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!

Movie Review: Easy A starring Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, and Dan Byrd

by First Mate Keira

Title: Easy A
Director: Will Gluck
Run Time: 92 minutes
Rated: PG-13

Summary: Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is invisible to the student population of Ojai High until one day a popular Christian leader at the school (Amanda Bynes) overhears Olive tell a fib to her best friend in the girl’s bathroom. Overnight Olive goes from invisible good girl to the most talked about floozy in school. Olive decides she likes the attention and offers to help her gay friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) in order to keep up appearances. Olive will soon learn that there can be too much of a good thing.

Why I watched this movie:

I had to do a The Scarlet Letter presentation when I was in school, which I still have lying around somewhere. It was a silent film reenactment done between me and my two friends. I’m sure it’s hilariously bad. Anyway I wanted to see Easy A because of the high school connection and also because of how cool it looked. Easy A totally blew my school project out of the water… lol

Likes:

  • Who knew the The Scarlet Letter could be so much fun? Easy A, like Clueless, is a modern retelling of a classic novel with a strong young adult teen thread that makes it both educational and hilariously entertaining. I really like the idea of taking classic novels and giving them a modern twist.
  • Emma Stone is fabulous in this role. She’s feisty, quirky, funny, and thoroughly entertaining. She’s really coming into her own as an actress. I hope to see much more of her in the future in roles as good as this one.
  • Amanda Bynes is a perfectly awful good girl. I love it. Bynes really breaks out of her mold as the good girl sweetly quirky heroine and manages to do it while still portraying a “good girl.” I love it!
  • The dialogue, script, storyline, acting, it was all great!

Dislikes:

  • Brandon (Dan Byrd) was probably my least favorite character. Mostly due to the ridiculously bad sex scene. It’s funny, but Byrd’s acting in it, is just over the top for me.
  • I don’t get why telling the teacher about his cheating spouse is a bad thing? Dude – the woman has an STD – that alone should be reason to tell him… not they they were having sex.
  • Todd (Penn Badgley) should have had a larger part. He’s slightly too marginalized for my tastes.

Last Minute Thoughts: Other than a few quibbles, Easy A is an A+ movie!

Buy: Easy A

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

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Review: Shades of Earth (Across the Universe, Book 3) by Beth Revis

shades of earthReviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: Shades of Earth (Across the Universe, Book 3)
Author: Beth Revis
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 369 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 14+

Summary: Amy and Elder left the safety of the spaceship, Godspeed, for the promise of Centauri-Earth. What they find is not what they expected with dangers they aren’t prepared to handle. The best or perhaps worst of all is finding signs of civilization on the new Earth. They are not alone. But who is there with them?

Why I started this book:

I read the first two books in the trilogy and wanted to read the conclusion. I had to wait until I could grab from the library, but it was worth it!

Likes:

  • I like that the planet is largely like earth with a few exception regarding the wildlife. It’s hard to imagine surviving on a totally alien planet without extra equipment to aid in breathing, water purification, and the like.
  • Amy gets another love option (for about five seconds, because Chris is creepy) which cements her feelings for Elder.
  • When the ship they took to Centauri-Earth goes on lockdown

Toss-up:

  • Amy is very liberal and doesn’t understand a conservative POV. There’s got to be more balance. Conservative isn’t bad.
  • Amy can’t decide between her parents and Elder. I get why it’s hard, but it seems there could have been a compromise not an either/or so both her parents and Elder lose a bit of my respect for forcing the issue. Amy’s mom seems the most reasonable.

Dislikes:

  • There’s a lot of violence – from fighting pterodactyls, to fighting between the ship-born and the frozens, and then between them and the aliens (I’m thinking of the instant vaporized and blood splatter for the planet’s transport home), to forcing someone’s DNA to change.

Final thoughts: I felt a lot was crammed into one book when it could have been expanded into at least two, maybe three. Though, I could be saying that because I didn’t want to stop reading!

Buy: Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel

Rating: 3.5 Treasure Chests
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Review: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

by First Mate Keira

Title: A Little Princess
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 266 pages
Grade Reading Level: Grades 4-8

Summary: Sara Crewe, a little girl who grew up in India is taken to London by her father to attend Miss Minchin’s Seminary for Girls. Sara must learn to live on her own and navigate the schoolroom and its students. Good thing she’s good at storytelling, playing pretend and supposing or life would be tough for this odd little heiress.

