Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #25: Beach Reads

For me, beach reads should be light and fun. Nothing too serious. Nothing too long. They fall into two categories: heart warming love stories or tales of sisterhood/friendship. And if they take place in summer, all the better.

Good Beach-y Love Stories

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord (another 5 star review)

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (also 5 stars)

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (5 stars for this one as well)

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (last 5 star review, promise)

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
(This book could also fall into this second category.)

Girl Bonding Stories to Read on the Beach

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue (my 4 star review)

Paper Towns by John Green

What books do you like to read on the beach?

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

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Wanderlove (YA)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Book Review: Pivot Point (YA)

Goodreads Summary:
Knowing the outcome doesn't always make a choice easier... 

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through... and who she can’t live without.

My Review:
I liked this book. It's a parallel universe type story, but it take places in a paranormal world. Addie lives inside the Compound, a secluded town that's hidden inside the projection of a mountain. The people who live inside the Compound have evolved to have enhanced mind powers, telekinesis, persuasion, lie detecting, clairvoyance, etc. The rest of the world doesn't know of their existence.

Addie has the ability to Search her future. She can see the result of both paths before making a decision. So when her parents tell her they're getting a divorce and that her father is leaving the Compound, she Searches to see which parent she should live with. The book splits there with alternating chapters between Addie staying with her mom in the Compound and Addie moving to Dallas with her dad.

Both paths hold some similar experiences for Addie and some overlaps. The plot takes some twists and turns that I definitely wasn't expecting. Unlike Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reed, I struggled a little with keeping the plots straight for the two paths sometimes and remembering which Addie I was reading about - because so many of the characters overlapped.

I liked Addie, but I really didn't like many of the supporting characters, except Trevor. He was so adorable! Definite book boyfriend material there. Addie's mom was kind of MIA, but her dad was pretty cool. Ultimately, I enjoyed this book enough to want to read the sequel (which I've already reserved from the library), but it won't be one I revisit.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

I read this book as part of my new author challenge. I enjoyed Kasie's writing, but she's not a favorite author, not yet at least. I still plan to read The Distance between Us because I already got it from the library and Split Second (Pivot Point #2) because you know I can't resist a sequel.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Juvenile Pile: Owls, Nightmares, and Scooby Doo

Due to an extremely excessive number of babysitters last weekend (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), I didn't do as much reading with Christopher this week. But we did manage to get some books in on Tuesday and Thursday before I wanted to write this post.

I had made Christopher pick out a bunch of easy reader books when we went to the library a couple of weeks ago. I was in the new release section while he made his selections, so I didn't realize he'd gotten so many level 1 books. He was picking based on title and cover I'm sure and not paying attention to the reading level. I'll have to be more specific next time.

Uh-Oh Max is the rare Level 1 easy reader that is actually easy to read. It was way too simple for Christopher, and I should have made him select a second book, but I was anxious to get to my own reading (horrible, I know), so I let it slide.

I would recommend this book to parents with early readers, especially those that love cars/trucks. Max is silly. He loves jumping off of things, and he gets stuck under a bridge. One by one, other vehicles help him get unstuck. The writing is repetitive, which is perfect for a new reader. And of course as soon as he's free, he does another crazy stunt and gets himself stuck again. It was a fun read. 3 stars

Thursday night, Christopher selected Daniel Tiger Visits the Library, another library selection. I thought it was a Level 1 book as well, but it's actually Pre-Level 1, which I hope means parents are supposed to read it to their children because this one was a little trickier.

I really liked this book because in addition to being colorful and fairly easy to read, it has a positive message. We watched the TV show a few times when Christopher was younger, and we recognized the rhyme (song) - about calming down. I need to use it in real life because Christopher often gets over excited or upset still.

Completely unplanned, we ended up with an owl theme on Thursday night.

Hoot and Peep and Daniel Tiger Visits the Library

The reader for story time at the library in Daniel Tiger was an owl, and the main characters in our other book that night were also owls

Another selection from the new release shelf was Hoot and Peep. It was a super sweet story about an older brother trying to show his little sister how to be an owl. The little sister has her own ideas though, and in the end, the older brother learns from her.

Christopher and I both loved this one. The drawings we adorable! Some pages were a normal spread, like the one pictured above, but others were broken down into more frames in a comic book style. The text was simple, but I loved how the author got you inside of the heads of both characters. POV is kind of rare in picture books. I thought that was so cool. 4 stars

The Dream Jar wasn't the best book for Christopher because he doesn't have many nightmares. In it a little girl has them very often. She shares a room with her sister, and usually her sister is able to save her from the nightmares. One night she shares a secret - dreams aren't real, and you can change them if you want to. She teaches the main character how to transform scary sea monsters into something funny. That alone was a fun plot line.

