Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Review: All Joy and No Fun

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

Goodreads Summary:
In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior isolates and analyzes the many ways in which children reshape their parents' lives, whether it's their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today's mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear. Recruiting from a wide variety of sources-in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology-she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood's deepest vexations-and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards.

Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture's most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today-and tomorrow.

My Review: 
This book was so interesting. I loved sociology in college. In this book Senior discussing modern parenting. She doesn't give advice or solutions; she just reports on a whole slue of studies and observations about the shifting focus of parenting from satisfying children's basic needs to fulfilling our children's emotional needs.

The early chapters of his book validated a lot of feelings I have been having regarding the inequity of domestic chore/children care division between husbands and wives. It was nice to know that I am not alone in my frustrations. She also shares some insight from modern dads that were helpful to hear. Good dads don't compare themselves to any gold standard of parenting, so they don't have guilt. They hold themselves up as the standard, and they aren't afraid to claim time for themselves.

She also discussed how children live in the present - something else we moms could stand to emulate. Too often we give into the distractions of the clock, TV, and our phones. She points out that childhood is a modern construct. Up until the 18th century (I think?) children were expected to work. Only in the 1910s did the toy industry explode. Before then children played outdoors and with household objects. Parents today spend more time playing with their kids than any other generation. And we middle class parents spend a ton of time shuttling our children from activity to activity, robbing us of time alone or time to do chores, etc.

The audiobook was read by the author, and while she wasn't the best voice to listen to, I found that I enjoyed the book immensely anyway, especially the earlier chapters. Although the last chapter on adolescence did give me a glimpse into my future. And my one take away there was to make sure I have other interests outside of my son because one day he'll begin to withdraw (and eventually leave the house), and I need to have other things to fall back on.

Overall, this book was very insightful, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. I recommend it to parents with children of all ages, or even those who are expecting or planning on having children. Senior highlights how much our lives are changed by having children.

My Rating: 4 stars
Understand my ratings.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why I #FeelTheBern

Last night, Jim and I attended the Bernie Sanders rally in Milwaukee. It was awesome! He hit on all of the important issues, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him speak uninterrupted for an hour. It was well worth standing for 6 hours. My body hurt so much, but I didn't even care. My heart and my soul were so happy. Guys, I actually cried a little when he took the stage. You know me. I don't cry.

Bernie Sanders at the Milwaukee rally on March 29, 2016.

I wasn't sure I would care this much about another presidential candidate, but I support Bernie Sanders 100%. I truly believe he can make a difference in this country. I am so excited to cast my vote for him in the Wisconsin Democratic Primary on April 5th.

Why I am voting for Bernie Sanders

The Environment

Climate change is real. We need to do something drastic, or we are going to kill our planet. Soon. I drive a hybrid vehicle, and I would have a fully electric car if we had recharging stations in Wisconsin. I care a lot about the environment. So did Al Gore, which is why I voted for him in my first election in 2000. Unfortunately, since then the environment has been largely ignored.

We need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. And even more importantly, we need to stop letting the large oil companies invest in politics to continue advancing their agenda, which leads me to my next reason...

My incredibly dirty Toyota Prius and my Bernie bumper sticker!

Corporate Investments in Politics

Bernie is running his campaign entirely on donations from regular people, like me and you. He isn't taking money from large corporations, which means when he's president, he'll be able to do what he believes is right for this country, and not what he promised to some corporation to get their large donation.

The media, the oil companies, wall street...they all have too much of a hand in our democracy today. Corporations are not people. They shouldn't get a say in who runs our government. That power should rest in the hands of the people of this nation.

Wealth Inequity / Rampant Poverty

The American Dream used to mean that anyone could rise above their circumstances and become successful in this country. That's no longer the case. The wealth in America is so unevenly distributed that even the middle class is struggling to survive. People shouldn't have to work multiple jobs just to support their families.

The majority of candidates care only about helping the rich get richer. Bernie cares about the average worker. He's fighting to make sure that we all have enough to feed and shelter our families.

