Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Candy Experiments by Loralee Leavitt

Candy Experiments

Title: Candy Experiments
Author: Loralee Leavitt
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Brilliant use of Valentine's, Easter, Halloween, and other holiday candy! Fun, colorful, and full of surprises, Candy Experiments will have kids happily pouring their candy down the drain and learning some basic science along the way.Candy is more than a sugary snack. With candy, you can become a scientific detective. You can test candy for secret ingredients, peel the skin off candy corn, or float an “m” from M&M’s. You can spread candy dyes into rainbows, or pour rainbow layers of colored water. You'll learn how to turn candy into crystals, sink marshmallows, float taffy, or send soda spouting skyward. You can even make your own lightning.

Candy Experiments teaches kids a new use for their candy. As children try eye-popping experiments, such as growing enormous gummy worms and turning cotton candy into slime, they’ll also be learning science. Best of all, they’ll willingly pour their candy down the drain.

Candy Experiments contains 70 science experiments, 29 of which have never been previously published. Chapter themes include secret ingredients, blow it up, sink and float, squash it, and other fun experiments about color, density, and heat. The book is written for children between the ages of 7 and 10, though older and younger ages will enjoy it as well. Each experiment includes basic explanations of the relevant science, such as how cotton candy sucks up water because of capillary action, how Pixy Stix cool water because of an endothermic reaction, and how gummy worms grow enormous because of the water-entangling properties" (GoodReads.com).

Opinions: This book is BRILLIANT!!! I know Loralee and she has an amazing mind and now she has a found a way to share her love of science with her children.  I was impressed by how Loralee came up with these various experiments, and documented each step and yet how fun each experiment seemed for a non-science fan like me. The instructions are readily understandable and are even labeled by level of difficulty. The explanations of the reactions that are recurring are clear and concise and include photos to show what the resulting experiment should look like.

I had the opportunity to sit on a presentation that Loralee did at a writer's conference a few weeks ago where Loralee walked a group of teachers and authors through some of the experiments from the book. It was amazing.  Kids of all ages are going to love this. Parents are going to love this.  Teachers are going to Adore this.  What a great way to teach kids about science and exploring by finding new and different uses of candy rather than eating it.  And what a great way of making family time around science.  Please go read this book and try it out in your own families.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

To review Stephanie's review of the first book in this series please click here: Princess Acadamy.

Palace of Stone (Princess Academy #2)

Title: Palace of Stone (Princess Acadamy #2)
Author: Shannon Hale
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: " Miri returns to Asland and calls upon all of her knowledge of rhetoric and other useful lessons learned at the Princess Academy when she and the other girls face strong opposition while working for a new, fair charter" (King County Library System).
Opinions: Shannon Hale is most definitely on my Top 10 Favorite Authors list.  She has an incredible way of creating images through her words and each word carries the weight of the story.  Once again, Ms. Hale does not fail with her incredible continuation of Miri and the girls of the Princess Academy as they travel outside their small world of Mount Eskel into the heart of the Danland Kingdom - Asland.

I found myself mesmerized as Miri's vision is opened to people, places, and ideas that she never before had thought possible.  I love that she attends the Queen's Castle, a center of knowledge and learning, and the internal struggles she faces as she gains more knowledge. I was impressed by the battle of ethics and what makes something seem right and something seem wrong. I found my heart hurting for Miri as she faced challenges beyond measure and the internal strength she finds as she gains the answers that work for both her heart and mind.  I am glad to see Peder, Britta, and several of the other characters from the first novel carrying on in Palace of Stone.  I am also glad to see some of the same plot points that were so intriguing in the first book not lost within the second. 

Honestly, I am struggling with this review because I want you to know how brilliant this story is, how intriguing it is, and how personal it is, all without giving anything away.  Yes there is a darker tone to this book as it is dealing with the heady topic of Revolution, however the topic makes the story even more fascinating and enticing to read--to discover how someone the general populace of her country might consider "ordinary" still has the ability to help change a nation.  Needless to say, if you are a fan of Shannon Hale's young adult works you will definitely find yourself enjoying this one as well.  Even my husband read it and quite enjoyed it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

I'll Walk Alone

Title: I'll Walk Alone
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Mystery
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Mild Language
Premise: "Thirty-year-old interior designer Alexandra Moreland, struggling to deal with the disappearance of her son, fights to uncover who is behind a plot to destroy her sanity and life" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I am a long-standing Mary Higgins Clark fan.  She has an innate ability to reveal layer by layer how a mystery affects each and every person involved, including the guilty. I only realized recently that I have missed a few of her more recent works.  When I did I immediately picked them up from my local library. 

