Review: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: Baseball

 

Title: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: Baseball

Publisher:  Time

ISBN: 9781603202381

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A must-have for every young baseball fan and player, "Pro Files: Baseball" showcases 15 of the big league’s hottest stars and fathers through "Sports Illustrated: Kids’" signature content: great writing, fun trivia, amazing statistics, and dynamic photography. Full color.

Review:

Even though I am not a huge sports fan, I enjoy reviewing these SI Kids books.  They are attractively packaged, engagingly written, and filled with glossy action shots.  In addition to giving tips on how to play like a pro, each featured player has an introduction which includes their stats and career highlights.  While this is nice, I appreciated the background information for each player even more.  The human interest elements made the book accessible to me, a self-admitted non-fan of baseball.  Each player also has a selection entitled Inside Information, which lists their favorite foods, movies, cartoon characters, and even video games.  That’s the stuff that I’m interested in.  It’s great to know all of Justin Verlander’s stats, but since I don’t get into the game, those are just random numbers to me.

I took this book to work to show to a co-worker, and he really liked reading through it, too.  He is a huge baseball fan, and while he questioned some of the players that were included, overall he agreed that the featured athletes were among the top of their game.  He liked the photographs, which are printed on bright, glossy paper and capture a variety of intense action shots. He agreed that the text will interest both fans and those not so enthusiastic about the game.  The tips are fun to read, too, though I doubt that I will ever be able to advance my skills to the level of Ichiro Suzuki or Dustin Pedroia.  Chris, on the other hand, insists that with practice, he will be able to pitch just like Verlander.  I remain slightly skeptical.

If you have a baseball fan at home, this would be a great purchase for them.  I bet that even reluctant readers will be cheerfully engrossed learning about the players, their backgrounds, and the secrets behind their moves. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Batman: Super-Villains Strike by Michael Teitelbaum

 

Title: Choose-Your-Own-Fate Adventure Book Batman: Super-Villains Strike

Author: Michael Teitelbaum

Publisher: Starscape

ISBN: 978-0765364814

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Batman’s instincts tell him that Catwoman, The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy are all involved. But how could that be? They are all behind bars at Arkham Asylum. Batman knows these super-villains would never agree to work together…or would they?

Is a copycat criminal to blame? How could one person be in all these places at once? Follow the clues with Batman and then make your own choices for how the story will go. Can you help Batman solve this mystery? Will you be able to put the criminal—or criminals—behind bars and save Gotham City from chaos?

These DC Super Hero “interactive” stories will incorporate fabulous DC art along with puzzles and games to guide the reader through multiple outcomes of the story. The puzzles and games will appear at random chapter endings providing clues to help the reader decide where to go next. Familiar interactive elements, for readers otherwise absorbed with online games and other digital devices, these original concept books will add a new level of excitement and challenge for the reader.

Review:

I received this unsolicited Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Book, and since I am a big fan of both Batman and choosing your own fate, I sat down with it and put the book through its paces.  Intended for readers 7 – 10, Batman: Super-Villains Strike keeps poor Batman on his toes from the first page.  Four of the most dangerous criminals in the world are committing crimes in Gotham City, even though you, as Batman, are certain they are all still behind bars in Arkham Asylum.   Dodging one villain after another, you are desperate to catch Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mr Freeze, and The Riddler red-handed and hustle them back to their jail cells.

While I love the concept of these choose your own adventure books, I am not fond of the execution of this one in particular.  The continuity is not smooth, and there were several paths I traveled along that jerked me from one location to another with no explanation, and worse, from one villain encounter to another without regard to events in the chapter I launched off from.  Several times I was chasing after Catwoman, picked a path, and was suddenly pondering riddles from The Riddler, even though I hadn’t encountered him previously in my adventures.  I didn’t even know he was out of jail yet.  This was frustrating when it happened.

To assist me in my crime-fighting journey, there are several puzzles that I had to solve that added variety to the adventure.  Word searches, mazes, and scrambled words gave the book a more interactive feel.  I enjoyed these little brain teasers, and would have liked to see more of them.

One thing I didn’t like was having to search for chapter numbers.  I wish instead that I had been directed to a specific page number, instead of the numbered chapters.

