Jessica's books

The One and Only Ivan
Revolutionary War on Wednesday
Leprechaun in Late Winter
Ella Enchanted
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Plain Murder
Gone-Away Lake
Circling the Sun
Maggie and Max
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
The Night Sister
Tuck Everlasting
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Bedknob and Broomstick
Mister Monday
Alice Through the Looking Glass
The Birchbark House
The Hobbit
The Witch's Daughter

Jessica's favorite books »

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Blood Wounds
Title:  Blood Wounds
Author:  Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher:  Harcourt Children's Books
Publish Date:  Sept. 12, 2011

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.
Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart.

My Thoughts:

When I read the synopsis for this book I thought I was in for a suspenseful, action-packed thriller.  Yeah, I was wrong.  I was thinking I would be reading about Willa in a Witness Protection kind of program while her crazy father stalked her and she found out crazy secrets her mom had kept.  Hmmm...yeah, wrong again!  I was very disappointed in this book.  This is not to say that you won't like it but it wasn't what I expected at all.

Willa is living with her mom and step-dad and two step-sisters.  Her family is very happy and seems to have it all.  Plus, they get along great.  Until the one night when Willa's real dad goes on a killing rampage and comes after Willa and her mom.  Then secrets come out and Willa has no clue who she really is anymore. 

I found this book to be extremely unrealistic is so many ways.  There are a ton of unanswered questions that never get resolved.  Why in the world did Willa's father kill his family?  Why was he coming after her?  How did the police know he was coming after her?  Why did Willa feel this extreme closeness to a family she never even knew?

The story starts out with Willa's mom's best friend calling in a panic wanting to make sure that Terri (Willa's mom) is okay.  When Willa finally gets ahold of her mom's friend, she is told that "Budge" has done something bad and her mom may be in danger.  Then the police show up.  Since no one is able to get ahold of Terri, the police go ahead and tell Willa that her father has killed his current wife and three daughters and is now on his way to find Willa.  There are no parents there and Willa is forced to deal with this herself.  Yeah, police don't do that.  I know...I married to one.  There is always a parent/grandparent or even a neighbor there. 

There is a very short section with Willa and her mom in police protection.  There is no suspense, no action, no scary stuff.  It's actually quite boring.  Then, Willa's father is caught (which is yet another weird, unexplained and unrealistic scene) and that's the end of the exciting part. 

Willa is then adamant that she attend the funerals of her father's family.  Why?  She wasn't even aware that they existed but she felt such a strong bond towards them?  I find that hard to believe.  But she heads down to Texas and finds out that she will inherit everything that there is to inherit.  Again, I am not sure how the laws work in Texas but I know here (in Washington) a step-child is not entitled anything from the step-mom unless she's in the Will.  Just because her step-sister died last, Willa is entitled to it.  Didn't ring true to me. 

Then there is the fact that Willa cuts herself.  Only, she does it in the first few chapters when she is stressed about her living step-sisters, school, etc.  Easy things.  Then she has to deal with the extremely stressful, potentially dangerous time and she doesn't cut herself at all.  In fact, she doesn't even talk about it and I forgot she even did it until the end.  Faced with having to move again during her senior year, she wants to start cutting again.  I would have thought she would have needed to cut during all the trauma but maybe I just don't understand because I have never cut. 

Willa's character is almost perfect.  She is polite, obeys her parents, gives up everything with no problem.  Yeah right...she is 16.  I'm thinking not.  She hardly ever let her emotions go and when she did, an adult, whether it was her parents or her parents' friends would reel her back in.  There was hardly any fighting, no major anger, nothing.  And when Willa decides to go to Texas, her parents don't want her to but her "grandma" friend volunteers not only to go with her but to pay for it, her parents give up the fight.  Then they don't even go with her because her mom vowed to never go back.  Really?!

So, I was very disappointed with this book.  It wasn't at all what I was expecting or hoping for.  The synopsis is a bit misleading and the plot is lacking.  The characters are not well-formed at all and there are too many questions left over at the end.  But, that's only my opinion.  Pick it up and give it a try if you want and let me know what you though!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

Dark of the Moon
Title:  Dark of the Moon
Author:  Tracy Barrett
Publisher:  Harcourt Children's Books
Publish Date:  September 19, 2011

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.
So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don’t know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won’t be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed she meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.
Yet Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the Minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that "monster" is Ariadne’s brother . . .

