*Note, while I will try to avoid major spoilers, I sometimes won't be able to help it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Local Author Signing!

Wonderful local author, Rhonda Gibson will be doing a book signing at a local used book story, Amy's Books case in May. Can't wait!

Happy Reading!

"Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred D. Taylor

Title: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Author: Mildred D. Taylor
Have I Read it Before: yes

This is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. Cassie and her family know a thing or two about how rough life can be. Her father is off working for the railroad to help make ends meet and her mother is a teacher. She and her three brothers help around the house. The family is determined to keep the land that they own, no matter what troubles they face. This novel is set in the 1930's, a time that was difficult for most Americans, but even more difficult for black Americans. The Logan family faces discrimination at almost every turn but by sticking together, they will overcome all obstacles.

I will never forget the first time I read this book. I was in the fifth grade and specifically picked this book because it was within my Accelerated Reading level. I remember that I struggled with it a little because the dialogue is written in such a way that is very true to how the characters would have spoken, but as this was something new to me, I really had to focus to understand the text. But despite this, I kept reading and absolutely loved the book. I vividly remember the day that I took it back the (school) library and the librarian seemed almost upset by the fact that I had enjoyed this book. I was only ten at the time, and didn't seek out why she was unhappy. To this day I have no idea what her problem was, but that moment has always stuck with me. In a way, I think it made me love the book even more because I sought out other titles by Taylor because the stubborn part of me wanted to annoy her further. While I haven't enjoyed everything I have ready by Taylor, I certainly enjoyed Let the Circle Be Unbroken and The Road to Memphis, which follow Cassie and her family.

At times, this is a difficult book. The subject matter is very serious and may not appeal to younger readers. It is definitely a book that would be well paired with some non-fiction titles covering that time in history. I did not learn about this era in school until several years after I had read the book so I didn't really comprehend the magnitude of the problems the Logans faced until much late, something that as an adult I kind of regret. As a kid, I didn't really seek out the historical elements of the books I read something I really wish I had done now that I am older and see how beneficial this could have been. I very highly recommend this book, but realize that it won't appeal to all readers. At times is is a difficult read,but I think it will a beneficial book to all that finish it.

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 21, 2014

"This is Not a Drill" by Beck McDowell

I've wanted to read This is Not a Drill for quite some time now. I knew it would be a fairly difficult read because of the subject matter, but that it would also be an important book. Emery and Jake help teach French to a class of first graders. They do their best to push emotions from their past aside so that they can teach the children. During a normal class, one of the students' parents arrives to pick up his son. However, when the teacher won't allow him to take the child without following procedure, he loses his cool and begins to threaten the class with a gun. Before they know it, it's up to Emery and Jake to keep the children safe and try to figure out how to get out.

I had high expectations for this book and am happy to say that they were met. McDowell has touched upon a very important subject. Unfortunately we live in a world that contains too much senseless violence and it's something that seems to surround us every day. Emery and Jake's story could happen anytime and anywhere. This book is a real eye opener about how easy it can be to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up in horrible danger. I feel that McDowell has written a wonderful book and does a great job of capturing the situation and emotions.

My only complaint about this book (kind of spoilers) is when they gain internet access and begin to communicate with the outside world. I am very lucky to have never been in such a situation, but it seems like police and other officials would have taken charge of the situation as soon as they realized some of the hostages were able to communicate, but instead the teens were able to communicate with their friends in addition to officials. This seemed strange to me, but again, I have nothing to compare to.

To state the obvious, this book is kind of intense so I don't recommend it to really young readers or those who don't like a lot of danger and suspense in their reading. I do feel this is an important book and probably a good one for parents to share with their children. It's probably not the best book to read right before bed (I say this as someone who has had far too many active shooter nightmares), but still hope that people read this book because the insight it provides could be very valuable.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert C. O'Brien

Title: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Author: Robert C. O'Brien
Have I Read it Before: yes

As a child, The Secret of NIMH was one of my favorite movies. As an adult this really surprises me because it is one of the darkest movies I can recall from my childhood. I distinctly remember hiding behind the couch when my dad would watch Star Wars because Darth Vader terrified me and yet the scene with the owl did not send me hiding? Maybe I was only afraid of live action. But all of this is beside the point. I loved this movie (still do) and loved the book the first time I read it. Oddly, as I re-read it now I found the movie to be one of the best adaptations I have ever seen because it does a great job of bringing the movie to the screen without major plot changes but at the same time amping up the tension and conflict (though for some reason they changed her name to Brisby. I am ignoring that fact as it makes no sense to me).

Mrs. Frisby is your ordinary mouse. She and her four children live part of the year on the Fitzgibbon's farm. When the weather turns warm, they will move to their summer home so that they will be safe from when planting season begins, but when her son, Timothy, gets sick, there is no way to move him without risking his life. She begins to seek help, first from Mr. Ages, an old friend of her deceased husband, an owl, and finally the mysterious rats that live in the rosebush. What she doesn't realize is that she is about to learn of a secret that is going to change her life forever.

