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Super Mario Sunshine for Nintendo Gamecube.
by Chris, Age 10

For all you Mario and Gamecube fans this is for you. Super Mario Sunshine is a hard game, but is fun after you figure it out. Mario has been falsely accused of spreading pollution on Delfino Isle. The real culprit is a watery Mario. He is making the graffiti with his staff. I will call him "Dark Mario". You are helped by Fludd, a robot from Gadd Science Inc. a flash-liquidizer-ultra-dousing-device. He (or she, it doesn't tell you.) has many nozzles. The nozzles are spray which you can spray you're opponent, hover which you can hover for a short time, rocket which you can go shooting 50-100ft. (can't tell estimation), and the boost which you can go faster when sliding. Mostly to attack you squirt water and pound them (Exception: Blooper Gooper, you pull his nose. Sorry it's in Japanese.) The main enemy varies between levels. First it's multi-colored blobs, then mini Blooper Goopers, then "acka quacks". This is a fun game but there must be a time when you say "This is too hard, I quit."

The Legend of Luke: A Tale from Redwall by Brian Jacques
By Chris, Age 10

This story is about two mice named Martin (who is a warrior) and Gonff;a hedge hog named Trimp;and a mole named Dinny.They set out to Martin's old home,the caves of his tribe, NW from Redwall abbey, their home.Redwall was founded by Abbess Germaine.They found the four survivors of the crash that went with Luke to defeat the stoat Vilu Daskar.Vilu Daskar killed most of Luke's tribe.He maned a ship called the Goreleech and sailed around taking slaves on his three-decker ship.Luke battled, took over a ship, and renamed it Sayna, after his wife, who was killed in the first attack.Martin learns as much as he could about his father then went back to Redwall taking the survivors, a hare named Beau and three mice named Vurg, Dulam, and Denno.I highly recommend this to anyone who likes the following, action, adventure, comedy,and tragedy. In all it's a adomedy :)

P.S. For more Redwall books go to the Redwall Wiki.

I have some exciting news. My son, Chris, who is 10, will be writing short reviews of some of his summer reading. Right now he is reading through the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and the Dragon Keepers Chronicles by Donita K. Paul, although I am letting him choose his writing topics. I also plan to format the posts only but not edit his writing, as much as it irks me to publish something with grammatical errors :).

Birth Wisdom: A Collection of Editorials from Midwifery Today Magazine by Jan Tritten (Volumes I and II) is available free from Smashwords.

A section of Dr. Sears’ L.E.A.N. Start guide is available here. We've used the traffic light eating concept in our own family, and it really seems to make sense to the boys.

Cindy, homeschooling mom of nine, has a list of literature (fiction, biographies, and poetry) on her blog which tends to instill honor in boys without moralizing:
Our goal is not to produce self-righteous prigs like our old friend Eustace Scrubbs before he met the dragon (See: The Voyage of Dawn Treader)  but rather to motivate our sons by the examples of true heart change  whether that heart change is in the real man Stonewall Jackson or the  fictional mouse Reepicheep.

My boys have read a few of these already. How about yours?

 Quirk Classics' new book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith debuts today. I'm only half-way through the book, but so far I do love it. Now, let me just say that I am not generally a fan of zombie movies or fiction. I very much like Jane Austen, though, and I find mash-ups really fun and, well, quirky.

The book is the sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which I reviewed here) and the third in the series which includes the prequel Dawn of the Dreadfuls. The story unfolds as the newlywed Darcy is bitten by an unmentionable which begins the process of zombification. Elizabeth is sent by Lady Catherine de Bourgh to London to obtain a highly-guarded cure for the zombie plague. However, as any Austen reader knows, Elizabeth and Lady Catherine are not on the best of terms, and the quest is hampered by lies, schemes, and ninjas, not to mention zombies.

Quirk Classics is having a give-away - just "like" the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After Facebook page to enter.  And watch for my upcoming post on Austenesque - that is, novels written as sequels to, in the style of, or using the characters of, Jane Austen.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

No, not me.  Elysee over at Everything Barrett is reading a book a week in 2011 and blogging about it.

