Light from a Distant Star by Mary McGarry Morris (5 Stars)

Light from a Distant Star

by: Mary McGarry Morris

5 Stars

 

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307451880
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/17/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 401,440
  • Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.86 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Summary: Nellie is in charge of taking care of her younger brother Henry for the summer. The adults are just too busy. Her mother is working as much as she can at the salon, and when she is home, she is always complaining about the lack of money that they have. Her father owns the family hardware store, but really spends all of his time working on a history of the city. In order to help with finances, the apartment in the basement is rented out to a young erotic dancer. This sets Nellie off on an adventure that has several ups and downs. To begin with, Nellie is fascinated with this dancer. She loves to eaves drop on her by listening in through the walls. Dolly, the dancer, then becomes a little more part of the family as she talks to Nellie’s older sister and mother. In the meantime, Max has started working with Nellie’s grandfather. Max is another fascination for Nellie. She likes talking to him. He seems to be the only adult that treats her as more than just a little kid. The problem is, she can tell that Max is interested in Dolly, but several men seem to be interested in her. She’s also seen Mr. Cooper, a local businessman, hanging around Dolly. She’s overheard conversations with Dolly on the phone with a man she seems to be dating. It’s all rather unclear. Then, something horrible happens! There is a murder and Nellie may be the only one that knows what really happened. This spirals Nellie into a moral dilemma. She tells one person the truth to what she believes it to be, but is told that she may be wrong. Nellie has to deal with the trial and attempting to figure out what is right and what is wrong. Who knows if she may be ruining one persons life to save someone who could be guilty.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. The murder doesn’t happen until about half way through the book, but I could have done without that and the aftermath. I loved just following Nellie around as she lived her daily life through the summer. Her interactions with all that are around her and her astute observations are fun to be a part of. I love the lazy summer stories that just allow you to delve into the characters. Once the murder happens, things spiral around that and her attempts to hold things in or tell them out. I didn’t enjoy the last half of the novel as much as the first. I felt like I lost some of my connection with Nellie. It is realistic for a little girl to be obsessed with one particular topic. It is also frustrating when people don’t seem to believe her when she shares information. Towards the end of the novel, I felt bad that we have lost the innocent and observant child from the beginning; however, I appreciated Nellie’s character arc and found overall the book to be a great read.

 

St. Viper’s School for Super Villains by Kim Donovan (4 stars)

St. Viper’s School for Super Villains

 

by Kim Donovan

4 Stars

 

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780957130005
  • Publisher: Squawk Books
  • Publication date: 2/8/2012
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Summary (Spoilers unintentional, but be warned anyways):
Demon is on his way to his first year at St. Viper’s School for Super Villains. His father, Demon King, is one of the baddest super villains, so Demon Boy has big shows to fill. On the way there, he meets Stretch, another first year that can stretch herself in all directions. Unfortunately, he also meets Chill, an older boy who decides to be a bully. Chill shoots ice at Demon Boy, which makes Demon see red and he goes up in flames. A teacher puts the flames out and everyone has a laugh at Demon Boy’s expense. The rivalry begins as Chill deems Demon Boy and friends (which grows to include Shrink and Wolfgang) as his personal slaves. Classes begin and Demon Boy has further issues, accumulating the lowest scores and more homework because of his accidental misdeeds. Finally, he gets a break. Chill has had a major score and snatched a rocket ship. Demon Boy and his friends make a plan to steal it from Chill, find the secret hidden inside, and return the ship for the reward money. Find out if they are successful, or if it is just another one of Demon’s grand ideas that fall flat.

My thoughts:
This was a really fun book. I read it in about two hours (with interruptions in between). I think a child between the ages of 7-10 would be the best fit for this book. It is high on adventure with vocabulary that is not terribly difficult. I think this is also a great choice for boys. Boys are always the hardest for me because they view reading as uncool. This has enough of a comic book look and feel that I am pretty sure they would get into it. The only reason why I marked it down 1 star is because I felt the drawings did not add to the story. They broke the pages up oddly for me on a Kindle, so I would get two or three sentences on a page and then a graphic that often wasn’t very big. It distracted me from the story and made me feel like it was wasted space. All together, I found the adventure entertaining, the action moving enough to keep me interested, the characters moderately developed but enough to make me root for them, and the plot good enough to make me interested in the next installment.

