Friday, November 28, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in ... Russia - Carole P. Roman

Summary: Exploring the world has never easier—or more fun!—than with Carole P. Roman’s award-winning If You Were Me and Lived In… children’s series. Continuing its globetrotting tradition, If You Were Me and Lived in…Russia explores the magic and wonder of this captivating country. As children ages three to eight take a leisurely stroll around Russia, they will come across some of the country’s most recognizable sites, including the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the Red Square. Learn about Russia’s yummy delicacies, like borscht and caviar, before playing popular Russian games like chess and “fipe”—a game children may know better as “tag”! Brimming with these and other fascinating facts, If You Were Me and Lived in…Russia is the perfect way to both entertain and educate your children about the great big world that exists outside their windows. From Russia’s festive New Year’s celebrations to popular Russian names, this charming addition to the If You Were Me and Lived in… family explains everything there is to know about one of the world’s most historic destinations. Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of the If You Were Me and Lived in… series, which won the Pinnacle Award for Best in Children’s Nonfiction in 2012. She collaborated on this installment in the series with her five-year-old grandson, Alexander. Roman also writes the Captain No Beard series, the first of which was named a Kirkus Best of 2012, received a Star of Remarkable Merit, and won the Pinnacle Award in 2012.  (Summary and image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

My Review:  I have a confession.  I'm a nerd.  (I know!  Golly, I could hear your gasps of shock from here!) I loved my major - Political Science - and while I've had to step back for my family's sanity, it still holds a dear place in my heart.  Unfortunately, that spills over into all areas.  Especially when I hear about Russia - I immediately go to revolution, the USSR, post-Soviet political intrigue and scandal.  Fear of the KGB. Cold.  I can't help it!  It's where my mind runs!

This was such a fun book to read with my kids, especially after the Olympics this year.  They loved watching them, and some Russian history was discussed (because, I'm a nerd), but what an excellent resource to show the culture and the beauty of Russia!  I overlooked that in the discussions I had with my kids, and this is an excellent jumping off point to bring that incredible knowledge to my kids.

My Rating: Four Stars

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Paraphernalia: Beam N Read Personal Light

Summary: Beam N Read lights up personal space anywhere. It's worn around the neck and provides hands free light for tasks likequilting, knitting, reading, camping, changing diapers, and for walking in dim or dark places. It works with all books andeReaders. With a wider and brighter light and longer battery runtime than clip on book lights, it also works with newspapers, loose documents, and a letter from mom. It's an excellent Kindle Reading Light. Easy portability is great for students. The extra bright light is helpful for seniors while the hands free design also makes it practical for those using walkers or wheelchairs. The extra long battery life makes Beam N Read a very useful emergency light during a power outage and results in a lower cost to operate. It's perfect as a travel light. It consistently receives excellent. It's the only hands free LED light that supports clip on color filters for more relaxing light, AC and DC power adapters to save batteries, and large clip on magnifiers for detail work. Included accessories vary by model. (Summary from product website, www.readinglight.com)

I received two free Beam N Read lights in exchange for my fair and honest review.

My Review:I have a long and storied history with book lights. Ever since I was a kid I would, like any good Reading For Sanity reviewer would do, I read books late into the night, sometimes much to my parents’ chagrin. I did have a big light attached to my top bunk bed that I could use, but once that light was supposed to be out, I couldn’t very well turn it back on. I did try a variety of book lights over the years (and I mean like many, many years.) The first ones were, of course, not great .They didn’t give off a lot of light. The one I’ve like the most over the years is one my sister gave me for Christmas about ten years ago that turns on when you open it up. The problem with all these book lights, however, is that they have to attach to a book. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that’s annoying because every time you turn the page, you have to move the book light, and sometimes there just isn’t time for that kind of thing. Also, they don’t always attach to every book the same way. The clips often aren’t big enough (because apparently no one reads hardbound books except me? I think not) and so what I used my light mostly for was when I was traveling in the car or in the airplane, and then I would just hold it in my hand, kind of finagling the book and the light around and making do because the sacrifice was worth it.

