Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes

Like all the children in Keara’s world, she was blessed with an animal companion or darkbeast at her birth. The darkbeast has a magical connection to take upon themselves the faults and flaws of their human child. At the age of twelve, children sacrifice their darkbeasts to show they have left childhood and entered adulthood. But when Keara turns twelve, she cannot kill her darkbeast, Caw. Her failure causes her family to shun her and sets the religious order of the Inquisitors after her.

Keyes has created an incredibly detailed world where religious and patriotic beliefs intertwine in a fantastical Dark Ages society. At times the complexity of Keyes’ world can cause some confusion when it comes to describing the twelve gods in their religion and imagining the locations of cities and villages Keara visits. It would have helped Keyes’ story to have a description of the twelve gods and a map showing Keara’s land at the beginning of the book. Otherwise, Keara’s story is a compelling tale based on faith, doubts, friendship, and holding fast to beliefs in your heart. Darkbeast echos similar themes found in Fly By Night, The Golden Compass, or Beyonders. Keyes second book is called Darkbeast Rebellion.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jason's Gold by Will Hobbs

Fifteen-year-old paperboy, Jason Hawthorn, yells to New Yorkers that gold has been discovered in Alaska. Once the news is out, Jason’s eager brothers travel to Seattle so they can join the crowds booking passage to the unknown North. But Jason doesn’t want to be left out from the fortune waiting for him there. Traveling alone, he hops a train for Seattle and stows away on a ship heading to the Klondike. But Jason’s dreams of finding easy gold are dashed when he witnesses both the beauties and terrors of the people, animals, landscape, and weather of the frigid North.

Jason’s Gold is a delicious mix of adventure, action, survival, and history as readers follow Jason towards the Klondike. Jason has his own ideas of how easy it will be to strike it rich in Alaska. But when he actually sees the wilderness and people he is competing against, he begins to focus more on just staying alive than finding his fortune. Hobbs adds an extra historical twist to his tale by weaving in famed author, Jack London, and other Alaskan Gold Rush figures into his story. In Hobbs' Author Note, he explains his inspiration for writing the book and expands on London’s failed attempts at finding gold in Alaska. The sequel to Jason’s Gold is called Down the Yukon. Fans of Roland Smith, Gary Paulsen, or Ben Mikaelsen are sure to enjoy this two book series. Great for ages 10 and up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bulldozer's Big Day by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

As a bright, new day begins over the city's construction site, Bulldozer can't wait to invite his friends to his birthday party. Excitedly he asks Digger Truck why today is so special. But Digger Truck says there is nothing special about the day except for doing his assigned work. Bulldozer's excitement turns to disappointment as the rest of his friends don't recognize the significance of the day as well. Just when Bulldozer thinks he will be alone on his birthday, his friends surprise him with a massive cake to celebrate Bulldozer's big day.

A must-have for young children who love construction vehicles and equipment, Bulldozer's Big Day is a bright picture book that will bring a smile to any reader's face. All Bulldozer wants is to have someone realize that it is his birthday. When no one makes that realization, Bulldozer starts to give up hope. But when his friends do surpise him, readers see from the illustrations that everyone was working hard to make it a very special day for Bulldozer. There is a playful mix between Fleming's prose and Rohmann's block print illustrations that leads to a solid story with loveable characters. Fans of such books as Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel or Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site will enjoy this light-hearted children's book.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Wisdom of Merlin: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life by T. A. Barron

Merlin welcomes all into his Crystal Cave. But he discerns that readers have two important questions: What is the meaning of life and how can I possibly find it? From his centuries of experience, Merlin has discovered that the answer to these cosmic questions are seven simple words: gratitude, courage, knowledge, belief, wonder, generosity, hope, and love. But these are not just ordinary words. To Merlin, these words carry magically transformative power that can change the world.

There are many motivational books in the publishing world, but few are as poetic, caring, and thoughtful as Barron's The Wisdom of Merlin. Like Seuss's Oh, The Places You'll Go!, Barron uses a character and world he has lovingly created to set up an inspiring conversation between readers and the all-knowing, mythical wizard. Readers learn how they can make a difference by understanding the meaning behind each of Merlin's magical terms. An enriching, wonderful book great for fantasy fans, high school or college graduates, or for the reader who needs a loving pick-me-up.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Happy International Literacy Day!

Greetings Everyone!

Today is International Literacy Day! But today is not just about celebrating the enjoyment of reading and writing. It is also a day to reflect on the power literacy. Unfortunately, many people around the world still do not have this gift of literacy. And we who have it, sometimes take the benefits and blessings of literacy for granted.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, research shows there are about 800 million people worldwide who cannot read or write. Out of that number 126 million are children. The International Literacy Association are taking steps to spread awareness about this global problem. But the gift of literacy does not just aid us in comprehending the written word. It is does much more than that. Check out ILA's statistics on the benefits of literacy:

Who knew literacy did all of this! Just think what would happen when we work together to shrink that 800 million to zero! So, do what you can to spread the benefits of literacy and aid those trying to obtain it.

But besides realizing your benefits of literacy, celebrate today by thanking those who encouraged you to develop your skills in literacy.

Here is who I want to thank for my precious gift of literacy:

1. My awesome parents who established my literacy foundation and who patiently waited until I began building upon that foundation.

2. My many amazing teachers/professors from elementary, middle school, high school, and college who nurtured, pushed, and encouraged my development in literacy.

3. My husband who encouraged me to remember my literacy foundation so I could find meaning and purpose in my life....and for reading aloud many a good book together!

4. The many authors I have met who changed my literacy life: Thank you Jack Gantos, Kathleen Krull, Henry Cole, Sneed Collard III, Dean Hughes, Eric Kimmel, Regina Sirois, Brandon Mull, Roland Smith, and Peter Lerangis....you guys helped inspire me to rise higher because of the way you used your own gifts in literacy.

5. My Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ who gave me an eager mind and provided a world they blessed with literacy.
Have a wonderful International Literacy Day!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

After enduring strange journeys towards Romania to meet their Florescus relations, seventeen-year-old cousins, Dacia and Lou, feel something foul is behind their trip. However, Dacia dismisses everything when she meets the dashingly handsome Prince Mihai Dracula. As Dacia and Mihai quickly begin courting, Lou notices the extended family is forcefully encouraging an alliance between Dacia and Mihai. Before things get too serious, the girls witness the truth behind a feared Florescus secret. It is up to Dacia and Lou to either fight against their family's curse or be a slave to it.

George takes the Dracula myth into a refreshingly original direction with the start of her new young adult series, Silver in the Blood. Unlike many supernatural YA stories, no vampires are present in the book. George's inspiration seems to stem from the 1800's time period, Romanian history, and Romanian culture. But George's biggest praise for her book are the characters of Dacia and Lou. These two close-knit cousins start off as New York debutants. Yet that upbringing is dashed when the Florescus secret changes their lives. Confidence flees Dacia, while the humble, quiet Lou finds inner strength. And in George's own romantic style, she weaves in two handsome and helpful gentlemen to support Dacia and Lou's efforts. A fun read great for ages 13 and up.