FarWorld: Land Keep (Book #2)

FarWorld: Land Keep (Book #2) by J. Scott Savage

(Summary taken from the back of the book) “Four mythical elementals-Water, Land, Air, and Fire-have the power to save two worlds, Earth and Farworld, from a common enemy: the Dark Circle. In book two, Land Keep, Marcus and Kyja travel with Cascade, a Water Elemental, toward Land Keep, the home of the powerful and wise Land Elementals. However, their journey may end before it even begins. Land Keep is empty, deserted for at least a thousand years, and the rumor is that the creatures who once controlled all land magic are extinct. Marcus ad Kyja’s only hope seems to lie in finding the Augur Well, a legendary Oracle protected by subtle traps and mind-bending trials. To succeed in their quest, Marcus and Kyja must also avoid the Keepers of the Balance, an order dedicated to redistributing magic to the rich and powerful. And they must travel far underground, where Cascade is unable to follow and where they will be unable to leap to the safety of Earth. As the Dark Circle closes around them, Marcus and Kyja are faced with the temptation of what they desire most. Sacrifices must be made, and not everyone will survive unscathed.”

I think I liked this book more than the first one. I liked the tests and trials of Land Keep. I liked that Marcus and Kyja had to use their bodies and brains for each of the tests. I think the writing is a little better in this book as well. Marcus and Kyja are still what makes the book. Their characters and their relationship drive this book and series. I love that it shows how they overcome challenges and adversity even though they may have some disabilities. I love that it shows how they work together to accomplish goals. In real life we all need a support group to help us through. I’m always trying to teach my kids that by working together they can accomplish more, quicker, and this book is a great example of that. The evil guys get a little more evil and a little scarier, but I still think the 4th-5th graders will do fine with it. The war at the end is quite intense, and I loved a lot of the twists. There were a few I wasn’t too happy with….think betrayal…..but overall, I thought it fit well and brought in some foreshadowing from the first book. I was wondering what Mr. Savage would do for evil guys in the next book because….well, I won’t tell you what happens, but….just you wait. The ending, oh the ending. I read it and said, “What??? No…..” Then I re-read it just to make sure that is what it really said, and I read it again just in case it had changed. Unfortunately, it’s a cliff-hanger surprise that took me off guard and made me very mad. Suffice it to say, I MUST READ the NEXT BOOK. Luckily for me, it’s under my bed. If you liked the first book, you will definitely want to read this one!

Rating: PG+ (Sword and magic fighting, war, evilness, death, death of some known characters, betrayal. No language or “physical intimacy”–except maybe a small kiss.)

Recommendation: 4th to 5th grade and up. As always, I recommend a parent reads it first because each child has different sensitivities and levels of maturity.

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

FarWorld: Water Keep (Book #1)

FarWorld: Water Keep (Book #1)

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Even though thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas is confined to a wheelchair, he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer. In fact, his favorite dream is of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes, and where trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place–Farworld. When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change the fate of the two worlds. But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass’s secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld’s only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals–water, land, air, and fire–and convince them to open a drift between the two worlds. As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them–Summoners, who can command the living and the dead; Unmakers, invisible creatures that can destroy both body and soul; and dark mages known as Thrathkin S’Bae. Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers.”

What a fun surprise! I hadn’t heard anything about this book or series when I was asked to review them, and I’m glad I did! I really enjoyed this book, and I know my 4th and 5th graders will also enjoy it. They’re already begging me to read it. Don’t worry, I’ll hand it over as soon as I finish my review. The book is written well. There are some fun and some scary surprises, and some interesting twists and turns. I think it flows well and is easy to read and understand. Some of the names are difficult to pronounce (Thrathkin S’Bae……take your guess at that one……), but it adds to the mystery and tension in the book. I liked the characters and thought Mr. Savage did a good job developing them, especially Marcus and Kyja. Master Therapass reminded me a lot of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. He can be quirky and fun and magicky (yes, I just made up that word…..), yet he can also be serious and get down to business. He is very protective of his two young friends. I liked how Mr. Savage tied in each of the character’s pasts, and how they fit together. Marcus and Kyja are so young, but they work together and accomplish some great things. I like that although each of them has a “disability,” they work hard to overcome their shortcomings and use ingenuity to discover new ways of doing things. I like that they are both strong characters. The villans in this book are scary, to say the least. Huge snakes are not my idea of fun, and I hope I never meet anyone named Bonesplitter.

