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.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Immortal Rules - Julie Kagawa

Release May 2012

Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I loved this book! I read the Twilight series along with my daughter when it came out. I admit to it being addicting, but the thought of sparkly vampires was a bit of a turn off. Julie Kagawa admits that she never imagined she'd write a vampire novel given the flood of vampire books to the market. Given that, I'm so glad her heart overruled her head on this one!

The Immortal Rules is the first novel in the Blood of Eden series. Allie Sekemoto lives in a new world, one devastated by a plague that killed her mother, many humans, and left vampires in reign. Registered humans participate in blood drawings to give their blood to the vampires, and in exchange receive food vouchers. Those who refuse to register live on the fringes of society and must barter, scavenge, and steal to survive. Allie is one of those living on the fringes. She loathes the vampires and wants nothing more than to rid the world of them.

There are also the vampire-zombie like creatures known as "the rabids," a result of the plague that hit. For these monsters, killing and eating human flesh is a primal urge. When Allie and her group are caught by rabids while scavenging outside of the "safe" zone, she is saved by a vampire. The problem is that she's now dying. She must choose between becoming a vampire or dying far too young. She's not ready to die, but living as a creature she despises won't be easy.

The Immortal Rules was everything I hoped for and more. Allie is a teen, but she has the strength of some of the best heroines in adult fiction. Nothing comes easy for her, and the decisions she faces are often unimaginable. Yet, despite this adult-like strength, she still has those child-like instincts that often put her in danger. The balance of youth and having to take on adult responsibilities was well blended.

This book is a little more gruesome than the Twilight books. There are the zombie-like vampire rabids who will tear things apart if they have the chance. Vampires are affected by sun. Humans are walking meals to many of the "monsters" in this new world. It's all portrayed with grim detail without being overly graphic. I liked that balance a lot. It had that touch of horror without straying far from the romantic quality of the storytelling.

As this is the first book in a series, things are left open. There's still far more to come with Allie, and I am extremely eager to find out what happens next!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jump Start: Windy Hollows - Neo Edmund

Released April 2012

Jump Start
Silver Dragon Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'm a huge proponent of Jump Start's educational materials. Over a decade ago, I was hired by a parenting blog to review children's computer games. I discovered Jump Start's programs back then and watched my children work their way through the games. Both of those children are now A students with GPA's of 3.9 or higher. I credit Jump Start for helping them along the way with games that were both educational and fun. The book series Jump Start has for children are equally beneficial.

Jump Start: Windy Hollows starts out as a graphic novel. A small group of children find themselves invited to a wizardry school where things start off on the wrong foot. They get lost, one is turned into a frog, and then they must solve a number of challenging problems if they're to get back home. Once the story is over, there are stickers and story pages children can use to tell their own stories or simply tap into artistic skills to create sticker art.

Windy Hollows really helps inspire children to make up new adventures for the children. It's a good way to tap into your child's creativity. I highly recommend this book. At just under $6, it's easily affordable.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Warmer World - Caroline Arnold

Released February 2012

Caroline Arnold

Book Review by Bob Walch

We know climate change is creating a warmer world. This picture book explains how various animals have had to adapt to survive and how that adaptation will have to continue if they want to avoid becoming extinct.

Some of the animals mentioned in the book include the Golden Toad of Costa Rica, the Arctic Red Fox,  both the Pocket and Pinyon Mouse, the Yellow-bellied Marmot found in the Rocky Mountains and the Loggerhead Turtle.

The effect of climate change on coral reefs, cold weather animals like Polar Bears, Walruses and Penguins, and various types of sea creatures is also touched upon by the author.

“Global warming will continue to change the world in which we live. By learning how plants and animals are responding to these changes, we can better understand what to expect in a future warmer world,” writes the author.  This simple picture book offers youngsters a simple look at what some of the negative effects of this warming trend on the animal world will be.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Artemis Fowl Book 1 & 2 - Eoin Colfer

Boxed Set Released 2010

Eoin Colfer

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

With the upcoming release of the new Artemis Fowl book, it's time to take a look back at the books that delight both juvenile, teen, and adult readers.

