Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book with a View 2 November 2009

Book Title: Twinsational
Author: C. Michael Thompson
ISBN: 978-1-4327-3033-8
Genre and Target Market: children’s fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Book Length in Pages: 116

I have been a voracious reader my entire life, spending hours combing the stacks of books in the kids’ section of the library as soon as I was old enough to get my own card. It was not unusual to find me sitting in my favorite tree with a book in hand on a Saturday afternoon. As a child and young teenager, I loved finding stories in which kids my age were involved in adventures into which I could easily transport myself. I had no need for outlandish plots or exaggerated characters. Just give me a great book about average kids and the crazy situations they manage to create. I am now well into my thirties but, through my work in the writing industry, still enjoy the discovery of a book to which kids can really relate and enjoy reading. I have found such a novel in Twinsational, the new release by author C. Michael Thompson.

Twinsational shares one day in the life of Mark and Michelle (known to most as Shelly) Johnson, eleven-year-old brother and sister twins who have each other’s back no matter the situation. The book has all of the elements that most preteens can expect to encounter on a daily basis—the class bully, good friends, demanding teachers, and first crushes. The day begins with the first of many confrontations that the twins have with their nemesis, Bubba, as they walk to school. Once they arrive on campus and meet up with friends, a series of events causes Mark and his friend David to elude the watchful eye of teachers and the new principal, with sister Michelle and her friend Kianna acting as accomplices. As the story unfolds, readers get a real sense of the loyalty shared between the characters in this book and a lesson in making the decision to do the right thing.

For me, the greatest strength of Thompson’s writing is his ability to capture a genuine sense of the way in which preteens interact. Young people who read Twinsational will not feel as if the author is condescending in his depiction of Mark and Michelle, nor will they find the characters written as adults before their time. Instead, you really feel that you are being placed into a typical middle school and I am certain that readers in this demographic will love reading a fun story about such a realistic group of peers. Mr. Thompson spent several years as a teacher, and even though his students were younger than the ones depicted in Twinsational, his ability to capture the language and priorities of the preteen population is obvious.

We all know that when our children read on a regular basis, they are increasing their chances for success in many areas of life. This is why I am so pleased when a new author comes along who offers a book that will get kids excited about the written word. Twinsational by C. Michael Thompson is a wonderful novel that I know will get kids talking about the experiences had by the brother and sister team. With the last page of the book implying that there are more adventures ahead for Mark and Michelle, I hope there will be great “twinsational” conversations among young readers for a long time to come.

Sparta Rose

Author: Ginger Simpson
ISBN: 1926647394
Publisher: 978-1-926647-39-5 (Print) 978-1-926640-63-1 (download) 2009
Link to purchase: (print) (download)
Reviewer Byline: Carol Langstroth, Manager Mind Fog Reviews

In Sparta Rose by Ginger Simpson, Roselle "Ellie" Fountain has two problems. One is the foreman, Tyler Bishop, who seems to be working his way into her father's heart. She thinks Ty wants her inheritance which is Fountain Ranch. She hates being a "woman" and wishes she were a man so that she would finally win her father's approval. It doesn't help that she starts getting these strange feelings for Ty.

Her second problem is that the Bryant family wants her father’s ranch that he has worked so hard to build up. Jeb Bryant will use any means to get that ranch for his father, Duke Bryant. Will Ellie be able to win both her father’s respect and figure out how to save the ranch from the Bryants?

I have found this story to be extremely well written and the characters portrayed to be very lively. Ellie’s temper was fun to read about because it got her into a lot of vicarious situations. This reviewer found Ellie’s temper to be similar to her own and likes that she could laugh at it and empathize with her at the same time. This author is reminded of another author, Janet Oke, whom I enjoy as well. Janet would be proud of this writing.

***** 5 Stars
Carol Langstroth, Manager
Mind Fog Reviews
2009 EPPIE Nominee

It’s in the Eyes
Author: Charles Toftoy
ISBN: 978-1-4327-1196-2
Publisher:, 2009
Genre: Thriller; fiction; criminal psychology
Pages: 312

You know that you’ve hit the literary jackpot when you find a novel that combines several of your interests into one great story. For example, someone who enjoys reading about both sports and romance may be intrigued by a book that features the long-distance relationship between a football star and his girlfriend. Or, perhaps you prefer a book with a science-fiction focus that also includes military confrontations. For me, I found a great synthesis of setting and plot in the new release It’s in the Eyes by Dr. Charles Toftoy. This thriller is set in my hometown of Washington, D.C. and features academia, action, and suspense. Knowing this information gave me high expectations before I even read the first page, and I was not disappointed.

