Thursday, April 28, 2016

Witches Protection Program by Michael Phillip Cash

Product Details


-Carrie Anne

Wes Rockville, a disgraced law enforcement agent, is given one last chance to prove himself and save his career when he's reassigned to a 232 year old secret government organization.  The Witches Protection Program.  His first assignment:  uncover a billion-dollar cosmetics company's diabolical plan of using witchcraft for global domination, while protecting its heiress Morgan Pendragon from her aunt's evil deeds.  Reluctantly paired with veteran witch protector Alastair Verne, Wes must learn to believe in both witches and himself.  Filled with adventure, suspense and a rousing good time, Michael Phillip Cash creates a tongue-in-cheek alternate reality where witches cast spells and wreak havoc in modern day New York City (taken from Amazon description)

I typically love Cash's books.  They usually have relatable characers and interesting plots, with a healthy dose of humor thrown in.  For some reason, this one fell flat for me.  The story did have its humorous side and the idea is clever; I think we'd all wish for a little magic in our lives.  Unfortunately, Cash never spells out the rules of magic in today's world.  There were times I thought "Just cast a spell already,"  though I didn't know if the witch in question really could.  Then there were the BIG spells that we were to assume could just be explained away from an unsuspecting public.  Of course, today's media can feed us any story they want...

I felt there were too many side characters and even side stories that were unnecessary to the plot.  The 'ah ha!' moments weren't for me.  At one point there was probably a major plot point presented and I was just scratching my head.  It was more of a 'huh?'  moment for me.  I think by that time I was just bored of the whole story.  My favorite character was Wes with Morgan running a close second.  I'd love to see Cash bring them back, with a longer story and more time to fully flesh out the people involved.  The Witches Protection Program is a good one, but I think it needs a different story for us to really get to know them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Talking to Your Physician/Surviving Obamacare by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.

Product Details

This book is a comprehensive study guide to improve the patient/ healthcare provider relationship.

Going to the doctor is scary.  Obamacare changes are scary.  Knowing your rights, your obligations, and your coverage is pretty difficult.  Add to this a difficult relationship with your healthcare provider, and it makes for horrible healthcare.

I remember years ago, I attempted to switch doctors.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the doctor I had, except that he wasn't the right doctor for me.  I had trust issues.  We couldn't communicate.  He was brusque and quick and did nothing to set me at ease.  Now, the rest of my family adored his no-nonsense 'do what I tell you to do' attitude, but it didn't work with my personality.  When I called the doctor's office and requested to be switched to another doctor in the facility, I was met with hostility and blacklisted from the facility altogether.  The thing is, it wasn't an attack on the doctor in any way.  I wanted a doctor I could trust and have a relationship with.  I wanted a caregiver that I could feel confident understood my health needs and could communicate with me how to meet them.  That wasn't happening.  Still, to this day, I do not regret my decision.  I never returned to the health care facility where my doctor was located.

Considering that health care is such a necessity, every person should take it seriously.  Every person becomes ill or injured at some point and having someone you can trust for your care is important.  Keeping that in mind, there are a x amount of doctors in the world and y amount of patients.  The numbers simply don't match up.  In a single day, a doctor can see so many patients that it becomes a whirlwind of activity.  Add to that the possibility of an emergency, which could set the doctor several hours behind on his already hectic schedule, and it's no wonder that most doctors don't take the initiative to dig deep into your medical history and remember every scar that you have.  It simply isn't possible.

This book is an incredible tool, and sadly, I haven't even really begun to study it.  I've read it, but that isn't the same thing.  There's so much information in here that I'll be pulling it out as it becomes relevant.  I remember in high school I had a B.E.R. and that was my English tool book.  It had everything that I needed to know and I could look it up and access it as needed.  This book is my medical B.E.R.

In this book, you'll find some great cartoons that are extremely relevant to being a patient.  They're light-hearted and humorous, but at the crux of them you'll find some pretty difficult truths.  There's an entire page of medical quotes (Mark Twain's is my favorite!)  There are several first-person accounts of doctor/patient relationships.  I particularly enjoyed these because it just makes everything more personal.  Not only does this book emphasize the importance of building strong communication, but also issues, statistics, red flags and when to fire your physician.  Coming from a doctor, this is awesome!  I feel validated in firing my doctor!

