Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eight Reviews to Finish Out 2011

This will be my last post for 2011.  I have been working hard for the last two weeks to catch up on books I had to read and review, and reviews I needed to post having already read the book.  If you are an author and I didn't get to your book in 2011, please be assured I will be getting to it in 2012.  I read an outstanding number of books this year from several different genre's.  I am a full time middle school teacher and I managed to publish my first novel.  I think I can say that I've had an extremely busy, yet fulfilling year.  I hope you enjoy these last reviews of 2011.  See you in 2012.

The Jinx  - D.F. Lamont
Publisher:  Lulu
Pages: 128
Source:  Review copy from author
Genre:  YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Adventure

About the Author:
D.F. Lamont has been writing for 20 years as a journalist and PR professional.  “The Jinx” is is first book for young Adults.

About the book:
Stephen Grayson, is a 13-year old whose run of bad luck gets so bad he worries he is endangering his family. Fearing he is cursed - or is turning into a super villain - he flees home to protect his loved ones, only to find that he is in the middle of a tug-of war between a cult obsessed with order and misshapen monsters known as “Chaons” who seem bent on hunting him down. It's a fun story for kids aged 8-13, and anyone who loves YA books and suspense

My thoughts:
I enjoyed this book very much.  I like science fiction, but it takes me longer to read it than any other genre because my nerdy brain is always trying to figure out the science and if it is real, could it really happen, etc.  I loved the characters in the book.  I think any kid who has ever had a bad day could identify with Stephen and his first day of school.
I would have liked to have learned more about  Daedalus.  Maybe we will see more of him and Stephen in another book.  I’d gladly read another adventure about them.  This is a book I will definitely recommend to my students and to anyone who loves Science Fiction/Fantasy

Readers can read the first chapter free - and get links to purchase ebooks (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad) as well as softcover versions at:
My Facebook Page for The Jinx is:

Dead End in Norvelt – Jack Gantos

Publisher:  Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Pages:  352
Source:  Review copy from NetGalley
Genre:  Middle Grade, Mystery

Jack is caught between his arguing parents.  His mother has grounded him for firing a Japanese gun his father owned.  She has also volunteered him to help Mrs. Volker, a neighbor who writes obituaries.
Mrs. Volker has arthritis in her hands and can no longer write or type up the obituaries for the Norvelt News.  Through the obituaries she tells the history of the deceased.   The deceased have recently become the original women of the town of Norvelt. Jack loves this new job since he loves history.  He has one problem, if he gets overly excited his nose will begin to bleed.  As the elderly women of Norvelt begin to drop like flies, people are beginning to wonder if it is murder.  Mrs. Volker examines the bodies and pronounces each death that of natural causes.  Not everyone is convinced.  Could she be hiding something?  This was a wonderful book full of history and lessons that the reader won’t mind learning.  The mystery was enough to keep you reading, yet not so difficult you couldn’t figure it out.  Highly recommended reading.

Grandma Hazel's Funny, Funny Kidz Jokebook  - Rob Loughran
Publisher:  Bubba Caxton Books
Pages: 84
Source:  Received a review copy
Genre:  Jokes

Here, within these pages you will find all the jokes you, and your parents, and your grandparents ever told.    These are simple and most importantly clean jokes.  I sat in our yard swing reading these and chuckling.   My husband kept looking over at me and of course he had to ask and I obligingly told him the joke.  After all, I believe in sharing the laughs.  I look forward to sharing this book with my

Echoes of Distant Thunder – Frank P. Slaughter
Publisher:  Arbutus Press
Pages:   279
Source:  Received a review copy from author
Genre: Historical Fiction

From Goodreads:
Twenty-year-old Michigan farm boy Will Castor finds his life changed forever as he is thrust into the harsh realities of nineteenth-century combat on the last day of the battle of Chickamauga. Wounded physically and mentally, Will escapes the battlefield aided by a war weary Confederate deserter, but can t escape the echoes of death and horror that will remain with him for the rest of his life. Returning to Michigan after the war, Will deals with guilt and recurring nightmares from his war experience, finding relief in the numbing effects of a bottle of whiskey and the bawdy houses of East Saginaw. He joins the rough and tumble world of Michigan s lumber boom as a land looker seeking the majestic white pine. Alone in the vast northern Michigan wilderness, he comes face to face with his demons and must make a decision life or death. Echoes of Distant Thunder is a compelling historical drama vividly portraying Michigan s rich history, landscape and participation in the Civil War. Author Frank P. Slaughter, a reenactor with Battery D First Michigan Light Artillery, brings stark realism to the battle scenes with his knowledge of Civil War tactics and munitions. On this the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Will Castor s story could be the story of veterans from all wars as they continue to fight the battles that can t be left on the battlefield.

My thoughts:
This is a definite must read for anyone who loves the Civil War time period.  This is not just  a story of the Civil War.  This is Will Castor’s story of survival.  Survival can’t always be measured in the physical sense.  Anyone who has gone to battle must survive mentally as well.  Will must learn to put the demons that haunt him to rest if he is to have any kind of decent life.
This book was very authentic in its portrayal of the battle field.  This has to do with the fact that Mr. Slaughter is himself a re-enactor.  I felt as if I was on the battle fields at times.  This is not a comfortable feeling.  There again this book is not a feel good book.  Most books that are historically accurate take us out of our comfort zone and force us to face many unpleasant things.  This book is like that.  We as readers are forced to face the devastation of battle both upon the land, humans both body and mind.

I have a couple of friends who are not only history teachers, but find the Civil War to be their favorite topic.  I will definitely recommend this book to them.  I would also read any other book by this author.  It is not often I read a book so full of history that does not at some point bore me.  This book kept me drawn in until the end.