Continuity issues aside, this book will keep younger readers occupied during wait times or trips in the car.  Just don’t be surprised if they ask you where The Riddler or Poison Ivy suddenly came from!

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Medusa the Mean by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

 

Title:  Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean

Author: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Publisher: Aladdin

ISBN: 978-1442433793

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Medusa wants to be more like her two sisters and the other kids at Mount Olympus Academy — immortal. Is that too much to ask? As one of the few mortals at MOA, it’s hard not to get jealous when you’re surrounded by beautiful, powerful goddessgirl and godboy classmates. And it isn’t easy making friends either, especially when you have snakes for hair and one mean reputation!

Review:

I have been interested in The Goddess Girls for a while, but I was reluctant to go back and try to catch up on the series.  Medusa the Mean is the eighth installment, and when I had the opportunity to be part of a blog tour, I jumped at the chance.  I ‘m glad that I did, too.  I had no problems following along with the plot, and found this to be a very fun MG read.

Medusa has a few issues.  She wants to be popular, and she wants super hottie Poseidon to notice her.  The problem? Nobody is tripping over themselves to be her friend.  Who wants to be BFFs with a mortal girl with snakes for hair?  Her own parents don’t even seem to care for her, so it’s easy to see how Medusa developed an Olympus sized chip on her green shoulder.

I was extremely sympathetic toward Medusa.  She is one of the only mortals to attend Mount Olympus Academy, and she feels that she doesn’t fit in.  She longs to be immortal and to have powers like her sisters.  It’s hard being the only triplet  without special powers!  Medusa is so desperate to obtain immortality that she falls for gimmicks that keep getting her into trouble.

Despite her desire to have friends, Medusa is wary of her peers.  Being the object of ridicule will do that, and Medusa is often the butt of jokes and teasing.  It seems that only her snakes accept her for who she really is.  With her trust issues, she keeps rejecting the friendly overtures from the girls she longs to be friends with.  I could relate to Medusa and her social awkwardness.  It’s hard to make friends when you worry constantly that people are only setting you up for a joke.  Instead, she reacts with snarky comebacks, or worse, ignores everyone in the vicinity.  While she keeps finding fault in herself, she feels that she must also find fault in others.

Medusa the Mean is a quick, feel good read.  Though I was starting to worry that Medusa would never catch a clue, she eventfully learns that being friends is a two-way street.  She learns that if she wants people to like her, she can’t be selfish and self-absorbed.  Most importantly, she has to accept herself for who she is, and stop judging people based on their looks, instead of their personality.  I enjoyed the characters and the setting, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more books in the Goddess Girls series.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {teen} Book Scene

 

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Blog Tour–This or That with Medusa from Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean!

[Manga Maniac Café] Hi, Joan and Suzanne!  Thanks for dropping by!

[Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams] Hi, Julie! Thanks so much for hosting our Goddess Girls 8: Medusa the Mean blog tour!

Medusa insists on speaking for herself in your Character This or That. We hope that’s okay.

[Manga Maniac Café] Perfectly fine! I am not about to argue with a girl who has snakes for hair! 

Hi, Medusa!  Welcome to This or That! Would you like a cup of tea before we get started?

[Medusa] Don’t forget the cookies.  It’s a long journey from Mt Olympus.

[Manga Maniac Café] Of course!  Here you are, and let’s start This or That!

[Medusa] I guess…

[Manga Maniac Café] Water or Sand

[Medusa] With a sea monster mom and a seahog dad, I can swim like a fish. So, water! Definitely.

[Manga Maniac Café] Blue or Red

[Medusa] Hmm. Blue is pretty close to my favorite color, green. And red is the complement of green. So, neither. I choose green.

[Manga Maniac Café] Sun or Stars

[Medusa] Stars, like the ones I have in my eyes when I look at my supercrush, Poseidon.

[Manga Maniac Café] Walking or Running

[Medusa] Running. I’m a mortal at an immortal school. I’ve got to move it to keep up. At times, it’s hard for me. But that’s my little secret.

[Manga Maniac Café] Birds or Fish

[Medusa] Fish, because I can swim like one. And Poseidon is godboy of the sea. Duh. We are so perfect for each other. Why can’t he see that?

