The Scrivener’s Bones (Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians Book #2)

The Scrivener’s Bones
(Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians Book #2)
by
Brandon Sanderson

Blurb:
“Grandpa Smedry is in trouble–Alcatraz to the Rescue! In his second skirmish against the Evil Librarians who rule the world, Alcatraz and his ragtag crew of freedom fighters track Grandpa Smedry to the ancient and mysterious Library of Alexandria. Hushlanders–people who live in the Librarian-controlled lands, such as Canada, Europe, and the United States–believe the library was destroyed long ago. Free Kingdomers know the truth: the Library of Alexandria is still around, and it’s one of the most dangerous places on the planet. For it is the home of the scariest Librarians of them all: a secret sect of soul-stealing undead Curators. Can Alcatraz and his friends rescue Grandpa Smedry and make it out of there alive?”
My Review:
Have I told you how much I love this series? Well, let me tell you again–I love this series! I cannot remember the last time I laughed out loud this much reading a book. Seriously! I love the wit, the humor, the puns, the dialogue, the sarcasm, and the writing in this book. I was in the faculty room at school, eating lunch, and the other teachers kept asking me what I was reading because I was laughing so hard. I read a few parts to them, and I read parts to my husband because it’s so funny. The part about the bazooka-wielding bunny is hilarious. I love how the author addresses the reader. I love how he inserts random comments throughout. The characters are very well done. Alcatraz learns and grows a lot during this book, and Bastille is…Bastille. We meet a few new characters in book two, and I like them as well. The bad guy is even more scary than the bad guy in the first book, but the way he is done is very clever. There’s a lot of action in this book, and some cool new lenses are introduced. I like that the characters can’t just use physical force to overcome their enemies, they also need to use knowledge. This is a great second book, and I highly recommend it! If you liked the first one, you NEED to pick this one up today!
Rating: PG (There’s no profanity or “intimacy.” There is some violence as they fight the bad guy. There are some injured characters as well, but none of it is too graphic or too scary.)
Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (It’s a great middle-grade/YA book!!)

Hail to the Chief (An Ellis the Elephant Story)

Hail to the Chief
(An Ellis the Elephant Story)
by
Callista Gingrich

Blurb:
“Ellis the elephant is back, and he’s headed to the White House! In Hail to the Chief, the sixth in Callista Gingrich’s New York Times bestselling series, Ellis meets some of America’s greatest presidents and discovers how they have led our country throughout American history. Join Ellis as he travels back in time to encounter:
  • George Washington as he is sworn in as our first president.
  • Andrew Jackson as he welcomes thousands of Americans to the White House.
  • Abraham Lincoln as he delivers the Gettysburg Address.
  • Theodore Roosevelt as he builds our national park system.
  • Lyndon Johnson as he signs the Civil Rights Act.
With beautiful illustrations and charming rhymes, Hail to the Chief will delight young and old alike with a glimpse at the leaders who helped make America an exceptional nation.”
My Review:
What a great book! I love that it’s a darling picture book with colorful illustrations, and yet it’s packed with information! Children will think they’re reading about a cute little elephant, and yet they’re learning about American presidents and history. You know me, I hate it when authors push their agenda onto children through books and movies, and I was worried that this book might do that; it did not, thankfully! It is an unbiased look at several of America’s former presidents; Republican and Democratic alike. The only agenda in this book is to get children excited about American history by helping them learn about former presidents. I even learned a few things! It’s written in poem format, which is great because learning to rhyme is also an important skill for children to have. It’s not forced rhyming, either. It flows well and is easy to read and understand. My copy is hardback, which I love for its durability. The illustrations are very well done. They’re colorful, interesting, and full of great details. Not all the former presidents are highlighted in the book, but there is a little blurb on each of the presidents in the back of the book. (*Update 1/6/17: I had a reader contact me regarding the blurbs. She felt like the blurbs were biased, so I read through them. I think most of them are unbiased and informational. There are a few, especially with the more current presidents,  that are slightly biased. I didn’t feel like they were extremely biased, but there was a hint. Still, I think the benefits of the book outweigh the negative. If you feel the blurbs are biased then you could take those pages out, since they are not a part of the actual story. The story itself is unbiased.*)  I highly recommend this book for old and young alike! This book should be in every elementary school library in the United States!
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone!
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

[Book Review] Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution (Book #2) by J. Scott Savage

Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution (Book #2) 
by 
J. Scott Savage

