Note to Readers

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or print copy of the book. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer - Jane Moore Howe

Released September 2000

Patria Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

It's quite likely your child has heard tales of Amelia Earhart's disappearance following her attempt to fly around the world. Thanks to the Young Patriots Series' Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer, children will get a glimpse into her childhood and what led to her fascination with flight.

The novel covers Amelia's life before she became a female pilot. Details regarding her upbringing in her grandparents' home and her introduction to airplanes is shared. All of this is done so in a manner that children will appreciate. The vocabulary isn't too challenging, and when a tougher word is introduced there is a glossary of terms. There's also a timeline of Earhart's life and a brief snippet into the mystery regarding her disappearance.

The Young Patriots Series makes learning history fun. I highly recomend this and other books in this series to children with a growing interest in American history.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

George Rogers Clark: Boy of the Northwest Frontier - Katharine E. Wilkie

Released March 2004

Patria Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Learn more about George Rogers Clark, older brother of William Clark of the famed duo Lewis & Clark. In this volume of the Young Patriots Series, children find out about George Clark's childhood and early adult years. They'll find out why he left school, what he opted to learn instead, and what led him to become a famous military man during the Battle of Vincennes.

This entry into the Young Patriots Series is again told with a simple ease that children will enjoy. The stories capture the time and personalities of may famous historical figures. The books are easy for advancing readers, but the inclusion of illustrations by Cathy Morrison will appeal to those children who still enjoy looking at pictures. The novel ends with a timeline of George Rogers Clark: Boy of the Northwest Frontier's life and accomplishments, as well as a glossary of terms.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

Released April 2012

Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

One of the first things that came to mind when reading Grave Mercy, the first book in the new His Fair Assassin trilogy, is that this is the meatiest young adult novel I've come across. Historical details blend with the action-packed plot to create a book that is both hard to put down and will keep you reading for days. With well over 500 pages, this isn't a book you'll rush through and feel disappointed that it ended before it really began.

Ismae, a seventeen year old, is forced into marriage by her cruel father. Her new husband is both much older and no better than her father. On their marriage night, he's insisting on bedding his new wife and Ismae's not looking forward to this encounter. When he spies the mark she carries, a mark revealing she is the daughter of Death, he locks her in a root cellar and insists he's going to bring a real priest who will burn or drown her. Ismae never expects to be rescued and whisked away to the Convent of St. Mortain where she is trained to become one of Death's assassins.

Her new role as an assassin begins with a challenging assignment. She accompanies Gavriel Duval, half-brother to the Duchess of Brittany, into the world of the nobility. Ismae must find the person close to Anne Duval who is truly a traitor, and suspicions are that Gavriel may be that traitor. This assignment finds Ismae falling for Gavriel and realizing she may well have to kill the man she loves.

The story is set in the late 1400s when the Duke signed the Treaty of Sable that included terms stating the King of France would have final say in who his daughters married. This historical fact plays an important part in the novel. Fictional characters blend with the real figures from that period. For those who dislike reading historical fiction, the book does contain a lot of historical details. While this may turn some readers off, I found it created the perfect setting for Ismae's story. The setting and backstory bring the story to life.

Ismae and Gavriel are an outstanding couple. Both are strong, passionate, and determined to do their job to the best of their abilities. While this has them butting heads, it also helps create strong romantic sparks. Fans of romance will love that aspect.

Some are saying Grave Mercy is more suitable for adults than teens. I don't agree. Adults will love the story, especially fans of historical romances. Teens will also find a lot to enjoy. Ismae is a teen and life in her time period was different, but historically that's true and most teens know that women didn't have the same rights they do today. There is some sexual content and some violence, but nothing today's teens don't hear about on the news. Given that, I think what's most important is that teens will have the chance to learn about the politics and culture of the 1400s. I hated history in high school, and often say had teachers taught the class through fictional stories laced with historical details rather than text books, I would have excelled.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pirates - Philip Steele

Released March 2012

Philip Steele
Kingfisher Books

Book Review by Robert Walch

Featuring longer sentences, a more sophisticated vocabulary and fact boxes, this level 4 reader will appeal to any reader who loves pirates. There is material here on what type of individuals became pirates, what life at sea was like and which ports provided a safe haven for a pirate.

Of course there’s a section on treasure and also information on pirates’ “terrible deeds” plus who hunted pirates and how the buccaneers were punished when captured. 

Philip Steele's Pirates will be very appealing to a “reluctant reader” who may not be too interested in other subjects. The illustrations are excellent and there’s lot of information here to hold the youngster’s attention. Use this book to pique the child’s interest and then move on to more detailed books on the same subject.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Breaking Beautiful - Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Released April 24, 2012

Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Walker Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Following a car accident, Allie can't remember more than scattered details about the events leading up to her boyfriend's death. Scarred and depressed, Allie struggles to move on with her life. Returning to school is challenging, especially when most of the class seems to be blaming her for Trip's death. Some students even go as far as calling her a murderer, but they don't know the half of it...

Breaking Beautiful is a tragic story that really drew me in. The reader is made aware of certain facts long before other characters in the book. Trip was very abusive, and Allie has the scars to prove it. As Allie works to remember everything that happened that night, the reader wonders just what exactly did Trip do to Allie. With the help of her new boyfriend, an outcast named Blake, Allie learns that sometimes you really do need to know who your true friends are.

 I'd love to think every teen will read this book and learn something from it. I remember having a friend who was in an abusive relationship junior and senior year. No one stood up to help her, and she ended up marrying him by the end of senior year. It's that type of situation that this book addresses. I do hope my friend got out, but I admit I have no idea.

