Saturday, June 1, 2019

Half Price Books Summer Reading Programs

One of the things I'm very proud of is the LOVE of reading I've instilled in my children.  As summer is now underway, a "chore" is to read for at least 30 minutes each day.  This is easily accomplished and from time to time they go significantly over the 30 minutes.

A summer reading program we discovered last year, is through Half Price BooksFeed Your Brain is a way to tally reading minutes for children 14 and under in June and July.  After reading for 300 minutes and completing the chart, the child can turn in his log for Bookworm Bucks.  (Note: Last year the boys received $5 Bookworm Bucks for each of their logs.  I didn't see a specific amount for this year.)

For your teen, over age 14, he can review a book on the Half Price Books website.  The Bookworm Books will be emailed to your teen.

What will you read this summer? 

Friday, May 31, 2019

One for the Road


Author:  Tony Horwitz
Genre:  Nonfiction,Travel
Length: 210 pages (paperback)
Sensitive Content:  None
Rating:  4 out of 5

Tony recently settled in Sydney with his new Australian bride.  He easily settles into life as a reporter at a local newspaper.  As his friends travel to Bali and other places, he has a desire to travel into the outback which he must share with his wife as he wants to hitchhike to experience his newly adopted country...without her.

With just his backpack, he heads out.  He shares that when he was younger he hitchhiked in the United States.  However, this experience differs significantly, which I believe surprises him more than he realizes.

We join him as he ventures through the outback and interacts with the local population.  He shares the history that he knows of the locations he's visiting which help us understand some of the situations he finds himself in.  He is open to new experiences and new people, which make his journey possible.

One of my favorite parts was the story of finding a Jewish family in Broome to celebrate Passover with.  It shows that those in Broome were welcoming to this stranger and went out of their way to help him find a place to belong.

Tony's writing style makes me feel like I am on the journey with him.  I can feel the 100 degree heat on my neck.  I can taste and smell the beer, meals and just the overall environment.  I felt seasick when he was on the fishing boat.

As I have a desire to visit a friend who moved to Australia a few years ago, I feel like I have a better understanding of the environment they have relocated to.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Clocking Out Early


Genre:  Nonfiction, Finances
Length: 214 pages (electronic)
Sensitive Content:  None
Rating:  3 out of 5

If you haven't read a personal finance book to help you get started on your debt free journey, the Boormans do a good job of outlining some day to day categories that can help jump start your budgeting process and your journey.  However, if you've read books by Dave Ramsey or Suze Orman, the concepts within the book itself do not differ that much.

I appreciate the draw down examples they provided.  I felt this gave a real life situation where the market itself is not consistent from year to year but smoothed out as we look at long term investments.  They also showed an example of where you'd run out of money and one where your money will last, based on your willingness to adjust your budget.

The travel hacking section was a fun addition as I don't typically see these in financial books.  However, the scenarios they outlined are ones that I already follow, but would be good for those who have not yet tried this way to save money while expanding your travel budget/experience.

Why did I give this book a three star rating instead of something higher?  Part of the title to this book is "The Ultimate Guide to Early Retirement".  While they authors do a very good job of outlining the topics within the book such as budgeting, debt payoff, travel hacking, investments and more, I never picked up on the portion of the book that related to "FIRE" or early retirement, which was the main driver for me to read this book.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Eye of Minds

Title:  The Eye of Minds 
Series:  The Mortality Doctrine
Author:  James Dashner 
Genre:  Young Adult, Science Fiction
Length: 310 pages (paperback)
Sensitive Content:  Battle Scenes
Rating:  4 out of 5

Michael is in the VirtNet (the Sleep), virtual world not the real one, trying to save an individual from committing suicide, which has an impact on her body and mind in the real world.  After he is unsuccessful at saving her, he reaches out to his two best friends, Sarah and Bryson, to talk through what happened.  They meet up at their favorite virtual spot.

The next morning, Michael has a hard time getting out of bed (in the Wake), but eventually does so as he knows he needs to go to school.  As his parents have been traveling, his nanny Helga is taking care of him.  He eats breakfast and leaves for school.  He's side tracked, or kidnapped might be better, by the VNS.  The VirtNet is under attack by Kaine and they need Michael's help, along with his friends.

Michael meets back up with his friends and explains the situation.  At first, they opt not to help.  After their VirtNet access is cut off, they agree to help and are off on a journey of their lifetimes.

While this book is classified as science fiction, at times it is a mystery, action, and adventure all rolled into one.  No detail is trivial.  Everything matters.  It all weaves together into the big reveal moment. 

