Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Books I plan to read in October

I'm linking up again with The Deliberate Reader to share the books I'll be reading this month.

September was another good reading month. I finished 11 books - completing 8 of the books I planned to read this month as well as two other books I was already reading before the month began. I had to return In the Unlikely Event to the library without starting it, so I'm back on the bottom of the waiting list. And I'm currently in the middle of both Casting with a Fragile Thread and Second Chance Summer.

For October, I'm planning a little lighter than normal, so I can hopefully finish up some of the books from my Summer (turned Fall) Reading Challenge and because I have many books on hold at the library, and I don't know which ones might come in earlier than expected.

Here are the 7 books I plan to read this month...

How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
How did I get it: eARC
Why did I get it: I heard about it through an email from NetGalley. This book will be my first ARC!

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
How did I get it: I borrowed it from the library.
Why did I get it: I almost picked this book for my August reading challenge book because of the cover. It's the last Lisa Genova book that I need to read, so when I didn't make it my challenge book, I added it to my September list.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
How did I get it: I pre-ordered the hardcover book from Amazon. I know! I actually bought a book.
Why did I get it: I need to read this book because I love Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl, and Harry Potter (and therefore Simon Snow). I bought it because I am going to NerdCon in Minneapolis next week, and I'm hoping to meet Rainbow and get her to sign my copy!!!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
How did I get it: I borrowed it from the library.
Why did I get it: It's my last remaining John Green book, and I finally made it a priority to read it.

13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelopes #1) by Maureen Johnson
How did I get it: I borrowed the e-audiobook using the Overdrive app.
Why did I get it: It's my YA Book Club selection for October.

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
How did I get it: I borrowed it from the library.
Why did I get it: I'm starting a new book club for other kindergarten parents, and this book is the selection for our first meeting in November. I heard about this book from a mini review on Modern Mrs. Darcy a few months ago.

Cress by Marissa Meyer
How did I get it: I'm listening to it on Sarah's Audible account.
Why did I get it: I'm re-reading this book for the continuation of the Lunar Chronicles Read Along in preparation for the release of Winter in November.

What are you reading this month?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Re-Read: Fangirl (YA)

Since Carry On is coming out on October 6th, I decided to re-read Fangirl to get myself ready for a full length Simon Snow story from Rainbow Rowell.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Goodread Summary:
A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My Thoughts:
This book is one of my all time favorite books. I identify almost 100% with Cath. My college experience was similar on many levels. The end of freshman year is when my twin sister and I kind of had our "break up" as Rowell describes it in the book.

It's hard to be a twin, especially for the more independent, leader twin. I was always the follower, like Cath. As an adult, I understand Wren's desire to break away when starting college. It's hard for Cath, as it was hard for me, to be left alone. Forging your own way is something that singlets learn at an early age, but twins often don't have to do anything alone until adulthood.

Rowell has added so many other amazing characters to this story.
- Levi is so sweet. I absolutely love the awkwardness of Cath's relationship with him.
- Reagan cracks me up. The way she deals with Cath's weirdness is hilarious. It reminds me of Megan and Felicity from the TV show Felicity.
- Wren is mess, but I feel bad for her. She's trying to figure out how to be her own person and how to fit in without losing control.
- Their dad is struggling with mental illness, but in between issues, I enjoyed all of his ad campaign creativity. It shed some light on Cath's writing talent.

The main story is told in third person POV from Cath's perspective. The internal monologue is perfect! I especially loved all her debating of words and meaning, even when it was only the thoughts in her head. It was neat to get into the mind of a writer.

I'd never read any fanfiction before reading this book this first time. But as a Harry Potter enthusiast, I love the Simon Snow elements of this story. I am amazed at Rainbow Rowell's ability to create the Fangirl story, the Gemma T. Leslie Simon Snow stories, and Cath's Carry On story. I enjoyed the excerpts in between chapters, and even found that they paralleled the main plot which added to the overall awesomeness of this book.

I'm curious to see how similar Carry On the book is to Cath's writing in Fangirl.

Favorite Quotes:
"You're nice to everybody. You give away nice like it doesn't cost you anything."

Levi laughed. "It doesn't cost me anything. It's not like smiling at strangers exhausts my overall supply." "Well, it does mine," "I'm not you. Making people happy makes me feel good. If anything, it gives me more energy for the people I care about."

This is the perfect description of an introvert vs. an extrovert.

