Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book Review: Astonishing Ancient World Scientists by A. Graham

5/5 stars. As part of the Great Scientists and Famous Inventors series, Astonishing Ancient World Scientists: Eight Great Brains by Amy Graham presents the lives of Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Aristotle, Galen, Ptolemy, Zhang Heng, Al-Khwarizmi, and Archimedes. The early scientists featured in this collective biography studied mathematics, medicine, philosophy, astronomy, geography, seismology, and more.

Each chapter is dedicated to an individual early scientist and includes biographical information and major discoveries. Also, Lifelines are provided to highlight each scientist’s accomplishments. The text is easy to read and understand, while the book is beautifully illustrated with full color photographs. The book features a glossary, chapter notes, and an index. Additionally, Report Links are included for students interested in doing further research.

The Bottom Line: Astonishing Ancient World Scientists: Eight Great Brains by Amy Graham fills a niche by providing biographical information for subjects that might not receive a full treatment. The book’s reinforced binding will hold up nicely in both school and public libraries. This collective biography is highly recommended for kids in middle school and early high school.

Details: Astonishing Ancient World Scientists: Eight Great Brains by Amy Graham. Published by Enslow Publishers, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-59845-079-8

Other titles in the Great Scientists and Famous Inventors series include: Brilliant African-American Scientists: Nine Exceptional Lives by Jeff C. Young, Daring American Heroes of Flight: Nine Brave Fliers by Jennifer Reed, and Inspiring African-American Inventors: Nine Extraordinary Lives by Jeff C. Young.

Note: Enslow Publishers, Inc. provided a complimentary copy of Astonishing Ancient World Scientists: Eight Great Brains to Mini Book Bytes for review purposes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book Review: Matchless: A Christmas Story by G. Maguire

3.5/5 stars. Gregory Maguire uses his storytelling skills to add a Christmas twist to Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale, The Little Match Girl. It appears in Chapter 2 of Matchless: A Christmas Story with very few changes; thus, maintaining the spirit of the original.

Maguire masterfully weaves the story of a poor little boy named Frederik around Andersen's classic. Maguire's illumination of this tale has an uplifting ending without changing the intentions of the original. Maguire reminds us that The Little Match Girl is still relevant today.

Matchless: A Christmas Story was originally commissioned by the NPR for their annual Christmas story in 2008. It was performed by Gregory Maguire. You can listen to it or read the story by visiting the NPR website here.

The Bottom Line:
Recommended for readers who enjoy fairy tale adaptations. This slim book makes for very fast holiday reading and would make the perfect stocking stuffer.

Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Maguire. Published by William Morrow in 2009. ISBN: 978-0-06-191301-3

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Review: Powers by John B. Olson

3.5/5 stars. Powers is the action packed sequel to Shade that will keep you on the edge of your seat as members of The Standing continue to fight The Badness.

A gypsy girl named Mariutza “Mari” suddenly finds that she is all alone in the world after her grandfather, a great prophet and healer of The Standing, is killed. Although Mari has trained for this day all her life, she is full of apprehension and doubt as she puts on her traveling clothes and leaves the swamp behind. Mari finds the outside world to be intimidating, and the innocent girl is confused by all of the things we take for granted: cars, bottled water, buildings and more. She must learn to overcome her fears and focus on searching for the fabled prophet Jaazaniah.

Meanwhile, Jaazaniah or Jazz, a worldly, guitar playing con-artist, suddenly finds himself having strange visions and being pursued by men in hooded cloaks. As he and his friend Hollis are being chased, Jazz learns of his grandfather’s passing and the inheritance that is hidden and waiting for him. However, The Badness is always close behind having convinced the FBI that the members of The Standing are a terrorist group.

The race is on as Jazz and Mari begin the search for Jazz’s inheritance, which he believes to be treasure. Eventually they meet up with Melchi and Hailey from Shade to fight The Badness. But can they defeat the evil in time to find Jazz’s inheritance and fulfill the prophecy?

The Bottom Line: Powers is non-stop action. While the writing can be a bit flowery at times and the characters a bit shallow, the action keeps the story moving. Recommended for teens and adults who enjoy Christian suspense fiction with a supernatural theme and a hint of romance. Some of the terminology can be a little confusing; therefore, to fully enjoy and appreciate Powers, read Shade first.

