Book Review of Boying Up by Mayim Bialik, PhD

Boying Up by Mayim Bialik

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Book Review of Boying Up: How to be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant by Mayim Bialik, Phd

Ugh! The dreaded talk. You know the one. The talk that everyone should have with their kids. The one where you have to use real names for body parts and go into details about the birds and the bees. Yeah, I know that talk. My husband and I decided that he would talk with our boys and I would talk with our girls. We have two of each. He’s already talked with our boys, and I have had the talk with one of our girls. One more to go for me. This book is great for a follow-up of that talk. Here’s my book review of Boying Up by Mayim Bialik, PhD.

Blurb:

“Growing from a boy into a man is no simple feat. Bodies are changing, social circles are evolving, hair is appearing in places it never was before—and on top of it all, there’s the ever-present pressure to conform to the typical idea of what it means to be ‘manly’ and masculine. But it’s easier to Boy Up if you’re armed with facts.

Want to know why your voice cracks like that? What you should eat to build muscle, or how to talk to someone you have a crush on? How about if someone bullies you or spreads rumors about you?

Using her own experience as a mom of boys and plenty of scientific information, Mayim Bialik, neuroscientist and star of The Big Bang Theory, talks about what it means to grow from a boy to a man biologically, psychologically and sociologically.

Want to be brave, bold and brilliant? You can! Start by reading this book.”

My Book Review:

This book is packed with great information! Mayim Bialik does not mince words. She speaks boldly and bravely about everything that happens when boys grow into men. The first thing she discusses is anatomy for boys and girls. There are even drawings to go along with it. It’s very straightforward and accurate. She uses the correct names for everything and says it like it is. I like that she even goes into the science of X and Y chromosomes and DNA.

Throughout the book, Mayim talks a lot about how everyone is different. She discusses how there isn’t one right way to be a boy. It’s so good to hear because there are stereotypes for boys just like there are for girls. She talks about how it’s ok for boys to like different things and look different from each other. Not all boys need to like cars and sports.

I love the section on how to take care of their bodies. I think all YA boys need to read this section. Seriously. I know they want to survive on soda pop and candy bars. Mayim goes into a lot of detail about how much water to drink each day, proper nutrition, and mindfulness when eating. She also talks about the importance of exercising. She gives lots of different ways to exercise; it doesn’t need to be football practice for every boy.

Mayim doesn’t stop there. I loved the chapter on how boys learn. She is a neuroscientist, so she has very detailed and interesting scientific facts. One thing I thought was really good was when she discussed the culture of media among boys and how they like video games and such. I guess there is actually science behind why boys get all competitive and like to win.

She does talk about why some boys are more bothered by violence and other things in media. I agree that there are different sensitivity levels. I also think that sometimes that is because children are desensitized by watching violence and more adult themes when they are too young. I don’t allow my children to watch PG-13 movies until they are 13. And even then, there are certain movies I won’t let them watch until they are older.

How boys love is the next chapter in the book. Mayim goes into intimacy, but intimacy as in getting to know someone well and making ourselves vulnerable. She talks about relationships with family and friends and how those can change over time. One thing she goes into more detail about is “Brotherhood” and boys as “their buddies, their bros, their homeboys, their dudes, their posse.” There are lots of different places that boys can find their peeps.

Then, yes, Mayim discusses the science of romance. I think it’s great to point these things out to boys so they understand what they’re experiencing. She talks about physical things that happen when boys are around someone they may be interested in. Things like sweating, dry mouth, and babbling. Ha! It’s good to know it happens to boys too. She goes into greater detail about attraction, dating, and courtship. This includes physical “intimacy.”

I know it’s hard for most parents to discuss this with their children. It is for me! It’s essential, though. Mayim goes into detail about it, of course using correct body part names and how it occurs. One thing she stresses is that it does feel good, but it is primarily to make babies. And that if you are doing it, you will most likely make a baby at some point. This is a good reminder for teenagers with raging hormones.

She talks about how waiting until marriage used to be the norm, but isn’t as common now.  We have stressed to our children that waiting until marriage is important. I think it’s important because it is so intimate. There are emotions and feelings that occur when people are intimate in that way, and being in a stable, strong relationship is important. Then, if babies come, there is already a foundation for that family. She also discusses that it’s a special thing; it’s not evil and you shouldn’t be afraid of it either. But use precautions. Be safe.