Cue the Beam n Read Light. This is actually a cool little light. First off, it’s worn around your neck, which is convenient and hands-free. The strap is adjustable, of course, so you can decide how close you like your light. I had two different sizes to try—one with six lights and one with three, although the six light model does allow you to only use the three lights, which I actually preferred for reading. It also has different light filters—a red and an orange, which according to the manufacturer, studies have shown are more conducive for sleep after reading as opposed to the normal glow of a handheld device or computer. I did try the different light filters, and although they didn’t hurt my eyes and worked fine for reading, I’m old fashioned and just preferred the normal light without the colored filters.

Because it is worn around the neck you do have to figure out how to use it in bed, but since I’m determined (and because it was really easy) that was really easy to figure out. It’s nice because the light can be positioned in different ways so it was easy enough to find somewhere to balance it and just read on and on, turning pages with nary a worry. It’s sturdy, too, without fussiness or confusion.

It makes reading in the car really easy, too. As a driver, no matter how well-positioned the lights, I think it’s hard to see with the normal overhead reading lights on. This little light is cool because it focuses right where you need it to without the weird balancing act of holding a light in your hand, plus it doesn’t bother the driver.

But the real test came when we had a power outage. Normally our power outages only last for a few minutes, but there was some construction going on in our neighborhood and they hit a power line. The power was out for six hours, some of it going into the night. Usually we use headlamps for all of our tasks—getting dinner ready, changing diapers, cleaning up, etc., but anyone who’s ever used a headlamp knows that the one wearing a headlamp is not your friend when they look up at you and you are temporarily blinded.  Not so with the Beam n Read Light. This little gadget—especially with the six lights on—gives off quite a bit of light and makes it easy to get tasks none minus the blinding of the other power outage comrades. We really liked it. My husband wore the bigger one and I wore the smaller one and between the two of us we got pretty much everything done. It’s definitely nice that the light is just always there unlike a headlight where if you look away for one second you’ve lost what you were focused on and the light is completely gone. It’s much more convenient to have a light follow your body than your head. Also, most head lamps’ batteries don’t last very long over the long term. If they sit for too long unused (like in a food storage situation) they won’t work. I’ve also taken head lamps camping and I feel like the Beam n Read Light would be a great alternative to this, especially when preparing food in the evening because it’s hard to position your head lamp low enough to see what you’re cutting without sporting an awkward neck angle.

I’m definitely recommending this light for both the book lover in your home (stocking stuffer, anyone?) and also for someone who is into emergency preparedness or camping. The long life of the batteries, the brightness of the light, and convenience of being able to wear it around your neck all make it ideal for not only reading but for times without power, which from personal experience, I can attest was a time I was very happy to have it.

My Rating: 5 Stars 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Saratov Approach

Summary:  On what seemed like any other day, Elders Travis Tuttle (Corbin Allred) and Andrew Propst (Maclain Nelson) are approached by Nikolai (Nikita Bogolyubov) to teach a friend.  But then the missionaries experience the unimaginable--they are kidnapped, beaten, and held for ransom.  While their families, friends, and the world pray for their safe release, Tuttle and Propst are tested physically, emotionally, and most of all--spiritually.  (Movie given free for review.  Summary from back of case.  Image from imbd.com)

My Review:  I was actually expecting a book when this came to me for review.  Instead it was the film.  This film hits close to home for me on many fronts: I'm from Oregon, and just roughly 30 minutes from where one of these Elders is from.  I was in high school when this took place.  I have many friends from this young man's home town.  I have many family members and friends who've served missions and had experiences that make this scarier than I'd like to admit.

These Elders' story is harrowing, disconcerting, and as I did more research, not nearly rare enough.  What they went through, how they dealt with it, and that they continued on their missions is an amazing story.  Many LDS films have left me thinking they could have been done far better.  I did not experience that with this film.  I left with the thought that this is something anyone of faith should see.  It's intense, but tasteful.  Realistic, but not gruesome despite what happened.  In short, it's authentic, moving, and worth your Friday night viewing.  I cannot even imagine living through this, let alone knowing that this still happens and we're just not hearing about it.  Raising awareness is always a good thing, and I highly recommend this film for just that reason alone.

