Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mimi McGee in Monkey Monday Business

Reviewed by Shawna
Title: Mimi McGee in Monday Monkey Business
Author: Shan Williams Burklow
Primary Audience/age group: 8+
Genre: Humor
# Of pages: 102
Publisher: The Happy Crayon
Year of Release: 2012
Part of a Series? Yes (More to Come)
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes!

Description: Mimi McGee and her best friend Sam Jenkins have been assigned the most embarrassing part in the school play at the biggest town event of the year, the Hampton Watermelon Festival. They have to find a way to save themselves from the humiliation, but how? Will the quick-witted Mimi and Sam be able to triumph over the watermelon of a mess they have created or become the laughing stock of the town?

Review: Author Shan Williams Burklow has created a clever and amusing tale in Mimi McGee in Monday Monkey Business. Her characters, Mimi and Sam, make quite a riotous team. From secret missions to watermelon bandits, you won’t believe what muddle the pair of friends will find themselves in next. This fast-paced and hilarious tale will keep you kids laughing while teaching them about the importance of being honest.

Rating: 5

Positive: The families presented in the book have strong ties and are all involved within the community. Friendship and honesty are also two very important themes in the book.

Spiritual Elements: The children attend church, particularly choir practice, on a weekly basis.

Violence: A fight breaks out at school.

Language: none

Sexual Content: none

Other:The characters tease each other a lot, especially by assigning nicknames based on certain incidents. Some of the nicknames are not so nice. However, the children have consequences for their unkind behavior.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to elementary-aged children and their parents. I think it would be a great teaching tool. The likeability of the characters as well as the humor will draw children in while teaching them the value of being honest. I recommend reading it aloud and discussing the book’s themes together.

Monday, January 23, 2012

By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings Bk 1)

Reviewed by Nadine
Title: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1)
Author: Jill Williamson
Primary Audience/Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy (Christian)
# of Pages: 352
Publisher: Marcher Lord Press
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? Yes (1 of 3 Blood of Kings)
Rating: 3 for violence (View Scale)
Recommend? YES!

Read the review of To Darkness Fled, Book 2
Description: Achan, a young stray, works in the kitchens of the Sitna Manor. Having no parents, no rank, and a shameful brand marking him as such, his life takes the first of many steps of change when he meets a Kingsguard knight, Sir Gavin. Sir Gavin trains Achan to be his squire. During this time, Achan discovers he can bloodvoice—a type of communication that takes place between minds—though he does not accept or understand it at first.

Three chapters in, the point of view switches to another bloodvoicer, Vrell, a high-ranking daughter of a duchess who’s masquerading as a stray boy to escape an undesired marriage. When her plan takes an unexpected turn (aka. encountering giants, reekats, wars, and underground rivers), she finds herself on a long and trying journey to a strange “master” who only wants to increase her bloodvoicing skills for his own selfish gain.

The book jumps back and forth by chapter from Achan to Vrell, giving the reader an equal and satisfying dose of both, while keeping the storyline moving. Achan and Vrell are thrown together, forming a connection that winds their paths in a way they never expected. Achan is confused about Arman (God), whereas Vrell has a passion for Arman and seeks to spread the truth. Through their interactions and time spent in their minds, the reader learns more about the true God
through the character’s eyes, which is applicable to every Christian’s life.

Review: When I first started reading By Darkness Hid, I wasn’t hugely impressed. It didn’t start with an explosion or secret plot to destroy the world—it began with the main character milking goats. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into, but I pushed through the first couple chapters and I don’t regret a single moment of it. Jill Williamson beautifully weaves in- depth characters that come to life in your imagination and dreams. She spends the majority of this first book in the series establishing who Achan and Vrell are and why you care about them.

The novel is very well-written and understandable. The idea of “bloodvoicing” was explained so thoroughly I even dreamed I could bloodvoice at one point. I especially loved reading a novel that is Christian-based, yet not a typical romance novel. I found myself thinking more often about why I believe in God and mentally answering different questions that the main characters were asking.

Rating: 3 for violence

Positive: There is a lot of humor in Achan’s character. I laughed out loud several times while reading. Morals like obedience, lying, thievery, etc. are addressed in this book, from both character’s points of view. Achan is treated and raised as a stray, but his characteristics are very wholesome and human-like. He fails and succeeds, but his mind and heart are usually seeking the right place.
Spiritual Elements: The focus on God (Arman) and His interaction with people is a focal point in the story. He is seeking Achan out even though Achan does not necessarily believe in Him yet. The book portrays a very good image of God pursuing us as His children. It also addresses the issues of false gods and why they are not the “true God”—setting God apart as the only living God.

