Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book Review #52
Don't Know Much About The Civil War by Kenneth C. Davis
Rating: three stars (out of four)

While this book seems kind of big, and has over 500 pages, it really doesn't feel that long.  I found history really interesting while reading this book, Kenneth C. Davis has a way of taking facts and making them seem less like facts and more like pieces of fascinating story.  Kenneth also tells every side of the story, not just the winners.  Overall I thought this was a delightful book that gave you a basic overview of the civil war.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Book Review #51
Cracking The ACT 2008 Edition by Princeton Review
Rating: four stars (out of four)

While the thought of taking tests doesn't make anyone happy, I know I feel better when I am prepared.  That's where the Princeton Review came in.  Cracking the ACT 2008 Edition was a wonderful source of tips and tricks.  I found myself marveling at all the things I was "getting away with" while taking the test. Oftentimes I wondered if maybe I was reading an illegal book that the library had somehow gotten a hold of accidentally, because the things I were reading could not be something they'd just give to the general public.  With this kind of information there was no way I'd let that Pesky ACT get the better of me!  
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it had useful tips that I could remember and act upon when taking the test and they didn't move things so fast that I felt lost and hopeless.  There were even a couple traces of quirky math and english grammar humor thrown in so people could wonder why you were smirking when reading an ACT help book.  If you are taking the ACT anytime soon I'd heartily recommend this book, work through it before you take the test and you will feel confident to do your best.

Book Review #50
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices From a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
Rating: two stars (out of four)

A collection of twenty-two plays depicting what life during the Medieval times might have been like.

I was very excited to read the 2008 Newbery Award winner and while this book did entertain me, I was disappointed with the content and didn't think that it deserved the medal.  I liked the poems that you could perform as skits, they were amusing and did a fair job of describing Medieval life.  I thought this was a good book, and that is its problem.  It is only "good" not "outstanding" or "absolutely amazing!" as I've come to expect from the Newbery Award.  I'd recommend this book, but it's not a must-read.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Book Review #49
The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle
Rating: three stars (out of four)

Martin lives in HM1, a seemingly perfect world.  But when a stranger comes to town to take away the latest shipment of children, the new Wonder Babies, Martin wonders why no one is asking any questions and why no one call tell him where they've taken his little sister, Cassie, a Wonder Baby.  So he sets out to find the answers for himself.

When I first read the inside cover of this book I was really intrigued and couldn't wait to start it. The first 40 pages were really good, they reminded me of The City of Ember (Jeane DuPrau) and The Giver (Lois Lowry), two of my favorite books. As the plot progressed though, I found my attention wavering and slowly it lost a little bit of its likeness to the aforementioned books. I liked the concept of the story and found myself interested and wanting to know what would happen next.  I thought this was a pretty cool science fiction story for juvenile readers.  I was tingling with excitement as I read the first couple of pages, but some of the luster fell off when I got to the middle and neared the end.  Still, it was a good book and I am looking forward to reading the sequel when it comes out.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Book Review #48
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Rating: three stars (out of four)

Orphaned almost at birth and sent off to live with her Aunt and Uncle.  Jane Eyre has a rocky childhood marred with the fact that her Aunt will never accept Jane as anything but a burden.  Jane's future only begins to brighten when she gets sent off to boarding school, where, even though the conditions aren't ideal, at least Jane is learning.  At the ripe age of 18, Jane decides to become a governess and advertises in the paper. Little does Jane know what she is getting into when she accepts a position at Thornfield.

What I liked most about Jane Eyre was Jane's character. She knew what she believed and stuck to her principals, even if it meant giving up her happiness. I loved how she treated Mr. Rochester, she knew exactly how to handle him and keep him in check. The main disappointment I had with this book was Mr. Rochester. I couldn't bring myself to like him, I thought he was a rude man who didn't deserve Jane. Some elements of Mr. Rochester's character were very irksome and I couldn't see how Jane could stand him.  I really enjoyed the language of this book - the eloquent long words that I know the meanings of but never see in print anymore.  I also enjoyed the story line and could hardly put it down.  As I said before, the only dislike was Mr. Rochester.  I just didn't fall in love with him as I do for other characters in books, like Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) or Peter (Peter and the Starcatchers).  I'd recommend this book, it had a certain air of mystery and kept you on the edge of your seat wondering what would happen next.  