For the sensitive viewer:  It's rated PG-13 for a reason.  It's scary.  There are depictions of violence and possible death.  But nothing is done distastefully or exaggerated for effect.

Rating: 5 stars

Sum it up:  One of the many hostage situations that some missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have endured through the years.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Life is So Good - George Dawson, Richard Glaubman

Summary:  In this remarkable book, 103-year-old George Dawson, a slave's grandson who learned to read at age 98, reflects on his life and offers valuable lessons in living as well as a fresh, firsthand view of America during the twentieth century. Richard Glaubman captures Dawson's irresistible voice and view of the world, offering insights into humanity, history, hardships, and happiness. From segregation and civil rights, to the wars, presidents, and defining moments in history, George Dawson's description and assessment of the last century inspires readers with the message that-through it all-has sustained him: "Life is so good. I do believe it's getting better."  Summary and image from goodreads.com

My Review:  George Dawson was born to work hard.  As the oldest of seven, he had to start working with his father at the age of four.  Just a few short years later, he was sent to work full time on a farm a few hours away from home.  He worked harder and in more varied jobs than most of us will ever work in our lifetimes, and he did it with a smile.

His greatest regret, however, was also his darkest secret.  George never learned how to read.  Working as much as he did never provided time, but it's also a secret he kept from his own children until they were in high school.  However, just because he couldn't read doesn't mean his mind isn't as sharp as a tack.  Through a series of interviews, George tells us about life over the last 100 years.  He remembers the events that affected the African-American community, retells the shock of traveling outside the country and witnessing a life outside of Jim Crow, and relives the good times as well as the bad.

At 98, George finally went to school to learn to read.  Through snippets, we learn his impact on those around him, the joy he finally found in reading, and what he considers his greatest successes. 

This book was such an uplifting read.  It was one I was able to finish in a weekend (and a busy one at that ... the Portugal/US game took up more than a little chunk of time), but that I was sad to finally lay down.  It left me feeling grateful for my education, grateful for the opportunities we have, and humbled at the easy road my generation has had with our educations.

My Rating:  Four and a half stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Multiple uses of the "N" word, and the book opens with an unjustified lynching.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Gym Life Cooking Technique Book - Colin Stuckert

Summary:  From the Gym Life Manifesto

WIth how important food is in the "looking good" formula, it's amazing just how lazy people get when it comes to the kitchen.  And their results always suffer because of it.  It's a correlative relationship: the more work in the kitchen, the more it shows in the mirror.  (Summary from back of the book.  Book given free for review.  Image from agymlife.com)

My Review:  I'm not a cook--more accurately put, I don't enjoy cooking.  I can follow a recipe and have it turn out and have spent plenty of time preparing meals for my family. I just don't enjoy it.  To say I know what I'm doing in the kitchen isn't  completely honest: I just know how to do the basics and maybe a little beyond that.  When I was offered this book for review I was hoping to learn just a bit more about cooking techniques beyond the basics.  I think my hopes were a little misguided.  This book is truly for beginners in the kitchen.  And there are probably plenty of people who could really learn a lot from what Stuckert has to share.  My mother raised me to cook low-fat and how to substitute ingredients or cut down on ingredients you don't need.  Therefore, this was a good refresher for me, but not anything new.

The book's format is easy to read and follow.  It's set up in a logical progression for learning something new with logical, valid points.  And, there are great recipes in the back to try out (not many, but some) with some solid advice on how to season and cook meat without a  high fat content.
He even shares some dessert recipes--you don't have to give it all up!
 
The emphasis of this book is to help those who are interested in cooking healthy meals for themselves, especially if they are conscious of losing weight or looking at their physical peak.  And it's true that what you eat makes a big difference in reaching those goals.  If you're someone who needs a little help in getting started cooking and eating healthier to reach your fitness goals, this is probably the book for you.  I think I was just hoping for something a little longer that went a little further than the basics.