[Manga Maniac Café] Hot or Cold

[Medusa] Cold. It’s better for my pet snakes. I have a dozen on my head. Did you notice? I used to think they were a pain, but now they’re my pets. I even gave each of them names.

[Manga Maniac Café] Food or Drink

[Medusa] Drink, because it reminds me of water, which reminds me of swimming, which I’m good at.

[Manga Maniac Café] Singing or Dancing

[Medusa] Dancing. If I win a chance to be in Principal Zeus’s wedding, I’m going to dance the night away!

[Manga Maniac Café] Naughty or Nice

[Medusa] I never play nice!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you, Medusa! 


Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean is available now!  You can order a copy from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

Thank you {teen} Book Scene for arranging this meeting with Joan, Suzanne, and Medusa!

Review by Elsa–The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

 

Title: The Son of Neptune

Author:  Rick Riordan

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

ISBN: 978-1423140597

 

{ED. Here is another review written by my young friend, Elsa.  Good work, kiddo!}

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Percy is confused. When he awoke after his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain-fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight. Somehow Percy managed to make it to the camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he had to continually kill monsters that, annoyingly, would not stay dead. But the camp doesn’t ring any bells with him.
Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. When the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now, because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk.
Frank is a klutz. His grandmother claims he is descended from ancient heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to help the Fifth Cohort win at war games. His big and bulky physique makes him feel like a clumsy ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough, even, to share the secret he holds close to his heart.
Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far north as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment in the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all of whom are destined to play a part in the most important quest of all: the Prophecy of Seven.

Review:

I wanted to read The Son of Neptune because I have read the Jackson Chronicles before. It was an exciting, action packed fiction book. The book taught you that the importance of believing in what you want, sticking by your friends’ side and standing your ground were key. When I read “The Lost Hero”, the book before the Son of Neptune, I knew that Rick Riordan was a great author and I would love all of his books. Also, like the Hunger Games, it has the power to make you realize what you want in life.

I liked Percy as the protagonist. He was definitely gutsier in this book than the rest. I can say that I liked everything and I didn’t hate anything. Rick Riordan is another author that I am officially obsessed with.  I had such a hard time putting his books down and stepping away from Percy.  Would he survive the pressure?  Would something worse happen to Frank and Hazel? I need to read the rest of Rick Riordan’s books!

Hope you like my reviews so far and try to catch the next one coming soon!!!!

~Elsa

 

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Review: Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler

 

Title: Princess of the Wild Swans

Author: Diane Zahler

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 978-0062004925

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Princess Meriel’s brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment–cast by their conniving new stepmother–has transformed the handsome princes into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls.

Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers. But she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish.

With help from her newfound friends Riona and Liam–a pretty half-witch and her clever brother–Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved.

But if she fails . . . all will be lost.

Review:

I read and enjoyed The Thirteenth Princess, so I was curious to see if I would like Princess of the Wild Swans as well.  The fairy tale that this book is based on has never been a favorite, and I wondered how I would feel about Diane Zahler’s reimagined version.  I liked it!  A lot!  The characters, once again, are what made the story, as well as the urgency of Meriel’s task.  If she doesn’t find a way to save her brothers soon, winter will set in and they will have to fly to a warmer climate.  Since it is autumn, that doesn’t leave her much time to come up with a solution!  To make matters worse, there isn’t anyone for her to confide in, because everyone seems to have succumbed to the evil Lady Orianna’s enchantments.

Diane Zahler’s princess protagonists make these stories for me.  They are kind and concerned, and though they might be slightly spoiled, when the chips are down and danger beckons, they will do anything to save the people they love.  Though she is frightened and confused, Meriel quickly finds the determination to save her brothers.  She knows that something terrible has happened to them – they all just disappeared, after all – and she is going to figure out where they all went.  With her father bewitched by her new, beautiful stepmother, she has no adult to turn to.  After chance encounter with Riona, her brother Cullan’s girlfriend, Meriel discovers some equally determined allies.  Both Riona and her brother, Liam, will do anything to help Meriel.  They know that the new queen is evil, and they fear what will happen to the kingdom if she triumphs in her evil deeds.