Violence: The violence in this book is appropriate for teens and up. The characters enter battles and wars, sparring matches and life-threatening situations. A lot of this deals with sword fighting, piercing arrows, etc. The author describes the scenes appropriately with description to make it come alive (yet keep it appropriate). I felt Achan’s pain at many points, but I never felt ill or disgusted with the writing. Williamson does a good job of keeping the novel clean yet descriptive. There are moments early in the book of bullying where Achan fights the bullies with a little bit of pride and anger mixed in. It’s not long until he learns what is worth fighting for and where fighting is appropriate.

Language: None! Characters express their surprise through fun phrases like, “Pig snout!”

Sexual Content: There are a couple kisses on the cheek and mouth. There is mention of marriage and consummation of the marriage. The mention of these situations is appropriate, but it does allude to a married couple sealing a marriage on the wedding night.

Other: None

Recommendation: I definitely recommend this book. It is well-written, a brilliant story, and encourages the reader grow more in his or her thinking and faith.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25

By Reviewer:  Dianne
Title: Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25
Author:  Richard Paul Evans
Primary Audience/age group: Middle School and upcoming
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages:
Simon Pulse/Mercury Ink
Year of Release: 2011
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of ? (Book 2 coming in August, 2012)
4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: (From the Book Jacket) 
“My name is Michael Vey and there’s something you don’t know about me; something that scares people more than you would believe.  It’s my secret – and it’s part of the story I’m about to tell you.”

To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is just your average, ordinary fourteen-year-old.  But Michael is anything but ordinary – in fact, he is electric.

When Michael’s best friends, Ostin Liss and cheerleader Taylor Ridley, make an accidental discovery, the three of them learn that there are other kids with similar powers – and that someone, or something is hunting them. 

After Michael’s mother is kidnapped, Michael will have to rely on his wits, his unique power, and his friends to combat the hunters, free his mother, and save the others.

Review: Wow, this is a really exciting, fast paced book!  

Only seventeen of the fifty-nine babies born at Pasadena General Hospital during the eleven days of testing of a new method of body imaging survived more than two days, but they did not survive unscathed.  Each one of them had a physical anomaly which imparted to them a unique characteristic that affected their electrical systems.  Michael was able to generate electricity within his body that he could release at will. 

Dr. C. James Hatch, who pioneered the imaging procedure, had hushed up any reference to what had happened at Pasadena General and was now searching for the last two survivors that he had not yet apprehended – Michael Vey and Taylor Ridley.

Dr. Hatch fully intended to use these exceptional children to heighten his power for his own nefarious purposes and would go to any lengths to secure their cooperation.

This novel is a classic example of good vs. evil.

Rating: 4 for mild to moderate violence

Michael shows remarkable courage and restraint in controlling his power, choosing to do the appropriate thing when faced with several bullies.  He does, however get pushed beyond his limit when the bullies tried to strip him of his pants.

It is evident that Michael has a deep love and respect for his mother who has taught him strong morals and character.  He even manages to befriend the bullies who were tormenting him and comes to understand some of the rationale behind their behavior.

After being captured by Dr. Hatch, Michael refused to commit the atrocities planned by Hatch to garner his loyalty. (Who would you choose to destroy – your mother or your friend?)

This book addresses difficulties that teens face – bullying, difficult decisions, peer pressure, teen crushes, less than ideal home situations – and Michael and his friends must learn to deal with each in turn along with a plethora of other problems.  There is much here to initiate discussions about making right choices.

Spiritual Elements: None.

Violence: There was a fair amount of violence, much of it connected with the special abilities of these students.  Torture was the word used when students were isolated with the barest of necessities and threatened with electrical shock.  One of these special students followed Hatch’s every request and had the ability to virtually suck the life out of the others, causing excruciating headaches. There was little graphic violence.  Most of the violence was manifested by playing with the minds of these kids, which could be disturbing to young readers.

Language: None.

Sexual Content: Mild kissing once or twice.

Other: There was mention of an adult drinking beer, and one glass of champagne was served to this group of fifteen year olds to celebrate Taylor’s birthday.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to teens 14 and up mainly because of the emotional turbulence it could cause in younger readers.  The maturity level of younger readers should be used as a guide to determine whether a student could handle the tension. There were many opportunities to choose good over evil even though the choices given were agonizing.  

