Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Meritropolis by Joel Ohman

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Source: I received a copy to help facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

My Thoughts:
I originally did not have a date set to review this book.  I actually received it on Friday.  I just happened to have half of the day off and decided to just peruse the book.  I should know better.  I couldn’t put it down.  The author has created a world that is beautiful and terrifying at the same time.  Meritropolis was created after a major event wiped out most of the world.  To survive they created a society where they gave each inhabitant a score that told what you were worth to their society.  If your score dropped below 50 you were put outside the gates to survive. With all of the terrors that lived outside the gates people didn’t survive.  There were the most fascinating and deadly combination creatures that preyed on those outside the gate. You had gultures, which were a combination of  geckos and vultures, ramas were a combination of a ram and a puma and a manateel which was a manatee and an eel.  I honestly believe this last one came about because of where the author lives. 

Charley is the main character. At age eight Charley and his ten year old Down’s Syndrome brother Alec were all that was left of their family.  They had lost their parents in the Event.  Charley saw his brother removed and he was placed outside the gate.  It was for this reason that Charley grew up determined to get rid of the system that killed his brother.  When he turns seventeen he is considered an adult and no longer has to live underground.  He has one of the highest scores and is noticed by those in charge.  The question is, if Charley is successful in overthrowing this system will he and the others be better off or will they have destroyed the only thing that has kept them alive all this time.

I asked for a physical copy because I believed it would be a book that I should have on my shelves.  I not only believe it, I am trying to figure out where to fit it in as a read aloud to my students.  Besides the violence this is a very clean read.  It opens the door for honest conversations about what is morally right for everyone.  I am hoping there is a sequel to this book and look forward to reading it if so.  This is an author I definitely need to keep an eye on.

About the Author:

Joel Ohman is the author of Meritropolis--"The Hunger Games meets The Village with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist". He lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids. His writing companion is Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull Mastiff who loves to eat the tops off of strawberries.

Picture courtesy of: 

You can find the author here:   Goodreads 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nonfiction Recommendations and Something for Teachers

I Survived True Stories: Five Epic Disasters 
by Laruen Tarshis

I have always enjoyed these true stories.  I purchased this book to put on my classroom shelves and had to read it first myself.  This one contained stories about the 2011 Tsunami that took out the power plant in Japan.  I was very familiar with most of that information.  There was a story about the Titanic which we are currently reading about in class.  The Henryville tornado of 2012 was just a couple of years ago.  I was very intrigued with the Children's Blizzard of 1888 since I grew up in Indiana.  I lived in the country and was very familiar with tying ropes from a post on the porch of our house to our wash house, then out to the garage where we kept our chickens, to the barn and finally out to the gate and then the hog houses so we could feed them.  I learned a lot about this blizzard I had never known before. The one I enjoyed the most was the Great Molasses Flood of 1919.  I had heard it mentioned once or twice before but had never read anything about it.  Lauren Tarshis does a fabulous job of making all of the information interesting to the reader.  i also love that after each one she gives information on other similar incidents and gives a list of resources so the reader can do more of their own research.  I really can't wait for my students to read this book.

World's Scariest Prisons by Emma Carlson Berne

This is another wonderful book I purchased for my class. If I know my students and I do, they will look at the title and think this is a book about haunted prisons.  I know I did.  This book describes different prisons from all over the world.  I never thought of teh Roman colosseum as a prison, yet it was.  Each story starts with a fact card at the top. This card lets you know the other names it went by.  It tells you where it is located, the years it was in operation, the number of prisoners and any notable inmates.  I was surprised to learn that social status and money could and often played a role in how a prisoner was treated, what they ate or their accommodations. Just in case you were disappointed about this not being a book about haunted prisons, there are a couple of stories about ghosts in some of the prisons.  I found this to be a very informative book and I'm sure my students will lvoe it as well.

For all of my teacher friends out there I have something for you.

3-Minute Motivators by Kathy Paterson
This book is full of quick little motivators to use when students are lagging. There is a lot of visualization used throughout the book. favorite is found on page 136 "The Unfair Test". Growing up I hated pop quizzes. I considered them to be extremely unfair. I swore I would never do this. In this activity you give a pop quiz and ask questions like "What is H2O", "What is this (hold up a pencil). The reason this test is unfair is because the only correct and acceptable answers are the ridiculous ones such as, H2O is "a home for fish" orthe pencils is "a back scratcher". The different tasks are coded by subjects and whether it is an individual, group or team activity. They also tell you when and why you can use the motivator. There are so many I really want to try with my students.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Student Saturday: Janitors By Tyle Whitesides

Student Reviewer: Luis O.

