Monday, April 25, 2016

Review: "Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular" by "Science Bob" Pfugffelder and Steve Hockensmith

For any kids interested in movies and making their own homemade movies, Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular is the perfect easy-to-read novel.

Nick and Tesla are spending their summer living with their inventor uncle while their scientist parents are away on a mysterious work trip. To entertain themselves, the kids and their new friends begin filming their own action movie complete with homemade props for special effects. The kids even get a chance to visit the scene of a big-time superhero movie being filmed in town. However nothing seems to be going as planned, and the children believe someone is trying to sabotage the movie. Using inventions, cunning, and critical thinking, the four friends work together to solve the mystery and save the movie.

As in all books in the Nick and Tesla series, this story contains several inventions/experiments that you can do as you read along. All require an adult's help but are mostly able to be completed by the child. Learn how to build a device to keep a smart phone steady while filming, a robotic grabbing arm, a stunt dummy, a grappling hook (with wrist launcher!), and zombie makeup. The instructions are all clearly written and a list of materials needed is provided. The inventions are described right after they are mentioned in the text so that you can use them along with the characters.

The mystery was decent, even though it was predictable. The best part is always reading about which things Nick and Tesla notice and how that ends up helping them solve the mystery.

As a part of the series, this book spent very little time "at home" with eccentric inventor uncle Newt, and only briefly mentioned the larger mystery of what was going on with Nick and Tesla's parents. There is, however, new information at the end, setting up for the next exciting installment in the Nick and Tesla series.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review: "The Atonement" by Beverly Lewis

When her father brings home an Englisher, a person not of the Amish church, and begins teaching him the ways of a simpler lifestyle, Lucy is uncomfortably reminded of her past history dating outside the church and all of the hurt it brought her and those around her. Convinced she will never allow herself to love again, she spends every moment she can volunteering. Through grief counseling, family, scripture, and the wise words of friends, Lucy works toward forgiving herself and accepting the church back into her heart. With a young Amish man begging for her attention and her father's young Englisher acquaintance getting friendly with her, as soon as Lucy heals her relationship with God, she'll have another relationship to figure out.

Not a whole lot actually happens in The Atonement, but the main characters are very likable and there's enough interest in the day-to-day of the Amish life (at least for someone who has not read much about it in the past). From helping a young homeless mother and her child find employment and a home to sharing life stories with an old couple as the wife is in hospice care to helping a family in an overturned carriage, Lucy's kind heart makes this book a pleasure to read.

Most of the book is about the drama and lack of acceptance from the members of the church have about spending time with Englishers. Another source of conflict is that many families in the community are considering moving out west. The importance of family, repentance, and forgiveness are themes throughout.

The characters' speech was written in dialect and included some italicized Pennsylvania Dutch words throughout. It was usually pretty easy to figure out what the sentiment was, but not always what the exact translation was. I'm personally not a huge fan of reading written dialect because I find it distracting, but I can see how it adds to the authenticity.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review: "The Little Paris Bookshop" by Nina George

A novel about love, loss, and the power of books, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is a beautifully poetic piece of writing.

Jean Perdu owns a bookstore barge where he relates to his customers in a unique way - by "prescribing" the books they need and even refusing to sell books that he doesn't believe are right for them. Though perhaps a little pretentious, it's also endearing the way he cares for each person that steps in to his floating bookstore. A new resident, Catherine, moves in to his building and discovers an unopened letter in the table Perdu has given her. Catherine  (kindly) coerces Perdu into a promise that he will read the letter from his lost love, unopened for more than 20 years.

After reading the letter, Perdu sets off on a journey of healing long overdue in his bookshop barge. He gains travel companions and forms friendships along the way, including writing to Catherine daily.

The novel is beautifully written and has a lovely way of describing coping, loving, and accepting. The first part of the novel was a very quick read getting introduced to the unique methods of the bookkeeper and then the rush of setting off on a trip. It did get a little long towards the end, but I guess healing happens in the day to day as well. It was important that the passing time was also shown as part of Perdu's journey. It was a little hard to get through, but worth the journey.

Love is messy in The Little Paris Bookshop, but it is honest and believable. It's not a fairy tale, but there's no doubt about how important the characters are to one another.

The book is packed with extra features at the end: recipes (food and the emotions associated with it is also an important theme), a literary pharmacy (recommendations for about 25 books and what they can help you with), reader's guide, author interview, and an excerpt for the author's next novel (out in 2017).

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.