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, June 29, 2012

Freaks of the Heartland - Steve Niles

Released July 2012

Steve Niles
Dark Horse

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Trevor has watched after his younger brother for as long as he can remember. Now that his brother is six, Trevor overhears his cruel father stating that they never should have let the boy live. He rushes into action to save his brother. The thing is, he is not your average six-year-old boy. For whatever reason, women in their valley have given birth to monstrous children who grow to abnormal size.Trevor's brother is huge, and possesses strength that's unlike anything Trevor's ever encountered. As Trevor learns there are more like his brother out there, he decides to save them all.

The premise for Freaks of the Heartland is good, and the illustrations are amazing. My issue is that aspects of the story were never really explained. It's the author's choice in the end, but I was left wanting more. I really wanted to understand if it was something in the water, truly the work of the devil, or something else.

For that reason, what I started out thinking would be a hit, turned into a miss for me. It's not a bad book, but it left a lot of unanswered questions.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Zoo Borns - Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland

Released October 2010

Simon and Schuster

Book Review by Bob Walch

Everyone loves baby animals, which means this collection of over 15 new arrivals at various zoos and animal parks will be a hit with readers of all ages.

Since it is a board book, obviously the intended audience for this volume is much older than the animals pictured. Each selection offers a full page, color photo of the newborn plus a little accompanying text that gives the animal’s name and tells you something about it.

The selection includes an Asian elephant, a super adorable pygmy hippo, a scrappy ocelot and a spotted hyena pup resting on his mother’s head. The more exotic animals range from a fennee fox with huge ears, a wrinkled aardvark , a banded mongoose who asks “Do I look like trouble to you?” to a cuddly sifaka (monkey) and a wombat named Matari.

Not only are the photos in this book at big selling point but given the cost (under $10) it is also quite reasonable in price given how many pages of animals you’ll find here. Any toddler will love looking at this collection of “little ones” and I am pretty sure that the other members of the family won’t mind either!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Moonstone Series - Marilee Brothers

Released February 2012

Marilee Brothers
Bell Bridge Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The image above is for the first book in Marilee Brother's Moonstone Series. Moonstone is an amazing read and one that I fear many readers overlook, but it's one you definitely should hunt down.

In this series, teenager Allie Emerson discovers she has magic powers that allow her to manipulate objects. As the child of a teen mom, Allie hasn't had the easiest life. Her mentor, a woman many in town feel is a "witch," gives her a moonstone pendant knowing that Allie is destined to have it. The problem is there are a group of evil doers who will stop at nothing to get hold of the powers within the pendant. Allie must fight to save both herself and her mentor from harm.

The great thing about the Moonstone Series is that it keeps you hooked. I'd been saving the book to read on the beach during a vacation. I'm so glad I did. I couldn't put the books down. Allie is a tough cookie, and one who I feel is a heroine many teens will happily look up to. Her struggles are genuine, both on the magic front and on the romantic front as she has many teen males come into her life to protect her, but they can leave just as quickly leaving her to face real teen emotions of disappointment. I loved that aspect, and enjoyed how her character learned from both her mistakes and her strengths. 

The series continues in Moonrise, Moonspun, and Shadow Moon. You can read more about them here: Bell Bridge Books. And Amazon does have copies of all four books available.

Free Book from Kevin McGill

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Go Out and Play - Julianna Rose & Darrell Hammond

Released March 2012


Book Review by Bob Walch

If your child and his or her friends are complaining that they have nothing to do, this book may be the answer to your problems. You’ll find over seventy outdoor games described here that should make any youngster enjoy playtime again.

There are old favorites like Red Rover, Capture the Flag, Pickpocket Tag, and hopscotch plus well-known activities like Crab Soccer and a Frisbee game called Ring of Fire.

Each of the games is explained on a single page with a box indicating the number of players, appropriate age level, space needed and necessary materials.