Genre: Fantasy
Source: I picked up this book because I thought it was funny and it was. (There’s a janitor on the cover of the book

The book started in a school where there was a kid called Dez and a little kid called Spencer. Dez used to spit balls of paper at kids, but he stopped. There was a sub on the first day of school. So Dez spit a ball of paper on a girl’s desk. She screamed and flicked it away to Spencer. He got it and threw it somewhere, not anywhere any one could get it. People said that Dez was going to get into trouble. Dez didn’t care, he wanted the sub to take him to the office by the hand. The sub came in and heard everything. She ws taking Dez to the office…Not holding his hand. I recommend people who are into fantasy with a drop of humor to read this. I recommended it to my sister because she’s into humor and fantasy.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Four Wonderful Books for Your Young One

The Story of the Sparklefly by Mary E. Leckie
 Genre:  Children's Picture Book
Source:  I received a copy to help facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here my own.

From Goodreads:
 Come along this beautiful journey of magic, love and metamorphosis, where dragonflies transform into Sparkleflies, creatures that sparkle and love and spread good throughout the world. Meet Sparkle Sprinkle, Sparkle Twinkle and Sparkle Shine who introduce you to their secret magical world of twinkles and love.

My Thoughts:

What a wonderful way to explain how and why we have all this love in the world.  Young children will especially enjoy the brightly colored pictures  and the sweet story that involves dragonflies. This is a wonderful tale to share with your grandchildren or children.

Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis by Carole P. Roman
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source:  I received a copy to help facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own

From Goodreads:
Captain No Beard and his crew of loyal pirates heave anchor for another adventure, this time in the icy waters of the Arctic. Captain No Beard's steering a course due north, sailing by the light of the North Star. Everyone on the crew wonders what the captain's up to, especially as he gets embarrassed when they ask. When the captain finally admits his plan, the crew discovers he plans to steal the aurora borealis, the beautiful northern lights that brighten the arctic sky. They're all shocked. They may be pirates, but even they know stealing is bad. Besides, how can anyone steal the lights from the sky? A charming, engaging tale about doing what's right, Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis is the latest installment in Carole P. Roman's award-winning pirate series. The first book, Captain No Beard-an Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life, received the Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012 award and the Star of Remarkable Achievement. The series presents real-life problems in an imaginary setting and encourages discussion with both parents and educators.

My Thoughts:
I am and have been a fan of this authors work from the first book I read and reviewed. Alexander is a young boy/pirate who goes on wonderful adventures through the use of his imagination.  He takes a boat load of friends/stuffed animals and two other humans with him on these adventures.  Each time we travel with him on an adventure we learn a lesson as he learns one.  On this trip he wants to steal the Aurora Borealis. The crew refuses because they know that stealing is not a good thing.  As usual they always find a solution to their problems.  This is a wonderful  book to read to your youngest loved ones.

There’s A Dog On the Dining Room Table by Elizabeth Maginnis
 Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source: I received a copy to help facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

From Goodreads:
In this cute rhyming story about an unexpected visitor, a little girl wonders why there is a dog on her dining room table. She imagines a world of funny scenarios for the new visitor, but not everyone is happy about his arrival.

My Thoughts:
If you are wanting a cute rhyming book that will hold the attention of your child, then this is the book for you.  The words flow smoothly. The reasons listed on each page offers a chance to problem solve with your child. The pictures are bright and simple.  There is something here for everyone.  This is the book that will have your older readers taking time out to read to their younger siblings.  Definitely a book to read to my grandson.

Queen Vernita Visits Baja Quail by Dawn Menge

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Source: I received a copy to help facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own

From Goodreads:
New Children’s Adventure Queen Vernita Visits Baja Quail May Be Most Thrilling Vernita Book Yet
From dancing to white water rafting to camping on the beach, Queen Vernita does it all in Baja Quail in her latest travel adventures.
Adelanto, CA – In Queen Vernita Visits Baja Quail, the latest installment of Dawn Menge’s award-winning adventure book series, the well-traveled title character finds herself continuing her adventures with exciting and educational activities in Baja Quail – perhaps her most thrilling trip yet. The action/adventure children’s fiction is published by Outskirts Press.

