Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hurray God by Jeanette Sharp

Genre: Inspirational
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

These are stories that will inspire you. There are several stories here, each one inspiring.  Some will bring tears to your eyes.  All of them will show you how God works in our lives.  Some of these stories rocked people to their core, while others were simple stories that showed no matter how big or small the situation God is always there if we take the time to listen to and rely upon him.  These stories, this book would make an excellent gift for friends and family, whether they are going through a crisis or not.

Two For Joy by Gigi Amatea

Genre: Children, Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Source: I won a copy from LibraryThing. The opinions expressed here are my own.

When Jenna's grreat-great-aunt Tannie breaks her ankle her mother becomes worried about her.  Tannie lives on a large farm and has chickens.  She has traveled all over the world and is a very active person. Jenna's mom is a nurse and knows how fragile her great-aunt's bones have become since she has gotten older. She and Jenna decided to have Tannie come and live with them.  They prepare the house and try to convince Tannie she needs to move in with them.  They go to bring her back over Spring Break and are able to convince her to move.  She sells everything and moves in with them.  But, it isn't as easy as just having someone move in with them.

I was able to relate to this simple book on such a large level.  My mother lives with us.  At first it wasn't so bad.  She was very mobile and did a lot around the house so it felt like we all just lived together and shared the responsibilites.  Then one day while we were gone she slipped and fell and broke both feet and her ankle. She is very resistant to some of our suggestions when we know it is for her best.  In a lot of ways she has given up doing things we know she can do.  As Tannie and her mom found out, there is a very delicate balance that has to be struck for everyone to live harmonioulsy.  This is a great book to read any time, but especially if you have an older loved one who must come and live with you.

The Dead Lands – Rick Hautala

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Source: I won a copy from LibraryThing. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Take a mystery, add a ghost into it, tack on a murder and you have the makings of an excellent book.
Abby is a ghost who lives in a cemetery in the Dead Lands. She’s been dead for over 100 years. She’s not sure why, unlike the many that she helps, she’s been unable to move on.  She sleeps until she hears a mockingbird sing, which signals that someone needs her help.  This time it is Meagan who has shown up.  Abby quickly whisks her into the cemetery.  Why?  Abby’s uncle George Wheeler, who was once a pastor chases Abby along with his Hell Hounds.  He’s determined to get her to come to his side of things. Abby must help Meagan find out who murdered her and help her get justice.  She must do this all without being caught by her uncle.  Abby has a protector who quickly comes to her aid.  She doesn’t know who he is or when he will show up but he does.  There is a second story line that flows through this story.  Jim Burke purchased a locket that used to belong to Abby. Inside the locket is a strand of hair and a key. He was originally going to buy it for his mother because she like it, but decided to keep it because he feels strangely drawn to it. This connection is what allows him to see Abby, something no other living being has been able to accomplish. We are left at the end of the book with Meagan’s mystery solved, but not Abby’s.  This is a great set up for a second book. It can be read as a stand-alone book.

When I went in search of this author who was new to me, I was saddened to learn he had died of a heart attack in 2013.  I love his book and would have gladly read the entire series.  It was so good that it only took me a couple of hours to read it.  Now we will never have the answers to the questions we had at the end of the book about Abby and her uncle.  I will recommend this to all of my students.  It is one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Fourth of July - Dad's War Photos by neal Bertrand

I could think of no better book to review for the Fourth of July than this book here.  After all isn't this what this holiday is about, Celebrating freedom?  Enjoy the review.

Genre: Photo-Biography, WWII, History
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

From Goodreads:
Curtis Bertrand returned home from WWII in the South Pacific with over 600 photos. These never-before-seen pictures from his private collection, along with official battalion journal entries and stories of near-death experiences entail drama, adventure, and depict the reality of war.
Dad's War Photos covers many aspects of Curtis's experiences: leaving the farm in Opelousas, Louisiana, going to boot camp, being sent overseas, and coming back home, all through the lens of his Kodak fold-up camera passed down to him from his parents.
The homecoming and post war life chapters give an intimate view of what many returning soldiers faced. For Curtis it was getting back to work on the farm, meeting his lovely wife, and trying to put bad memories aside.
Two appendices include extensive photo coverage of WWII aircraft nose art and the daily lives of natives in the South Pacific.