This isn't a book where Joe Bob Polyfreeze down the street starts on a rampage about what doctors should be like.  This is a comprehensive look at some of the most difficult parts in the doctor/patient relationship with an end goal of healing and strengthening it.  There is practical advice for any situation that you may be in.  I do believe that if all doctors held the beliefs and practices of Dr. Gold, I wouldn't be so terrified of seeking medical attention.

When Pain Has Stained a Peaceful Heart by Ann Henry

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This is a first-person accounting of what it's like to be a mentally ill person that has been put into 'they system.'

Ann gave nearly a year of her life in an attempt to regain her sanity, though most of that time wasn't freely given.  Ann was institutionalized.  As her confusion and fear grew, she began to lash out, causing her to be moved from place to place.

Having seen the caregiver side of this equation, it was fascinating and heart-wrenching to see Ann's side.  When someone with mental issues is in your care, your number one priority is their physical safety.  Your second priority is their mental safety.  I've gone through the stages of having to force unwanted medication and restrain.  However, Ann's perspective doesn't see the necessity.  Not only is she battling her mind and hallucinations, but she's also having to battle against a horde of people that she just doesn't understand.  They cause her mental distress and physical pain, all in the name of trying to keep her safe.

This short book has been written in the form of poetry, because that's the easiest way for Ann to talk about the trauma she endured as a mental patient.  Talking about trauma and attempting to get past it is incredibly difficult and I applaud Ann in her efforts.

What she has accomplished here is the necessity for empathy in the caregiver system.  I've seen several nurses and doctors that have it in spades, but I've also seen the opposite.  In a career where you're dealing with violent and loud, confused people on a day to day basis, it's important that you find healthy ways of coping.  Too often it leads to an immunity and we no longer see what we're doing from the other person's point of view.

This is a quick and important read.  If mental illness has touched your or anyone you know, or if you deal in any way with the care of someone with mental illness, you'll find a fresh new look at things that can be integral in your relationships.

Keep in mind, because this is a first-person accounting, we only see one side of the story, Ann's.  This is not an attempt to discredit mental institutions or cast blame, but rather an attempt to get people to take a closer look at what's going on.  It's also Ann's way to try to make sense of this period in her life and heal and grow.

The Legacy of Skur by L.F. Falconer

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No one has ever returned from Skur.  "It's a death quest,"  Fane is told, but this altruistic, starry-eyed young man chooses to ignore the legends, for according to the wizard Fith, hidden among the wealth of treasure atop the mountain of Skur is the key to eternal life.  Can Fane hope to steal it from under the nose of its guardian dragon?

Armed with little more than a sword and a magical talisman, Fane's misadventures upon the mist-enshrouded moutnain begin.  In this epic saga of love, betrayal, war, vengeance, and friendship, we follow the pawns who are shrewdly manipulated in an attempt to save a dying race within a celestial game of dominance.  It's survival of the fittest as the players are mercilessly maneuvered across the field, and these are their stories.  Fane, the wizard's apprentice.  Kael, the warrior.  And Elva, the legacy.  (taken from the back of the book)

Falconer is the most difficult author to review.  Let me tell you why.  When I first pick up a book, I approach it from the viewpoint of one of two avenues.  The first, that of Shawn the Reviewer.  If it's an author I don't know, normally I'm a little skeptical about the content.  I grab my sticky notes and pen, get comfortable, and delve in.  Since I don't know what to expect, I can spend most of the book having a grand time picking it apart.  The second avenue is that of Shawn the Reader.  In this case, I'm familiar with the author or the book looks particularly interesting.  In this case, I grab my sticky notes and pen, get comfortable, and delve in.  Since I have some idea of what to expect, I can sit back and enjoy the book a little more and only make notes as something really strikes me.  Falconer is in a league of her own.  I can't approach it as Shawn the Reviewer or Shawn the Reader.  As soon as I crack the spine, there is no Shawn.  I'm lost in a world that I have no control in.  It's not just the writing, or the suspense, or the twists and turns, or the fascinating way that she dives into the human psyche.  It's everything above and so much more.  I know when I pick up one of her books, I won't be picking things apart or taking notes.  There will be no dishes that need washed.  The house could catch fire and I wouldn't have a clue.  I'm no longer Shawn the Human, I just simply am.

I picked up Volume Two of Skur last night and began to read it.  I know ahead of time that I'll have a horrible time reviewing it as well.

