence of a ninja master. As far as I know, while there are ninja clans and clan leaders, I don't think they're actually called ninja masters, unless by that you mean that they have mastered ninjutsu.

I did like that Jack and Annie used ninja techniques, though. That was nice.

THE GOOD:

  1. Jack and Annie use ninja techniques.
  2. There's a purpose to their journey other than just wanting to visit the place.
  3. There are ninjas AND samurais here.  

THE BAD:

  1. There are a few inaccuracies.

READ IT IF:

  1. Your child likes ninjas.
  2. Your child liked the first books in the series.
  3. Your child likes adventure books. 

RATING:
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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: Pirates Past Noon (Magic Tree House #4) by Mary Pope Osborne


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Illus. in black-and-white. Jack and Annie are in deep trouble when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the days of desert islands, secret maps, hidden gold--and ruthless pirates! Will Jack and Annie discover a buried treasure? Will they find out the identity of the mysterious M? Or will they walk the plank?
MY TAKE:
This series just keeps getting better.

In Pirates Past Noon, Jackie and Annie end up being captured by pirates who want them to reveal where Captain Kidd's treasure is.

The flow of the story was pretty predictable, although I did like how Jack and Annie were able to figure out the clues.

The best thing about this book, I think, is the reveal of M. I honestly thought that this wouldn't happen for awhile. I'm glad it did, because this opens up the series to more exciting possibilities in the future.

THE GOOD:

  1. M's identity is revealed.
  2. Their adventure is interesting.
  3. Kids can learn new things about pirates.

THE BAD:

  1. The first part can feel a little formulaic.  

READ IT IF:

  1. Your child likes pirates.
  2. Your child likes mysteries.
  3. Your child likes magic. 

RATING:
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.
(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

MY TAKE:
I was looking for a funny book to read, and this sounded perfect.

In Bossypants, Tina Fey shares stories from her life, as well as some tips based on her life experiences.

I definitely enjoyed this book. There were plenty of sarcastic and self-deprecating comments that had me laughing out loud. She was able to take even the crappiest and least happy moments of her life and make funny jokes about it.

Of her stories, though, my favorites were the ones that included Amy Poehler. On their own, they are already formidable comedians, but together, they are absolutely brilliant. The book devoted some pages to the Sarah Palin impressions that Tina Fey did on Saturday Night Live. I remember that I couldn't stop laughing when I first saw that years ago, so I decided to watch it again on Youtube. I'm happy to say that the skit still made me laugh.  

THE GOOD:

  1. The book has plenty of positive and encouraging messages.
  2. There are lots of funny lines.
  3. It's a nice book to read when you're feeling down.

THE BAD:

  1. Some may not think that the sarcastic lines are funny. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You are a Tina Fey fan.
  2. You enjoy sarcastic and self-deprecating humor.
  3. You love reading memoirs. 

RATING:
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

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!

“What's the one thing Evil can never have...and the one thing Good can never do without?”          

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Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House #3) by Mary Pope Osborne


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Now in full-color throughout, this jacketed hardcover edition boasts new artwork, plus a letter from Mary Pope Osborne and new nonfiction information! Join Jack and Annie as they travel back to the time of ancient Egypt and have an adventure filled with magic, mystery, history, and fun facts.
MY TAKE:
This series has really started to grow on me.

In Mummies in the Morning, Jack and Annie travel to Ancient Egypt where they meet a black cat and a ghost queen who needs their help.

This book follows pretty much the same formula as the first two books. Jack and Annie go to the tree house, choose a book and go to that time and place. However, I liked this book better than the second one in the series.

The appearance of the ghost gave Jack and Annie a fun quest and purpose that I didn't get from the second book. The way their journey through the pyramid was structured also allowed for maximum learning for young readers without sacrificing the flow of the story.

There were moments that I thought were a bit silly and unrealistic, but I think young readers will think these moments are hilarious.

As for the characters, they're still the way they were in the first book. Jack still loves writing down things, and Annie still loves rushing in without really considering what will happen. If I had been Annie's parent, I would have probably had an anxiety attack.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's a good introduction to Ancient Egypt.
  2. Their adventure in the pyramid was interesting.
  3. The series is starting to pick up. 

THE BAD:

  1. Annie is a little too impulsive for me. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You liked the other books in the series.
  2. Your child likes adventure books.
  3. Your child loves Ancient Egypt.

RATING:
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Sunday, November 15, 2015

In My Mailbox


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

FROM NETGALLEY:



The Big Bucket List Book: 133 Experiences of a Lifetime 
by Gin Sander

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

MY TAKE:
This is one of those books I've been meaning to read for awhile, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

In Outliers: The Story of Success, readers learn more about the lives of successful people and what factors contribute to their success.

I found this book quite fascinating. The anecdotes went a long way to driving home points without being dry or boring. It was amazing to see what factors were able to influence success in the subjects of the stories, and how this applies to our lives.

