Review: The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2Title: The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2
Author: Linda Sunshine, Gerard Butler (Foreword), Dean DeBlois (Introduction)
Series: n/a

About: Here is a look behind the frozen fjords and ice caves of Berk at the making of the sequel to a beloved animated classic. This full-color, lavishly illustrated book features more than 650 paintings, drawings, sketches, models, film stills, lighting studies, color keys, story boards, and photographs. Along with quotes from all the principal filmmakers, there is also an introduction by the writer/director Dean DeBlois and a foreword by Gerard Butler, the voice of Stoick.

In this brilliantly conceived sequel, we are on a journey of exploration to new lands, four-winged dragons, long-lost love, vicious and powerful enemies, and ginormous Bewilderbeasts.

How does a movie of such imagination and magnitude come into creation? Well, you begin with an incredibly talented team of artists, writers, engineers, animators, modelers, and tech wizards and you let their creativity soar. The result is a stunning, original vision—bigger, better, and fiercer than ever—of an earth-shattering, fire-breathing sequel to the legendary story of Vikings and dragons in the frozen north.

My Thoughts: My kids and I absolutely love How to Train Your Dragon. It’s one of my favorite animated features ever — if not the favorite. This is one of few films that all three kids of mine love. When the sequel was announced, though, I was probably most excited of all of us! LOL That said, when this book was offered for review, I could not refuse. I was eagerly waiting on the new movie, and knew this would help give me a small taste of it and help me wait.

If it’s not clear, I received this book before How to Train Your Dragon 2 was released. I was thrilled, but wary of looking too closely — worried about spoilers (however unintentional). So, I briefly looked through it, admired some of the illustrations that caught my eye, then put it away. My kids and I saw the movie ASAP after it was released. And it was fantastic. And now I’m finally getting around to reviewing this book for real. Looking at it, reading bits and pieces. Diving on in. (Anything to keep me in this story just a bit longer!)

One word: GORGEOUS! The art has frames from the film, conceptual drawings, and everything in between. I love looking at it all. And there’s so much of it, I can look through this again and again and again and never feel like I’ve seen everything. The writing is great, too. Explanations of what is pictured, and statements from people involved in the movie, from those behind the scenes to those providing the voices that bring various characters to light. That coupled with the foreword and introduction make for some great reading — especially if you love these movies as much as I do.

5 StarsSource: Sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: You can order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Mortal Danger

Mortal Danger by Ann AguirreTitle: Mortal Danger
Author: Ann Aguirre
Series: Immortal Game #1

About: Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn’t imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She’s not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he’s impossible to forget. 

In one short summer, her entire life changes and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly . . . bad things are happening. It’s a head rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil’s bargains, she isn’t sure who—or what—she can trust. Not even her own mind.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a pretty good concept, until you open the cover. This “Faustian compact” — Edie has Kian make her beautiful. Somehow, that fixes all of her problems. Suddenly she’s no longer a social pariah, and apparently her new look equals a new and improved personality, too. Oh, and she shouldn’t worry about her parents — however drastic the changes to her appearance might be, they won’t be suspicious since she’s spending the summer away. As if parents/adults are completely oblivious idiots. (Sorry, but as a parent, that’s just infuriating to have my peers written off as just the biggest morons ever.) And, no, I’m not just too old to be able to remember life with my parents at that age — my parents were not idiots who were blissfully unaware of just about everything.

And I have apparently turned this review into a mini-rant about how we parents are just totally misrepresented in YA literature. Sorry. Back to the review …

As if teenage girls aren’t (generally speaking) superficial enough, let’s have a book wherein the main character’s social problems are all but completely solved simply because she’s suddenly no longer an ugly girl. Yeah, because that’s how life works … (please note the gigantic amount of sarcasm here)

So, basically, Edie comes across as the most shallow main character I’ve come across in quite awhile. Sure, she gets into big trouble and is in — hee, hee — Mortal Danger, but she’s kinda made her own bed. Shouldn’t she lie in it?

And the insta-love between her and Kian? Hasn’t this been very overdone in YA? Hell, not just YA, but especially YA.

I found this extremely disappointing, and it was slow to start, too. Took me several days of forcing myself to read just a few pages to finally get where I wanted to finish. And, honestly, several times I considering making this my first DNF in quite some time. But, a tiny part of me wanted to see where this was headed.

Will I read this again? Absolutely not. Would I recommend this? Probably not. Will I continue the series? Only if the opportunity presents itself.

