Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Review: The Ringmaster's Wife

I received this book for free from HarperCollins Christian Publishing at BEA 2016. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron

Published on June 7, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
What is revealed when you draw back the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.

With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been.

My Review:
I love books about the circus, and this book was no exception. It weaves together the stories of two women who dare to step away from the lives they're intended to live and go after their dreams. Mable Burton leaves her home on a farm in Ohio and heads to Chicago for the worlds fair. There she meets a tall man of few words: the Circus King, John Ringling. Lady Rosamund Easling encounters a circus man as well after driving her car into a river in northern England.

The story spans over 30 years. The beginning is quite Downton Abbey-esque. But the majority of the action takes place at the circus during the late 1920s. There is enough circus drama to satisfy those curious about life on a circus train during that time period. There's some mystery and romance. Really, this book has a little of everything. And it has only undertones of Christianity despite the publishing house it comes out of.

Having been to Sarasota many times, I enjoyed the portions of Mable and John's story that were set there. I think I enjoyed this book more knowing that some of the characters were real. This is a great historical fiction read. My only complaint is that it jumps ahead in time a lot. I wanted more of the story, and especially more Mable. I enjoyed her chapters more than Rose's.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Second Life

Month in Review: June 2015

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #29: Most Recently Acquired Books

This week was a freebie. I've had a lot of book arrive in mail within the last month or so, so I decided to discuss the books I've acquired recently.

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

I won a copy of this book from a giveaway hosted by Pink Polka Dot Books. Michelle's review of the book made it sound so interesting. I don't think I've read anything about selective mutism before.

What Took You So Long: Poems for People in Love by Neville Johnson

This book was sent to me by mistake by the publisher. I was a little confused when I opened it. :)

Choosing the Hero by K. Rita Levinson

This was the correct book, and it arrived from the publisher a few days later. The publisher reached out to me about this book after an interaction on Twitter. I don't read a lot of non-fiction as you know, but I was hooked by this statement in the summary, "But most of all, it is Riva Levinson’s personal story of how she found a hero, fought for a worthy cause, and in the process, discovered her soul." It reminded me of how I feel about Bernie Sanders, so I knew I had to read it.

Come Away with Me by Karma Brown

I won a copy of this book from Bookmark Lit back in September 2015, but there were some issues with the delivery, so I finally got my copy this month.

Where We Fall by Rochelle B. Weinstein

I also won this book from Bookmark Lit last month. Lauren reviews mostly YA books, so she must not have many adult book readers. I've won three adult fiction books from her giveaways.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This book is one of the SheReads summer selections, so I got a copy from the publisher. I keep seeing and hearing about this book, so I think I made a good choice.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

This was the first unsolicited book I've received from a publisher. I'm guessing it's because I was on the list from having received No One Knows a few months ago as a SheReads spring selection.

Shout: A Loud and Lively Book Showcasing the Talents, Thoughts, Ideas and Voices of Kids Who Are Differently Able by Pat Loewi

I bought this book after reading about Pat's experience and mission on the Nerdy Book Club.

Boy, 9, Missing by Nic Joseph

I was approved to read this book on NetGalley. It comes out September 1st.

From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life by Melissa Shultz

What books have come your way recently? Anything good?

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Eligible

Eligible (The Austen Project #4) by Curtis Sittenfeld

Goodreads Summary:
A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice

This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .

And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

My Review:
Yes! This book is exactly what I was hoping for when I first heard about The Austen Project. I'm not sure I ever read the description for this book because I knew I wanted to read a modernization of Pride and Prejudice. Curtis Sittenfeld is a genius! I almost don't want to say anything about this book because they details and the way she was able to modernize the plot completely blew me away. I could not put this book down, and I stayed up way to late reading two nights in a row. I know the plot of Austen's original story so well, but this book kept me guessing, and it was just surprise after surprise with how she stayed true to the original and updated everything at the same time.

One major character is split into two people, but it really worked for me. For the most part, Curtis was spot on with the characters, but I was a little disappointed with her portrayal of Liz. I think she was generous with Darcy, but Liz was a little weaker than she aught to have been. That being said, it was absolutely delightful to get some of her thoughts and feelings as the relationship with Darcy develops. The book is written in third person, but from Liz's POV. Since I am mostly a fan of the Keira Knightley movie, having only read the original book once or twice, it was a nice change to get some insider information on the romance.

If you're a fan of Pride and Prejudice, I think this book is a must read!

My Rating: 5 Stars
Understand my ratings.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (YA)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bedtime Duties

Christopher and I didn't read enough books this week for me to write a Juvenile Pile post for 2 reasons.
  1. We're continuing with The BFG and Little Shaq Takes a Chance.
  2. I only put him to be 2 nights this week because we had a babysitter and because of how Jim and I split bedtime duties.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain our system. It took us many years to settle on it, but I think it works really well for us.

