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, October 31, 2012

School Struggles - Dr. Richard Selznick

Released August 2012

Dr. Richard Selznick
Sentient Publications

Book Review by Jen Beams

One of the largest controversies we face today results from the question of; how much help do we need to give our children? At what point do parents step in? When should a child see a psychologist? If a child refuses to learn, is there something wrong with that child? Why can’t he or she just focus in class? Dr. Richard Selznick gives opinions on all of these questions in his book School Struggles.

At first glance, the book appears to be mostly generalizations and broad categories of good kids and bad kids. Dig a little deeper and you find a plea to parents to take action in their child’s learning, for teachers to individualize learning, for each child to be watched carefully so that they do not fall in the “cracks” of our educational system. He gives examples of real situations and snap shots of parents’ and children’s minds. He tells the reader exactly what to take away from the reading, providing for easy summarized reading, perfect for the busy parent or teacher.

As an education student, I highly recommend School Struggles to any parent and every teacher. It gives a solid look into the minds of children with diagnosed disorders, disabilities, and even those who are considered “average.” One solution, though it may work for some, does not work for all. He outlines the “cracks in the foundation” of our education system. Education is worked too much like a machine, where
children fit a specific mold and are treated as such. Where testing is the best and only way to determine intelligence, which is defined only by academic skill, and learning of social skills is a responsibility left to the children.

All of the great educational theorists I’ve read about, all of the text books I’ve been assigned to study agree with Dr. Selznick that we need to individualize learning, and we need to treat our children with respect and care in order for them to learn and develop. Dr. Selznick puts it into a language and organization that is
quick and easy reading, yet chuck full of knowledge, experience, and helpful insight.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Little Witch - Jenny Arthur

Released July 2012

Pan MacMillan

Book Review by Bob Walch

Here’s a fun board book for you little Trick  n’ Treater.  Little Witch is collecting some icky things to pop into her cauldron so that she can say some magic words and conjure up a new friend. 

In go some sticky cobwebs, a bit of orange monster hair, and some slippery, snail slime.  Then Little Witch works her magic and out of the pot jumps a surprise…her new friend!  Naturally, I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what it is but it fits the season perfectly!

What makes this book even more special is the  spooky sound” button that you’ll find as part of the cover. Press the button and you’ll hear the Little Witch cackle. Kids will love it although mom and dad may want to scream after hearing it over, and over, and over again!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry

Released August 2012

Katie McGarry

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In Pushing the Limits, Echo and Noah come from completely different backgrounds, have little in common, and certainly don't run in the same circles at school. Yet, they're about to be thrown together and that brings tremendous change to their lives. Echo needs the money and Noah needs a tutor, so the school counselor pairs them together not realizing that they will develop feelings for each other.

Echo can't remember the events that left her scarred and the talk of the school. All she knows is that there's a restraining order against her mother, that the scars that run all over her back and up and down her arms were caused by her mother, and that her father married her babysitter and they're expecting a baby. It's a lot of upheaval in Echo's life. The counselor working with her is slowly helping her remember the exact events of the day.

Noah's parents died in a fire and he'd do anything to win custody of his younger brothers. The first foster home Noah was in led to a bit of a problem. When the father abused his son, Noah wouldn't stand for it and attacked him. That led to Noah developing a "bad boy" reputation. He's convinced his brothers are going to be in jeopardy at their own foster home, and he wants to rescue them. To win custody, however, he must prove he's changed, earn his diploma, and find a stable job and home. He never expects to fall for Echo, yet that's exactly what he does.

There's a bit of a Romeo and Juliet feel to this story, but without the suicide angle. Echo is under pressure from her friends to not date the pot-head bad boy, and Noah is just as pressured not to date the upper-crust, weirdo who suddenly wears long sleeves all the time. This leads to a lot of conflict, and I enjoyed watching the two of them give the proverbial finger to anyone who dared say they shouldn't be together.

 I did really enjoy this story. Granted, I'm looking it from an adult perspective and know how few high school romances survive. I like the honesty the author put into it with both Noah and Echo taking one day at a time. I never expected the emotional impact the book presented, but it did and Katie McGarry did it well. I cried when Noah fought to get his brothers or when Echo struggled to remember what her mother did. I found the writing to be very powerful and romantic, something I would have adored as a teen.

The story is told in alternating perspectives - Noah and Echo. The switches work well and it's always clear who is speaking. It gives better insight into the characters thoughts. Sometimes changing perspectives throw me off, but these changes are done well and made the story complete.