Just when Meriel is ready to give up, the townsfolk provide assistance to keep her moving doggedly forward.  Hers is a terrible task, one that she isn’t prepared to tackle, but with help from her friends and her subjects, she finds the resolution and the courage to get the job done.  Meriel matures and gains confidence in her ability to save her family, and as she discovers an impressive inner strength, she makes things happen.  She knows that if she fails, her brothers will remain swans forever, and that is all of the motivation she needs to find a way around every obstacle that springs up in her path.  Her brothers, and even her father, may have treated her like a helpless child, but Meriel will show them all that she is more than capable of taking care of herself, and them as well!  Even though each road block was more overwhelming than the last, and Meriel was overcome with self-doubt, she continued to do everything possible to save her brothers.

Diane Zahler’s writing is reminiscent of Patricia McKillip and Robin McKinley, two of my favorite fantasy authors, so it’s no surprise that I am enjoying her books as well.  I just purchased A True Princess ($5.99 for my Kindle – WIN!).  She has, in fact, been moved to my auto-buy list.  I can hardly wait to see what other adventures she has in store for her very relatable and likeable characters.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by the author

 

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Review: Winterling by Sarah Prineas

 

Title: Winterling

Author: Sarah Prineas

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 978-0061921032

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

“We live here, my girl, because it is close to the Way, and echoes of its magic are felt in our world. The Way is a path leading to another place, where the people are governed by different rules. Magic runs through them and their land.”

With her boundless curiosity and wild spirit, Fer has always felt that she doesn’t belong. Not when the forest is calling to her, when the rush of wind through branches feels more real than school or the quiet farms near her house. Then she saves an injured creature—he looks like a boy, but he’s really something else. He knows who Fer truly is, and invites her through the Way, a passage to a strange, dangerous land.

Fer feels an instant attachment to this realm, where magic is real and oaths forge bonds stronger than iron. But a powerful huntress named the MÓr rules here, and Fer can sense that the land is perilously out of balance. Fer must unlock the secrets about the parents she never knew and claim her true place before the worlds on both sides of the Way descend into endless winter.

Sarah Prineas captivates in this fantasy-adventure about a girl who must find within herself the power to set right a terrible evil.

Review:

When I saw the coal black horse with glaring red eyes on the cover of Winterling, I immediately wanted to know more about it.  It’s a Middle Grade fantasy, and as I have been having quite a bit of good luck finding satisfying stories with these books lately, I couldn’t wait to start reading it.  Once I picked it up, I could not put it down again.  This is an exciting, magical read with a strong and feisty heroine who is moved by her heart to do the right thing.  My favorite kind of character.

Fer feels that she doesn’t fit in her world.  She hates school and the hurtful taunts of her classmates, and worse, once she climbs aboard the bus and is taken to the city, she starts to feel ill and muddle-headed.  Her grandmother, Grand-Jane, doesn’t seem to understand how wrong Fer feels when she’s surrounded by the city and her schoolmates, and she keeps insisting she go to school.  She has no sympathy when Fer gets into trouble for fighting, and Grand-Jane expects Fer to stay out of mischief.  Miserable, the girl forces herself to suffer through one endless day after another.

One day on her way home from school one day, she witnesses three wolves attacking a dog.  Upset that they are ganging up on the smaller animal, Fer bravely scoops up a fallen branch and wades into the middle of the fight, fearlessly chasing the wolves away.  When she checks the dog for injuries, she discovers, much to her surprise, that the dog isn’t a dog at all; he is really a strange boy named Rook.  Rook tells Fer about the Way, a magical portal to his world, and suddenly, Fer’s life will never be the same again.

This book had me hooked when Fer, despite her fear, bravely defended Rook against the wolves.  She is a girl who doesn’t know how to back down.  There is no challenge too frightening for her to turn away from, and she constantly puts herself at risk to save those around her.  I loved her bravery, and more than that, I loved her selflessness.  Fer never wanted anything in return, and she readily gave of herself, in a land that had long since lost the ability to be kind or generous.

Once Fer is swept up into the adventure of a lifetime, she learns the truth about her parents and the magical land she belongs in.  As she tries to discover the fate of her parents, she is challenged at every turn by the beautiful Lady and the hold she has over her subjects.  Breathtakingly beautiful and frighteningly powerful, her iron will keeps her subjects in line.  Enchanted by her glamor, Fer’s own magic slowly begins to uncoil within her, causing just enough doubt to break the Lady’s magical hold on her.

