Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Old Man and the Monkey, by George Polley

The Old Man & The MonkeyYukitaro is a snow monkey who lives in the forrest outside the village.   Genjiro and his wife, Harue, live in a little home on the edge of the village.  One day, while sitting in his special meditation spot, Genjiro meets Yukitaro, and, together, they sit and look at the world.  Over many months, Yukitaro and Genjiro strike up a strong, loving friendship, which many of the villagers criticize, but once they see the friendship in action, they eventually embrace Yukitaro.

Gorgeous.  That is the only word that adequately describes this novella by George Polley.  The story is set in Japan, where Polley now lives, and is a moving allegory against racism and excepting those outside your culture.  The story is so delicate, yet powerful.

The characters of Genjiro and harue are relatable to many readers, because regardless of setting and ethnicity, this could be your grandparents.  They are simple, living in their home, tending their garden, taking walks.  They are ordinary, in a story that is extraordinary.  I love watching the friendship between Genjiro and Yukitaro blossom, and seeing how others in the village are affected by their relationship.  Each accepts the other into his life, regardless of what their peers may think, and in the end, they story inspires us to do the same.

Although I am not a student of music, I think this story, and it's message, would make for a moving opera or ballet.  There is a powerful lesson to be learned here.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the publisher.

Nice and Mean, by Jessica Leader

Nice and MeanMarina and Sachi are as different as two girls can get it seems.  Marina is the most popular girl in the seventh grade.  She is the queen bee among her group of friends, and is, let's be honest, mean.  Sachi, on the other hand, is a nice, if somewhat shy, girl who has a small group of friends, and is greatly sheltered by her Indian parents.  So how do these two very different girls deal with being paired up for an extracurricular activity?

This book, and books like it, may be my secret guilty pleasure.  Jessica Leader wrote this book about middle grade students, and it is a perfect book to readers in the "tween" portion of the young adult spectrum.  The situations are familiar to that age group- popularity, frenemies, boys.  But also, this book teaches young readers a little bit about cultural diversity and tolerance.

There are a lot of different cultures represented in the book, and the characters and plot are most definitely impacted by these cultural differences.  For example, the subtext of Sachi's parental expectations is culturally focused.   This allows readers who may be lacking cultural diversity in their own lives to experience different types of people and groups through reading.  The tolerance taught in the book is more than just cultural, it is tolerance of anyone different from you, which, let's face it, to a middle school reader, that is everyone. I loved that the book shows us how the girls may be quite different, but also quite similar. 

All in all, I really enjoyed this nice, light read, and I really think it would appeal to middle school female readers.  There are some quality lessons in the book, wrapped in context and language that a tween will find believable and relatable.

A touring review copy of this book was made available courtesy of Traveling ARC Tours.

Swallow, by Tonya Plank

SwallowSophie appears to have a wonderful life in Manhattan.  A graduate of Yale Law School, Sophie has a good job, though not a glamorous one, working at the Public Defenders office.  She has a successful lawyer fiance', and now gets to plan her fairytale wedding.  Life is grand, with the exception of one small problem.  Sophie has something caught in her throat, at least, she believes she does.  This "thing" will not go away.  She cannot eat or swallow, and eventually, she has trouble breathing.  We watch as the "thing" takes its toll on her life over the course of several months.

I found this work by Tonya Plank to be quite original, and engaging.  At first we have this mental image of Sophie, who most would think has it all together.  We quickly see that appearances can be deceiving, as we learn more and more about Sophie's past, her family life, and her insecurities.  We are allowed a voyeuristic glimpse into Sophie's weaknesses and fears, and allowed to draw some of our own conclusions.

The cast of supporting characters in the book help drive the storyline, and are nothing short of magnetic.  Francie was my favorite, with her lovely New York accent; I literally heard her in my head.  As a student of psychology myself, I loved the idea of this mental block Sophie had, and why she had it.  I am glad that Tonya Plank did not take the easy way out concerning the cause of Sophie's issues.  It would have been too convenient to blame it on some childhood secret sexual trauma.  No, I think the source of Sophie's neurosis is brilliant, and one to which so many women can relate.  I am particularly pleased that the book is structured with black humor, as opposed to an overly dramatic version of the story.