This book goes deep into many things that are difficult to talk about. It’s very informative. Although there is a lot of information, good and very detailed information, Mayim does a great job of making it accessible. Her writing is so easy to read; it’s not awkward or scary or anything. This book should be used as a companion to a parental discussion. It would be great to have your son read a chapter and discuss it, or discuss it at the end. Boys and dads could read it together. My boys might die if I read it with them.

Content Rating PG-13Rating: PG-13 (This book goes in depth about human anatomy and physical “intimacy.” It’s the birds and the bees talk plus a whole lot more.)

Recommendation: YA (I would strongly recommend that parents either read it before or with their boys. Only parents know what each child can handle.)

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2LbCHAe

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

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Girls Who Code: Lights, Music, Code! (Book #3) by Jo Whittenmore the hundred dresses  To the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger
 
 

Make a Teacher Happy: Prevent Summer Brain!

Summer Fit 2-3

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Prevent Summer Brain with Summer Fit Workbooks!

Remember last fall when the kids went back to school and had forgotten most of what they’d learned the previous year? It’s called…Summer Brain. Ouch! All of that work–gone. How do you prevent Summer Brain? You have to be a mean mom and make the kids use their brains this summer. I know, it’s hard. I’ve grown callous to the mean summer mom eye rolls because I’ve been doing it for so long.  It’s a good thing, I promise.
 
I’ve tried a few different things like printing off my own packets, workbooks, and online programs. I finally settled on the Summer Fit workbooks. It’s so easy and mom friendly!
 

Why Use Summer Fit Workbooks to Prevent Summer Brain?

I have used the Summer Fit workbooks for a few years now, and I LOVE them!!! They have a level for each grade in elementary school (they start with pre-K and go to 8th grade), which is great. The workload is the perfect amount. Each day there is a page of reading and a page of math. It isn’t super hard, but it is hard enough to keep the kids from forgetting everything over the summer.
 
I love the Friday material. Every Friday is a value (compassion, determination…..that kind of thing), and it highlights a person who exemplifies that value. The kids do activities surrounding that value and person. Also, each day has an exercise for the kids to do. It’s not hard, but it gets them up and moving. And the great thing about these books is that it eliminates all the mom-work. There’s no searching the internet or printing off individual worksheets; it’s all right there in the book. It makes mom’s job so much easier!!! They even have a book for 7th and 8th graders, which is great because it’s harder to know what the older kids need. I highly recommend the Summer Fit workbooks!
 
 

Content Rating GRating: G (clean!!!)

 Recommendation: Pre-K to 8th grade

 

Which One Is Right For You?

(If you’d like to purchase a workbook, click on the image below.)

This post was first published on 5/23/16; Updated on 5/11/18.

Book Review of To the Moon! by Jeffrey Kluger

To the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger

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Book Review of To The Moon! by Jeffrey Kluger

When I was a kid, I remember watching the space shuttle launches. I loved watching the launches! To think that those people would be going into space was amazing! Then, when I was in third grade there was a special launch; the Challenger would take Christa McAuliffe, a teacher, up into space. I wanted to be a teacher, so I was really excited for her! All the third graders got together and sat on the floor around the small television. Then, we watched in horror as the Challenger exploded before our very young, innocent eyes. That experience haunted me for a long time. Thankfully, that didn’t happen to the crew of the Apollo 8 spacecraft! I hope you enjoy my book review of To the Moon! By Jeffrey Kluger.

Blurb:

“The year was 1968, and the American people were still reeling from the spacecraft fire that killed the Apollo 1 crew a year earlier. On top of that, there were rumors that the Russian cosmonauts were getting ready to fly around the moon. NASA realized that they needed to take a bold step—and that they needed to take it now. They wanted to win the space race against Russia and hold true to President Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. So in a risky move, a few days before Christmas of that year, they sent Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders to the moon!