So, here is the  necessary information.  If you like fantasy, this is a must-read.  If you don't like fantasy, you WILL like this fantasy.  Set aside some time to read it, because you won't be doing anything else until you've finished.  Volume One is set into three distinct books, all related.  If you have to take a break, that gives you a good point.  Use the restroom and refill your drink.  Change clothes and bathe if you must.  Possibly get food.  That's a lot to do though when you know you have the next section waiting on you!  Also, make sure that you have Volume Two on stand-by for when you've finished Volume One.  It picks up exactly where Volume One stops.You do NOT want to go through the waiting that I did!  Be prepared!  Be preeeepppppaaaared!

Also, I have it on good authority that there will be a Skur sale in May!

Melting the Blues by Tracy Chiles McGhee

Product Details

Augustus Lee Rivers, a farmer and bluesman, has two obsessions:  his relationship with the Duncan family and his desire to leave small town Chinaberry to become a musician in Chicago.  When his plans are prevented by a devastating betrayal, Augustus is driven into the belly of the blues where he must reckon with his past if he is to move forward.  (taken from the back of the book)

This book is set in Arkansas in 1957, which will be a selling point for a lot of people.  That period in time, race was a big issue.  Those who are interested in history will find this to be a realistic portrayal of the time period.  For me, I've never given a fig for history, so we won't be focusing on that portion of the story.  Though it's incredibly relevant and important, it's not my forte.

This is a fascinating and gritty story about Augustus and his family.  Most of the book takes place within the span of a year.  We're given an in-depth look into the heart and soul of every character.  Not only does this make them more interesting, but it strengthens the bond between reader and character.  The best part is, McGhee's written this in such a way that you don't even realize you're bonding with the characters until it's already done.

The wording in this book is just beautiful, but the symbolism is what really caught me.  I don't normally comment or notice symbolism, but it's so prevalent in this book that you can't help it.  The sun is the most obvious one, but as you're reading, you'll notice everything from food to flags being used to help tell the story.  I cannot even imagine the hours McGhee spent perfecting this story and making every single item in her world tell part of the story.  It's one of the best-crafted stories that I've read in a long time.

That being said, there's definitely a downside or two here.  McGhee has done such an incredible job creating sympathy and empathy for the characters that one when erupts, it's a shock to the system.  Now, quickly you pull back and see where the character is coming from, but at the moment you find yourself stunned.  After that, you feel a return to sanity and a sense of wondering why you weren't looking at things in the same manner as the character that suddenly exploded.  My second issue comes with the epilogue.  The solution?  Skip it.  Not only is it unnecessary, but it took away from the story.  After this carefully crafted, beautifully worded story, I found myself wondering how such an egregious error could have been made in not cutting out the epilogue.  I still wonder, but when I read this book again, I'll just keep to my sticky note and stop before reading that part.




The Rector by Michael Hicks Thompson

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Martha McRae is a widow living in a small Mississippi Delta town in the 1950's.  She's obsessed with the sudden death of her Episcopal church's young rector.  A murderer could go free if she doesn't investigate.  But Martha is torn.  If she pursues the suspect, her Bible study friend's awful secret could be revealed.  It would be devastating, and life-changing.  When the new rector arrives, she encounters a new puzzle to solve-one that takes her into Parchman Penitentiary where she comes face to face with evil.  (taken from the back of the book)

Martha is an incredible heroin and I adore her!  She's bright and sassy!  She tries to hold strong to her morals and at the same time, she has compassion for others instead of judging them.  She tries her best to protect everyone in her town, regardless of what the outcome might be.  Some would say that her insatiable curiosity is a bad thing, but it wouldn't stop Martha from searching for answers!  She's indomitable, unstoppable and darn sweet!

The last time that I fell in love with a town so deeply, it was when Jan Karon created Mitford.  These characters will completely capture your heart.  These are real characters with real struggles.  Most of them just want to be the best they can be and help each other.  Of course, we do have a few characters that just don't fit in.  They have their own agenda.  Every character is beautifully flawed.  This book captures human essence better than any cozy mystery I've read.

The mystery part is a little tricky.  The thing is, we have information that our sleuths do not.  Instead of wishing that Martha and her cronies would catch up to where I was, though, I found myself too immersed in the story to really care how far along they were in solving it.  Normally, a mystery of any kind for me is about the solving of the mystery, but here it was so much about just losing myself in the town and enjoying my stay.