Friday, January 6, 2012

Found (The Missing Book 1)

Reviewer:  Kerin
Title: Found (The Missing Book 1)
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Primary Audience/Age Group: 9-13
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
# of pages: 314
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 4. (The Missing)
Rating: 5 View Scale
Recommend? Yes

Description: Life is pretty normal for thirteen-year-old Jonah and his new friend Chip, school, basketball, annoying little sisters. That is until Jonah gets a mysterious letter in the mail. It has a very simple message: "You are one of the missing."
Convinced he is nothing more than the victim of a prank, Jonah shrugs it off. But when his friend Chip receives a similar letter, leading him to discover a family secret, and then two new letters, this time with a warning, arrive, things take a more sinister turn.

When Jonah and Chip, joined by Jonah's sister Katherine, set out to discover the truth behind the letters and how their pasts of being adopted children are connected, they are thrown headfirst into an adventure that leads to a chilling mystery.
Jonah, Chip and Katherine are determined to find answers, even if this means unearthing an old government cover-up and facing ghost-like opponents that seem to have the ability to literally disappear into thin air.
But they had better be ready for the answers because what they will unearth will not only change their lives, but history as they know it.
Review: When my mom first handed me this book, I honestly wasn't expecting to enjoy it much; she and I have pretty differing tastes when it comes to what we read. But I was desperate for something new to read so I decided to give it a shot. I finished it in two sittings.
There was something so intriguing about the plot and the mystery involved, I just couldn't put it down. It kept me so curious; I wanted to figure out the mystery as badly as the characters in the book itself.
The plot was more different and unique than anything I'd read in quite a while. The change of pace was really refreshing and for the most part, pretty easy to follow. I did get confused during one of the scenes in the book, where the ideas of time-travel (a huge part of the plot) were being explained, but even still, I got the main points of what was being said.
The characters were enjoyable, the plot fleshed out well, and the mystery handled very well.
So, bottom line, it is very good read and a book I would definitely recommend.
Rating: With no language, minimal violence, and virtually no sexual content, I give this book a firm 5.
Positive: The hero of the story, Jonah, is a very positive role model. He is generally a well behaved kid with good morals, especially considering family and friends.
Early on in the series, he promises Chip that he will "do whatever it takes to help him" and even when the situation turns dangerous and they get more than they bargained for, he keeps him promise to Chip. He is also very protective of his little sister. He may become annoyed with her and they may argue from time to time, but he takes his role of big brother very seriously.             
He is also pretty respectful to his parents. Though he thinks they can sometimes be "mushy" and "emotional", he wouldn't ever say that to them. He realizes how lucky he is to have loving parents. He does, however, hide things from them when his adventure turns mysterious but partially in an effort to protect them and partly in fear they wouldn't understand. Still it eats away at him to keep something from them.
There is a heavy emphasis on friendship and loyalty through-out the story.
It is also stressed that you don't have to be blood to be family. Jonah, though adopted, is very firm in believing that they are his parents and Katherine is his sister despite the fact that they are not related in blood -- as are his parents and Katherine.
Spiritual Elements: Jonah mentions his parents taking him to church.
Violence: The violence is kept to a minimum. One of the characters, in an attempt to protect the children, tackles a man that is chasing them. Some punches and kicks are thrown as he tries to hold him off.
Near the climax of the book, one character is tasered and another held a point with the taser. A few characters are restrained and a hit or two is thrown by the bad guys.
Language: I don't remember any at all. There may have been one use of the word 'crap', but it's been a few weeks since I read it, and I can't remember for sure.
Sexual Content: The boys talk of one of them maybe having a crush on a girl.
Other: Perhaps the only thing some parents might want to be warned about is that one of the boys, Chip, can be disrespectful to adults, including his parents.
It is implied that he doesn't have a very good relationship with them, and that his father yells at him, and in return, Chip can be rebellious.
In another scene, when speaking to a woman about their mystery, Chip makes a few disrespectful comments.
Recommendation: I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction and fast-paced adventure. The age range may be 9-13, but I think it's a highly enjoyable story for any age.
It is very appropriate for the younger generation, but still enjoyable for young adults (like myself) and older adults (like my mother, who recommended the book to me).
To parents, if your kids like fast-paced stories with adventure or you want something exciting to get them interesting in reading but want to avoid all the gore, sexual content, and undue language, this is a perfect book for your kids to read and for you to read with them.