If you're looking for an emotionally charged romance/mystery, Breaking Beautiful really delivers. I think it's one of the top five young adult novels I've read this year.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

Released August 2010

Suzanne Collins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

There's one good thing about reading the Hunger Games series far after its original release. I was able to read all three books in the span of five days. I didn't have to wait months for the next installment. However, I'm sad it's over.

Mockingjay is the third book in this popular series. Again, there will be spoilers if you haven't read the previous two novels.

Katniss wakes up to learn that she wasn't killed in the arena, a blast opened the secured perimeter allowing rebels to rescue her. They want her to lead the country in a revolt against President Snow. Gale and Katniss's mother and sister are with her, but Peeta was captured by the Capitol and is being held. Watching him on brief video snippets pleading with her to stop the rebellion is almost more than Katniss can bear.

As she battles with her feelings towards Peeta and Gale, Katniss must decide if she has the power left to fight once more to try to defeat Snow. Along the way, she starts to learn truths about herself and the world around her.

I wasn't expecting Mockingjay to leave me feeling so shattered. Katniss, a fictional character, is the one who should be weary, yet I found my emotions bouncing all over the place through Mockingjay. I liked both Peeta and Gale, so knowing Katniss had to choose one never pleased me, though deep down I knew who I felt was best for her. As I continued reading hoping she'd choose who I wanted, I was drawn into her battles emotionally and physically. When all was said and done, and I'm not going to spoil this, but I had tears rolling down my face and immediately went into the "what ifs..."

It's a powerful ending to a powerful series. If you haven't read it and like stories involving the apocalypse, you'll love it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

Released September 2009

Suzanne Collins


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll start by saying that if you haven't read Suzanne Colllins' Hunger Games, stop reading this review. It's going to contain spoilers to the first book.

Catching Fire picks up where the Hunger Games ended.  Katniss and Peeta won the games by threatening to eat poisonous berries, and President Snow isn't happy with their rebellion. He visits Katniss and tells her that her family's life, as well as the lives of her best friend Gale and his family, are at stake if Katniss doesn't convince everyone that she and Peeta are truly in love and plan to live happily ever after.

When the couple's tour around Panem leads to a few riots, Katniss begins to realize that she may not have any control what the citizens of Panem do, and that's not making President Snow happy at all.

Catching Fire takes a closer look at the twelve districts, the people in them, and the structure of the country. For teens who like a romantic angle, that is clearly at play in the book because Katniss does have feelings for both Peeta and Gale, and that leaves her torn on how to keep up the ruse that she and Peeta are in love.

I had friends tell me the pace of Catching Fire was much slower. I didn't really find it to be slow. I was just as riveted to the story and couldn't stop reading. It was a one-sitting novel for me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Released July 2010 (Reissue)

Suzanne Collins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

North America no longer exists as we know it today. Instead, the nation of Panem consists of a dozen districts and the Capitol. To punish citizens for an act of rebellion that led to the destruction of a thirteenth district, every year, a boy and girl from each district are forced to be part of "The Hunger Games." This event pits boy against girl and district against district in an no-holds barred battle of survival. The last person standing is the winner.

When Katniss Everdeen's younger sister is chosen as this year's female competitor for District 12, Kat volunteers to go in her place. Kat hopes her hunting skills have what it takes to survive in an arena where contestants must battle to save their lives.

I've heard lots about The Hunger Games over the years, but I've never read Suzanne Collins' trilogy. All of the clamor to see the movies made me pick up a copy of the first book to see what the buzz is all about. I really wish I'd read the first novel years ago. It's an edge-of-your-seat read that has you rooting for Kat from the very start.

There's a dose of romance, lots of brutality, and a riveting plot that holds the reader in suspense. I'm still not sure I'll rush out to see the movie. I've heard it's not anywhere near as good as the book. What I do know is that I'm now eager to sit down and read the other two books ASAP. It's that good.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit - Chris Van Dusen

Released February 2012

Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

Randy Riley likes space, robots, and baseball. Unfortunately, he’s a much better scientist than baseball player, but that works to everyone’s advantage in this humorous picture book.

When a fireball from outer space endangers Randy’s hometown, the youngster uses his science ability and know-how on building robots to create a hulking creature that will step up to the plate and save everyone.

Although he might never hit a home run with a regulation bat in his hands, Randy puts one over the fence with his robot. This delightful story will also be a big hit with any child who loves baseball but perhaps will not be a candidate for the All Star Team.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Frederick Douglass: Young Defender of Human Rights - Elisabeth P. Myers

Released January 2007

Patria Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I hated history as a child and teen. Everything was read from a textbook creating no spark or interest in the bland material. It wasn't until I reached my adult years that I discovered there are some fantastic books involving historical characters that really draw you into the past. Frederick Douglass: Young Defender of Human Rights is one of those books.

Part of the Young Patriots Series, the book doesn't cover Douglass' adult years. Instead, it introduces him as a child and details what shaped him into the man he'd later become. It's written on a level that children will understand and, as much as is possible, empathize with him. It details slavery from a very personal level and teaches something far more valuable than any textbook can teach by using emotion. It's easier to learn when emotions are involved and you become passionate about the subject.

If you or your child wants to learn more about slavery from Douglass' point of view as a child, this is a must-read. There's a glossary of terms in the back to help with words the reader may not know. There is also a timeline of Douglass' life. There are also some illustrations by Cathy Morrison scattered throughout this book.