There were a few real twists and turns here.  Twice (twice!!) I was so astounded that I began flipping back through pages looking for any suggestion that the shocking twist was about to happen.  Nothing!  You're riding along and picking up honey and hanging out with your friends over coffee cake, and BOOM!  What?  Where did that come from?  Now, it's not the type of shock that pulls you out of the story.  It's the type of shock you get in real life.  You're happily walking through an amusement park and your favorite singer walks by and says 'hi!'.  Well, of course it throws you off, but you're still walking the same path you were and headed in the same direction.  Not all of the twists are good in that manner, but you get the idea.  I almost used an analogy of a blown tire, but that really does derail you.  I was only  momentarily stopped from reading because I wanted to go back and look for clues :)  That's how I roll :)

Don't let the fact that this is a Christian murder mystery keep you from picking this book up.  Though there are some valuable Biblical references and a few fascinating thoughts, there is no point in this book where it gets preachy.  Thompson doesn't use his writing talent to force you to see things his way.  Instead, the characters talk about their beloved God and you can either take what they're saying and think about it, or discard it.  For those of you who are Christians, you might find some interesting insight.  It's definitely more 'leading' than it is 'forcing' though.



Bernie and The Lost Girl Coming Soon!

Mark your calendars!



Many of you know we were huge fans of the first book in Steve LeBel's Universe Builders series, Bernie and the Putty.  It's marketed for kids age 12-18, but us full-blown adults adored it!  Bernie has blazed a trail across school-aged children all over the country!  LeBel's first book has netted him 16 awards so far!

His next book is being released May 1st.  It's a prequel to Bernie and the Putty called Bernie and the Lost Girl.  In this book, a little girl named Emily is lost.  Though most of the villagers are afraid to go out into the woods to look for her, Bernie and his friends aren't!

I'm anxious to see what adventures Bernie gets into.  As of now, this book is available for pre-order for Kindle for only 99 cents!  I really wanted to put my pre-order in today, but I'm holding out for a print version.  I'll let you all know when it becomes available!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Crofts




Reviewed for Minding Spot

George Surridge, director of the Birmington Zoo, is a man with many worries:  his marriage is collapsing; his finances are insecure; and an outbreak of disease threatens the animals in his care.

As Surridge's debts mount and the pressure on him increases, he begins to dream of miracle solutions.  But is he cunning enough to turn his dreams into reality - and could he commit the most devious murder in pursuit of his goals?  (taken from the back of the book)

This book was originally published in 1938.  Why is this important?  This was over seventy-five years ago!  In that span of time, so much has changed in the writing world!  Much has changed in the mystery world!  This book is an incredible example of writing that can truly stand the test of time.  It's every bit as enjoyable today as it was when it was first published.

As with most mystery/crime novels of the time, I was completely stumped.  Most mysteries today are so easy to figure out!  There are exceptions, but they're few and far between.  Even though we know who the murderer is, and we have all of the information that the police seek, I was still baffled.  The manner in which the crime was committed is absolutely brilliant.  I had no idea how it was done, even having all the necessary information, until it was all said and done.  Thankfully, the inspectors solved it for me!

What's most fascinating about this book is the advanced character study going on.  Each character is so thoroughly crafted that you feel as if you're reading non-fiction.  It's hard to believe that Crofts created each of these characters.  The hours alone it must have taken him just in character creation!  Surridge, our main character, is sublimely fascinating.  Even though he's supposed to be the 'bad guy', you can't help but root for him.  He's not really a bad man.  He's no saint, but he's not really bad.  We're given all of his motivations and we sit right there with him while he questions himself and his own morals.  Instead of this book being just about the crime portion of the story, it's also about George Surridge.

With strong characters, brilliant crime, and a superbly-worded story, this is one of the best mysteries I've read in awhile.  I only wish I'd been introduced to Crofts work before now.

Capital Crimes Edited by Martin Edwards

Product Details

Reviewed for Minding Spot

This book is a collection of London-based crime stories through a span of over fifty years.

Normally, I'm not a short story person, but I really enjoyed most of these.  Writing has changed so much in the past one hundred years that most of the mysteries and crime stories you read today are nothing compared with what was written in the past.