I think the book makes a quick, fun read, perfect for a vacation or weekend book.  Clearly, the book will primarily appeal to women, so my advice ladies....toss this in your beach bag, and prepare for a bitey, humorous little glimpse into the head of Sophie.

A touring review copy of this book was provided by Crazy Book Tours.
Crazy Book Tours

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Learning to Lose, by David Trueba

Learning to LoseSylivia just turned 16, and is trying to jump start her life.  She is hit by a car driven by Ariel, an Argentinian soccer player.  The accident leads to a young romance, one that causes both Sylvia and Ariel to lead double lives.  Sylvia's father and grandfather are also leading double lives, father being a criminal, and grandfather being wrapped in the world of prostitution.  Who will they all end up being when it is all said and done?

I am at a loss.  This book sounded so fantastic, and got critical acclaim, but I personally did not enjoy it.  In fact, reading it was a chore, one I almost did not complete.  I think the storyline had the potential to be very engaging, but balancing the stories of 4 different characters was tiresome, even if, in the end, they all came together.  I was most bothered by the storyline of the grandfather, which was basically chapter after chapter of this old man having sex with a prostitute.  I just did not see the purpose, and felt the book would have been much better (and shorter) had his story not been included.

The story is set in Madrid, Spain, and all of the main characters belong to different Latino cultural groups, primarily Spanish, Argentinian, and Ecuadorian.  There are prejudices and cultural clashes between these groups that, as an American, I found hard to understand, or in some cases really pick up on.  Also, I believe the book was written originally in Spanish, and translated to English.  It drove me crazy that none of the dialogue used quotation marks, which made it impossible to keep the dialogue straight, or even know what was dialogue and what was not.  I am not sure if this is a trait of Spanish writing, but I found it maddening, and confusing.

I did eventually, about 1/3 of the way into the book, begin to enjoy the Sylvia-Ariel storyline.   It was sweet, and I found it to be an honest portrayal of young love.   But at 500 + pages, a lot of fat could have been trimmed.  The book had a Hemingway-like feel too it, and as I hate Hemingway, this should not be taken as a compliment.  I also detected a slight misogynistic undertone to the book, because the females are only good for sex, and those not good for sex are portrayed almost as if having impotence (methaphorical, not literal impotence).

That all being said, I think this book could have a lot of appeal for readers with more European sensibilities, for those who love Spanish and Latin culture, and lovers of Hemingway.  As for me, I am going to chalk it up to something being lost in translation.

A touring review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.
Crazy Book Tours

Crossed Out, by Kim Baccellia

Crossed OutStephanie is not your typical teenage girl.  You see, she can see the dead.  Specifically, she sees visions of people dying, and has to go guide their spirits the the afterlife using talismans.  However, when one spirit continues to visit her and warn her of danger, Stephanie realizes there is a whole lot she does not understand.  One of the things she does not understand is Mark, the new, hot guy in school.  Who is this guy, and why is he so interested in Stephanie?

What a fantastic book this is Kim Baccellia!  I have to admit, when I first realized it was the whole "I see dead people" premise, I was concerned that it would be a bit stale.  However, Kim puts a creative, original new twist on the idea, and her plot leaves you tingling with anticipation for the next page.

I really enjoyed Stephanie's character.  Again, it speaks to the feeling of isolation that many teens feel.  The idea that there is something odd or weird about us is one many of us have, and in that way, we can really relate to many of the characters in the book.  The idea that it is our differences that bring us together as a collective really resonates within the book.

It is a really good example of young adult fiction, and will probably most appeal to young female writers.  There is a slight romantic element, and a strong paranormal element, so fans of those genres will be well pleased.  However, I think at the very heart of it, the story is about belonging, and who among us can't relate?  I do recommend this book as a nice summer read for high school aged readers and older.  I am greatly looking to the follow up book that is in the works, because there is a nice bit of a cliff hanger surrounding Stephanie and her mom.  Overall, a quality read.

A touring review copy of this book was provided by Traveling ARC Tours.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Eye of Erasmus, by Teresa Geering

The Eye of ErasmusErasmus is a powerful man.  Born during a storm, as he grows up he realizes he has extraordinary powers.  He determines he can travel through time, and goes into the future to meet the love of his life, Shasta.  Erasmus and Shasta were born on the same date, at the same time, many years apart.  They fall deeply in love, and marry.  But all the while, Hesper, the begger boy Shasta takes into her home, shows disdain for Erasmus.  Who is Hesper, really, and who is he to challenge Erasmus the Omnipotent?

Reading this book was an unusual experience for me.  The book is written unlike most modern fiction, where the goal is to create a personal bond between reader and character.  Instead, The Eye of Erasmus reads like an ancient myth, slightly removed from the reader because it is sacred, scriptural almost.  I loved that aspect of the book, it gave me a feeling of enlightenment and awe.

The book uses language that allows the reader to determine the place and time setting, which I think is fantastic.  This allows every reader to paint their own version of Erasmus and Shasta, which in turn does allow the reader to have a personal investment in the story.  This story has a quiet, solemn power about it, and I felt myself pushing through drowsiness to read on late into the evening.  There was no way I was going to sleep without knowing what was to happen. 

The book is written in such a way that I think it will appeal to a large variety of readers.  There are some fantasy and supernatural elements to the story, so those fans will enjoy.  There is romance, so those readers will love it as well.  As because of the mythos involved in the story, I believe it will greatly appeal to classical literature fans, historical fans, mythology fans, and readers who enjoy classic storytelling elements in writing.

To me, this feels like the kind of story that can be passed on for many generations.  The fact that there are 2 future installments planned for Erasmus' story leaves me breathless with anticipation.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the author and publisher.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff

The ReplacementMackie has never been like everyone else in town.  Weird aversions to steel, blood, and consecrated ground suggest that he is, well, different.  But he had no idea just how different he was, until he learned that he was a replacement.  The town of Gentry has deep dark secrets, secrets that Mackie shares.  He is finally learning where he really came from, and that there are others like him.  Now, Mackie decides to fight the evil that looms underneath the town.

The best word to describe this book is hypnotic.  As I read the book, I was not really able to form a lot of opinions of it, until I read the last page.  Then I realized I loved it.  The book is so haunting, and echos the longing for acceptance that we all have felt at one point in our lives.

Brenna has woven a delicate, dark fairy tale, one that is brilliant and believable.  As a young adult book, the themes will be so familiar to those teenagers who feel they are on the perimeter of society.  The story is sort of heartbreaking; you pity Mackie, and Tate.  These characters are written so true to life.  You feel as though you are really mentally watching teenagers.  I find this realistic portrayal to be so rare and valuable.

The book is suggested for ages 12 and up, but because the themes are pretty dark, and there is a smattering of swear words, sexuality, and teen drinking, I would say the book is most appropriate for high school aged readers and older.  But if teens long for a story that does not sugar coat things, and is about teens they can relate to, this book is perfect.  I fully believe that adult readers, like me, can also fully appreciate the beauty in Brenna's story.

I am left with a numb feeling, and a sense of sadness that the book is over.  It is rare that I am at a loss for the appropriate words to describe how a book has made me feel, but this time, I truly am.  It completely appealed to the darker side of me, the side that likes horror movies and tires of happy endings tied by pretty bows.  All I can say is this book will stay with me, mentally and emotionally, for a very long time.  Brilliance, without a doubt.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Traveling ARC Tours.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Wedding Gift, by Kathleen McKenna

Leeann Worthier and George Willits are both big fish in a small pond.  She is the local beauty queen, and self proclaimed prettiest girl in town.  He is the heir apparent to the family petroleum business, and judging by the family's wealth, business is booming.  It is no shock then, when in the small town of Dalton, these two end up together.  Well, it may have been a shock to his mamma.  She probably saw it as a tragedy, but then again, the Willits family has a lot of tragedies.  George's uncle and cousins were murdered in their home by George's aunt, and other strange things have happened in that house.  So, when George announces that the same house is is wedding gift to Leeann, so that they can have their own home, she is less than thrilled.  Strange and terrible things continue to happen, and Leeann is bound to get to the bottom of things, even if it kills her.

Oh my goodness.  I wish I would have had a paper bag when I read this, because I was laughing so hard at times I was hyperventilating!  Kathleen McKenna sure does know how to write a memorable story!  This is a story involving small town life, with it's scandal and charm, in a Southwestern town that fancies itself more Southern than it really is.  The characters are brilliantly farcical, as are the situations in which they find themselves.  I guffawed several times over Leeann's dialogue, both internal and external, because that girl has quite a way with the words.

In some ways,  Leeann's situation is tragic, and in some ways it's trashy.  I love both aspects.  I do not want to give anything away, because trust me, you want to read this book.  It is sort of like Murder She Wrote meets King of the Hill, all set in Oklahoma.  There are supernatural aspects to the book, which will appeal to paranormal fans, and a touch of mystery, but it is also quite comedic.  There is never a dull moment in this one.  Read it, and see for yourself!

An electronic copy of this book was provided for review purposes courtesy of the author and publisher.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Twice Bitten, by Chloe Neill

Twice Bitten: A Chicagoland Vampires NovelA novitiate vampire, Merit, is the Sentinal for Cadogan House, and Ethan is her Master.  But there relationship is complicated, to say the least.  She is given a chance to join an elite group of vampires, but doing so would mean betraying Cadogan House.  Unfortunately, she has no time to ponder it, as she is now responsible for guarding Gabriel, the head of one of the packs of shape shifters.  The shifters are convening to try to determine if they will retreat to their homelands, or stay and defend their fellow supernaturals, the vampires.  Who is targeting Gabriel, will Merit be able to defend him, and will her relationship with Ethan remain strictly professional?

I really really wanted to love this book.  I have heard so many wonderful things about it.  However, this is the third in a series, and I have not had the fortune to read the first two, so reading this was a disjointed experience for me.  There were so many questions I had, ones I am sure the first 2 books address. 

The storyline was good, and the characters that I was able to determine as new characters were very well developed.  However, with the main characters, it was difficult for me to feel any connection to them, because I was missing their backstories.  I also am having  hard time keeping straight everyone's different literary versions of vampire rules.  These ones can eat human food, and blood substitutes, kick some serious butt, and they most definitely do not sparkle.

These vampires do emote, and are pretty darn sexy when they do it.  Twice Bitten brings back the erotic allure of the vampire.  Also, I think it is fantastic that a main female character does so much of the aforementioned butt kicking.

All in all, I think that, at some other time, when I have read the previous books in the series, I would probably really enjoy this book.  But it is not one that can really stand alone that well, so right now, all I can say was it was good enough to make me want to go back and read the first two.  For all the vampire lit lovers out there, you will love this one, as well, I would bet, as the rest of the series.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the author.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Children of Terror, by Inge Auerbacher and Bozenna Urbanowicz Gilbride

Children of TerrorInge was a young Jewish girl growing up in Germany.  Bozenna was a young Roman Catholic girl living in Poland.  Born in the same year, the girls lived very different lives, but they share similarly harrowing experiences of the concentration camps during the Holocaust.  This book tells both their stories.

The book opened with Bozenna's story.  Often, people do not stop to think about the millions of non Jewish victims of the Holocaust, so I thought Bozenna's story was so important.  I loved that she talked about her family's customs.  Raised in a Polish Catholic family, I was really able to relate when she discussed their holiday celebrations, as they are the same ones in which my family partakes every year.  Hearing her story made me realize what many of my ancestors went through.  My grandmother's family lived in Poland when she was a child, and we do still have relatives there.  Bozenna's story was very personal to me.

Inge's story details all the horrors we have come to associate with the Holocaust, and all the crimes perpetrated against European Jews, but it is also told in a way that makes it tremendously personal and moving.  It makes me so sad to read these stories, but so happy that they survived.  Particularly moving was the part of the story where Inge discusses the hardships that they met in America, especially in terms of her health.  Again, I think people forget that when the Holocaust was over, the effects lived on.  Yet still, both these women survived, and were successful.

I absolutely love it when survivors use their stories to raise awareness and help others, which both Inge and Bozenna have done.  The book is realistic, but tells the stories delicately, so that they would be appropriate for middle school and young adult readers; to me this is a fantastic way to teach them about this less savory portion of history. As an adult reader, I was fully captivated by the story, so I am certain others who like historical books and memoirs will also have an appreciation of the book.  Read this book, so that we never forget.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the authors.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Simon's Choice, by Charlotte Castle

Dr. Simon Bailey, his wife Melissa, and their daughter Sarah are so close a family unit, they call themselves "Team Bailey".  Nothing can stop them not even when little Sarah gets diagnosed with leukemia.  The family fights through, and Sarah goes into remission.  However, when the leukemia returns full force, Team Bailey is no match, and it becomes clear that Sarah will not make it.  Suddenly, everything falls apart, because Sarah is the glue holding it all together; when she weakens, so does that bond.  Before you know it, Simon and Melissa have a strained relationship, he is admitting to drinking far too much, and now, he is faced with making the decision no father should ever have to make, about a promise he makes to Sarah.

Very rarely do I have the opportunity to review a book before all the rest of the world is raving about it.  Once in a while I get lucky, but never so much as when I found Charlotte Castle.  This book is a rare find, a pure treasure, and when it inevitably becomes a best seller, I can say I knew it all along.

As soon as I started reading, I was immediately hooked.  The characters of Simon, Sarah, and Melissa pull you in from the very first page of the book, and you end up thinking of them as real people.  You love them, at times you hate them, you smile with them, you weep for them.  These are not mere characters to Charlotte Castle, you can tell she really loves them; it shows in the writing.

As the story unfolds, you are totally invested as a reader.  I literally heard the dialogue in my head, which was fun because I got to hear it in a lovely British accent.  And I swear at times, I could feel Porridge, the dog, snuggling at my feet.  The story wraps around you like a blanket on a rainy day.

Stories about illness, particularly in children, can be difficult, but not once was the story maudlin.  I love the paradox of the doctor unable to heal his own child, struggling with his faith all the while.  I think the grieving process is so accurately captured, but in such a touching, beautiful way.  We do not know, until the end, if Simon will decide to keep his promise, and I absolutely love the beauty in the closing scene.  I read it through a wash of tears.

I think that anyone who has children, or has a special child in their life, would love this book and relate to it.  Similarly, anyone who has lost a loved one to the ravages of terminal illness will find comfort and realism in the story.  Womens literature fans would love it, medical literature fans would love it.  And if you like Jodi Picoult, you will love Charlotte Castle.

The book released today, and since I can not yet find it listed on Amazon, I am including a link to where you can purchase it, because I know you are going to want to read it, why wouldn't you?  UPDATE: It is now available for purchase on Amazon, link is below!

And when you all do, and you all love it as I did, I will be quite happy to say I told you so.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wolf's Bluff, by W.D. Gagliani

Wolf's BluffOnce again, we join Detective Nick Lupo on his quest for justice.  Nick suspects there is more to the Wolfpaw Security staff members than meets the eye.  He stumbles into a dangerous situation which follows him back to the North Woods.  Meanwhile, a series of animal attack-like murders in Wausau all point to an obvious killer, but everyone ends up surprised in the end.

Yet another standout book by Gagliani.  With the third Wolf book, we delve deeper into Nick's past, all the while seeing how his condition makes everyone in his present life a potential casualty, either physically or emotionally.  Like the other Wolf books, there is a lot of brazen sexuality and violence, but only insomuch as it furthers the story.  In fact, the raw sexuality is only hinted at, while the actual seductions are a lot more subtle this time around.  The book is more about people relating out of the bedroom, and I really like that switch. 

One thing that is a little sad, but totally necessary, is watching characters we have come to know and feel close to become casualties to the situations in the plot.  Yet, it makes the reader feel all the more connected with Nick, knowing he suffers these same losses.  It was interesting to see some of the plot twists, some I anticipated, others I did not.  We see a lot more militant type action in the book, which may make this particular installment a little more appealing to male readers.

An overarching theme in the book is that everyone has secrets, and no one is quite what they seem, a common theme in the Wolf books, but especially blatant in this one.  I enjoyed this theme very much, and am left to wonder who else among the characters has secrets we will learn later...

All in all, another great book, appealing to all horror, paranormal, and thriller readers.

A copy of this book was provided for review courtesy of the author.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Princess of Glass, by Jessica Day George

Princess of GlassPoppy is one of the formerly cursed Westfalin princesses.  She, along with her unmarried sisters, is taking part in an exchange program with several other royal families, in the hopes that many of the young princes and princesses will make suitable marital matches.  Poppy is sent to Breton, where she meets Prince Christian.  As time progresses, the youngsters begin to attend royal balls together, until the mysterious Lady Ella enters the scene, stealing the hearts of all the men who see her.  Who is this Lady Ella, where is she from, and how does one of the local maids play into the whole mystery?

Once again, I have forayed into young adult literature.  This book is intended for ages 12 and up, but I was quite enraptured by it.  The story reads somewhat like a modern day Cinderella, with a sinister twist.  I loved the intertwining of old faery folk lore with more modern story and character development.  Ever a fan of writers using new, imaginative ways to tell tales of old, this book left me believing in happily ever after, even in the most trying of circumstances.

This book is the follow up to Princess of the Midnight Ball, which, sadly, I have not read (though I hope to now), yet it works quite well as a stand alone book.  The pertinent history from the previous book is adequately covered in Princess of Glass, and I was never confused about the backstory.  I loved the twisted take on the sometimes overly benign Cinderella type character.  This book tells you what it would have been like had Cinderella not been quite so nice, and had her godmother been a whackado.  I loved every minute of it.

Clearly, this is a book that is going to appeal more to young female readers.  But I do believe many adult female readers, like me, would enjoy the book.  It is clever, romantic, and captivating. 

While the reimagining of faery tales has lost some momentum within adult literature, I believe it works well in the young adult genre, and hope to see more of these stories from this author.  She weaves these tales very well.

A copy of this book was provided for review courtesy of Traveling ARC Tours.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Gettysburg Approach to Writing and Speaking Like a Professional, by Philip Yaffe

The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking Like a ProfessionalThere are simple guidelines to follow for effective and professional writing and speaking.  Philip Yaffe bases his guidelines on those outlined in the Gettysburg Address.  This book outlines the basic rules of professional and academic writing, and has a complete set of exercises to practice said rules, listed in appendices in the back.

If you are in college, particularly graduate school, this book will be extraordinarily helpful to you.  The focus on the book is expository writing, so for creative writing purposes, this tool may not be as important to you, but if you ever plan on writing an academic paper, or a professional report, this book is a must have for your library.

Philip Yaffe very clearly outlines, in simple terms, the real rules to professional writing.  A lot of these rules were familiar to me from my past academic pursuits, but I still was able to learn a lot from the book.  I think this would actually make a wonderful textbook for a writing course at the college level.  I believe if more students had textbooks like this one, there would be far more success in academia today.  I particularly liked the plethora of examples for the different rules.  There are over 100 pages of appendices just full of examples and exercises.

This is not the type of book you are likely to sit down and read cover to cover like I did, unless you have a real passion for grammar and professional writing.  That being said, like any mental health student has a copy of the APA guide book and the DSM on their bookshelves, so too should every college student and writer of professional materials have The Gettysburg Approach on their shelves.

I highly recommend this book to any serious scholar, regardless of subject matter, because its usefulness will know no bounds when you sit to do professional writing.

A copy of this book was provided for review purposes courtesy of the author.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Reading Challenge Update

As you all know, I joined a Summer Reading Challenge  at the Community Bookstop.

I committed to reading 25 books during the Challenge.  As of today, I have read 21, and posted the reviews for 20!  I am so proud of myself, because I have also been spending a lot of time with my friends and Hubby, so to have nearly accomplished this goal before August even starts is pretty amazing!  I hope you are all enjoying the reviews!

In the hopes of meeting new bloggers, I am joining some hops this week.

First off is the Crazy for Books book blogger hop.  We are supposed to talk about our favorite authors, and why they are our favorite.  I have so many favorites, but I will choose 2 about whom I will speak.  First is Stephen King, one of my favorites because his stories are memorable and I love to be scared.  Another favorite is Nicholas Sparks, because his stories are usually set in the Outer Banks area, and I absolutely love it there.  I can almost feel the breeze on my skin when I read his books.

There are tons of other hops I am joining too, so check them out!

My Wee View


Check out these awesome hops!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Archvillain, by Barry Lyga

Archvillain #1 (Archvillan)Kyle is the smartest and most popular kid in school, right up until Mighty Mike enters the scene.  Mighty Mike is a product of a recent plasma storm, a storm which has also bestowed on Kyle super human powers.  Kyle sees Mighty Mike as a sham, but the rest of the school, and the town for that matter, thinks Mighty Mike is the best thing since sliced bread.  How will Kyle show the world what Might Mike really is?

This book is recommended for kids 9-12, but I have to tell you, it appeals to the kid in all readers.  I absolutely loved this book, and at a mere 192 pages, it took me about 2 hours to read.  I love the character of Kyle, and think he is relatable to a lot of kids who end up feeling like the loner.  It also made me chuckle to read the story, remembering how annoyed I was as a kid when my classmates seemed so perfect, but I could see their flaws.  I think we have all been there.

I think there are some valuable lessons embedded in the story as well.  It can serve as a precautionary tale about taking people for granted, and being a know it all.  It also stresses the importance of real friendship, which I think is also helpful for kids.  There is a lot of action in the book, and lots of talk about gadgets and technology, so I really think this book will appeal to young men the most, which is good since they tend to be less interested in reading that young girls.  However, I can see my niece absolutely loving this book, and am thereby recommending every parent and teacher check it out when it is released in October of 2010.

The ending seemed a little vague to me, which makes me wonder if it will be a book series.  I sincerely hope so, because this is a wonderful story concept, one I find fresh and appealing.  I cannot wait to see what will happen!

Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God, by Max Lucado

Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon GodHow many times have you read the Bible, and wished there was a way to make some of the stories seem more relevant to the times you live in?  Have you wished for a deeper connection to the lessons available in the Scriptures?  Max Lucado writes about some key Bible players in a way that is new and fresh, opening up doors of understanding like never before.

Having been familiar with a few of Lucado's past works, I was thrilled about having the opportunity to review Cast of Characters.  And I can honestly say, it surpassed even my highest expectations.  Lucado writes about key Biblical figures in a way that makes their stories so incredibly relatable, we can easily see the same lessons playing out in our own lives.

The book is peaceful and reflective, but also very very humorous, and I think that is a quality many theological writers greatly under appreciate.  I truly believe that Lucado has a gift to make the Scripture live and breathe to people who would normally be put off my too many thees and thous.

Each chapter focuses on a particular story or lesson theme, and ends with questions for reflection.  This book would be perfect for small group discussions or Bible study supplements.  I think that this book would also be great for youth groups, to help them see these lessons in a way that makes more sense to them.  Overall, I was completely enraptured by the book, but not at all surprised at the wisdom and heart Lucado shares with readers.  It is simply what I have come to expect from him.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”