The idea of hard work, culture and opportunities combining with talent and intelligence to create successful people makes absolute sense to me. While talent and intelligence does provide advantages, without hard work, upbringing and the traits that come with one's culture and upbringing, success isn't guaranteed.

While reading this book, I tried to compare it to my own experiences and those of the people I know. I'd have to say that it seems to hold true. My classmates from private school and my high school and college (which is one of the top schools in the country) are mostly successful now. The people I know from outside this system, those who didn't grow up middle class or privileged, their success rate varies but it's certainly not as high as that of the people I know who've had better opportunities.

I learned a lot from this book, and happily, it affirms the parenting style I've been using and planning to continue until my child is older. It also made me feel inspired to do more and look for something that's a better fit career-wise. If you've been feeling discouraged because you don't feel successful, this book is a must-read for you.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are plenty of interesting anecdotes.
  2. It brings up great talking points.
  3. It can be very inspiring.

THE BAD:

  1. There were a couple or so dull moments.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“Achievement is talent plus preparation”  
READ IT IF:

  1. You are feeling uninspired at work.
  2. You wonder what you should do to increase your child's chances of future success.
  3. You've ever wondered why some people are more successful than others.

RATING:
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Friday, November 13, 2015

Review: Percy Jackson's Greek Gods (Percy Jackson and the Olympians companion book) by Rick Riordan


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
"A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week." So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. "If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that." Dramatic full-color illustrations throughout by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco make this volume--a must for home, library, and classroom shelves--as stunning as it is entertaining.
MY TAKE:
I loved the Percy Jackson series, and while this wasn't as exciting as that series, it had plenty of what I loved about it: Greek gods and goddesses, and humorous jokes.

In Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, Percy Jackson introduces you to the 12 Olympians (plus a few other gods, goddesses, Titans, etc.) through their origin stories, as well as entertaining stories featuring them.

I loved the plot twists in Rick Riordan's books, but given the nature of this book, that wasn't possible. The stories (not all of which I'm familiar with but of those that I do know, the story line is the same) basically follow the stories that already exist, but the gods and goddesses' dialogue have been modernized, such that they sound like they won't have trouble fitting in with us. There were also plenty of pop culture references, a lot of which made me laugh.

The book's strength, aside from introducing readers to Greek myths, is its delivery. The book sounds like it was narrated by a teenager or young adult, so unlike with some mythology books, you don't feel your mind start to wander. It's a great introductory book to Greek myths or a refresher course for those who are already familiar with them.

I don't know if this book has a sequel, but I certainly hope Mr. Riordan considers it.

THE GOOD:

  1. The book is hilarious.
  2. It's a fun way to learn about a few Greek myths.
  3. It makes learning and remembering the Greek gods and goddesses relationships with one another easier. 

THE BAD:

  1. It doesn't have the great plot twists that you've come to expect from a Percy Jackson book. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Hermes played a little Mozart and some One Direction, and Apollo cried, ‘I must have it! The girls will go wild for that!” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like reading about the Greek gods and goddesses.
  2. You loved the Percy Jackson series.
  3. You are looking for a book that can make you laugh. 

RATING:
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: Fire Study (Study #3) by Maria V. Snyder


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
The apprenticeship is over
Now the real test has begun
When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder — able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before.…
Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

MY TAKE:
While I didn't like this book as much as the first book in the series, I still liked it enough to give it a relatively high rating.

In Fire Study, Yelena is once again facing a dangerous enemy. However, it may not be the enemy she originally thinks, and in order to defeat all her foes, she must accept what she truly is.

I don't know if it's because I noticed it in the second book, but with this book, after a couple of captures, it began to irk me whenever someone would kidnap or attack Yelena because most of those ended with her unconscious. I know that this has much to do with the story and its progression but it did bother me just a tiny bit.

The book did trend towards the melodramatic in several moments, mostly during Yelena and Valek's scenes. I was in the mood for it, so it was great for me. It felt a bit more like an epic drama that way.

As for the rest of the story, it was as interesting as the other books. There were plot twist after plot twist, although I could have done without Captain Star. The whole Sandseed affair was quite brilliant and I liked how it all played out. I wasn't surprised to see who the biggest villain was. I'd say more, but it would spoil the surprise for those who are still thinking of reading it.

I just found out that there's another book in the series. After reading this book, I'm definitely interested in finding out what happens next for Valek and Yelena.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are some really good plot twists.
  2. Yelena's conversations with the horses are sweet and sometimes hilarious.
  3. The magic in their world is fascinating.

THE BAD:

  1. Yelena seems to keep getting herself knocked unconscious or kidnapped. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“Did you live here?" Leif asked. I nodded. "For two years"."Where did you stay?" "I had a room in Valek's suite." Leif shot me an incredulous look. "Boy, you worked fast.”  
READ IT IF:

  1. You liked the first book in the series.
  2. You like books with magical characters.
  3. You like action-packed stories.

RATING:
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