I know I keep mentioning the film, but upon revisiting these characters, I am just blown away by how strong it is. The book is great, don't get me wrong, but the more I think about it, the more I am realizing that the movie does a better job telling the story. The book's main plot is Mrs. Frisby finding away to keep Timothy's illness from getting worse. There is a lot of moving from plot point to plot point but even when things should be tense, they come across almost casual and everything seems to fall into place easily. The movie, on the other hand, does a great job of showing Mrs. Frisby's fear and worries and scenes such as visiting the owl and other moments can actually cause some anxiety. I also felt that it did a much better job with the minor characters such as Jeremy the crow and Auntie Shrew (who is barely in the book at all, but has some of my favorite moments in the film). Since this is a children's book, I'm not judging it too harshly especially since I don't really want kids all stressed out by the book they are reading, I just found it to be more lighthearted than I remember, especially considered the subject matter.

I feel like this review is coming off a little more negative than I intended. This is a great book and see kids that are a fan of titles such as Charlotte's Web and The Cricket in Times Square enjoying it. I also suggest getting a copy of the movie as well (I have seen it many times in the cheap movie bins, a travesty for such a good film, but great for a family on a budget) and having a family night after kiddos have read the book. I also see that O'Brien's daughter, Jane Leslie Conly has written a few sequels as well and I must say I am intrigued and will probably be keeping an eye out at the used bookstore to see if I can find them. When that happens, I will do my best to read quickly and review.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E.L. Konigsburg

Title: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Have I Read it Before: yes

I had forgotten just how much I love this book! Claudia doesn't really remember why she wants to run away, just that she needs to do it. She chooses her younger brother, Jamie as her running away companion, mostly because he is a cheapskate and has enough money for them to run away in style. Unlike most that runaway, Claudia doesn't want to head for the woods or outdoors. Instead she and Jamie make their way to Manhattan and set-up new lives living in the  Metropolitan Museum of Art. They get away with it too, hiding during closing time, sleeping in the antique beds, and learning about the items in the museum. Things don't get really interesting until the beautiful Angel sculpture arrives at the museum. It is speculated that it was that it was sculpted by Michelangelo, but no one has proof. Claudia makes it her mission to find out the truth about the sculpture, and she will not return home until she knows it's full story. 

This book is so wonderful. I can actually picture Claudia and Jamie as they make their way into the city and as they figure out how they can make their adventure doable. It's easy to imagine Jamie insisting that he and Claudia be as frugal as possible, despite her desire to live with a little more fun.  This book really is the My Side of the Mountain for those that can't stand the outdoors. The only problem I have with this book is how it holds up for today's audiences. As this book was originally published in 1967, there are many things that have changed about the world. The book itself addressed the security of the museum, something that has greatly increased since the 60s. Other things that modern audiences could have difficulties with would be the fact that the two are able to survive in New York City on less than $30 and that they are able to come and go so easily without being recognized (a much tougher feat today as these two missing children would be all over social media today). Don't get me wrong, this book is still excellent, but I predict that kids that are familiar with the ways of the world today may be a little confused (unless this like so many other books has been modernized, but I really hope that is not a thing). 

I just cannot recommend this book highly enough. It has just about everything; adventure, education, a mystery, and most of all, fun.

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Crocodile and the Scorpion by Rebecca Emberley, illustrated by Ed Emberley

This book actually surprised me. I am familiar with the tale itself, but when I first started to read this re-telling, I couldn't help but assume it would have an altered, happy ending. I am pleased to say that this take on The Crocodile and the Scorpion was true to the old tale that I have heard many times before.

Neither the crocodile nor the scorpion is very intelligent. The scorpion wants to cross the river but knows he can't do it without help. Crocodile is able to help, but also know the risk that the scorpion has a deadly stinger. And the scorpion knows that crocodiles like to bite. Will the two be able to trust each other and get across to the other side of the river?

So what makes this version stand out from any other version? For me, it was the beautiful illustrations. Every page is an absolute work of art. Rebecca and Ed have created an absolute masterpiece. If you are familiar with the story, then you know it has a somewhat tragic end. I wouldn't recommend this book to the youngest of readers and I would count on kiddos asking questions about the ending,but I also think that book discussions are good at any age. Hope you like this book as much as I do!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cover Reveal: "Fallen Angel, Part II" by Tracie Podger

Title: Fallen Angel, Part II
Author: Tracie Podger
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Cover by: Crackstone Designs
Event Organized By: Literati Author Services, Inc.


When Brooke Stiles had said, “It was in a small room in an office block in Washington, DC, that my life changed, forever,” she had no idea of the enormity of that statement. Just a few short months ago, Brooke, had lived a quiet suburban life in the UK. She now owns a closet of clothes she could only dream about and has been swept off her feet by trouble with a capital T. Once Robert Stone came to terms with the fact that he was in love with Brooke, he knew he could never let her go. Not letting her go means introducing her to his life, past and present. However, when Robert’s past and present collide, Brooke does the one thing that Robert begs her not to. Does it change her? Has that light that he sees in her eyes been extinguished? This is a story of an ordinary girl who finds the strength to become the extraordinary woman, and keeps her promise to the man she owes her existence to.

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~ About the Author ~

Tracie Podger currently lives in Kent, UK with her husband and a rather obnoxious cat called George. She is a Padi Scuba Diving Instructor who has a passion for writing. Tracie has been so fortunate to have dived some of the wonderful oceans of the world where she can indulge in another hobby, underwater photography. She likes getting up close and personal with sharks.

Connect with the Author: Twitter | Facebook | Website | Goodreads

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