This book about the exciting and inspiring true story of Apollo 8, the first crewed American spaceship to break free of Earth’s orbit and reach the moon, tells the story of these three brave men, the frantic rush to get their rocket ready, and the journey that gave the American people—and the world—a new look at the planet we live on and the corner of space we inhabit.”

 

My Book Review:

I found this book fascinating! I love reading about history, especially about moments in time where people were able to accomplish the unbelievable! Moments when people come together to do the unimaginable are so inspiring! To the Moon! Is very well written! It’s nonfiction, but it reads like fiction. Seriously. It’s easy to follow and understand, and it brings the past to life. The descriptions of all the equipment and procedures are so well written that you understand exactly what is going on. It’s not boring, and it doesn’t drag on.

These events were exciting in real time, and Jeffrey Kluger does an amazing job of making them just as exciting today. Even though I knew that everything turned out okay, I still found myself holding my breath and gasping when something went wrong. What an exciting time in America’s history! I may not have been alive in 1968, but this book made the whole experience part of my history.

There is so much we can learn from the astronauts and the people at NASA during the space race. This book has so many lessons that they learned that are important today. I love that the book is written for YA. It should be required reading for every American history class that studies the 1960s. If your YA needs to read a nonfiction book, this would be a great choice! I highly recommend this book for YA and adults alike! The pictures at the end sum it up perfectly; I enjoyed putting faces to the  names of all these people I had come to look up to.

 

Content Rating PGRating: PG (It’s clean. There’s no profanity or “intimacy,” but there were people that died, and their deaths were shocking.)

Age Recommendation: YA (12-18) and up

My rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

If you would like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2HSTkSt

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

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand  The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
 
 

Never That Far by Carol Lynch Williams

Never That Far by Carol Lynch Williams

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Book Review of Never That Far by Carol Lynch Williams

My father-in-law passed away less than a year ago, so the pain is fresh. We’re still celebrating “firsts” without him. First Christmas. Birthday. Easter. Our children will still occasionally cry over his passing. It’s tough, and even though we do have a belief in an afterlife, we miss him immensely. In Never That Far by Carol Lynch Williams, Libby and her father mourn the loss of her grandfather. Libby’s experiences may be singular to her, but her feelings of loss and mourning are universal.

Blurb:

“Libby Lochewood is twelve years old when her grampa dies of a heart attack. She is devastated at losing her best friend. Now that he’s passed on, it’s just her and her father, and he is so overcome by grief that he can barely get out of bed in the morning.

The night of the funeral, though, Grampa’s spirit appears in Libby’s bedroom and tells her three important things; first, that she isn’t alone or forgotten—‘The dead ain’t never that far from the living,” he says; second, that she has ‘the Sight’—the ability to see family members who have died; and three, that there is something special just for her in the lake. Something that could help her and her father—if she can find it.

Libby begins her search along with her friends Bobby and Martha, but it’s hard to know if they’ve found what Grampa wanted her to find since they don’t really know what it is. As Libby’s father falls deeper and deeper into depression, Libby and Grampa work together to help her father believe that their loved ones who have died are much closer than he thinks. But it will take all of Libby’s courage and her gift of Sight to convince her father that the dead are never truly gone.

Set in the lush, natural landscape of southern Florida, Never That Far celebrates friendship, hope, and the power of family love.”

 My Book Review:

The pain that accompanies the loss of a loved one is universal; not many are immune. On the other hand, each individual person deals with grief in his or her own way. Some may find comfort in visiting the gravesite while others may find solace in journaling or sleeping. Libby and her father have very different experiences after her grandfather’s passing. Libby handles it ok because her grampa’s spirit visits her each night and comforts her. He visits his son too, but his son doesn’t see because of a lack of belief. Although I haven’t ever seen the spirits of my loved ones who have passed, I believe that there is an afterlife. I believe that I will see them again. If nothing else, that thought gives me comfort.

There were many things that I liked about this book. I liked Libby’s voice. She’s stubborn, determined, and caring. Although she may not listen to her father, she knows what needs to be done. She sets out to do it, no matter what. Bobby is such a good friend. I liked his character a lot. Martha represents what many people may feel: that Libby is crazy.