Although scary and somewhat violent in parts, this book is clean. There is no language and no intimacy. There is violenc (bullying and fighting against some evil characters). It’s not too gory or disgusting. It’s about the level of the Percy Jackson books. I really enjoyed this book and do recommend it with the above warnings.

Rating: PG+ (Some violence: bullying and fighting and some evil characters)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up. I am a lot older than 4th grade and I enjoyed it, so I think it has elements that older age groups will enjoy as well.

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

Skull Eye Island

Skull Eye Island by Peter Greene

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Homeless and alone on the streets of London in 1800, twelve-year-old Jonathan Moore survives this harsh and dangerous world using courage, intelligence and determination. His dismal fate changes dramatically one day after he is abducted by a gang and pressed into service aboard the HMS Poseidon, a forty-four gun fighting frigate of the British Royal Navy. However, there is more to the event than just a change of address. How is it that some members of the crew, including the Captain, already know his name? Why do the officers seem to favor him above the other new crewmembers? As Jonathan endeavors to solve these mysteries, he is thrust into a daring mission to recover a hidden treasure on a remote Caribbean isle. Unfortunately, the crew and officers of the Poseidon are not the only ones searching for the prize. In a desperate race across the Atlantic to Skull Eye Island, Jonathan is pitted against sword-wielding spies, engages in terrifying ship-to-ship battles and in the end, must match his wits and courage against a ruthless and cunning French Captain and his powerful warship.”

I loved this book! It is written very well, and I really liked Mr. Greene’s writing style. It just pulled me in from the beginning, and I couldn’t put it down. I could picture myself on the ship, in the Captain’s quarters, on the island, and in France walking to the apothecary shop. I love it when I can become a part of the story; that is why I read! Mr. Greene’s character development is really good. I did have a hard time keeping track of some of the crew members at first, but figured it out in the end. I especially liked Jonathan and Sean, the Captain, and Mr. Harrison. Some of the other crew members were grumpy old sailors, but they all had some good moments. The story is well written and exciting. There is action, sword-fighting, storms, mystery, and treasure! What more could you want? Oh, romance? Well, there might be a paragraph or two on that as well. Remember, Jonathan is only 12 years-old, so hopefully there’s not too much romance. I really don’t know anything about ships, so some of the jargon was difficult at first, but I think I got it down by the end. That is another reason I enjoy reading; I love to learn about different things, on my couch, in my p.j.’s. It’s great!

And what is something I love? It is clean!! Yes, that makes me very happy. You can have a wonderful story without the language and other questionable material. There is some sword-fighting and a few characters die, but it is a war, and the descriptions are not in-depth or gruesome. I highly recommend this book, and can’t wait for my boys to read it. I think they will really enjoy it as well.

Rating: PG (Some sword-fighting, ships shooting each other, and a few minor characters die)

Recommendation: 9 years-old (4th Grade-ish) up. This would be a fun read-aloud as well as a great silent read.

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

Frindle

Frindle by Andrew Clements

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Everyone knows that Mrs. Granger, Nicholas Allen’s fifth-grade teacher, has X-ray vision, and nobody gets away with anything in her classroom. To make matters worse, she’s also a fanatic about the dictionary, which is hopelessly boring to Nick. But when Nick learns an interesting tidbit about words and where they come from, it inspires a great plan: to invent a new word. From now on, a pen is no longer a pen–it’s a frindle. It doesn’t take long for frindle to take root, and soon the excitement spreads well beyond his school and town. His parents and Mrs. Granger would like Nick to put an end to all this nonsense. But frindle doesn’t belong to Nick anymore. All he can do now is sit back and watch what happens.”

