Mystery of the Puzzle Bones

Mystery of the Puzzle Bones by T.A. Smith

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Jaydon, Caleb, Ethan, Brandon and Roscoe the dog have a great hideout, but someone is leaving a strange puzzle of bones in the Boardunders Clubhouse. Someone has found them and wants to lead them deeper into the sewers to a place that doesn’t want to be found and a people that would do anything to protect their secret. The danger becomes extreme when they are forced to run for their lives. Can they escape, and who can they trust to help?”

**Spoiler Alert!!!! But if you are a parent who has a child that wants to read this book, please read on.**

I was really excited to read this book. I have a ten year-old who reads so much I can’t keep up. I am out of ideas for him at the moment, and thought this sounded like a great book for him. I liked it at the beginning. The boys seemed nice, although I would have liked some more development with each character. I never really felt a connection to any of them. Jaydon was the best developed, but I digress. I know my son would love their hideout and was getting excited when they found the puzzle bones. Then it all went downhill. I was so sad. The kids go after the dog (I did like the dog) and find a secret doorway. This leads them down some rickety stairs (I liked it to here.) and into an underground shanty town filled with homeless people and fugitives. And most of these characters are scary and dangerous. They do not want to be found out, so they will kill these children. They find this little girl, who happened to be the one that left the bones, and she takes them to her dad, who isn’t too happy to see them. They run for their lives and manage to escape before this scary, dangerous, armed man comes after them. They go home. Then Caleb goes with his dad to the Rescue Mission (Caleb quotes scriptures and almost preaches to the other boys throughout the book, which I was fine with.) and takes Ethan with him. Inside the Rescue Mission they see a poster of the girl they found underground, and she has been kidnapped by her dad, and taken away from her mom. It gets worse. Ethan thinks they should save her, so he hides in a bag of blankets and goes back down into the shanty town to save her.

Okay. I loved the concept of this book. Kids with a secret hideout and finding lots of adventures is fun. I liked the bones mystery, I liked them exploring. But I really think that the content of an underground shanty town filled with fugitives and kidnapped children is too much for this age group. I do not want my ten year-old being scared that there are people living in our sewer system, I do not want him reading about children being kidnapped by their dads and hidden in deplorable conditions underground. This reminds me too much of a very adult book I reveiwed a while back called “The Liquid City” by Curtis Hopfenbeck that had a very similar situation and it was not child-friendly at all. Also, I do not want my child to think that he can solve problems like that on his own. Those children should have gone straight to their parents for help. Instead, they decided to put their lives in danger. Also, because of their actions, the town was cleared out by the time the police got there. The police could have taken in the fugitives and maybe helped some of the people living there if they had gotten there first. I would have loved it if the boys had found an underground fantasy world or aliens living underground, or even a homeless family that they could have helped. Unfortunately, I think this storyline is just too much for the 8-12 age group.

I usually do not read other reviews of books I review, but this time I wanted to see what other people said. I wanted to see if I was being over-sensitive. According to the other reviews, I am. The other reviews I read seemed fine with the content. So I asked around. I asked my husband and a few friends with kids in this age group, and they agreed with me. They, too, thought the storyline was too heavy for children this age. Therefore, it is up to you, as a parent , to decide what is best for your child.

Rating: PG-13 (Underground shanty town with fugitives, kidnapped children, armed men)

Recommendation: 16 years and up. I might even go older. It is up to the parent to decide for each individual child.

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I thank Media Guests and T.A. Smith for the opportunity to review this book. I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my review, but that does not sway my review. My reviews are all honest.

Inheritance (Book #4) by Christopher Paolini

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “It began with Eragon…It ends with Inheritance. Not so very long ago, Eragon–Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider–was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now, the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders. Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hop, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chance. The Rider and his dragon have come farther than anyone dared to imagine. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaesia? And if so, at what cost? This is the spellbinding conclusion to Christopher Paolini’s worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.”

I have been waiting for this book for what seems like forever! I loved the first three and could not wait for the last book. It’s long. It took me awhile to read, but I really enjoy Mr. Paolini’s writing style. He draws you in and keeps you there. I like that he uses some “bigger” words and makes you think a little more than other series might. I get so lost in his world. I feel attached to a lot of the characters, like Eragon and Saphira, Roran, Arya, Nasuada, and Orik. I even really like Murtagh, even though he is now sworn to Galbatorix. I just keep thinking that he’ll come around. Mr. Paolini has this way with his characters that makes you feel like you are their best friends. I get worried about them, happy for them, sad for them, etc.

