Review: The Bad Beginning (Book 1) by Lemony Snicket

by Cook Cutlery, guest reviewer

Title: The Bad Beginning (Book 1) Series of Unfortunate Events
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 162
Grade Reading Level: Ages 10+

Summary: Violet, Kluas and Sunny Bauldilair were at the beach when Mr. Poe comes and tell them that their parents had died in a fire. At their house all they find are ashes. Arrangements are made so that the kids live with Mr. Poe at his house while he tries to find them a relative to live with on a permanent basis. Mr. Poe finds them a place to live with Count Olaf. At Count Olaf’s many bad things happen to them… in a series of unfortunate events!

Like:

  • I love Violet. She is always trying to invent something. For instance, later in the story Violet invents a grappling hook out of old clothes and old wire. How does she think of things like that so quickly? I would be hard pressed that is for sure.
  • Justice Starauss is very kind to the kids. He lets them use the library and helps them buy food so they can cook for Count Olaf and the troupe of people living with him.
  • Klaus and Violet are always taking care of Sunny and making sure she doesn’t get into trouble. I have a hard time with one sister that’s closer to my age! So while it might not be very accurate in normal circumstances, the Bauldilair kids are a whole other ball of wax.

Dislike:

  • Mr. Poe doesn’t believe them when they are trying to tell him that Count Olaf is a terrible man and gives them way too many chores to do. Mr. Poe should know what sort of kids they are from when they lived with him and it’s really important for adults to take kids seriously when it comes to stuff like that.
  • When Count Olaf puts on a play that is called the Marvelous Marriage. In actuality it is not a play but a real marriage ceremony. He wants to get the Bauldilair fortune that they were left with and does it through trickery. Plus, can you imagine being married to the guy? Gross!

Buy: The Bad Beginning (Hardback), The Complete Wreck (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-13), The Trouble Begins: Books 1-3, The Situation Worsens: Books 4-6, The Dilemma Deepens: Books 7-9 , The Gloom Looms: Books 10-12

Rating: I give this book 3 out of 5 treasure chests.

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Review: The Center of the Storm by Ann Simko

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Title: The Center of the Storm
Author: Ann Simko
Format: Digital ebook
Page Count: 210 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 16+

Warning: Parents may decide that they want to read this book first because it does deal with sensitive issues such as cutting, abuse, and suicide.

Summary: This story was written in the first person.

Dodge Landry receives a phone call from his mother in the middle of the night. She’s calling about Storm. Dodge is going to take his son Christian with him. Chris is fifteen and has the typical teenager attitude – especially when the parent wakes them up early.

We learn that Dodge and Chris both have something in common. They were both in the foster care system. Both of their backgrounds were almost similar. Dodge and his wife, Anna, have adopted Chris. And Dodge is hoping to use this trip home as a bonding experience.

Kate and her husband, Mike Landry, own a horse farm which is located in Pennsylvania. As we read this story, we learn that Dodge was just like Chris when he was around the same age. He also had an attitude about him. They also had something else in common as well which you will find out as you read more of the story.

Ann seamlessly moves between the past and the present. The reader will not get lost as she transitions back and forth. She’ll also have you reminiscing about your own attitude and behavior at that age. If you or your child is an animal lover, this story may also pull at your heartstrings.

This is a story that any teenager should read. It may give them a better understanding of why some people are the way they are. It may also help in discussing what they are feeling – what they don’t think they can put into words. It may also help a parent in trying to understand a troubled teen. Maybe it’s a story that both parent and child can sit down and discuss together.

Maybe this is a story that you can relate to – maybe you have personally been touched by some of the issues that Ann covers. She also shows how cruel some people can be. Some scenes may reflect what you and your parent went through during some of your rough times.

Ann writes one scene between Kate and Dodge – typical mother and child stuff. And as I’m reading the scene, I can almost hear my own mother saying the exact same thing. Then in the next breath, Ann has you almost in tears. Then there’s another scene between Dodge and Mike and Ann has me almost in tears again. Plus I’m back to reminiscing about growing up in my household – me, my three brothers, and my parents.

When I first saw that it covered some sensitive subjects, I was not sure that this was a book that I was going to like. I went into reading this book with some preconceived notions. Ann totally changed my mind. By the time I finished this book I was so glad that I was given this chance to review it. With students getting out school for the summer, this is the perfect time for them to sit down, read it and then discuss it with you. They may even want to read more of her work after they are finished.

Buy: The Center of the Storm

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

GIVEAWAY + Review: Croc Capers (Bindi Wildlife Adventures, Book 7) by Bindi Irwin and Chris Kunz

Reviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: Croc Capers (Bindi Wildlife Adventures, Book 7)
Author: Bindi Irwin and Chris Kunz
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 112 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 7 and up

Summary: Bindi and Robert Irwin are visiting one of their favorite places in the world when their idyllic location and crocodile captures is interrupted by some noisy new neighbors.

Why I started this book:

I was offered the book by the publisher and it sounded cute.

Likes:

  • Bindi, one of the authors (and the heroine!) is a young girl, age 13. Woo! Have you seen her on the Discovery Channel?
  • Crocodile-tagging adventures are cool. I can’t imagine wrestling one can you? Yikes!
  • The fact sheets at the end of the story are great for sharing fun tidbits about the animals.
  • The great bowerbird event was pretty neat. Not everything is as it seems! Good lesson to remember!

Dislikes:

  • The book could do better to quickly share who is who for those who haven’t been in Bindi’s world before this, but it is relatively minor.

Last Minute Thoughts: Visit www.crocodilehunter.com for more from Bindi and Robert and the activity guide for more fun with the books.