I had never heard of this book before, and then my friend reviewed in on goodreads. I thought it would be great for my boys (4th and 5th grades), and when I asked them if they had read it, they both said, “Yes!” That doesn’t usually happen. I had no idea. Anyway, they had both read it, so I picked it up and started reading. It is so cute and fun! I read it in one sitting, so it’s a very fast and easy read. It’s very imaginative, and I think it teaches kids a great lesson about words, about using your imagination, and also about how one person can make a difference. I love Nick’s character. He is witty, imaginative, and funny. I also liked Mrs. Granger because of the teacher in me. I loved how the word just took off, and it reminded me of when I was in high school and “like” was just beginning to be used more, and how  my drama teacher pounded it into our heads not to use it. Unfortunately, she was not able to stop the “like” movement, but that’s okay. The word frindle took off in the same way. What a fun idea! This woud be a great read-aloud, but it’s also great for a silent read.

It’s a clean read, so it’s great for everyone, which I like!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: 5 years and up (I have a four-year-old, and I don’t know if she would quite understand it yet.) as a read-aloud. I think it’s about a third grade reading level for a silent read.

Little Woody Stories

Little Woody Stories by Woody Dykes

(Summary taken from the back cover) “In a land far, far away called Wichita there was a magic street called Rutan. This street had a tree-lined tunnel that covered the sky. On this magic street lived a tribe of Indians called the Rutan Indians. These are their stories. I am the last of this tribe. These are stories of my childhood when I lived in Wichita, Kansas, on Rutan Street. I was six to eleven (I think) during this time. The stories are true and actual, to the best of my memory. I had two friends who shared most of these adventures with me–Eddie Kangus and Larry Rochillen. This was my crew. Tall Larry and Loud Mouth Eddie–the Rutan Indians. These stories are called “Little Woody Stories” by my family and friends. ~Woody Dykes”

This book reminds me of stories my grandparents would tell me when I was growing up, especially my grandpa. Some of them are very funny and some of them make me cringe (like the one where he jumps off the roof with the red spring shoes on). They also remind me of stories my dad would tell of things he did growing up, and yes, some of them remind me of things I may have done (but don’t tell my kids…..). It’s fairly well written and I like Mr. Dykes’ humor. It’s a fast, easy read (I think it took me less than an hour), and is ok for the older elementary-age kids. I had my son, who is in 5th grade, read it, and he liked it as well. He also read it quickly and the only thing I was concerned about was him getting some not-so-good ideas from the stories. We had to look up the definition of mercurochrome and google “Kit candies,” but it was great to turn a fun story into a teaching moment. I like the “Lessons Learned” bit at the end of each story. This is a fun book and would be fun as a read-a-loud as well.

Rating: PG (Just don’t get any ideas……) I had to tell my son that if I ever found a hole cut in our roof he wouldn’t leave his bedroom….ever….

Recommendation: 4th or 5th grade and up. Parents may want to read it first to see if it is appropriate for their child. And, if nothing else, it may bring back some fun childhood memories.

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

Dizzy Miss Lizzie

Dizzy Miss Lizzie by R.M. Clark

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Thirteen-year-old Kasey Madrid finally has the freedom she’s always wanted. Instead of putting up with sitters or camps, she can spend the summer home alone in their “new” house. Never mind that the house is a creepy old place built in the nineteenth century. The creep factor skyrockets when Kasey meets a nineteenth-century girl named Lizzie Bellows in the basement. It takes some time for Lizzie to convince Kasey she’s not a ghost, though neither girl understands why they can see each other when they live 120 years apart.The difference in their worlds doesn’t stop the two from becoming fast friends. Lizzie’s life isn’t easy though. In her time, her parents died in a fire many believe Lizzie started herself. As the summer passes and Kasey learns more about her own past, she is shocked to discover Lizzie is part of a terrible Madrid family secret. It’s up to Kasey to go back to Lizzie’s world to unlock the secret and clear Lizzie’s name.