Bernie supporters waiting to get into the rally last night.

Wage Equality for Women

Women working the same job as men make only $0.79 per $1.00. That's ridiculous! For doing the exact same job, why should women be paid less? It's gender discrimination, and Bernie Sanders wants to combat this injustice.

Health Care

Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act) is not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. Sanders wants to expand Medicare for all Americans. This is where socialism comes into play. Countries in Europe have shown that socialized health care works. We need a similar system here, where everyone has the same access to medical care, regardless of income, employment status, or employer.

Me and Jim with our volunteer badges right before we went into the rally building.

Foreign Policy

Bernie Sanders believes in war only as a last resort. So do I! I've been a pacifist for as long as I can remember. I don't understand the United States' desire to involve itself in all conflicts throughout the world. I think we should mind our own business and focus on the issues within our own country, namely poverty, discrimination, and oppression.

Bernie has already done way better than the media and Hillary Clinton thought he would do, but it's not over yet. He still can (and will!) win the Democratic nomination.

"Democracy is not a spectator sport." 
- Bernie Sanders

Get out and vote!

Become a part of the political revolution.

"When we stand together...there is nothing we cannot accomplish." 
- Bernie Sanders

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #18: 10 Recent 5 Star Reads

Last year I only rated 12 books 5 stars. So far this year, I have had seven 5 star reads. I'm not sure if that means I'm being more lenient with my ratings or if I've just read better books. I'm going to think the latter.

Here are my 10 most recent 5 star books.

Read in 2016

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Bookends by Jane Green (re-read)

Multiple Listings by Tracy McMillan

Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles novellas) by Marissa Meyer

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

George by Alex Gino

Read in 2015

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

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

What books have you read recently that you rated 5 stars?

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Book Review: Time After Time (YA)

Time After Time (Time Between Us #2) by Tamara Ireland Stone

Goodreads Summary:
Calling Anna and Bennett’s romance long distance is an understatement: she’s from 1995 Chicago and he’s a time traveler from 2012 San Francisco. The two of them never should have met, but they did. They fell in love, even though they knew they shouldn't. And they found a way to stay together, against all odds. 

It’s not a perfect arrangement, though, with Bennett unable to stay in the past for more than brief visits, skipping out on big chunks of his present in order to be with Anna in hers. They each are confident that they’ll find a way to make things work...until Bennett witnesses a single event he never should have seen (and certainly never expected to). Will the decisions he makes from that point on cement a future he doesn't want?

Told from Bennett’s point of view, Time After Time will satisfy readers looking for a fresh, exciting, and beautifully-written love story, both those who are eager to find out what’s next for Time Between Us's Anna and Bennett and those discovering their story for the first time.

My Review: 
I enjoyed this book, just not as much as the first book. This time the story is told from Bennett's point of view, in first person again. I enjoyed the change in POV. It's always nice to get inside another character's head.

The plot picks up right after the end of Time Between Us. Bennett is having issues with his time travel and cannot get stay with Anna very long. It takes "long distance romance" to a whole new level.

I don't know what it is with love stories after the initial falling in love. This story just didn't hold my interest as much as the original book. It was more of a typical contemporary YA book. I wanted more action and plot.

I enjoyed reading more about these characters because I really liked them, and I was rooting for them to whole time. But I had a harder time looking past the obvious flaws in the time travel mechanics of this story.

My Rating: 3 stars
Understand my ratings.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Kid Lit: Squirrel Me Timbers

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Squirrel Me Timbers by Louise Pigott

To be published on April 1, 2016

Goodreads Summary:
Ahoy mateys! A young squirrel has always dreamed of sailing the seas as a pirate. So when he finds a treasure map, he can t believe his luck! X marks the spot of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND NUTS! Set sail for adventure with vibrant illustrations and imaginative rhyming text to discover how exciting a pirate s life can be!

My Thoughts:
This book was cute, but it's really for younger readers. Squirrel finds a map to buried treasure - nuts, of course. The reader is repeatedly reminded that X marks the spot, which seemed a little unnecessary for an older reader. It just didn't appeal to me as much at this stage, with my son being almost 6.

