Sunday, April 13, 2014

Retarded Girl Raised in Dog Pen: Authorities Say Girl Witness to Murder – Lauren Leigh

Genre: Adult, Realistic Fiction, Murder Mystery
Format:  Kindle edition
I received a copy of this book as a gift in exchange for my honest review.

 One thing that captured my eye from the beginning was the Headline type  title.  This read like something from the newspaper.  The book starts with a young couple in the hospital waiting for their new baby.  They decide to adopt the child even though they are told the child is born blind, will never walk or talk and may be mentally disabled.  They name her Baby because they believe she will always be that way.  From the very beginning it is evident that her mother, named Rivers,  loves Baby  no matter what.  She sees so much more potential than most people.  As we read we learn that Rivers husband is a highly respected deputy sheriff.  I believed he was apprehensive about adopting a child like this until I read about how highly he thought of his hunting dogs over Baby.  He reverses their role and brings them into the house and places this young child out in a dog pen to live.  I was appalled on so many levels. Every time Rivers brings baby into the house, Baby is taken back outside and put back in the pen. Her food is placed in a dog dish. When her mom tries to intervene she is beaten.

Now most of you who are reading this are thinking, why didn’t she just take the baby and leave if they were being abused? I know from watching a family member who was in an abusive relationship, that they are mentally beaten down until they fear if they do anything they and their children will be hurt or worse.  Mentally their mind goes into survival mode. Many women live this way for years until they finally get the courage to run. Many of them end up dead. In Rivers’ case, she ends up dead, baby ends up in an institution and the deputy ends up dead. Rivers doesn’t remember killing him.

This was a fantastic book.  The characters were so believable that was empathetic to their situation from the very beginning. I fell in love with Baby from the beginning.  I hated the Deputy almost from the beginning. It felt like he allowed the adoption just to give his wife something to do. I was so engrossed in the book that I read it during every spare minute I had, which wasn’t much, just to find out how things would work out.  If you want a book with that human touch to it, that will keep you on the edge of your seat reading, then this is the book for you.  I would definitely read more by this author.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Student Saturday: Ice - Sarah Beth Durst

Student Reviewer: Kea

Ice was a good book. The main character is Cassie an 18 year old girl who lives with her father at a research station in the Arctic. She's a bit head strong and willing to fight for who she loves. She's been told her mother was taken beyond the ends of the earth by the trolls. Now much older Cassie takes that to mean her mother is dead. In the "fairytale" her mother promises that if the polar bear king hides her and her human husband (she was supposed to marry the polar bear king) she will have her daughter marry him. Now 18 years of age the kind gentle polar bear king has come to claim his bride. Cassie marries him in exchange for him freeing her mother ( who is indeed locked in the troll castle). However, when a tragedy occurs she must save her husband and the child she is carrying. Throughout her quest she journeys the Arctic and beyond, This book reminds me of a few other books such as The Wide Awake Princess, Unlocking the Spell and The Land of Stories, and The Wishing Spell. These books are all a bit of real life, fairytale blend. Just like Ice. I think that this book was good. I do think it was a little to stretched out, like the author was trying too hard to make it long. If you enjoyed the Redwall books (long, fantasies with animals) then you will likely enjoy Ice. On a scale from one to ten I would give it a seven

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two Wonderful Books by Hope Irvin Marston

Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey: The War of 1812 – Hope Irvin Marston

From Goodreads:

It's 1811 and eleven-year-old Rankin McMullin has joined the warship ONEIDA to fight the British and end the laws that force New York farmers to smuggle their potash across Lake Ontario to Canada in order to survive. As a powder boy on the brig, his job is to carry gunpowder to the carronades. Eventually the shooting war begins. How the first battle ends surprises Rankin and everybody else.

My Thoughts:

This was a wonderful book.  I love reading historical fiction.  The author has done a lot of research into the War of 1812.  As a teacher I can tell you we don’t teach a lot about this war.  I was surprised at how much I learned.  I didn’t know what a powder monkey was. To think that young boys, around the age of 11 served on these war ships and gave their lives at such a young age was surprising.  A powder monkey had to be fast and agile. Their main job was to run up and down the ladders from the deck, bringing gunpowder to the cannons. For that reason alone they were often targeted.  If the person firing the cannons couldn’t get the powder from below then they couldn’t fire their cannon.