My Thoughts:
I am so glad that Neal Bertrand took his father's pictures and journals and put together this book.  This is a fabulous primary source. As a teacher I am please to have it as a resource, although I am sure I will be accosted by upper grade teachers who teach history for my copy.  I believe in sharing.  I loved not only the pictures which gave you a first hand look at what was taking place in the Pacific, but also the military journal entries.  This gave you a first hand look at what else was going on with him and the other's in his battalion during the month.  Another added bonus was the section titled "Elsewhere in the War". This section allowed me to see not only what was happening where he was but also in Japan, Germany and other important places.  Every book I've ever read similar to this deals only with what was going on in that particular area. This book give the reader a wider picture of the war.  I find this beneficial for students who may use this as one of their primary sources when researching.   I would however caution if you are using this as a resource for middle school.  Not all middle schoolers are mature enough for some of the pictures.  Yes I know that shocks you.  There is a picture I found hilarious of a group of men on an outside latrine, naked butts to the camera.  Then there are the pics of the half naked women on the planes, or the Philippine women who are naked from the waste up. This is life, but not all middle schoolers  are mature enough.  I must also caution that some of the pictures are quite graphic of corpses.  All in all this is a book that is not just a photo journal, but a wealth of written information as well.  I am so happy I had the honor of reading and reviewing this book.

About the Author:
Neal Bertrand is a publisher, full-time author, and an avid genealogist and family historia. In 2009, he began scanning his dad's World War II photos. eal had never seen what was written on the backs of the photos because they had bee attached to the pages of three photo albums kep in a cedar chest in the hallway of Neal's childhood home. The photos were put in the albums in no particular order. But once he gifured out the timeline, Neal was able to organize them by coutry, month, ad year. After six months of culling the photos and researching diary entries of his dad's outfit, the 863rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, Neal was able to trace his father's steps from boot camp to war and back home.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Playlist of the Ancient Dead – Aaron Frale

Genre: Adult, Mystery, Science fiction, Adventure, Horror
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

I can honestly say I’ve never read a book like this.  When Caroline was walking her dog and he kept reacting strangely every time they got near a brick building I knew there was something to the building.  The building has been there for years. When Caroline sees her ex-boyfriend coming down the sidewalk she turns and walks back toward the building. She sees a door, she had not seen before and opens it. Cody catches up with her and she ends up stepping back out, but not before she sees something.  It seems that a government team had found a way in years before and disappeared and so they’ve been waiting all this time for another door to appear. Caroline and her dog are the key.  Another thing that was strange, not in a bad way, but in a unique way was the use of music throughout the book. No I’m not going to tell you what I mean.  I will tell you to expect all kinds of things. There are so many twists and turns in this book it will keep you reading from beginning to end.  This was the first book I had read by this author and I was not disappointed.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Eight Wonderful Picture Books for the Summer

Genre: Children's Picture Books
Source: I received copies to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

April Makes New Friends by Helen H. Wu
April and her family are moving to a new city. This makes her sad, because it means she'll have to go to a new school and make new friends. She makes a wish while holding her Wishy Bear. Will her wish come true? Great story about friendship and taking chances.

Oliver and Jumpy Stories 19-21 by Werner Stejskal
In Santa's Chocolate Factory, Oliver, Jumpy and friends visit Santa's Factory Open House that sits between two clouds in the sky. They get there by riding on the back of a Dino. they sample his candy and find out how it is made when they are ready to leave Joey can't be found. They assume he took a flight back home.  He isn't there.  What happened to him and how will he get back home?

In Triller we find a beautiful bird named Triller. He has one of the most beautiful voices ever. Oliver encourages him to enter a singing contest. What will happen when Triller loses his voice?  I loved the pictures of Triller and the other birds in this book. For some reason their style just really wowed me.

In April Volcano, it is April Fool's Day.  Oliver is trying to plan a prank on Jumpy and Joey. When he jumps out of his tree house he lands in water.  This is a prank Jumpy and Joey played on Oliver. While he is trying to think of a way to prank them back their volcano suddenly erupts. How will they get away from this catastrophe?

I love Oliver's books. They are always bright, colorful and usually have some sort of lesson to them.

The Night Horses by Anaka Jones
This is a cute story about what horses do during the day with their humans and then what they do at night when their owners go home.  You know, things like disco dancing, glamour time.  This is cute and fun to read.

All Have Gone to Sleep by Anat Umansky
Great examples of personification can be found in this book so it would be a great mentor text for teaching personification. This is a sweet story of everything that goes to sleep, toys, animals, mothers and children.  This would be a great bedtime story.

Picture of Grace by Josh Armstrong
This is one of those picture books that brings out your emotions. Grace loves to visit her Grandpa Walt, who is a well known artist.  She thinks because he is famous that everyone loves him.  She doesn't understand that some people only love the money he can bring them.  When he dies without finishing his last painting, Grace decides to finish it for him.  This makes the gallery owner angry, but makes the family happy.  You must read this book to find out why such a conflict and the importance of this one painting.  This is an absolutely beautiful book, in words and illustrations.

