Friday, August 23, 2013

Picture Book Review: Lily Goes to School by Lily Hamilton and Barbara Myers

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Title: Lily Goes to School
Authors: Lily Hamilton and Barbara Myers
Illustrator: Brendan Sellaro
Publisher: Headline Books
Hardcover: 32 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Lily has her first day of school! What an adventure with so many new things to learn and new friends to meet. Lily was nervous at first but finds out that school is an exciting place after all.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

*I was given a free copy of this book for my honest review at BEA 2013*

Lily Hamilton and Barbara Myers tell a story of the events that happen on Lily’s first day of school, from riding the bus, meeting the teacher and finding her seat, to lunch time, music time, and an assembly on stranger danger.

This is an easy-to-read story and is great for beginning readers. It could also be a big help in preparing children for their first day of school. Brendan Sellaro does a great job with the illustrations; they are detailed and full of vibrant color.

My favorite part of this book is that Lily Hamilton is a very young author. Meeting her and her grandmother, Barbara, at BookExpo America this year was exciting. Seeing young children getting involved with books and writing is always inspirational.

I would recommend this book to preschoolers who are getting ready to head to kindergarten. It will be a good read-aloud story and a good opportunity for children to ask questions before the first day of school arrives.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Picture Book Review: The Night Santa Got Lost - How NORAD Saved Christmas

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Title: The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas
Author: Michael Keane
Illustrator: Michael Garland
Publisher: Regnery Kids
Hardcover: 28 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Every Christmas millions of kids and adults track Santa on the NORAD Santa Tracker. Now, author Michael Keane brings to life this fun tradition with his new children’s book The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas.

Written in the iconic style of The Night Before Christmas, The Night Santa Got Lost begins on a blustery and treacherous Christmas Eve as Santa sets off to deliver toys to good little boys and girls everywhere. As always, NORAD is faithfully tracking him to make sure no harm comes his way. But when Santa disappears from their radar screen, NORAD’s skills and resources are put to the test as they scramble to find Santa and save Christmas. Entertaining and educational, The Night Santa Got Lost will delight parents and children alike while teaching kids about our military, team work, and the true spirit of Christmas.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

*I was given a free copy of this book at the 2013 BEA for my honest review. *

 Michael Keane and Michael Garland did a wonderful job with this book! The story line is exciting and keeps interest. I enjoyed how the story flows with the well-known Christmas story, The Night Before Christmas.

 There is a little suspense in the story, what with wondering if Santa will be able to deliver all of the presents. At the end, Michael Keane has some brief history of NORAD and information for the children to call and track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve. Michael Garland did an amazing job with the illustrations, they amazing with vibrant colors and characters that will keep both children and adults interested in the story.

I am excited to have this book as part of my children’s Christmas story collection; and I am looking forward to making this book part of our Christmas Eve tradition. In my opinion, this a must have book for everyone with small children.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

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Title: Defending Jacob
Author: William Landay
Publisher: Random House
Paperback: 496 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.  
Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive. 
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Although I’ve seen this book on the New York Times bestseller list, I didn’t become interested in reading Defending Jacob until my book club chose it for our monthly read. I already felt, by the title, this book would play with my emotions and I wasn’t wrong! Defending Jacob was a complete page-turner that left me conflicted down to the last line of the book.

Incredibly well written, this is a haunting story that is both thought provoking and emotionally disturbing. It raises the questions that most parents are not prepared to answer, let alone think about: What would you do if your child was accused of murdering another child? Also, who do you blame when you are too busy to see what is right in front of you the whole time? Author William Landay explores in great detail and with extreme sensitivity what happens to a family and community when a stellar citizen’s son is accused of murdering his classmate.

The story opens with a grand jury inquiry and Andy Barber is on the witness stand. It is unclear in the beginning, what are the exact circumstances of the proceedings, but what is clearly being implied is the prosecution has no case. The author then reverts back twelve months prior to the grand jury proceedings. He allows the readers to glimpse the relationships between the Barber family and the community that would ultimately turn their backs upon them in their greatest time of need.

When Jacob Barber, the son of longtime Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber is accused of murdering his classmate, Jacob parents are in disbelief. As the evidence mounts against Jacob, his mother Laurie starts to question whether her son could actually be a murderer, while Andy is unwavering in his belief that Jacob is innocent. Throughout the trial, Laurie sits by herself because she is alienated from her friends, yet like most of her friends, she begins to believe Jacob is guilty she keeps her conflicted feelings to herself. It’s not until Andy is forced to reveal some hidden secrets about his past that Laurie is unable to suppress her feelings. Laurie feels betrayed that Andy never told her his darkest secrets. Andy continues to believe the past has nothing to do with Jacob’s innocence.

Defending Jacob is a truly suspenseful story that makes you love, hate and hopefully come to understand that as parents we sometimes make choices to save our children, when in fact we are actually hurting them. I absolutely love this book, and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves a well-written, great book.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

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Title: The Body in the Library
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Miss Marple, Book 3
Publisher: HarperCollins
Paperback: 207 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
The body of a beautiful blonde is found in the library of Gossington Hall. What the young woman was doing in the quiet village of St. Mary Mead is precisely what Jane Marple means to find out. Amid rumors of scandal, Miss Marple baits a clever trap to catch a ruthless killer.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Mystery stories were what started my reading addiction, and although I don't read them that much anymore, it's comforting to return to the genre that made me love reading in the first place. Agatha Christie is an all-time favorite of mine (as can be said for a lot of you, probably!), and while I've read a lot of Hercule Poirot, I haven't read a lot of Miss Marple, which is a shame. The Body in the Library is the third in the series and it's Christie's successful attempt to take a cliched topic and turn it on its head.

I really enjoyed this book. It's perfect summer reading, with its short length and fast-paced plot. As always with Christie's books, the characters are remarkable. There is so much humor and silliness amid all the drama and sleuthing, which makes these books pure entertaining, fun.

The ending was clever and I actually didn't see the twist at the end, which was a nice surprise. It was, however, rushed and I wish we could have actually seen the playout of Miss Marple's trap instead of a recap of it, but that's the only flaw I can find in this book.

In short, this is one mystery that will keep you in suspense all the while keeping a smile on your face. If you find yourself with a few extra hours this summer, definitely keep The Body in the Library in mind.