Book Review #47
You Are Mine by Max Lucado
Rating: three stars (out of four)

Punchinello is troubled when a new fad spreads across the little town of the Wemmicks. It seems you are not a good Wemmick unless you have lots of boxes and balls, but Punchinello doesn't have a lot of money, and he needs to buy more boxes and balls so that he will be held in high esteem.

This is a sweet little story that Max Lucado tells with a wise and knowing heart. Making the lesson something that even little children could understand, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review #46
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Rating: one star (out of four)

Caitlin just doesn't know what to think, not after her perfect sister Cass has run away.  She can hardly manage her own life without being in Cass' shadow. With Cass gone, Caitlin finds the light a little bright and looks towards the only person she thinks will be able to keep it all together for her, Rogerson, her boyfriend.

I was not impressed with this book, I had to work my way through it and then in the middle things took a sudden turn for the worst.  I had not been expecting that twist in the plot and it wasn't a welcome diversion.  Dreamland had some pretty questionable content and a depressing end, making this book not worth the effort. I wouldn't recommend this book.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Book Review #45
A Slant of Sun by Beth Kephart
Rating: three stars (out of four)

A memoir written about her son and his diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

This is a lovely book that is written in elegant prose and highlights Beth Kephart's son, Jeremy. What I really liked about this book were all the poetic elements that struck a cord in your heart and perfectly illustrated what Beth Kephart was going through. I enjoyed this book, I would recommend it to anyone who wanted a different perspective on childern and their remarkable courage.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Book Review #44
Body Drama by Nancy Redd
Rating: three stars (out of four)

I saw this book, and I must admit, the title and cover pictures intrigued me. This book had good advice in it, from the practical to the mundane and even a couple hints I didn't know.  Nancy offers suggestions and tells you some of her humorous stories about growing up.  
     Overall I thought this was a really good book, if you are confused about certain parts of your body and want to know what "normal" is then you should definitely read this book.  Nancy points out health pitfalls you can avoid through simple things like diet and exercise and I liked how well she covered all the general stuff as well as the tough stuff, like diseases.  
     I must warn you though, there are Real pictures of body parts in here.  Some pictures are even pretty gross (extreme acne and other unwanted pests) I wouldn't let this book hang out anywhere, if someone else in your family, say your dad or brother were to randomly pick it up and flip through it - they'd probably be in for the shock of their lives!

Book Review #43
Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis
Rating: zero stars (out of four)

Kenneth C. Davis attempts to entertain us while also educating us on world mythology. I only read this book because I had already read a couple other books by Kenneth and thought that they were pretty good, and I was also interested to see what I could soak up in mythology (not one of my favorite subjects). I was highly disgusted with the content of this book. It seemed like every page had a story of incest, rape, sexuality or dramatic violence.
     I kept reading because I thought that maybe the myths wouldn't be so immoral in later years and thinking that it was perhaps, only the Greek and Romans who were as polluted in the mind, but I was wrong and the book continued on it's downward spiral. It was definitely a waste of my time, and the only good I got out of this book is that I now know that I do not like mythology with a burning passion.
     It makes me so angry to know that we have upheld these cultures in such high esteem and can overlook their huge faults. I would never recommend this book, it's content made it an utterly vile book that Kenneth was writing off as "history." Don't be fooled by that genre though, it's really just a trick to read something that is filthy and immoral.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Book Review #42
Seeing Past Z: Nurturing The Imagination In A Fast-Forward World by Beth Kephart
Rating: three stars (out of four)

A memoir written in Beth Kephart's trademark poetic prose.

I thought this book was inspiring. I loved reading about Jeremy and his "projects", the way he was learning to cope with the world. I could see elements of myself in Jeremy, parts that I hid from the world because I wasn't sure whether they would accept me or not. This book gave me freedom to dream and to wonder if maybe what the world has always accepted as standard and normal isn't always to be desired.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Book Review #41
New Knits On The Block by Vickie Howell
Rating: one star (out of four)

A knitting book filled with children's costumes.

While I thought this book was mostly a cute read, I don't think that I would knit anything in it. Most of the patterns were unique in their design and somewhat appealing, but some costumes were just a little on the lame side. I wouldn't take all the time to hand-knit an article of clothing that I was not absolutely in love with and thought my children would enjoy for years to come. I'd check out of the library to see all the patterns and colors, but I would not recommend buying this book.