But then, the sister goes to a sleepover, and the little girl has to sleep all alone. Her sister surprises her with The Dream Jar. I won't give it away, but if you have a reluctant sleeper, you might want to check this book out. We may end up making our own dream jar. There is a lot of text in this book, so it's probably better suited for ages 4 and up. 4 stars

Tuesday night, despite my protests, we read Scooby-Doo and Aliens, Too! It was fine for a Scooby-Doo book. They're always so weird. And I really don't enjoy reading Scooby's voice. The things we do for love! :)

Christopher had already flipped through this book, so he'd figured out the plot without reading the words. He had it mostly right, and of course he told me what he thought was going to happen. It was a crazy tale of secret identities and danger. Your typical Scooby-Doo pretty much. It's worth reading if you have a Scooby-Doo fan in your house. 3 stars

What did your kids make you read this week? What are they reading on their own?

On the blog last year...

Lisa Wheeler's Dino book - a winning combination for preschool boys

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Kid Lit: Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep

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

Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep by Darcy Pattison

To be published on June 1, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
A ROWDY HEART NEEDS A PAPPY'S SONG - A GREAT FATHER-DAUGHTER BOOK Captain Whitney Black McKee is a rowdy pirate! After traveling the seven seas and fighting sea monsters, it's time to come back to homeport for a rest. But the Captain's sleep has gone all awry. She cannot find sleep. Sleepless. What's a rowdy captain to do? She sends her crew a'thievin' for a simple lullaby. But the rowdy heart doesn't always know what it wants or needs. She won't find rest, until her own dear Pappy arrives.

My Thoughts:
This picture book had wonderful illustrations. They had almost a kid-drawn paper doll type feel to them. And the color palette is all purples and blues - water and Earth tones. I liked the pictures a lot. The words didn't appeal to me quite as much. The rhymes were a little hard to read, especially since I don't have a good pirate voice. Ha.

The story is about Rowdy, a female pirate captain who is desperate for sleep after many days at see. Each member of the crew tries his hand at stealing a song to help put her to sleep - a music box, a conch shell, etc. But all are unsuccessful. Finally, she spies her father. He comes aboard and sings a lullaby that puts her to sleep right away.

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.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Orphan Train

Friday, May 27, 2016

Most anticipated books from BEA

I didn't know what books I would find at BEA. I honestly didn't know how to prepare, so I didn't really. The only book I'd heard would be there that I didn't even dare to hope I'd get was Heartless by Marissa Meyer. (I didn't get it.)

I had been warned to take only the books I thought I'd actually read, so that was my only plan. I listened to a lot of authors speak about their books. I talked to some publishers about their books. And I read the descriptions of a bunch more books - on the galleys themselves and on Goodreads.

Of all the books I came home with and all of the other books on display at BEA, here are the ones I am most excited to read. Some of this picks may surprise you. It certainly surprises me.

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

When I first heard Aaron introduced on a panel, the moderator said something about spontaneous combustion. I thought it was a joke. Nope. In this book, seniors in high school do spontaneously combust one at a time, and the other students (and the FBI, etc.) are trying to figure out why. It sounds ridiculous, but the way Aaron talked about the characters and how he got the idea made me really want to read this book.

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

This book does not fit within my usual genres, even within YA. I am so glad I heard Kerri talk about her book. It sounds amazing! The main character is a young woman staying true to herself in a time when women weren't supposed to have careers or even really venture out of their houses alone. She wrote this book for her grandmother, who loves whodunits.

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

I enjoyed All the Bright Places, so I was excited to see Jennifer's new book at BEA. I was most intrigued by the character that has facial blindness. He cannot recognize people's faces, even those he loves, and he tries to keep it a secret at school. So interesting!

Release Date: October 4, 2016

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I will be reading Everything, Everything in June for my family book club, and I have heard all good things, so I had to snag Nicola's newest book. I didn't hear anything about it yet (and I honestly haven't even read the Goodreads description), but the cover is beautiful.

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Gayle's YA novels have been OK reads for me, but the description of this book is just so intriguing! What mother hasn't daydreamed about running away from her family? (Or is it just me?) I also love when authors cross over age groups. Hearing Gayle talk about this book made me more excited to read it, and I luckily happened upon her in-booth signing and there was room in the line, so I went for it.

Release Date: September 6, 2016

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Thankfully, I heard Brit talk about her book before I saw this cover because I kind of hate it. You know I love a good grief book, and Brit's goal with this book was to show how grief can affect you even over time. Also, her comments about diversity and how she drew from her own experience from growing up in Southern California made me really want to read her book.