This is a great teen romance and one I am so glad I read. With Pushing the Limits, I think Katie McGarry has outdone herself.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tap Out - Eric Devine

Released September 2012

Eric Devine
Running Press Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Quite honestly, it's hard not to read the first sentence of Tap Out and find yourself hooked. This isn't a glossed over coming of age, it's gritty, poignant, and often very challenging emotionally. It's an amazing story that draws you into one boy's life and holds you captive.

For as long as he can remember, Tony Antioch's watched his mother move from one abusive relationship to another. She makes no effort to improve things, and Tony's fed up. He refuses to sink to her abuser's level and he's not really sure he has what it takes to battle the abusers, though his anger might certainly make him a worthy opponent when his mom's latest shows up drunk and angry yet again.

Soon, Tony ends up attending one of his friend's mixed martial arts classes and finds he's pretty good. As he hones his skills, a drug dealing biker gang also moves in to recruit as many locals as possible. Between them and his trailer park lifestyle, Tony has an awful lot on his mind and most important is that it's time to change his life.

Tap Out can be violent, but there's no way to honestly tell Tony's story without some blood and gore. The realism in this book catches your attention, and it's impossible not to root for Tony along the way. Thankfully, I didn't grow up in that kind of setting, but I know people who did and life was never easy for them. If you're looking for a book that really stands out, Eric Devine's latest delivers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fog - Caroline B. Cooney

Released August 2012

Caroline B. Cooney
Open Road Media

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When it comes time for high school, students from Burning Fog Isle must move from their island homes to the mainland. Christina, Benjamin, Michael, and Anya set off to start school, and this means moving into the Schooner Inne, a bed and breakfast with an eerie past. Captain Shevvington built the house on the cliffs and lived there happily until his wife committed suicide. The school principal and his wife, relatives of the sea captain, own the inn now. When Anya starts acting crazy, Christina fears that the Shevvington's may be more than they appear. She fears they are behind Anya's destructive behavior, and she may be the only person who can stop them.

Set in Maine, a place I know and love, Fog certainly offers a creepy tale that captures the coastline's beauty, power, and mystique. There is bit of a Stephen King quality to this book, but it's not so creepy that pre-teens won't be able to handle the matter. I actually found myself thinking of the thrillers I grew up reading by Lois Duncan. It had that same creepiness that wasn't over the top. There's also the battle of good versus evil that most teens will be able to relate to.

It is important to note that this is not a new series. The "Losing Christina" series was actually released in 2001 by Scholastic books. The titles of those books were Losing Christina: Fog, Losing Christina: The Snow, and Losing Christina: Fire.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MoshiMoshiKawaii: Strawberry Princess Moshi’s Activity Book - Mind Wave

Released August 2012

Candlewick Press

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This inexpensive little activity book is ideal for parents traveling or for grandparents expecting a visit from a granddaughter or grandson. Featuring the popular Strawberry Moshi and her friends, the book offers over twenty pages of activities, such as search and find games, coloring sections, spot the difference pages, mazes, connect the dots drawings and much, much more.

There are also twenty reusable stickers of Moshi which are fun to play with but do present a choking hazard for youngsters who still like to place small items in their mouths.

Purchase a small box of colored pencils to be used with this book and you’ll be ready to offer a diversion for your child when one is needed, like on a long trip, during an airport wait, or on a rainy day.   

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ivy & Bean Make the Rules - Annie Barrows

Released September 2012

Annie Barrows
Sophie Blackall
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

As the ninth book in the Ivy & Bean series, Ivy & Bean Make the Rules is another fun glimpse into the lives of these two young girls. Bean's older sister gets to attend Girl Power 4-Ever Camp, and Bean is certainly jealous, but she's not about to show it. Instead, Ivy & Bean decide to form their own camp in Monkey Park - Camp Flaming Arrow. With plans to hang out and make their own rules, Ivy and Bean decide to make their camp the best camp ever.

Many kids in the 8 to 10 age group will appreciate all that Ivy and Bean do in this latest book. They get into a little trouble, but nothing too bad, and have so much fun. It's an involving story, one that many beginning readers will enjoy. While most boys tend to shy from books that clearly focus on girls, I think there are aspects in this book that will truly appeal to boys too. In fact, I can see many kids deciding to start their own games of Zombie or Komodo Dragons.