My Thoughts:  Barrett does a great job on this retelling of the Greek mytho of the Minotaur.  It is interesting and has some new twists that are fun.  It was a fast and easy read so perfect for the summer!

Ariadne is a soon-to-be goddess.  She is very isolated on Crete until a ship from Athens shows up led by Theseus.  Theseus is not there to deliver a sacrifice however.  He is there to kill the Minotaur.  In this story, the Minotaur is a disfigured and very crazy man that is only saved by who his parents are (he also happens to be Ariadne's brother). 

I really liked Ariadne.  She wants people to treat her the same as everyone else.  She wants to travel.  She knows however that she is going to be a Goddess and doesn't try to deny it.  I enjoyed her love for her brother and family. 

The fact that Asterion (the Minotaur) was a man with a child's mind instead of some horrible, scary monster was refreshing.  He is very sweet and totally harmless despite his strength.  He was a very refreshing and interesting twist to the original myth.  I really liked his character.

I liked how the story switched between Ariadne's and Theseus' point of views.  I always think it makes it a little more interesting and you don't really have a chance to get bored with one POV.  I also loved how there was very little romance.  It's a very nice change from other books. 

If you like Greek mythology and would like a new and interesting twist on the Minotaur, this is a book you will enjoy! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Half-Blood (Covenant, #1)
Title:  Half-Blood
Author:  Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher:  Spencer Hill Press
Publish Date:  October 18, 2011

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi-pure-bloods-have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals-well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures.
Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:
Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden.
Unfortunately, she's crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn't her biggest problem--staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

My Thoughts:  Oh, how I loved this book!  It reminded me a lot of The Vampire Academy so if you liked that series, you are gonna love this one!

The book started out with a bang and had my attention from page 1 to page 280!  It was action packed right from the start and I really didn't want to put it down.  Considering I had a super busy weekend, this was especially hard. 

Alex has been hiding with her mother for 3 years from the Covenant.  When her mom falls prey to a daimon, Alex has to fight for her life and then is found by Aiden, one of the Covenant's Sentinels.  She is carted by to the Covenant, which is now under the direction of her uncle.  Her uncle is not thrilled to have her back and threatens to have her sent back to her step-father, Lucian but luckily Aiden steps up and offers to train Alex.  If she can get caught up in her training, she can stay at the Covenant once school starts in the fall and continue her training to be a Sentinel.  (See, kinda sounds like Rose and Dimitri from Vampire Academy right)?

I love the romance between Aiden and Alex.  Like Dimitri and Rose, it is forbidden and yet there is so much passion!  I felt their want and their need for each other but the fact that it was forbidden made it so conflicting and confusing.  I am hoping this will continue on through the next books. 

Aiden is hot!  Like Dimitri in the Vampire Academy, he is super controlled and serious.  He is so protective of Alex though and like I said earlier, the passion is amazing.  He is strong and comes to Alex's defense many times not to mention the fact that he saves Alex.

Seth is also a fun character.  He is also a confusing character.  I didn't know if there was going to be a romance between him and Alex or not.  I was surprised with the connection between Seth and Alex but enjoyed it all the same.  I can't wait to read more about him!

I also loved the Greek mythology in this story.  It was very different from anything else I have read and it was very easy to follow.  I was never lost or confused.  I loved the daimons, the Gods and the Pures and half-bloods. 

Again, this book was very similar to Vampire Academy but also very different.  If you loved Vampire Academy though, I am positive you will love this series as well.  The characters are fun, the ending is unpredictable and leaves you begging for more. 

Carmex giveaway at California Clippin'

my new blog button

Who doesn't love Carmex?  I know I am practically addicted to the stuff!  So, it turned out great that my friend over at California Clippin' is hosting a giveaway of a Carmex pack! 

Totally cute little pack and it includes Carmex's new flavors with an amazing, waterproof picnic blanket!  I'd REALLY like to win this one so head on over to her site (click on her button at the top of this post) and tell her that Jessica from Book Loving Mommy sent ya! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Liesl & Po
Title:  Liesl & Po
Author:  Lauren Oliver
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Publish Date:  October 4, 2011

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.
That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable
Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.
From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.

