Synopsis: Mice live in a dangerous world full of predators, cold, heat, and floods. They have built a society in small cities around the world, and they have the Mouse Guard to watch the paths between the cities. Unfortunately, a traitor has entered their midst, and they must protect their cities from invasion by traitor mice.
My Thoughts: I bought this book because I could see how beautiful the artwork was and because my friends suggested it to me as a fantastic kids book that could come with a children’s RPG. I thought it would be a good gift for my step-son-to-be. We have yet to play the game, but I was a little disappointed in the book. My step-son-to-be is almost to the level where he can read the book himself, which makes it a great purchase for him, but I found the storyline a little lacking in plot. That, of course, is true of many books appropriate for a gifted 5 and a half year old to read himself. I will encourage him to read it, though I am uninterested in reading any further in the series myself.
I give 3.5 stars because I loved the artwork and feel that it really is appropriate for the child for whom I bought it.
Summary: In Get Ready to Get Pregnant, Dr. Lu provides a lot of important information for women who wish to become pregnant within the next several months (longer, if you plan on getting down to a target weight before getting pregnant, as he suggests).
My Thoughts: Although the information was interesting and informative at times, I feel that Dr. Lu was a bit of a fear-monger. Is my child really going to have diabetes if I do not get my weight down before getting pregnant? Maybe. Maybe not. Then again, some of the information was quite useful – such as the information on what kinds of foods to eat. Other information was stuff I already knew, and I just ended up skimming a lot of chapters. So, it’s a good, very basic, book for people who want to get pregnant, but I suggest not letting it scare you.
Summary: In the 1920s, the Osage Indians of Oklahoma were the richest people per capita due to the discovery of oil on their land. The federal government decided that the Osage were not “fit” to make monetary decisions on their own, and they were appointed legal guardians who did anything but guard the safety of their legal charges. Over a period of several years, many rich Osage were murdered (or died suspiciously) in what appears to be a conspiracy among legal guardians to gain control of the wealth. Outlining malicious greed and terror, Killers of the Flower Moon begins by following a specific set of murders that the FBI “solved.” Grann then continues the book by describing his own research into other mysterious deaths that happened around the same time.
My Thoughts: This book is engaging and terrifying at the same time. It’s sadly too easy to believe that people appointed to be “guardians” would act so despicably. It is disgusting and bigoted that the federal government claimed the Osage needed guardians to begin with. Such a tragic story. But one that I think every American should read to understand how the government has treated Native Americans.
Summary: Against the Tide is the fifth book in Spirit Animals, a middle-grade fantasy series imagined by Brandon Mull. The first one is called Wild Born, by Brandon Mull. The story picks up where book four left off. The team is looking for the amulets from other Great Beasts while trying to figure out if they have a mole in their midst.
My Thoughts: Spirit Animals is such an adorable series appropriate for middle-school-age kids. I plan on giving the first in the series to my 8-year-old step-daughter. It may be slightly above her reading level, but it’s the right level to challenge a second or third grader.
I love that Spirit Animals is written by different authors for each book – it introduces new authors to me. Against the Tide did not disappoint. I had some good laughs and was engaged the entire time. The story-line is not predictable, despite being appropriate for younger children. I am excited to get the next in the series, and will certainly look at what other books Sutherland has written.
Synopsis: Alexandria leaves her home in America to travel Bulgaria and teach. But on her first day there, she runs into a mysterious family, whose bag she accidentally “steals.” When she discovers how valuable the contents are, she feels she has to find the family and return the bag personally. However, the family is difficult to find and she is led on a wild goose chase looking for them. All the while, strange people are following and threatening her.
My Thoughts: This is Kostova’s attempt to do for Bulgaria what she did for Istanbul in The Historian. I was hoping this book would turn out as good as The Historian, but it fell flat for me. What was the point of the plot again? It was a bit silly. And so wordy. I was hoping there’d be a fascinating big reveal at the end that would make this 18.5 hour audiobook worthwhile, but the ending was about as mediocre as the middle. Despite this total meh-ness, I give the book 3.5 snowflakes instead of only three because the book was interesting at times, and the writing flowed well.
Synopsis: This is the epic story following the lineage of Kunta Kinte, who was kidnapped as a teenager from his home in Africa to be a slave in the US. His family is dramatically followed down the line to Alex Haley, the author. In fact, this turned out to be false – the story was plagiarized (including some of the characters) from a lesser known book, and Alex Haley apparently didn’t know much about his African ancestors.
My Thoughts: I can’t say much about my thoughts because I know they are colored too much by my disgust at Haley’s plagiarism. Regardless, he told the story well, and it was heartbreaking and sweet all at once. This was an incredibly character-driven novel, and I was interested especially in the earlier generations, though I felt it started to lag a bit at the end.
This book only gets three stars despite being a good story with fantastic characters because it was plagiarized.
Synopsis: Dr. Dreisinger travels to different prisons around the world, giving 2-day seminars to the prisoners and comparing the pros and cons of each prison system.
My Thoughts: I admit this book wasn’t quite what I expected. I expected it to have more complaints (with evidence) about the problems of over-incarceration. Although it did contain such comments, that was not the point of the book. It was a fascinating description of different prisons throughout the world and what they were doing right (and wrong) in rehabilitating their inmates. She left some prisons feeling uplifted and left others feeling quite depressed. I found the book quite interesting even if it wasn’t quite what I expected.
I give this book 4 snowflakes for interest level and fluidity of writing
Synopsis: In this strongly stated book, Torrey describes how the formation of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) took place, accompanied by well-meaning, but ill-planned federal programs for the out-patient care of mentally ill patients and the emptying of state-funded mental hospitals. Due to terrible conditions in state hospitals and to the discovery of antipsychotics, many well-intended people wanted to improve the condition of mentally ill people by giving them independence and better living conditions through outpatient treatment. So the founders of NIMH, with the help of President Kennedy, began a federal program intended to care for patients on an outpatient basis, as well as providing resources which were intended on reducing the onset of mental illness in future generations. Unfortunately, as the state hospitals closed en masse, these federal programs didn’t do their job as intended. The federal programs focused too much on trying (and failing) to reduce the new onset of mental illness, and not enough on taking care of people who were released from hospitals. Many people from the hospitals had nowhere to go and/or stopped taking their meds (for various reasons). The populations of homeless and jailed/imprisoned mentally ill people skyrocketed. Violence by and against people with mental illness skyrocketed. Chaos ensued.
My Thoughts: First of all, I think Torrey’s book was too strongly stated. He puts a lot of blame on the US federal government when these same problems with deinstitutionalization and ensuing homelessness/incarceration-of-mentally-ill occurred in other countries around the same time. The book was also long on problems, short on solutions – even in the chapter whose title suggested that solutions would be presented. Despite these flaws, I enjoyed reading American Psychosis. It was full of interesting facts that I didn’t know about what the federal government was doing during the deinstitutionalization of state hospitals.
I give this book 3.5 snowflakes for interesting information and research.
|The Three Sisters (The Krampus Chronicles Book 1), by Sonia Halbach
This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
Every Christmas Eve, Maggie has the same dream. Santa is walking on the top of her grandfather’s manor, when suddenly he slides off the end. But this year is different. This year, it’s a nightmare in which he is pushed by something sinister. Awakened from her dream, she decides to go sledding – ending up in an accident that leads to meeting the handsome (but older) Henry. Henry has come with strange claims: that Maggie’s grandfather, who is well known for writing the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, had plagiarized his poem.
While exploring the mansion for proof of plagiarism, Henry and Maggie are accidentally swept into a strange underground village named Poppel – a village strangely resembling Santa’s fabled home. But not all is right in Poppel. It is ruled by tyrants called the Garrison, and Nikolaos is missing. She and Henry must find three hidden objects before the end of Christmas Eve, or else Maggie, Henry and their families are in terrible danger – as is the hidden village of Poppel.
This was a refreshingly unique story based on the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and Alpine German folklore of the anti-Santa named Krampus. Who knew a world could be built just around such a short poem? And I’d never heard of Krampus before reading this book. (Of course, just yesterday I went to the theaters and found out that a movie named Krampus is soon to be released, though there seems to be no relation between the two.) I really enjoyed reading this book. It was cute, adventurous, and had a tad of romantic tension. And one thing I really loved about this book is that the story was complete at the end. That is the perfect beginning to a series, as far as I’m concerned. I will definitely watch for the next in the series.
|4 snowflakes for creativity, action, romance, and fun
|The Martian, by Andy Weir, narrated by R. C. Bray
|When a team of Mars explorers runs into some problems while on Mars, they think that astronaut Mark Watney has died. The rest of the crew avoid the storm by immediately heading back home to Earth. Unknown to them, Watney is still alive and must survive on Mars alone with meager supplies left behind by the Mars expedition. With his extraordinary resourcefulness, he manages to survive while desperately hoping that Earth will realize that he’s still alive and come to rescue him.
This book was as fantastic as everyone says it is. Watney’s struggle to survive is fascinating, and the action moves forward at a steady pace. Yeah, there’s a lot of technical language, which made the book a little slower than I would have liked at times, but it was never so slow that I wanted to stop listening. It was more of an “ok, I get that you’re doing awesome technical stuff, let’s move on.” But those scenes were only paragraph-long. I was a little amused at how much money and time America was willing to put in to save Watney. After all, he was only one person and there are so many people on earth that could have benefited greatly from that money. They could have helped thousands of people instead of just one. I get it. He’s a hero. But he also made the choice to go on a dangerous adventure. The homeless and hungry in America and around the world did not make the choice to starve. Shouldn’t they be helped first?
The narration in the audiobook was also excellent. The humorous parts were so well executed that I had to laugh out loud on numerous occasions.
I can’t wait to see this movie. I plan on going with my boyfriend next Tuesday. 🙂
|4.5 stars for interest level and superb execution