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I have been reading Jodi's books since I was in high school I think. I can't believe I didn't know she had a new book coming out. I was so excited to see her on the signing schedule. This book sounds so interesting. It's about racism - a white supremacist couple sues a black nurse for attending to their newborn when they specifically said they didn't want any black medical professionals to touch their baby. Wow, right?

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives by Gary Younge

Non-fiction is another rare genre for me, but this book sounds SO interesting. Gary, a British black plan, wanted to write about gun violence in America. He chose a date that worked in his schedule and came to America to research the deaths of children due to gun violence on that day. He talked to the families and told their stories.

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Delhi Stopover by Tulika Mehrotra

Tulika's books were not on display at BEA. I met her on the shuttle bus back to my hotel. She and I had a great conversation about husbands, children, writing, and Chicago. She casually mentioned her books, and I knew I had to read them. She writes women's lit that takes place in India. She commented that American's think of India as a 3rd world country or a call center, and she wanted to tell the truth of Indian life. She was born in India, but she grew up in Chicago.

This book was published by Penguin in 2012. Her second book, Crashing B-Town, was published in 2013. Dehli Stopover focused on the Indian fashion industry. Crashing B-Town is about Bollywood.

The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

Another cross over age group book! I've read some of Jennifer's adult books, so I'm excited to read her first middle grade book. The story sounds really cute, and I love the cover!

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Your Very Own Robot by R.A. Montgomery

I mentioned in my BEA recap that I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was little. I hunted down their booth and chatted up one of the publishers on the first day because I was so excited to see them in the BEA exhibitor list.

This book was originally published in 1982, but it got this nice makeover in 2011.

The Cookie Fiasco (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #1) by Dan Santat

This book was edited by Mo Willems, and it has the Elephant & Piggie stamp of approval. Plus it's about fractions, so what's not to love!

Release Date: September 20, 2016

We Are Growing (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #2) by Laurie Keller

See above. Can't wait to read it!

Release Date: September 20, 2016

I'll Wait Mr Panda by Steve Anthony

Please, Mr. Panda was a hit in our house last year. I didn't know Steve had another panda book coming out, so I was pretty thrilled to see this one in the Scholastic booth.

Release Date: October 25, 2016

What Were You Thinking? by Bryan Smith

Boys Town Press had a ton of instructional story books in their booth that appealed to me as a parent. They were not giving away books or galleys at BEA, but I gave them my card. I was so excited to get an email from them this week offering me a review copy of this book. I'm anxiously awaiting it's arrival because I know it will be a good read for Christopher. He's made some less than great choices recently.

This book was published in February.

Do Princesses and Super Heroes Hit the Trails? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

I may or may not have been stalking the Rowman & Littlefield / Muddy Boots booth at the end of the day Friday hoping that they might give me the display copy of this book instead of packing it up. They didn't. But I also didn't ask. Regardless, this story (and honestly all of their kids books) looks so cute. I need to track down a copy somehow.

Release Date: September 1, 2016

Are any of these books on your TBR list?

On the blog last year...

Family Vacations: A Balancing Act

Thursday, May 26, 2016

My son has never known summer

Christopher has been in daycare since he was 11 weeks old, and I went back to work full time. I never even considered staying home with him. I knew I couldn't handle it. I like working, and I need adult interaction. But he has been in daycare/school full time all year round for almost 6 years. He doesn't even know what summer vacation is!

Since he's in kindergarten this year, and summer means a break from traditional school, I really didn't want to stick him into full time daycare for the summer. Because even though they take field trips once or twice a week, daycare is still a school-like environment. It's inside a classroom for most of the day, with tables and chairs. With coloring sheets. With rainbow carpets and bookshelves.

Halloween Party at daycare 2014.

I wanted him to have a break from learning. A break from structure. A break from any sort of instruction. We'll still read over the summer, but otherwise, he's so far ahead that I think he deserves a rest from academics. I just want him to have fun. To enjoy the outdoors. To experience nature and freedom. And summer! Like I did when I was a kid.

Unfortunately, Jim and I still have to work full time, so I found two entirely recreational options for him. They're not 100% outside, but he will at least be playing all summer long. For most of the summer he'll be going to the day camp at our fitness club. They will play in the gym, do crafts, go on field trips, and go swimming...in the new outdoor pool! (That was the selling point really.)

Then for one week in July he'll go to YMCA day camp, where they will spend the majority of the time outside learning about nature until they go swimming, which is inside because this is WI, and outdoor pools are pretty rare.

I was a crazy mess in March trying to plan Christopher's summer schedule. I was stressing about him getting bored if he spent too many weeks in the same program. I went back and forth about including daycare for some weeks as well, but in the end, I am very happy with my choices. (He'll actually be attending a week of STEM camp at his school in June, so I squeezed a little academics in - but it's science and invention, so it should be super fun.)