In this first book, Artemis Fowl, readers are introduced to Artemis Fowl. He's a bit of an anti-hero, sarcastic, and flippant. His mother remains in bed after his father disappears, and Artemis at age 12 keeps his father's business running with help of Butler, his bodyguard/father figure.

Artemis comes up with a plan to kidnap a fairy and hold it for ransom. With the help of a top secret fairy book, his plan may well come to fruition. He and Butler manage to capture a fairy, one Captain Holly Short, but that leads to Commander Root, Holly's superior, heading up a rescue mission.

The second book, The Arctic Incident, finds Artemis hunting for his father. He learns his father may have been kidnapped, so the kidnapper becomes the rescuer, something Holly Short finds amusing. While the fairies and elves figured they'd seen the last of Artemis, someone is selling human weapons to the goblins. They suspect it is Artemis, but when he's proven to be innocent, they ask for his and Butler's help in finding who is behind these misdeeds.

When my son was in middle school, he devoured Artemis Fowl books as fast as they could come out. This first book in the series has always been his favorite. My nephew, Orin, has been reading the books up preparation for July's release and I asked him for his opinion. He had this to say: "Fun, exhilarating, and suspenseful." He went on to say --some of this applies to books that come later in the series -- "Very interesting with demons, magic, mayhem, oh my!"

Realistically, I think what Orin says, says it all. If you're looking for a series packed with action, adventure, and a writing style that truly stands out, Eoin Colfer delivers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sad News: RIP Maurice Sendak

News just came out that Maurice Sendak passed away. I can't imagine people don't know who he is, but he wrote Where the Wild Things Are and my favorite that doesn't get as much attention - Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue.

I grew up on a steady diet of Sendak's books and he lived not too far from some of my relatives. We always got the latest book when it would come out.

RIP Mr. Sendak.

Otto the Book Bear - Katie Cleminson

Released January 2012

Katie Cleminson

Book Review by Bob Walch

Here’s a lovely story about a little bear who lives in books. Otto is happiest when children are reading his story but he also enjoys exploring when no one is around.

You see Otto has a secret. He can walk off the pages of his book. When he does so he reads other books and has all sorts of fun. But then one day, when Otto is out exploring, his book is boxed and sent away. Now what’s the little bear going to do without his book?

Otto decides to set off on a new, big adventure. But the outside world makes him feel very small and unwanted. Poor Otto is feeling pretty down but then he finds a big building called a library.

Suddenly his luck changes and he feels much better. Not only does he discover a lot of books but he makes a whole lot of new friends. Soon Otto feels appreciated and his life gets much, much better.

This clever story about a little bear will delight not only young children but adults. Once you meet Otto you’ll want to provide a warm, safe place for him on a bookshelf  in your home!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kingfisher Readers L1: Trains - Thea Feldman

Released May 2012

Kingfisher Books

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Here’s a sure fire way of getting a youngster interested in reading. Featuring color photos of real trains, this level one reader uses short sentences and a simple vocabulary to engage the child. Since it is all about trains, where they travel and who rides on them, this picture book will pique any little engineer’s curiosity and make him or her want to turn the pages.

Follow the “Note to Parents” on the inside front cover of the book for tips on how to engage your youngster in the reading process and soon he/she will be reading Trains aloud to you.

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors - Hena Khan

Released June 2012

Hena Khan

Chronicle Books

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors stands out as one of the more unique books I've read this year. There are many books regarding colors available for young children, but few cover colors like gold, silver, the orange that comes on a henna tattoo, or that really deep red found in many Asian and Middle Eastern fabrics, rugs, and tapestries.

Each color captures the culture of a Muslim family. There's the green Quran, the white Kufi, a blue Hijab, purple dolls at Eid, Mosques, Minarets, and more. Hena Khan's book becomes an excellent way to teach children about colors and another culture at the same time. Mehrodokht Amini's illustrations are beautiful works of art and will be enjoyed by both parent and child. If you want something different when teaching your child about colors, you won't go wrong with Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.