Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: Twice Upon A Time (Half Upon a Time #2) by James Riley

Twice Upon a TimeTitle: Twice Upon a Time
Author: James Riley
Publisher:  Aladdin
Release Dates: April 24, 2012
Pages: 368, Paperback
Age Range: 8+
Goodreads Rating: 4.29 stars
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Pirates and mermaids face off in this fractured-fairy tale sequel to Half Upon a Time!  Jack and May are back for another adventure in the world of fairy tales with a twist. Now that they know about May’s grandmother’s real intentions, they’re on the hunt to learn May’s true identity. The search for answers leads Jack and May to the world of the Sea King, where they land right in the center of a battle between mermaids and the Pirate Bluebeard. The laughter and action are nonstop in this book from author James Riley—the second in a trilogy!


Those of you who read my previous post about this book already know that my son LOVED this book.  He devoured it in one night and insisted that I immediately read it too.  (I wasn't able to immediately read it, but I did my best to get to it quickly for him).

Well, I just finished the book moments ago and I have to say that I agree with him!  This book is the sequel to Half Upon a Time and you definitely need to read that book first because it's very much a continuation.  Half Upon a Time revolves around a girl named May who finds herself suddenly transported to a fairy tale world, only to discover that her missing grandmother is very much a part of that world.  She meets up with Jack (son of the beanstalk Jack), a young boy who wants nothing less than to be a hero in a fairy tale and Phillip, a young prince who is very much the hero.  The trio goes off on a quest to save May's grandmother, but there are MANY twists and turns along the way and by the end they discover that nothing was as it seemed when they headed out on their quest.  I love that the story gives a twist to some of our favorite fairy tales.  I also love the characters - especially Jack and May, who are both strong characters with some interesting flaws (May is doubly fun because of her sarcastic personality).

Twice Upon a Time finds the same trio trying to undo some wrongs that they caused during the first quest!  This story is action-packed and full of suspense.  The characters are still delightful and the story takes a few more twists and turns that will keep you guessing right up until the very end.  J and I can't wait until the final book of the trilogy comes out in May!  Hurry out and get the first two books so that you'll be ready for the last book's May 7th release! 5/5 stars

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review Coming Soon - Twice Upon a Time

Twice Upon a Time

I just had to let you know that I will be reading Twice Upon a Time by James Riley next and a review will be coming very soon.  J (my 10-year-old son) picked up this sequel to Half Upon a Time this afternoon and just now came downstairs (an hour past bedtime - I really have to monitor that a little better) and told me that he had finished it.  It's 340 pages, so it's a little crazy that he finished it in one day.  J then insisted that I have to read the book immediately and that reading it is "a requirement for life.  Without reading it, you have no reason to live."  So, um, I guess he liked it.  We both enjoyed the first one, so I have high hopes!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: The Doll People by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin

The Doll PeopleTitle: The Doll People
Author: Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin
Publisher:  Disney Hyperion
Release Dates: September 1, 2003
Pages: 288, Paperback
Age Range: 8-12
Goodreads Rating: 3.98 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Annabelle Doll is eight years old-she has been for more than a hundred years. Not a lot has happened to her, cooped up in the dollhouse, with the same doll family, day after day, year after year. . . until one day the Funcrafts move in.


This was an incredibly sweet and charming book.  Both my daughter and I loved it!  The story follows little Annabelle Doll (who has been eight for one-hundred years) who yearns for a bit of adventure.  Her Auntie Sarah has been missing for 45 years and none of the dolls have been brave enough to venture out to find her.  But, when Annabelle finds her aunt's journal, she realizes that the Dolls really CAN leave the dollhouse and she is determined to find her aunt no matter how long it takes her.  Meanwhile, a new doll family moves in next door and Annabelle finds a true friend and fellow adventurer in Tiffany Funcraft, the eight-year-old daughter.  Together, they set our to uncover the mystery of Annabelle's missing aunt.

This was a great story with lessons about accepting others' differences (the Funcrafts are VERY different than the Dolls, which the Doll adults have trouble with at first).  The book highlights how the two families working together are able to accomplish great things.  It also shows that sometimes family members can argue about things, but that it's okay (Uncle Doll even moves out for a time and Annabelle blames herself at first).  I thought that this was a very cute story and we will definitely pick up the other two books in this series.  4/5 stars

Monday, April 15, 2013

More Best Reads

I decided that, since this blog is brand-new, I would put up a list of some of our favorite past reads.  These are some of the best books that I've read with my son and daughter. This will include the books that I loved, along with a few books that the kids loved more than I did.  Some of these are obvious picks that most people have already heard of, but I still want to mention them, just in case.  Moving forward, I'm going to try to specifically review most of the books my kids and I read together, but I can't go back and do them all!  

This will be a partial list and I'll add more posts like this one later.  The ages that I've listed next to the books are the "official" age ranges listed on Amazon.  Your kids might be ready for these books at an earlier or later age, of course.

So, here goes...