1.5 StarsSource: ARC sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: Mortal Danger is scheduled for release around August 5, 2014. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: There Will Be Lies

There Will Be Lies by Nick LakeTitle: There Will Be Lies
Author: Nick Lake
Series: n/a

About: Shelby Jane Cooper’s world is the town of Scottsdale, Arizona, where she’s home-schooled, hits balls at the batting cage, visits the library, and sees The Boy. Life in her city in the desert is one big routine, like ice-cream-for-dinner Fridays: normal. 

But in four hours, she’ll be struck by a car, and that’s when normal ends.

Barely recovered from the accident, Shelby is inexplicably whisked away by her mother—away from the hospital, her home, and everything she loves—on a manic road trip to the Grand Canyon. 

Shelby’s mother says that everything’s fine. But with mile after mile falling fast behind them, Shelby starts to question everything she knows about her life and tries to piece together what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can ultimately trust.

My Thoughts: I was very surprised by how good this book is. The writing is fantastic, and the story had me hooked right off the bat. One thing I really liked was that typography was used to “illustrate” the book in many ways. It’s hard to describe, but you’ll get it if you read it. It reminded me in many ways of a novel in verse, except that it’s mostly a basic novel written in the usual format — except in some parts.

The book is told in first-person from Shelby’s perspective. And I just loved her voice. She’s sarcastic, honest, witty, and fun to read. Oh, and she’s your typical teenager — snarky and prone to exaggeration (things taking 4,280 years, and whatnot). It’s a hoot to read! She, as a character is very sympathetic. I found myself rooting for her from start to finish.

My only complaint is that this book is highly predictable. I don’t think there were any surprises in it for me. I figured out the truth pretty early on, and the Dreaming’s purpose was also very easy for me to figure out on my own. While there’s some satisfaction in being able to shout, “I knew it!” while reading, it’s also somewhat disappointing to have it all figured out from pretty close to the very beginning.

Despite the obviousness, I still found this book hard to put down. I felt for Shelby. I loved her voice. And this is a very well-written book. If it wasn’t for the predictability factor, this would’ve been a 5-star book.

4.5 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: There Will Be Lies is scheduled for release around January 6, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Feral

Feral by Holly SchindlerTitle: Feral
Author: Holly Schindler
Series: n/a

About: It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened. 

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

My Thoughts: I am very confused about this book. Not by it — I understand the story just fine — but about this book. How I feel about it. What I think about it. Do I like it? Don’t I? What do I think about it? Why?

Usually those are somewhat easy questions for me to answer. But, I’m not sure this time — and, no, it’s not “writer’s block” or anything like that. I started out liking it, and quickly found myself thinking it was pretty darn good. I was eager to get into it, really get submersed in the story. And then Claire went bat-shit crazy. And, somehow, her classmates — Rich and Becca especially — don’t get weird about it. Somehow they keep trying to be her friends. I don’t know about you, but high school wasn’t like that for me. If I’d done and said some of what she did, I’d have been a social pariah!

The book is creepy. Very creepy. And it makes feral cats seem like tools of Satan — or something. I love cats, and they have never freaked me out before. But this book, well, they’re quite freaky. And, well, it’s also a bit gross — and that’s putting it mildly. If you’re squeamish, proceed with caution!

The end, I think, did play out pretty well. Claire grew. She matured. And she came to some understandings about things she clearly hadn’t had before.

This book was very, very predictable. I figured out pretty early who “he” is. And I had a pretty good — and accurate idea — what was going on with Claire. There were a couple of things I didn’t quite get, but they were really not a huge surprise either.

So, after all of this, how do I feel about this book? Let’s think. I liked it at first, then really liked it. Then Claire became an idiot. An absolute idiot. Yes, that is explained, but that part was drawn out way too long. And everyone around her — her father and Rich especially — seemed to not pick up at all on her craziness. I find that hard to believe.

The middle third or so, I often felt I had to force myself to keep reading. I was so ready to make it a DNF. But, I wanted to see if the story could recover. See if I could find the ending worth pushing through all the stuff I just couldn’t stomach. And, well, I felt the ending was pretty satisfying (although, there was one pairing I was hoping to happen that just didn’t). Not awesome-so-glad-I-saw-this-through satisfying. But good enough. I’m glad to know exactly what happened. And the final chapter, that part was touching, sweet, and pretty close to perfect. But, well, it wasn’t enough to fully redeem the sludge in the middle.