To really be a nerd, she'd decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.

Isn't that the truth!

My Original Rating: 5 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Review: God-Shaped Hole

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo

Goodreads Summary:
When I was twelve, a fortune teller told me that my one true love would die young and leave me all alone. 
Everyone said she was a fraud, that she was just making it up. 
I'd really like to know why the hell a person would make up a thing like that.

Written with the snap, glitter and wit of The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, God-Shaped Hole is a memorable, poignant love story that will leave you weeping with laughter. It is told in the wry, vulnerable voice of Beatrice "Trixie" Jordan who replies to a personal ad, "If your intentions are pure I am seeking a friend for the end of the world." 

In doing so, she meets Jacob Grace, a charming, effervescent thirty-something writer, a free spirit who is a passionate seeker of life. He possesses his own turn of phrase and ways of thinking and feeling that dissonantly harmonize with Trixie's off-center vision as they roller coaster through the joys and furies of their wrenching romance. Along the way they try to come to terms with the hurt brought about by their distant fathers who, in different ways, forsook them.

This story will prove so touching you will rush to share it with a friend or loved one or even a stranger.

My Review:
I should have hated this book. Nothing really happens, other than a love story. But there was something about the writing that made this book compelling...once I started reading it. It took me a while to get through this book because when I had other things to read, this book wasn't the one I would pick up. But when I did sit down with it, I would fly through the pages.

It's written almost like a journal. It's an account of a young woman falling in love. Beatrice had been warned by a fortune teller when she was twelve that she would have a great love, but that he would die young. At 30 (I think), she responds to a personal ad on a whim. She meets Jacob, and it's instalove, which is unusual in an adult book.

Their relationship progresses quickly. They both have issues with their fathers, and they help each other deal with them. Jacob is writing a book. Trixie makes jewelry. They live in L.A., but they dream of moving to the South, which I found amusing. Who wants to move there?

I enjoyed the raw honesty of Trixie's voice in this story. It showcases the vulnerability of falling in love. And her thoughts and explanations of why she does certain things, even things she doesn't really want to be doing, are so real. So even though I didn't love this book, I would definitely read another book by Tiffanie DeBartolo.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Book Review: All Roads Lead to Austen

All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith

Goodreads Summary:
Inspired by Reading Lolita in Tehran, the literary chronicle of a year spent reading Jane Austen throughout Latin America.

I love Jane Austen fan fiction. When I saw this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy's Kindle Book Deal list months ago, I bought it right away. After reading Wanderlove, I was sort of fixated on Belize and Guatemala. I was expecting The Jane Austen Book Club in Central and South America. I thought the book was going to be fiction. It's not. It's non-fiction, more of a memoir than anything else. An Eat, Pray, Love meets Julie and Julia type book.

I worked my way through this book SLOWLY over three months. As someone who reads 10-12 books a month, that was EPIC.

My Review:
I enjoyed the Austen book discussion portions of this book. Unfortunately, there was a lot of other stuff in between - random historical facts about various Central and South American countries, tidbits of personal relationships, musings on stereotypes, commentary on native authors of the different countries, and descriptions of people, locations, and medical ailments.

The writing in this book was not great. There was too much unnecessary detail. Even in the book discussions, it seemed like no comment was eliminated, and even some Spanish was included, when obviously the reader is an English reader. It reads like a text book at times, which isn't entirely surprising given that the author is a literature professor.

I almost stopped reading this book many times, but I was enjoying the Austen references at least most of the time. The beginning of the book was better than the latter half. Maybe because I was losing steam or maybe because Smith got sick of writing the same stuff in different countries. I liked her comparisons of real people to Austen characters, but that stopped after the first chapters. Luckily, after my endurance, I was at least rewarded with a good ending.

I admire Smith's courage and sense of adventure.  And her idea to study Austen in other cultures was inspired, but I don't think one or two book groups per country is really enough to draw conclusions. The scientist in me was looking for some actual scientific method. Since the book seemed so academic, the approach should have been more controlled.

I wanted to love this book. I think that's why I keep going until the end. Sadly, I just didn't.

My Rating: 2 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Friday, September 25, 2015

YA Book Club: September 2015

Wednesday night was the September meeting of my YA book club.

The Book
I suggested this book after reading about it on Rebel Mommy's Book Blog and The Perpetual Page Turner. I love the Little Mermaid. And I love summer romances. Happily, Sarah and Annie agreed right away that this would be a good book for our group.