The illustrations were fun. But the rhyming was a little forced and difficult to read at times. The message at the end, about acorns growing into trees when they're buried, was a little random, but nice and educational.

This book didn't really stand out as one I would want to own or even recommend. That being said if you have younger children (2-4 years old), and your library has a copy, it's worth a read.

My Rating: 3 stars

I'm linking up with Booking Mama today for Kid Konnection. Every Saturday Julie hosts this link up for all things relating to children's books.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Book Review: Hello? (YA)

Hello? by Liza M. Wiemer

Goodreads Summary:
One HELLO can change a life. One HELLO can save a life.

Tricia: A girl struggling to find her way after her beloved grandma's death.
Emerson: A guy who lives his life to fulfill promises, real and hypothetical.
Angie: A girl with secrets she can only express through poetry.
Brenda: An actress and screenplay writer afraid to confront her past.
Brian: A potter who sets aside his life for Tricia, to the detriment of both.

Linked and transformed by one phone call, Hello? weaves together these five Wisconsin teens' stories into a compelling narrative of friendship and family, loss and love, heartbreak and healing, serendipity, and ultimately hope.

Told from all five viewpoints: narration (Tricia), narration (Emerson), free verse poetry (Angie), screenplay format (Brenda), narration and drawings (Brian).

My Review: 
This book sucked me in from the first chapter. Tricia is suffering after her grandmother's death 5 months earlier. She can't seem to find her way out of her depression, and when her childhood best friend turned boyfriend finally breaks up with her, she's ready to commit suicide. She makes a last ditch attempt to get a sign from her grandmother (who promised to always watch over her) and calls her grandmother's old phone number. Emerson answers. He's struggling too. They make promises to each other: one is Emerson will change his phone number tomorrow. If they're meant to meet, they will.

The story continues from there with different points of view: Tricia, Emerson, Brian (Tricia's ex-boyfriend), Angie's (Emerson's girlfriend), and Brenda (Angie's best friend and Brian's cousin). Angie's chapters are written in poetry, and Brenda's are written as plays - those were my favorite.

Each teen is facing some heavy stuff - almost too much at times. But the themes of honesty, young love, and family run deep throughout all of the story lines. I especially loved the honest truth about love and sex as told through Tricia and Brian's relationship. And I really enjoyed how Brenda's emotions were written as notes to the actors in her "script" chapters.

This book is very creative and very powerful. My only other complaint is that it was a little too silly and high school-y for me at times. But I suppose even that was realistic.

I really enjoyed this book. I didn't realize it took place in Door County, WI - one of our favorite vacation spots! That was extra fun for me.

My Rating: 4 stars
Understand my ratings.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Joy in the Moment: First Day of Spring Hike

I am listening to All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood right now. I'll review the book next week, but it's an interesting commentary on the effects of children on parents. The book has me thinking about what I enjoy about being a mother. I think it boils down to four things:

  1. Experience a love more intense than I ever thought possible.
  2. Seeing nature vs. nurture in work. Learning about myself and what traits I have that are inherent and what I may have learned from my parents or the environment in which I grew up.
  3. Seeing my son learn things about the world. How it works. His place in it.
  4. Watching the joy my son feels when he experiences something - new or old. Nothing makes me that happy anymore, not even a good book.

Jim and Christopher hiking along Oak Creek.

Sunday was the first day of spring, the sun was shining, and we as a family decided to spend some time outside doing one of the things we love: hiking! After a little debate we decided to head to Grant Park in South Milwaukee, a park that Jim spent a lot of time in when he was a child.

When we arrived at the park, Jim parked on the road along side Oak Creek instead of parking at one of the trail heads that we've hiked many times before. We found a path along the creek and just started to explore. Right away we found an old stone wall that jutted out into the creek, and Christopher was overjoyed. He and I walked to the end and back. Nothing fancy. But it made him so happy!

Christopher and me walking on an old stone wall.