With this book at your fingertips this summer you’ll be ready for that all too familiar question – “Mom, what can we do today?”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Eternity Code & The Opal Deception - Eoin Colfer

Released July 2009

Eoin Colfer

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

With the newest book in the Artemis Fowl series coming out in July, many readers are returning the other books in the series. The Eternity Code is the third book in the series. In this book, Artemis' father's been found and will soon be coming home. Artemis isn't pleased that his father seems to be a changed man who wants to focus on family more than business. With that, Artemis creates an amazing cube, it has the potential to change the world, and he's ready to sell it to the most notorious man of them all.

His price is unique, he will give Jon Spiro, leader of Fission Chips, a certain amount of time to sell his stocks and buy heavily into Fowl Industries. Spiro will not be outwitted by a teenager and instead steals the C Cube. This theft leaves Artemis' esteemed and trusted bodyguard, Butler, dead. With the help of Holly, a fairy policewoman, Artemis hopes to bring Butler back to life and retrieve the C Cube before Spiro's staff figure out the unique technology behind it.

In book four, The Opal Deception, Opal Koboi, a pixie who wanted to destroy the fairy police, is out of her coma and wants to see Artemis pay for stopping her dastardly plans. First, however, she plans to put an end to Captain Holly Short and her commander, Root. The problem is that Artemis's mind was erased by the fairies the last time he was with them. This poses new problems for Artemis and the fairy police who haven't forgotten about Artemis.

With both of these books, readers watch Artemis grow from the evil, cunning mastermind into a softer, almost gentler version. Then once his memories are erased, he's back to his misdeeds, only there's a touch of kindness he can't explain. The writing is still snappy, Artemis still has his sharp, sarcastic tongue, and the action keeps the story moving. If you enjoyed the first two books in the series, you're going to love catching up with Artemis in these next two books.

Beware the Ninja Weenies - David Lubar

Released June 2012

David Lubar

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Beware the Ninja Weenies is the latest in David Lubar's collection of weird, wacky, and sometimes horrific short stories for juvenile readers. Geared for ages 8 and up, the stories inside are sometimes humorous, sometimes true, and sometimes really creepy. I've enjoyed every book in the Weenies series, and this one is just as good.

There are 32 stories in this book. Favorites for me included Gorgonzola, a story about where the smelly cheese really comes from. Chipmunks Off the Old Block does paint chipmunks in a completely new fashion, maybe they are smarter than we know. Bedbugs is the story I found creepiest of all; what happens if too many bedbugs go on the attack?

Other stories include a Christmas wish gone awry in Christmas Carol. Smart Food demonstrates that maybe there is truth to the belief that plants feel pain. Catfishing in America portrays the little fish as more than just little fish.

The language and writing style is certain to please advancing readers. I always have a blast reading these books, and I'm certain children will love Beware the Ninja Weenies too.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Labyrinth - Thomas Weck & Peter Weck & Len DiSalvo

Released August 2012

Len DiSalvo
Lima Bear Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When Princess Belinda Bean's father decides to hand over his throne to his daughter, Mean 'ol Bean is not happy. He comes up with a dastardly plan to lure the new queen into a magic garden hidden away in a labyrinth. Once he lures her to the garden, he plans to leave here there forever. Will the small L. Joe Bean be able to save the queen from this impending doom?

The Labyrinth is part of the Lima Bear series by father and son team Thomas and Peter Weck. The story focuses on jealousy creating a great lesson for kids to learn. The story is engaging, some parts rhyme while others don't, and then certain works are highlighted. It wasn't until I reached the end of the book that I understood why some words appear in different colors or fonts.

The Lima Bear stories include an "Extend the Learning" and "Activities" section after the story. The authors focus attention on the G-sounds children find while reading. In this case, words like "garden" have the hard G, while others like "vegetable" have a soft G. This book helps children start to recognize the difference. Other activities and lessons help parents discuss the use of illustrations to capture the story, learning about wind and its effect, and a "design your own path" activity.

This really is an excellent story with colorful, enjoyable illustrations. Look for The Labyrinth this August.