I couldn’t understand why Rankin was so set on joining the battle. He seemed almost fearless. His older brother William signed on and was trained to fire the cannon.  One reason they were both signed on was because they could read and write.  Most boys of that time, unless their parents were wealthy were unable to read and write. The bibliography and glossary helped a lot.  For those people like me who want more information the bibliography was perfect.

Eye on the Iditarod Aisling’s Quest

From Goodreads

'I was born to race. Born to drive a team of sled dogs. Born to follow my dream of running the Iditarod.' This is the real-life story of a young girl with a big dream. From the time she was three years old, Aisling (pronounced 'Ashley') Lara Shepherd loved watching sled dog racing on television. Inspired by the drive and determination of the dogs and the people who race them, Aisling set out on a personal quest to one day run her own dogs in the famous Iditarod race in Alaska. Follow eleven-year-old Aisling as she conquers obstacles, deals with heartbreak and loss, and achieves great victories—all while keeping her eye on the Iditarod.

My Thoughts

From the very beginning I had a connection with Aisling.  When she described her eye condition and surgery I understood. Thyroid disease almost cost me my vision.  I didn’t let it stop me. I wrote and finished my first book while going through my five eye surgeries.  I am not sure anything would make me brave enough to try the Iditarod.  I admire the strength, perseverance, and courage a race like this takes. The fact that Aisling was only eleven years old makes me admire her even more.  The book not only teaches you about the race and all that goes into it, but also gives you a look at Aisling’s life. I do have to mention the illustrations.  Bob Renaud has created a set of illustrations that resemble photographs. They are that good.  I look forward to reading more books by this author.  The amount of research she puts into each and every book makes this something that I really enjoy having on my shelves.  There were two other things I enjoyed in this book besides the glossary that helped me understand the terms I didn’t know. One of them was the list of books she has included that are on the subject of the Iditarod and lesson ideas for teaching about the Iditarod. Now all I need to figure out is how I can bring the Iditarod into my Florida classroom curriculum. Like always when a subject intrigues me, I’m sure I’ll find a way.  This is a definite must read for boys and girls and for shelves in all middle schools.

About the Author (From Goodreads)

Hope Irvin Marston was the founder of the Black River Valley Writers Club and the founder and director of the North Country Children's Writers and Illustrators Workshop. She has taught creative writing workshops at Jefferson Community College and the Jefferson-Lewis Teacher Center for many years. She has also been on staff at Christian Writers Conferences at Hephzibah Heights (MA), Montrose Bible Conference (PA), and a St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Beaver Falls, Pa. Hope is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a book reviewer for Church Libraries.

I received copies of the book in exchange for my review.  I was not compensated for it and the comments here are my own.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Two Wonderful Books by Mahamad Ali Elfakir

 The Ancient Secret of the Leprechauns

Three leprechauns, D;Arcy, Lorcan and Scully live in a hidden home on top of a mountain.  Each day they get up with the sun and greet it.  Then they get in their boat and sail to a secret island. This island is actually at the end of the rainbow.  Once there they would push a hidden button on the tree and their pot of gold would come up out of the sand. They greeted  the parrot who lived in the tree above their pot of gold, then spent the rest of the day playing in their gold. At the end of the day they would push a button and their gold would be hidden again. One day they forgot to push the button. When they got up the next day they knew something was wrong. The sea was rough, and when they got to the island their gold was gone.  A group of pirates had seen their gold and stolen it.  Now they must find a way to get their gold back so that they can once again play with it.  This was a wonderfully, cute fantasy.

Stinky Fumes King of the Wild
This story teaches children that it is a good thing to be unique and different. Every year on the first day of Spring the skunks gather for a big party.  The new young skunks get a chance to spray for the first time. Pepper is a new skunk.  He lives with his mother, father and two adopted rabbit brothers.  The rabbit brothers are not allowed to go to the party because the spray would be too strong.  They follow along behind and hide in the bushes.  When it is Pepper’s turn to spray he hears a loud noise and jumps, spraying a large blast that smells like flowers.  Pepper’s brothers new that his spray smelled like flowers but had never told him.  All of the other skunks make fun of him.  Pepper runs off. When the rest of the skunks find themselves in danger it is Pepper that they look to for help.  Read to find out how Pepper and his brothers are able to save the day.