This is not a challenging read, but it's not a simple book either. It's the perfect step up for children who are ready to advance beyond picture books, but who still like to have some illustrations in their reading material. At just over 100 pages, it's a longer book with vocabulary that fits perfectly into a child's mindset.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Life Cycles: Polar Lands - Sean Callery

Released October 30, 2012

Sean Callery

Book Review by Bob Walch

Part of the “Discover Earth’s Ecosystems” series, this picture book looks at both the Arctic and Antarctic. The book looks at the life cycles of eleven animals and how they live, reproduce and how they are link with one another and other creatures/plants in the food chain.

The well illustrated double page spreads focus on the hermit crab, Arctic tern, Arctic fox, polar bear, krill, Antarctic silverfish, penguin, skua, herring, seal and the Arctic wolf.

The back of the book also features a helpful glossary and “An Arctic food web” which shows how the food chain works. Each section contains a “Did you know?” box where you’ll find some really interesting facts. For example, you’ll discover that the silver scales of herring reflect light, thus making it difficult for predators to pick out any single fish in a school.

This is a nice way of introducing your readers to nature and some of the creatures that exist in various areas of the planet. Although there is not a lot of information here, there is enough to whet the youngster’s curiosity and hopefully make him or her want to go to a more detailed text for more detailed material. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Education of Queenie McBride - Lyndsey D'Arcangelo

Released July 2012

Lyndsey D'Arcangelo
Publishing Syndicate

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Education of Queenie McBride takes a close look at a problem plaguing many teens. Queenie is starting her first year of college and not doing well. Used to a life of floating by on her parents' money, Queenie is now responsible for herself. When her professor dares suggest she's insecure, he hits a little closer to home than Queenie wants. Taking a walk along the streets in Boston, she never imagines her life is about to change.

While out walking, Queenie comes across a homeless 14 year old. Pudge lived happily with her parents until she announced she was gay. Kicked out of her home with no where to go, Pudge now survives on the street bouncing from a local shelter to simply sleeping on the streets while begging for change or food. Queenie can't turn her back on this teen and makes a huge effort to help Pudge and bring awareness to the number of homeless teens who were kicked out of their home for "being" gay.

While I have a hard time understanding how any parent can kick their child out of a home for something so trivial, I do know it happens. A high school friend moved miles from his home to live with his aunt and uncle after his parents kicked him out because of his sexual orientation. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 26% of teens report they were kicked out of their home after coming out, and many shelters are supported by churches, and therefore the teens don't get the support there either. It's a situation more people should be aware of.

In this book, Queenie is forced to grow up quickly. I loved watching her progress from a somewhat bewildered teen to a woman who learns to take control of her life and actions. From beginning to end, the book captured my attention and had me shedding a few tears along the way.

The Education of Queenie McBride isn't a long book. It's just over 100 pages, so it doesn't take much time to read at all. It's the perfect novel for a rainy afternoon or space filler between appointments or chores.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Giant Pencil - Connor Wilson

Released August 2012

Connor Wilson
Alyssa Machette
Weaving Dreams Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A Giant Pencil is written by young Connor Wilson, a boy who started the story at age eight and finished it within a year. It's refreshing having a story about the troubles kids face told from the viewpoint of a child.

I'll start by saying I love the premise in A Giant Pencil. A boy is sick of his siblings, the bulllies at school, and his bossy parents, so when he finds a giant pencil in the woods, he takes it home and puts it to use. Unfortunately, once he's rid himself of all the annoyances in his life, he comes to the startling revelation that he hates being alone even more. He must figure out a way to get back to the life he now misses.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, certainly appealing to the younger crowd. I can see children becoming inspired by the childlike drawings and wanting to create their own.

My one reservation is the age group that's listed as the target reading age, I would change that. In this area, picture books are a thing of the past by third grade. Children move on to longer books, like the Magic Tree House series in third grade, and by the time they're 12, they're well into 200 - 300 page picture-free novels. If parents are looking at this title, I'd personally say it's appropriate for the 5 to 8 range.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ameca J and the Legacy of Menindus - Paul Xavier Jones

Released October 2012

Paul Xavier Jones
Storyteller Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Surprisingly, I found myself intrigued and hooked in Paul Xavier Jones' Ameca J. and the Legacy of Menindus.  I'm not usually a fan of fantasy, but something about this book drew me in. The horrific creatures, enjoyable characters, and pace of the writing all seemed spot on. By the ending, I was eager to jump right in to the second book in the trilogy, though it won't be available for a few months.

Ameca J, as she prefers to be called, is sick of having to watch her younger sister. Informed that her mother is going out and her father is working yet again, Ameca must walk to the school to pick her sister up and safely escort her home. Ameca's not thrilled, and things take a turn for the worse when Fraya runs off into the woods. There the girls spot an unusual being and when Fraya touches it, they disappear and end up in a whole other realm.

