The End of the World and Beyond Book Review

Book: The End of the World and Beyond
Author: Avi
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher,  Algonquin Young Readers, for providing me with this ARC.

This second book in the Oliver Cromwell Pitts series picked right up where the first left off. Oliver is on his way to the colonies to work as an indentured servant. The book throws us right into the action, but I did find it to be slower in some parts and a lot more rushed than the first book. Don’t get me wrong, it was still an exciting read, but I do wish that it had been a little bit longer for us to explore the world a little bit longer.

I really liked the characters and how a lot of the old faces popped up. I also enjoyed the new characters and how they added to the story. I really do hope to see a lot of them in the later books. I did find it kind of odd how everyone from England seemed to end up in the same place. I would had liked to see a bit more of struggle on that end. I mean, it was just perfect timing for everything that happened here and sometimes it really didn’t make any sense.

I really liked the history involved in the book. My fifth graders are currently studying colonial history and I think this would be a great addition to that unit. It is written to appeal to that age group and I can really see a lot of my kids getting into it. The writing is very simple and engaging that they would just jump right into it. It is teaching them without being really obvious about it. With middle school readers, you do have to kind of sneaky and creative whenever it comes down to getting them excited about reading.

So, Avi is one of those authors who I am still on the fence about rather or not I like his work. He has a way of making you feel for the characters and being thrown right into the adventure. His books are very smooth and very fun, but it lacks any kind of peril. We always know that the characters are going out and there’s just not that sense of life or death. I know this is for kids, but I think his books would gain a lot more readers if he would just add in that element. 

Margaret Tudor: The Life of Henry VIII's Sister Book Review

Book: Margaret Tudor: The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister
Author: Melanie Clegg
Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher, Pen and Sword History, for providing me with this ARC.

So, this is the second book about Margaret Tudor that I have read in the past couple of weeks. I was worried about getting burn out because that happens to me whenever I read books back to back on the same subject. It didn’t. I was very surprised about how much I really enjoyed this book. It was written in that narrative-epic style of writing that I have come to enjoy with nonfiction. As many of you know, I will not read nonfiction that tells you about history, but rather shows you. History is a very interesting subject and I really don’t get why a lot of academics insist on making it so dry.

This book provides a very detailed look into Margaret’s life. We get to travel all through her life and see just how hard it was to be a woman in the 1500s. She is Tudor and that does come across the page very nicely. However, because she is a woman and in Scotland, she doesn’t get the treatment as some of the other Tudors. Melanie does a wonderful job of bringing this out of the page and actually making us feel Margaret’s pain. I know a lot of people are going to argue that Margaret was a bit of brat for always wanting to get her way. Is that because she’s a woman? Come on, her brother also threw fits whenever he didn’t get his way and no one complains too much about that.

A lot of people also want to overlook Margaret’s strength. Her husband had been killed by her sister-in-law and, yet, she still tried to hold onto what really is hers. She does anything for her sons and family. She tries to maintain peace between England and Scotland and to rule the country. It may not sound like a big deal now, but in the 1500s, this was pretty much unheard of.

I liked the detailed account of the book. It was super easy to follow. Even if you know nothing about the Scottish court, I think you will be okay. Melanie does a great job of making sure that her readers are still with her. She doesn’t talk down to you, like some historical will, nor does she venture away from the facts.

Once again, a very enjoyable book. It comes out February 19, 2019.

Indie Advent Calendar

Indie Advent Calendar

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Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel Book Review

Book: Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel
Author: A.W. Jantha
Rating: 2 Out of 5 Stars

Um…Yeah, I don’t even know where to start with this one. The only reason that I did not give it a one star rating was because of the first part. The first part was actually pretty good, but the second part was just simply a hot mess.

The first part I actually did love. It was lifted just right from the movie, almost word for word. It just like reading the movie script, which was fine by me. I also liked the little details that the author added that really filled in some of the gaps in the movie. We actually got to see more character development with Max and Allison, which really did help explain why they were the way that they were in the movie. I also liked that the Sanderson sisters still held onto their characters, which is really what makes the movie.

However, oh boy, the second part should never have been written. It reads like bad fanfiction, which is a shame because there are a lot of well written Hocus Pocus fanfictions out there and they are written a lot better than this. It really wasn’t a new sequel. Everything was just lifted from the first part, only made a lot more cheesier and yeah. It was bad. Not only that, but everything was so flat and predictable.

The thing that really bothered me was how the second part of all a sudden had to be diverse. We have a gay main character with a black best friend. Okay, young adult, it was fine the first time around, but must every story do this? There are other ways to make stories diverse! This is a kids book too, which was what really bothered me even more. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do like diverse books, but it is getting rather annoying.

Also, how hard it is to pick one point of view and stay there? Either use first person or third person clear through. It’s really annoying whenever authors change back and forth. Also keep with the same tense please.

I don’t know…I really don’t know…The first part is good, but the second part, just don’t waste your time. I wish that there was a way to just get the first part without that awful second part.