I didn’t really know what to expect with this book, but it was really fun! It was a fast, easy read, which is good. I enjoyed it! It is well written. I liked the writing style, and thought it flowed well. I liked the characters and thought they were well-developed. I liked how Lizzie and Kasey grew into good friends, and how Kasey tried to learn as much about Lizzie as possible. Even though the premise is impossible, Mr. Clark did a very good job making it seem very plausible. I also loved that it was clean! There was no language, no violence (except a small curse put on someone), and no “physical intimacy.” It was great and will be great for some of the younger readers. I don’t know if my 10 year-old son will like it, but maybe. Girls his age will for sure enjoy it. I enjoyed it and I’m much older than 10!

Rating: PG  (It’s clean!)

Recommendation: 9 years and up. The girls will for sure enjoy it, and possibly the boys that age.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my review, but that does not change my opinion. All my reviews are honest.

Book Review of Holy Stable by Heidi Hanseen

Holy Stable by Heidi Hanseen

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “The heavenly gift of Christmas transforms hearts and homes. Create lasting memories as you experience with family and friends the shared affection at Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph’s devotion to God and sublime caring for each other will bring you to experience the story as never before. As Joseph searches for comforting words to offer Mary, he is attended by angel children who sing along to welcome Baby Jesus. Discover how sharing the gift of Jesus’ love blesses relationships, as you enjoy the magic of children’s narration, original music, and song.”

This is a beautiful book! The gold-tipped pages are beautiful and give you a sense that what is in the book is important. The illustrations are well done and add greatly to the story. The story of Mary and Joseph is written in poem form and done very well. It is tender and not corny. The music on the CD is very soft and calming. The children’s voices are so sweet and convey the message of Christmas well. I love the idea of having the music, narration, and a downloadable script all wrapped up together with the book. This will make having the Christmas pageant in your home or church much easier. You can use her narration or just the music. There are many ways to make it fit perfectly with your needs. Thank you, Ms. Hanseen for such a beautiful book. I will definitely be reading this one to my children this Christmas season.

Rated: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Great for everyone!!

Discloure: I did receive a free book in exchange for this review; however, this does not sway my opinion. All my reviews are honest.

Book Review of What Are You Thinking by Valerie Ackley

What Are You Thinking? by Valerie Ackley

This children’s book is so fun! I absolutely LOVE the message of this book! The book talks about how powerful our thoughts are, and how you can do whatever you put your mind to. It also discusses how if you have “yucky” thoughts when you wake up then you may have a yucky day, but if you use your power to change those thoughts into happy thoughts then you will have a much better day. What a powerful message! I think I tell my kids this at least three times every day! I also like the illustrations. They are big and bold and bright, which catches the children’s attention. Some of the pages are a little overwhelming with all the different thoughts, but the overall message makes up for it. I highly recommend this book and will definitely be reading it to my kids over and over. Thank you, Ms. Ackley for such a positive book with a great message!!!

Rating: G Totally clean, hooray!

Recommendation: Everyone from 0-100 could use this reminder and this message.

The Crystal Prince

The Crystal Prince by Jeanette Clinger Hurley

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Escape into a world of spellbinding adventure, a world where kindness is king, a world where faith and imagination separate life from death, a world where love is the key that unlocks both mystery and magic…Escape into the world of The Crystal Prince. Come along and join the charmed Prince Xabian and the beautiful Jenevieve on their enchanted and courageous journey, as they discover…The heart is mightier than the sword, that faith conquers fear and that the true magical and transformational miracle of life is simple and pure…That love is the way, love is the only way.”

I enjoyed this book. It is a fast, easy read that packs a huge message. The story takes you from a warm, welcoming castle to a hideous cave hide-out. From nice and loving people to mean, hard-hearted ugly creatures. Prince Xabian has a choice to make: let bitterness and hatred take over or make the best of a difficult situation. The message of love is powerful and strong. I thought the contrast between the people of the castle and the Ganthites was striking, and I enjoyed seeing the transformation of the Ganthites. I find the message useful in everyday life. I tell my kids almost every day that they have a choice to make to have a positive attitude or have a bad day. This book reinforces that message and more. I liked the illustrations as well.