The Little Helmet by Nicholas Pavitt
Hatland is under attack by a flying fire-breathing dragon. The king and queen ask the magician if he can stop the dragon. Hatricks replies he cannot.  They call for their brave knights and ask which of them will save the kingdom.  None of them reply. A brave little helmet stopped by the guards volunteers to save them all. The king gives him their finest horse and the magician gives him a magic sandwich and magic flask.  He travels until he finds the dragon sitting near a well crying.  Why is the dragon crying and what will happen to Hatville?  This is a cute story about fearing what you don't understand and friendship.

Broken Feather and Fox For a Hat by Barry Marshall
This is another one of those stories with a great lesson about teamwork. Broken Feather and Fox-For-A-Hat are two brothers who take their father's bow and arrows and slip away. They explore and find a rabbit they want to bring home for dinner. One of them is carrying the bow and one is carrying the arrows.  Neither wants to give up what they have and the rabbit gets away.  Then they find a bear with some honey. They each try to give the other their bow or arrow to hold so they can go get the honey, but both refuse and the bear takes the honey and leaves.  They find their father's canoe and argue over who will paddle, losing the paddle in the water. When the canoe gets stuck they try to walk back home.  Will they find their way home? Will they learn to cooperate and help each other?  This is a wonderful book about cooperation and team work. The illustrations are wonderful.

Who Handles Returns? And, Maybe Repayment? by Daniela Gherghel

Things at home are getting hectic as Leanna is about to have a new sibling.  On the night her mom leaves for the hospital her uncle tells Leanna if she has any complaints she can take them to the stork. Being a big sister is hard because her baby sister gets into her things and bites her.  She decides to complain to the stork to take her back.  As she thinks about all of the terrible things her sister has done she begins to think about the great things she has done as well.
This would be a great book to read to a child who is expecting a new baby brother or sister.  It is a way to talk about the changes that will be coming to the family and how to handle some of those situations. It gives the older child a look at some of the great things about having a baby brother or sister.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Two Books by June Ahern

The Skye in June
Genre: Adult, Paranormal
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

This was an excellent story. This book brings out just about every emotion you have. Cathy Jimmy and their five girls move to San Francisco after Cathy has another miscarriage and almost dies. Right from the very beginning I didn’t like Jimmy. He came across as selfish and disrespectful. I saw this in the hospital where Cathy was having her seventh child, another girl. The doctor wanted her to stay longer because she had a rough delivery and Jimmy didn’t care. He told her that her place was at home that the kids needed her there. 
I felt like I was in Scotland feeling the tension between the Protestants and the Catholics. The father was very involved in his Catholicism, but I’m not sure the church would have considered him a good Catholic.

You could tell there was tension in the family from the beginning of the book.  It was raised a notch when Cathy names this daughter June going against the wishes of naming her after a saint like she did with all of her other daughters.
June is special. She seems to know things ahead of time. She always knew when Helen was sick..  She also was the one who alerted the adults to Helen's inability to breath.

Once they move to America June is branded as being different.  This causes all kinds of problems with her father.  I thought her father was mean and cruel when he was in Scotland.  Once he got to America I really detested him. He became no longer verbally abusive, but physically abusive to all of the girls.  They all grew to hate him. It was obvious when you heard them talking about how to kill him. 

June doesn’t fit in with the Catholic faith and gets kicked out of the Catholic school.  When she accidentally catches her robe on fire and is severely burned her father has her locked in the psych ward.  Want to know how this affected the family?  Will Cathy finally stand up to her husband?  You must read this book to find out.

City of Redemption
Genre: Adult, Contemporary
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Once again the author has written a story that starts in Scotland and ends in San Francisco.  Liz married at an early age and had a son named Patrick.  She loved to shop, even though her husband had asked her to stop spending so much money.  One day her husband makes her promise she won't go out. She breaks her promise and takes her son shopping. They rush to get home before her husband.  When her son claims he's hungry she sends him to the corner market and rushes to her apartment to hide her purchases.  Her son never returns.  She tells one lie after another which slows down the hunt for her son.

The story switches and Liz in in an American prison.  She had gotten herself mixed up with drugs, the Black Panthers and several other things she should not have gotten herself mixed up in.  This story goes back and forth between the two events.