Rating: 3 Stars

Sum it up:  A little small, but for a true beginner of cooking, this would be a helpful book.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Thought Scout Uniforms were Fireproof - Shane Barker

Summary:  Finally! A perfect resource for any leader who's ever had trouble creating scouting programs and activities compelling enough to compete with school, sports, jobs, and the thousands of other activities in your scout's life. These ideas, hints, and tips will spark your imagination and make scouting activities the highlight of your boys' week.  (Summary and image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

My Review:  My son is a cub scout.  The first time I walked into the scouting store here in the DFW area, the employees not only welcomed me with open arms, they guided me through the store, helping me choose what I needed to start his journey.  It'll be a long one, as my husband is holding with his family tradition of withholding a driver's license until the Eagle is completed.  (Truthfully, I'm rooting for a near-to-the-end finish!)

This is a great resource for scouting leaders both of the cub and the boy--even the girl--variety.  Barker has been involved in scouting for years, and his experiences have helped him discern what works and what doesn't.  He has anecdotes showing how to increase troop morale, how to make everything, from knot tying to inspections, fun, and excellent advice about how to better interact with the troop boys.  While I'm not yet a scout leader, I found myself making mental notes of my friends who are who may be interested in the nuggets of wisdom in this book.  I also found myself tucking ideas away for my own family - this little book is chock full of them!

I have a feeling that as we stay in scouting (we have about 15 more years), this book is going to be worth its weight in gold!

My Rating:  Four and a half stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  The author is LDS and makes mention of various positions in the Church of Jesus Christ.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in ... Portugal - Carole P. Roman

Summary:  Award winning and best selling author Carole P. Roman travels to beautiful Portugal. This pro active book invites children to think about Portugal's many wonders from the sunny Azores to the wide variety of food. Roman's If You Were Me books have a simple, winning formula: portray children from other countries and explain how familiar items and customs are the same, and how they differ, in the country being discussed... The appeal of Roman's If You Were Me series is that this information is not offered in the bland style of an encyclopedia entry, but rather as part of a tour of real life in India...It's this organic conversational tone that keeps the book interesting and inspires kids' own curiosity for other cultures." Peter Dabbene The Foreword Review Join Carole P. Roman as she takes you to explore the friendly country of Portugal!  (Summary and image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

My Review:  My kids and I love reading Roman's If You Were Me series.  We love visiting each country through her books, learning about their culture, their foods, key phrases, places to visit, etc.  It's a fun way for my kids to realize what an incredible world they're part of.

However. 


I was worried when I received Portugal that the formula had grown stale.  NOT SO!  Hooray!  Roman has included all of the same incredible information we've come to expect, but has shaken things up a bit.  The vocabulary is clear, but it's left to the kids to use the illustrations to translate the words.  I love that.  I love books that encourage them (subconsciously) to learn and to take more in than just the words.  The illustrations are varied as well.  There's a two-page spread of the Azores that is so gorgeous, it made me want to go.  Like, tomorrow.


My Rating:  Five stars

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Sweet Cupcake - Janell Brown

Summary: Winner of Food Network's Cupcake Wars, Janell Brown, gives expert advice on all aspects of cupcake baking, including ingredients, techniques, and equipment. You'll also learn the basics of cupcake decorating, along with ideas for themes, seasons, and holidays. Discover all these sweet secrets for making your cupcakes look professional and taste great. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

My Review:  When I got this cookbook I was really excited. I actually love cookbooks. Just opening one brings up so many possibilities. Plus I’m greedy. I do quite a bit of home cooking—I’m not really one of those people who serves things out of a box—and I like to bake. So I love when I get a cookbook that has really pretty things to bake and best of all, it’s something that I can actually tackle.

I’m not a novice baker by any means. I’ve watched my fair share of Food Network over the years, plus my husband and I are self-proclaimed foodies. I’m no Julia Childs, but I do have my fair share of cooking experience and I think that I can pretty much pull off any recipe with a little bit of practice. (Though most of the time I don’t practice because I live on the edge like that. And that doesn’t mean that it turns out perfect, just that I didn’t practice. Haha.)

So going into this cookbook, I was hoping that I would be able to tackle everything in it, and if I couldn’t, she would show me how or at least describe it in terms that would be easy enough for me to figure out.  And I was happily surprised that yes, I could do everything in the book with little to no trauma. There weren’t any huge surprises, but there were some fun little hints that I appreciated and helped me out.