When we got back to the dirt path, Christopher took off. He's always the leader when we're hiking. He doesn't want to stop and observe nature, much to Jim's dismay. He just wants to explore! To go to new places, make decisions about which path to take, and to climb to new heights.

This particular path allowed us to go up and down many hills. We even ventured off the path at one point and climbed a really steep slope that landed us near the golf course. We then commenced a 10 minute search for lost golf balls. We found white ones, yellow ones, and even a pink one! Christopher stuffed his pockets with balls and refused to leave them behind. He valued keeping those balls safe in his sweatshirt pockets even higher than trying not to fall as we inevitably had to navigate our way back down that crazy steep slope. (Luckily, I was there to hold his arm and keep him from tumbling down the hill.)

Christopher with his golf balls.

Those balls came home with us. All 14 of them. That's joy, people. And for a small period of time, I experienced it too. Just by watching Christopher experience it. For that 1.5 hours, it didn't matter than Jim was mad at me over a fight we'd had the night before or that I had a million things I needed to get done that day. We were in the woods, in the sunshine, experiencing nature as a family.

Pure joy.

Hello, spring. I'm so glad you're back.

What do you like about being a parent? How do you experience joy? Did you do anything special to welcome spring?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: The Edge of Lost

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris

Goodreads Summary:
On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

My Review:
This book was not at all what I was expecting based on the description. I was so excited to learn about civilians living on Alcatraz. I didn't even know that happened until reading about this book. Unfortunately, McMorris' tale is really a slow narrative about Shan Keagan, an Irish boy who immigrates to the U.S. in 1919. His uncle dies on the boat over, so he's taken in by an Italian family while he searches for his birth father.

The story follows Shan over the next 20 years, but he doesn't end up in prison on Alcatraz until the last quarter of the book. And the portion of the plot involving the young girl is very brief. I was disappointed. This isn't a bad book. It's just not at all what I was hoping to read.

Based on the description I also thought the story might be told in alternating time periods or by using flashbacks, but other than a short prologue, the story is laid out linearly. Based on the author's note, she seems to have set out to tell a story about Alcatraz, so a different approach may have better suited that goal.

I enjoyed some elements of the story, but overall I found it to be too slow and too descriptive. I would classify this book as literary fiction, as well as historical fiction, and I don't particularly care for overly detailed prose.

My Rating: 3 stars
Understand my ratings.

This book is a She Reads Book Club – Books of Winter selection. Read reviews from other members of their blogger network on their website.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #17: Great Books I Haven't Mentioned Lately

This week's topic was a little tricky. I haven't been blogging that long, and my read list on Goodreads isn't that long. I feel like I talk about my favorite books A LOT here. I tried to dig deep and come up with 10 books I haven't mentioned in a while or at least ones that aren't getting a lot of coverage across the blogosphere. So without further ado...

10 great books that need a little love

Young Adult Fiction

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

This is a heartwarming story about a boy with mild autism who's trying to fit in. His father makes him get a job over the summer, and he finally makes friends. My sister told me about it, and I loved it.

Irises by Francisco X. Stork

Same author as above, another recommendation from my sister. This is a book about sisters - one of my auto-read topics - who are left to care for their mother when their father dies. Their mother has been in a persistent vegetative state for many years. It's intense, but so good.

The Testing (series) by Joelle Charbonneau

I've been kind of in a dystopian slump lately - I've had Glass Sword for 3 weeks, and I just can't get into it. One of the last dystopian series I binged on was The Testing. I read it at the end of 2014, and I devoured the books in a matter of weeks. They're really good. Worth reading for sure.

The Naturals (series) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

I love this series! Five teens with super power like abilities help the FBI solve cold cases, and yet they somehow always also get pulled into a high stakes active case. Barnes' writing is almost unfairly good because she's a psychology professor who studies the affect stories have on people. I don't even care that she's manipulating me as a reader; her books are like crack. Each book in this series has been better than the last. I cannot wait for the conclusion in book 4.