Unlike the author's other book I reviewed, I had a difficult time getting into this one.  I didn't care for the sexual content and just felt it was a lot more disjointed for me as a reader.  I will say that there is a lot of historical information about that time period that was very accurate.  The author is very good at making you feel like you are where the author is.  This just wasn't a book for me.  I know there re many out there who would like it so I would recommend you try it out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

D.E.M – Deus Ex Machina by Lee Ness

Genre: Adult, Thriller
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Rachel wants to do the right thing.  She tries to help locate an abducted child through her computer skills and ends up finding herself in over her head.  Not only is she involved when she hears from a vigilante with other jobs, but she seeks out the help of her friend Cam and drags him into the middle of all of this. Each job she and Cam completes leads them deeper until they’re not sure if they’re working for the good guys or the bad guys. This book is like riding a rollercoaster.  You think you know where you’re going in the story then you’re brought over the top on your way to another twist in the story.  If you’re not real computer knowledgeable don’t worry, the author has written it in a manner that those of us who know nothing about hacking, etc. can follow along just fine.  As you travel this path with them you realize that the money they receive can’t be a good thing because if they don’t do what D.E.M. wants they could be killed.  This is one of those books where you know the main character’s initial intentions were good, but saw they were making poor choices that would set it up to take you on a twisting turning thrill ride. Lee Ness did an excellent job of keeping the tension throughout the story.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dead Scary by Sally Gould

Genre: Upper Elementary, Middle Grades, Adventure, Mystery
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

I have and probably always will ghost stories.  They don't have to be super scary for me to enjoy them. They can even be funny. I grew up in an old farm house in Indiana that was haunted. My great-grandmother refused to go upstairs for that reason.  My grandmother slept upstairs and since she was deaf heard none of the things the rest of us did. It took years before my father would admit to what he had seen as a child growing up in that house. I guess that is where my love of ghost stories began.

In this story we have a young boy named Adam who has moved with his family into what they consider their dream home. There is one problem, there is a ghost, who prefers to be called 'an earthbound spirit' who lives in the house. Adam sees Edward sitting in a window seat and introduces himself to him. Edward is shocked to learn that Adam can see him.  Adam knows a lot about ghosts since one of his best friends is a ghost. Edward starts out by setting up rules he expects Adam and his family to follow.  They are more like a list of demands.  Adam is not going to abide by this bossy ghost.  When Edward doesn't get his way he seeks help and his wish is granted.  A pack of Warrior Spirits will evict them.  What will Adam do to protect his sister? How can his ghost busting grandfather help from so far away?  Will he and Edward ever be able to work things out or is it too late?  This is a quick book to read. It took me less than an hour.  The pacing is great and will definitely hold the attention of kids.  This is another great ghost story to add to my school shelves. For the reluctant reader it is short enough to entice them and the story is well written so it will keep them reading.  I wasn't familiar with this author but I will check out her other books.  Hopefully there will be future ghost stories.

About the Author:

Sally Gould loved books from a young age, but ever considered writing them. While she was busy getting up to the mischief that teenagers get up to, she forgot about books all together. Then total insanity took hold and she became a corporate lawyer. Fortunately, she had two sons and they inspired her to write stories for children. Of course, her oldest son is responsible logical, studious, considerate, grateful and even makes his bed. The youngest one is only interested in having fun – lots of it. And, except for his teachers, he makes everyone laugh. Their antics have inspired many of Sally’s stories. Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her family and two dogs – Pebbles, who is sensible and Jade, who just wants to have fun.

You can find Sally at:
Her Website

The Circle by Mario Escobar

Genre: Adult, Suspense
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

This book grabs you and won’t let you go. I loved everything about this book except the ending.  The only reason I didn’t love the ending is it didn’t end the way “I” wanted it to.  It did end the way it was supposed to.  Solomon and Margaret are a simple couple with two children. Solomon is the head of a psychiatric clinic. He has one patient that  intrigues him.  She has been there for years and yet no one has been able to help her.  When he starts trying to get through to her things go extremely bad.

All the way through this book I flip-flopped between who I thought the good guys and the bad guys were. My reason was simple.  They all had qualities that made them appear to be good and then the next minute they did something that made me think they were the bad guys.  I was completely stumped until the very end.  I felt terror for the family involved. As I got toward the end of the book I was so emotionally involved I thought I was going to puke.  Yes the book is definitely that emotionally well written.  I felt like I was a family member going through this terror with them.

The characters were well written.  Margaret especially impressed me.  She showed what a mother would do to protect her children. Solomon, being a psychiatrist knew all of the sign exhibited by those terrorizing his family, yet he was unable to put all of the pieces together until the very end.

So who won out?  You really must read this book to find out.