My Thoughts:  So, I must be honest here...when I started out with this book, I actually thought of just quitting about 1/4 of the way through and sending it on.  I'm swamped with ARC books right now plus getting my preschool set up plus getting my homeschool set up.  It wasn't really holding my attention all that much so I thought..."aw, what the heck...I'll just send it on".  Then I went to Goodreads and read some of the reviews (which were raving!) and decided I'd keep going.  I am so glad I did!  It was a magical story of hatred and love, enemies and friendship.  I couldn't put it down after I got over my crutch.

Will is a sweet boy.  He is honestly trying his hardest to do what the alchemist wants despite the fact that the alchemist constantly belittles him.  He is fascinated with the "girl in the attic" and detours his errand route just to see her. That is how he makes his dreadful mistake of leaving the "greatest magic in all the universe" with the man that supplies the alchemist and takes the box of a cremated man instead.  When the alchemist and Will take the box to the Lady Premeire all hell breaks loose!

Liesl is the "girl in the attic" that Will is so fascinated with.  She has been locked in the attic by her evil stepmother.  Her father has recently passed away and Liesl is all alone.  Until the one night when she meets Po and Bundle...the ghosts from the Other Side.  Liesl escapes her attic prison with the help of Po and they begin a crazy adventure to lay her father to rest at the willow tree.

I loved how Po was neither boy or girl and both boy and girl.  After spending so long in the Other Side, Po has become an essence instead of a body.  It is a black mass with a slight outline but no real body.  Bundle is also neither dog or cat and both.  In my opinion, Bundle would be the best accidents on the carpet, no food, no training...hmmmm....I think I like it! 

The friendships between Po and Liesl and Will and Liesl are very sweet and I loved watching them develop.  These are two children (and a ghost) that haven't been loved in a long time.  They have been alone for a long time and yet, when they find each other, there are no trust issues.  How nice to be a child again. 

The dark and grey world was very realistic to me.  I could see how everything was drab and grey with no color.  The explanation for this was awesome!

The only thing I didn't really like was why the old woman and the police officer followed Liesl and Will so far.  It just seemed silly that they would follow them off the train and on their journey just because the old woman thought Liesl was "mad in the head".  However, at the end, it was a good thing they were there!

This is a great book to read aloud to your child or your classroom.  It's got a great story, great lessons and fun, exciting story.  I'm very thankful I finished it!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Product Review: Easy Canvas Prints

Photos to Canvas

I was recently asked to review a photo canvas product and jumped at the chance.  I know most of you haven't seen my house but I love pictures!  I have pictures of my children, my family and my wedding up everywhere so this was a great opportunity. 

The process was so simple!  It was only four easy steps and then I had my custom made canvas.  I went to the website and chose the size I wanted.  The sizes include an 8x10, 8x8, 24x36 and custom size.  There are many other sizes as well. 

Once I chose my size I picked the image I wanted to put on the canvas.  I knew exactly what picture I wanted as we had just returned from Silverwood Water Park and I had the most adorable picture of my kids and my nephew from one of those old fashioned photo shops.  So, I found the picture in my files and uploaded it to the website. 

After my picture uploaded I moved on to Step 3 which was choosing a border.  Border options include having the image wrap around, having the image mirror, having a white border among others.  I chose to just have my image wrap around the border.  I love the continuous flow of the picture.

Last I chose my coloring.  You can have color, black and white or sepia.  My picture was already in sepia so I made no changes here. 

Prices are decent, in my opinion.  They range from $30 to $110 for size and then anything extra you have them do costs another small fee.  I was very happy with the shipping time as well. 

I think these would make amazing gifts for Grandparents or parents or for yourself!  This looks amazing on my wall and I love it!  Easy, affordable and personalized...what more could you ask for? 

And here is my finished product:

Sorry for my poor photo quality but I had to take this with my phone.  Aren't they the cutest things though?  So, head on over to the website and create your own photo to canvas.  The link is on the side of my blog.  Oh, and can also get canvas prints there as well.  I haven't looked at what artwork they have but if you don't want a picture of your own, check out their art!

Book Review: Ingenue by Jillian Larkin

Ingenue (Flappers, #2)

*Received from Around the World ARC Tours for review**

**Spoilers of the first book, Vixen**

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Bobbed hair. Short skirts. Cool jazz. Dark speakeasy. Anything goes. Meet the flappers, Gloria, Clara, Lorraine . . . and the rich young boys who love and loathe them.

