Dragon Keeper

Dragon Keeper

In Ancient China, a young slave girl suffers the abuse of her cruel master, making do with what she can scavange, her life looks rather bleak until the last remaining Imperial dragon makes an escape, taking her with him. Finding herself on a journey she never imagined and finally with a name to call her own, Ping agrees to help Danzi reach Ocean with his precious dragon stone. Faced with foes and falsely feared as a sorceress, Ping must use her creativity and cunningness to save them from enemies. Along the way, she not only learns from the ancient dragon, but finds herself and her own power as she learns that she is truly the last Dragon Keeper.

Carole Wilkinson’s Dragon Keeper is a hit with the young dragon loving audiences, but more importantly it showcases a strong female lead, something often not seen in popular children’s books and rarely in such a traditional male role, as the book discusses. I enjoyed reading the book with my children almost as much as they enjoyed listening. Many discussions ensued regarding Ancient China, Chinese culture, and the role of girls.

Cinder and Ella

Cinder and Ella

Cinder and Ella are two of four sisters. Both their older and younger sisters are selfish, their father quit doing anything to help the family before disappearing altogether, and their mother spins all day at her spinning wheel, effectively ignoring her daughters to the point that she has forgotten that Cinder and Ella are two individuals. Ella, tired of being forgotten and taken advantage of, sets out on her own, leaving Cinder to take care of the family.

Melissa Lemon’s telling of the Cinderella story, Cinder and Ella, is only marginally related to the original fairytale. With an evil prince on the horizon, and a story of living trees, the book’s closest tie with the original tale is the name of the book. While the book is a decent read, the characters, with few exceptions, just aren’t very likeable.

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

Saving June

Saving June by Hannah Harrington: Book Cover

Harper has grown up in her older sister’s shadow. Then one day, shortly before highschool graduation, her perfect, gorgeous, popular sister commits suicide. Finding her sister’s body changes everything about her life. In a journey to find who her sister really was and to take her sister’s ashes to California, sixteen year old Harper Scott, accompanied by her best friend and a boy who holds a key to her sister’s alternate persona, begins a journey to discover who she is – more than just the second rate daughter rebelling against the unattainable perfection that her sister portrayed.

Hannah Harrington’s debut novel, Saving June, is a thought provoking young adult novel touching on a wide array of subjects – suicide, grief, atheism, virginity, family relations, political protests, abortion, and self-discovery. This would be a great book to read and discuss with more mature teens.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Yours to Keep

Yours To Keep (Kowalski Family, #3)

In order to keep her dear old grandmother from worrying,  Emma invented a finace, throwing in the name of one of her best friend’s in-laws on the spur of the moment. When her grandmother is scheduled to come visit, Emma must approach Sean, newly discharged from the army, and ask him to play along.

Shannon Stacey’s Yours To Keepis full of cliches, one liners, nosy relatives, and has an unbelievable set-up. That being said, it made me laugh out loud, which is something no book has made me do in quite some time. It’s a funny, light romantic comedy.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Life is Like a Book

Phot by Florin Gorgan

Life is like a book. They can come in all manner of sizes and colors. Each day is like a new page, inviting us not only to participate in those things written out beforehand but to embrace the ideas and contemplate the meaning behind them.

Some books are packed so full of information that one doesn’t find enjoyment on the pages. The book is one mad rush from one piece of information to the next. Other books invite you to savor them, thinking about the content while sipping your beverage of choice. Those are the books we tend to enjoy and get the most out of. When a page is so full of writing that you can’t see the margins, there isn’t any place to take notes or add your own thoughts and experiences to what you are reading.
It could be said that I’m never far from my daily planner. It keeps our family going and all pertinent information finds its way there. I try to remind myself to leave the margins wide so that I have time for contemplation. I don’t want to pack our lives so full that we find ourselves in that mad rush, but instead I hope we have plenty of time to make notes about what is really important to us.

Shadow Wolf

The Shadow Wolf: The Shadow Wolf\Darkness of the Wolf by Bonnie Vanak: Book Cover

Megan is on the run with her two young charges. If they are caught, they can be shipped back to the island where Draicon shadow wolves are held as prisoners and considered secondary citizens with no rights. Determined to fight for them and avoid a horrible fate, Megan must get them to unknown safety.

I’ll admit that I normally don’t give romance novels the greatest of reviews. It’s not due to a bias against them. They just aren’t typically well developed, a faect which fits the needs of many people reading them. However the characters in Bonnie Vanak’s The Shadow Wolf are more developed than is typical of the genre, and the story line surprisingly holds undercurrents of racial discrimination and civil rights throughout the fantasy romance. The fast paced writing is well detailed and the romance side is well blended into the main storyline. It is an enjoyable light read.

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

The False Princess

The False Princess

Nalia has lived a life of privilege, as the princess and heir to the throne. As her 16th birthday arrives, however, she learns that she was merely a stand-in for the real princess. As The False Princess, Nalia (now Sinda), must leave everything she has ever known. Poor and without the ones whom she grew up loving, she is left with a choice – turn her back on those who did the same to her or follow her upbringing and save the crown.

Debut author, Eilis O’Neal has twisted the typical Cinderalla story in an entirely new way. With well developed characters and a novel idea, the book is one of quiet strength.

Skinny B*tch

Skinny Bitch: A No-Nonsense, Tough-Love Guide for Savvy Girls Who Want to Stop Eating Crap and Start Looking Fabulous!

Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin have written a marketer’s dream with their book, Skinny Bitch. Write in as many curse words as you can and be offensive as possible, officially splitting your market in half – those who will love it and want to read it and those who will hate it and want to read it to see what you have to say so they can counter it. If you can get past the crassness of the authors, there is actually quite a bit of good information in the book, although I’d say there is a fair amount of misinformation, too.

American diets are horrible, and the authors have no qualms about pointing that out. Whether the information is enough to cause a person to take a deeper look at their diet or whether their in-your-face attitude is, changing our diets for the better – for health and not appearance – is never a bad thing.

It seems, however, that the authors then took hold of their marketer and went wild. While I found some of the recipes in the book appealing, there were plenty that called for processed crap – organic vegan processed crap, but crap nonetheless. It’s a bit of irony after their spiel against processed foods. However, we all know that the majority of America isn’t out to get healthy but to look skinny. So in that aspect, I’d say the authors hit their mark. Prey on the insecurities of a population and market as many products to them as possible. It just so happens that this time, they actually threw information into the mix. Take out the crassness and marketing, the idea that we should prematurely wean children, and the love of all things soy, and you’d have a good book that probably wouldn’t sell.

A Kid’s Guide to Being a Winner

A Kid's Guide to Being a Winner

C.D. Shelton attempted to write an inspirational book for children with A Kid’s Guide to Being a Winner. I can’t help but feel that the author missed the mark with this. Certainly, concepts such as respect, thoughtfulness, gratitude, responsibility, and a positive attitude are beneficial to promoting a peaceful society. However, Shelton has focused on these principles as if they are black and white issues.

The books words serve to set up a dichotomy: good versus bad, winner versus loser, right versus wrong. There is no room in the book for assessing a situation and forming an opinion about doing what you feel is the right thing to do. As the book says, responsible people “do what is expected of them.” Constant implications of extrinsic rewards don’t challenge children to do what they think is right, but to follow along with the crowd. The emphasis on always doing the right thing, being good, and never being otherwise is impractical, as everyone, including adults, make mistakes. The book goes on to explain how exactly one should judge other people.

The book is meant to be read to children by an adult to further encourage conversations. It would be most suitable for authoritarian (not authoritative) families.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by The Cadence Group.

2011 Young Adult Reading Challenge

We are a family of bibliophiles. We love books. I was an exceptionally early reader and have been reading ever since. It was naturally something I wanted to share with my children. So, we are entering For the Love of YA’s 2011 Young Adult Reading Challenge. Is it considered a challenge if we would be reading the books anyway?