Book Review #40
Remembering Raquel by Vivian Vande Velde
Rating: two stars (out of four)

Raquel is the kind of girl who is invisible to the rest of her classmates in school. When she is hit by a car and killed, suddenly everybody has an opinion about Raquel. Told from the perspectives of her best friend, her parents, classmates and the woman who was driving the car that hit her, each chapter offers a brief look about how Raquel was viewed when she was alive.

I was eager to read this book because Vivian Vande Velde is one of my favorite authors. The story is told in an interesting perspective and I liked the originality of the format, but I was disappointed in the overall feel of the book. I thought that it could have been a really thought-provoking read, but at the end I wasn't very impressed. The characters didn't seem up to par with Vivian Vande Velde's normal standard and I didn't feel any emotional attachment to Raquel. Not Vivian Vande Velde's best work, but definitely not something that should be shunned, read if you are a die hard fan of her work.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Book Review #39
Cross My Heart And Hope To Spy by Ally Carter
Rating: three stars (out of four)

After what happened last semester Cammie just wants to go back to school and be normal again, that is, if life can be normal when you go to a top secret spy school for girls. Sequel to "I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You"

I really enjoyed this book, it is one of the few young adult books out there that was totally clean! What I didn't know when I was reading this book (and I didn't find out until the end) was that this book was a sequel! I have the first book on hold and am eagerly awaiting to read that book. I would definitely recommend this book, it had action, romance, some comedy and was thrilling read. Just make sure you read "I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You" first.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Book Review #38
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Rating: three stars (out of four)

Holling Hoodhood is exasperated when he finds out that he is going to be spending every Wednesday afternoon with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. He knows that she hates his guts, why else would she make him read Shakespeare? Over the course of 7th grade Holling grows and learns that sometimes things are not always what they seem.

I thought that this was a good book - I read it because I was recommended it, and I had loved, "Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy" by Gary D. Schmidt. I enjoyed the characters, but found the beginning of the book a little lacking in the entertainment department, nevertheless I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to my friends.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Book Review #37
Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer
Rating: zero stars (out of four)

A graphic novel version of the first book in the Artemis Fowl series.

I was highly disgusted with the illustrations in the book. Butler's neck was drawn out of proportion and was a revolting mass of flesh that only made me feel ill. Further more, the rest of the illustrations, the ones that I had crafted in my head when I had first read the book were NOTHING like the ones in this book. Everybody was crudely drawn and uglier then I could have imagined. Among the opening chapters was a page that I thought was highly inappropriate for Juvenille readers. I would not want my children reading a book with a shower scene that sexually portrayed a female elf with no clothes on, but a couple of carefully placed hands. I thought it was degrading to that character when she is supposed to be a very strong, self-assured staple to the storyline. This was an abominable book and one I would hate to see anyone else read.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Book Review #36
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
Rating: three stars (out of four)

A story of a young boy who learns that when you open your heart extraordinary things can happen.

I thought this was a real sweet book, Max Lucado is really so good at making a simple story portray a profound truth.

Book Review #35
Your Special Gift by Max Lucado
Rating: three stars (out of four)

One morning the Wemmicks wake up and discover that they have all recieved gifts, they don't know who they are from, but they are perfectly suited for each Wemmick.

Another sweet story book from Max Lucado that cuts straight to the heart and delivers a message anyone can understand.

Book Review #34
If Only I Had A Green Nose by Max Lucado
Rating: four stars (out of four)

A new craze is making quite an uproar, apparently if you don't have your nose painted green, you are not as good as those who do have green noses. Punchinello must decide what he will do.

This is such a cool story, it's amazing how Max Lucado can take something and make it applicable and understandable to young children. This story holds a lot of truths and was very enjoyable to read. One of my favorites.

Book Review #33
Punchinello And The Most Marvelous Gift by Max Lucado
Rating: two stars (out of four)

Another story featuring the Wemmicks.

This was a nice story, not quite up to par with what I have come to expect from Max Lucado, but it was still a pretty good book.

Book Review #32
Small Gifts In God's Hands by Max Lucado
Rating: three stars (out of four)

A young boy wishes that he had something he could give to Jesus, but everything he has is too small. It is by accident that he finds the perfect gift.

A short heart-warming tale, I'd recommend to people, but it wasn't my favorite Max Lucado book.