3 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Feral is scheduled for release around August 26, 2014. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Fred’s Beds

Fred's Beds by Barbara SamuelsTitle: Fred’s Beds
Author: Barbara Samuels
Series: n/a

About: Fred can sleep anywhere. He has beds all over the house! When his favorite human, Zelda, throws a birthday party, Fred has other things on his mind. How many places can he curl up and fall asleep in, on, and around? Inside a crinkly shopping bag, on a slightly soggy bath towel, and maybe even around piles of old newspapers. But when Fred gets in trouble with Zelda, he must find a way to get back on her good side—and save her birthday party.

My Thoughts: I’m going to do something I’ve never done before — and hope it doesn’t prove to be a bad idea. Before posting my own review, I stumbled upon others’ reviews. I was surprised to see its very low rating on Goodreads (and average of 2.75 stars!), and that drew my eyes to briefly look at the reviews. (Normally I ignore other reviews until well after I post my own review.) Most of them are 3-star reviews, saying it’s cute. Apparently, I’m in the minority here, as I really loved the book — but I’m OK with minority status. ;) That, of course didn’t bother me — or even stick with me; however, what irked me a bit was one review that included a warning for vegan parents — because the dog dreams about eating pork chops with Zelda. Um … he’s a DOG. Dogs are carnivores. No one should be surprised to see reference to a dog wanting meat in a book — even a children’s book. Ugh!

So, that was really bothering me. Not sure why, except I found that absolutely ridiculous. I hope the star rating for that wasn’t lowered simply because of reference to eating a pig. Anyway …

And now that it’s out of my system, here’s my own thoughts on the book!

This is an absolutely adorable book. Maybe it helps that I have a dog — and a beagle. Fred is a beagle, so perhaps that softened my heart a bit. I dunno. What I do know, is I can see a beagle sleeping just about anywhere he can fit. Mine is known to do that. The story is really cute about how Fred will sleep just about anywhere. How he follows Zelda all over the house, napping as he goes. Again, this is something my dog does, too. “Hey! What’s my human up to now?” Some investigating followed by, “That’s hard work. Time for a nap … this looks like a perfectly fine spot!” Said spot can be anything, so long as it’s near said human. ;)

This is a book my kiddos love, too. Probably also because of the beagle who is reminiscent of their own dog. But, you know, dog or no, I still think this is a pretty darn cute book.

5 StarsSource: ARC sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: You can order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Candle Bible Handbook

Candle Bible HandbookTitle: Candle Bible Handbook
Author: Terry Jean Day & Carol J. Smith
Series: n/a

About: Travel through Bible history with this comprehensible exploration of the Bible, following the key narratives from Genesis to Revelation. As a child’s first Bible reference, he will travel through Bible lands and times and discover how the people lived: the foods they ate, the homes they occupied, the clothes they wore, and the work they performed. There are sections of study questions throughout to further learning, as well as glossaries and FAQs to help understanding.

My Thoughts: This book is an excellent resource for anyone who strives to better understand the Bible. It has diagrams, maps, and loads of information to help one understand Biblical times. And there are FAQ sections, too. While this is aimed at younger Bible readers, even as an adult I find it a wonderful resource. It’s not all-encompassing, but I don’t need that. This has enough information to keep me interested as I read through various parts of the Bible. While I grew up in a Bible-based church, there is plenty in here that I never had been informed of. Pretty cool. Added bonus is that it’s really good for just about all ages!

5 StarsSource: Received for review as part of a blog tour promotion hosted by Kregel Publications.

Tour Info: For more information about this blog tour, including links to other reviews, visit the page HERE.

Read It: You can order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Gravity

Gravity by Jason ChinTitle: Gravity
Author: Jason Chin
Series: n/a

About: What keeps objects from floating out of your hand?
What if your feet drifted away from the ground?
What stops everything from floating into space?
Gravity.

My Thoughts: This book makes the idea of gravity easily understandable for the youngest of readers. Both my 6-year-old and my 8-year-old were able to read it with ease. And in the back there are a couple of pages with a facts about gravity. My kids found this book “great” — to quote them. My son has a scientific mind — always asking about things like this — so it’s right up his alley.

The illustrations are realistic, and the drawing at the end of the narrative made me chuckle. My kids also enjoy looking at the pictures. They are very pleased to be adding this to their library.

3 StarsSource: ARC sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: You can order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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