The Harry Potter Series - (Ages 9+) Okay, I can't write a blog about kids' books and not mention Harry Potter, right?  These books were fantastic for anyone who loves fantasy.  Or, really for anyone.  You almost can't go wrong. I read these back when they first came out and then read them all again with my son when he was in second grade (he's an advanced reader and the books might be a little scary for younger kids - they didn't bother him, but you've been given fair warning).  I'm looking forward to reading them at least one more time with my daughter - I haven't quite convinced her to pick the series up yet (she's 8 and I think the thick, final books in the series are a bit intimidating for her), but I know she'll love them when she finally does start in.  Definitely a 5 star series!

The Percy Jackson Series - (Ages 10+) This is another must-read for fantasy fans.  It follows a boy named Percy Jackson who discovers that he is a demi-god (his father is Poseidon) and finds himself fighting a battle of mythological proportions!  I love how the author turns some of Percy's "weaknesses" (he has ADHD and dyslexia) into strengths in the series and also how kids are introduced to mythology in a fun and exciting way.  There is also a companion series called Heroes of Olympus that is still underway. (Riordan has also written another series called The Kane Chronicles that features Egyptian gods, but I haven't read any of those yet - my son liked the first one, which is the only one he's read so far, I believe).

The Puppy Place Series - (Ages 7-10) I haven't read all of these (there are 31 of them!), but I believe my daughter has and she loves them!  This is the type of book that she will read again and again.  Any child who loves animals, will definitely love these.  Each book revolves around Charles and Lizzie Peterson as their family fosters a puppy and helps to find it the perfect home.  The books don't need to be read in order, so grab one if you see it!

Treasure Island - (Ages 10+) I read this book along with my son when he was 9. One warning that I need to give - the dated language is definitely difficult for a child (I even found myself confused in a few small parts), but the story is amazingly captivating. It took my son awhile to get through the book and we discussed it often so that I could be sure that he was understanding the details, but I'm so glad that we read the original rather than an "updated" version. Highly recommended!  (By the way, it might be worth reading an updated version of the book with a younger child to introduce them to the classic and save the original version for when your child is a bit older).

The Magic Tree House Series - (Ages 7-10 - but I would say younger) This is another series that most people have heard of, but that I thought I would mention in case someone hasn't found them yet.  Once again, I haven't read all of the books in this series, but my son has and the ones I have read have been great fun and educational as well.  The series revolves around two kids named Jack and Annie who find a mysterious tree house that transports them back in time to various time periods and locations.  These books are a fun way for kids to learn about many different historical periods.  

The Imagination Station Series - (Ages 6-9) This series is similar to The Magic Tree House series, except that all of the books are Christian-themed.  Once again, each of the books finds two children (Beth and Patrick) sent back in time.  This is a great series for parents who are looking for a way to share history with their kids from a Christian perspective.  One note - these books are definitely geared toward younger kids.  The language in the books is VERY simplistic.  Honestly, as an adult, I had a hard time reading the first few books because of this.  But, my daughter absolutely loved the books and I thought that they had a great message, so I would still recommend them.

That's all for now, but I'll add more later.  Right now, I'm reading The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin (which my daughter already finished) and I'll be posting a review of that book soon!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: The Last Dogs: The Vanishing by Christopher Holt

The Last Dogs: The VanishingTitle: The Last Dogs: The Vanishing
Author: Christopher Holt
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Dates: September 4, 2012
Pages: 384, Hardcover
Age Range: 9-11
Goodreads Rating: 4.0 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: When all the humans in his world disappear, Max, a yellow Labrador Retriever, begins the search for his family. He knows that if he can just find Madame Curie, a wise, old black Lab, she'll be able to help. Madame had a premonition of astonishing events to come -- she might know where Max's family is.

But Max can't make the journey alone. Joined by friends Rocky and Gizmo, Max sets off to find Madame. Along the way, the trio must face a pack of angry wolves, forage for food in a land where kibble is akin to gold, befriend a house full of cats, and outsmart a gang of subway rats. Ultimately, they'll have to escape from the biggest threat of all: the Corporation, a "perfect" society for dogs and by dogs, where nothing is quite as it seems.

The Last Dogs: The Vanishing is a thrilling adventure and a tale of three unlikely friends on an epic quest to find their people -- and bring them home.


This was a great book to read with my daughter - highly recommended for any child who loves animals and/or adventure stories. The story tells of three dogs who are searching for their humans after all of the people suddenly and mysteriously disappear. The dogs have to fight hungry wolves and strange dictator-led dog societies that pop up in the absence of people to take care of them. It's not always particularly realistic (the dogs are smarter than your average canine), but it's great fun and highly suspenseful. My daughter can't wait until June to read the next one and to find out what happened to all the people!
4/5 stars

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Dragon Slippers Trilogy by Jessica Day George

Title: Dragon Slippers Trilogy
Author: Jessica Day George
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Dates: Various (2007-2009)
Pages: Various (255-354 pages, depending on book)
Lexile Measure: 850-920
Age Range: 10+
Goodreads Rating: 4.11-4.2 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: (Book #1 - Dragon SlippersMany stories tell of damsels in distress, who are rescued from the clutches of fire-breathing dragons by knights in shining armor, and swept off to live happily ever after. 