 

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington (3 Stars)

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

3 Stars (I liked it, but it was only okay)

 

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402271250
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 464,054
  • Age range: 13 years
  • Lexile: 0670L (what’s this?)
  • Series: Embrace

Summary: Violet is turning 17 and her entire world is about to change. The man (definitely a man, 5 years or so older than she is), that she is in love with, Lincoln, is about to accidentally notify her of a HUGE secret. Violet is part angel. Not only is she part angel, but she will be hunted down by angels that have decided to defect to the same plane of existence as humans. These angels have come to this plane in order to have more influence on free will. The part angels, known as Grigori, are around purely to keep these angels in check. Violet’s powers are unlocking now that she has reached her birthday, but she has to make a choice if she wants to become a Grigori or not. The catch is that even if she chooses not to become Grigori these angels will hunt her down and kill her. Doesn’t sound much like free will to me! In the midst of this, Violet is pissed off at Lincoln because she says he lied to her by not telling her about the whole Grigori thing before she accidentally overhears it. Because she is all pissy with Lincoln, she ends up cuddling up close with Phoenix, an angel who dances with her on her birthday. Her entire attitude begins to change while she is with Phoenix, but he is definitely a big help to her learning her powers and how to control things. He eventually helps her transformation and mend some of the relationship with those around her.

My thoughts: Alright, I’m starting out saying that I didn’t really like the book. I can not stand Violet. It has been awhile since I have disliked a character as if they were a real person. Usually when I dislike a character it is because of something that the author has done, Violet was well written because I disliked her as a person. This must be a triumph for the author. She has written a character that is so believable that I have had this reaction. Violet is so whiny and annoying that I wanted her to not come out ahead in the end. I was literally rooting for the angels to rip her apart.
With that all said, I don’t think that the author did a great job with the love triangle. I felt like she was trying for the same type of angle as in the Hunger Games or Twilight where you clearly have fans for each of the boys, but it didn’t work. Lincoln is too weak a character and the interactions between him and Violet are not that awe-inspiring. She tells us that there is passion in the kiss, but I just didn’t feel it. Phoenix is hot and heavy, but not necessarily a likeable character. It’s clear that he has too much influence on the scenes in which they are together in and he comes across as creepy. Phoenix is my favorite character. I would rather read a book about him, but as a love interest it just doesn’t work for me. Plus, the sex scene between the two of them is fairly mature. It was a little stunning to me compared to a lot of the YA books that are available.
Finally, the plot is predictable. I shouldn’t have to expand much on that, but the book emphasizes free will so much that I wish I would have been able to see other options for the characters. I wanted to be able to visualize other options that were viable. What viable options are there for Violet if she does not choose to become a Grigori? She other becomes one and gets full access to her powers or she doesn’t and doesn’t get full access to her powers. Regardless, she is going to be hunted down by angels. Where is the choice? Blah! That is so aggravating. After that “choice” is made (forcefully, of course), the big battle occurs with the already known villains. I bet you can guess what happens next.

 

Blood of the Revenant by N.R. Allen (3ish stars)

 

Blood of the Revenant by N.r. Allen

2.5-3 Stars (I’m undecided)

Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940033184330
  • Publisher: N.R. Allen, via Smashwords
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Sold by: SMASHWORDS – EBKS
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 648,188
  • File size: 672 KB

Summary: Gabriel is the fighter. His family is made up of 5 revenants. Each revenant is responsible for having one talent. Whenever Gabriel wins a fight, his family is rewarded. The problem is, Gabriel does not like fighting. He also likes the water and no other revenant does. Things in the village begin to change. Gabriel ends up stuck in the middle of two Olders, revenants who have gone into Eden and gotten their darkness, in a fight to save/destroy the machine. I know this sounds confusing, but things unravel throughout the story that don’t necessarily make sense. The machine is what runs everything and influences the revenants to do its bidding. I’m not exactly certain why or how this happens. This ends up being very vampire related and Gabriel ends up being the only non-vampire creature. His destiny is to overcome the revenants and destroy the machine. You can read it to figure out if that happens or not.