The Tudor Brandons: Mary and Charles-Henry VIII's Nearest and Dearest Book Review

Book: The Tudor Brandons: Mary and Charles-Henry VIII’s Nearest and Dearest
Author: Sarah-Beth Watkins
Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the author, Sarah-Beth Watkins and the publisher, Chronos Books, for providing me with a free copy.

I must say that I really did enjoy reading this book. I really don’t understand why it has such low ratings. It is really well written and does a great job with covering the Brandons. Right now, I am really interested in all things Tudor. Books like this really do help with my own writing, even though I don’t write nonfiction. I love the everyday tone and language that Sarah uses. I mean, you are still learning, but it doesn’t really feel like it. it feels like you are reading an everyday book for pure pleasure. I really do wish that teachers would use more books like these to engage students in history; I do and my students are a lot more interested in the subject.

Anyway, Sarah covers Mary’s entire life. I like how she focuses more on Mary than Charles. Often times in history, it’s all about the men. I find it very eye rolling whenever historians just focus on the men. There were a ton of important female figures in history, who just never seem to get their time in the spotlight. Yes, we do get to see Charles at  work, but it was Mary’s story who I enjoyed the most. I also liked how Sarah pointed out that it was through the female line was how the Greys came into power. Once again, there is so much focus in the male line throughout history that we forget that a lot of power does come through the female line.

As I have already stated, I do like the use of the common everyday language. It really makes it easy to read and follow the story. A lot of times, historians don’t write for the common history reader, but for a university. I really am into this new wave of historians who are writing for the reader. I mean here, Sarah is writing for a Tudor audience, but writes it in a way that most people would be able to follow. It’s nonfiction, but it has that epic storytelling of fiction. I did find myself getting lost in the writing and reading sections of this book at a time.

I really did like how this is a short glimpse into the lives of the Tudors. I do this a lot of time with my own class. I give them a little look into something and then turn them lose to research the subject. I think that this would be a book to do this with. After all, students do learn better whenever they are engaged and actually doing something for themselves. I know they are starting to get into the Tudors once they realized who violent it was-yes, my class is one of those classes who enjoys the violence of history. I guess as long as they are engaged.

Once again, I really did enjoy this book and I cannot wait to read more of Sarah’s books. This is my third one and I must say that it’s a shame that Sarah’s books don’t get more attention.

Cyber Monday and Black Friday Sale!

Hello, everyone! I am throwing a sale this weekend.
From 11-20-18 to 11-26-18 all of my books will be free on Smashwords!
From 11-23-18 to 11-26-18 all items in my teacherspayteachers store will be 20% off.
Here's the Links:

The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

Book: The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts
Author: Avi
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher Algonquin Young Readers for sending me this ARC. So, I have been reading Avi since I was in the fifth grade, which is what I actually teach. I have had a love-hate relationship with Avi, meaning that I really liked some of his books and could not get through some of them. So, I really didn’t know how I would feel about this one whenever I was approached about featuring this series on my blog.

I really liked how fast paced this book was. There was no few chapters of world building and getting us familiar with the characters. Instead, we are thrown into the world and are expected to keep up. No, it’s not a bad thing. I personally like how Avi weaves in what we need to know throughout the story without boring us with all of the details. The fast pace and the characters really did remind me of Oliver Twist-sorry if that’s what you weren’t going for. (Don’t get me wrong, I do actually love Oliver Twist)

The characters started out as being a little bit flat, which I knew would change just based on what I have read of Avi. As the book progresses, we get to see just how complex and well written characters we have to read about. There are  criminals who are acting like good people, good people who get thrown into the world of crime, and people who are just trying to do the wrong thing. We get to see the main characters, the Pitts, struggle with trying to keep their heads above water and not be thrown into this life.

I loved the historical setting. In case you haven’t realized, I do love history-just look at what most of the books are that I review. Anyway, I love British novels because it’s so fun to read about places outside of where I live. I really don’t know much about England in 1724, but I did like how Avi pulled in information from past events. For example, look at the title, English Civil War and we get to see this play out. We also get to see a little bit of the political tensions and see the gaps in classes. Now, most of what I read does focus on the wealthy, so this was a nice change to see something from the poor. I really do like getting to read about the struggles of the day to day people.

So, I really did end up liking this book. It is fast paced and full of action, which is something that the target audience-middle school, I believe- will enjoy. I do have the second book as well, so I will let you know what I think of the rest of the series.

Oh, The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts is actually out now so you can go pick up a copy yourself.

Kingdom of Ash Book Review

Book: Kingdom of Ash
Author: Sarah J Maas
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Well, this is the end of yet another good series. I really have enjoyed reading these books and I have loved going to all parts of the world. I know a lot of people have complained about the length and how it is nothing like the first book, but I really enjoyed it. I thought it was great that Sarah gave everyone a great ending.

One of my favourite thing about these books was how the characters aged, very similar to Harry Potter. I know people have complained about this throughout the series, but it’s good to change. This is something called character development, which is what a lot of  you complain about many books lacking. I loved how the aging brought out so many different levels of the characters. I was like a lot of you. I was 20-21 when I started reading the series. Now at 26, I find myself still relating to the characters. I just love the growth, I guess is what I’m getting at.