It’s in the Eyes grabs the readers immediately by placing us at a crime scene that is central to the entire plot and whose victim returns posthumously throughout the book to motivate the self-proclaimed detectives to solve her murder. Readers quickly learn that there is a series of murders of young women who attend universities in the Washington, D.C. area. These crimes have created uneasiness among the population and a sense of urgency in the Arlington Police Department. Lars Neilsen, a college professor with very personal reasons for wanting to catch the predator responsible for these gruesome deaths, assembles his “Alpha Team” of experts to piece together clues and hopefully end the violence.

One of Dr. Toftoy’s greatest strengths in his writing is his ability to select language that creates a sense of tension in the readers. While the murderer remains anonymous for most of the novel, we are let into his mind periodically as the story unfolds. His narcissism and lack of emotion for any of the pain he has caused is quite disturbing. As he ponders the fate of his next victim, you want to find the woman yourself and warn her before it is too late. The author maintains this sense of discomfort by revealing just a little more about the criminal and his motivations with every chapter. With such a well-developed mystery, I often found myself nervous as I turned the page because the next event was either so shocking or revealing. And, I will simply say that I did not see the ending coming at all. It’s in the Eyes is a suspense novel from beginning to end.

For those who have not been to Washington, D.C., Dr. Toftoy does a wonderful job of illustrating everyday life in that world capital. By providing details like the traffic reporter of the local news station, favorite eateries, and the feel of the diverse neighborhoods, you really get a sense of the environment in which the characters live. And, the decision to include what Lars Neilsen and the other members of his Alpha Team prefer to eat at the local Silver Diner or drink at the Capitol City Brewing Company drives home the idea that these are ordinary private citizens with whom all of us can relate. It just so happens that they are choosing to put themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

The author of It’s in the Eyes, Dr. Charles Toftoy, brings a wealth of academic and business experience to his writing. I hope that he finds the opportunity to put this great background into another novel soon. It’s in the Eyes is a complex thriller that combines history, action, strong character development, believable dialogue, and a plot that will keep you guessing. If you enjoy curling up with a compelling mystery, this is most certainly a book for you.

Succeeding in High School—A Handbook for Teens and Parents plus a College Admissions Primer
Author: Joseph Adegboyega-Edun
ISBN: 978-1-4327-1229-7
Publisher:, 2009
Genre and Target Market: reference; education
Pages: 137
Reviewed by Sarah Moore for WITS

I spent nearly a decade of my professional life working on either a high school or college campus. I was a high school teacher of government and history for three years and the rest of my tenure in education was spent as an academic advisor for several large universities. I have seen first-hand the difference that good information and thoughtful advice can mean to a student who is eager to succeed in the classroom. It always was disheartening to encounter students who would not reach their potential due not to lack of intelligence or interest, but because they could not figure out how to operate within the system that is found in any high school. In his new book, Succeeding in High School, author and educator Joseph Adegboyega-Edun helps both high school students and their parents prepare for the four difficult years of high school as well as the educational and career plans that may follow.

Adegboyega-Edun is an experienced counselor and college advisor who uses this new book to combine his obvious wealth of knowledge concerning education with his ability to capture important points in a way that is neither condescending nor simplistic even though the material is geared to a younger audience. Instead, Succeeding in High School is a wonderful primer that covers just about any topic that may be going through the minds of high school students or their parents. I imagine that these concerns will sound familiar to you. Should I pack on as many Advanced Placement courses as possible in order to impress college admissions counselors? When should I plan on taking the SAT? How do best organize a busy schedule that includes studying, sports, and family responsibilities? What do college admission counselors really look at when reviewing my application? Succeeding in High School tackles these questions and so many more.

One of the greatest strengths of Adegboyega-Edun’s writing is his ability to make the material apply to every person who is reading the book. The chapters are written with clear language and divided into subtopics with appropriate headings, making it easy for readers to find the specific advice they may be seeking. Also, as an educator myself, I particularly appreciated how the author chose to end each chapter. In each instance, he includes “Questions for Students,” “Things to Do,” and “For Parents,” which challenge the readers to apply the information to their own situations. Adegboyega-Edun also strengthens the content of his book by introducing each chapter with a quote from an actual high school student. Teenagers who read the book will recognize themselves in these students and hopefully will find greater focus in their reading as a result.

As someone who has worked extensively with students who are in the target demographic for this book, I strongly recommend Succeeding in High School for any young person who is about to enter high school. Being aware of how grades are calculated, the amount of homework to expect, and how each year should be used towards college preparation will be reassuring to students who are entering this new stage of their schooling. Also, parents who are wondering how to work with their kids to get the most out of their education should grab a copy of this book right away. Moms and dads certainly will appreciate the critical information needed to move through the college admissions process and likely will learn a few tips for making the home environment more conducive for learning. Even though I am no longer directly in an academic setting, I still have a passion for education and seeing young people make the most out of opportunities. For this reason, I am excited to find a book such as Succeeding in High School, a handbook that I believe holds information for any high school student who desires to have a great academic experience.

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