Hopefully this summer goes well. I want him to get a nice break before he's back at it in the fall.

Taking school supplies to open house - August 2015.

When do your kids finish school? What will they be doing this summer? 

On the blog last year...

Meal pairings: How I deal with a picky eater

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: You Know Me Well (YA)

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

You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

To be published on June 7, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other -- and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, the award-winning author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

Author Comments from BEA:
I heard David Levithan talk about this book on Thursday, May 12th, after I'd already been approved for the book on NetGalley. He said he really wanted to write a he said, she said book featuring a gay boy and a lesbian girl. He was hoping to have a book that wasn't characterized as a boy book or a girl book, just a queer book. He mentioned that the plot takes place during Pride Week and that the characters help each other through their respective romantic dilemmas.

He also discussed the experience of writing with a partner. He said that when he's writing alone he doesn't push himself as much as a partner, in this case Nina LaCour, pushes him. He also said that when he's writing with someone else, then that person is the person he's writing to instead of writing to a specific audience who may eventually read the book.

I was excited to read this book before seeing David in person. I have read some of his other partner works: Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green and Dash and Lily's Book of Dares with Rachel Cohn, and enjoyed both of them. But I was even more anxious for this book after hearing him speak.

My Review:
Oh my gosh. This book! It is for books like this that I bother reading contemporary YA. So many times they don't work for me, but this book was amazing. The emotions. Wow! So raw.

Mark and Kate meet at a bar on the first night of Pride Week. They are both struggling with something huge. Mark is in love with his best friend, Ryan, and their friends with benefits type relationship is no longer working for him. He is desperate for Ryan to notice him as a boy and not just as a friend. Kate is supposed to finally meet her best friend's cousin, Violet, who she has loved from a distance for a while, but she's scared to take that next step.

I love stories about instant friendship. Mark and Kate are so honest with each other. They can share feelings and thoughts that they cannot share with their other close friends because of their history. Each chapter just kept getting better and better. Some of the scenarios were a little crazy, but I loved getting to know these characters. I was routing for them the whole time, and I was silently cheering them on as I was reading.

The whole book takes place over Pride Week, but Mark and Kate go through some pretty heavy stuff during those 7 days. The story is told in alternating chapters - David Levithan writing as Mark and Nina LaCour writing as Kate. I think I enjoyed Kate's chapters a little more, but I'm not sure if it was Nina's writing or the female POV. All of the writing was pretty fantastic.

I struggled with this rating. I almost went for 5 stars, but there were some things I couldn't completely wrap my head around in the plot. And sometimes there were these weird jumps forward in time followed by some back filling of the details, and it was a little hard to follow. Otherwise, I LOVED this book.

Favorite Quotes:
"I am excited about Taylor. I may want to date Taylor, if everything goes well. But I have known Taylor for a total of about five seconds, while I have known you since the mountains were made and the rivers were formed. I know we're in a weird place right now, but I want you to step out of it and be there for me. Taylor is a boy, and you are my best friend. Taylor is a date, and you are my calendar. Understood?"
I don't want to be a best friend if I can't also be a boy in his eyes. I don't want to be a calendar if I'll never get a date.

Swoon, right?

I know that I've ruined something between us. I know I stopped feeling like Lehna's twin a long time ago, and it's a terrible thing to be the one who walks away.

That one isn't as great out of context, but the emotion. Wow!

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Last year on the blog...

Raising a child with a servant's heart

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #24: Changing Feelings on Books

This topic was really hard for me. I am very opinionated, and I don't often change my mind. I never checked over my work when taking tests in school. Second guessing myself was just not a good idea. My initial instincts were usually right. That sounds conceited, but I don't mean it that way. I just know what I like and my assessment of things right away.

What has changed for me though as I've gotten older, and especially now that I read so many books, is my memory. It sucks! That's a huge part of why I started using Goodreads to keep track of my reading before I started blogging. So I could remember whether I liked a book or not after I read it in case someone asked me about it. Then I realized that the rating wasn't always enough to help me remember why I like or didn't like a book. One of the reasons I started this blog was so that I could write about the books I read, so I'd have the review to help me recall what I thought about the book specifically.

For books that I read before I started using Goodreads, I will mark them as read, but I don't ever add a rating because I know it won't be that accurate. I don't second guess the ratings I've given, but I do know that my recollection of a book is usually more positive than my feelings were while I was actually reading it.

So for today's topic, I am going to share 10 books I read before I started using Goodreads. We can assume that I enjoyed these books somewhat, but perhaps not as much as I remember enjoying them.

Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern

The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

Have you read any of these books? Can you help me recall why I may have liked them? Or maybe why they weren't as good as I might be remembering?

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