The Venue
This month we met at P.F. Chang's, which is one of my favorite restaurants. Jim doesn't like it that much, so I have to go with my girls when I can.

I love their beef with broccoli, so, as usual, I got that. Annie had chicken fried rice, and Sarah had shrimp fried rice. Both looked so good, but I was saving my carbs for dessert. I got their cheesecake. It's amazing! Sarah had the chocolate dome cake with vanilla ice cream, which Annie shared.

And of course, we all had our fortune cookies.

From the top, going clockwise: mine, Annie's (originally Sarah's, 
they switched), and Sarah's.

Then Annie had to snap this picture of me 
trying to be artistic by putting the fortunes on my leaf (mint?).

The Book Discussion
I found the book to be just OK (3 stars) - see my review. I had seen Annie's rating earlier this month when she finished it and updated Goodreads. She also gave it 3 stars.

Sarah is not an avid Goodreads user, so we always have to wait for our actual book club meeting to hear her rating/thoughts. She gave this book 3 stars as well.

Annie agreed with me (or maybe I agreed with her since she finished first) about Elyse being annoying. Sarah found something irksome about Elyse and Christian's relationship. She wasn't buying the whole player settling down so quickly aspect.

I said the regatta plot reminded me of an episode of Dawson's Creek. Admit it. You know what I'm talking about.

Sarah didn't catch the whole Little Mermaid tie-in, and both Sarah and Annie didn't understand the metaphorical mermaid transformed into a girl portion at the end. Although I completely missed that Elyse had intentional fallen into the ocean right before that.

We were all SHOCKED by a certain one-sided sexual act about midway through the book. I think that was a first for me in a YA book. Wow.

The Non-Book Discussion
In addition to the book talk, we also chatted about:

- our weekend plans
- Jim's upcoming business trip to Spain (he leaves tomorrow afternoon and will be gone for a week)
- falling asleep on the couch and our grumpy behavior when our husbands/boyfriend wake us up
- strokes
- pregnancy cravings: "This ONE time...I was craving a pop tart." True story. But mostly I craved meat and milk. I don't know how we even got on that subject.
- Christopher's school, Annie's job - the shenanigans kids pull with their teachers
- and many other things I can't remember

Sarah and Annie. They both said they'd DIE if they had to wear that birthday hat 
shown in the background. I thought it would be fun.

We finally got a group picture outside the restaurant. Yay!

Did you read the book along with us this month?

Do you want to join us next month?

We'll be reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson for our next meeting on Wednesday, October 14th.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Lunar Chronicles Read Along: Scarlet

As you know, I am participating in The Lunar Chronicles read along hosted by Brittany at The Book Addicts Guide. We're getting closer and closer to the release of Winter on November 10th. Yay!

September was the month to read Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer. As with Cinder last month, I listened to this book on Audible.

In case you haven't read this book yet...

Goodreads Summary:
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. 

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner. 

My Thoughts:
Before I read any books in this series, someone commented to me that she usually dislikes series where each book centers around a different main character. But she loved this series.

I don't really see this as a series with different main characters. I think it's more that the character set expands from book to book. It's kind of like a TV series, where new characters are introduced each season to make the show more interesting. In a more traditional book series, like in a movie sequel, the cast of characters remains primarily the same.

I love the additional characters in this book. Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorne are some of my favorites in the series. The core of this book is a more subtle retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. But Meyer has expanded the story in amazing ways. And she's twisted it into a hate turned love story.

I think I enjoy this book so much more than Cinder because of the two intertwining stories: Scarlet and Wolf's quest to find her grandmother along side of Cinder and Thorne's escape from prison and pursuit of more information about Cinder's past. It's like the second Lord of the Rings movie. There's double the action, so it's much more entertaining.

I love the strong female characters. I love all of the anger and passion they possess. I love the added depth to Cinder and Kai's relationship and his internal struggle to reconcile Cinder's being Lunar with everything that happened between them in Cinder. I love Wolf's brooding. I love Thorne's comic relief added to the ever wonderful Iko. I just can't get enough of this series.

Listening to this book again, I was once again blown away by Meyer's ability to tell a story. Bring on October. I can't wait to re-read Cress!

My Original Rating: 5 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids (YA)

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Goodreads Summary:
The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life. 

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .

My Review:
I liked this book, but I didn't love it. It was a loose, metaphorical retelling of The Little Mermaid. Many of the character names from the Disney movie were used for characters in this book. And there was a love story (although not with a prince). And the main character, Elyse, couldn't speak. Mermaids were a recurring theme in the story because it takes place in a quaint, coastal town in Oregon where they host a mermaid festival at the end of every summer.

The story centers around two main points: Elyse learning to let go of her past, which includes a mysterious accident that caused her to lose her voice, and Christian's attempt to restore his sailboat and win the annual regatta to prevent his father from selling their summer home and the adjacent land, where Elyse's Aunt Lemon lives and runs her art studio/shop.

Elyse offers to help Christian with the boat, and romance ensues. I enjoyed all of the characters, except Elyse. She was whiny and immature. I understand that she had suffered, but I felt like she kept relapsing into self pity every time she made a small step forward.

Christian was adorable - kind of a player with the ladies but super sweet with his little brother, Sebastian. I LOVED Sebastian's character. He was a 6-year old with a fierce obsession with mermaids. He instantly latched on to Elyse. He was just too cute. He kind of reminded me of my own son, so that probably had a lot to do with it.

Elyse's cousin Kirby and her friend, Vanessa, along with Aunt Lemon rounded out the cast of characters (well the "good" ones anyway). I enjoyed all the girl power and sisterly/motherly love towards Elyse.

Ockler has created great villains as well. Christian's father and the town mayor are cast in that roll . Christian's father for being too hard on both of his sons. The mayor for trying to attract tourists to the town by aligning himself with large land developers and chain restaurateurs who would attempt to ruin the town's unique feel.

The story was good for the most part. I just couldn't stomach Elyse, and I was very frustrated that it took so long to learn what had happened in her past. There was a twin-element to this story, which I think Ockler got exactly right. The jealousy Elyse feels towards her twin sister, Natalie, is spot on.

This was my second Ockler novel, and I think maybe she's just not for me.

Favorite Quote:
"The sign of deep connection wasn't necessarily outward affection, but silence. The ability to sit still with another, wholly aware of him, neither needing nor desiring anything but his presence, the shape of him, his breath in the air between you."

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

There are so many good books coming out this fall. I have the following on my list, and I'll be reading them ASAP once they're published.

After You (Me Before You #2) by Jojo Moyes (out September 29th)

Sequel. Enough said.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (out October 6th)

A book about Simon and Baz from Fangirl! How could I resist? I can't wait to see if Rainbow Rowell writes fantasy as much as she writes everything else. I pre-ordered the hardcover version of this book, so I can get it signed by Rainbow when I go to NerdCon: Stories in Minneapolis next month.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition (out October 6th)

Another Amazon pre-order. We're finally going to introduce Christopher to the amazing world of Harry Potter. I'm hoping this illustrated edition will hold his interest. We may have to start with the first movie. And then maybe we'll finally get to go to Universal Studios to see Diagon Alley. I can't believe I haven't been yet!

All In (The Naturals #3) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (out November 3rd)

I love this series! I've given the first two books 5 stars. I know Barnes won't disappoint with this third installment in the series.

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (out November 3rd)

I swear I never buy books. I pre-ordered the Kindle version of this one when it was on sale for $2.99. I really enjoyed Reay's first two books, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer (out November 10th)

I've been re-listening to the earlier books as part of The Lunar Chronicles Read-A-Long starting last month. I am beyond excited for this book. I didn't pre-order it since I don't own any of the earlier books. I'll be putting my name on the list at the library before it comes out, or I'll buy the Audible version on my friend's account. I cannot wait!!

In addition, there are some books I've been meaning to get to that I plan to finally read this fall.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

My last John Green book. How did I go so long without finishing all of his books?

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Another "last book". After finding Inside the O'Briens too formulaic, I'm glad this one sounds more unique.

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave #1) by Rick Yancey

I need to read this series before the movie comes out in January.

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith.

I haven't read any of her books. I've seen a lot of reviews of her newest book around the blogging community. This book is the oldest one on my Goodreads TBR list, so I'm finally going to read it this fall.

What are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Re-Read: The Martian

With the movie coming out in October, I had to re-read this book. I listened to the audiobook both times. R. C. Bray does such a great job with this book.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Goodread Summary:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him? 

My Thoughts:
Reading (or listening to, in my case) this book is sort of like watching MythBusters. Weir brings the highly complex science of space travel and mechanical engineering down to the level of the average person. I was in awe of Mark Watney's character. He was able to think his way out of so many difficult situations.And he maintained humor throughout it all.

The tone of this book is the best thing about it. Mark is stranded on Mars, and yet he can make jokes about the situation. The majority of the book is told in the form of Mark's log entries. I loved them! Even the swearing. I normally don't like swearing, and I've been reading a lot of reviews that knock the book for that, but, for me, it added to the humor and enjoyment of the book.

I enjoyed this book more the second time because there was no suspense. I knew what was going to happen, so I could relax and enjoy the details. And they are amazing. Weir really spent time on the science and the specifics of this story.

I can't wait to see the movie!

My Original Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Life Milestone: First bank account

I remember opening my first bank account at the Key Bank on Kensington Avenue in Buffalo, NY. I think it was 1987, so I was 7 years old. From that point on I don't think I spent any money. You've heard those jokes about grown ups still having their First Communion money. That was totally me!

A few months ago, we started giving Christopher an allowance for doing chores. He's been saving his money in his piggy bank, and he loves to take it out and count it. He has spent some of it on a video game, a Baymax toy, and to take his babysitter bowling one afternoon. But with all of the dollars from his allowance and his lemonade stand earnings, the pig was getting pretty full.

This past weekend I casually mentioned that maybe it was time to open a bank account. He wanted to go right away. All week he begged to go to the bank. Tuesday night he even took all of his money out of the piggy bank and put it in a Ziploc bag, so he'd be all ready to go.

We were going to go on Friday because the bank is open late, and I wouldn't have to rush home from work, or Jim wouldn't have to stop working early. Thursday during lunch I checked the bank website and discovered that they are open late on Thursdays and Fridays. I called to make sure they had child accounts and to find out what I'd need to bring.

Then it rained, and we didn't have soccer practice on Thursday night. Christopher couldn't wait any longer, I gave in, and we went to the bank. AFTER I double checked to make sure he understood what it meant to open a bank account. "They'll keep my money." and "I want it to be safe."

He was SO excited on the way over and waiting when we got there. The banker was wonderful. She talked to Christopher mostly and only to me when necessary. He thoroughly enjoyed the lollipop. He was very excited about the coin counting machine, although a little confused that the machine was taking his money, and it wasn't being put "in his account". I said they'd get the money out of the machine later to add to his account, but that the receipt would tell them how much money he had in coins. Luckily there was a vault door open and some safe deposit boxes visible, so I kind of made it seem like those were the "accounts."

We took the dollars and the receipt to the bank teller, and she again talked to Christopher. He got another sucker while she made the transaction, and then he got a receipt. He was extremely proud that he remembered correctly that he had $46. $46.95 to be exact.

When we got home, he proclaimed, "That wasn't very fun." Ha! Of course not. I tried to explain about the bank lending his money to other people. Way over his head. But he was pretty excited about earning interest. The fact that his money will grow at the bank was pretty cool.

Jim was disappointed that he didn't get a savings book. But he should get monthly statements, so we can keep track of the interest on my computer using Quicken. We'll see how soon he's asking to take the money back out or to add more money in. He did ask about buying Skylanders as we left the bank.

Do your kids have bank accounts? How old were they when you opened them? How do you keep them interested in saving? Or when did you get your first bank account?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Beginnings and Friday 56: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Book Beginnings is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader.

Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

- Grab a book, any book.
- Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
- Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
- Post it.

My book this week is The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler.

This is the part where I die.

Don't panic; it isn't unexpected. The sea is prideful, after all, and Death never goes back on a deal.

Friday 56:
There I was a celebrity.

Here, I felt invisible. Intriguing, maybe. Different. But ultimately unknowable.

I thought that's what I wanted when I left Tobago. To be left alone, to hunt sea glass in the mornings and write my poems at night, dreaming of the past. To hide out on a rickety old boat that wasn't mine, unseen.

But after last night, after seeing all that shared history, closeness and rivalry and dysfunction alike, I wasn't so sure.

I was a ghost still tethered to her body, and I didn't know how to move on.

Initial Reactions / Other Thoughts
I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it because it's a retelling of The Little Mermaid. It's my YA book club selection for this month. I was warned by Becca at Lost in Literature not to be deterred by the prologue, which was definitely confusing. I'm three chapters in now, and I finally have sense of the writing style and the main character. I think I will really enjoy this book. 