My Thoughts:  I really love the 1920s and the Flappers so this book was right up my alley.  Of course, I loved the first book, Vixen, so I wasn't too worried about this one.

Ingenue picks up where Vixen ended.  Jerome and Gloria are now in New York trying to survive.  Between running from the mob, trying to get gigs and trying to keep their relationship and living together a secret, that hasn't been easy.  They have had to resort to stealing food just to eat and they have to use false names at gigs so the mob won't find them.  This puts so much strain on their relationship, especially after Gloria finds a gig and is going to be supporting Jerome.  They are both wondering how their relationship can possibly stand up to all this.

Lorraine Dyer has graduated high school and is in New York, waiting to go to college.  Her parents think that she is taking early classes but she's really the manager at a new speakeasy that is run by the mobster that is after Jerome and Gloria.  Carlito has promised Lorraine revenge on Gloria if she can find the couple and bring them to his club.  He promises Lorraine he won't hurt them but what good is a mobster's promise?  Lorraine thinks she has a great relationship with her new neighbor and is trying to keep her mob boss happy. 

Clara is also in New York.  She has come to New York to be with Marcus.  When she meets up with some of her old friends and is recognized by the editor of an elite magazine she is surprised when he asks her to write some articles for him.  However, the articles require her to head back into the wild and crazy parties that she has sworn off.  So, which is more important...her promise to Marcus or her independence and becoming a journalist?

I love how this book is divided into chapters from different characters POVs.  It starts out with Vera, Jerome's sister and then goes between her, Clara, Gloria and Lorraine.  For me, this keeps the book interesting.  Gloria is so strong and independent yet she is still vulnerable and has her doubts over what she has done.  It makes her very real to me.  Jerome is madly in love with Gloria but he also has his insecurities.  How is a black man going to marry a white woman?  And how is he going to let her be the breadwinner?  With all this going on, you could still feel the passion between the two and the heartache that the insecurities and doubt cause.

Lorraine is as mean as least, at first.  She is set on revenge since she feels that Gloria ruined her life.  She comes across as very cold and unfeeling but then you get to see her doubts as well and her fear for her life.  After all, if she doesn't do everything to Carlito's liking, she's dead.  Toward the end, I almost liked her again. 

Clara is my favorite character.  She really wants to be a journalist but is held back at first by her promise to Marcus to end her partying ways. When she gets the chance to write about all the crazy antics of the party goers, she is hesitant but eventually gets back into it for the sake of her job...or is it?  Does Clara get pulled back in to the party all night, sleep all day ways of before or can she handle it?  Of course, she lies to Marcus and deceives him but you can feel her guilt in the book.

I love the descriptions of New York in the 1920s!  They are so real that you feel like you are watching it on TV.  The speakeasies were well-described and it is obvious that the author has done her research into this world and time. 

I really enjoyed this book.  I loved the history in it and the characters are very well developed and everyone is very different from the other.  I highly recommend that you pick up this series and give it a try!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: Posession by Elana Johnson

Possession (Possession, #1)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

My Thoughts:  I have read some bad reviews of this book so I was hesitant to read it but I'm really glad I did!  I thought it was a great book and an easy read. 

Imagine a world where you can't think for yourself.  You don't have any choices.  You just do what the Thinkers tell you to do and think what they want you to think.  Unless of course, you are a free-thinker.  Then you are arrested and re-trained. 

Violet is a free-thinker but she lives in the Goodgrounds.  She tries to be a "goodie" but she hates having her thoughts controlled so she quits plugging into the transmissions and breaks numerous rules.  She gets caught walking in the park after dark with her match, Zenn.  Zenn is also a "goodie" and he's in the Special Forces.  Violet gets arrested for breaking yet another rule and she meets Jag in prison.  Jag is a "baddie".  Jag and Violet are put in the same cell and there Violet learns the secrets of her life.  She must decide is she's going to go back to the Goodgrounds and help the Association or if she's going to run with Jag and resist.

I loved the dystopian world that Elana Johnson created.  The Oceanic region, the Fire region, the Water region were all very vivid in my mind.  I loved all the new inventions and the super powers.  Violet could turn tech on and off and sense it.  I thought it was a fun power. 