When Christopher was much younger we didn't really have a system at all. We had a bedtime routine of course, but we didn't have a system for figuring out who would put him to be when. I honestly can't remember much before we moved in 2012. So we'll start there.

When we first moved, we tried all being involved in bedtime if Jim and I were both home. But we quickly learned that Christopher would try to play us off of each other (even at 2 years old), so we decided to alternate nights for bedtime. This every other night deal lasted for a couple of years, but it was complicated. If I had plans on Wednesday, and Jim had already done bedtime the night before, then we'd try to swap nights. We couldn't assign bath night as certain days of the week because then what if someone was always giving him a bath. We have a serious obsession with fairness and equal parenting in our house.

So, finally sometime when Christopher was 4 I think, I came up with the brilliant idea of assigning specific days of the week to each of us. I think the only reason we didn't do this sooner was that there is an uneven number of days in the week. To be magnanimous, I said I'd do the extra day as long as I never had to handle bedtime on Sunday nights. I am super cranky on Sundays after weekends without alone time. My introverted head rears something fierce on Sunday nights. 

We decided that Jim would do bedtime on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I would take Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Jim plays video games with friends online on Monday nights, and he often goes out on Thursday nights. I have book club meetings on Wednesdays (and at the time I also had girls nights on Tuesdays once a month). From then on it was super easy for us to make plans with our friends because we always knew which nights we were free. Genius, right?! 

The only trading came into play when one of us was out of town. If we got a babysitter, then that person just didn't have to handle bedtime that night - no trading to make up for it like we'd done before. Another reason I didn't mind Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is that we usually have babysitters on those nights because of monthly game nights or date nights on the weekend.

A few months ago we switched Mondays and Tuesdays because Jim wanted to start going to a weekly game night with some new friends, but since my girls nights haven't been happening, it worked out fine. He is able to put Christopher to bed before he plays online with his friends.

Because we only have one child, this schedule works well for us. I know our friends with two children usually both do bedtime duty and each take one kid. 

Anyway, all this to say because we had a babysitter on Tuesday night this week, I didn't read with Christopher until Thursday night (after I wrote this post).

How do you handle bedtime? Do you still have a long bedtime routine? Do you love or hate putting your kids to bed?

On the blog last year...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Kid Lit: Too Many Moose

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

Too Many Moose by Lisa Bakos

To be published on July 5, 2016

Goodreads Summary:
Everyone Needs At Least One More Moose
When Martha decided she must have a pet,
she marveled and mulled over what she should get.
But much of the choices made Martha quite glum…
instead of magnificent, most were humdrum.
And just as it seemed like it might be no use…
she made up her mind that she must have one...

When Martha gets an unusual pet, she's delighted by all of the fun things they do together. If one moose is this marvelous, then more moose must be even better! Pretty soon, Martha has more moose than she can handle in this playful pet story. 

My Thoughts:
This book is adorable. It's completely ridiculous, nonsensical, and fun. Martha uses a catalog to determine what pet she should get, and she chooses a moose. When it comes, they do all kinds of crazy things together, and she loves it. So she orders 3 more moose. It's even more fun, so she orders more and more. You get the idea. Then it's too much, so she sends all but one back.

The story is told in rhymes, so this book would make an excellent read aloud. The illustrations are fun and whimsical with many scenes on most pages. It's a bit long, so it would work better for ages 3 and up, but it's a really fun read as long as you don't mind pointless books.

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.

On the blog last year...

Movies I plan to see this summer

Friday, June 24, 2016

Book Review: The Best Worst Thing (MG)

I received this book for free from LB Kids at BEA 2016. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane

Published on June 7, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
A simply told, deeply riveting and perceptive debut novel that strikes a universal chord by exploring what it's like to be an 11 year-old who doesn't feel ready to grow up and leave childhood behind.

Maggie is worried.

She's starting middle school, and she suddenly sees injustice and danger everywhere--in her history textbook, on the playground, in her neighborhood, on the news. How can anyone be safe when there's a murderer on the loose, a bully about to get a gun for his twelfth birthday, rabbits being held captive for who-knows-what next door, and an older sister being mysteriously consumed by adolescence? Maggie doesn't like any of it, so she devises intricate ways of controlling her own world--and a larger, more dangerous plan for protecting everyone else.

Here is a simply told, deeply felt, and perceptive novel about learning to let go of what you cannot control, from an exciting new talent.

My Review:
I enjoyed this book. Maggie is starting middle school. She is dealing with normal things: social hierarchy at a new school, friends who are interested in make up and clothes, her siblings (one younger, one older), the tension between her parents, etc. But at the same time she has extreme anxiety. A murderer has been spotted in the neighborhood, and she's convinced he's going to come and kill her family. A boy in her class who lives two houses over is rumored to be getting a gun for his 12th birthday, so she imagines him as the killer. It was very interesting to see her anxiety play out as if these things really happen. Maggie has to repeat mantras (almost like prayers) in her head each night to keep bad things from happening.