They've reached Mythrania, a peaceful land that's about to be torn apart by evil. With elvins, Tranaris, and Metrans teaming up, the girls soon learn they, along with their father who is sucked into the world when he goes to find them, are key to defeating the Scelestus once and for all. They're descendants of the magi and have the powers necessary to do away with the evil forces and their armies, known as Werethralls. Can the girls and their father discover the strength within them that's the only hope of saving Mythrania?

Ameca's a bit of a wit, and that I liked. Her father is equally appealing, but only after a while. I think most parents can sympathize with his frustration when he gets home and finds his wife has left him a long list of things to do. His griping about things like saving the environment did get annoying though. Once he enters Mythrania and learns his daughters are there, his protective nature kicks in and gives him the qualities needed to make him likeable.

I think many pre-teens and teens will enjoy this book, right along with their parents. If you enjoy adventure/fantasy, definitely consider Ameca J and the Legacy of Merindus.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Archived- Victoria Schwab

Released January 22, 2013

Victoria Schwab

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Every now and then, I'll come across a book that grabs my attention. I know from the first word that this book will develop a following and has great Hollywood potential. Victoria Schwab's The Archived is one of those books.If Hollywood doesn't notice this book, I'll be surprised.

Mackenzie Bishop's grandfather was her role model and mentor. She never expected, just a few years after losing him, that her little brother would be killed in a hit and run. Since then, her mother's come up with ways to reinvent her life, and her latest idea has Mackenzie, her father, and her mother moving away to a former hotel, now apartment complex, where they plan to open a coffee shop on the ground floor while living upstairs. Leaving behind her best friend, Mackenzie is forced to start anew while still grieving the loss of her brother.

What no one knows is that Mackenzie is not your average 15 year old. Her grandfather was a "keeper," and he trained her to also be a keeper. After death, your "history" is stored in the Archives, a place where every person's history should end up, much like a library. Some "histories," however, slip away into the "Narrows." Those in the "Outer" realm (real world) don't know any of this, but a rare few have special powers that make it easy for them to track histories, and Mackenzie is one of them. Her role as a keeper is to track down the histories in the Narrows and return them to the Archives.

Someone is changing histories, and that's never okay. Mackenzie hopes she is strong enough to find out what is happening before the Archives, and her only link to her brother and grandfather, is gone for good.

Netgally reviewers received a sneak peek of the first 108 pages, so my review is based only on that. The aspect of the histories being changed hadn't appeared in that section of the book, which really makes me eager to get my hands on the final copy because based on what I read alone I was mesmerized.

Victoria Schwab's writing is powerful and packed with emotion. I sympathized with Mackenzie's grief and rooted for her with each chase in the Narrows. She writes in a way that is very engaging and personal.

Part horror story, part parnormal, and part teen drama, this book is going to have huge appeal. Boys will love when Mackenzie starts kicking behind to capture the more unruly histories, and girls will love watching her come to terms with the changes in her life, even meeting a boy in her building who holds secrets of his own.

All in all, The Archived is a book that I highly recommend for fans of paranormal and adventure.

Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration - Final Week

Week nine is here! This is the final week and the grand prize with all sorts of Ivy & Bean goodies was given away.

The winner was not from this blog, but congratulations to:

Becky Wilson of Flint Hill Elementary School!

One of the weekly winners at Colby Sharpe’s Sharp Reads blog

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ivy and Bean Blog-A-Bration - Week 8

Congratulations to Jen B. for winning week seven's Ivy and Bean book giveaway.

Week 8's prize is a copy of No News is Good News.

Make sure you leave a way for me to get in touch when you post a comment. You an also email me at roundtablereviews at gmail dot com to enter. Winners will be a given one week to respond or a new winner will be selected.

Week 9 is almost here and that means the grand prize will soon be selected by the publisher. The super-secret grand prize has been announced and it's pretty special. If you've been paying attention, you already know the grand prize contains:

  •       A complete set of Ivy and Bean hardcover books signed by Annie Barrows
  •           1 set of Ivy and Bean Paper Dolls
  •           1 Ivy and Bean Button Factory
  •           1 Ivy and Bean READ Poster signed by Annie Barrows
  •           Set of Ivy and Bean Silly Bandz
  •           Set of Ivy and Bean stickers 
 The super-secret prize is a set of handcrafted Ivy and Bean dolls.