Adult Fiction

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I talk a lot about how much I love Big Little Lies, but I actually read and loved What Alice Forgot first. Moriarty's writing draws me right in. Her characters are well developed, and her plots are riveting. This book is no exception. The story really makes you think.

The Rosie Project (series) by Graeme Simsion

I haven't heard much buzz about this book lately even though it's being developed into a movie. Don Tillman cracks me up! I listened to this book, and the antics of his meticulous nature and his approach to finding a wife is so enjoyable to read. I was very disappointed with the sequel, but it didn't taint my views of the first book. If you can listen to it on audio, do. It's delightful.

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

I really loved this book. Brett's mother's will states that she must complete a list of her childhood goals. I enjoyed going on this journey with Brett and watching her grow and rediscover the things that brought her joy.

This book centers around another one of my auto-read topics, a child in distress. But what makes this book so amazing is how it's written - from the perspective of Max's imaginary friend, Budo. It reminded me of the movie Drop Dead Fred which I loved growing up. This book deals with some heavy stuff, but the writing blew me away. And it's a short read.


The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

This book changed my life and inspired me to start my YA book club. I love when books make me examine my own life and make changes. I read this book at the right time, April 2014 - I felt like I'd lost myself in motherhood. This book helped me find my way back to being Kate.

Yell Less, Love More by Sheila McCraith

I've been following Sheila's Orange Rhino blog for several years. I am a mommy with a temper, and I yell way more than I'd like. I've gotten better since reading this book. I've come to realize that yelling is something I need to control vs. something that my son deserves because of his behavior. This book is a practical 30 day guide to yelling less, becoming more self aware, and loving your children more. 

What are some of your lesser known favorites? What books don't you talk about enough?

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Book Review: Time Between Us (YA)

Time Between Us (Time Between Us #1) by Tamara Ireland Stone

Goodreads Summary:
Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.

As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.

Fresh, exciting, and deeply romantic, Time Between Us is a stunning, spellbinding debut from an extraordinary new voice in YA fiction.

My Review:
This is a really cute time travel story. Anna is living in 1995. She's 16 years old, she's a cross country runner, and she's dreams of traveling the world. One morning she sees a strange boy watching her run. He's there one minute and gone the next, leaving no footprints in the snow. Later that same day he turns up at her school, the new kid from California. She's strangely drawn to him, and he seems to know her name, but he denies seeing her on the track.

One evening he rescues her from a robbery at her family's bookstore. He teleports her to safety, and he has to tell her his secrets. Bennett can travel through time and space. He's from San Francisco in 2012, and he's in Evanston in 1995 looking for his sister who went missing after a time travel excursion went awry.

I really enjoyed this contemporary romance. The added elements of time travel gave it enough plot to hold my interest. The characters were really adorable, and the unusual situation they were stuck in gave them some struggles that made the story more interesting. I reserved the sequel immediately after finishing this book. I can't wait to see where Stone takes this story.

My Rating: 4 stars
Understand my ratings.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Thoughts on a Classic: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Goodreads Summary:
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior—to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

I read Go Set a Watchman back in August without remembering anything about the original book. I really enjoyed Go Set a Watchman, but it seemed that so many people disliked it. I decided that I needed to go back and read Mockingbird to see what all the fuss was about.

My Thoughts:
I'm sorry. I have to say it. I just don't really get why this book is such a classic. Similar to Little House on the Prairie, it's a slow chronicle of life in the South in the 1930s. I found the trial interesting, and, yes, Atticus was a great father and a good man for the time, although he is not without his faults. I enjoyed the ending, but I guess maybe coming-of-age type stories aren't really for me. I'm not a fan of classic literature, and sadly this book was not an exception.

I found Jem to be an exceptional older brother. And Harper Lee brought tears to my eyes several times as Scout learned some hard truths of the world, but I really felt that it was Jem and Dill who were experiencing the truth much more vividly than Jean Louise was. I could relate to their cruelty with regards to Boo Radley, and despite that I rejoiced in his appearance at the end of the book.

