Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Briny Deep Mysteries: Trilogy Review

**FTC disclosure: Books received at no charge to facilitate my review. As always, I am free to give an honest review.

                        The Disappearing - Book 1

For Tim and his friends the seaside town of Briny Deep is the perfect place to grow up together. Nothing bad ever happens. Nothing until a stranger comes to town and a young girl disappears. Now Tim has more to worry about than his recurring nightmare in which a stranger chases him but he alway awakens before getting caught. When one of his own friends disappear, he and his friend Max set out to solve the mystery behind the disappearances and the stranger with the yellow hair. A jarring conversation overheard by Tim leaves him with more questions than answers about what might those closest to him are hiding.

The short novel length will appeal to the reluctant reader upper middle grade reader. However, the older teen may not find the story stimulating enough, especially since the plot relies on the cliche of a recurring dream. However, the cliffhanger presented by Torres will have the paranormal science fiction fan reaching for the next installment.

The Return - Book 2

In the two weeks since his best friend, Luke, disappeared Tim hasn't found many clues to his whereabouts. He has learned the name of the stranger with the yellow-hair, Canary. He is certain if he could find out more about a place called Earth, he may be able to find his friends. In the meantime, Tim overhears a conversation that makes him worry about his remaining friends, Max, Emily and Nina. In his quest to solve the mystery of the missing children, he stumbles across a secret  tunnel. His discovery takes him from the only home Tim has ever known.

Instead of starting where the previous book left off, The Return, begins inside Tim's recurring dream, making it hard for the reader to get into the real story. It takes several chapters to follow the plot, potentially losing those who haven't read the first installment. Luckily, the excitement builds and leaves a surprise twist for the protagonist.

The Battle - Book 3

Tim and his friends, Luke, Max and Emily have uncovered the dark secret of Briny Deep and embark on a journey to a place called Earth where the surprise of their lives await. But Tim can't quell the lingering feeling that he has left something behind. Trident, the evil leader of Briny deep, has vowed to stop the return of the precious cargo that he is convinced will save his planet.

Plenty of plot twists keep the reader engaged in climax of Torres' paranormal mystery trilogy. Overall, the series wobbles on lack of strong interactions between the protagonist and his female friends. Those who love plot driven stories may overlook the lack of reliance on friends and may even admire Tim's independent streak.

Series Rating:  Good to Recommended ★★★✬☆

Publishing Information:
 Publisher: Speeding Star (Sept. 2014)
Pages: 95-96 pages each book
ISBN-13: 978-1622851737, 978-1622851812, 978-1622851867
Age Level: 9-14

These books can be purchased from the following retailers:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Affordable Eyeglasses at Firmoo: Review

**FTC Disclosure: Complimentary product received to facilitate review. No monetary compensation was received.

Less than a year ago, my prescription changed for my reading glasses. Even after reusing the frames, it still cost me $200 to have the lenses replaced.

While I knew I could order glasses over the internet, I never dared to try. I finally got a chance with Firmoo. The only thing I regret is not trying Firmoo sooner. For less than $50.00, I can get a pair of prescription glasses which includes both the frames and the lenses. Best of all, the glasses were the right prescription and fit well.

The ordering process is a little more extensive than a most online purchases. I had to obtain my prescription from my last optometry visit. Luckily, the optometry office at the mass merchandiser was very accommodating and not only gave me a copy of my prescription, but also measured my pupil distance.

Once I received my prescription, the ordering process was easy. I input the numbers and waited for my glasses. With Firmoo, you have to be patient. My glasses were shipped from outside the country and it took over three weeks for delivery. For the amount of money I would have saved compared to my last purchase, it's definitely worth the wait. The quality of my Firmoo glasses were as good as the more expensive pairs I own. The glasses fit comfortably, even after hours of use. My glasses came packages well and also included a nice case, a cleaning cloth and a small screwdriver for adjustments.

Sunglasses at Firmoo

I already have a pair of sunglasses picked out at Firmoo for my separate driving prescription. I have wanted a back up pair and don't mind waiting a few weeks to save a large amount of money.

I'm so happy Firmoo found me. I'll be using them again when my teenage son needs a pair of glasses.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ALI: An America Champion by Barry Denenberg: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Through the creative use of news documents boxing legend, Muhammed Ali, comes to life. Ali's "trash talk" and controversial mix of politics, religion and race along with his sports prowess created a media frenzy wherever he went. Denenberg's fictional use of newspaper and magazine articles, "man on the street" interviews, "breaking news" transcripts, and letters to the editor to tell the true story of the famous boxer and fits with the "larger than life" icon the media helped create during the 1960's and 70's.

Denenberg doesn't shy away from some of the unflattering events in Ali's life that came to define the legendary boxer. From his refusal to enter the draft for the Vietnam War to his relationships with Elijah Muhammed and Malcolm X, the author shows in fictional narratives the true life mixed reactions of both the black and white communities during the Civil Rights Era.

The layout of the news stories with the black and white photos of Muhammed Ali will capture the attention of even the most hesitant reader. Muhammed Ali says it best when he proclaims, "I know where I'm going and I know the truth and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want." A solid biography in a unique format will resonate with those who want to stay true to themselves even when it is unpopular with those around them.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers  (Sept. 23, 2014)
ISBN: 978-1-4814-0141-8
Pages: 96
Ages 10-14

This book can be purchased at the following retailers:

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FTC Disclosure: Book was provided by publisher at no charge to aid in review. No monetary compensation was received.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Giveaway: The Code Busters Club Series by Penny Warner (3 paperbacks and 1 hardback)

FTC Disclosure: Prize sponsored by publisher. No compensation was received.

I have teamed up with Egmont Publishers to offer one of my lucky readers The Code Buster Series of 3 paperback books and one hardback. 

Check out what Kirkus Reviews had to say about the The Code Buster:

“This intriguing tale has vivid characters and such a tantalizing cliffhanger that readers won't be able to resist cracking the next Code Busters.”—Kirkus Reviews

Giveaway Details:

One of my lucky readers will receive the following:

The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key (paperback) 
2011 Agatha Award Nominee

The Code Busters Club, Case #2: The Haunted Lighthouse (paperback)
Winner of the 2012 Agatha Award

The Code Busters Club, Case #3: The Mystery of the Pirate's Treasure (paperback) 
2014 Agatha Award Nominee
2014 Anthony Award Nominee

The Code Busters Club, Case #4: The Mummy's Curse (hardback)

Please use Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the form and agree to them. Contest ends 11/3/2014 at 11:59 EST.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Author Interview: Amy Herrick of The Time Fetch

I love author interviews. It gives me a chance to share the faces and personality behind the names on book covers. 

Featuring Amy Herrick: Author of The Time Fetch

Amy Herrick is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Every morning, she and her dog take a long walk in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, looking for adventure. They’ve seen and heard many wondrous things there, some of which have served as inspiration for this story. The Time Fetch is her first book for young readers.

1. The Time Fetch is your first book for young readers. What inspired you to write for children?

AH: Learning to read is kind of like learning to ride a bike.  It’s a very wobbly business at first and there’s a lot of different skills you have to bring together to make it work.  In the beginning you’re very klutzy and you’re focusing with all your might and then all of a sudden----Presto! Alacazam! It clicks! You’re doing it!  That time of your reading life, when you first take off and you’re free and you’re flying and nobody is holding on, is the golden time, the glorious time.  It is the time when you first realize all the treasures that reading can hold—that it can entertain you, that it can allow you to travel through space and time, that you can get yourself terrified without having to actually put yourself in danger, that it can give you the power to see inside of other people’s heads.At this age, when you love a book, it takes you over completely.  It sears itself on your memory and you carry it with you for the rest of your life.Imagine writing a book that someone would experience in that way.  I thought I’d give it a shot!