Blurb:
“After finding a compass and clues left by Kallista’s father, Leo Babbage, Trenton and Kalista head west aboard their homemade mechanical dragon to search for the missing inventor. The teenagers hope to find answers about their mountain city of Cove, but instead, they find only a blackened forest, ruined buildings, and a small underground city. Almost immediately, Trenton and Kallista are caught up in a civil war between a clan of scavengers called Whipjacks and the Order of the Beast, people who believe that dragons are immortal and divine. Stranded in a new city, the two friends meet Plucky, a Whipjack girl with mechanical legs, and Ander, a young member of the Order who claims humans are able to communicate with dragons. Can they trust anyone, or have they unknowingly stepped into a trap? And high above in the sky, the dragons are gathering…”

My Review:

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention, so I was excited to read this second book. It did not disappoint! Trenton and Kallista may have been the same, there was that same feeling of searching for answers, and yes, the mechanical dragon is there too, but other than that, this book is very different from the first one. I liked that we really got to know Trenton in this book. We get to see his strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures, and we get to see him using his creative/mechanical abilities. There are a few new characters in this book that we get to know quite well. Plucky, Ander, and Cochrane are a few of the new characters. These new characters definitely have different names! There is a lot of tension in this book because Trenton and Kallista are constantly wondering who they can trust, and they’re somewhat at odds with each other as well. There are some surprises in this book that totally threw me off, and then there were parts that were a bit predictable. I loved it when Trenton and Kallista were able to fly the mechanical dragon together. What a neat thing for them to be able to experience. Too bad there’s not a “Build a Mechanical Dragon That Flies” kit I could purchase my boys for Christmas! Overall, this book is well written. There were a few parts that I saw as a little superficial, and a couple of places that I didn’t think fit well, but other than that this book is well done. The characters are done well and the story is exciting and full of action. I didn’t love the place where they found themselves, I thought it was a bit off, but because I enjoyed the first book I’ll give it some leeway. I did enjoy the book and would recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the first book.

This book is clean, thank goodness! There isn’t any profanity and there isn’t any “intimacy” at all. There is some violence though. The people are attacked by dragons and at least one character dies.

Rating: PG (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy.” There is a little more violence in this book, but it is not too bad. The dragons attack and at least one character dies.)

Recommendation: Third grade and up. (Great for Middle Graders and YA)

*This post was originally posted on 10/24/16, and was updated on 11/3/17.

Mysteries of Cove Trilogy:


Mysteries of Cove: Embers of Destruction Book 3 by J. Scott Savage
Book #3


Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention Book 1 by J. Scott Savage
Book #1

Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution Book 2 by J. Scott Savage
Book #2

Fablehaven Book of Imagination

Fablehaven Book of Imagination by Brandon Mull

Blurb:
“Unlike the other Fablehaven books, this one is only half-finished….The missing ingredient is you! Begin by writing your name in the space provided on the front cover. Then get ready to write, draw, solve, and create, guided by the many activities inside!…The secret world of enchanted preserves is waiting for you to jump in–just make sure to avoid any deep pools filled with naiads!”
My Review:
WARNING!! This book may cause fighting, tugs of war, and hair pulling between siblings (don’t ask me how I know this…) I took this book out of the envelope and I immediately had all four of my children surrounding me, pulling at the book, yelling in my ears that they should get it first, and trying to open the pages to see what was there. Yeah, you’ll definitely need one per child if you want to avoid similar situations in your house! This is such a fun idea! In the electronic age it’s so great to give children another option, and a fun one at that! They already love the Fablehaven characters and creatures, so to be able to use those as a basis for some creativity is genius!! The kids (or you…) get to draw their own magical preserve, create a codename, draw a dragon’s head, make a potion, bake a dessert, make a rain stick, write secret messages in wax, make ogre stew, make a magical web, and make a unicorn horn, just to name a few! So fun, right? And I LOVE the quotes throughout this book! One of my favorites is: 

I also loved the quotes from the characters in the books! One of my favorites is Seth’s quote:
Right? If dragons were cute little fluffy things we’d be totally disappointed. This book is so much fun! I had to safeguard it until I wrote my review, but now I’m sure the book will be fought over and thoroughly enjoyed by all my children, including the 15 and 13-year-old boys (Shhh!!! Don’t tell them I said that…) It’s lots of fun and Fablehaven lovers will definitely enjoy it!!
Rating: G (Clean!!)
Recommendation: Everyone, especially Fablehaven fans!!
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!