So, with a large cast of characters all trying to have their own time in the spot light, it does get a little choppy at first, but once you get used to it, you can see the magic. I really did like how instead of forgetting about some of the characters, Sarah extended the page length. In case you didn’t realize, this book is almost 1,000 pages long.  I was really happy with the way everything was presented and how we got to see an actual end for most of the characters.

The best moment of this book was the Aelin, Dorian, and Chaol reunion and the fact that it took place where it all started was just magical. I was really afraid that we would not get to see these three together again, but we did! I also really like how they have gone their own ways, but they still have each other. The bond of friendship between those three has really been what has carried me through this series. There were times that it wasn’t the greatest, but in the end, I’m glad that they all found each other.

I loved all of the battle scenes and how Sarah really made it so we got to see them from more than one characters’ point of view. She also didn’t make things always go so great for the characters. We get to see what war is really like. A lot times fantasy novels present war as something to celebrate and we don’t get to see the loss. Here we do. We get to see just how much of an effect that war has on people. Now, like I said, it wasn’t all bad, but we still get that very real element.

So, now, we have to say goodbye to this series. It’s hard, because I am really attached to it. There will be other series, but this is like Harry Potter, it will always have a special place in my heart. I just want to thank Sarah for giving us these series and these characters.

Listen to Your Heart Book Review

Book: Listen to Your Heart
Author: Kasie West
Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

There is just something about Kasie West books that always manage to put a smile on my face. Her books are so cute and likeable that you cannot help but to be drawn right into them. I know that there has been a lot of mixed reviews about this one, but I found it to be rather enjoyable and entertaining.

I like the idea of the main character, Kate, living by the lake. There is just always something so magical about stories that take place by water. It just has this relaxing feel to it that is hard to come by in some other books.  Add in this with Kasie’s light and fun writing style, you are bound to have a prefect mix.

Kate is a pretty decent main character. She really does fit in well with the rest of Kasie’s other main characters. I mean, she’s not really anything new, but I do like the way she is presented. Kate is the type of main character that I feel that teens will be able to relate to. She is shy and really doesn’t like to venture outside of her comfort zone. She pretty much has her heart set on what she wants to do in life and that is just the way it is going to be. However, when her best friend makes her sign up for a podcastng class, she realizes that it is okay to try new things-I don’t know, I really couldn’t come up with a better way to word that.

I did like Alana. Without her, I really don’t think that Kate would had grown the way she did. After all, it is Alana who does really seem to be the one to get her to try new things and to venture out a little. Alana also has a crush on Diego, which is the main force behind the book. I love seeing how the two girls work together to try to figure out just how Diego is in love with.

Diego and Frank are the two male leads. Both of them are very likable boys and I think would make any girl happy. It really is amazing how Kasie creates male characters that girls cannot help but to like. Frank and Kate are kind of forced together, which creates a lot of drama. Their two families don’t get along at all. It is nice to see the friendship grow between these two. I love just what the boys bring out in the girls and vice versa. It’s almost like they were just created to exist for one another.

Yes, there is a love triangle and I know it has turned a lot of people away from the book, but don’t. It’s really not that bad and as far as love triangles go, it’s pretty tame.

Overall, this was a pretty fun and light read. If you are looking for something quick, pick up this one.

A Week of Werewolves, Fairies, and Fancy Dresses Book Review

Book: A Week of Werewolves, Fairies, and Fancy Dresses
Author: Nicki Chapelway
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank Nick Chapelway for sending me a digital copy of the book.

I will admit that I was surprised by this one. I have read one other of Nicki’s books and really enjoyed it, but this one, I really ended up liking. Don’t get me wrong, Winter’s Cruse was a great read, but I found myself enjoying this one a lot more for some reason. I love the world building and how everything just fits-although we do have a cliffhanger ending.

I love the idea of the characters being transported to a magical world; it really had a Narnia feel to it. For some reason, I am just drawn to books were there is another world that exists inside our own. I have never been able to write stories like that and I always admire authors who have that magical touch.

With that being said, that really means that I enjoyed the world building. Now, Nicki’s world is pretty typical of fantasy, but the way that it is presented just makes for a really nice touch. I love the way that Nicki is able to make everything just leap off the page and come right to the reader. I found myself completely pulled in with the storytelling.

The characters were well written. They were rather cliché at times, but still enjoyable all the same. They are written as their age, which I know a lot of people struggle with. I personally hate whenever young adult authors claim to be writing young adult, but put their characters in some very adult situations. You can’t have it either way. Anyway, I liked how most of the book was told from Chelsea’s point of view, but with the other characters thrown in to have their own voice. I thought that there was just enough of a balance for everyone to really have their own say.

There was a few typos and grammar mistakes, but nothing major. You really can’t expect books to be prefect. Most of these were covered up by Nicki’s writing and were so small that it really doesn’t matter in the long run.

Overall, a really good book. I really do think that Nicki has a lot of promise in the future.