With Rook’s reluctant help, Fer searches for a way to fix both Rook’s world and her own.  With the Way opened, the weather in both realms is spiraling out of control, causing devastation and destruction.  Spring has gone into hiding, and nobody knows why.  Only the Lady’s bloody Hunts bring back the warm weather, but Fer isn’t fooled.  She knows that something is wrong, and that the Lady is leaving a terrible stain on the land. 

I was enchanted by Fer, an unhappy, sullen girl who, like the land she comes to love, slowly begins to bloom.  There is a strong and caring magic within her, and even though she tries to deny it, it begins to grow, compelling her to use it for the good of those around her.  Her kindness transforms those around her, even the angry and tricky Rook, a boy bond by a thrice sworn promise to do things he abhors.  Both characters change and mature during their adventures, and that made this book a delight.  As they learn to care for others, I learned to care for them. 

Grade: B+

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Review: May B by Caroline Starr Rose

 

Title: May B

Author: Caroline Starr Rose

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade

ISBN: 978-1582463933

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

I’ve known it since last night:
It’s been too long to expect them to return.
Something’s happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

Review:

I was a bit hesitant to read May B, both because it is written in verse, which a storytelling style that I am still getting used to, and because I was afraid that I would find May’s solitary adventure too stressful.  I needn’t have worried about either concern; once I picked this book up, I literally did not put it down until I finished it.  It is a very fast read, and May’s narrative is compelling and readable.  I wanted to see what happened next, and kept telling myself that I would only read for a few more pages.  Just a few more, and I would go do the laundry.  Guess what?  This story was much more engrossing than the wash.

May has been informed that she will be helping out some neighbors on their prairie homestead until Christmas.  She doesn’t want to leave home, doesn’t want to have to stop going to school to work for strangers that she doesn’t know.  Her mother expects her to be on her best behavior, and her father tells her that everyone has to help out wherever they can.  The money that she is earning by working for the Oblingers will allow her family to purchase badly needed supplies.  These words are slim comfort to May; she’ll be a long 15 miles away away from home, and she will miss her family.

Once May is dropped off at the shabby sod hut that will be her home for the next few months, she has feelings of dread.  Mrs Oblinger is only a few years older, and the new bride hates living on the Kansas prairie.  When Mrs Oblinger impulsively leaves the homestead to go back to Ohio, her husband chases after her, leaving May alone in unfamiliar territory.  As she waits, one endless day after the next, for their return, she begins to fret.  What if they don’t come back? How will she take care of herself during the winter until her father returns for her at Christmas?

May’s powerful personality shines through in her narrative.  Even though she is terrified of being alone, she resigns herself to the dark and quiet loneliness of the plains.  She has never really been alone before, and she doesn’t enjoy it at all.  Even though she no longer has to cook and clean for the less than friendly Mrs Oblinger, as least she had companionship when her employers were with her.  Now she has to forage for herself, and defend herself against wild animals.  Winter on the prairie is brutal, and she is overwhelmed by all of the preparations that she must make to survive once the snow falls.

May is a relatable character because her fears and worries are so clearly expressed.  With her family surrounding her at home, she knows her place and what’s expected of her.  Now that she is alone, she is confused and frightened.  Luckily, May is a clever, practical girl, and she has lived on the prairie long enough to know the basics of staying alive.  As the cold weather sets in, though, she begins to fear that she will never have the chance to fulfill her dreams of finishing school, learning to read, and becoming a teacher. 

While I was reading May B, I was appalled by the adults in May’s life.  Everyone she counted on abandoned her.  Her mother, her father, and the Oblingers all left her to fend for herself.  Despite her young age and her fear, May proves how capable and brave she is just by continuing to work from one day to the next.  It would have been so easy to give in to  hopelessness and despair, but May isn’t a quitter.  She approached her survival at the Oblingers’ with the same tenacity she approached her desire to read.  She just kept on trying her best to do what needed to be done to keep herself alive.

If you are looking for an engrossing account of life on the frontier during the 1800’s, pick up this fast, compelling read.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene