Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Scholastic Books: Branches imprint

I recently got the opportunity to review several chapters books published by Scholastic's new imprint, Branches.
 Their website describes it as such "Scholastic proudly presents Branches–a unique line of books specifically designed for newly independent readers who are ready to make the exciting leap from leveled readers, but not quite prepared for a traditional chapter book."
This is absolutely perfect for my son who just turned six, is in Kindergarten and is reading at a first grade level. I have reviewed a few children's books during my four years blogging but mostly have stuck to what I'm reading, personally. Even though we read together every night, we have started to read more chapter books verses picture books. 

I was very excited to see these books and they were kind to send me a sample of some of their series. These are the ones that we read and he just absolutely loved. Monkey Me was by far his favorite and we have read those a few times now. They all have a nice balance of words and pictures on the page. They aren't overly silly like some chapter books are to "get the kids attention". They are simple, sweet stories with fun characters. My son enjoys going through the Table of Contents and putting a book mark in  our spot and going back to the story the next night. It is a fun stage in his reading life. I'm looking forward to reading more. Click on the link above for further book descriptions.

 
Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Monday, March 31, 2014

Eerie Elementary: The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert


Eerie Elementary is one scary school!

This series is part of Scholastic's early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!

In this first book in the series, Sam Graves discovers that his elementary school is ALIVE! Sam finds this out on his first day as the school hall monitor. Sam must defend himself and his fellow students against the evil school! Is Sam up to the challenge? He'll find out soon enough: the class play is just around the corner. Sam teams up with friends Lucy and Antonio to stop this scary school before it's too late! (Amazon)

I received this one last week and my 6 year old son and i devoured it in two nights! He is a pretty advanced reader and we are not venturing into more and more chapter books. He loved this one and is eagerly anticipating the second book in the series. It was fun and silly and a little creepy. It was easy to follow, nothing overly complicated. The kids were real, the school seemed like any old average elementary school with the little twist that is was haunted!!! Nothing too scary here though, more silly than anything. Young readers will enjoy this new series.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Porgy and Bess review at the Ordway

This past week brought another visit to the Ordway Theater in St.Paul for Blogger Night. This time around, I had, along with my theater buddy, Kim, the chance to see Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.

I knew very little about this going in, except for a jazz album I have with Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong of the same name.

Having this jazz idea in my head, I was very surprised with what I saw.

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is set in Charleston’s fabled Catfish Row, where the beautiful Bess struggles to break free from her scandalous past, and the only one who can rescue her is the courageous Porgy. Threatened by her formidable former lover Crown, and the seductive enticements of the colorful troublemaker Sporting Life, Porgy and Bess’ relationship evolves into a deep romance that triumphs as one of theater’s most exhilarating love stories. (Ordway website)

It was a magnificently dramatic story and performance, one that I enjoyed at times and at others was a bit put off. I will say it again; singing almost every line truly loses the impact of the emotions the performer is trying to get across. Even though the voices of the actors were amazing, it became too operatic at times and too showy for me to appreciate. 

I did feel the love and conflict between Porgy and Bess. I also felt the oppression of the rest of the cast members and the lives they lived. Each and every actor on stage was impressive in singing and dancing. I just couldn't get over the theatrics. Music moves me and when it is sprinkled in a show, I feel it has more impact than having it be there the whole time. 

My guest's review: "None of the music is stuck in my head today, which is my measuring stick for a good musical. The choreography was great and the story line was good but a little slow moving. The cast was incredible but they didn't have enough to work with."

I think theater fans would enjoy it overall. My little hang up is probably just that; mine!

Show runs through March 30 at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul.

Happy Viewing and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Sunday, March 23, 2014

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher


Inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in the English language-and William Shakespeare-here is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas's epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome Stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.


Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations--William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for. (Goodreads)

This one had my husband's name written all over it.

Sean's Guest Review:
I blazed through this book in one day. It is exactly what you think it would be, the basic story of Star Wars A New Hope, written in the parlance of the Bard. Though I had difficulty comprehending the real Shakespeare, I found this tale most enjoyable and understandable, as I am overly familiar with the movie, so was able to extrapolate the meaning of the archaic terminology employed herein. At times funny, at times sad, always an adventure; I really enjoyed this book.It helps that there are many parallels between some Star Wars characters and some Shakespeare characters. Knights, good hearted scoundrels, complex father-son relationships and student/mentor relationships, even fate and destiny. All in all a fun, light hearted romp "in time so long ago begins our play, in star-crossed galaxy far, far away." Genius.





Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Backlog of Books, Missing Blog and Winter blues

The last few months have been kind of a whirlwind of activity. First, I live in Minnesota and there were moments that we all thought it would never stop snowing or that the bitter cold would eventually eat us all. Second, because of the cold there were many missing school and work days which led to very little free time for me to read the backlog of books I had so enthusiastically agreed to review (see picture to the left). Third, I stupidly let my domain renewal lapse and it was like entering a portal to hell to try and get it back.

So that leaves me here trying to start clean. I will not get to the books in the photo any time soon. They all look amazing so this is there moment to shine. I figured they atleast deserve a feature post.

The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah
Louise Beeston is being haunted.Louise has no reason left to stay in the city. She can’t see her son, Joseph, who is away at boarding school, where he performs in a prestigious boys’ choir. Her troublesome neighbor has begun blasting choral music at all hours of the night—and to make matters worse, she’s the only one who can hear it.

Hoping to find some peace, Louise convinces her husband, Stuart, to buy them a country house in an idyllic, sun-dappled gated community called Swallowfield. But it seems that the haunting melodies of the choir have followed her there. Could it be that her city neighbor has trailed her to Swallowfield, just to play an elaborate, malicious prank? Is there really a ghostly chorus playing outside her door? And why won’t they stop? Growing desperate, she begins to worry about her mental health.

Against the pleas and growing disquiet of her husband, Louise starts to suspect that this sinister choir is not only real but a warning. But of what? And how can it be, when no one else can hear it? (Goodreads)


North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo
A gripping literary thriller, North of Boston combines the atmospheric chills of Jussi Adler-Olsen with the gritty mystery of Laura Lippman. And Pirio Kasparov is a gutsy, compellingly damaged heroine with many adventures ahead. (Goodreads)

By Blood We Live by Glen Duncan
From the author of the best sellers The Last Werewolf and Talulla Rising, the hair-raising conclusion to the saga that has galvanized readers' imaginations: an electrifying, startlingly erotic love story that gives us the final battle for survival between werewolves and vampires, and one last incisive--brilliantly ironic--look at what it means to be, or to not be, human. (Goodreads)

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot
Esther is a Ugandan teenager abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army and forced to witness and commit unspeakable atrocities, who is struggling to survive, to escape, and to find a way to live with what she has seen and done. Jane is an American journalist who has traveled to Africa, hoping to give a voice to children like Esther and to find her center after a series of failed relationships. In unflinching prose, Minot interweaves their stories, giving us razor-sharp portraits of two extraordinary young women confronting displacement, heartbreak, and the struggle to wrest meaning from events that test them both in unimaginable ways. (Goodreads)

Wild Justice by Kelley Armstrong
Protect the innocent. If there is any one principle that drives hit man Nadia Stafford, it’s this. In her own mind, when she was thirteen, she failed to protect her older cousin Amy from being murdered. Now she fails again, disastrously, when she botches a hit. To help her find her equilibrium, her mentor, Jack, brings her a gift: the location and new identity of the predator who killed her cousin and disappeared after the case against him failed.

Vengeance, justice? With the predator in her sights, nothing seems more right, more straightforward, more easy. But finding justice is never as simple as it seems. (Goodreads)


I hope you find something that may interest you. They all have something good to offer. I've started them all and are excited to finish (maybe this summer!). For now, I am going to continue to catch up on the books and audio books I HAVE finished and post about those too. I also have a few book club posts to catch up on. And I want to get back to checking out my favorite blogs too. 

Hope you all are well out there in blog land. I am SO ready for Spring (except for all the rabbit poop I have in my yard right now) Can't win!

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Book Review: Missing You by Harlan Coben

It's a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancĂ© Jeff, the man who shattered her heart—and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years.

Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her.  But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable. 

As the body count mounts and Kat's hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved—her former fiancĂ©, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there. (Goodreads)


Harlan Coben is amazing. He continues to surprise me with every thriller he writes. I did not figure it out at all and this is a big thing for me when reading thrillers. If I have it down before the end, you probably have bored me.

Coben mixes police and family politics with the mob with kidnappers with online dating with mental illness to get a huge story with lots of secrets. His writing was sharp, and kept me on edge. I really liked Kat's character and her struggles with finding the truth about her father and missing fiance were hard to stomach at times. 

Coben is an author you can pick up anywhere along the line. His writing is pretty consistent and not overly formulaic. With every book you get a new thrilling mystery. Recommended for psychological thriller fans.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Friday, March 7, 2014

Audio Review: In the Blood by Lisa Unger


Lana Granger lives a life of lies. She has told so many lies about where she comes from and who she is that the truth is like a cloudy nightmare she can’t quite recall. About to graduate from college and with her trust fund almost tapped out, she takes a job babysitting a troubled boy named Luke. Expelled from schools all over the country, the manipulative young Luke is accustomed to controlling the people in his life. But, in Lana, he may have met his match. Or has Lana met hers?

When Lana’s closest friend, Beck, mysteriously disappears, Lana resumes her lying ways—to friends, to the police, to herself. The police have a lot of questions for Lana when the story about her whereabouts the night Beck disappeared doesn’t jibe with eyewitness accounts. Lana will do anything to hide the truth, but it might not be enough to keep her ominous secrets buried: someone else knows about Lana’s lies. And he’s dying to tell (Goodreads)

What a creepy, freaking book! Seriously. I had chills while listening to this. Lisa Unger definitely at her finest. I was floored by her first book, Beautiful Lies many years back and this one did it to me the same.

You don't truly know anyone in this book. So much deception, false personalities, mental health issues, loss. Whew. It's a race to see how messed up everyone can get.

But I was hooked. For how dark it was, I wanted to see it through to the end. I knew Lana had many secrets and I kind of guessed the big one towards the end. But the little boy? Well, he had me guessing. Couldn't quite figure him out. 

Overall, Unger tells a pretty complicated, layered familial dramatic thriller. For fans of psychological suspense this would be a good one. I listened to it and the two narrators really brought the craziness to life. Lana's narrator was cold yet inviting. You never truly rooted for her but you didn't want her to be the victim.

Highly recommend for thriller fans. 

Happy reading and listening, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child