How about you? Have you made any reading-related New Year's resolutions? How's it going so far?

Quirk Classics recently held a contest in honor of Tolstoy's Centenial. The winners were announced yesterday and Mario Brothers Karamazov topped the list. My favorite was A Superhero of our Time (after Lermontov's A Hero of our Time).

If you haven't, you may wish to read my review of QC's Android Karenina.

Mini Shopaholic: A Novel, by Sophie Kinsella.

I was first introduced to Sophie Kinsella's writting when I read The Undomestic Goddess, about a successful London attorney who flees the city for the country and accidentally takes a job as a housekeeper. I read and loved the novel (film version coming in 2011) because I identified with the main character. I enjoyed the first several books of the Shopaholic series for the opposite reason. Fashion-conscious, single, overspending - Becky Bloomwood is everything I am not. So as we move through the series and Becky becomes more like me - gets married, has a baby, and parents a two-year-old - I find her antics less and less charming and more annoying. Will this woman never learn?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith.

I guess it's vampire week here at The Book Blawg.

Wow, I really enjoyed this book! That's saying a bit, because I generally avoid biographies and history. I know I should like them and they are good for me to read, but I prefer historical fiction if I want to learn about history.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as the title suggests, re-imagines Lincolns life with vampires. As a young man, Lincoln learns that his mother and his grandfather were murdered by vampires. He then writes in his journal:

I hereby resolve to kill every vampire in America.
Soon after, he meets a "good" vampire named Henry who teaches Lincoln about the undead and trains him to fight. Lincoln continues his secret vampire-fighting career until a "Union" of bloodsuckers persuades him to concentrate on politics. There is, we learn, a war coming - a war essentially between two groups of vampires: those that choose to coexist with humans; and those who enjoy terrorizing and victimizing them. (If this setup doesn't sound vaguely familiar, you haven't read any vampire fiction in the last 35 years.) The United States, particularly the South, has become a haven for vampires because of their ability to feed on slaves with impunity, and for that purpose have allied themselves with the southern plantation owners and slave traders. This fact makes the institution of slavery even darker, if that is possible; and their plans are to enslave the whole population and therefore they must be stopped, at all costs.

The bulk of the novel is not about vampires, but is a pretty well-written and engaging biography of Lincoln. It's not hard to discern fact from fiction. This book was great up until the very end, which didn't seem consistent with what we had learned about Lincoln. But I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot of history at the same time. The photos are clever, as well.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer.

So, if you've read the Twilight series, you know that Bree is the newborn vampire who "surrenders" to the Cullens at the end of Eclipse and then is destroyed by the Volturi. This short novel is her story - sort of a "day-in-the-life" of the vampire army that Victoria creates. As Ms. Meyer writes in the introduction, "you know this: it doesn't end well for her. But at least you will know the whole story." And I'll tell you, not only do you learn about Bree, but there is a major new piece of information that is revealed in this book that was not in the book Eclipse, but I suspect will be included in Eclipse the movie which premiers next week, and it affects events in Breaking Dawn as well.

I found Meyer's writing in Bree Tanner to be a lot more like The Host than the other Twilight novels. Now I liked The Host, but not every Twilight fan does. Also, I've read criticisms that the book doesn't have chapters, and indeed that feature can be annoying unless you plan to read it all in one sitting. But it's short, so deal with it.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is available to read for free until July 5 at

Android Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters.

Scroll down to find out how you can win one of 25 prize packages from Quirk Classics.

I'm sure I qualify as a hard-core Tolstoy geek. I've read War and Peace - twice - for fun (both times). Back in college, I took a Russian literature course on Tolstoy and wrote what were, I'm sure, pretentious essays on Sevastapol Stories and Anna Karenina. I translated one of Tolstoy's short stories from Russian to English. I have three copies of AK on my shelf; a cheap paperback, a Norton critical edition, and a two-volume set in Russian that I picked up at some Dom Knigi or other. I even acquired the nickname "Mrs. Tolstoy" for a while, based on the phonetic similarities between my first name and Tolsoty's initials and, of course, my love of 19th century Russian literature.