I really liked Jag!  He was awesome but also not afraid to show emotion.  He was very protective of Vi but didn't overpower her.  I did think that their relationship moved pretty fast but hey, when your running for your life, I guess you have to move fast.  Jag was smart and witty and you couldn't help but like him.

Violet was very stubborn and independent.  She was spunky and had a sarcastic side of her as well.  I loved how she stood up to Thane and Zenn and I really liked her interactions with Gavin and "Baldie".  While I am still not sure if "Baldie" was a good guy or bad guy, I kinda liked him too!

The ending left me hanging!  I can't wait to get my hands on the next book.  I totally wasn't expecting how the book ended and I loved that I was completely surprised.  Quite honestly, I didn't like the ending but it's a perfect setup for the next book!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Review: Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Bitter End 

**I received this book from Around the World ARC tours for review**

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.
My Thoughts:
I really thought the author did an amazing job tackling a very difficult issue in this book.  It was a big eye opener for me as I have always been someone who has been unsympathetic if an abused person did not leave their abuser (I know...I'm horrible right?).  There were a few issues I had with the book but otherwise I thought it was very good and the author did a great job!

I loved Bethany and Zack!  They felt like very real people to me and I understood their hurt and anger at Alex.  Zack was a great protector and I even understood how Bethany appears to give up on Alex after awhile.  Bethany was very bitter and angry yet at the same time, she was still worried about her best friend and loved her.  I really liked how the author had these two characters move on though and not pine away after Alex.

Georgia was also a character I really enjoyed.  She was the mom that Alex never had and she was very smart in figuring out what was happening.  I loved how she interacted with Alex and joked around but I also liked how she was there for Alex but didn't push Alex too much. 

Alex was difficult for me.  I both loved and hated her.  I can completely understand though how she was afraid to leave Cole.  She had no one that really showed her that they loved her until Cole and she so desperately craved that attention and love.  She knew what he was doing was wrong and she knew she shouldn't put up with it yet at the same time she began to doubt herself.  Maybe it was her fault.  Maybe she did deserve it.  She didn't want people (like I would have) to think that she was stupid for going back to Cole time after time and now I can understand a little more that it wasn't about her being stupid but about her being afraid of never feeling that love again (when Cole was in his "good" moods).

Cole was a mystery to me and this was where I had some issues.  I just wish that there was more information on Cole and his issues.  Does he watch his dad beat his mom?  Obviously his mother was abused but whether physically or emotionally we never found out.  Was Cole beaten by his father ever?  And after the last time Cole beat Alex up, what happened to him?  Did Alex press charges?  Did it just all go away and he got to beat some other girl?  There were just a lot of questions that weren't answered for Cole. 

I feel this book would be better for older teens.  It has some sexual humor (the song Zack had to sing for his play and the innuendos that were there, etc.) and Cole and Alex did have a sexual relationship (although it was absolutely not graphic at all).  While I think the author handled both well (after all, all high schoolers joke about sex), I just feel that between the sexual issues and the fact that the book was about abuse, it would be more suitable for teens 16 and older. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton

The Faerie Ring
Title:  The Faerie Ring
Author:  Kiki Hamilton
Publisher:  Tor Teen/Macmillian
Publish Date:  9/27/11

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Debut novelist Kiki Hamilton takes readers from the gritty slums and glittering ballrooms of Victorian London to the beguiling but menacing Otherworld of the Fey in this spellbinding tale of romance, suspense, and danger.
The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.
Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.
Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…

My Thoughts:    It is 1871 and Tiki is trying to stay alive and help her "family" stay alive by picking pockets and stealing to get food.  One night, she ends up at the Queen's Estate by accident and while hiding under a desk, finds a beautiful red ring.  She takes the ring and that is when her world turns upside down.

Now she is being hunted by the authorities, the royals and the Fey.  Plus, there is another young man that is follower her around.  Tiki must decide if she trusts Reiker enough to let him help her with the ring or if she should take care of the matter on her own.

I really liked Tiki.  She was independent, strong and stubborn.  She was certainly not a wishy-washy character.  She didn't depend on anyone to help save her and she was very brave.  I really liked the love she had for the other orphans in her "family", especially Clara.  She would do anything for them and that is proven when she risks everything to help Clara get better. 

Reiker is also a fun character.  He is very mysterious and you can tell he wants to protect Tiki and the others.  However, there were several times when I wasn't sure if he was the bad guy or the good guy.  I felt this made him even more interesting because until the very end, it always kept me wondering about him. 