I know it’s past Christmas, but……
Merry Christmas!!!!
I have been completely preoccupied for the last six weeks! (You could probably tell that I have not posted as much as I usually do.) I have been subbing full-time for my daughter’s class at school. Her teacher had a baby and asked me if I would sub her class for the next 12 weeks. Wow. It has been crazy! I haven’t worked full-time in 14 years, since I had my first baby. That was when I taught first grade, but it has been 14 years! Let’s just say that jumping back into it has been a HUGE adjustment for all of us. I’m halfway through! Six more weeks to go and then hopefully I can get back to my usual routine! I usually do my reading at night when everyone is asleep and I can’t sleep. However, the last six weeks I have fallen asleep so fast that I haven’t been able to do much reading. I did, however,  manage to read this book. I love this book! I have read it many times, but it’s been a few years; so I was excited to pick it up again. 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Blurb (from amazon.com):

The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale — the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating — has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year’s pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.”

My Review:

I love this book! It’s so cute and full of wonderful lessons; for Christmas time and all year long. The narrator is hilarious and engaging. She has a funny personality that makes you care about her and her story. The mom is so patient and usually has a positive outlook. The Herdmans are awful. I read this to the kids and I had to stop and talk about how unhealthy smoking is, and how stealing and setting fire to things are bad choices. However, it sets a great stage for what is to come in the story. Their bad behavior makes the change that much more poignant. I won’t give it away, but some of the lessons learned are to actually think about the things we do, instead of just going through the motions, and to really think about the things we believe in. It also teaches the importance of not judging others, and to not gossip. It’s a quick read, yet it is such a great book to read at this time of year. Reading this book helps put things in perspective. 

Rating: PG+ (It does talk about the kids smoking, burning things, and doing all sorts of bad things. It does have a religious overtone to it-just fyi.)

Recommendation: As long as mom or dad are sitting there discussing the poor choices that the kids are making, this book is fine for about first grade and up. As a silent read I would say third grade (but I would still recommend that a parent discusses it with them).


A Rare Nativity

A Rare Nativity by Sam Beeson (Images by Nina & Terral Cochran)

Blurb:
“We’ve all heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and we’ve all seen the traditional Christmas crèche. Now, author Sam Beeson and photographers Nina and Terral Cochran combine these two classic Christmas icons to create A Rare Nativity. Upon reading the first lines of the book, it’s clear the narrator holds a bitter grudge as he sends his enemy crude and discarded gifts…Night after night the “gifts” pile up–shards of glass, rusty nails, gnarled twigs, and more. What the narrator’s enemy decides to do with each of these odious gifts is nothing less than a Christmas miracle. The photographic creation of the rare nativity at the end of the book is both a work of art and a wonder to behold. Forgiveness is something we all need to give and receive, and A Rare Nativity opens our eyes to the act of forgiveness and the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a universal message to be shared with readers of all ages. Christmas is a season for giving. Make it a season of forgiving.”
My Review:
I have to admit that this book was not at all what I imagined when I opened the cover. When I think of Christmas books, I think of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, I think of angels and wise men, and I think of happiness and joy. I think of children smiling, of carols, and of family. I also think of yummy treats. When I opened this book I expected to find those things, or things that are similar. Especially thinking of the nativity, I think of Joseph and Mary with their baby in the stable. I think of angels, wise men, and shepherds. That is not what I found when I opened this book, and it definitely surprised me. This book is very different from every other Christmas book I have ever read, and I’m still trying to decide if that is a good thing or not. It opens with the line, “On the first night of Christmas I gave my enemy a briar from a tanglewood tree.” This includes a picture of a burr-like thing; I’m assuming it’s a briar. It goes on like that for many pages, with the narrator giving his enemy all these awful things. In the end, there is a good moral, it all comes together, and you understand. However, I felt like it focused way too much on the negative gifts and the enemy. Maybe it’s because it’s Christmas, but I just felt like it was 90% negative and 10% positive, and even though the positive was good, it wasn’t enough to win me over. It’s still a good book, and it’s a good lesson to teach my kids, but unfortunately it will not be my new favorite Christmas book. If you’re looking for something different this year, then A Rare Nativity will be just the book for you!

Rating: G (It’s clean)

Recommendation: Everyone

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven


The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Blurb:
They existed only in your imagination …. Until now!
With over 3 million copies in print, the Fablehaven series by New York Times best-selling author Brandon Mull is one of the most popular middle-grade fantasy series to date. Now, first time ever, The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven provides a visual discovery of the series, and is loaded with insider’s knowledge and hand-scrawled notes. Readers can actually see the mystical creatures from the series like dragons – each one has a name, a special power, and looks distinctly different from the others, but until this book there was no illustrated guide. The book is also a springboard to the Fablehaven sequel series, Dragonwatch (releasing Fall 2016) and features clues to the characters and creatures fans will find in the upcoming books.