About the Author
Mahamad Ali Elfakir was born in Detroit, Michigan, in January of 1975. He is an entrepreneur who is blessed with a wonderful wife and amazing children. Mahamad’s books also include Blueberry Bubble Gum.

You can find out moreat his website     

I received a copy of these books from the author. The review is my own opinion and I received no other compensation for it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Life Lived Twice - Sherrie Wouters

Adult, Romance, Fantasy
I received a copy from the author in exchange for my honest review
From Goodreads:
Some promises are made to last forever...
What if you fell in love with a stranger...but that stranger had come from your past, a past you never knew existed until the moment your eyes met?
When Tess Winters locks eyes with a stranger at an airport bookstore, it ignites a feeling of passion somewhere deep inside her that she can't explain.
Although the encounter is innocent and brief, the intensity of it lingers, leaving her overwhelmed by a yearning for the mystery man now consuming her every thought.
Struggling to break the powerful hold he has over her heart, Tess starts to experience strange but familiar dreams...dreams from the turn of the twentieth century of the charming Mr Addison Taylor.
As her dreams start to materialize into reality, and past and present begin to blur, Tess is forced to put the pieces of a forgotten time together, and soon discovers that love isn't the only thing that can find you after an eternity.
Captivating, mysterious, and romantic, Life Lived Twice will leave you wondering whether love is so powerful it could last more than a lifetime.

My thoughts:
Let me tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I watch two or three shows a week.  I read through the show I normally watch.  I tuned my husband and family out.  I didn’t check email or Facebook at all once I started this book. That is how good this book was.
As I started reading this book I felt the writing was almost lyrical the way it flowed.  Tess’s dreams keep taking her back to someone named Lylah and Addison. For years she’d had dreams.  Some of them left her feeling terrified, while others left her feeling somewhat confused.  After a chance encounter at an airport her dreams return. To her the dreams seem so real.  I think that is one thing I loved about this writing.  When in the dream with Lylah, I felt like I was right there with them.  There was such a passion about that time period that the reader can feel it. 
The characters are fleshed out and very believable.  There were enough twists that kept me reading from beginning to end. I don’t read very many romances because I don’t like what I call mushy, gushy romance novels.  This definitely was not one.  There was some suspense and trying to figure things out only to realize that the author had magnificently thrown me off the trail.  Some things I was able to figure out, and I believe the author did not try to hide those things from the reader, she just delayed their discovery, which made them pleasantly like hidden nuggets of gold, that the reader discovers along the way. The small supernatural element was written so as not to offend anyone.  I won’t say what it is because I’d rather you the reader, figure it out. I have to say I did not feel like I was beaten over the head with it.
The book leads you to a wonderful place, then throws the curve of all curves at you. Everyone has read books where the ending left you unsatisfied.  This book leaves you satisfied even though you may not like the ending.  The ending set things up so if the author got enough response she could continue it on in another book, and if not she could end it nicely the way it is.  I am glad to say at this writing the author is two-thirds of the way through the sequel.   In case you can’t hear me I am squealing with delight. I would gladly read and review the second book.
I would definitely recommend this book to all romance lovers who like the addition of a little bit of the supernatural.
Yu can check out the book trailer for this book here

About Sherrie:
A qualified Homeoeopath and Kinesiologist, Sherrie lives in country Victoria, Australia with her husband, and two daughters. She is currently working on the sequel to Life Lived Twice.

You can find her on:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Two Books by Jim Pransky

Championship Expectations  
Pages:  78
Source: Review Copy from Author
Genre:  Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

From Goodreads:
Mickey Baker and his teammates have experienced a rewarding and unprecedented athletic season, winning league titles in both basketball and football. As they approach the opening of the American Legion baseball season, hopes and expectations are running high for the opportunity at another championship.