I loved that this book was set in historical London.  The author did a wonderful job in her descriptions and I could clearly see the places in London where Tiki went, her home, the palace and how each of the orphans looked.  I felt like I was there. 

I liked that this book kept you wondering until the very end.  I never knew what was going to happen or who was good and who was bad.  It was a fast read and kept me entertained until the last page!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: Letters From a Distant Shore by Marie Lawson Fiala

Letters from a Distant Shore 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  
Tragedy shattered Marie Lawson Fiala's life as wife, mother and lawyer when her 13-year old son, Jeremy, was felled by a massive hemorrhage from a ruptured artery deep in his brain. Within an hour, Jeremy was in a coma, sustained only by machines. This memoir of a mother's ferocious care, devastating loss and prayerful transcendence focuses on bringing her son back from the edge. The suspense is relentless and the author's observations as sharp as a scalpel.
My Thoughts:  Marie Lawson Fiala's 13 year old son collapses one day for no apparent reason.  The cause ends up being a massive cerebral hemorrhage.  This story is about how his family makes it through each day.  Fiala spends her time updating friends and family by email which is weaved throughout the story.
This book was amazing.  As a mother, I found it heart wrenching.  Fiala's story is extremely emotional that makes you realize that life is special and you must enjoy every moment you have with your loved ones as life is also very unpredictable.  Letters From a Distant Shore makes you realize how beautiful every minute of life is.  You have to take time to relax and to have fun and be with your loved ones. 
I was so impressed with how Fiala never gives up hope.  Her faith in God and in love inspired me and I am sure it will inspire you as well. 

Once you pick up this book you will not be able to set it back down so consider yourself warned.  It was gripping, emotional and brutally honest at times.  It really makes you appreciate life and it certainly makes you want to reach out and give you children a hug!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review: Your Child's Writing Life by Pam Allyn

Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age
Title:  Your Child's Writing Life
Author:  Pam Allyn
Publisher:  Avery Trade
Publish Date:  August 2, 2011
Source:  NetGalley

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 

An illuminating, first-of-its-kind resource to help parents foster a love of writing in their child's life.
New educational research reveals that writing is as fundamental to a child's development as reading. But though there are books that promote literacy, no book guides parents in helping their child cultivate a love of writing. In this book, Pam Allyn, a nationally recognized educator and literacy expert, reminds us that writing is not only a key skill but also an essential part of self-discovery and critical to success later in life. Allyn offers the "the five keys" to help kids WRITE-Word Power, Ritual, Independence, Time, and Environment-along with fun, imaginative prompts to inspire and empower children to put their thoughts on the page.
A groundbreaking blueprint for developing every child's abilities, Your Child's Writing Life teaches parents how to give a gift that will last a lifetime.

My Thoughts:

Some of you probably know that I am not only an avid reader and blogger but also a homeschooling mom.  My oldest son is 8, my daughter is almost 6 (in two short weeks!) and my youngest son is 3.  So, when a book like this comes along, I jump at the chance to read it.  I was really excited when I was contacted to do a review on this book as I did a review on Pam Allyn's last book, Best Book for Boys, and found it immensely helpful.  In fact, because of that book, my son has filled up his reading log this summer!

In this book, Pam Allyn talk about various stages in your child's development to watch for and how to help nurture your child's writing.  I love how Allyn tells you how to help in all the stages of the writing process.  It helps parents realize not only how important writing is for a child but how to help encourage them and help them. 

I loved the chapter with writing prompts!  They are perfect for my kids homeschooling career!  It is a huge help to have whether you homeschool or just want to help your child after school and in the summer.  Allyn encourages you to also have a cozy and comfortable environment for your child so he or she can sit and write whenever they want about whatever they want. 

Since my 8 year old does not enjoy writing at all at this point in his schooling, I found this tips in this book amazingly helpful.  She answered questions for me like "why is writing important for my child at this age or that age" and also when and why a parents involvement in important.  I never know when to jump in and help and when to just let my son work through it.  Also, her emphasis of the "five keys in order to be a forever writer" were extremely helpful and I loved the idea of a "word jar".  I actually can't wait until Sept. to start using all the hints on an every day basis for school.