My Review:

What is a KArKADAnn you ask? Well, let me tell you. “A creature of Living Mirage, the karkadann is a formidable animal resembling a rhinoceros with one sentient horn. It is known for its fearsome roar and its speed in charging opponents.” And what is a THylACine? Well, I know that one too! “Also known as Tasmanian tigers, thylacines look like large, striped greyhounds with long tails. Some of these creatures are gifted with the power of speech. Many thylacines reside at Obsidian Waste.”And how do I know about these creatures, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I just finished reading The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven. It is a book written over time by all the different caretakers at Fablehaven. In it you will find descriptions of just about every creature or living thing that you will find at the preserves around the world. These descriptions usually include a picture (Done by the amazing Brandon Dorman!) and anything you would need to know about this creature, demon, or plant. This will help prepare you for your future caretaking job, or it will help you as a visitor to a preserve to know what is friendly and what is not. These descriptions are well written and very informative. Here is a quote from Grandma Sorenson that is in the guide:

 “Running toward danger is foolhardy….But so is closing your 
eyes to it. Many perils become less dangerous once you 
understand their potential hazards.”

The following quote by Coulter is very helpful:

“I tell my secrets only to people I know I can trust. 
Otherwise the secret becomes a rumor just like that.”

And one more from Dale:
“Smart people learn from their mistakes.
But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes
of others.”

For Fablehaven fans, this is a great addition to the series. It would have been very helpful to have while reading the series, so that at a glance you could figure out what the different creatures are that you  are reading about. So run, don’t walk, to get your copy of The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven. Don’t leave home without it…..you never know what you will run into (It’s a scary world out there)!
Rating: PG (Clean! Some of the creatures are scary or evil.)
Recommendation: Second to third grade and up. My boys read Fablehaven when they were in second grade, so this follows suit. It may be too difficult for a second grader, so third grade may be more appropriate.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

[Book Review] Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention (Book #1) by J. Scott Savage

Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention (Book #1)
 by 
J. Scott Savage

Blurb:
“Trenton Coleman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city build inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, who died in an explosion–an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity. Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on–and quite possibly their lives”

My Review:

What a fun book! This story just comes to life on the pages. The characters are well developed and really great. I especially liked Trenton, Kallista, and Simoni. Trenton is the main character, and I feel so bad for him! He doesn’t end up where he wants to end up, job-wise, and he feels like he’s been betrayed and like he is missing a huge part of himself. However, he finds ways to use his……gasp! creativity (creativity is frowned upon in this story), and he might even make an…..gasp! invention or two (the word “invention” is considered profanity in Cove). He’s a very likable character who is easy to relate to. He may make me nervous in some situations, because I’m definitely a rule-follower, but he has a cute personality and reminds you of your best friend growing up. Simoni is a cute character as well. She is more like me, a rule-follower, but she is a cute character. Kallista is a little more on the wild side, you may say. She is a bit of a rebel and is…..don’t say it! creative. She may bring out a different side of Trenton, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. She is smart and thinks outside of the box, or mountain, in this case. The story line is fun and adventurous, and has enough action to satisfy the boys and enough girly stuff to capture the girls. Both Trenton and Kallista are strong characters, and each have their own abilities that they bring to the table. The history of Cove is interesting, and I enjoyed hearing how the whole city-in-a-mountain works. There’s a bit of mystery to the story, and I liked how Trenton and Kallista worked together to solve each of the pieces of the puzzle. This is a fun middle-grader story, that I think both boys and girls will enjoy. I love the message of this book as well. Creativity and invention are wonderful things; learning to think outside of the box is an excellent skill to have.

I love that this is a great story, and it’s completely clean! There is no profanity (thank you!!), no “intimacy” except for 13 year-old crushes, and very little violence. It is a fantastic middle-grader story that boys and girls will enjoy. I was hooked from the beginning! It’s a fast, easy read, and I recommend it. It would make a great read-aloud as well.

Rating: PG (No profanity or “intimacy,” and very little violence.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

*This post was originally posted 9/28/15 and updated on 11/3/17.