I did have a few unanswered questions. For instance, how did a pillow get in the cave and how did it turn into his crystal pillow? How did these same people live for a thousand years? It is fantasy so these questions maybe don’t need answering, but they were confusing to me. Overall, I thought it was well written and I enjoyed the message. I would recommend it. If a 4th grader is going to read it by himself I would suggest going through with him and pronouncing the difficult names.

Rating PG: Some violence (kidnapping, fighting, harsh treatment of the Prince)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up. As stated earlier, if a 4th grader is to read it by himself I would go through and help him with the pronunciation of the difficult names beforehand. I would also discuss the book with him afterward and talk about the message of love and making each day the best it can be. It is a great book for a teaching moment! This may be too much for some 4th graders, so it is always best for each parent to read it first and decide what is best for each student.

Disclosure: I did receive a free book for this review; however, that does not sway my opinion of the book in any way, I am always honest with my reviews.

The Adventures of Dod

The Adventures of Dod by Thomas R. Williams

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “Years ago, a father went missing. Recently, a grandfather died. Now, fourteen-year-old Cole finds himself inexplicably transported to the world of Green, a place where he must use his special abilities and unique friendships to solve mysteries and, ultimately, try to stop an evil villain named The Dread.”

First let me explain how I came about this book. The elementary school my children used to attend received a few boxes of this book, intended for each student in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. A few people in my book group work at the school and the principal asked if our book group would review it before they handed them out to the children. Interesting. So, of course, we decided we better review it.

I’m torn with this one. Usually I know exactly what I want to say. I just finished all 507 pages and I don’t know. I’ll start with this…..it was okay. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. Do I want my 4th grader to read it? I don’t know. The first few pages are quite violent, and there are some violent scenes in it following that (poisonings, sword fights, scary creatures, characters dying), but the whole story is not that violent. My problem with this book is that I kind of don’t get it. I know it’s part of a series, but there are so many unanswered questions, so many things that just don’t make sense to me. There are a ton of characters and places and I couldn’t keep any of it straight. Things are not explained very well in the book. For example, Cole, the main character, ends up in this other world. He’s never been there before, but yet he “remembers” some things. Huh? He has memories of some events and places and people that he’s never been to or met. How? Why does he know some things but not others?  How does he know anything at all? Maybe I shouldn’t try so hard and just enjoy the read, but I can’t. It really bothers me. I don’t understand how he can just take some one’s place and no one notices. Also, what are coosings and pots?  There are a lot of made up words that just are not fully explained or clarified. Another thing that bothered me was that the first chapter ties into the book, but it’s not easily apparent. When I finished I went back and read it again and it still took me a minute to figure out how it played in.
The story itself is okay. It’s interesting and could be really good, I think. There are twists and turns and surprises. There’s suspense, drama, action, and a little flirting. It’s just that there is so much to it that isn’t fully explained, and it’s so long that it takes away from the plot. My 4th and 3rd graders kept asking me if they could read it and they could, I think. My 4th grader has read all the Harry Potters and Fablehavens, and together we’ve read all the Percy Jacksons, so I think, in that sense, it would be okay for them to read. I just don’t know if they could keep it all straight, since I couldn’t. If I hadn’t been reviewing it I don’t know if I would have finished. I think they may lose interest because it’s so confusing. I do think it is better for 4th grade boys….girls may not like it as much. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to put it all together, but it shouldn’t be that hard. It’s too bad because I think it could be really good. I wish he had left out a lot of the extras that ended up taking away from the storyline. Or, I wish he had just clarified and defined things a little better. An index in the back with character names and a map would have helped a lot!

I did really like the morals and lessons in the book, though. Dod doesn’t pick fights, he just fights the ones he needs to. He sticks up for and respects women. He makes good decisions based on memories of his family members teaching him those things. He shows respect for elders and most authority figures and he is humble in his accomplishments. I like those things a lot and liked that part of the storyline.

Rating: PG (almost PG-13) Violence, death, but no language or “physical intimacy”

Recommendation: I guess I’ll stick with 4th grade and up. If your child has read books like “Harry Potter” or “Fablehaven” then he or she should be fine reading this, if they can keep up with the characters and places.