So when Quirk Classics announced a blog explosion for their latest offering, Android Karenina, I knew I had to be on board.

This book has got androids, aliens, and enough action to please any mash-up fan. The thing about mash-ups is you either love them or you hate them. If you are a purist, you don't want anyone messing with your Tolstoy or your Austen. So if that's you, just stay away from the genre altogether or you will get all upset, and that makes things unpleasant for the rest of us.

[Isn't this a cool photo of Tolstoy? It was taken in 1908, the only color photograph of the author.]
One thing that has always struck me as I have been reading so much Jane Austen lately (both the mashed and the un-mashed) is the social class distinctions of that time. The separation of the population into nobility, commoners, and clergy is a foreign concept to our modern egalitarian minds. We understand that one person may have more money than another, or a more powerful or prestigious job, but not that a person is somehow better merely by birth. In Tolstoy's day, the distinction was even more pronounced due to the existence of serfdom, which persisted in Russian for hundreds of years after it was abolished in Western Europe. Tolstoy made efforts, with limited success, to improve the lives of the peasants living on his estate, and it becomes an important theme in his writing. So the substitution of robots for servants in Android Karenina seems quite fitting, and represents the ultimate dehumanization of the serving class.

Like the previous Quirk Classics books (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters), this one contains discussion questions, such as:

7. In a crucial moment, Levin chooses his wife over Socrates, his beloved-companion robot. Are there any technological devices in your life that you love more than your spouse?
It seems that readers are going to find many of the themes in Android Karenina relevant to modern life. There's a reason they call it a CrackBerry, folks.

And now on to the give-away. To enter, visit Quirk Classics' Android Karenina contest page and leave a comment mentioning this blog (The Book Blawg). Quirk will be giving away 25 prize packages worth around $100 each, including 5 books, an Android Karenina poster, and more.

Thanks for joining me!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Ray Comfort, author (and friend of Kirk Cameron) has a new book out, and it's available free, either on request, by .pdf, or as an .mp3 audiobook: God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message.

Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald.

This is sort of the anti-feminist manifesto. I found the book inspiring, but didn't really give me anything new. The back of the book says, "Do you wrestle with cultural messages that demean the homemaker's calling and exalt instead the emotionally androgynous power-woman?" Um, no, not really. I'm pretty secure in my role as a lawyer-turned-stay-at-home-mom.

The Autism Answer Book: More Than 300 of the Top Questions Parents Ask, by William Stillman.

The ADD & ADHD Answer Book: Professional Answers to 275 of the Top Questions Parents Ask, by Susan Ashley, Ph.D.

I found both these books to be too general to be of much use. In addition, they are written from a very mainstream perspective, and ignore or only briefly mention alternative therapies and even dietary changes which have been helpful to so many people.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary review copies of these books.

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters.

Jessie Kunhardt at Huffington Post summarizes the monster mash-up craze (" 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' Spin-Offs are Out of Control!").

I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, but not as much as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or its prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. I just couldn't get past the fact that no rational society, when faced with giant malevolent sea creatures, would willingly choose to live near the ocean, on islands, or in a giant undersea city. What, there's no place to live inland? Also, I love, love, love, the movie version of Sense and Sensibility - the one with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant. It's a rare instance of my liking a movie more than the book, and I don't like where the book deviates from the plot of the movie. You know, Alan Rickman is pretty hunky and I don't like him made ugly, whether by Austen's writing or by squid-like tentacles.

The Milk-Free Kitchen: Living Well Without Dairy Products, by Beth Kidder.

I have been trying to eat dairy-free lately, due to my son's eczema, and I thought this book would help. However I was a bit disappointed when I looked for a dessert recipe - most involve substituting margarine for butter. First, I don't want to eat margarine, either. And second, if I did I wouldn't need a recipe book to make those substitutions.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, by Ree Drummond.

After reading quite a bit of buzz about The Pioneer Woman on my friends' blogs, I decided to check it out for myself. This book is beautiful to look at, fun to read, and full of meat-and-potatoes recipes (and a few others, too). A winner all around.

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