I went into this little cupcake extravaganza project by deciding that I would do it just how she told me—especially with ingredients. I don’t feel like its fair for me to judge her recipes if I just used whatever I had on hand instead of what she recommended (i.e. normal cocoa in place of Dutch-processed cocoa). If I’m going to judge the recipe, then I need to judge her recipe. So I did. I have a pretty well-stocked pantry, but I did have to get a few things—vanilla bean paste, Dutch-processed cocoa (which was harder to find than I thought), and a few other things here and there when I was trying a more specific recipe. I also bought some new pastry bag tips that she recommended and I love them. It made my cupcakes look professional and although I did know how to frost a cupcake before this, her tips helped me out to put on a nice finishing touch.

I made a lot of different cupcakes from this cookbook, but I knew I couldn’t make them all, so I had a few baker friends try a couple recipes to let me know what they thought as well. I also gave quite a few cupcakes away and got opinions from those people as well.  We all agreed that the cupcakes were good—they’re denser than box cupcakes, and sometimes drier, and some of them called for applesauce instead of sugar. Alone the cupcakes were not nearly as sweet as a box-mix cupcake, but once you add her (fabulous, delicious) different types of frosting, you’re good to go.  Also, because these cupcakes are pretty complex (with a cupcake, filling, frosting, and sometimes various toppings), making them takes longer than a normal cupcake baking session may take (assuming you’re just whipping out the old Betty Crocker box mix and frosting tub) so plan accordingly. Also, the recipes say that the yield is 24 cupcakes. I never got that many cupcakes. Mine were mostly around 18 normal-sized cupcakes, which is fine, just be warned. It’s definitely a different experience than just buying a box and frosting the cupcakes, even if you make your own frosting. It takes longer, they taste a little different, and this is all to be expected if you want to make bakeshop-type cupcakes. But just as long as you know what your end goal is, you’re set.

On top of everything else, I thought the book was really pretty. The pictures are nice (and tantalizing, I must say), and it’s a really fun book to look through. I have it sitting on my recipe holder and a lot of my friends would pick it up and look through it just because it is eye catching and beautiful. Plus. Cupcakes. Who doesn’t love cupcakes?

My rating: 4 stars

For the sensitive reader: Squeaky clean. But full of temptation.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Beam N Read LED3 & LED6


Summary:  Beam N Read LED3 and LED6 Deluxe Hands Free Light
Features
  • Extra wide and bright personal light from 3 or 6 LED's that won't disturb others
  • Especially useful for needlecrafts and all craft work
  • 4 standard alkaline AA batteries (not included) last 50 hours at full brightness 
  • 2 clip-on filters: red for maintaining night vision, orange for a softer light
  • Large 4"x5" acrylic fresnel magnifier for detail work attaches to light with adjustable clip-on hinge in either vertical or horizontal position (Lights given free for review.  Image from flashlightguide.com and Amazon.com)

My Review:  I started using these in June, but with it staying light outside so late, I didn't use them as much as I am now.  I have a kindle fire and read before bed.  I was finding that the light from the Kindle screen was not allowing me to relax and fall asleep.  Having been sent two of Beam N Read's portable lights I figured I'd give them a try.  The lights have two clip on filters that soften the glow of the light to red or orange.  This is exactly what I needed.  I found that with the clip on filter I was able to fall asleep quickly because the light from my Kindle screen wasn't keeping me stimulated.

I also started using this when reading in the car on long trips.  The light is subtle enough to not disturb my sleeping children or my husband while driving.  I'm sure it will come in handy for finding that fruit snack that rolled under my seat too!

Beam N Read sent me two portable lights (one small and one a bit larger), and I've shared the smaller light with my daughter who shares a room with her younger sister.  She struggles to fall asleep at night and wants to read to decompress.  The problem is that the light keeps her sister awake and the bickering ensues.  Beam N Read has been a little life saver for our sanity in the evenings and has helped my oldest find a way to relax without bothering her sister.  That right there should be endorsement enough!