These stories don't take long to read individually, but they aren't light reading. You'll have to set aside a little time to invest in reading.  Each word is important.  Skimming just won't work here.  Now, the best part is that they're beautifully written.  You'll want to savor every word.  It isn't just about the storytelling, but the writing as well.  These are crafted stories.

My biggest peeve about mysteries and crime stories is that they're too easy to figure out.  That didn't happen here.  Not once.  I was able to immerse myself and stop trying to solve them.  After I read halfway through the stories, I knew I wasn't going to figure them out so I just enjoyed the ride.  Most of them have a darkness to them that pulls you into other worlds.  They're foggy and gritty and you just need to sink your teeth into them.

The only issue I found is that at least one of the stories was shortened for space.  Though the pertinent information was still given, I really wished that I had been given the full story instead of just the highlights.  Being told how a story ends just isn't the same as experiencing it for yourself.

This is a great short story collection.  If you enjoy short stories and good crime, this is something you'll want for your book shelf.  These stories aren't sensationalized.  They're just great old-fashioned crime stories.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Woof by Spencer Quinn


Product Details

There is trouble brewing in the Louisiana swamp -- Bowser can smell it.  Bowser is a very handsome and only slightly slobbery dog, and he can smell lots of things.  Like bacon.  And rawhide chews!  And the sweat on humans when they're lying.

Birdie Gaux, the girl Bowser lives with, also knows something is wrong.  It's not just that her grammy's stuffed prize marlin has been stolen.  It's the weird rumor that the marlin is linked to a missing treasure.  It's the truck that seems to be following Birdie and the bad feeling on the back of her neck.

When Birdie and Bowser start digging into the mystery, not even Bowser's powerful sniffer can smell just how menacing the threat is.  And when the danger comes straight for Birdie, Bowser knows it's up to him to sic'em.  (taken from Amazon description)

It's my understanding that this is the first in a new series, and I certainly hope that's true!  I adored it and want more!

In all honesty, I really didn't want to read this.  I'm not a pet person.  There's the picture of a big, sloppy dog on the front cover.  I was concerned that I was about to get into one of those pet stories.  However, I enjoyed this just as much as I did Kilgore's Lost Dogs, but in a different capacity.  Instead of being an apocalyptic thriller, this one is a goofy mystery.

The story is told from the perspective of Bowser, and he's a hoot!  The great part about the mystery here is that there's really no way to solve it.  Since everything is from Bowser's perspective, and he has the memory of an igloo, it's up to us to keep track of all the clues he finds.  Most of the book, I found myself wishing that there was an interpreter so that Bowser could tell Birdie everything he figures out.  Then again, Bowser would have forgotten as soon as the interpreter was introduced.  What a dog!

Birdie is about a fourth/fifth grader, but she's pretty independent.  She has a mind of her own and she's lived a rough life, but she's tough and she can handle it.  With a shake of her head, she keeps the tears at bay and does what she feels she needs to.  No loose ends.  She does her best to tie them all up and keep everything neat and tidy.

This book is about the perfect thickness for a fourth/fifth grade reading level.  Honestly, I can't imagine any child of that age who wouldn't adore this book.  Keeping in mind that everything we learn about Birdie is from Bowser's perspective, she's an amazing, lovable little girl.  Anyone older will still adore this book.  They mystery is well done, the writing is brisk-paced and action-packed, and the characters will steal your heart.







Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Passover Surprise by Janet Ruth Heller


Product Details


Lisa and her little brother Jon enjoy collecting stamps. But when their father holds a contest to decide which child will get a new large stamp album, Lisa has to solve a difficult problem. Set about 1960, this chapter book also touches on World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. A Discussion Guide inspires readers to explore the book's issues. (taken from Amazon description)


This book is a great introduction into what Passover is for children who don't know.  It doesn't get 'preachy', but it does give the basics of the ceremony.  

There are some great history lessons here.  They aren't 'text-booky' but rather submitted in an interesting way.

This book is great for a third-fifth grade reading level.  While it has chapters, they're short and there aren't difficult words.

As a parent, I was really impressed by the lessons to be found in this book.  It's easy enough for children to understand the concepts, but also could be a great learning tool for parents and caregivers.  I know that parenting has changed quite a lot in the past forty years.  This book teaches children how to logically approach adults and explain what they're feeling.  It teaches them to express emotion rather than acting out.  It also teaches adults the critical need for responding to that in a positive way.  