Powers by John B. Olson. Published by B&H Books in 2009. ISBN: 978-0-8054-4735-4

NOTE: MiniBookBytes received Powers as a complimentary copy from B&H Publishing in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer Program at LibraryThing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book Review: The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children by K. McGowan

4/5 stars. Fay Holaderry, the evil witch from Hansel and Gretel, has resurfaced. Although everyone thought that Hansel and Gretel had defeated her, it turns out that the witch survived.

Today the woods around her old gingerbread home have been claimed by urbanization and her house is no longer disguised as gingerbread and candy. However, as a witch, Holaderry proves her resourcefulness when it comes to finding tasty children to eat. For example, there are conveniently located drop-off boxes for “donations” and strategically placed Helpers who package up naughty children for pick-up.

It’s quite the set up, and parents of mischievous children everywhere seek out her services. And so it was that Mr. & Mrs. Blink moved to Grand Creek after much research hoping to find a solution to their childcare troubles. However, Sol and Connie are no ordinary kids; in fact, they are rather extraordinary. Together they must find a way to overcome the evil witch and escape becoming dinner.

The Bottom Line: The classic fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel has been brought into the modern era with a contemporary retelling by debut author Keith McGowan. Black and white illustrations by Yoko Tanaka help set the dark mood and add to the charm of this witty little novel. Enthusiastically recommended for young adults who appreciate a slightly morbid sense of humor. It's simply wicked fun.

Details: The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowan, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. Published by Henry Holt and Company in 2009. ISBN: 978-0-8050-8668-3

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Review: A Taste for Red by L. Harris

4.5/5 stars. In his debut novel, A Taste for Red, Lewis Harris introduces us to Stephanie Grimm, a sophisticated sixth grade girl with a problem. She thinks she's a vampire. It's the only conclusion that can possibly explain her preference for black clothing and taste for red foods, not to mention her desire to sleep underneath her bed. Stephanie even changes her name to Svetlana!

Having been home schooled her whole life, Svetlana is horrified to find herself enrolled in public school. By lunchtime Svetlana decides that the popular and perky Sandy Cross and her friends are her adversaries. However, the girls are mere annoyances compared to her new science teacher Ms. Larch.

Although Svetlana sometimes seems wise beyond her years, she is troubled by Ms. Larch, who is able to probe her thoughts and speak inside her mind. Svetlana is beginning to suspect that Ms. Larch is out to kill her. However, no one believes Svetlana, not even her two new friends Dwight and Fumio. Things change rapidly when Sandy and her pals go missing.

Nothing makes sense until The Bone Lady takes Svetlana under her wing. As she begins to discover the secrets of the Circle of Red, Svetlana comes up with a plan. In order to set things right and defeat Ms. Larch, Svetlana must rely on her instincts and learn to trust her new friends.

The Bottom Line: Witty and filled with action, Svetlana and her sidekicks keep the suspense going. This quick paced read is highly recommended for the middle school set. For those reluctant to read vampire stories, don't worry; A Taste for Red is more adventure than horror.

Details: A Taste for Red by Lewis Harris, Published by Clarion Books in 2009. ISBN: 978-0-547-14462-7

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cookbook Review: Good Housekeeping The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook

5/5 stars. 'Tis the season for holiday cookie exchanges, but what should you bring? The problem is finding a great tasting recipe that either makes dozens of cookies or is easily doubled. The Editors of Good Housekeeping have come to the rescue of busy bakers everywhere with their new book Good Housekeeping The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook: 60 large-batch recipes to bake and share.

The Editors begin with an introduction to hosting a cookie swap and a chapter on how to make the perfect cookies. This little cookbook offers a great selection of treats including bar cookies, drop cookies, rolled & cut-out cookies, and shaped & refrigerator cookies. Some of my favorites include: Cinnamon Spirals, Palmiers, and Ginger Biscotti.

Sure to please, this book comes in a spiral-bound, hardcover format that lies flat making it easy to read the recipes. It also includes an index and blank recipe cards so that bakers can share their favorite recipes.

The Bottom Line: The baker in your life is sure to love this easy to read cookbook. The recipes make a minimum of 84 cookies or bars. (Be sure to check out the recipe for Shortbread Bites which makes 320 cookies!) Highly recommended for bakers of all levels, and just in time for the holidays too.

Details: Good Housekeeping The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook: 60 large-batch recipes to bake and share by the Editors of Good Housekeeping. Published by Hearst Books in 2009. ISBN: 978-1-58816-757-6

If you like this one, try Good Housekeeping The Great Bake Sale Cookbook: 75 sure-fire fund-raising favorites by The Editors of Good Housekeeping. Published by Hearst Books in 2009. ISBN: 978-1-58816-787-3