However, for most of the book I was a little bored and wondering what everyone finds so wonderful about this story. Please feel free to enlighten in the comments.

My Rating: 3 stars
Understand my ratings.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Kid Lit: Harry and Walter

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Harry and Walter by Kathy Stinson

Published on March 15, 2016

Goodreads Summary:
Harry may be four and three-quarters and Walter may be ninety-two and a half, but that doesn’t stop them from being best friends. Harry loves to go next door to play games with Walter and draw pictures together. And when the snow falls, Walter clears a path to Harry’s house so that they can visit every day.

But one day, a For Sale sign appears on Harry’s lawn. Harry is devastated that he and Walter will no longer be neighbors. Harry’s new house is bigger and better than his old one, but without Walter to share things with, nothing seems to be much fun…until one day, Harry hears a familiar voice. Walter, too, has moved--to a nearby seniors’ residence. Now, Harry and Walter can still be best friends.

My Thoughts:
This book is so cute! Harry and Walter are next door neighbors. Harry is 4.5 years old, and Walter is 92.5 years old. They do everything together: ride their tractors, build snowmen, play games, etc. They are the best of friends. Until Harry's family moves away. They are both devastated until one day, Walter finds Harry because of the paper birds he's flying down from his tree house. Walter now lives nearby in a senior apartment complex. They discover that while people move, not everything changes. They're still best friends.

I really enjoyed this unique friendship story. In our society, the older generation is often forgotten. This book shows how the young and the old can bridge that gap and be friends. It's so sweet. Walter teaches Harry things in a gentle, encouraging way. Harry allows Walter to enjoy the fun of being a child again.

The illustrations are whimsical, and there is a good amount of text on each page. This book is a good read for kids ages 3-7. Goodreads suggests reading with a grandparent, but I think this is a fun read for anyone to read with a child.

My Rating: 4 Stars

I'm linking up with Booking Mama today for Kid Konnection. Every Saturday Julie hosts this link up for all things relating to children's books.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Book Description Auto-Read Words

Back in January Sheila @ The Deliberate Reader wrote about Book Description Kryptonite. It's when something is mentioned in the description of a book that makes you not want to read the book. I commented right away about some of my own Kryptonite: WWII and covers with shirtless men (OK, I know that's not the description, but for books like that I don't even get to the description).

Just, no. I don't even need to read the description 
to know that this book is not for me.

But seriously, that post got me thinking about book descriptions. What are my "auto-read" keywords?The words in a book description that make me immediately want to read a book. Those are a little easier for me to identify. I'll have to keep thinking about the words and topics that turn me off.

My Book Description Auto-Read Words

1. Twins / Sisters

Because I'm a twin, I cannot resist reading a book about twins. I have to see if the author got it "right". In the absence of twins, I am a sucker for books about sisters.

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

Beside Myself is a literary thriller about identical twins, Ellie and Helen, who swap places aged six.

I don't need to read any more. I was hooked at "identical twins" and switching places is an added bonus.

The Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross

Clementine Lord is not an orphan. She just feels like one sometimes. One of triplets, a quirk of nature left her the odd one out. Odette and Olivia are identical; Clementine is a singleton. 

Yup. Gotta read it.

The Art of Seeing by Cammie McGovern

As a child, the flamboyant, brooding, and beautiful Rozzie was always the star of her family -- especially in her younger sister Jemma's eyes. So when Rozzie takes up acting and, as a teenager, wins a part in a major motion picture, life changes irrevocably for both sisters. 

No twins in this one, but I love a good drama with sisters.

2. Coping with Death

Why I am draw to this type of book? It's kind of disturbing, but I really enjoy reading about people dealing with heavy emotions, and the loss of a loved one is a popular topic in fiction right now. I cannot resist these types of books.

There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos

Mark knows grief. Ever since the accident that killed his twin sister, Grace, the only time he feels at peace is when he visits the bridge on which she died.

This book has twins and death. It went on my TBR list immediately.

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

After the sudden loss of her husband in a car crash, Libby Moran falls on hard times-so hard, in fact, that she's forced to move in with her hyper-critical mother. 