My Thoughts:
In this adventure Queen Vernita is starting a new year visiting her new friends in Baja Quail. On this trip she will learn all about dolphins, grunions, river rafting. She learns about the Rio Grande River, rides a motorized bike built special for her.  She learns about the many cultural dances and their costumes. As the second half of the year begins she finds herself learning about the German-Mexican culture and food.  She learns about how powerful the ocean is.  She learns to surf and swims with seals. She visits a school where she learns some spanish.  As her year comes to an end she spends November exploring the Crystal Caverns.  She ends her year by visiting the elderly with service dogs, then heads back to her country to start a new adventure in the new year.
I really love these books.  You learn so much and the pictures are absolutely gorgeous.  I feel honored everytime I am given the opportunity to read and review one of her books.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Hoard by Neil Grimmett

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

From Goodreads:
The Hoard is a thriller set in the secretive, dangerous world of a Royal Ordnance Factory; a vast, surreal place full of some of the most volatile elements on the planet.
Thirty years before the main story, the nitration house at the ROF in Bridgwater exploded in a fireball that could be seen for miles around. The entire crew was killed, and the source of the explosion was never found; authorities claimed that the charge in the nitrator had gone critical and that the chargehand was unable to stop a lethal cook-off. But Gunner Wade, the man the nitration crew sent for help that day knows differently: they were murdered; and he was branded a coward.
Now Byron, the son of one of the victims, enters the sprawling Gormenghast-like compound of the top secret factory to discover the truth about his father's death. But what he finds in the dark heart of this world is a hidden hoard of super-high explosives; illegally produced and drenched in the blood of those killed to conceal its existence. As the threat of discovery mounts, Byron finds himself at the centre of a struggle between good and evil; both to prevent a destructive force from being unleashed again and to bring the sadistic mass murderers who killed his father to justice. He is aided by an unlikely alliance of helpers, including the beautiful widow of a murdered chemist and Gunner Wade. Against them are the original perpetrators and their new legion of evil acolytes.
Inspired by a massive explosion that killed six men at the real-world ROF Bridgwater facility in 1951 - no cause was ever found - The Hoard is a gripping, grim novel that offers a glimpse into a self-contained apocalyptic landscape scarred both by the birthing of the materiel that fuels war, and the hearts of evil men who would do anything for greed.  

My Thoughts:
If you are looking for a book that is dark, and full of people you can’t trust then this might be the book for you.

This book starts out in 1951 where we find a factory that is in definite trouble.  There are secrets within and they are secrets worth killing for.  Fast forward to the 1970s where we meet the son of one of the victims.  At the time of his father’s death he was unborn.  Now he has gone to work for the very factory that took his father’s life.  He needs to know why his father died. Unfortunately there are still those who don’t want anyone to find that information and once again they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep those secrets hidden. This is not one of those books  you quickly skim through and move on to the next.  This book is full of deeply drawn characters. The author has made sure that by the end of the book you know them well.  The idea that it is based on an actual factory accident made it all the more interesting to me.  Like I said.  If you like the dark side of things then this is definitely the book for you.  This is highly recommended for anyone who loves deep, dark thrillers.  I enjoyed this one much more than the threshing circle.  When asked if I would be interested in reading it, the thing that clinched it for me was being told that it was much darker than the first one.  This is something that I love in a thriller.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Student Saturdays – The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Here we go again.  This is the first student review of the school year.  Please respond, but also remember these are written by sixth graders.

Student Reviewer: Yazmin A.
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction

Do you know what it’s like to love a book so much you cry when you’ve finished with it? Do you know what it’s like when a book is so good you finish it in a week? That is how it was and how I felt when I read The Fault in Our Stars. It’s beyond spectacular. Mrs. Stiles, I remembered one time you said you were interviewing a girl and she abandoned a book, and you asked her why. She said because it was boring. You asked her how far she had read and she said the first page. A girl said The Fault in Our Stars was boring. But, really if you dig down deep you’ll find the gold. In the book there is this girl named Hazel, she has cancer and she goes to this support group called the Literal Heart or Jesus. Anyway, she meets this guy and ends up spending a lot of time with him. I don’t want to tell you what happens, a lot though. Let’s see, she has this book she loves called the Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Huten. She feels as if the book was written about her. Well, if I tell you anymore I’ll spoil the story. I love this book and if it were not the library’s book I would keep it. This book makes me appreciate life. It touched my heart and put me to tears. I would recommend this book to anyone, except younger children, because the book cusses a lot. Also, if you haven’t already seen the movie, the book is better. The movie leaves out a lot of key information. If I could rate The Fault in Our Stars I would give it five stars.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Guest Post: The Infinity Program by Richard H. Hardy