Have you read it?

What books are you reading this week?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Adjusting to a new schedule

We're into the third week of school. It's going fairly well. The excitement of starting kindergarten hasn't worn off yet.

We're gotten ourselves into a good routine.

Morning Routine
Our mornings look like this...

6:15 AM - I wake up, shower, get dressed. Sometimes Christopher comes in to go potty, but then he goes back to sleep or goes to watch the iPad in his room.

7:00 AM - Christopher's alarm goes off. He gets dressed and comes downstairs for breakfast.

7:05 AM - I pack lunches (mine and Christopher's), make my breakfast, and make Christopher's breakfast. Then we eat together.

7:15 AM - Jim wakes up, showers, dresses, comes downstairs, and has breakfast.

7:20 AM - I do my stretching and exercises for my tendinitis. I'll be happy when this part of the routine is over.

7:25 AM - Christopher plays video games or watches TV after finishing breakfast.

7:30 AM - I leave for work. That's the goal time anyway. It hasn't always happened.

7:55 AM - Jim gets Christopher ready to go meet the bus. They go outside to wait.

8:05 AM - Christopher boards the bus. Jim starts work (at home).

Afternoon Routine
Here's what we've been doing after school...

4:00 PM - Jim goes outside to meet the bus.

4:05 PM - Christopher gets off the bus, they get the mail, and they come inside. Jim settles him in at the kitchen table with a snack and the iPad, and he goes back to work.

4:45 PM - I get home from work, check in with Christopher, change my clothes, and do my stretching/exercises.

5:00 PM - Jim finishes with work. One of us starts dinner. Last night Jim cooked, and it made the whole schedule go so much faster.

5:15 PM - Once dinner is underway, Christopher and I do his homework. He has been getting one simple activity, i.e. write the letters Aa-Ee 5 times, count as high as you can, etc. And I've been adding some reading practice with sight word flash cards.

5:30 PM - Dinner.

6:00 PM - Free play, video games, soccer practice, etc.

7:30 PM - Bath time on Sundays and Thursday.

8:00 PM - One of us puts Christopher to bed. Jim - Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesday. Me - Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

8:15 PM - Jim and I relax! He plays video games and I read, or we watch TV together.

What tricks do you have for getting out the door on time in the morning? How do you handle homework in the afternoon? As a new school-age mom, I welcome all tips!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book Review: The Truth According to Us

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

Goodreads Summary:
In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.

My Review:
This book was a bit of an endurance race to get through. I started out strong reading the hardcover book, but then I had to return it to the library since it was a 7 day loan. I was able to get the audio book right away, so I picked up with audio starting on chapter 10. It took me several weeks to make it to the end because my daily commute is fairly short.

The book is told in alternating points of view: Willa, a 12-year old girl speaking in 1st person, Jottie, her 30-something aunt who raised her, portrayed in 3rd person, and Layla, the 20-something writer who's boarding with them and writing the history of their small town in West Virginia. Layla's chapters are also in 3rd person or sometimes in epistolary form.

The parallel stories of Layla's interviews for her book and Willa's "research" were enjoyable despite the slow speed of my progress through this book. Both characters were going after the truth and were determined to get it no matter what direction they were given by their superiors.

I became really invested in the characters. They kept me reading/listening even when the plot got a little dull. This was definitely a character driven story. I loved Willa! I enjoyed her search for the truth about her family, her fierce desire to protect those she loves, and her strong voice. Annie Barrows knows how to write youth; that's for sure. I was undecided about Jottie. At times I was routing for her, but at other times I felt she was making life harder for herself. I did not particularly care for Layla, or Willa's father, Felix.

I was impressed with Barrows ability to write in different styles and from different perspectives. Each character truly had their own voice. I especially loved the beautiful language of the short excerpts from the history book Layla is writing inside the story.

While I didn't love this book, I am happy I read it. If you're going to do the audio book, I suggest the Audible version, so you can listen at 1.25 or 1.5 speed.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Review: Ana of California (YA)

Ana of California by Andi Teran

Goodreads Summary:
A modern take on the classic coming-of-age novel, inspired by Anne of Green Gables

In the grand tradition of Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Andi Teran’s captivating debut novel offers a contemporary twist on a beloved classic. Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California.

When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong.