I enjoy reading about characters that triumph over tragic situations, so I think that's what appeals to me about this book. The main character will be starting at rock bottom, and hopefully the only way to go is up.

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

I just heard about this book at my niece's literacy night, and when I heard it described as a book about a teenager dying in a car accident, I knew I had to read it. When the description revealed how much it focuses on the mother, I wanted to read it even more.

Jude does everything to keep her kids safe and on track for college. It has always been easy--until senior year of high school. Suddenly she is at a loss. Nothing feels safe anymore; 

3. Missing Children / Intense Child-Related Stories

So related to Night Road...I like stories about children in awful situations: missing children, sick children, kidnapped children. As I mother I shouldn't enjoy these stories. They should make me worry for my own son, but they don't. I think I like reading about the love parents have for their children, and the lengths they will go to make sure their children are alright or the hard choices you sometimes have to make as a parent.

I Couldn't Love You More by Jillian Medoff

Which child would you save? A decision no parent can even fathom.

This mother has to choose between saving her biological child and her two step-daughters. I was hooked from that first line of the description.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
10:03 a.m.
The auditorium doors won't open.
10:05 a.m.
Someone starts shooting.

School shooting. Yes, please. I'm sick. I know.

Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt

Estelle Paradise wakes up in a hospital after being found near dead at the bottom of a ravine with a fragmented memory and a vague sense of loss. Then a terrifying reality sets in: her daughter is missing.

I just need to read this book. How have I not gotten to it yet? All of these books are going on my MUST READ list for 2016.

There are some other topics I could have selected, so maybe I'll do a second post like this in the future. If you want to read more about this topic, Lauren @ Bookmark Lit has a great series called read-bait.

What are your book description auto-read words or phrases? Do you have any recommendations for me based on mine?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Book Review: Weird Girl and What's His Name (YA)

Weird Girl and What's His Name by Megan Brothers

Goodreads Summary:
In the podunk town of Hawthorne, North Carolina, high school geeks Lula and Rory share everything—sci-fi and fantasy fandom, an obsession with old X-Files episodes, and that feeling that they’ll never quite fit in. Lula and Rory have no secrets from each other; after all, she knows he’s gay, and he understands why she worships the mother that walked out on her. But then Lula discovers that Rory has not only tried out for the football team, but has been having an affair with his middle-aged divorcee boss. With their friendship disrupted, Lula begins to question her very identity, and when she disappears in the middle of the night, Rory is left to survive on his own.

My Review:
I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it. It takes place in 2008 surrounding the release of the second X-Files movie. (How did I never hear about this movie?) Rory and Lula have been best friends for a long time, and they share a deep love for The X-Files. They watch an episode every Friday night and are even writing a blog with reviews for the full series. There are A LOT of X-Files references in this book. I watched the show occasionally in high school, so I had some context for their discussions. I'm not sure how I would have felt about this book if I did know who Mulder and Scully were.

Speaking of the FBI agents with the most platonic relationship ever, Rory and Lula's relationship is a great parallel to the TV series. Kudos to Brothers on the "re-telling" nature of this story. But this book is about more than developing feelings for someone you could never have. It's about a young girl's quest to understand where she came from and determine her identity...and her sexual preference.

I wanted to like this book, but there were a couple of things I couldn't get past. The narrator of the book switches half way through from Rory to Lula, and that change made it extremely disjointed for me. Also, some of the drama was just too manufactured. I didn't believe Rory would react the way he did to Lula's disappearance. It felt like I was reading three different stories that were mashed together into one novel: (1) Rory and Lula's friendship, Rory's secrets, and what they did to their relationship, (2) Lula's search for her mother and, ultimately, herself, and (3) a completely unexpected and somewhat forced romance thrown in at the end.

That said, I did enjoy the writing, especially when it was in Rory's voice. I will keep an eye out for Brothers' next book, and I may pick up one of her other titles in the mean time.

My Rating: 3 stars
Understand my ratings.