If you're looking for a light for detail work you do in the evenings, need a light to read at night that won't bother the person you share a room with, or need something to help you utilize your e-reader

Rating: 5 stars

Sum it up:  A great little light to help you read at night.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Phantom Instinct - Meg Gardiner

Summary: When shots ring out in a crowded L.A. club, bartender Harper Flynn watches helplessly as her boyfriend, Drew, is gunned down in the cross fire. Then somebody throws a Molotov cocktail, and the club is quickly engulfed in flames. L.A. Sheriff Deputy Aiden Garrison sees a gunman in a hoodie and gas mask taking aim at Harper, but before he can help her a wall collapses, bringing the building down and badly injuring him.

A year later, Harper is trying to rebuild her life. She has quit her job and gone back to college. Meanwhile, the investigation into the shoot-out has been closed. The two gunmen were killed when the building collapsed.

Certain that a third gunman escaped and is targeting the survivors, Harper enlists the help of Aiden Garrison, the only person willing to listen. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered has cut his career short and left him with Fregoli syndrome, a rare type of face blindness that causes the delusion that random people are actually a single person changing disguises.

As Harper and Aiden delve into the case, Harper realizes that her presence during the attack was no coincidence—and that her only ally is unstable, mistrustful of her, and seeing the same enemy everywhere he looks. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review:You know those books that start off with a bang (okay, I’m being funny here because this book literally does start out with a bang) and they suck you right in? This is one of those books. Right away you get this mental image of what is going on—your surroundings, the people, the sounds, the smells, and even if you’ve never been in a place like the one described, you know immediately what it’s like. And that’s cool. Because it isn’t every author that can make you feel that way. Oh, sure, most try (because who likes to be the author that no one can relate to?) but this book actually does bring you right to the spot and whisks you away and never stops.

This book was a really quick read. First off, it’s got a fun plot line, and one that isn’t necessarily static or what you might expect the entire time. Secondly, the characters are pretty realistic. I didn’t find myself loving or hating any of them (except for the obvious bad guys who deserve to be hated anyway, right?) because they were real enough feeling that they could be people that you know, or at least people that you know of. Third, there is some serious action that goes on, as all good books in this genre should have. If you’re not reading and page turning until the last second, the book has missed the boat. Not so with this book. It picks you up, takes you with it, and never lets you go until the end, at which point you’re still feeling a little unnerved because it didn’t resolve quite how you would have liked…the best way, right? Tidy little packages are for chick lit.

Another thing I liked about this book, and this is just because I’m a prude, is that it wasn’t unnecessarily gross or violent. Sure, there was some violence (cause it is a crime novel after all) but it isn’t like my mind will be haunted forever by images I wish I could scrub away with my trust Magic Eraser. It gave me enough to feel like a crime novel, but didn’t step over the line, which I appreciated. Also, the language wasn’t terrible, which can often be the case in a book like this. There is some language, don’t get me wrong, because toughened cops just talk like that (don’t they? I don’t know any), but it wasn’t overly shocking or overwhelming, which I certainly appreciated as well.

Overall, I would say this is a fun summer read. It’s fast; it’s not a huge commitment in that you’ll be slogging through. It’s interesting and a fun representation of the genre.

My rating: 3.5 stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has the normal violence, language, and sex associated with the genre. It is not excessive for the crime genre nor is it unnecessarily over the top.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Third Rail: An Eddy Harkness Novel - Rory Flynn

Summary: At crime scenes, Eddy Harkness is a human Ouija board, a brilliant young detective with a knack for finding the hidden something—cash, drugs, guns, bodies. But Eddy’s swift rise in an elite narcotics unit is derailed by the death of a Red Sox fan in the chaos of a World Series win, a death some camera-phone-wielding witnesses believe he could have prevented. Scapegoated, Eddy is exiled to his hometown just outside Boston, where he empties parking meters and struggles to redeem his disgraced family name.

Then one night Harkness’s police-issue Glock disappears. Unable to report the theft, Harkness starts a secret search—just as a string of fatal accidents lead him to uncover a new, dangerous smart drug, Third Rail. With only a plastic disc gun to protect him, Harkness begins a high-stakes investigation that leads him into the darkest corners of the city, where politicians and criminals intertwine to deadly effect.