At the beginning of the book I was really disappointed because I didn’t think Eragon was being true to himself (Mr. Paolini may have forgotten Eragon’s disposition in the first three books????). After his farm was burned and his uncle killed, Eragon was filled with anger and wanted revenge; however, he grew more into his new role and grew out of his blood thristy thoughts. He didn’t like the fighting. The sight of what the Ra’zac did to villagers made him ill. He fought only because he had to. At the beginning of this book Eragon just seemed like he enjoyed the fighting and the violence. He seemed to want it and even need it. Fortunately, Mr. Paolini saved it in the middle and end by bringing Eragon back to his true self.

By the middle of the book I was finally hooked. Eragon was back to normal, the storyline was filled with twists and turns and lots of tension, and I couldn’t read fast enough. I liked the way everything was shaping up. And then came the end. Ahhhhhhhh!!!! Really??? You draw us in, hook us, make us wait forever for this last book, and then this is how you end it??? 849 pages was not long enough….it needed another 100 pages at least to end it the right way. I was so mad. I would have thrown the book if it hadn’t been from the library. I still can’t believe he ended it that way. We, as readers and fans, don’t care about a good ending being predictable, we just want it to end the right way. Boo.

This book was quite graphic. There was some heavier language. There was also a very graphic  torture scene, which disturbed me. There is a lot of fighting and a lot of death. It is war, and it’s not pretty.

If you have read the first three books then I recommend reading this one. You need to read it for yourself. Maybe you’ll enjoy the ending…..Having said that…..I still think I would recommend the series because the first three are so good, but I was disappointed by the ending.

Rating: PG-13+ (War scenes, death, violence, torture scenes, language)

Recommendation: 14 or 15 and up. My 10 year-old really wants to read this series but I think it’s too much for him still. Especially this book. He’s going to be mad, but I’m not going to let him read it for a few more years.

Book Review of Does Change Have to be So Hard by Julie Donley, RN

Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? by Julie Donley, RN

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “What makes change so H.A.R.D.? we struggle to lose weight, change jobs, improve our relationships or our financial condition and even give up addictions. We succumb to our habits and accept a life of mediocrity, wishing it could be different and incessantly hoping for that magic solution. The reality is that we are creatures of habit and change can be uncomfortable. Change requires hard work, consistency and time. We perceive it as a chore and most of us just don’t want to work that hard. Yet, there have been times in your life when you have made great change and it has brought you to a much better place. You were willing to do whatever it took to achieve the outcome you desired and you did it! You succeeded.”

I really liked this book. Ms. Donley has overcome a lot of change in her life and she has some very good insights into making change easier. Her writing style is easy to read and understand, and she explains everything well. She definitely made me think I could make any change I wanted to! I really like how she talks about preparing ourselves for change. Sometimes we get frustrated because we keep saying we want to change but we don’t do it. Well, her advice is to not feel guilty about that because maybe we really aren’t ready yet. We need to take the time to prepare ourselves for change. We need to mull it over and when we are really ready we will do it! Sometimes the “ready” point comes by necessity like having a heart attack makes you eat healthier or a spouse passes away. Other changes though, like losing weight or giving up addictions, need time to prepare ourselves for. Ms. Donley’s acronyms are helpful in remembering her steps.

Some of the book is repetitive, but I think that can be good and helpful in a self-help book. Sometimes we need to hear things over and over before they finally sink in.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to change something in his or her life, which is most likely everyone. 🙂

Rating: G Good, clean reading!!

Recommendation: Middle school and up, just because I don’t think children really need to worry about it. It could help a middle school child who is dealing with major change, like a divorce.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free book in exchange for this review. That does not change my opinion, however, I am always honest in my reviews.

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.