Allyn's advice on not to put too much emphasis on the writing mechanics and spelling, especially in  younger children, was especially helpful to me.  My daughter is 6 and is a very advanced reader but only one grade ahead in spelling and grammar.  When she writes I constantly want to correct her spelling and grammar.  Bad spelling is a huge pet peeve of mine so I have learned to back off a little. 

Like I said, whether you are a homeschooling parent, a teacher in a public or private school or just a parent that wants to be involved in your child's writing career, this book is an amazing book!  It is so extremely helpful and I know I will be putting many of Ms. Allyn's hints and tips to use this year!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review: Journey Across the Four Seas by Veronica Li

Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  This is a true and touching story of one Chinese woman's search for home. It is also an inspiring book about human yearning for a better life. To escape poverty, Flora Li fought her way through the education system and became one of the few women to get into the prestigious Hong Kong University. When the Japanese invaded, she fled to unoccupied China, where she met her future husband, the son of China's finance minister (later deputy prime minister).
She thought she had found the ideal husband, but soon discovered that he suffered from emotional disorders caused by family conflicts and the wars he had grown up in. Whenever he had a breakdown, Flora would move the family to another city, from Shanghai to Nanking to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Taipei and finally across the four seas to the U.S. Throughout her migrations, Flora kept her sight on one goal:  providing her children with the best possible education.

My Thoughts:  Journey Across the Four Seas is about Veronica Li's mother.  Flora Li was living in Hong Kong in 1941.  It is a few weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Flora Li is attending Hong Kong University without a care in the world.  Then, rumors started about the Japanese invading Hong Kong and how they killed hundreds of thousands of people in China and also made rape a common event. 

Flora has very light skin and is very beautiful.  However, after the war breaks out, her family rubs her with soy sauce to make her skin darker and try to make her uglier so there won't be a chance of her being raped.  After some time though, Flora finds the need to escape to a part of China that isn't being run over by the Japanese.  She starts school again and has her first crush.  The romance doesn't make it though and while she will always feel something for her first crush she is a much better person and moves on. 

This is really an amazing book and I learned a lot about China that I had never learned.  Flora Li was a very strong woman who would do anything for her five children.  It is a must read, especially if you love history like I do!

Book Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

Wolfsbane (Nightshade #2) 

Source:  Book It Forward ARC Tours

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer—one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack—and the man—she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

My Thoughts:  I was really excited to read this book because I liked Nightshade so much.  While this book had a lot of action and new characters, I still think I liked the first book better.

This book starts where Nightshade ended.  Calla wakes up in the Searchers hiding place.  She can't find Shay at first and instead meets Monroe, Ethan and Connor.  After Shay comes to see her, she also meets Lydia, Adne and Anika.  They let her in on some little secrets and ask her to help them free her pack and make an alliance.  However, that is not as easy as they thought.

I really liked Monroe and Adne.  Adne had spunk that I loved!  Plus, the weaving that she did sounded amazing!  The author does a great job describing the weaving process and I felt that I could see it perfectly.  I also liked the relationship that Adne and Connor have.  It's not quite a romance but slightly more than just friends.  It leaves you wondering if there is more to come with them or if it will just stay the same.

Shay, as always, needs to be rescued by Calla all the time.  He isn't allowed to fight or do anything but sit back and watch.  I understand the importance of who he is and why they want to keep him protected but it kinda turns me off of him a little.  I kinda wish that Calla would find Ren or someone better.

I thought the wraiths were very spooky!  The descriptions of what the pack went through were vivid and my skin crawled to think of something like that really happening to someone.  I loved how creepy they were.  I could picture the black shadows torturing the souls of the others. 

I thought this book had a lot more action than the last one and I think it was because it was constantly moving.  The characters were planning and fighting and training and they were trying to find the safest way to free Calla's pack.  Once they get in, they find out which pack members were loyal to Calla and which ones wanted to kill her.

I also liked that we got the real history behind the Searchers, Keepers and Guardians.  It's a sad history but one that is realistic (as realistic as can be when you're reading about werewolf type creatures)!  The ending tied the history in very nicely but had left me wanting to read more to see if what Logan tells Shay and Calla is really true.  I won't say more since I don't want to give it away!

All in all, this book had more action, in my opinion, but I think I still like Nightshade better.  I liked the romance in it more and loved Shay in it.  This one....not so much.  So, go find it and see what you think!