Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: The Jupiter Pirates Hunt For The Hydra by Jason Fry

ARC copy received at no charge to facilitate review.

Siblings, Tyco, Yana, and Carlos Hashoone all want nothing more than to be the next captain of the  family's privateer, Shadow Comet. Only one will get the honor.

In the meantime,  they must work together for the good of the Jovian Union as they learn what it takes to keep the dreaded Jupiter Pirates at bay. At only 12, Tyco is given an increasing amount of duties, one of which is to keep watches on the bridge. He finds himself and family in the middle of a conspiracy by Earth to infiltrate the Jovian Union. Will he finally be able to prove himself to the formidable captain, Diocletia, his own mother?

While the plot weakens at times, the strong sci-fi world building makes up for it. Interesting characters, especially the colorful Hashoone grandfather, Huff, will capture the readers attention. Though I would have loved to seen a more powerful antagonist, it does not distract from the action and great family dynamics. Science fiction with fantasy elements make The Jupiter Pirates Hunt for the Hydra, a solid introduction to a promising series.

Rating:  Recommended★★★★☆

Publishing Details

Publisher: Harper Collins (Dec. 23, 2013)
ISBN-13 978-0062230201 
Pages: 256
Ages 8-12

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**Advanced Reader's Copy received at no charge to facilitate review. **

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

High School Homework Battles: A Mother's Desperate Measure

Let's face it. No matter how we try to raise our children the same, they rarely turn out the same. I've learned to embrace the different personalities that lie within the walls of my home. What has been harder to embrace is why both of my sons hate homework while my daughter, husband and I, like to learn. I'm sure it has nothing to do with their sex. I've seen lots of boys who love school. One of my neighbors had brood of both boys and girls who always did their homework and went onto get college degrees in challenging subjects

Though my youngest son has ambitions of being a doctor someday, he has not figured out how his success in high school will prepare him for this future. No matter how many times I talk to him about his grades, he still manages to skirt around the homework issue. It's discouraging to log into the school's computers and see he is failing his physics class, not because he doesn't understand it, but because he has turned in homework for several weeks.

We have tried taking away electronic devices. We have made it clear he will not be able to sign up for driver's ed at school or get his learner's permit. All to no avail. When midterms came, my son still was not performing at the level I knew he could. I told him if he did not work hard to get his grades up, I would come to school and sit through the classes he was struggling with. In elementary school, I'm sure my children would have liked that. In high school, not so much. At a time when they are trying to assert their independence, the last thing they want is to have a parent babysit.

My son worked to bring his grades up, albeit not as hard as he could. By the end of the week, they weren't as high as I had requested. I knew I had to follow through with my threat.

I want to point out that I do not believe in shaming my children. I talked to my son and explained that to him. I told him the reason that I wanted to go to school with him was so that he could see that I cared enough about his education to give up my day off work. I told him the only thing we expect of our children is to try hard in school because that is their job at this point in their life. I promised I would not go out of my way to embarrass him and I did not.

 I followed through with my threat. I made sure to obey the school's policies. I checked in at the office and accepted their escort to my son's English class. I nodded my head at him when I walked into the classroom but didn't say anything in front of his friends. It went well. I discovered he has an awesome English teacher.  I even came to class prepared by reading Animal Farm. 

I attended three of his five classes. Next came math. I had to follow my son to his class. I told him I would walk behind him and pretend I didn't know him unless he tried to ditch me. If he did that,  I would call out for him and everybody in the halls would hear. Luckily, I didn't have to call out his name.

For my son's sake, I left for lunch and came back for physics. I had never met the physics teacher. She was more than happy to have me. I left her class with something I didn't know. It was impressed with what a great teacher he had. Her love for teaching showed in her enthusiasm and control of the classroom. Even if my son didn't learn anything from having me there, I left knowing he was in good hands.

In the end, I wanted my son to learn that it is his responsibility to bring home his homework. Though I didn't wear a sign announcing I was his mother, he knew it and it embarrassed him. At the same time, he learned some valuable lessons: When Mom says something, she means it. Education is important and turning in the work is half the battle. I'm sure he'll think twice the next time his grades drop knowing Mom might show up to class again.

What are some of the drastic measures you have had to take to get your child to turn in homework?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: Diego's Dragon Book One Spirits of the Sun

Book received at no charge for review purposes

Eleven-year-old, Diego Ramirez becomes the envy of his school when he wins a writing contest and receives a coveted dragon statue handed out by Nathan Sullivan, the author who set up the contest. Though his tight knit Latino family proudly celebrates his success, they don't see what he does in the dragon he names Magnifico.

Magnifico slowly comes to life. At first his antics, like moving into a different place, seem harmless. But his tricks become more intense which frightens Diego. With the help of his friend Racquel, they try to get rid of Magnifico. However, Diego finds he has more control over the dragon as he discovers his bloodline, who he truly is and strength he didn't know he had.

Author Kevin Gerard ends up successfully weaving in a backstory with Diego's brother that seems confusing at first. Strong characters make Diego's Dragon Book One: Spirits of the Sun a solid introduction to a promising fantasy adventure series.

Rating: Recommended ****

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**This book was received at no charge to facilitate my review. No monetary compensation was received. As always, I retain the right to give an honest review.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: All About Poop by Kate Hayes & Illustrated by Breanna Vaughan

Book received at no charge by the publisher to facilitate my review. 

What boy or girl hasn't wondered about poop? Just the word is sure to elicit giggles from any group of children.

With fun, quick-witted rhymes, All About Poop answers the age old question of where poop comes from and why we make it. From the moment the book's star swallows his food, the process of forming poop and farts begins. The reader follows the simplified journey from esophagus, stomach and intestines and eventually to the sewer. Even the most serious minded can't help but laugh at the illustration of poop shapes that give pause to the curious minded without being too gross. 

The smelly gas that sneaks out in farts complete with sounds like "flap, pwip, and "squeep" add comical fun while the admonition that "poop has germs" remind youngsters of hygiene without taking away from the amusement. Author, Kate Hayes, lists five things to remember and some fun facts about poop at the end of the book. She reminds readers that it's not nice to talk about poop unless you're reading this book and it's one your child or student will definitely want to read. While getting educated, please remember number two and "Don't poop in your pants."

Rating: Highly Recommended ★★★★★

Publishing Information

Publisher: Pinwheel Books (Sept. 2012)
38 pages
ISBN: 978-0-985-4248-00
Ages: 3-7

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***FTC Disclosure: Book received at no charge to facilitate my review. No monetary compensation was received. Review based upon my actual experience.***

Friday, January 3, 2014

Out of Eden by Peter Johnson: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate my review.

Since the divorce of his parents, seventeen-year-old Stony pulls away from his father and rarely talks to him. When his father and live in girlfriend, Sally, plan a vacation in New Hampshire for him and his sister Molly, Stony must counteract his father's hasty temper with his quiet strength in the face of evil as chilling as his grandmother's murder.

At the first rest stop on the way to their destination, Stony's dad gets into an argument with two frightening characters, Abraham and Leopold. Abraham's brutality does not compare to the religious fanaticism of Leopold who mark Stony and his family for extermination and hunt them down.

The hunt becomes more terrifying with brief glimpses into the mind of the psychotic killer, Leopold. Out of Eden offers a gripping look into the world of a psychopath with realistic violence too disturbing for a younger reader, but will keep the teen reader engrossed throughout the entire story.

Rating:  Recommended ****

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Namelos (February 1, 2014)
Ages: 14-18
ISBN: 9781608981618

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**FTC Disclosure:  I received the book at no charge to facilitate my review. No monetary compensation was received.