The story itself is cute.  You can see from the book cover how the illustrations are.  In the book, you'll find a few black and whites that match the drawing style of the cover.  There are just enough pictures to keep a young reader, who's transitioning to non-picture books, interested.  

Monday, April 18, 2016

Invasion of the Dumb Snatchers by Scott Erickson


Product Details







Something is seriously wrong in America.  Growing numbers of people are embracing sustainability, efficiency, common sense, and economic sanity.  The rapid spread of intelligence is ruining our country and threatening our tradition of doing everything as stupidly as possible.

Only one man knows what's really happening.  Only Miles Bennell, assistant manager at Burger King, knows that aliens are replacing our bodies with exact duplicates.

Will he save us before the aliens destroy America?  Will he get Becky, the waitress at the local Hooters, to dump her idiot boyfriend Geoffrey so he can touch her boobs?  (taken from the back of the book)

First, this book is not intended for children or those with zero sense of humor.  If you bought your sense of humor at a blue light special, proceed with caution.


Imagine it...Sicily...18...wait..no...my living room...Friday night.  I'd already read the book and laughed myself silly.  I have a room full of teenagers and the power goes out.  What else is there to do but light some candles and read this book aloud to them?!  Amidst cries of 'Oh Wow!' I did my best to channel Fry, unsuccessfully.

Admittedly, the humor in this book is definitely set for those with moderate intelligence.  It's packed full of jokes and wit, but a stunted knowledge base could cause you to miss them.  On the other hand, at times the satire goes too far.  Instead of being subtle and funny, it becomes more of a strong pounding.  That only happens twice in the book.

The last time I laughed this hard was when the kid shot his brother in Fido.  Imagine Fry from Futurama being cast in Idiocracy.  That's what you have here.  It's brilliant and hilarious.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Next Donation Wins a Gift Card!

In order to support MDA, we've pledged to randomly give out four $25 Amazon Gift Cards to people who donated here by tonight.  As it turns out, only three people have donated so far!  That means, those three people are automatically winners.  The next person to donate any amount will also receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card from us!  Tell your friends!  Tell your neighbors!  Get on and donate a little...or a little more!  I'll be watching to see who wins!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Help a Child for a Chance to Win $25 Amazon Gift Card!

For those of you who don't know, Wendy at Minding Spot has been a part of the book community for years.  She's been reading for as long as I can remember, and reviewing for most of her adult life.  Some of you know she's my sister and a darn great person.

Recently, Wendy agreed to be jailed by MDA in order to raise money to send children in need to camp.  Having a special needs child myself, I know what a necessary and worthy cause this is.  It can change not only a child's life, but every child that person touches.

We want to show our support!  Instead of just donating money to keep Wendy out of jail and send a child to camp, we're ALSO offering up four $25 Amazon Gift Cards!  All you have to do for a chance to win is go to Wendy's MDA donation page and make a donation.  We'll randomly draw four winners on Tuesday evening.

Nobody is going to judge you on how much you can give!  Every dollar makes a difference!  Reach into those pockets and change a life today!  Not to mention, keep Wendy out of jail!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Can a Princess Be a Firefighter? by Carole P. Roman




-Ashlee

Two princesses are wondering whether they're able to be young firefighters.  They aren't really princesses, but their dad calls them that.  They use their imaginations to be firefighters, and it does not work out very well!  In the end, they decide they want to be princesses instead of firefighters since it didn't work out very well.

The lesson you can learn is that if you use your imagination, sometimes things that you don't think will work out, might.  I think this is a really good life lesson.  The characters were just ok for me.  They had really weird imaginations.

The pictures help you understand the text.  They're also bright.  The characters are cartoonish and very smiley.

I think very young girls will like this book because the girls in the book look very young.  I also think babies will like this if they have parents that will read to them.

Rocket-Bye by Carole P. Roman




-Ashlee


These two kids wanted to fly into space and so they used their imagination to fly through space and past planets.  Their names are Alexander and Zachary.

This book teaches you that you can use your imagination for pretty much anything.  You can be creative with your mind.  No matter how you are creative, you can imagine anything you want.

The pictures are actually pretty cool because they help you understand what the text is saying.  They're colorful but kind of dim, kind of like if you really were in space.

There aren't a lot of words on each page.  Some of the sentences are curvy and I find it harder to read when they're curvier.