Mysteries of Cove Trilogy:

Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Revolution Book 1 by J. Scott Savage
Book #1
Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution Book 2 by J. Scott Savage
Book #2

Janitors: Heroes of the Dustbin (Book #5)

Janitors: Heroes of the Dustbin (Book #5) by Tyler Whitesides 

Blurb: 
“Although their enemies are powerful, their allies few, Spencer and his team of Rebels are not giving up! But what chance do a handful of kids and one rescued janitor have against the combined evil of the Founding Witches and the Sweepers? Can the Rebels close the source of all Glop and stop the Toxites once and for all–or is the world doomed to fall under the control of the sinister Bureau of Educational Maintenance? This explosive series finale is a gripping ride through conflicted loyalties and daring escapes, unexpected alliances and betrayals, and an ending you’ll never forget!”
My Review:
Hahaha…..my boys have been waiting and waiting for this book to come out! From the second the ARC came in the mail they have been drooling over the amazing cover and begging me to finish so they can read it. Brandon Dorman has definitely outdone himself this time; the cover art is fantastic and does a great job of setting the stage for this finale! So does the book live up to all this hype? Yes! I loved it! It is nonstop action from the beginning to the end. Many of our favorite characters are back for round five, and they may find a few new ones along the way. Of course Spencer, Daisy, and Dez return. I won’t spoil the fun about who else is there; let’s just say I love Mr. Whitesides’ character development. I love Spencer and Daisy in this book. They have come so far from the first book, and I have enjoyed watching them grow and progress through the books. They learn some hard lessons in this book, but the lessons of friendship, loyalty, bravery, dedication, hard work, determination, and trust are lessons that the characters and the readers will not forget. It’s so good for these middle-graders to see these characters and to learn the lessons along with Spencer, Daisy, and Dez. Spencer and Daisy, especially, are very well done. They never waver. I enjoy Mr. Whitesides’ writing style. It’s a fast, easy read, and is easy to understand. I just got sucked in and couldn’t put it down. The descriptions are so life-like and believable, and you feel like you are in that landfill or at Welcher Elementary School. There really is nonstop action in this book. One thing after another, after another. I hope all the characters went home and slept for a few days. I felt tired just reading about it. It’s exciting adventure too. There are witches, sweepers, pluggers, toxites, thingamajunks, lots of glop, monitors, rebels, and one General Clean. If you liked the first four books, you definitely need to read this one! You will not be disappointed!
This book does not have any profanity or “intimacy.” Violence, though, is rampant. At least one character dies and there is a lot of fighting. Some of the fighting is against people and some against monsters and other creatures, but it is violent. It is a war to save the world, you know, so it isn’t pretty in some parts. My only complaint (that is actually too strong of a word, but it’ll have to do…) would be that it did kind of get all wrapped up in a nice, pretty bow at the end. It is a middle-grader book, though, so I really wouldn’t expect anything other than that. 
Rating: PG+ (No profanity or “intimacy,” but there is quite a lot of violence. They are fighting a war to save the children of the world.)
Recommendation: Middle-Graders: 3rd (for a mature third grader) to 4th grade and up. My eighth grader and seventh grader love this series. 
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
This book comes out Sept. 8th!!!

Peer Pressure vs True Friends (Surviving Primary School)

Peer Pressure vs. True Friends (Surviving Primary School) 
     by Dr. Orly Katz

Blurb (Taken from an email sent to me by the author):
The book deals with everyday issues such as: self esteem, peer pressure Vs. true friend, body language intuition & leadership, positive thinking, and more…And includes true life stories about growing up with tips, helpful rules, Illustrations, simple to do exercises and fun ‘test yourself’ questionnaires.”

My Review:

This is a great book for elementary school children. It is written to help children take control of their environment, to not be victims, to stand up for themselves, and to feel confident about themselves.  It says ages 9-13, which is about 3rd to 7th grade; I would feel comfortable reading it with my seven-year-old, who is going into second grade. This book is well written, and is written in a way that kids will relate to. It doesn’t talk down to the children, yet it is written on their level so they will understand.  Dr. Katz uses many examples of situations that may occur in elementary school and how to handle them. I love the chapter about saying “no” to things if they will put us in bad situations. I also enjoyed the chapter on Energy Drains. I think it is really good for kids to know the difference between tattling and reporting. When I was teaching I hated the endless, “He did this…” or “She did that…” My students knew I did not like tattling. My kids know the same thing now. However, reporting things like abuse or bullying is a completely different story, and it’s so important for children to know the difference. These are just a couple of examples of what is discussed in this book. I think it is a great resource for parents and teachers alike. I will definitely be reading it to my children. It will be a good way to open the door for discussion on each of these topics. I think as parents we sometimes struggle with how to discuss the hard stuff, and this book makes it a lot easier. It could be read silently by the children, but I think it’s one that will be more effective if parents read it with their children. There are questions at the end of the chapters for the children to answer to find out where they stand on each issue, and I think it could be eye-opening for some children. I highly recommend this book. 

Rating: PG (Totally clean! It does discuss some difficult topics though.)

Recommendation Second grade (about 7 year-old) and up

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.