The Meaning of  Life and Other Stuff – Jimmy Gownley
Publisher:  Atheneum
Pages:  160
Source:  Received a copy for review
Genre:  Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Product Description
Amelia McBride may be growing up, but she’s feeling down. If there’s one theme to her life, it’s that nothing lasts: not her parents’ marriage, not Aunt Tanner’s support, not the clubhouse for the Gathering of Awesome Super Pals (G.A.S.P.), not even her new spot on the stupid cheerleading squad. And while she’s learning all kinds of things about foot fungus, cheerwitches, and Reggie—who thinks Rhonda is CUTE?!—there’s still one thing Amelia can’t figure out, and that’s the meaning of life. It takes a grownup sort of tragedy for Amelia and her friends to realize that even when the world is scary, and life is as mystifying as ever, some things—like friendship—do last.
In Jimmy Gownley’s touching seventh installment of Amelia Rules!, Amelia may not find all the answers—but she does know how to ask the right questions. Who needs answers, anyway?

My Thoughts:
This is the seventh graphic novel in the Amelia Rules series.  This is a graphic series I would definitely recommend to my students.  They will definitely be able to identify with her.
Amelia is a typical middle schools student with the same typical problems as middle school students today.  Her parents are divorced, she has earned a reputation as a “bad kid”, and she faces how to help a friend whose father is serving in combat.  These are all realistic things that my middle school students face.  I’ve read these in e-book format and will definitely purchase these in physical form for my shelves.  Really nice graphic novel.  This is coming from someone who really doesn’t care for a lot of graphic novels.  This one I recommend.

Everneath – Brodi Ashton
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Pages:  384
Source:  Received an ARC from publisher for review
Genre:  Young Adult, Fantasy

Description from Amazon:
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.
As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.

My Thoughts:
I immediately thought of school as I read this book.  We are currently teaching a unit on Greek mythology.  I have a student, who loves all things to do with Greek mythology.  This book will be passed on to her.  I know she will love this as much as I did.    This is a modern version of Persephone.  Nikki Beckett has just returned to her home town after being gone for half a year.  Rumors go around that she was involved in drugs.  That could not have been farther from the truth.
Nikki has actually been in the Everneath.  She is back among her people for only six months.  She is pursued by Cole from the Everneath and yet she is still in love with Jack.  Cole is an Everling and Nikki is what they called a Forfeit.  They capture a human and feed off of their energy for one hundred years.  Nikki survived the one hundred years.  She is  given six months to put her human life in order and then she must return to the Everneath.  If she doesn’t go back with Cole, where he wants to make her his queen, then she will be sent to the Tunnels.  She must decide which is worse, to be with Cole and feed off of other human’s energy while she has immortality, or to be stuck in the Tunnels where she will become part of what keeps everything running.  This was a refreshing take on mythology.  You expect one thing to happen and then you have that nice little twist.  I am looking forward to reading the second book when it comes out.  One last thought.  The cover of this book has probably been my favorite of all the books I have read this year.  It just truly popped out there in that red dress.  It was gorgeous.

Journey to Christmas Creek - Melinda Elmore
Publisher:  DWB Publishing
Pages:  50
Source:  Purchased
Genre:  Young Adult, Native American

On 10/04/2011 DWB Publishing author, Melinda Elmore lost her husband, Tommy, unexpectedly. She has a 13 yo daughter at home, and they had no insurance. Her book, Journey To Christmas Creek is a story Tommy told their children, and is being released by Dancing With Bear Publishing on 11/01/11. 100% of the royalties will go to the Elmore family to help them in this time of need. Please help promote this book and buy a copy. You will get a wonderful holiday, Native American, YA read and be helping out the family too.

My Thoughts:
This was such a wonderful story.  However it was another one that I had written up in a notebook and just came upon.   This is the story of bravery and stepping out on your own when you are not sure it is the right thing to do.  It is a story following your heart and being strong, and facing your fears.  The author's husband told this story to his children every year.  It is kind of a metaphor for Melinda's life now.  Follow Spotted Buffalo and his family as they must pack up in early 1800's and move to land where they can find buffalo and other things that wills sustain them.  They are not sure where they are to go.  When they make camp for the night Spotted Buffalo decides to go ahead so that he can impress his father by finding their new land.  His sister, Gentle Tears follows and he must take her with him.  Something happens and Gentle Tears must save her brother.  Read and find out what happens in this heart warming story.  


Shadows and Fire - Jennifer Fales
Publisher:  Outskirts Press, Inc.
Pages:  116
Source:  I received a review copy from the author

From Goodreads:
In the parallel world of the future, mankind has created its own worst enemy - a supernatural species of animal-human hybrids that exact a high toll in return for peace. Step into the dark, and occasionally funny, world of the domes where a brother and sister bridging the gap between these two species struggle to reunite with one another. Meet the menagerie of creatures that impact their lives and a man who would bring redemption, providing he doesn't get lost along the way. 

My Thoughts:
This was a unique book.  It was a little too short, leaving me wanting more.  I am glad that this is just the first book in this series.  The world building and character building are unique and wonderful.  A mixture of animal and humans have created a unique hybrid character.  The two twins were total opposites who obviously have a greater purpose once they are together.  The problem is we don't know yet what that purpose is.  I look forward to reading more from this author.

About the Author:
Jennifer Fales is an east coast girl transplanted to the west coast just shy of a decade ago  English is her native tongue, followed closely by sarcasm.  Her interests run the gamut from science to the supernatural, with a little kickboxing thrown in for good measure.  She currently lives in Corona California with her boyfriend.  This is her first novel.


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