2. Where do you get the inspiration for your characters? Are they modeled after anybody you 

AH: Edward was the first character I created.  In the beginning, he was the only one.  He was inspiredby my older son, who was pretty lazy as a kid and still who tends to be in his head a lot, trying to figure out the true nature of reality.Then Feenix showed up because I felt that Edward needed a nemesis. In the beginning she was much nastier than she ended up being.  I wanted someone who was all fire and restlessness and always in trouble and she was based largely on my younger son who is a wild thing and who spent most of his middle school and high school years in detention.  Danton came in a side door and I wasn’t expecting him to be so important, but I realized that if Edward needed a nemesis, he also needed a sidekick who could center him and the reader, and who represented a more balanced, natural way of being in the world.
Brigit arrived, I think, because I wanted the symmetryy of two boys and two girls.  Her shyness is based largely on my own early, always blushing years.

3. Speaking of the writing process, how long did it take to write The Time Fetch and what part of writing takes the longest.

AH: It took me a long time to write this book.  I worked on it over several years.  I wrote a complete draft, which I ended up scrapping because it felt too lightweight to me.  The hardest part for me is always the first part, the getting a story off the ground—like a kite.  The kite has to have the right shape and weight and tail and then you’ve got to get lucky with the weather and the wind.  Once you’ve got it up there, it gets easier and easier to just let the string out.

4. What is the most important message from your novel you would like readers to grasp?

AH: I was trying to explore a lot of ideas that interest me in this book. But probably the one I’d most like readers to take away is voiced by Mr. Ross, the science teacher.  He’s talking about entropy —the tendency for everything in the universe to move from a state of order to disorder, to die, to fall apart.   He says to his students:  “But think about it, my young seekers. There may be ways to slow entropy down. Even reverse its progress.  You can align yourself to fight alongside the powers of order and creation.  You can battle to keep things going, even join the ranks of those who devote their lives to making greater harmony and knowledge.  Or you can sit back and allowthings to run down.”

5. Tell us what it is like to see the final cover of your novel and see it in print?

AH: Doesn’t matter if you’re four years old or ninety-four, it’s always gratifying to have other people react with thought and care to something you’ve made. When you feel like an illustrator and a designer have created a cover that really catches the heart of what you’ve tried to do, it’s hard tostop thanking your lucky stars and kissing strangers on the street.  That’s the way I felt when I first saw this book with its cover on.

6. Who are some of the children's book authors you look up to?

AH: Oh so many wonderful authors I read over and over.  Last night I was rereading George MacDonald’s Princess and Curdie written back in 1872.  The goblins in this story are as well-imagined as any fairytale creatures lurking under beds or feet.  It is said that George MacDonald influenced many around him and many who followed—including Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle, each of whom have influenced me and so many other readers and writers.   Afew others I keep by my desk: E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (for White’s perfect, delicate, hilarious touch), Katherine Briggs’ Hobberdy Dick (a moving historical fantasy about a moment intime when old beliefs are giving away to new ones), Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising (suspenseful and often verging on the good-edge of scary, this is a story which uses mythology, Arthurian legend and ancient Celtic folklore)

7. What advice would you give to young readers who dream of becoming writers someday?

AH: Read a lot. Keep a journal.  Ask other people for their stories (especially the old folks!) and write the good ones down in your journal. Be brave!

8. What kind of feedback have you received that has helped you in writing your next book? Will there be a sequel to Time Fetch? Tell us about your next project

AH; Since so many people have asked me if I was planning a sequel and since I feel I’m not quite ready to let go of Feenix, Danton, Brigit and Dweebo, I’ve decided to give it a try.  The Time Fetchwas a winter solstice tale, so this next one will be a companion story that takes place at the summer solstice.

Check out my review on The Time Fetch.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

BZRK Apocalypse by Michael Grant: Three Book Series Giveaway

Check out what others have to say about the BZRK Apocalypse series and enter to win a paperback copy of the first two books and a hardcover of the third  book.

2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
 “With simmering pots of sexual tension, near-nonstop action, and the threat of howling madness or brain-melting doom around every corpuscular corner, Grant’s new series is off to a breathless, bombastic start.”—Booklist, starred review

BZRK Reloaded

VOYA Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror 2013
 “The graphic descriptions of what the real and artificial creatures . . . Add in some discussable ideas on the ethics of human experimentation and a smart, simple explanation of the potential in nanotechnology . . . . Round out the experience with realistically unpredictable characters and blockbuster action sequences to complete this thoroughly enjoyable, incredibly disturbing story.”—VOYA, perfect 10 review

BZRK Apocalypse                     
On Sale: 10/14/2014      
★ “A great choice for readers with a strong stomach, an interest in the future of biomedical technology and the essential ethical debate, or anyone willing to embark on an unnerving, frighteningly plausible thrill ride all around the globe.”—VOYA, perfect 10 review

Giveaway Details

One of my lucky readers will win the BZRK Apocalypse three book series with a paperback copy of the first two books and a hardback copy of the third book. Giveaway ends 10/27/2014 at 11:59 EST. Use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the form and agree to them.

**FTC Disclosure: This giveaway is sponsored by the publisher. No monetary or product compensation received for post.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Troubles of Johnny Cannon by Isaiah Campbell Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review

Racial tensions and cold war hysteria fill the town of Cullman, Alabama. It's 1961 and twelve-year-old Johnny Cannon finds himself smack in the middle of the the town's troubles. Johnny's problems go from bad to worse when his older brother goes off on a secret mission, leaving him in charge of his ailing Pa. Johnny befriends the African-American pastor's son, Willie, drawing ire of the Klu Klux Klan and if that is not enough, his father's antics in their backyard shed and his secret radio station bring more unwanted attention from the CIA.

Though Johhny would rather be hunting, he ends up face to face with Fidel Castro and embroiled in  the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Though the story grows increasing more implausible, Johnny's lessons about friendship and the true meaning of family add heart to an already strong character.

Well developed characters and Johnny's original voice make for a fun adventure that will leave the reader with troubles of his own while hiding under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime to discover the fate of his new hero.

Rating: Highly Recommeded ★★★★★

Publishing Information:

Publisher: S&S Books for Young Readers (Oct. 14,2014)
ISBN: 978-1-48140039-8
Ages: 8-12

This book can be purchased from the following retailers: 

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fantasy League by Book Review

Ebook received at no charge to facilitate review.

Seventh grader, Charlie Gaines, has an uncanny ability to choose winning fantasy-football leagues, even if he's lacking the football field. His league picks earn him the well-deserved nickname, "the brain" among his peers.

His best friend, Anna, happens to be a huge football fan as well as the granddaughter Joe Warren, the owner of the LA Bulldogs. When she introduces Charlie to Grandpa Warren, he can't resist giving the old man advice on how he can improve his losing football team. While Charlie's insight does help improve the Bulldogs record, his friendship with Joe Warren drives the game.

Die hard football fans will overlook the improbabilities of Charlie's situations and relationships while his own quest on the football field will leave the reader some nail biting moments. For those not familiar with fantasy leagues and football, Lupica's novel may fail to spark interest.

Rating: Recommended 

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Philomel (Sept. 2014)
Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-0-399-25607-3
Ages: 10-14

This book can be purchased at the following retailers:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Temple Run by Chase Wilder Set of 3 Paperback Books Giveaway

Giveaway is sponsored by the publisher. Blog owner does not receive product or monetary compensation in exchange for giveaway.

I've teamed up with Egmont Publishers to offer my readers a great giveaway. Check out the set of three paperbacks we are giving away.

Temple Run Book One Run for Your Life!: Jungle Trek
Chase Wilder    

You're a lucky kid--for your birthday, you're having a destination party: a campout and scavenger hunt in an exotic locale. Depending on the choices you make, you will reach safety in time to enjoy your party, or you will be kidnapped and held for ransom, buying Guy and Scarlett time to make off with the treasure. You decide!

Temple Run Book Two Run for Your Life!: Doom Lagoon              
Chase Wilder    

You are an intern and will be accompanying the curator of an antiquities museum during school vacation on a dive to a newly discovered historic shipwreck. Depending on the choices you make, you will either be stranded at sea, drown, explore the wreck, or discover buried treasure. You decide!

Temple Run Downloaded Apptivity Book 

 Temple Run Downloaded is a cool, fast, addictive mobile game, and fans can relive the excitement with this activity book shaped like a tablet. Race down ancient temple walls, along sheer cliffs, and avoid evil monkeys as you challenge your brain to solve these fun puzzles. Temple Run Downloaded includes mazes, brain teasers, puzzles, 4 gatefold pages, and 4 sticker pages, with exclusive info about this favorite game and characters. Full color illustrations throughout.

Giveaway Details:

Please use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the form and agree to them. Contest open to U.S. and Canada residents only. Ends 10/4/2014 at 11:59 EST

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Monday, September 8, 2014

The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick: Book Review and Giveaway

Book received at no charge to facilitate review

Edward rarely puts much effort into anything but he does make an effort to bring a rock to school for his assignment. A quick search in his aunt's garden yields what he thinks is a boring rock. The rock turns out to be a Fetch that begins to steal time after it is aroused.

Three of his classmates touch the Fetch and discover they are the only four people who can see time disappearing around them. As they try to make sense of the chaos around them, they lines between their world fade into a dimension of time terrifying and dangerous. They must escape the likes of ghastly witches and formidable panthers while they try to restore the Time Fetch and stop the clock against lost time.

While the four main characters are interesting, it is Edward's pagan aunt who inspires curiosity. Herrick's strong writing makes up for some plot holes and confusion about exactly how the Time Fetch came to be. A fun adventure, sometimes bogged down by lectures about time or references to myths about the Winter Solstice. A solid adventure sure to delight fantasy fans.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Publishing Information
Publisher: Algonquin
Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-1-61620-453-2
Ages: 10 and up

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:

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One of my lucky readers will win a paperback copy of The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick. Use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the form and agree to them. Contest ends 9/18/2014 at 11:59 EST. Giveaway sponsored by the publisher.
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Review: Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz and Illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Raffi feels different from all of the other boys at school. While they like to play rough and make a lot of noise, Raffi preferred to sit quietly by himself. While looking for a quiet spot, he finds his teacher knitting and can't hide his fascination at her creation. He jumps at the chance to learn to knit and gathers yarn in every color of the rainbow for a scarf for his dad.

As his project grows, he tries to ignore the taunting of the other children on the school bus.  He receives unwavering support at home when he asks his parents if there is such thing as a "Tomgirl." Raffi expands his skills for the school play and gains the admiration of his classmates in the process.

Made by Raffi celebrates children's unique difference with pizzazz and color in a spirited story that will win the hearts of those who feel different as well as those who want to celebrate differences. Move over Calvin Klein, the young reader may want to take over the world of fashion design.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Publishing Details:
Publisher: Francis Lincoln Children's Books (July 29, 2014)
ISBN: 978-1-84780-433-4
40 pages
Ages: 5-9

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Double Reverse by Fred Bowen

Book received at no charge from publisher to facilitate an honest review.

Jesse Wagner doesn't plan on playing anything but wide receiver on his freshman high school football team. After all, he is built like a wide receiver. Stuck at playing the part of goalie on the girl's soccer team, his friend Savannah possesses a powerful kick hidden from her team. Even though they work hard, success eludes them.