Topic Suggestion:

Would you consider the Jon-Lettie-Harry dynamic a love triangle? Why or why not?
Yes, I think of the Jon-Lettie-Harry dynamic as a love triangle.  But I don’t think it’s a classic love triangle since Harry is not really capable of a serious relationship at all.  He is a damaged man, deeply hurt by his father’s early death and his mother’s alcoholism.  While Lettie sincerely wants a deep and meaningful relationship, she is reluctant to enter into such a relationship. She is afraid of being hurt.  Jon is different from both of them.  He knows without question that he loves Lettie, almost from the beginning, but his cautiousness gets in the way of showing her how he really feels.

A love triangle can have many dynamics.  Two men can compete with each other for the same woman or two women can compete for the same man.  It can also have the dynamic I use in The Infinity Program.  Lettie is so involved with Harry that she is unaware that Jon really cares about her.  Their mutual concern about Harry’s problems draws them together.  Their budding relationship, with all its ups and downs, is an important subplot in The Infinity Program.

The Infinity Program Summary
Jon Graeme and Harry Sale are unlikely friends. Harry is a world-class programmer, but his abrasive personality alienates co-workers. In contrast, Jon is a handsome and easy-going technical writer, the low man on the IT totem pole.

Sharing a love of nature, the men set out together, planning to go their separate ways--Jon on a hike and Harry, fly fishing. Three days later, Jon arrives at the rendezvous point, but his friend is nowhere in sight. When Jon finds Harry unconscious on the floor of a cave, Harry claims to have been lying there the entire time. But he is neither cold nor hungry. What Jon doesn't know is that Harry fell into an underground cavern, where he came into contact with an alien quantum computer.

Back at work, Harry jettisons his regular tasks and concentrates exclusively on inventing new operating language to access the alien system. In the process he crashes his office's Super Computer and is fired. Jon convinces the company to give Harry a second chance, arguing that the system he has invented will make them millions.

Jon has no idea what havoc Harry is about to unleash.

Richard H. Hardy's Bio:
Richard H. Hardy was born in Glasgow, Scotland, during a week of relentless bombing raids just before the close of World War II. The day he was born an incendiary bomb fell on the church across the street from where he lived, so he is fond of saying that he entered the world with a big adrenaline rush.

His family later moved to England and then on to America.

After college Richard bounced through a series of temporary jobs as he traveled around the country, wanting nothing more than to write fiction. A job driving a library van allowed him free time to write several short stories and work on a novel.

He and his wife moved to New Hampshire, where he took an entry level job at a software company. He was soon promoted to the technical writing department and ended up producing over 500,000 words of online documentation. After a few years he was promoted to the programming department and ended up as the Senior EDI Programmer, creating EDI maps and writing UNIX scripts and troubleshooting on AIX systems throughout the U.S. and Canada.
After he retired, he started writing fiction again. The Infinity Program is his first published novel.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Stillwell by Michael Phillip Cash

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

From Goodreads:
Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife's spirit hostage on the other side. His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife's soul free.

My Thoughts:

There are many types of ghost stories. Not all of them have to be horrifying.  This is probably my favorite type. I love a story that is wrapped around a romance.  In this case we have Paul, who is dealing with the recent death of his wife from brain cancer.  He is trying hard to get his life back together for the sake of his children; twins Jesse and Veronica and the youngest, Stella Luna.  Paul, who has always made a living selling houses, has been asked by friends of his to sell their place, Stillwell Manor.  Paul has all the confidence in the world he can sell this place, even though it is known to be haunted.  Paul finds himself seeing things, including his wife.  Is it his imagination or is there something, or someone that needs his help?  Things are tied up neatly as Paul learns more of the history of the house and finds connections.  The question is, will he make those connections before it is too late for him and his children?  I love it. I especially love Hannah’s story.  I think this historical aspect made the difference for me.  This is definitely one of my favorites among the books I have read by this author.  I look forward to reading more by him.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Battle For Darracia Series by Michael Phillip Cash

Genre: Adult,  Science Fiction
Source: I purchased the first book and was sent the second and third in the series for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.