My Thoughts:  
At first I wasn't sure I would like this book.  I agreed to review it because I knew it would be something my students would want to read.  I'm glad I did read it.  The writing is simple enough.  I was afraid that it would be full of stats and things I wouldn't really understand.  The plot was engaging enough to  keep my attention and progresseds smoothly. This was a simple book to read. And one I put on my shelves at school for the to enjoy.

Playoff Run

Pages: 88

Source: Review Copy from Author
Genre:  Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

From Goodreads

The Riverfront Eagles have just clinched the league championship and are headed to the district playoffs, riding an eleven-game winning streak. Their storybook season is dramatically changed, however, by an automobile accident that rocks the entire community.

My Thoughts

I actually enjoyed this book more than the first book.  There was a lot more action in this book than in the first book.  The story is carried on smoothly yet could be a stand-a-lone book.  This is another book I was glad to put on my shelves at school.  It is always checked out.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Don't Wanna Be An Orange Anymore - Hank Kellnor

From Goodreads:

Growing up in the fictional town of Meadowview, young Willie Watson objects to being required to play the part of an orange in the school play when he is nine and in the fourth grade. But that's just the beginning of his problems. As he continues through elementary school and into junior high school, Willie has to deal with the town bully; Christmas with his relatives; the death of a schoolmate; the loss of his girlfriend; the theft of a fountain pen, and his broken eyeglasses.

But that’s not all. Willie doesn’t want to eat his peas; take the garbage out; deal with his troublesome kid sister; try to climb the ropes in gym class while his gym teacher harasses him, or have to stay after school until he’s “…old enough to grow a beard.”

Readers will discover how Willy becomes a member of Brucie’s gang; what happens in the old movie house on Main Street; how feisty old Grandma inspires Willie, and much, much more.

Included in this book are such chapters as "There Is No Santa Claus," "Oh Captain, My Captain," "The Dog in the Rhinestone Collar," "A Bird's Just a Bird," and "Hey Brucie, Your Sister Wears Long Underwear."

I Don’t Wanna Be an Orange Anymore contains a wealth of humorous and often touching descriptions of a young boy's fantasies and life experiences as he grows up in a small town many years ago.


My Thoughts:

From the first incident in this book when Willie stops the school play with his announcement he doesn’t want to be an orange, I found myself laughing.  Although the beginning of this story took place around 1942, people born in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or even today could relate to things that Willie went through.  He dealt with bullies, like Brucie Schultz.  He even joined Brucie’s gang until he was required to harass and abuse other kids.  This shows he had a great moral foundation.  When Brucie cornered  Carvis Bullock, one of the few colored kids at the school Willie knew he should do something but was too afraid of the bully to interfere.  However, when the teacher finally intervened and suggested to Carvis that maybe it would be better if he stayed indoors instead of going outside for recess, Willie knew this was just wrong.  I could identify with every situation where Willie was blamed for something he didn’t do.  He took the punishment and kept his mouth shut for many different reasons.  We follow Willie all the way through adulthood. This is definitely a trip down memory lane in so many ways for all ages.  Childhood experiences don’t change a lot.  It was refreshing to be reminded that so often the things we go through as a child is what shapes us into the adult we become.  Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would.  This was an excellent read.  I am so glad I was asked to read and review it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Three Wonderful Fairy Tales by Sergey Nikolov

I received copies of these books in exchange for my honest review. 

I love this author's writing style.  The stories are charming as are most fairy tales yet they have a wonderful lesson to be learned.

Princess Rose and the Golden Bird
This is a wonderful fairy tale of a young princess who loved roses. Everyone called her Princess Rose. Every night a golden bird would fly to her balcony. She and the bird sang and the people all had beautiful dreams,. One day a witch cast a spell on the roses. Princess Rose's hair turned black. When the bird came to her and they sang the people fell asleep and had nightmares. Princess Rose manages to break the curse only to have the witch cast it again. Want to know what happened? You must read this book to see what the witch did to Princess Rose and whether she can break the curse again.

The Legend of the Black Sea

What a lesson this story has. An old man, his dog and a black cat live by the sea. The dog doesn't like the black cat because it is black and doesn't help as much as he does. The old man is always telling the dog that he believes in the cat's goodness.  One day disaster strikes and the old man asks both the dog and cat to help.  When the cat doesn't he loses faith in its goodness. find out what happens when the old man loses faith in the cat's goodness.