When Henry, the Panther's quarterback, gets injured for the season, the team seems sure to fail. The coach takes a chance at replacing the quarterback with Henry and adding Savannah as the kicker. They must prove that sometimes those who don't look the part can play it well. In the meantime, Jessie's older brother, Jay, struggles in his first year of college football with many of the same issues.

Descriptive football action mixed with a dose of a lesson in what one can achieve written in simple text will appeal to the reluctant reader whose interests lie with sports. Although those not interested in sports may not find the story engaging, football enthusiasts who don't like reading may want to tackle Double Reverse. A solid sports book for ages 8-12 but will appeal to the younger end of the spectrum.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publisher: Peachtree Publishing (Aug. 2014)
ISBN: 978-156-1458141
Pages: 144
Ages: 7-12
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Invasion by Zack Satriani Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review

Dray finally has the chance to prove herself as the commander in the Bellori army. Her friend, Kellor has become the new Cantor king and wants nothing more than provide good leadership while trying to change the way his people view their world. Meanwhile, their friend, Ayl, struggles  between trying to maintain peace and helping the Aquanth people understand the dangers lurking in their world.

When the evil Sudor returns with the Nara-Karith army strong enough to defeat the Bellori warriors, Dray is forced to make a decision that will change her people and those of the neighboring planets forever.

Plenty of action awaits the science fiction lover though it comes at the expense of meaningful character development. The formulaic plot resolves in a predictable ending to a three book series.

 Rating:  Good ★★★☆☆

Publishing Information:
Publisher: Hodder Books (May, 2014)
Pages: 286
Ages: 9-11
ISBN: 978-1444906622  
This book can be purchased at the following retailers:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez by Peter Johnson: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate my review
His little brother calls him Mr. Negativity, his mom tells him he is the "glass half full" kind of guy but Benny Alvarez likes to think of himself as a realist who sees all sides of things. Benny also likes to think of himself as a word connoisseur (con-nois-seur - noun: an expert in a particular subject). With the help of his two friends and his handy thesaurus, his prowess with words lands him the boys champion in a poetry contest against his adversary, Claudine.

While Benny's smart-aleck antics at school make him a character easy to relate to for any middle school reader, his relationships at home carry rich characters through a lukewarm plot. As Benny faces a grandfather who is slowly going senile, a wild younger brother, an overly optimistic mother, a father who has lost his job and a sister who he actually likes, he learns the meaning of love that can't be found on the pages of his thesaurus. With character development deep, the reader can't help but laugh and even cry as Benny extends the compassion he gains at home to his peers at school.
Rating:  Recommended to Highly Recommended ★✬ (4 1/2)

Publishing Information:
Publisher: Harper (June 24, 2014)
Pages: 224
ISBN: 978-0-06-221596-3
Ages: 11-14

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Hidden Enemy by Zack Satriani: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate my review

With nothing but a shaky alliance to hold three planets together, disagreement on what to do with an asteroid valuable to each planet in different ways threaten to destroy peace between the union.

 As heirs to their respective planets, three teens are brought to the negotiations of what should be done with the asteroid. Dray, a Bellori warrior wants to prove to her father that being a girl does not preclude her from proving she is a strong fighter. The Cantorian teen, Keller, has learned the art of negotiation and believes he should always get his way. And the Aquanth, Ayl, wants nothing more than to use his power of telepathy to keep the peace. An attack by alien creatures attack, forces the three to leaders to work together to save their parents and to defeat the evil forces intent on controlling the Trinity.   

The action driven adventure leaves little in the way of meaningful character development. However, the science fiction lover may appreciate the constant action and overlook character flaws and lack of originality. A fast, entertaining read suited for ages 11-14.
Rating:  Good to Recommended ★★★✬☆ (3 1/2 out of 5)

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Seize the Summer and Join the Read Aloud Campaign

I want to challenge my readers to join the "Seize the Summer" campaign and read aloud to your child at least 15 minutes a day. Now that my children are older, I have seen first hand how important it has been throughout their lives that I spent time reading to them.