Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Impossible Race Review

Every year the futuristic school, Cragbridge Hall, holds its most popular tournament, the Race, a series of challenges that require the use of the school's amazing inventions, like its holographic time machine. But this year is different. Rather than a monetary or academic award, this year's winner will be the recipient of a carefully guarded school secret, a secret that could prove both powerful and dangerous.

Afraid that the secret may be one of their Grandfather's inventions, Abby and Derick gather their friends and enroll in the contest. But when Derick gets a mysterious message from the future, the team of friends must figure out how to succeed even when they know they are destined to fail. The stakes have never been higher in this page-turning, time-travel adventure that teaches powerful lessons about choice and consequence, believing in yourself, and valuing the lessons of history.

CHAD MORRIS would love to be able to control animal avatars, see history in 3D, and show everyone how he imagines stories. Since the inventions that would make that possible currently exist only in his imagination, he settles for reading, writing, playing basketball, rappelling down an occasional slot canyon, dating his wife, and hanging out with his five awesome kids in his home state of Utah.

My Review:

5 out of 5 stars

The Impossible Race is the final book in Chad Morris’ Cragbridge Hall trilogy. When I was approached about reviewing this book, I’ll admit I hadn’t read the first two books yet. I remedied that situation and was super excited to discover another great series for kids. These books follow twins Abby and Derick through their first wild year at Cragbridge Hall, the school their grandfather founded.

While Derick is a genius and fits right into this elite academy, Abby has always struggled in school and is only their through her grandfather’s intervention. She soon proves her own mettle and worth though as she takes on Charles Muns, a man set on using Oscar Cragbridge’s greatest invention, a bridge between the past, present, and future, in order to rule the world. I enjoyed that both twins go through a journey of self-discovery over the course of the three books. By this last one, they have grown to understand and appreciate themselves and each other better. Now when one of their lives hangs in the balance, they must decide to trust their closest friends with the secret the twins have been given.

With the grownups out of commission due to Muns’s revenge from the last book, the twins have to find a way to change the dark future they’ve been warned about. A future that ends in death. The Race, an annual school event, is the perfect parallel to the actual race against time and Muns the twins and their friends face. The challenges and how they mirror what they are up against in reality is brilliant. I loved seeing the many awesome inventions, both familiar and new, put into practice in this book. So cool! I have to admit if I had the choice between Hogwarts and Cragbridge Hall, I don’t know which one I would pick to attend. I mean the ability to learn history in 3-D and experience the awesome virtual realities? Yes, please. The only thing that bothered me was the growth in the relationship between Abby and Derick. It is told, but I would have preferred to see it shown a bit more.

All in all, a great read for middle readers with plenty of cool facts and twist and turns to keep them entertained. It shows that you don’t have to be the brightest or the best to make a big difference. Perseverance and hard work are the best tools anyone can have to reach future success. Some great lessons without being overly didactic. I definitely learned a thing or two.


*I received a free book from Shadow Mountain in return for my honest review*

Friday, April 17, 2015

Funerals and Futures

I recently had the privilege of attending a funeral for a retired serviceman who died of cancer. The small group I was with gathered before the urn that contained his ashes while members of the Air Force folded the flag and presented it to his widow.

Afterwards, their was a gun salute and bugle. The family then gathered around the jar in order to share what they loved most about the deceased. I didn't know the man well, but hearing his family speak about how he always had a smile and made them smile brought a sense of respect for his life.

It is crazy facing your own mortality, which a funeral inevitably forces you to do. When I'm done with this whacky ride, and all that is left of me is placed in a box, what will I leave behind? You know, other than my rotting remains.

(Zombie apocalypse here I come!) 

Ahem. Focusing. Despite my random undead thoughts, I did find myself asking some hard questions.

What would I leave behind if today was my last day?

Was I living a life that would lead to fond memories and inspiration for those who would remember me?

Could I leave in peace, or would I go with many regrets?

In short, the answers to the above questions made for some uncomfortable squirming. But the ability to choose a different way is the beauty of these moments life hands us. I can make a better life.

A better today.

A better tomorrow.

A better me.

I choose to chase my impossible dreams. I choose to hold my family a little closer and love them deeper. I choose to be me despite my imperfections. I choose to eat my salad and my ice cream. I choose to laugh with life. I only get one so I might as well make it the Best. One. Ever!

Have a fantastic today and tomorrow!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Candy and the Cankersaur Review

This is the sweet and funny tale of a young girl named Candy and her Cankersaurus Rex! Candy receives a dinosaur as a gift and is determined to train him to be a good pet. This playful homage to Syd Hoff will make all dinosaur-crazy boys and girls happy! 
Jason Sandberg, born in Minneapolis in 1971, acquired a love of drawing after discovering the artwork of Jacob Kurtzberg. His paintings have been exhibited in Minneapolis and Manhattan. Art Historian Scott McCloud classified his work as uncategorizable. “I’m a Fine Artist who also wants to produce the ‘missing books’ from my childhood, the books I wished I’d had.”


My Review:

4 out of 5 stars

When Candy's father notices all the expensive toys he's given his daughter aren't making her happy, he decided to get her a pet. And what is better than your own dinosaur? At first Candy is afraid of the Cankersaur, but soon learns to love him. Candy trains Cank how to obey important rules and play fun games. When her neighbor sees her dinosaur, he gets jealous. Now he, Candy, and her father have to save Cank!

This was a fun, colorful book that a preschooler would enjoy. The images are bright and tells a cool picture of their own. The message of people and animals are more important are things is important. If you're child dreams of a dinosaur of their own, this is the book for them. 


Friday, April 10, 2015

A Heart Revealed Review

Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?

But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

My Review:

5 out of 5 stars!

This was an amazing book! I have loved most of the A Proper Romance stories, and all of Josi Kilpack’s novels, so I was super excited when I heard she was writing a regency romance. No disappointment here. Kilpack tackles the tale of a spoiled debutante’s personal journey of self-discovery expertly. Amber Marie Sterlington is not the typical heroine of a regency era book, which, I felt, breathed a fresh dose of reality into this genre. This bratty girl doesn't steal your heart from the first page, but she wins you over by the powerful ending.

Amber’s spoiled, catty behavior makes it hard to feel sorry for her when she discovers a secret that will change her entire life. But, despite her selfishness, I started to hurt for her when she found herself abandoned to a harsh reality she was ill equipped to face. Only Suzanne, a person well beneath Amber’s notice, is willing to stick by her. I love the development of their relationship. Suzanne’s ability to stand up for herself and deliver some brutal, but needed, honesty helps Amber come to face the reality of who she has let herself become for the sake of winning the approval of a society that rejected her. It was great to see Amber a person of depth and strength through her difficult journey.

The romance was sweet, if a bit understated. I’ll admit I would have loved it to be a bigger part of the novel but also see where it could have overshadowed the importance of Amber’s character arc if it had been more prevalent. Thomas was such a solid, lovable guy, I just wanted to see more of him. The way their lives eventually intertwine was beautiful in its simplicity. Just magnificent! I can't wait to see what Kilpack has in store for us next.


*I received an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review*