My Review:
This book was enjoyable on two levels. First, it is a wonderful modernization of Anne of Green Gables. Teran very masterfully created a new story that lined up so well with many elements of the original plot, including Anne's explosive conversation with Rachel, the dying of Anne's hair, Diana's getting drunk, etc. All of the important characters are there, although she flips some aspects of Marilla's and Matthew's personalities in the creation of Abbie and Emmett.

Second, Ana's struggle to find a loving home after the horrors of her past and her 10-year stint in foster care was so touching. This book filled the void left by The Fosters now that I've caught up on the series. Her life on the farm with Abbie and Emmett reminded me of The Language of Flowers.

Ana is every bit as talkative, precocious, and feisty as the original Anne. Abbie is loving and kind, while Emmett is quiet and gruff but has a good heart. The relationship between Abbie and Emmett is very much the same as the original story. Rye is a very interesting replacement for Diana. I really enjoyed her character.

Cole is not at all like Gilbert, but I am guessing that is intentional. Gilbert is a hard character to replace. The love story is more pronounced than in the original (movie at least, I've never read the book - gasp!). But I enjoyed the development of this sweet romance. It was more forbidden than I expected, and the tangled web of small town affairs was an added element to the story.

 I think Anne-lovers and other readers will enjoy this story about love of all kinds.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mini Reviews: Lunar Chronicle Short Stories

To tide myself over before starting Scarlet, so I don't get too far ahead with The Lunar Chronicles Read Along, I decided to finally read Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicle short stories found on her website.

Have you read them yet?

Here are my thoughts...

Glitches (3 Stars)
A prequel to Cinder.

This story tells of Cinder's journey from Europe to New Asian with Garan, her stepfather. We learn very little about her past because the story is told in 3rd person from Cinder's POV, and she remembers almost nothing prior to her surgery.

When she gets to New Asian and meets her stepmother and stepsisters, there is a glimpse into why Pearl doesn't like her, but not clue as to Adri's hostility. Peony is her usual delightful self.

This story was sort and sweet but without Cinder's usual feistiness. I know she was younger at the time, but she seemed out of character. I did enjoy the introduction of Iko though.

The Queen's Army (4 Stars)
A prequel to Scarlet.

In this story, Wolf is introduced (using his real name!). It tells of his inscription into the queen's army. Meyer shows off the mind-control power of Lunars and reveals Wolf's true character prior to his "alterations." I liked this short story a lot.

Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky (4 Stars)
A story about young Carwell Thorne.
To get this story you have to subscribe to Marissa Meyer's mailing list.

I loved this story! Thorne is just as determined and rebellious as always. At 13-years old, he's plotting against his snobby parents, planning his future, breaking rules, and defying the system. There's also some interesting tidbits about life on Earth in Meyer's universe.

This story is a lot longer than the first two. There's several sections: the breakfast table with his parents, a confrontation with a classmate in the hall at school, a literature class, and some lunch time gambling. Carswell is already the smooth talker we see in Scarlet and Cress. An certain incident referenced in the books is explained. This one was a fun read.

The Little Android (4 Stars)
A brief re-telling of The Little Mermaid in the Lunar Chronicles universe.

This story is creative in its setup of the story of The Little Mermaid. Meyer's remarkable ability to re-imagine another classic fairy tale in her sci-fi world is displayed. I want more though. It ends when the story is just beginning.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Find Me Tag

I saw this tag on Bookmark Lit a couple of months ago and thought it looked fun. Lauren didn't tag me, but I'm doing it anyway. :)

I decided to only pick books from my Goodreads "read" list. I'm impressed that I was able to find them all.

1. A book with “gone” in the title

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (1 Star)

2. A book with a weapon

Scissors aren't exactly a weapon, but I didn't want to use Graceling like Lauren did.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (2 Stars)

3. A book with a moon

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors #1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer (4 Stars)

4. A book with a girl in a white dress

The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass (4 Stars)

5. A book with a couple kissing

I couldn't find one! I don't read romance books obviously. This was the best I could do.

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (4 Stars)

6. A book with a sunset

The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks (Unrated)

7. A book with headphones

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope (4 Stars, my review)

8. A book with water

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (4 Stars, my review)

9. A book with flowers

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf (4 Stars)

10. A book with a heart

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler (3 Stars, my review)

Since I wasn't tagged, I won't tag anyone. But if you haven't done this tag yet, give it try!