Why I started this book:

I have loved the 1995 movie for ages and ages. Heard it was a book (how did this escape me?) and decided to pick it up and read it.

Likes:

  • It’s surprisingly easy to read and while there are a few big words here and there that might slip the grasp of a younger child, it is a breeze to get through. A rarity I’ve found in classics.
  • There’s a more believable reason for Sara to become a beggar than in the movies where the government seems to have unfairly seized everything. In the book he loses it on speculation for diamond mines.
  • The sparrows outside her attic window and the rat family inside the walls.
  • Ermengarde as the friend and Lavinia as the enemy.

Toss-Up:

  • Sara is so immensely likeable because of how kind she is and how brave she is and how she handles herself in the face of adversity and tough situations. Sometimes she’s so strong you break for her. The book can be very sad at times. I cried once or twice wile reading her supposing about being a Princess when she was practically a beggar.
  • Sara’s relationship with Lottie as her “mother.” That didn’t gel so well with me.
  • Becky. Surprising.

Dislikes:

Last Minute Thoughts: This would be a great story to read at bedtime, a chapter or two at a time.

Buy: A Little Princess

Rating: 3 Treasure Chests (at least compared to the A Little Princess 1995 movie)

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Review: I Learned a New Word Today… Genocide by Elizabeth Hankins

by First Mate Keira, guest reviewer

Title: I Learned a New Word Today… Genocide
Author: Elizabeth Hankins
Format: Paperback
# of Pages: 150 pages
Grade Reading Level: 5th – 8th grade

Summary: Javier Mendoza is a 5th grade student at Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary. As part of an assignment for social studies he must keep a journal and tell what he learns about the new unit being taught by Mr. Steinberg, his social studies teacher. The unit is about genocide and specifically six genocides that happened in the last 100 years. It’s a fictional story filled with factual information.

Why I Read This Book:

This book was given to LYAF as an ARC. My sixth grade sister was going to read it but she found the subject too sad to really get into it for pleasure reading. I picked it up after that and read it over a couple of days.

Likes:

  • Elizabeth Hankins keeps everything age appropriate. There are no gory details. When things are tough she keeps it light by having Javier boil the topic down to its basic components: genocide is sad, evil, terrible, and devastating.
  • A lot of factual information is condensed into this 150 page book and through Javier’s definitions, reiterations, lists, and commentary one learns a lot. It will be easy for kids from 5th grade to 8th grade to understand.
  • Two of the things gone over in the book are how genocide starts and how it is hidden or glossed over by others.
  • It is a thinking book. Young and older readers will think about what genocide is and figure out how to spot it even when it’s not being labeled as genocide.

Dislikes:

I have only one dislike. Javier begins to question God’s presence in a world where genocide exists and He doesn’t stop it. Javier also questions whether or not God is good (page 58-59).

I was hoping at the end of the book Javier would come to a conclusion about both, but it was left unresolved and that really bothered me. I couldn’t tell why it was left that way even after Javier came to the conclusion he wanted to be a doer and not a watcher. What was the purpose?

One of the reasons for genocide listed in the book is religion and how people worshipped God. The book does say religion by itself does not cause genocide and Javier thinks if God is good and fair He would hate people fighting over Him. In my opinion genocide doesn’t happen because of God. It happens because there is a lack of Him, even and especially if people are using God as an excuse to do what they do.

In addition, faith groups are mentioned as great sources for good in the fight against genocide.

Still, I really wish once it had been brought up it had been dealt with more thoroughly. It is my only concern about the book because the message is unclear.

Last Minute Thoughts: Genocide is a sad topic and while the book a little heavy it is not overwhelmingly so for young kids. I think it would be a great companion for a unit study or in a literary group. I also think it would be a good book for adults looking to learn more about the subject without getting too wrapped up in the horrors involved. You can fill in the blanks well enough.

Buy: I Learned a New Word Today … Genocide

Book Rating: 4 Treasure Chests

Keira runs a book review blog for readers by readers on romance novels entitled Love Romance Passion. She’s been reading romance since she was in her teens and began blogging about romance so she could share her passion for her favorite genre. She loves reading paranormal, Regency, historical America, and highlander most of all and completely adores blind and wounded heroes.