Velwythe: Resurrection of the Mind by Bonn Turkington

(Summary taken from the back of the book) “His mother vanished. His father killed himself. Vaan, now 21, has no friends, no money, no family, and no hope. All his dreams have vanished. Unable to escape the horror of his own memories, his life has been in stasis. But with a bit of luck and  a bit of effort Vaan manages to make his first real friend since childhood. Duncan, a man who has watched the growing railline destroy his entire home city, was disowned after denying his birthright. Vaan and Duncan become fast friends with troubled pasts. Now, with Duncan’s help and the ‘encouragement’ of a local priest, Vaan decides his life has remained in a quagmire too long. Only by selling his house and everything he owns will he have a chance to become a wandering scholar. Every year around the FreePort Solstice Festival (and his birthday) Vaan has terrible nightmares of his father’s chronic pain. But the night before the festival Vaan has a dream unlike any before. He wakes up thinking he has gone blind–but it isn’t just that, he can feel something, something cold pawing at his head as though it is absorbing his very thoughts. After the horrible dream, leaving FreePort isn’t just about getting an education. Ellred, a local priest, tells Vaan there could be more to his non-dream than he could ever imagine. But the only way to figure any of it out is if Duncan agrees to travel with Vaan to the very place Duncan can never return. And on their way to Alpine, Vaan’s encounter with a small militia forces him to question his understanding of humanity and the very reality he thought to be true for so many years. But Velwythe is more than just the story of Vaan and Duncan. Visit Velwythe.com to explore the world Vaan and Duncan explore, participate in the story by communicating with the characters, vote on issues that will change not only the future books but the entire world and much, much more. No book world has been so complete and so accessible. Velwythe, not just a book, a whole new world.”

I did not read this synopsis before I started the book, and I probably should have. It took me awhile to get into the book, and I was just starting to enjoy it when, at page 198 (out of 308), I reached the Epilogue. Huh? Doesn’t the Epilogue usually come at the end of the book? I was just starting to like Vaan and Duncan and to care about what happened to them. I felt excited for Vaan’s future and what it might hold…..and then the book ended with over 100 pages left. I was really confused. The Epilogue went back to what happened in the Prologue and actually maybe answered some questions while asking some more. The rest of the book was a history of the land of Velwythe and descriptions of the different places there. It also described how to go to Velwythe.com and interact with the book there.

This is a very clever idea. I went to Velwythe.com and took a look around, and there is a lot to look at. I found it overwhelming and a bit confusing, but I bet with time it could be very interesting.  At the website you are able to read more about the history of the places in the book, and supposedly suggest ideas and write articles for the lands’ newspapers. Mr. Turkington has put a lot of effort into the site. I never found out where you go to add a city to the map or things like that, but it could be entertaining. Mr. Turkington will then take what happens online and add it to the following books.

It’s a very clever idea; however, it is not for me. I barely have enough time to read a book, so I definitely do not have time, or the interest, to explore an online world. I think it may be really good for a teenage boy (or girl) who loves to game online because it will tie reading into online interaction. At the same time, I’d much rather my children not interact online and just read…..but if it’s a way to get a child to read then it could be good. I did end up liking the story, but with all the other stuff I don’t think I’ll read the following books. I don’t know if I’ll let my children read it either, because my oldest is only ten, and although he could read the story just fine, I don’t want him spending time living in an online world.

The book is fairly well written. There are some typos, it is a little slow at the beginning, and a few places are a bit confusing, but overall it is well written and easy to read. Vaan’s character development is good, and I found Ellred intriguing. I liked Duncan and Jonas as well, and would have liked to learn more about them.

Rating: PG-13 (Violence, death, some scary creatures)

Recommendation: This is a hard one. I’m going to say 14 and up just because I think teenagers  may really like it, and it may pull them into reading. On the flip side, I don’t know if it’s healthy for younger children to get too involved with an online world.

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

Book Review of Gotcha Gas by Banak and Weimer

Gotcha Gas: Debacle Near Roswell by M.A. Banak and Bill Weimer

(Summary from the Introduction page) “For some people, the simplest explanation will never do. In July of 1947, a top-secret US Army weather balloon crashed near the town of Roswell, New Mexico. To locals arriving at the crash site, the flower-like designs on the reinforcing tape of the balloon (it was made in a toy factory) were interpreted as alien hieroglyphics. Initially, the US Army seemed to agree, but suddenly issued a retraction. Since then, numerous books, tabloid exposes and television shows have forged contradictory and convoluted accounts of this incident into an entire industry. Which is good. This way, the story of what happened in Gotcha, New Mexico, that July day will remain forgotten, but for a chosen few…”

This book is sold as an e-book. Unfortunately, I don’t have an e-reader. Fortunately, the authors were so nice that they actually printed me off a PDF copy. Mr. Banak asked me if I would review their book for them and, of course, I agreed.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story takes you from a normal day in today’s world back to 1947 in New Mexico. And the day you end up in is anything but normal!  In the story you see how one little situation can snowball into something completely out of control, and it is hard to watch (hard to watch in a cringe sort of way….because you can’t do anything to stop it). And it makes you wonder what really happened in Roswell…….