I'd recommend this for kids 4 to 6, but if you have parents that will read to you, even a baby would like this.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Avignon Legacy by Daniel C. Lorti




-Shawn

The Avignon Legacy takes us from the 14th Century and the life of Jean Termonde, a knight and papal guard, to present day and a rare book dealer, Jim Pierce, who has been "commissioned"  to acquire the tome Termonde last penned for Pope Gregory XI.  It is not the words or the ancient parchment it is written on, the document contains a message to the pope cryptically revealing the location of the lost papal treasure, with Pierce being chased by an unscrupulous collector, who -in turn- has attracted the FBI, New Scotland Yard and the French authorities to the unknown quest.  (taken from the back of the book)


This book is broken up in to two parts, so I really can't review it as one whole book.

The first part is an incredible adventure chronicling the lives of the Termonde family.  We start at the beginning of an event that has a ripple effect on the family.  We're there through the first half (or possibly more) of Jean Termonde's life.  This part of the story is actually pretty entertaining.  It's fictional history showing us what life was like at the time for a few extraordinary people.  Most of it is believable and interesting.

When it comes to the Catholic church history, there are times when it becomes a bit 'history book' but it's not too overwhelming.  Lorti makes sure that we have a good grasp of what's going on and the historical significance of it.  For me, I honestly skimmed over it.  It's not my thing.  Over all, though, it's not a lot of history.  It's enough to explain everything, but it doesn't really bog you down.  For those that ARE interested in history, you'll find a lot here to fascinate you.  I must admit, even in my skimming, I learned.

I did have an issue with the first part of the book.  It felt unfinished to me.  It follows the story of the Termonde family until we find out the necessary information that's held in the parchment, but then things are wrapped up rather quickly and we just leave them behind in the past.  I was really enjoying their story and wanted more.  For me, the first part of the book was more about the time period and character studies than it was about just getting to the story behind the parchment.  I felt jilted going from the end of this part of the book and skipping ahead to today.  I wanted more, and I still do!


The second part of the book is very much a heist story.  We have a decent cast of characters, even though they aren't as fascinating as the first part of the book.  We don't have nearly as much history thrown at us, though there is some put in as necessary.  We have some 'bad guys' and some 'really bad guys' and 'i'm not sure if they're bad or good guys.'  I didn't love any of the characters in the second part of the book, but they did play their part well.

I was intrigued with the heist portion of the story.  How do you steal something from the Vatican?  Even when you're a professional thief and have others at your disposal, that's a pretty serious theft!  Then to add in that you have thugs and all sorts of police after you, it's nearly impossible!  The sheer genius behind the planning of this heist and the attempt at pulling it off is what made the second part of the book good for me.

Even though I understand the reasoning behind writing the book in this fashion, I had some trouble with it.  The storytelling is vastly different, the characters are vastly different, the type of story is vastly different.  Notice all the 'vastly' going on there?  Both stories are enjoyable in their own way but the only thing they have tying them together is the parchment.  Again, I understand the reasoning behind writing it this way.  Honestly, I don't even have a better idea for how to make it work other than how the author did it.  For me, it was tough reading them back-to-back.  I'd suggest reading the first part of the book as one story and then going back later and reading the second part of the book.  Then, you won't have the jarring feeling.  You can enjoy the second part of the book and have that 'Oh!  I remember that!' feeling.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Frog That Lost His Croak by Anne Toole



-Ashlee

A little frog who loved to croak night and day,
Was very sad when his croak suddenly went away.
While waiting and hoping for his croak to return,
What valuable lessons did the little frog learn?
                                       (taken from the back of the book)

I like the pictures because it helps you understand what they're saying in the text.  I like that it rhymes because it's easier to read.  Then again, it's also more fun to read.

There aren't too many words per page, but there are some pages that have a little bit more than others.  This book didn't take very long to read.

I think kids about five or older would enjoy this book.  Possibly younger children, if their parents read it to them.

You can predict what's going to happen in the story from the title.  I liked it because it gave you a heads up on what the book was going to be about.

How the little frog lost his croak, well he was croaking too much but he was also croaking in the rain.  So the rain could have been how he lost his croak.  I think the frog learned that he was noisy because he was croaking all the time and I think he was upset because he learned that he wasn't listening to the other animals.

In my opinion, you can learn from books that have life lessons.  This book was good because it had a life lesson in it.

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All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.