Book Review #31
All You Ever Need by Max Lucado
Rating: three stars (out of four)

Who are we to judge others just because they are not up to our standards? In this simple and sweet book Max Lucado illustrates that we always need grace.

A lovely book from Max Lucado, who does it again and leaves children with an important message cleverly disguised in the form of a children's picture book.

Book Review #30
Because I Love You by Max Lucado
Rating: four stars (out of four)

A warm tale of how much God loves us that he would protect us and keep us safe.

This is such a sweet book, I love how Max Lucado expertly shows children just how much God loves them and still makes it so they can understand, without making it a boring read for parents either.

Book Review #29
You Are Special by Max Lucado
Rating: four stars (out of four)

Everyday Wemmicks go around sticking stickers on the other Wemmicks. If you are smart, pretty, or talented, they will place a star on your wooden frame. But if you are not star-worthy then they will place a grey dot instead. Punchinello is one such Wemmick, no matter how hard he tries, he just keeps getting more and more gray dots. It takes a chance meeting with a Wemmick that has no stickers whatsoever that finally sets Punchinello in the right direction.

This was a lovely story that perfectly illustrated how God sees us and how we let the world bog us down with their ideas of perfection. I really liked this book and recommend this to any child who has ever felt as if they don't have anything to offer.

Book Review #28
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
Rating: four stars (out of four)

Joshua is a little lamb who has block spots and black legs, one of which is crippled, he has always felt left out for not being perfectly white. He can't run and play like the rest of the little lambs. His friend keeps telling him that he doesn't need to feel too sad though, because God has a special place for him.

This was a darling little book that made me feel for this little lamb. I thought the illustrations were lovely as well, I'd recommend this book.

Book Review #27
With you All The Way by Max Lucado
Rating: three stars (out of four)

A king issues a quest to win the hand of his daughter in marriage. Three knights are ready, but first they must complete the quest and no one is really sure what the outcome will be.

This is a lovely story that always has truth woven into its tale. Max Lucado does a good job of giving you a seemingly predictable outcome and then having you surprised, but glad at the end.

Book Review #26
Tell Me The Secrets by Max Lucado
Rating: four stars (out of four)

An overthrown baseball changes the life of three children when they meet Josh and Melva. Using stories from The Book Of Secrets, the children learn how to deal with the problems in their lives.

I thought this was a delightful book that showed how sometimes you need to step back and look at your problems from a different angle, and then you might be able to see a solution. Max Lucado has done it again, definitely read this book.

Book Review #25
Tell Me The Story by Max Lucado
Rating: three stars (out of four)

A book of short stories told in Max Lucado's sweet and simple way.

This was a good book, some of the stories I thought were just a little too fictitious, but I did like the main gist of it. The last story made me sad because it is the truth. This book is meant to encourage children and help them understand all that God has done and is going to do.

Book Review #24
Just In Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado
Rating: three stars (out of four)

Just in case you ever wonder this book explains to little children just how much God loves them and how they can always count on their parents to be there for them in their times of need.

This is a very encouraging book. It points out that the God who made the heavens and the stars made you and how carefully he designed you. It had a simple message that children would get, without dumbing down. A lovely book, I'd recommend it.

Book Review #23
Just The Way You Are by Max Lucado
Rating: four stars (out of four)

Five orphans are overjoyed when they hear that the King wants to adopt them. The villagers tell them they need talents or things to impress the King so that when he comes he won't be disappointed, so they set to perfecting their talents, all except the youngest sister, who isn't quite sure that she has a talent.

This is a sweet, sweet little book. I read it and had tears in my eyes, the message was so simple and yet so profound. Max Lucado really has a way with expressing the gospel in terms that everybody can understand. This is a lovely book, everyone should read it at least once.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Book Review #22
The Redheaded Princess by Ann Rinaldi
Rating: two stars (out of four)

Ann Rinaldi spins a tale of how Elizabeth I might have felt growing up and wondering if she will be queen someday.

Reading this book I had a strange sense of deja vu, like I had read another book that was remarkably similar to this book. I was slightly disappointed with this Ann Rinaldi book, I grew up reading her books and have always eagerly absorbed anything she has written, but this one was hard to get into. I didn't particularly care for the main character and didn't love the narrative. At the end I still wasn't impressed, but I didn't think it was a bad book either, so I'm not sure I'd highly recommend it.