In a kingdom lived a king with his little princess. He stayed with her always. He was afraid of losing her like he had lost her mother. Princess Selena had no friends. She became very sad and very ill. In heaven two little angels always played together. One of the m became bored and wanted someone else to play with. God tells them it is not a good idea. He gives in to the pleading.  Selena leaves her earthly body and goes to heaven.  Her father is so sad he won't leave her body.  Selena has so much fun.  After a while one of the angels gets upset because three is a crowd.  God sends Selena back to her body and her father learns to give her some freedom.  Selena grows up.  To find out what happens next to Selena and to both of the angels read the book.  It is wonderfully written.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Five More Picture Books

Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon - Sarah & Steven Mostyn

In a story told in the form of the woman who swallowed a fly we find a blue baboon who lives in a balloon. Every afternoon they have tea at half past three. Their friend Matt the Cat chases a family of mice that fly kites and eat friend mice.  On one of the kites lives an orange mite that likes to fight a troll who wears bright red tights.  One day they all get into the balloon to fly to the moon.  There they meet Holly and Molly, two raccoons who live in a cocoon and have a friend named Miranda the Panda. They watch cartoons in the cocoon until they hear the moo of the cow who jumped over the moon.  Then they go home to sit by the sea and have tea.

Not only is this a wonderful story full of rhyming words but the pictures are bright and colorful and leave so much to share with the child you are reading it to.

You can learn more at their web site:

Magical Toys – Uncle Amos
Ron had a room full of wonderful toys. He played with them every afternoon when he came home from school. One day he invited a friend over to play with him. They played hard until it was time for John to go home. Ron’s mom told him to clean up the toys. Ron waited to continue playing. When they looked at how messy the room was they knew it would be a lot of hard work. John convinced Ron they needed to leave everything here it was so they could play with it the net day. When Ron’s mom saw Ron had not cleaned his room she was angry with him. She told him Ron couldn’t come over. Ron was just as upset with hi mom. He didn’t think she was being fair. Suddenly Ron started hearing voices. Who was talking to him? What did they want?
Will Ron clean his room? Will mom allow him to have friends over again? Read this wonderful book that teaches children the importance of being responsible for their possessions.  Then check out more of Uncle Amos’ books.

My Brother is My Best Friend – Nicole Weaver

This story is told in English, Spanish and French. Since all the languages are on each page the author has color coded them. English is in black, Spanish is in red, and French is in blue.

This simple story is about twin brothers Blake and Drake and the fun they have playing outside in the winter and summer. It demonstrates why they are not only brothers but best friends.

At the end of the story there is a glossary of words found in French and Spanish There are also a word search and find the English sentences to match the French and Spanish sentences. The pictures are fun and whimsical. This would be a great teaching tool.

Part of the proceeds from the purchase of this book goes to a Haitian orphanage through Mercy & Sharing, an organization that provides food and shelter to Haiti’s abandoned children.  This is a project near and dear to the author’s heart. Her own mother lost 13 cousins in the 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti.

You can find more information at her website

Maya and Filippo Play Chef at Sea - Alinka Rutkowska

Maya and Filippo live on a cruise ship called the "Fun Princess". They travel all over the world having fun discovering new things. In this story they are traveling from New Zealand to Tasmania. When their mom asks them what they'd like to do that day, Maya says she'd like to make a cake and Filippo says he wants to eat cake. They join a group of other children with the pastry chef. The chef had them wash their hands and put on an apron and hat like a real chef. He shows them the ingredients on the table and tells the what to do. Maya sees one boy looking sad and not participating. He only sees a mess, not cake.  Maya convinces him that if he doesn't try he'll never know what he can do. They bake their cakes and then the parents get to taste them. The children learn how to have fun, take chances on something new and cooperate with each other.

Why Blue - Josh Tuininga

I loved this book because it is spot on. children are full of "why" questions. In this story Maya goes for a walk. While sitting on a bench she looks up at the sky and wonders why it is blue and not some other color. Read to find out what she learns about why the sky is blue. The author has demonstrated through his writing that a little kid still exists inside of him that continues to make him ask why.
You can find Josh at: