Approximate age: Though the story is about a second grader (approx 7-8 years old), it is most advised to use this as story to be read to the child. Older children (9+) can probably handle the more difficult words.
Petunia Pepper’s Picture Day by Cathy Breisacher is a marvelously written, adorable story for children. It tells the story of young Petunia Pepper, a second grade child who never has managed to get a good school picture! She was determined to get a good one this year, but alas, a series of humorously unfortunate circumstances seem to interfere with that goal. In addition to the amusing and thought-provoking storyline, Christian Elden’s illustrations remind me of something right out of popular cartoons and make the story all the more enjoyable.
I admit, I read this book with the mindset of a teacher. The author put a focus on tying in words beginning with the letter P numerous times on each page. It was adorable to note the ways she managed to pull that off. And as a result, teachers and parents looking to help their children with phonics by reading books focused on particular letters will find this title to be a charming add.
There is also a tie in to character/values building. The main character in the story learns that outside appearances aren’t important, we are special just the way we are. There is a Christian tie to the story, though it does not present itself specifically during the main portion of the story (thus making it acceptable for educators and others wishing to buy it but who need to be careful about reading religious-baded books). The final page of the book, after the main story is over, is a page discussing the moral of the story that also includes several references to scripture that those interested can read.
I believe this book is a delightful story for anyone to read with their children.(less)
A few days ago I came across the name of Annette Mahon. I had never read her work, but was interested in the themes of her books, so I headed to the library and checked a stack out. The first in that stack, “The Secret Beau” was a good read and at 182 pages I finished it in one evening.
Annette writes sweet romances, which basically means she focuses on the emotional relationship and not the physical one. As I don’t need graphic descriptions interfering with the story, I was greatly pleased by her ability to convey the emotion of the relationship without the smut.
“The Secret Beau” revolves around two friends from high school who meet again as adults in the small town they grew up in. Centered in Hawaii, the characters have cultural diversity and seem a little more real than the average romance characters.
In romance novels you have a general idea how the story will go, even before you open the cover. There will be two people and they will fall in love. There will be something that gets in their way, and they will overcome it. There will be insecurities along the way and they will have to face their old demons. “The Secret Beau” follows just that pattern, but the Hawaiian small town charm adds realism and warmth.
Having a dear friend from Hawaii, I was pleased by the author’s use of common Hawaiian terms, such as haole, which is used by many locals to identify foreigners, mainly non islanders. The cultural expectations of the area, as well as the universal expectations of family were incorporated flawlessly. I found the main characters, Kim and Greg, to demonstrate common feelings and fears, making them likable and realistic.
That said, “The Secret Beau” is a lovely read for a mindless afternoon. It is great for curling up with a blanket and hot cocoa. It is not a mind bender, and it is not going to stretch your understanding of humanity. It will bring a smile to your face, help you remember the romances of your youth, and help you pass a lazy afternoon. I applaud Annette Mahon for bringing culturally diverse characters to a sweet romance that I could enjoy. (less)
I love it when this happens. I recently reviewed “The Secret Beau” by Annette Mahon, and I have to say I like “The Secret Wedding” even more. I admit I am a sucker for a good wedding, and this story is no exception.
As in each book, Mahon does a wonderful job intertwining Hawaiian culture with the story. I enjoyed the reference to the wedding cranes, as I watched my friend spend weeks folding her own golden origami birds. It is a wonderful custom and the inclusion of it in the story created a local charm I enjoyed.
Similar to the last book, the heroine is from Hawaii. This time however, the hero is a hoale (from the mainland). I enjoyed the conflict created by their different outlooks on life and found their banter entertaining.
Mahon writes books to help her readers escape their regular life for a few hours. This story did just that for me. I know I am enjoying a book when I want to finish it instead of falling asleep after a hard day. I enjoyed it enough that I hopped up to write this review as well.
If I had any complaint about this book it would be that the side characters are not developed as much as I would like. I was interested in Luana’s brother and friend as well as Callie and Tommy. Mahon’s descriptions of the surroundings left me with a wonderful mental picture of where I was, but I felt I missed a little of the relationship between the main characters and the people in their lives. Of course I realize the side people are not really important to the story and nothing was lost with their limited appearances. I do hope to see a few of them in future stories however.
At 183 pages, “The Secret Wedding” can be consumed in a few hours. The characters are simple and easy to believe. The storyline follows the expected plan with the main girl falling in love with the main boy. The landscape for the story is beautiful, and just enough miscommunication is thrown in to make you cringe at the right moments. Once again, I have enjoyed a book by Annette Mahon and look forward to the next one on the stack.(less)
“Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert has been out long enough to be in paperback and already be a movie, so do not think I am a trend setter in any way. I picked up the book on Costco’s book rack and I admit it took me quite a while to get through it.
Here is what I learned from “Eat Pray Love:”
1. I don’t relate to Elizabeth Gilbert. 2. I relate far too much to Elizabeth Gilbert.
While I have never had the specific experiences related by the author, I felt myself drawn into some universal truths she discusses in the book. I know what it feels like to be crying on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. I understand the pain of examining past decisions. I remember what it feels like to start a journey to find one’s spiritual self.
In all honesty, I picked this book up for two reasons, first, I remember Oprah liking it a lot, and I wondered why. The second reason, and I can’t believe I am admitting this, is because this copy had Julia Roberts on the cover, and I wondered why she would care enough to make a movie about it. I am sorry to say there was nothing deeper than falling for the marketing that made me read it.
I never was engrossed by the book. Trust me, I wanted to be. I took turns being enthralled by the story and uncomfortable at how close to home it hit. If the author didn’t have such a clear way of describing thoughts and feelings I doubt I would have felt pierced to the core more than once.
The story is broken up into three sections, easily defined by the locations she traveled. The author brings the reader on a trip of self discovery she made for herself. It is strange how her self discovery could be mine too.
The book is written in the first person, and while most of the names have been changed to protect the innocent, and not so innocent, you get a clear picture of her relationships with those around her. Elizabeth spends one year to find herself and her happiness. She starts out a mess and ends up a renewed person.
I have heard there are many people upset at the selfish nature of the author and there is a lot of “self” in this book. Then again, I’m not sure how a journey of self discovery could be anything else.
At 331 pages, “Eat Pray Love” took me a lot longer than usual to read. It was an easy read, but an intense amount of introspection. While I enjoyed the story, and the freedom she found on this journey, I was made uncomfortable by her decisions at times. I understand it was not the author’s intent to make me comfortable, in fact, much the opposite, so I would say she did a great job.
“Eat Pray Love” is one of those books I am glad I read, because I learned a lot about myself. I appreciated the author’s honesty and ability to cut through the nonsense of a situation to tell the reader exactly how she felt. While not exactly a pleasure read, or a self help book, for many this story will walk a fine line between the two.(less)
My kids and I recently read “The Silver Crown” by Robert C. O’Brien and loved it. Intended for kids 8 and older, “The Silver Crown” is the story of Ellen who wakes up on her tenth birthday to find a silver crown on her pillow.
As Ellen already believes she is a queen, she takes the gift in stride and proudly wears it to the park. Events from that moment on are not what she expects. Her house burns down, she witnesses a crime and she sets off on foot to find her Aunt Sara.
The story follows Ellen as she makes friends with a boy named Otto and heads off on a hero’s quest. We see her go from a silly girl who imagines herself in a palace, sitting on a throne, to a real queen responsible for the well being of an entire castle.
There are many reasons to enjoy this story. Ellen is vulnerable and likeable, so you really root for her to find Aunt Sara. Otto is spunky and in true hero’s quest form, guides Ellen towards her destiny. The adults shown in the book fall into two categories, those who are nice and will help you, and those who are evil and you must avoid. If only things were that simple.
As a caution, some of the content may not be suitable for young kids who easily get nightmares. Ellen does encounter an adult who tries to hurt her, so parents should be aware of that content.
“The Silver Crown” was enjoyed by my family, and in fact my son wanted to read it again. If you are looking for a solid story with a happy ending and empowering message, this book will fit the bill(less)
I had no idea what “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins was about before picking it up two days ago. I had heard my friends ohhh and ahhh, but had no idea of the plot, the genre or even the characters. I laughed when I saw I was number 75 on the hold list at the library, but figured I would read it when my turn came. My turn came this weekend when a friend lent me her copy.
The Hunger Games is set in the future after war has eliminated the United States and left the country of Panem in its place. Each year the 12 districts within this country are required to select 2 youth to fight in a gladiator style battle to the death. Huger Games follows the struggle of the teenagers from District 12 from before they are chosen until the battle is over.
Now I have to admit this is not my usual fare. I do not read blood and guts stories, nor do I typically enjoy suspense novels, so I was a little apprehensive about the topic. If I had not been quickly drawn into the narrative I’m not sure I would have finished it. As it was, I was so quickly absorbed that I read almost all of the book in one sitting.
Aimed at the teenage market, the story is easy to read and the characters appeal to the adolescent crowd. That said, there is something universal about the struggle to survive that I could relate to, even buy into. While the main characters, Katniss and Peeta, are from different parts of society and their individual struggles differ, both must fight to the death inside the arena.
The story does not focus on killing as much as I had expected, instead it focuses on relationships and emotions. Topics such as friendship, loyalty, love, determination, hope, betrayal, fear, insecurity and survival make the story a rich backdrop to interact with the characters.
At 374 pages, I finished the story in 4-5 hours, and found myself unable to put it down toward the end. Suzanne Collins does a wonderful job of making the reader care about Katniss and I found myself worried about how the story would turn out.
While The Hunger Games may not make it into the classics with Bronte or Austen, it is a fun read that will draw you in and keep you engaged. There are two more books in the series, Catching Fire and Mocking Jay which hopefully will wrap up a few loose ends and complete the story of Katniss and Peeta. You should see those reviews in the upcoming weeks.(less)
“Moon Called” by Patricia Briggs was my first sojourn into American urban fantasy. I say American because I read and enjoyed Sergei Lukyanenko’s Watch series, which is about as different from Patricia Briggs work as it is possible to get and still be urban fantasy. I was fortunate enough to listen to a reading Patty gave at SpoCon and promptly went over to the book sellers’ area and picked up a copy of every one of her books they had left. Urban fantasy isn’t a genre I usually read but she impressed me.
The book centers around Mercedes Thompson, a girl who was raised by wolves. Werewolves, to be exact. Mercedes fixes Volkswagens for a living, working at the shop she bought from her former boss Zee. Zee is a metallzauber, a fae (magical creature) who calls himself a gremlin. Aside from her talent for fixing cars, Mercy’s other notable ability is that she can turn into a coyote. Her next-door neighbor is Adam, the alpha male of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack.
Moon Called’s story unfolds in the Tri-Cities, Washington, in contemporary times. In Mercy’s world the fae came out publicly in the 1980s, long enough ago that most people seem to have come to an acceptance of the existence of a small amount of magic. As of yet, the more sinister and dangerous creatures such as werewolves, witches, vampires, and demons remain secret. The book is chock-full of details about the Tri-Cities that make you feel like you could walk out your door and find yourself there, even if you’ve never visited before.
Mercy is doing a decent job of staying out of trouble until the day when a teenager who calls himself “Mac” drops in looking for a job. This wouldn’t be too unusual except that Mercy’s keen sense of smell immediately tells her that the boy is a werewolf. Mac is newly turned, frightened and alone, on the run. He tells a chilling story of being captured and sold to people who caged him and experimented on him with drugs.
Mac’s problem draws Mercy back into the world of the werewolves, a place she happily left behind at age sixteen. Against her will, she is pulled in and has to help solve the mystery of who is experimenting on werewolves and for what purpose. Along the way Mercy enlists the help of Samuel (the werewolf she almost eloped with and the reason she ran away from home) and Stefan (the vampire whose VW bus she repairs).
All of this is complicated by her conflicting feelings about Samuel and Adam. When Samuel is assigned to help Mercy, it doesn’t take long for the old feelings to start stirring again. Who will win her affections? Will she stick to her guns and remain independent, or surrender herself to the dominance of one of these two, charismatic wolves?
The story is compelling because of Mercy. Her magical ability to change into a coyote aside, she’s a person that is easy to relate with. Her little problems, like managing her work life so she will have enough money to eat, bring you closer. The big issues she faces are what will capture you and
keep you turning pages to find out what happens next. Even if you’ve never read urban fantasy before you’ll fall in love with Mercy Thompson.(less)
Skippyjon Jones is the story of a young Siamese Cat with a very large imagination! The story takes children (and grown-up ‘children’) on a hilarious make-believe adventure into Old Mexico to defeat El Bumblebeeto, the bandit who is stealing all the frijoles from the chihuahua group known as the Los Chimichangos. The charm of the story comes in the random made-up ‘Spanish’ terms that are scattered throughout. There are also wonderful uses of real Spanish words that have very clear context to allow a little bit of a subtle Spanish learning. Reading the story out-loud (especially using voices and accents) is a must to capture the full effect.
My old Teaching Reading professor reads this book to her class every year, and several of us from the class since now own at least this original Skippyjon Jones book for their class libraries simply because it is such a jewel as the humor and imagination to it make it a story that children LOVE to read. There are several other books about Skippyjon’s adventures, as well as a variety of online resources to enrich the experience of reading the story.
Approximate age: The story is a little long (32 pages) so it would likely be hard for the youngest audiences to take in. It works as an excellent read-aloud story for children ages four through ten (and even some older children will get a kick out of the story, too). Long words, occasional Spanish terms, and nonsense words make it a little challenging as an independent read and I would not suggest using it for that purpose for most children under the age of seven or eight.(less)
In the interest of full disclosure, I love the Twilight books. I read the first three in twenty four hours each, and would have done the same with the fourth if I hadn’t been on a business trip. Stephenie Meyer has done a great job of developing characters we can care about, vampire or not, and this story is no exception.
“The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner” , a short novella by Stephanie Meyer, is not about the vampires and humans we have come to know and love in the first four published books of the Twilight saga. This novella is all about a minor character, Bree Tanner, whom we briefly meet in the book “Eclipse.”
Bree is a young vampire, and not the good, warm cuddly vampire type, but the blood thirsty, dangerous vampire type. She is everything legend has told us to avoid, and yet you are quickly drawn to her and her story. The author does an amazing job of making the audience sympathetic to her and the situation she finds herself in. In a world where vampires really do exist, it is not hard to see how Bree could have gone from runaway teen to bloodthirsty vamp.
This novella is short, in fact under 200 pages. If you are a quick reader you will have it done before your tan is finished poolside. While the topic may be considered dark, I mean we are discussing vampires and all that goes with that, the story really isn’t about killing humans. The story is much deeper than what vampires do in their spare time. It a story of friendship and love, even where friendship and love should not exist.
Without getting too philosophical, I would say this novella showcases the human plight quite nicely. Bree is in a confusing situation, she does not understand the things going on around her and she is scared. Instead of blindly following what she is told, she finds a way to overcome her uncertainty and think for herself. Even the most horrible monster can have a good side, and Bree demonstrates that nicely.
If you have read Eclipse then you know how this story ends, if you haven’t, I won’t ruin it for you. I am glad Stephenie Meyer decided to publish this story for the world. It gives a much richer explanation of how far the Cullens have come in their quest to be “vegetarian.” It also explains so much about Jasper and his struggle to control himself. While The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a stand alone story, it is best understood in the context of the series. If you are looking for a quick read and are interested in the Twilight saga, then this will be a great pick.(less)
I have read many books by Rachel Ann Nunes. In fact, as I skim her list of novels, there aren’t many I haven’t read. I like her style, I enjoy her ability to tell a good story, and I like that she can do it in a clean and dignified manner.
“Imprints“, her latest paperback comes after the book “Eyes of a Stranger.” As I might have mentioned, I am a sucker for a series. When I take the time to get to know characters, I like to follow them as long as I can.
This latest book tells the story of Autumn Rain, the sister of Tawnia who was featured in Eyes of a Stranger. Autumn is Tawnia’s twin with an amazing gift…something verging on the supernatural. Through her efforts to help others she is thrown into a series of events full of mystery and intrigue. (Wow that sounded trite, but true, oh so true.)
Tawnia’s character was developed in the last book, so Imprints really focuses on getting to know Autumn. Nunes has a gift for getting the reader inside her character’s heads, and Autumn is no exception. We learn about her past, feel a connection to the losses she has faced and understand her need to get involved in the story line.
Imprints is a hard book to review without giving too much away. While it is very possible to read it without the back story, as it is a stand alone novel, I wonder if the experience would be as deep. Knowing the details of Autumn and Tawnia’s life helps set the stage for the mystery we see here.
Autumn has the ability to “see” events in the past based on emotional imprints she finds in objects. Because of this gift she finds herself reading objects to help people find loved ones. One such object leads her on a trip to find more answers. Along the way she discovers a lot about the people she thought she knew.
As in any good mystery, there are plenty of misdirects, a few romantic moments and even a little vacation from reality. ( I mean really, who can do all of this without the help of the police??) Imprints is a fun read. It is not rocket science, but few of us expect it be. Nunes has once again delivered a solid story with well defined characters and a believable plot.
Now my only question is this, do we get a follow up? I want to know more about Autumn and Tawnia. I am not quite ready to let their story go…(less)
After multiple people told me they enjoyed “Lemon Tart” by Josi S Kilpack, I broke down and spent part of my book budget to obtain the 346 page mystery. I have to say I am impressed. As I have never read anything by this author before, I was a little wary when I picked it up. I wasn’t sure whether to expect a book about food or a sour tease. In fact, it is a mystery revolving around a lemon pastry.
Sadie Hoffmiller, is an unexpected heroine. At 56 she is a widow and mother of two. She is also the neighborhood watch dog. She can see everything from her kitchen window, where she spends most of her time cooking.
The character of Sadie is well written, if a bit stereotypical of a female mystery heroine. While you gain empathy for her journey, you do wonder how she gets into the predicaments she is in. The last I checked, most people don’t get involved in police investigations…unless you are Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote.
As light mysteries go, I enjoyed the plot. I have to give Ms. Kilpack credit for keeping me guessing. As soon as I was sure who did it there would be a plot twist and I would be unsure again. She never let anything sit long enough for the reader to get bored.
The supporting cast of characters was a little odd. I felt at ease with some of them, tortured by others and repulsed by yet others. I am not sure if I made a connection with any of them, but then again, I’m not sure if I was supposed to. This book is all about Sadie. You see everything through her eyes and her experiences.
Overall, this was a fun book. It was a quick, one day read which did not require a lot of thought, just fancy. If you are looking for a spellbinding, gory mystery with mind numbing plot and details, this book is not for you. If you want a fun summer read with clean subject matter, a respectable heroine and cute ending, this is your book.(less)