My thoughts: I felt like the entire novel was told to me. I never became a part of the novel. This meant that I never cared about the characters. Several main characters go through huge changes in short amounts of time and there are several characters that are killed. I felt nothing. I never once cared about any of the characters, including Gabriel. There were a ton of spelling and grammar errors throughout the novel. This can be frustrating. There were several times that I found sentences that didn’t make sense because a word was added in or left out. These types of things take me out of the story and make it very hard for me to get back in. I really think that the initial plot line or storyboard of this was good, but the execution needs work. I’d prefer the author to spend some more time providing the audience with clear visions. Give me vivid details of the surroundings and pull me into the emotions of Gabriel. Stop telling me, show me!

 

Two Children’s Book Reviews-for my 2 year old neice

Book Review #1

Tyler Makes Pancakes

by: Tyler Florence

Illustrated by: Craig Frazier

5 Star Rating

 

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062047526
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 111,989
  • Age range: 4 – 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.24(w) x 9.86 (h) x 0.42 (d)
I’ve recently discovered that I have a very hard time finding anything wrong with a picture book. I sat down with my niece, who is a squirmy almost 2-year-old to read through Tyler Makes Pancakes. With some help from her, we flipped through pages, pointed out cute drawings, and went through the entire book in about fifteen minutes. This was the perfect amount of time because she wouldn’t have stayed relatively still for much more than that. This have everything a child needs.
1. It is a simple storyline that is easy to follow. Tyler wakes up from a dream wanting pancakes. He goes out to the market with his dog to purchase the ingredients, goes through the store with the owner to get all of them learning a little as he goes, and then goes home to make the pancakes.
2. The illustrations are simple and funny to look at.
3. The pace goes quickly with no more than about five sentences on each page. This is a must since I’ve noticed that some children’s books have too many words on a page and when the child wants the page turned, it goes whether you have finished reading the lines or not. If there are fewer words on each page, I tend to get through the story without making things up.

At the end of the story, the book comes with a recipe for the pancakes that Tyler makes. This may be fun for someone who wants to whip up a batch with the help of their child after reading it. I would caution that Tyler is the one that does everything, including the stove work, so you may want to explain that Tyler may have been allowed to touch the stove, but your child is not. Also, there is a cute section about fun facts. I did not get through that with my niece, but the adults enjoyed that part as we laughed about certain unknown aspects of pancake making. All together, it’s hard to find flaws with such a cute book. The only thing that may be an issue with a child that is getting a little older is that Tyler leaves the home to go to the market while his parents are sleeping, gets all of the items with no mention of money, and does all of the cooking himself. It’s safe to say that you don’t want your child following that example.

 

Book Review #2

Track that Scat

by: Lisa Morlock

Illustrated by: Carrie Anne Bradshaw

4 Star Review

 

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585365364
  • Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 285,255
  • Age range: 6 – 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.10(w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Overall, the rhyme is very cute to use with little ones, but the overall content won’t be understood by children until they are at least 4-5. The detailed information given about each animal is fairly complex. Each animal has an example of what the tracks look like, what their scat looks like, and some other information about them. For instance, Raccoon scat carries a parasite in it that infects humans and rabbits eat their scat when it first comes out but not the second time it comes out. There is a difference in texture between the first and second time it comes out. So, this book is very informative and overall, the rhymes are a lot of fun if you skip over the information aspect. It’s a little sing-song and can keep a smaller child’s attention. The shining moment for this book is the illustrations. They are beautiful! They are not extremely complex, but they are very cartoonish and fun. I enjoy flipping through the book without looking at anything. I almost want to pull out the picture of the hound dog from the beginning and use it as a picture to hang on my niece’s wall. They are just so adorable!

I didn’t give it 5 stars because the content was just too complex for a young audience. The information would definitely require extra explanation and time with a young one for them to understand. If the reader (assuming parent) wants to spend time investigating the information with their child, or waiting until the child is older, then this would be perfect for them.

 

 

Alienation (C.H.A.O.S. Series #2) by Jon S. Lewis (4 Stars)

Alienation (C.H.A.O.S. Series #2)

by. Jon S. Lewis

4 Star Rating

 

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595547545
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 86,672
  • Age range: 11 – 15 Years
  • Series: C.H.A.O.S. Series , #2
  • Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Summary: We catch up with Colt, Danielle, and Oz as they are getting ready to go to the CHAOS military academy. The boys are practicing obstacle courses with their jet packs when an alien wasp comes out of nowhere to attack them. Colt and Oz do some quick thinking to defend themselves, but this is the first of many odd occurrences that seem to be focused purely on Colt. Colt gets some information that leads him to believe that the director of CHAOS has hired an assassin to kill him. This is why he keeps being attacked by aliens, robots, and the like. Who can he trust? Oz is the director’s son, is he in on it? Should Colt head to the CHAOS academy or will he let this keep him away from his seeming destiny? Also, Colt finds out a surprising secret that his family has kept from him. Knowing this changes everything that Colt has ever known about himself. For such a small book, there really is a ton of things that happen.

My thoughts: I’ve enjoyed these books and look forward to the next installment. They are extremely quick reads. Part of this is that the chapters of very short, but part of it is that the action never ceases. From beginning to end, there is heart pumping, barely escapable situations that you can’t help but root Colt through. Danielle is also a lovely character. She reminds me of Velma from Scooby Doo. She knows too much for her own good, shares her wisdom, but also is a loyal, caring friend that dishes out the best advice. There is distance between Colt and Oz throughout this novel because of the plot to kill Colt, which was distracting to me. I think it was the only downside of the novel. I like Colt and Oz’s friendship. I could logically see what the author was trying to do and the tension he was trying to build, but I just didn’t feel it. It fell flat. I couldn’t tell enough of a change in their friendship to feel anything other than an uninterested, busy teenage life. All in all, this is perfect for a quick adventure and highly recommend for our reluctant teen boy readers.

 

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel (5 stars)

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

5 stars

 

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345523310
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/18/2011
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 72,993
  • Product dimensions: 8.48(w) x 5.78 (h) x 1.48 (d)
Summary: The world has ended and been rebuilt fashioned after Victorian England. This new Victorian world includes the same manners and sense of class that the old one did. The wealthy have above ground houses, but the majority of the populace lives underground, the more wealthy or important, the closer to the outside. Not everyone agrees with the New Victorian lifestyle, so a group called the “punks” is battling for land and rights. These “punks” are along the outskirts of New Victoria and live within fields and mines. The novel is told from multiple points of view. Nora is a teenage girl who is slightly wealthy. She goes to a boarding school and is being raised by her aunt after her father had passed away. Her best friend, Pam, is a poorer student that also attends the boarding school and represents another point of view in the story. Then Bram, a good zombie that wants to save the world, and the girl, represents another point of view. And finally, Wolf, a deranged power-hungry military captain, and Nora’s father, you guessed it, another zombie, round out the other point of views within the story. Each person tells their part of the story as it moves forward. So, the story is extremely complex.
Here is the basic storyline:
Nora is kidnapped by good zombies because she is immune to the zombie virus. She builds up a friendship/relationship with Bram, who is one of the zombies that rescues her. Meanwhile, the zombie virus has broken out in New Victoria. Pam kills a zombie, is arrested, gets out, and then figures out what is going on with the dead coming back to life. Nora’s father was also kidnapped by a crazy man who wants him to make the vaccine for him. When Nora and Bram find out that her father is kidnapped and that New Victoria is being overrun with zombies, they make plans to save everyone. Of course, there are other details, but that basically sums things up.
My thoughts:
I really love Bram! He is the saving grace of this novel. Oh my god, his character is just the most adorable thing in the world. I could give or take everyone else, but rave about Bram for years to come. He almost replaces Valek from Poison Study in my heart, which is saying a ton, because Valek stole my heart years ago and no one has even come close until now. Dearly, Departed as a novel is long and hard to keep track of. I almost wish that I could have skipped some of the side stories so that I could have focused more on the relationship between Bram and Nora. There were several times in the story that I had to go back to figure out which character was leading the dialogue. Sometimes there is such a slight change in perspective because the same action is going on, so you have to really pay attention to the pronouns. This is a flaw because it pulls you out of the story; however, as I have mentioned several times, Bram is well worth some confusion. I look forward to book number 2.
Rating: 5 stars