There were a few areas where it was a little difficult to believe.  Michael, Sarah, and Bryson were introduced as smart kids, some of the best at cracking code.  However, they appear to follow VNS with no knowledge of what they are getting themselves into.  There were also aspects of the book that I felt were too strong for a youth audience (e.g., Adults Only game).

However, there were several things within the book that I enjoyed.  First, Michael, Sarah and Bryson are there for each other no matter what.  They have a friendship that goes beyond just trying to accomplish a mission.  Also, Kaine was a very likeable antagonist, not appearing weak or easy to overcome.  Yet, we are able to see that he has a long term plan in place.

The ending plot twist was very good and I honestly didn't see it coming.  As far as reading the other books in this series, it's a tossup.  My oldest said he might and my youngest isn't interested.  If the book is available at the library or comes into the house, I will read it.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Book of the Month

I was introduced to the Book of the Month club a few years ago.  Each month I have the option to select one of five books or I can easily skip that month.  I've selected several books that I wouldn't have been exposed to as they are outside of the genres I normally read.

How does it work?  At the beginning of each month you select from one of five books as part of your subscription.  You can easily add another book if you want for a small fee.  If you don't see titles that you would like, you can skip the month.

What's one of my favorite things?  They love to feature new authors!  Oh, and from time to time a something little extra is included.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

High Stakes

Title:  High Stakes
Author:  Dick Francis
Genre:  Mystery, Crime
Length: 223 pages (paperback)
Sensitive Content:  Love Scenes
Rating:  4 out of 5

Set mostly in and around London, we are introduced to the conflict immediately between Steven Scott and Jody Leeds.  Steven is an inventor turned race horse owner and Jody is his trainer.  The opening lines of the book are the discussion, or should I say argument, that the two men are having.

The lines are clearly drawn.  Steven is a young and wealthy newcomer to the racetrack.  He has basically no knowledge about buying, training, and racing the horses he owns.  Jody is an overly ambitious trainer that is taking advantage of Steven's good nature and inexperience.

After Steven fires Jody, he places his horses with three other trainers as quickly as possible.  He has staked his reputation on Energise, a young black hurdler.  When he goes to visit the horse for the first time after the argument, he is certain there is something wrong...he doesn't believe it's the same horse...his horse.

We find Steven making friends who are willing to help him along the way as he tries to uncover this mystery.  He also picks up a love interest early on in the book who is from the States.

Reading this book was like stepping back in time as it was first published in 1975.  I enjoyed the nostalgia of the phone ringing and people stopping by unannounced to check on each other.  So many mysteries today have one individual trying to figure it all out with maybe a love interest thrown in who is helping.  I enjoyed the comradery of the friends that Steven made and that he was never alone on his path to solving his problem.  The book was fast paced and a very easy read. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Gregor the Overlander: The Underland Chronicles


Author:  Suzanne Collins
Genre:  Fantasy, Adventure,
Length: 308 pages (paperback)
Sensitive Content:  Some Battles 
Rating:  4 out of 5

Gregor is not your typical New York City tween.  He is spending his summer at home taking care of his grandma and baby sister Boots while his mom is at work and his middle sister is at camp.  Gregor understands his need to help his family ever since his father disappeared about two years ago.

When a family friend stops by to sit with his grandma, Gregor takes Boots to the laundry room as he had promised his mom that he would complete that task before she returned home from work.  Gregor and Boots are playing with a "bouncy ball" while he is taking care of the laundry.  He realizes Boots has been quiet for some time and sees that she's near an air vent.  He chases after her as she goes through and they begin to fall.

Once they land, Gregor realizes that they are someplace else.  Cockroaches, extremely large cockroaches, find Gregor and Boots.  They decide to take them somewhere, but Gregor doesn't know where.  They end up in an arena of sorts where humans and bats, again large bats, are playing a game.  The cockroaches negotiate Gregor and Boots' release to the humans, which is agreed upon.

Gregor and Boots are taken to the Underland city of Regalia where he is trying to determine if he is a guest or a prisoner.  After an attempt at escape, he learns that several believe he is The Warrior as told in The Prophecy of the Gray.  It is decided that Gregor must fulfill this prophecy, even if he doesn't believe it.

My boys recommended this book to me after both of them read it.  As a book targeted towards middle school, I found that it kept the pace that is needed for my boys to continue to be engaged and want to go back to the book after it's been set down.  The characters are appropriately developed and act their age based on the responsibilities that are required of them.  I enjoyed Gregor's dedication to his family, especially his baby sister.  I also felt that he grew as a character where in the end he shared that he wanted to help find peaceful solutions and have war be the last resort.

I'm certain that I will read the other books in this series as they are brought home.