Libby’s father has lost a lot. He’s lost his parents and his wife. The grief overcomes him. He represents many who are consumed by the pain of losing someone. Libby gets frustrated because he isn’t always present for her, but he tries. The preacher character confused me. I’m not sure why her character was included in the story.

I do believe in an afterlife, but the whole quest that Grampa sends Libby on was a bit strange. It takes a long time to get there; it isn’t easy. The quest and the conclusion of the quest are both vague. I kind of understood the conclusion of the quest, but I’m not sure why it had to be that way. It seems that the same thing could have been found in a different way.

Overall, I liked this book. I think it has some good messages: the importance of family, faith, friendship, and moving forward. It will be especially helpful to someone grieving the loss of a loved one. This book is geared toward YA, and I think it is fine for that age group. It does have a religious overtone, so YA with a religious background will benefit the most. Also, it might be a good idea for parents to discuss the book and some of the issues with their children. 

 

Content Rating PGRating: PG (There’s no profanity, no “intimacy,” and no violence. There are some more difficult themes discussed.) 

Age Recommendation: YA (12-18yrs old) and up 

Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2qlParu

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

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

The Evolution of Thomas Hall by Kieth Merrill Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand 
 
 

Girls Who Code: Crack the Code! by Sarah Hutt

Girls Who Code: Crack the Code by Sarah Hutt

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Book Review of Girls Who Code: Crack the Code! by Sarah Hutt

I don’t know anything about coding. I know, not good for someone who spends a lot of time online! My daughter is really into coding right now, and I have not known what to do to inspire or help her along this path. Until now. Thank you Girls Who Code! Girls Who Code: Crack the Code! by Sarah Hutt is full of activities, games, and puzzles that reveal the world of coding. It is put forth in conjunction with Girls Who Code.com.

Blurb:

“You might not realize it, but computer coding is everywhere! It’s not just in your phone and computer, but also in music, movies, robots, spaceships, and more. The world is powered by code, and your key to understanding how is at your fingertips!

Grab your pens and pencils for this book packed with word games, mazes, quizzes, and more that show how coding is a part of everything we see and do. You might even find inspiration for your next coding project!”

 

My Book Review:

This activity book is packed full of activities surrounding coding. It has a topic for everyone: robots, digital art and animation, sports, and music. There are activities like mazes, crossword puzzles, collages, and designing your own emojis. Then there are activities that are more in-depth like cutting out and gluing together your own robot or working with a partner and having your partner draw as you explain step by step what to draw. There’s a fortune-teller that you may cut out, and activities that you do on each side of it.

This looks like so much fun! I like how it breaks everything down into bite-size chunks so you learn, but don’t get overwhelmed. I had my 12 year-old daughter do a bunch of these activities. She had a lot of fun! She is really into coding right now, so I’m just going to have her keep on going in this book!

 

Content Rating GRating: G (Clean!)

Age Recommendation: 5th -6th grade and up

Rated: 4/54 Star Rating

To purchase this book click here: http://amzn.to/2ueK1ql

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

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Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Girls Who Code: Lights, Music, Code! (Book #3) by Jo Whittenmore   Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
 
 

Girls Who Code: Lights, Music, Code! by Jo Whittenmore

Girls Who Code: Lights, Music, Code! (Book #3) by Jo Whittenmore

Book Review of Girls Who Code: Lights, Music, Code! (Book #3) by Jo Whittenmore

My 12 year-old daughter is really into coding right now. I love it! Unfortunately, I don’t know much about coding, so I hope she learns a lot and then teaches me! Learning to code has so many benefits, and I think every student should learn the basics. Girls Who Code: Lights, Music, Code! by Jo Whittenmore is the third book in the series of middle school girls who are in a coding club at school. It’s a great way to introduce coding to girls, and to help them see coding as something they may want to do. This book is in cooperation with GirlsWhoCode.com.

Blurb:

“It’s almost time for the winter dance, and Maya and her BFFs are in charge of coding the lights and music! Of course they’ll use what they’ve learned in coding club to make it super-cool, though figuring out their plan isn’t easy. And Maya’s friends aren’t listening to any of her ideas.

But Nicole, Maya’s old friend, is happy to listen to her. Before long, Maya finds herself in one big mess—with her friends and at home—and the dance might be a total disaster. Is it too late for Maya to realize that friendship—like coding—is about making sure you look, listen, and learn?”