I have to admit, I got caught in the story and I enjoyed the ride! There are a lot of characters and it is somewhat confusing keeping them all straight, but in the end they all end up–sorry, not going to tell you, but it all comes together in the end. This story is fantastical and so when you begin reading you need to just sit back and enjoy the fun. Don’t get caught up in everything that couldn’t possibly happen, just let the book take you for an entertaining ride. And don’t let the title scare you away. Gotcha is the name of the city, and there is a gas station nearby. That is all you need to know.

I enjoyed this book.  It is very different from what I have been reading, and it was a fun change of pace. I would recommend it. The writing style can be a bit confusing at times, but it’s not hard to get right back on track. Mr. Banak and Mr. Weimer have big imaginations and the story has so many twists and turns you have to hold on tight so you don’t go flying!

Rating: PG (No language or “physical intimacy” scenes. There is no real violence, just pure craziness.)

Recommenation: 12 and up. Not because of anything bad, just because I know my ten year-old doesn’t have a clue about Roswell, New Mexico or Area 51, and I know he doesn’t know what a deed is. I think at 12 years-old it will be easier to understand. I think this age group will really enjoy this book.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book in return for this review. That, however, does not sway me to give a positive review. I always give my honest opinion.

The Ruin

The Ruin by Kenneth Fenter

(Summary taken from the last page of the book) “Kenneth Fenter’s The Ruin is part coming-of-age novel, part Robinson Crusoe, part history lesson, and wholly deserving of an audience of both adults and teenagers. The novel follows Clifton Kelly, a bullied 8th grader in the early 50’s, and him as an adult celebrating his last day of teaching. Cliff’s retirement day turns tragic when a fellow teacher is murdered by her own son, who then goes to Cliff’s sister school and kills students there. The boy’s bloody response to bullying triggers Cliff’s memories of being bullied during school, and his own response to it.”

I really liked this story. It isn’t a really fast read, but it is thought-provoking and interesting. It kept me reading. I liked the characters in the book and thought they were well developed. They were believable and I felt I could relate to many of them. I think almost everyone has dealt with bullying on some level, and so the scenes with Cliff and Hector will relate to a lot of people. I could relate to Mrs. Campbell as a teacher, and as a mother I could relate to Cliff’s mother.

I had mixed emotions with Cliff’s reaction to Hector’s bullying. From Cliff’s standpoint I see it as a good thing for him. I see how he needed to heal, and how he was able to. From a teacher’s standpoint I would think of myself as a failure for not doing more to help the situation. From Cliff’s mom’s point of view I was furious with him. I could not believe he did that! If one of my children did that I would be furious! I would also be upset with myself for not doing more to prevent the situation to begin with. I felt so bad for her the entire time.

I liked the descriptions in this book. Not being familiar with the area, I needed a lot of description, and that is what I got. Mr. Fenter’s descriptive language is beautiful. His descriptions of Cliff’s daily activities were so vivid I felt as if I were watching the story through binoculars.

I did have one problem with this book and that was all the typos. There were a lot of typos in the book and it really bothered me. There were some sentences that I just had to guess on. Hopefully he will fix that for future editions. Other than that and a few swear words, I really enjoyed this book.

Rating: PG-13 (Some language, a high school shooting with a teacher and students dead, details about Santa Claus that younger readers may not know, and details about surviving in the wild.)

Recommendation: 14 or 15 and up. I think by this age teens will be able to learn from the story, read it, and enjoy it, without being overwhelmed.

Summer Fit

Summer Fit (www.summerfitlearning.com)

(Summary taken from the back book cover.) “Keeping brains thinking & bodies active during school breaks is entertaining and engaging with Summer Fit workbooks and online games and activities. Created by educators, fitness trainers, and parents, Summer Fit activities focus on key areas of child development, including academics, physical fitness, and core values. Right now it might feel like a million years away, but the first day of the new school year will be soon upon us. With Summer Fit, your child will take a seat better prepared to handle the mental, physical and social challenges of the new school year.”

I have the K-1 Summer Fit book and I’m very impressed. You may not know it, but I have my degree in elementary education, so I was very interested in these books. Last summer I drove my kids crazy because every day they had 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of homework. I spent a lot of time on the Internet searching for the correct math problems and reading activities for my kids to do. They learned a lot and did great, but it took a lot of effort on my part. This book makes it easy! All I have to do is buy a book (I haven’t seen the older books so I’m hoping I won’t have to supplement.).