Buy: Croc Capers: Bindi Wildlife Adventures

Rating: 4.5 Treasure Chests

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GIVEAWAY: You could win all 7 books in the BINDI WILDLIFE ADVENTURES series! Open to residents from the US or Canada. Ends August 10, 2012. Enter by leaving a comment! Tell us about one of your wildlife adventures!

Review: Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever (100% Official) by Justin Bieber

by Captain Lyaf Yarr
Title: Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever (100% Official)
Author: Justin Bieber
Format: Hardcover
# of pages: 240
Grade Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Summary: This book is an autobiography by the hottie himself Justin Bieber! He talks about his life as a normal Canadian, to how it got all started, to how it is like now. He goes through many normal every day experiences and even he screws up at times! But that is okay. (I mean, how else are you supposed to get through life?). Even though he is wildly famous and doesn’t exactly have a regular life he really is just a normal kid (minus the millions of ‘Beliebers’ and his packed schedule.) Justin encourages all of his fans to always follow their dreams and to believe in themselves!

Why I Started the Book:

I started this book because duh! it is Justin Bieber! How can you not read his amazing book? Come on!

Likes:

  • I loved the pictures! Only someone as hot as Justin Bieber could be in pictures that amazing! They were great, I even went back and admired them (a lot) after I finished reading.
  • I love the parts where Justin sounds like such a fail. It is so cute! And he does not act like everything is ruined or like it is the end of the world. When he does fail he brushes it off and moves on with his life.
  • Two of the many things this book has taught me:
    1. Justin is even more ‘scrum-diddly-umptious’ than I thought he was (which was A LOT but now it’s even more!)
    2. Never (Say Never) order spaghetti on a date ;)
  • I liked reading about Justin and his friends and family (also including his extended family/wolf pack). They were obviously very close and had a great loving relationship with one another. They were always there for each other and supported Justin throughout his whole career.
  • It was pretty easy to read this book. I got sucked into it once I started, but I think it was because of how he wrote it. It was all very straight forward and down to earth. He doesn’t make anything a mystery and he states his personal opinions which I love!
  • I actually did learn a lot from reading his book. I wasn’t sure if I would because I thought I knew everything about Justin Bieber! (Just kidding.) There’s defiantly a lot of fun and interesting facts to discover.
  • Justin is such an uber inspiration.

Buy: Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever (100% Official)

Last minute thoughts: I hope he writes another book and makes another movie about his life, because I can’t get enough of him!

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Book Rating: I give this book 5 Treasure Chests!

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Review: Best Friends and Drama Queens (Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls: Book 3) by Meg Cabot

by Second Mate Embry, guest reviewer

Title: Best Friends and Drama Queens (Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls: Book 3)
Author: Meg Cabot
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 240
Grade Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Summary: Allie gets excited when she learns that that they are getting a new student from Canada! Mostly because that means she won’t be the new girl anymore. But when she finally meets Cheyenne, she finds out how incredibly BOSSY she is! Allie thinks her life is over when Cheyenne’s rules make Allie fight with her best friends. What could she do to solve Cheyenne’s attitude? Will she get her best friends back? Will she lose them forever?

Why I Read This Book:

I read this book because it’s the third book in the series Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls. I can’t wait for the fourth book!

Likes:

  • Cheyenne is the perfect 4th grade bully. She threatens people to make them do what she wants. She’s the perfect “villain” for this setting better than Rosemary from earlier in the series.
  • I like how Allie doesn’t give into Cheyenne. She stays strong and doesn’t let her get her cruel ways.

Dislikes:

  • I didn’t like how Erica, Caroline, and Sophie give into Cheyenne so easily! I mean, I think if Allie can stand up for herself than they can. Or at least make it harder on her to peer pressure them.

Buy: Best Friends And Drama Queens (Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls #3)

Rating: 3.5 Treasure Chests!

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Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison

by First Mate Keira

Title: 13 Treasures
Author: Michelle Harrison
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 355
Grade Reading Level: Grade 5–8

Summary: Tanya knows that at age 13 she can no longer get away with talking to faeries or about them in front of others as both adults and kids couldn’t see them. Only her. She’d been tormented by them for years and the bullying wasn’t going to ever stop as far as she could see. When she tried to write about them in a journal, they discovered it and punished her. That punishment woke her mother which lead to more punishment… she was being sent away to live with her grandmother. The grandmother she is certain hates her and never wants her to visit. Oh and her grandmother’s place is stuffed with faeries inside and outside the house… talk about jumping from frying pan into the fire.

Why I started this book:

It looked really cute on the library shelf. Cover is very nice.

Likes:

  • Tanya’s and Fabian’s friendship. They work together to solve the mystery of the girl in the woods. The girl, Morwenna Bloom, had gone missing ages ago and but her disappearance was blamed on Fabian’s grandfather. The town thinks he killed her, but there’s no proof. Or is there?
  • Oberon is a good dog. He had a lot of personality infused in his character with just a few lines.

Dislikes:

  • Raven, Gredin, Feathercap, and Mizhog, the bullying faeries that pick on Tanya.
  • Morwenna Bloom. I just knew she wasn’t the sweet missing girl she’s made out to be throughout the story.
  • Another thing I didn’t get was feeling bad for changelings and trying to help them.
  • Florence’s relationship with her granddaughter. The motivations were explained in the conclusion of the story, but it seemed rather weak to me.
  • The 13 treasures the story is titled after appear in the novel as a charm bracelet to go with a legend. It didn’t do anything… I kept expecting it to end up being the real treasures shrunk down, but it was just jewelry.
  • The concept of guardian faeries was very contradicting in terms of world-building. In the end I didn’t quite understand how if one or several of the faeries were on Tanya’s side how they could condone tormenting and torturing her. It didn’t make much sense to me.

Buy: 13 Treasures

Rating: 2.5 Treasure Chests

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