 

My Book Review:

I love the idea and concept of this book! Using books to introduce children to different people, places, and things is something I did as a teacher and now do as a mom. It’s a great way to teach without telling them they’re learning. See how sneaky that is? Coding may seem scary and difficult when children (and adults) first learn about it. However, if they can see it put to use, it helps break down the barriers.

That’s the idea behind this book, and the two previous books. If you can create a cute, fun story that girls will enjoy reading, and make coding fun, it may help girls take more of an interest in coding. The girls in the story come from all different kinds of backgrounds and ethnicities, which is great. Most of them seem like sweet girls, and they’re smart! I like it when being smart is portrayed as a good thing.

The things these girls do in coding club amazes me! I even learned a few things. (Haha! That’s not hard…I don’t know anything about coding!) It’s super fun what they end up putting together. One thing I had hoped for was more coding. For a book about coding, there wasn’t a ton of it. It’s a good start though.

There are some good lessons taught in this book as well. Honesty, trust, treating your parents with respect, and taking responsibility for your actions are just a few of the lessons. The problem is that there is A LOT of drama before they can get to the lessons learned. Wow. I don’t do drama, and have taught my girls not to get sucked into the drama, and this book is 85% drama, 13% coding, and 2% lessons learned. It’s a bit much.

One thing that didn’t make sense to me was that the girls are in middle school, but they’re going with boys (as dates) to the dance. It felt like they should be in high school instead. However, the reading level of the book seemed a bit low to include boys, as dates, and all that drama. The reading level and language made it seem like the girls should be even younger than middle school. I thought there was a bit of a disconnect because those things weren’t congruent.

Overall, though, everything came together in the end. The girls accomplished their coding goals and learned some good lessons. I think it does do a good job of introducing some things that coding can do, and how coding can be used in everyday situations.

 

Content Rating PG-13Rating: PG-13 (There’s no profanity, no “intimacy,” and no violence. I’m rating it at PG-13 because the girls talk about the origins of the Tooth Fairy, and I want to make sure girls are old enough to know that. 🙂 Also, there is a lesbian couple in the book.)

Age Recommendation: 13-14 years-old and up (See above)

Rated: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

To purchase this book, click here: http://amzn.to/2px4txV

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

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio Focused by Noelle Pikus Pace  Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
 
 

(This post contains affiliate links. You don’t pay any extra and I receive a small commission.)

The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright

The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright

Book Review of The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright

Have you ever lost someone? I’ve lost my grandparents and, more recently, my father-in-law. It’s tough! Each person grieves in his or her own way. What helps one person may not help the other person at all. And the timing is different for everyone. The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright delves into the difficult world of loss and suicide. Two very different characters handle the loss in their lives in their own ways, but they have one thing in common: the bridge.

Blurb:

“Katie Connelly has lived in San Francisco all her life. Her late father made his career on the Golden Gate Bridge, and the many stories of how he saved jumpers still haunt her. And now her job assignment is to write about the history of the bridge—a history that includes a secret journal about a promise ring and a love story that may be the answer to her unresolved sorrow.

Meanwhile, Dave Riley, a marketing executive in New York, has sorrows of his own. Grasping at straws after tragedy strikes his family, he decides to follow a daydream that has turned into an obsession: to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge on a motorcycle on the Fourth of July.

Does the bridge somehow mysteriously hold the answers both Katie and Dave are looking for? Or will they find something completely different when they get to the other side?” 

My Book Review:

I loved Camron Wright’s The Rent Collector. Therefore, when I had the chance to review his new book, The Other Side of the Bridge, I couldn’t resist! The story switches between Katie Connelly and Dave Riley. I thought that the character development was pretty good, overall. Katie lives in San Francisco and recently lost her father. She works at the university doing research. Dave lives outside of Manhattan. He works in marketing at a big company in New York. He is dealing with a tragic loss.