Mary Higgins Clark does a brilliant job of interweaving a tale of suspense using identify theft of an up and coming Interior Designer in New York.  Add to that the mystery of her son's disappearance and you have an intriguing tale of deception, kidnapping, and possible murder.  I loved that we get to see Alvirah Meehan (a long standing amateur sleuth from earlier Mary Higgins Clark novels), but I really enjoyed the main character Alexandera Morland.  Being a mother of small children I could imagine the heartache she must have felt at the disappearance of her child and the betrayal when even her closest friends come to think she had kidnapped her own child.  Add the stress of someone stealing her identify and you have an explosive book that was hard to put down.  I loved seeing the emotional transitions the main character goes through and the strength she finds to carry on in utter turmoil.  Once again, Mary Higgins Clark has written an enjoyable suspense for mystery readers.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lost Bullet by Malcolm Rose

For my review of book one in this series click here: Framed!

Lost Bullet (Traces, #2)

Title: Lost Bullet (Traces Series #2)
Author: Malcolm Rose
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Mystery
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate descriptions of murder scenes
Premise: "Recently qualified as a forensic investigator, Luke Harding is assigned to the slums of London, where he and Malc investigate a doctor's murder. They find a bullet wound to her head, but rain has washed away the bullet -- and all other clues. As more innocent doctors die, Luke's sleuthing leads him to a mysterious cult called The Visionaries. With no time to lose, Luke must infiltrate the sect and find the culprit before the bizarre shooting spree becomes an all-out massacre" (GoodReads.com).
Opinions: This series seems to be a fantastic cross between murder mystery, science fiction, and dystopian. It is set in a future day London where nature is reclaiming the city and slowly turning parts of it back into a jungle like atmosphere and where you risk life and limb just to step outside. It was intriguing to see the main character moved from the rural-like setting of the first book to future day London where he has to investigate a series of murders filled with reverse racial tension. 

Along with all of this sixteen year old Luke must face the pairing committee who will decide who his future mate is while he struggles to maintain a long distance relationship with his best friend.  I continue to be fascinated by Malc as a character, though he is a robot (or more precisely a Mobile Aide to Law and Crime).  He still works well as a Watson type character for the young Holmes (a.k.a Luke).

At times I did find some of the descriptions of the murder a little graphic for my personal taste, but I still enjoyed the overall concept and plot of the story as well as the series.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pitch Green by The Brothers Washburn

This review is based of an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC). This book is scheduled for release on March 16, 2013.

Pitch Green

Title: Pitch Green (Dimensions in Death #1)
Author: The Brothers Washburn
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction/Horror/Paranormal (not sure quite how to classify it)
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Mild Language, Some graphic scenes surrounding supernatural murder
Premise: "Trona is a small, smoggy, mostly insignificant town in Colorado. Besides a booming chemical plant, the only thing that characterizes this dismal town is dirt, sagebrush, and an enormous abandoned mansion.

The mansion is, admittedly, the only notable addition to Trona, but it’s something everyone tries to avoid due to its creepy facade. Everyone except for Camm Smith, who is obsessed with the need to get inside.

Seven years earlier, as Camm herded a pack of little trick-or-treaters past the mansion, her young neighbor, Hugh, disappeared, becoming just one of many children who have vanished from Trona over the years without a trace. Now a senior in high school, Camm is still haunted by the old tragedy and is sure the answer to the mysterious disappearances lies hidden somewhere in the decaying mansion. Joining forces with her best friend, Cal, who also happens to be Hugh’s older brother, Camm naively begins a perilous search for the truth.

As things spiral quickly out of control, and others die, Camm and Cal discover it will take all their combined ingenuity to stay alive. An unseen creature, lurking deep within the bowels of the mansion, seems to have supernatural powers and is now hunting them. Making matters worse, they become entangled with hostile federal agents, who care only about keeping old secrets permanently hidden. Left with only their wit and seemingly ineffective firearms, they know they are running out of time. Unless they can make sense out of the few pieces of the puzzle they manage to unearth, the monster will certainly destroy them, and like so many others before them, they will be gone without a trace" (GoodReads.com).

Opinions: Once again I find myself reading, what I would define as, a horror novel.   It has the necessary creepy, grotesque description of death required for horror movies and books, but it has an impressive depth behind it. I loved the Brothers Washburn's ability to paint a picture with their words in an easy to read style. I enjoyed the mystery aspect of it, and I LOVED Camm as a character. She has a kind heart and yet grit and tenacity. I enjoyed Cal as well. He is the quintesencial teenage boy at the start, but through the twists and turns of the tail we find out much more about him.  I could have done without the murders and death, but it is a huge part of what the story is, so I may be an outsider in this opinion. I'm intrigued that this is a start of a serious and kind of curious as to where it will go. However, I have to weigh whether or not I can handle some of the imagery paired with my sensitive and highly-overactive imagination.  Warning: Parents may want to read this book first to determine if their sensitive child is prepare