With a textured sense of place, a nuanced protagonist, and a story that takes off from page one and culminates in a startling finale, Third Rail has all the elements of a breakout mystery success. (Summary and picture from goodreads.com)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review:I read a lot of crime novels because…well…I like them. I didn’t use to think that I really liked the genre, but more and more I’ve realized that not only do I watch a lot of crime shows but when a crime novel shows up on my Goodreads list or my sister-in-law (who is a serious crime novel aficionado) recommends one to me, I’m always be excited and read it pretty much right away. I like the characters in crime novels. The main characters are usually flawed with some dramatic back-story where they’re trying to be a good guy (I haven’t read many that feature a female detective/police officer/etc.) but then something happens and that good guy-ness is challenged, even though his close friends knew the truth. So they’re a little bit of a grittier character, which is a fun change from other types of characters that I read, if for no other reason that I feel like it gives them depth and a sense of having nothing to lose. Having nothing to lose is, of course, always essentially when you’re gonna go all crazy in a crime novel situation.

Right away, one thing that set Third Rail apart is that it starts in the middle. Not in the middle of the story, per se, but in the middle of all the things going on in this guy’s life. Like you just happened to jump into a life already in progress. I’m not sure I’m explaining myself well here. So many series start at the beginning and you can tell it’s the beginning. It’s almost like the character is being born right before your eyes and the author paints this elaborate story and then you’re all caught up to speed and then you can go on.

Not with this book.

It is the first in the series, but right away it’s obvious that this guy has been living, and you’re just stepping in to catch a slice of it. And it’s a really cool, different feeling. Almost disconcerting, but not necessarily confusing. It makes it seem more realistic. I liked not knowing everything in a tell-all fact finding mission in the chapter. In this case, I liked how there were still things to be discovered later on and questions I still have. An author with less grasp on things may have made it feel like there were holes in the plot, but Rory Flynn made me feel like the answers were all there, but that they were going to be uncovered later in subsequent novels.

The main character himself is cool, and although I wouldn’t say I’ve never read another character remotely like him, I certainly think he is unique and has something to offer in the crime novels world. There are obviously more stories to hear, more adventures to go on, and some good old-fashioned crime scene drama that those who read the genre are always looking for. The story is a good one, but I don’t think it necessarily was just about a new designer drug as the title may suggest. It seemed to be more about connections between people and the seedy underbelly of Boston and I can see how this theme could extend into the rest of the series, which I will look forward to reading.

My rating: 3.5 stars

For the sensitive reader: I felt that the language, violence, and sex in this novel were on par with others in the genre.

Monday, November 3, 2014

I Want to do Yoga, Too - Carole P. Roman

Summary:  Hallie and her mother go to the yoga studio. Hallie wants to join her mom's yoga class, but she isn't allowed. She complains to the babysitter, who gently guides her through four yoga poses. Hallie learns that not only is yoga easy, but fun as well. (Summary and image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for  an honest review.)

My Review:  I have to be honest.  I didn't really like this book the first time I read it.  My oldest and I read it in about a minute and a half, and then forgot about it.  Weeks passed.  School started.  Busy life set in. One night, my husband whisper-called to me to get upstairs quickly.  I ran upstairs, only to have him meet me in the family room gesturing to be quiet as he pointed to my daughter's room, who is six and is just realizing how much fun it can be to lose yourself in a book.  I stuck my head in, and there was my daughter, with my yoga mat and I Want to do Yoga, Too, practicing her poses.  She was fascinated.  It's now become her nighttime routine - she does all the basics, then pulls out my yoga mat and "her" yoga book, and goes through her stretches.

Not surprisingly, seeing her reaction to the book made me revisit it.  From her eyes, and how wonderfully it's impacted her.  It's made my appreciation of the book grow exponentially, and has reminded me the benefit of reading in your level.  Picture books are wonderful for EVERY age group, don't get me wrong, but finding one that resonates and changes your child?  That's so priceless!

My Rating: Five stars ... there's just nothing cuter than a darling little redhead in tree pose.



Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ashley!!

Happy, happy birthday to our own dear Ashley! My your day be filled with books ... And enough sugar-exhausted kids to allow you to read them!!

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