This is a great idea. Why didn’t I think of it??? The summer is broken down into weeks and then days. There is a page for each day of summer (I haven’t counted, but it’s got to be really close.). On this page there are some brain activities like math problems or reading activities. There are also some physical activities. The kids not only have to exercise their brains but their bodies as well. There are cardio and strength exercises that switch off. There are lots of ideas and there are more online as well. Then each week there is a value. The first one in this book is Honesty. There is a picture of Abraham Lincoln and it discusses his nickname “Honest Abe.” It talks about how honesty is important and why. I hope the values are the same in each book so it will be easier to discuss with my kids all at once, but I’m not sure. For each week there is a certificate to complete when the child finishes the weekly activities and there is an incentive. The incentive could be whatever you want. It could be a treat, but it could also be a trip to a local museum or a picnic at the park, or a family game of kickball in the backyard. I love this! There are also a lot of activities, games, and more challenging work pages online.

As a teacher I would definitely recommend these books to parents, and as a parent I am so glad that I don’t have to do all the work this summer! I love that it is not just for the brain, but for the body as well, and I love that it allows me to have fun with the kids while they are learning. I have the K-1 book but now I need the 2-3 and the 3-4 books as well!

Miracle Pill

Miracle Pill by Tres Prier Hatch

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Television and restaurant chef Tres Hatch lost 110 pounds without dieting. This bonafide “foodie” shares the ’10 Truths’ she learned during the process of changing herself from a person who battled her weight to someone in harmony with her body–without sacrificing her love for yummy food.”

Since I just reviewed “Turbocharged” I was interested to see the difference in the two books. And, wow, what a difference! They are completely different! “Turbocharged” asks you to give up grains, dairy, and sweets for the rest of your life. I knew I couldn’t do that. “Miracle Pill” teaches moderation and compensation. Ms. Hatch has a fun style of writing. It is very easy to read and understand, and it is filled with personal anecdotes. I really like the concept of this book. Ms. Hatch teaches a lifestyle and thought change. If you want to eat Thanksgiving dinner, she says, then go ahead. Then the next day cut out sweets and carbs and eat mostly fruit and veggies. If you want a bagel for breakfast, go ahead, but then maybe don’t have a roll at dinner. She teaches you to look at the food you eat and recognize what you still need to eat (more whole grains, more fruit, more veggies) or what you have had enough of (I don’t need to eat another grain because I had toast at breakfast, etc.). I like it because it is more me. I can do this. I can add more fruits and veggies (which I did say I could also do after I read “Turbocharged”) to the meals I make, and I can help my family be more healthy. Her focus is being healthy for the rest of your life.

Ms. Hatch also has a great idea with exercise. Moderation. She says all you need is moderate exercise 5 days a week, for 30-50 minutes. She walks and then will add a short jog in the middle of her walk. She asks you to make sure that your exercise program is something you will be able to do until you are 80!!

I really like that this book is easy to follow and do. She gives a lot of examples and even has some good recipes at the back of the book. She makes this more into a workbook giving places to fill in answers and write goals and steps down. It’s not just about losing weight, it’s about being healthy. And, she even suggests you have one treat a day!!! That’s the best part! I think this is more my style and will definitely be implementing this in my life and with my family.

Rating: G It’s family friendly and clean!

Recommendation: Late middle school and up, unless the entire family is reading it and implementing it together. I don’t like stressing younger kids out about their weight, unless they are truly obese and need to take efforts now. This book isn’t just about weight though, it is about being healthy. It is great for the entire family to do together!

Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours, but still. Normal. Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie’s dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. So much for normal.”

After reading “Rebecca” I really needed something lighter and more fun, and this definitely fit the bill. I started with hesitation because a friend had told me she hadn’t liked it, but I found it a surprisingly fun, easy, and quick read. I really liked the characters, especially Evie and Lend, and I felt like they were well-developed. It only took me a few hours to read, which was really nice, and I thought Ms. White did a good job with the story line. It had some fun twists and turns and everything you could want: action, romance, good vs. evil, and a mixture of every kind of mythical creature. It had some hints of “Twilight” and “Fablehaven” yet held its own. I did like the previous two books better, and think they are slightly better written, but this was easy and fun. I would recommend it if you want to read something that is easy and entertaining. I loved that it was completley clean! There wasn’t any language and no “physical intimacy.” There was some death of creatures and some violence associated with that, but there are commercials that have more violence than this book, so it’s easy to recommend.

Rating: PG-13 (A few characters die and there is some minor violence associated with that. A faerie does kidnap Evie at one point and that scene is a little distressing, but she is able to get out of it okay. There is some kissing, but it’s early teen-age kissing so it doesn’t go further than that.)

Recommendation: 14-15 years and up. I think it’s fine for mid-teens. I think girls would like it more than boys, but you never know. It may even be okay for a mature 13 year-old.