The writing switches between the two characters. I didn’t find it difficult to switch. Katie’s story is written in italics to help distinguish between the two of them. I also thought their voices were different enough. Of the two, Katie definitely stood out to me as more relatable and amiable. Dave isn’t quite as likable, and although his story is tragic, it is also harder to relate to. Katie’s grieving feels more “normal,” if you can say that, where Dave definitely takes it to the extreme.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt empathy for Dave, I really did. However, his extreme reaction compared to his feelings at the beginning of the book made it seem like a discord to me. Who am I to say though? I’ve never experienced what he did. The event that happened at the end, after he technically reached his destination (I’m trying to not give anything away here…), was a bit much for me. It felt over the top and out of place, in my opinion.

One of my favorite things in the book was learning about the Golden Gate Bridge, how it was built, and the people that built it. Patrick O’Riley’s story is so good, and I enjoyed reading through his journal with Katie. I loved learning about the Claddagh faith rings.

Womens_Silver_Claddagh_Ring

Aren’t they so pretty? According to http://www.celtic-weddingrings.com:

The Claddagh ring meaning is all about love, loyalty, and friendship. The two hands represent friendship, a heart symbolizes love and the crown on top is for loyalty. The ring can be worn on different fingers or hands, depending on status. 

Patrick’s words from the book describe his love for Anna:

With this crown, I give my loyalty. With these hands, I promise to serve. With this heart, I give you mine.

I think they are beautiful, and I love the meaning that they have. That part of the story was my favorite.

At first I felt that the book would be very predictable. Some of it was, but not in the way I originally thought. What I originally predicted was way off course, thankfully. However, I felt disappointed by the moment at which the characters cross paths. I had hoped for a little more, but I guess it fit for each of them. The ending felt a bit rushed, but I liked it.

The book as a whole felt a bit depressing, but it talks a lot about overcoming loss in your life. It also delves into suicide. Both of these topics need to be discussed, so why not allow people to learn through a good story? We all grieve differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to experience grief. I did like the lessons it taught about overcoming, moving on, and learning to live again—guilt free.

Overall, I liked The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright.  Unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I liked The Rent Collector, but it’s a good, thought provoking read.

 

Content Rating PG-13Rating: PG-13 (There’s no profanity and no “intimacy,” except for a brief kiss. I rated it higher because of the discussions about suicide.)

Age Recommendation: 14 years-old and up

Rated 3.5/5 stars

3.5 Star Rating

To purchase this book, click here: http://amzn.to/2FP2uir

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

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright The Evolution of Thomas Hall by Kieth Merrill  Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
 
 

(This post contains affiliate links. You don’t pay any extra and I receive a small commission.)

Book Review of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Book Review of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I love inspirational stories, and this one does not disappoint! Wow. The strength and determination of these men inspires me to do better, work harder, and dream bigger. If they can do the impossible, so can I! I hope you enjoy my book review of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. 

Blurb:

 
“Out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times–the improbable, intimate account of nine working-class boys from the American West who at the 1936 Olympics showed the world what true grit really meant. Daniel James Brown’s stirring book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans.
 
It was an unlikely quest from the start–a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, who first had to master the harsh physical and psychological demands of collegiate rowing and then defeat the East Coast’s elite teams that had long dominated the sport. The emotional heart of the story lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but to find a real place for himself in the world. Plagued by personal demons, a devastating family history, and crushing poverty, Joe knows that a seat in the Washington freshman shell is his only option to remain in college.
 
The crew is slowly assembled by an enigmatic and determined coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat designer, but it is the boys’ commitment to one another that makes them a winning team. Finally gaining the Olympic berth they long sought, they face their biggest challenge–rowing against the German and Italian crews under Adolf Hitler’s gaze and before Leni Riefenstahl’s cameras at the “Nazi Olympics” in Berlin, 1936. Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals and their vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Daniel James Brown has created a portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest, all in this immensely satisfying book.”
 

My Book Review:

 
Wow! The 1936 Olympics have produced some of the best stories I have ever read! First was “Unbroken” about Louis Zampirini. He ran in the 1936 Olympics. That book was so good! Then there’s the story of Jessie Owens. I haven’t read a book about him, but I recently saw the movie “Race,” and Jessie’s story is fantastic too! And then there’s this book. Amazing. Seriously amazing. I loved it! The writing is very well done. It may be nonfiction, but it definitely reads like fiction. The descriptions are beautifully done, and the writing captivates you from the get-go.
 
Joe Rantz’ story is unbelievable! The circumstances he overcame in his life put him right up there with Louis Zampirini as one of the most inspirational people I’ve read about. Most people would give up and die rather than go through what he did. His so-called parents made me so angry. They are not fit to be called parents. The things they did to him were unconscionable. And yet he survived, and not only survived, but thrived. What an inspiration he is!!
 
The stories of the other men are also well told and captivating. I loved learning about George Pocock. He has such an interesting story. I never thought I’d enjoy learning about how to make a rowing boat, but he makes it seem so important and interesting. I enjoyed reading all the quotes by Pocock at the beginning of each chapter. This quote by Pocock really speaks to the difficulty of the sport:
 
“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart, and body.”
I also enjoyed looking at the pictures in the book. I liked that they weren’t all bunched together in the middle, but they were spread here and there throughout the book. One thing I loved was how all these stories showed how trials make people stronger. Usually we just want our lives to be easy, right? Well, look at how strong these men became because their lives were not easy. I think attitudes are a little different now, and that’s unsettling. There seems to be a trend of if it’s not easy I won’t do it. We need more determination and hard work like these men had. I loved this book! I loved the writing, the characters, the story; I loved all of it. Five star ratings are unusual for me, but this one deserves it; I highly recommend this book!
 

Content Rating PG-13+Rating: PG 13+ (There is some profanity, but not a lot. There isn’t any “intimacy.” There are, however, a few situations that border on domestic violence. They are difficult to read, and not appropriate for young readers.)

 

Recommendation: 14 years-old and up.

Rated 5/5 (I don’t give many of those!!)

5 Star Book Review Rating

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

the nightingale by kristin hannah The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This review was originally published on 3/21/16; updated on 3/8/18.

[Book Review] The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack

The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack

[Book Review] The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack

I’m loving the historical fiction proper romance thing going on here! How fun to learn about a real literary historical figure and his love story. It’s fiction, of course, but Ms. Kilpack did her best to base the story off of real events and people. I liked this book a lot, and I hope you enjoy my book review of The Lady of the Lakes  by Josi S. Kilpack.

Blurb:

“Walter Scott has three passions: Scotland, poetry, and Mina Stuart. Though she is young and they are from different stations in society, Walter is certain their love is meant to be. For years, he has courted her through love letters. She is the sunshine of his soul.

Though Mina shares Walter’s love of literature and romantic temperament, it’s hard for her to know if she truly loves him or if she has only been dazzled by his flattery. When she meets the handsome and charming William Forbes, her heart is challenged. Who will she choose?

But as every poet knows, “the course of true love never did run smooth,” and on a windy morning in the lake country, Walter meets Charlotte.

At twenty-six, Charlotte Carpenter believes she will never find love. After all, she is a Catholic-born Frenchwoman living in London with a family history shadowed by scandal. Though quiet, practical, and determined to live a life of independence, her heart longs for someone to love her and a place to call home.

Passion and promises collide as Walter, Mina, and Charlotte must each decide the course for their futures. What are they each willing to risk to find love and be loved in return?”

 

My Review:

I have always enjoyed a sweet love story, and The Lady of the Lakes is no exception. This story has all the elements that make a good love story: poetry, romance, dedication, heartbreak, suffering, and true love. I love that Sir Walter Scott’s poetry is written throughout the book. As a reader you can just picture him writing his poetry for the love of his life, and also to combat his heartbreak. 

The characters come to life on the page. Josi S. Kilpack did a great job of developing them well and making them realistic. I especially liked Sir Walter Scott’s voice and Charlotte’s voice. Charlotte was one of my favorite characters. Her need for independence and her strong voice make for a great character. It was fun to see her grow and progress throughout the book. There were times when Walter’s character was a little irritating; I just wanted to scream, “Get over it already!!!” Thankfully, his brother and friend were there to help him!

The story flows well, and the transitions from person to person are easy to follow. Josi S. Kilpack does a great job of describing the scene without overdoing it. While reading, I felt like I had been transported back to the late 1700s. Each character sounds and feels different as you’re reading, so you don’t need to keep checking the beginning of the chapter to figure out which character you’re reading about. Reading this book definitely makes me want to go to Scotland and see where it all took place! It’s too bad we can’t all take a Readathon fieldtrip to Scotland; that would be so much fun! I thought this was a sweet love story and I enjoyed it. 

There is no profanity or violence in this book. There isn’t any “intimacy” either, except for some brief kissing and a few romantic moments. I love that it’s clean and you don’t need to worry about what the next page may hold! That’s definitely a benefit to reading the proper romances!

 
 Content Rating PG+

Rating: PG (There’s no profanity, violence, or “intimacy,” except for a few brief kisses and some romantic moments.)

Age Recommendation: YA and up (It is YA approved; girls will definitely enjoy it more than boys. My boys -15 and 13- would not enjoy this book, but girls will love it.)

Rated 3.5/5 

3.5 Star Rating

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

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack Beauty and Clockwork Beast by Nancy Campbell Allen  Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright
 
 

This post was first published on 1/20/17; updated on 3/1/18.

[Book Review] Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

[Book Review] Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians (Book #1) by Brandon Sanderson

I haven’t read anything else by Brandon Sanderson, but I think he has outdone himself with this book. Let me just say that I haven’t ever laughed out loud at a book like I did with this one! I am so excited to share with you my book review of  Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians! 
 

Blurb:

 “On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand in the mail, an inheritance from his lost parents. When it is immediately stolen, he learns that it is no ordinary bag of sand. With it, the evil Librarians who secretly rule the Hushlands–Librarian-controlled nations, such as the United States, Canada, and England–will finally overtake the Free Kingdoms as well. Alcatraz and his ragtag band of freedom fighters must stop them, once and for all.”
 

My Book Review:

 
One of my friends in my book group recommended this series to me about a year ago. I got them at the library for my son, but never had the chance to read them myself. I checked them out again for my daughter to read, and finally  read the first one. I have to say, this book is so much fun! The voice in the book is hilarious! It’s told in first person, and I don’t think I’ve read another book where the first person narrator has such an engaging, witty, and humorous voice. Alcatraz suddenly gets pulled into this crazy world of evil librarians and conspiracies. Even though he’s the supposed hero, the first words in the book are, “I am not a good person.”
 
This book is a (fictional) autobiography of Alcatraz. In it, he tells his life story. I love how he says in the book that the evil Librarians will advertise it as a fictional book (because they don’t want the truth out), but it’s really an autobiography. So fun! It is very well written, engaging, creative, imaginative, and humorous. Yes, there are some scary parts where Alcatraz, Bastille, Grandpa Smedry, and Sing are in grave danger and have to fight those evil Librarians, but the way they’re written makes it seem not so bad.
 
I love the idea of the different lenses (Want more info. on the lenses….read the book!). Did you know that there are actually more than seven continents on the earth? Those evil Librarians have gotten away with not teaching us about them. Hahaha!! I knew some of those librarians were secretly evil! Alcatraz is a great character. He’s definitely not perfect, but in the book that imperfection becomes his strength, which is a great lesson! I love the part about their different talents! Grandpa Smedry is awesome too. Bastille is a little rougher around the edges, but I liked her more as the book went on.
 
If you’re looking for a fun middle-grader/YA series (moms like it too), you’ve come to the right place! There are five books in this series. As a mom, I love finding series for my kids to read. It’s great because then I know I have five good books in a row for them to read. If you want to laugh and learn the secrets of the evil Librarians then you need to read this! The kids love it because of the humor and the adventure, and I loved it for the same reasons. It’s very creative, imaginative, and unique. I highly recommend this book! 
 

Content Rating PGRating: PG (There is no profanity and no “intimacy.” There is some violence with characters being tortured-it’s not too graphic, fighting with different weapons, and lots of stuff breaking. Of course there is a bad guy, and he’s a really good bad guy!!)

 

Age Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (It’s a great middle-grader/YA book!)

Rated 4/5 Stars

4 Star Rating

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Fablehaven book #1 by Brandon Mull Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1) by M.L. Forman  Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides
  
 
 
 

This post was first published on 12/23/16; updated on 2/27/18.