From Goodreads:
On the planet Darracia, an ever-widening social gap between its inhabitants is causing turmoil that is fracturing a once peaceful world. Struggling with his identity, nineteen year old Prince V'sair must harness the power of the elusive Fireblade, the secret to a warrior's heart, in order to overcome his uncle Staf Nuen's lust for supremacy. Will the energy of the Elements guide the young prince to his true destiny or will Staf Nuen conquer Darracia? After the success of his first three books (Brood X, Stillwell, and The Hanging Tree) Michael is fulfilling a dream and creating his own epic fantasy world. Schism: The Battle for Darracia is the first book in a planned series.

My Thoughts:
I loved the idea of this world that faces the same problems we face when it comes to placing people into classes.  We know that not everyone feels this way, but it does still happen.  When the King of Darracia marries a woman of another race a split occurs. His own brother leads it.  With Prince V’sair having traits from both sides he is not seen as the warrior he wants to be, but is looked down on.  He wants to find the fireblade that can only be used by someone with a true warrior’s heart. He knows he can’t just leave the kingdom to do this. Yet, when his uncle tries to overthrow the throne, this may be the only thing that will keep his kingdom together.  I have to say that I purchased the first book, as I was gifted copies of the next two in the series.  The thing that makes this author’s books different for me is that as science fiction goes, they were not too long. I love long books. For me I was able to get into this world quickly and progress through the book at a pace that made it possible for me to finish it to start the next.


From Goodreads:
The Darracia saga continues with all the key players spread out and searching for answers throughout the solar system. Prince V'sair struggles to hold his fractured kingdom together without help from his family. His stepbrother Zayden is on a vengeful hunt for his evil uncle Staf Nuen. Tulani navigates her two worlds trying to bring them together. Staf Nuen, the orchestrator of the original coup, is making unholy alliances with nefarious new allies. Like the comet zipping across the horizon, all the different factions are heading for a collision course that will test both their faith and power.

My Thoughts:
This one was full of emotions.  For me, any book that can bring out the emotions in me is excellent.  I really wanted to hate Staf Nuen for what he had put Prince V’sair through as well as Zayden.  I felt the anger and hatred Zayden felt. He and Prince V’sair carried the same emotions, but handled them differently.  I felt  sorry for V’sair as he was stuck, unable to do the things he really wanted due to his position.  Tulani is facing some of the same things Prince V’sair faces.  She is not Darracian, yet she has lived there and is now trying to learn all about her own culture.  Some of the people do not want to trust her.  The author has done an excellent job of taking the suspense and questions we have and bringing it up a notch.  Just when you think you know what is going to happen the author throws in a twist that brings hope. The tension is left taught enough that you can’t wait for the next book, which I didn’t.  I read them all back to back.


From Goodreads:
Imprisoned on the dead moon of Bina, trapped at the bottom of the cold Hixom Sea, locked in a cell in the flooded Desa and blinded & defeated in the Eastern Provinces, the ruling class of Darracia is defeated without hope.

In the stunning conclusion of the Darracia saga, V’sair, Tulani, Zayden and Reminda must dig deep and find both strength and faith to rise from the depths of the impossible and restore order to their home planet from Lothen, Staf Nuen and the evil armies of Geva.

My Thoughts

The author has done an excellent job of bringing everything to fruition the way it should be. Each of the characters are forced to face themselves and the adversity they face. They must find a way to overcome that adversity if they are to save themselves, their people, and the issues they fought so hard for. We see things come full circle.  The author made sure we saw how flawed each of the characters were. This is what made them so realistic to us.  I’m not sure many of my middle school students would enjoy this series. It is maybe a little too mature for them. However, I have a friend who teaches at the high school level. I am sure she and her friends would definitely enjoy this series and so it will be sent her way. I can think of nothing better to do than to share a series when you find one you really think is top notch.  I definitely feel that way about this book.  

About the Author:
Born and raised on Long Island, Michael has always had a fascination with ghosts, horror and fantasy writing. Earning a degree in English and an MBA, he has worked various jobs before settling into being a full-time author. He currently resides on Long Island with his wife and children.