Unfortunately, this is not one of those stories.  

True, when Creel's aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon, it is with the hope that the knight will marry Creel and that everyone (aunt and family included) will benefit handsomely. Yet it's Creel who talks her way out of the dragon's clutches. And it's Creel who walks for days on end to seek her fortune in the king's city with only a bit of embroidery thread and a strange pair of slippers in her possession.

But even Creel could not have guessed the outcome of this tale. For in a country on the verge of war, Creel unknowingly possesses not just any pair of shoes, but a tool that could be used to save her kingdom…or destroy it.


Dragon Slippers is a fun fantasy series with a strong, talented, intelligent female protagonist - a great example for young girls.  As the summary says, Creel doesn't wait to be rescued, she takes her life into her own hands and makes a name for herself based on her own merits. Along the way, she befriends a dragon and finds herself at the center of a war that only she can end. The second book in the series has Creel and her friends (both dragon and human) saving the kingdom from an army of enchanted dragons. In the final book in the trilogy, the dragon queen is kidnapped and Creel and her friends must rescue her.

The first book in the series will probably appeal to girls more than it will to boys - especially in the middle of the book. The book starts out with adventure as Cree is sacrificed to a dragon and it ends with quite a bit of excitement with the war, but the middle of the book focuses on Creel making her way as an embroiderer.  The second two books in the series, however, are much more action-oriented throughout and will definitely appeal to both boys and girls. There is a romance in the books too, which will appeal to older kids (but is completely appropriate for younger readers as well). My 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter both really enjoyed the whole series and I loved reading it along with them!
4.5/5 stars

Friday, April 5, 2013

Review: The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1)Title: The Underland Chronicles (5 Books)

Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher:  Scholastic 
Release Dates: Various (2003-2007)
Pages: Various (309-412 pages, depending on book)
Lexile Measure: 630-730
Age Range: 8+
Goodreads Rating: 3.96-4.24 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: (Book #1 - Gregor the OverlanderWhen eleven-year-old Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, bats, cockroaches, and rats—but the fragile peace is about to fall apart.

Gregor wants no part of a conflict between these creepy creatures. He just wants to find his way home. But when he discovers that a strange prophecy foretells a role for him in the Underland's uncertain future, he realizes it might be the only way to solve the biggest mystery of his life. Little does he know his quest will change him and the Underland forever.

Rich in suspense and brimming with adventure, Suzanne Collin's debut marked a thrilling new talent, and introduced a character no young reader will ever forget.


This series is a fantastic read for kids who love fantasy books! In Gregor the Overlander, a young boy finds himself in a mysterious underground world full of giant rats, bugs and cockroaches and a strange race of people who he hopes will help him find his way home.  But, soon Gregor learns that he just may be the key to an ancient prophecy and he reluctantly finds himself on a quest to save Underland. Each book in the series sends Gregor on a new quest, each time with new prophecies guiding him. If the prophecies are to be believed, only he can restore balance to Underland - but can the prophecies be believed?

The series takes the reader on many adventures with lots of twists and turns along the way. These books will take your child on a magical journey and inspire imagination.  A wonderful read!
4.5/5 stars

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: My Secret Unicorn (Series) by Linda Chapman

The Magic Spell (My Secret Unicorn, #1)Title: My Secret Unicorn Series (15 Books)
Author: Linda Chapman
Publisher:  Scholastic Paperbacks/Puffin Books
Release Dates: Various (2002-2007)
Pages: Various (118-170 pages, depending on book)
Age Range: 7-10
Goodreads Rating: 3.74-4.19 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: (Book #1 - The Magic SpellWith simple, heartfelt stories, My Secret Unicorn is the perfect beginning chapter book series for girls who love horses and magic. These books will make every young reader believe!

Do you know someone who has wished for a pony? Lauren Foster did just that. And when her family moves to the country, her dream finally comes true. Then she reads a story about a normal pony who turns into a snow-white unicorn when his owner reads a special spell. Lauren starts to wonder. Could her new pony Twilight really be a unicorn? Maybe ... just maybe.


If you have a little girl who loves horses or unicorns, then this is the series for her.  My daughter has honestly read all 15 of these books at least five times each. She is completely in love with them! The whole series revolves around a little girl named Lauren who gets a pony and then discovers that it is actually a unicorn in disguise. Each book in the series has Lauren and Twilight helping someone in some way (usually using unicorn magic), so the books all have a great moral message. The series will leave your little girl with a sense of wonder and enchantment about the world. Interestingly, the books also give a realistic view of what it takes to take care of a pony. Just a warning, though - my daughter now dreams of the day that we can move to the country and buy her a horse. She wants a white horse - I think that, secretly, she hopes that her pony might turn out to be a unicorn too! I don't think there's any move to the country in our future, but we finally gave in and let her start taking horseback riding lessons!

There is also a follow-up series called Unicorn School that my daughter loves as well.
4.5/5 stars