There is not a whole lot of plot. The book just chronicles the day to day happenings. But I was kind of fascinated with this insight into an anxious mind. I really loved all of the true-to-age bits, such as the notes being passed at school and her best friend starting to wear lipstick. It was a very honest and real depiction of that awkward age. I think it would be a very relate-able read for kids in middle school.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

Thursday, June 23, 2016

On pre-ordering books...

Is it just me or has pre-ordering books gotten to be a bigger thing? Is it because of Amazon and other online retailers? Is it that there are better books coming out? Are publishers pushing it more?

I remember my first book pre-order. It was the summer of 2000. I was living at home with my parents after my sophomore year of college. I was the only "child" at home as my twin sister was spending the summer in MD as a camp counselor, and my brother was in Chicago living in his own apartment, attending law school.

I had chosen to spend the summer at home instead of nannying for my little cousins (twins: a boy and a girl, age 5) because I wanted to study for the MCAT. (Side Note: I still regret to this day not spending that summer with them.) I thought being at home would allow me to focus on the exam and still have friends close by to hang out with at night. Honestly, I don't remember much fun from that summer. I do remember working 5 hours a day as a typist at my dad's law office, attending hours-long MCAT prep classes at the local college, and studying in the evenings. I was very serious at that age and thought I was going to be a doctor. My goal was to get a 34 (out of 40 I think) on the MCAT exam (required for entrance into medical school).

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, July 8, 2000

My one indulgence that summer was that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was releasing. I pre-ordered it from the local media store - one of those big box places (before Barnes & Noble and Borders took over the world) that sold music, movies, and books. The name is escaping me. I was beyond excited for the release. When I finally got the book, I only allowed myself to read it in bed at night after all of the above mentioned working, class going, and studying was complete. Crazy, right? How did I not skip studying for two days and just sit around and read the book straight? I was seriously disciplined!

Since then I have mainly pre-ordered sequels, and I'm not even sure I pre-ordered any books (other than the subsequent Harry Potter titles) until the last year or so. Amazon has certainly made that easier with the ability to pre-order and have the book delivered on the release date. It hardly seems worth it to pre-order if you have to drive to the store to buy the book in person anyway. Do books ever sell out on their release dates like video games do?

Right now I am waiting on 3 pre-ordered titles from Amazon. It's rather fitting that two of these books are in the Harry Potter universe, don't you think?

(End Note: I scored a 33 on the MCAT. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, I didn't go to medical school.)

What was the first book you pre-ordered? What pre-orders do you have open right now? Do you have any thoughts on the rise of pre-orders? Is it a thing or have I just been unaware all these years?

On the blog last year...

Building memories

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Review: Split Second (YA)

Split Second (Pivot Point #2) by Kasie West

Goodreads Summary:
Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too... but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories... once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot... and a future that could change everything.

My Review:
I liked this book. A lot. More than the first book, Pivot Point. This book is told in alternating chapters from Addie's point of view - primarily from outside the Compound. And in Laila's point of view, inside the Compound (mostly). I enjoyed getting to know Laila more in this book. The plot in this book involves the "super powers" much more than the first book. I really loved learning about the characters abilities and understanding more about the world Kasie had imagined.

Addie is outside again with her dad, but without her memory of the Search from the first book. She is interacting with the characters that the reader remembers, but she does not. I loved the situational irony here - for examples she good friends with Stephanie now - her rival in the last book. So interesting!

Laila is desperate to advanced her ability, so she can restore Addie's memory. She's also helping her brother find his ability and enlisting some unlikely characters to do it. She gets some romance of her own in this book, which made the whole thing doubly fun. Two love stories instead of one!

There was just a lot more action in this book. There's an evil authority type plot, which is a little cliche in YA these days, but I always love it anyway. I just kept wanting to be reading this book whenever I was doing something else, and that's always a good sign.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Off the Page (YA)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #28: Favorite 2016 Releases

I've read a lot of good books so far in 2016, and luckily a bunch of them were 2016 releases. Here are 10 great books I read this year that released this year.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (released January 12th) - 4 stars

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth (released January 19th) - 4 stars

Second House from the Corner by Sadeqa Johnson (released February 9th) - 4 stars

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern (released February 23rd) - 5 stars

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell (released February 25th) - 5 stars

Multiple Listings by Tracy McMillan (released March 8th) - 5 stars

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (released March 15th) - 4 stars

The Crown (The Selection #5) by Kiera Cass (release May 3rd) - 5 stars

You Know Me Well by David Levithan & Nina LaCour (released June 7th) - 4 stars

The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson (released June 7th) - 4 stars

Have you read any of these books? What other 2016 releases do I need to add to my list?

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: Thirty Days to Thirty

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

Thirty Days to Thirty by Courtney Psak

Published on September 18, 2015.

Goodreads Summary:
What if you were on the cusp of marrying the guy of your dreams and reaching that career goal you set for yourself, only for all of it to be taken away in one fell swoop?

What if this all happened a month before you turned 30?

This is the story of Jill Stevens, who after moving back home, finds a list she made in high school of thirty things she wanted to accomplish before her thirtieth birthday.

With a month left and hardly anything crossed off her list, she teams up with old friends to accomplish as much as she can before the big 3-0. Along the way, she discovers her true self and realizes it’s not about the material successes in life but the journey.

My Review:
I am sucker for list type stories. I loved The Life List last year. Jill is fired from her job at a law firm when she's expecting to be made partner. And then that same night she discovers that her boyfriend of 6 years is cheating on her. She is devastated and moves home to live with her parents. In her childhood bedroom, she finds a list she'd made her senior year of high school. It contains 30 things she wanted to do by the time she was 30. She is only a month away from her 30th birthday, but with the help of her best friend and her ex-boyfriend (from his school, not the cheating a-hole), she decides to do everything on the list.

This story is just plain fun. It's seriously contrived and the love story moved way too fast for my taste, but I enjoyed reading Jill's story. It's always inspiring to read about people turning their lives around. It's almost like a fictional Happiness Project.

Some of the items on the list are fairly small: ride a roller coaster, do something without planning. But others are pretty large: learn to live without a boyfriend, travel the world. I liked reading about Jill accomplishing her goals and finding happiness. This book was a quick, light read. Perfect for summer.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

On the blog last year...

The story of growing up

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Juvenile Pile: Unfinished Books and a Longer Read Aloud

We're in week 2 of the library reading program. Christopher is almost at 4 hours. He's been pretty excited still about reading. Although he's not always thrilled about finishing the books he's started. Also, I admit that with all of the time he's been reading before bedtime, I haven't been reading out loud to him quit as much. I'm hoping that will change with the longer read aloud book I just started.

As mentioned in last week's post, Christopher had been asking to read The Book With No Pictures again, so I reserved it from the library, and it came in quickly. We read it right away on Tuesday afternoon when I brought it home with me. I read it to him, and we laughed again. We really love this book.

That same night, he read it to me at bed time. I think he had some of it memorized (or maybe it was just too easy), but there are a lot of silly made up words that he did have to sound out. He read his favorite part a couple of times. It was fun. We really should buy this book.
5 stars

I saw Red: A Crayon's Story on Literacious' LGBT Pride Month list earlier this week, and I knew we had to read it right away. It also came into the library very quickly. It tells the story of Red, a blue crayon with a red label. Everyone has opinions and tips for Red about how to be more red, but no matter what he does, everything he colors is blue.

It's a terrific metaphor for being transgender. Christopher guessed right away that he was really a blue crayon with a red label. We talked briefly about how things aren't always what they seem on the inside. I didn't really get into gender or identity or anything like that, but I think this book builds a great foundation for understanding. 5 stars

I reviewed an eARC of Little Shaq Takes a Chance a couple of months ago, and I really enjoyed the story. I was so excited to read it with Christopher. We finally got a copy from the library last week. We had tried the first book, but he never finished it.

We have only made it through half of this book so far, and he seems to be enjoying it. He's struggling a little with returning to books that he has started. I'm hoping my Book Bingo and reading a longer chapter book together (see below) will help with this problem.

My original rating was 4 stars.

I read a post by Viviane Schwarz on Nerdy Book Club, and I loved what she had to say about school, so I thought I should check out her book: How to Find Gold. This book has a lot of words, and I really had to keep encouraging Christopher to get through the whole thing.

It's the story of a girl and a crocodile who draw a map and find gold. It's a little bit strange, but also kind of fun. I enjoyed the illustrations, but it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. 3 stars

Excellent Ed is another book we haven't quite finished yet. Christopher read the first half, which talks about Ed (a dog) being in a family with 5 exceptional kids. They're all very talented in one way or another, and Ed is struggling to figure out where he belongs and what makes him special.

I read through the rest on my own (and we'll have to finish it together soon), and in the end Ed finds many things he's good at. It's pretty cute. 3 stars

The BFG by Roald Dahl was one of my favorite books when I was younger. I tried to read it last year with Christopher, but he was too young. With the movie coming out in July, I knew I had to try again, so I bought the paperback at Target a couple weeks ago. We started it this week. Christopher wasn't really paying attention for the first chapter or so, but then once Sophie gets snatched, he said, "This is getting interesting,"

I am hoping we can make it through the full book this time because I want to take him when we go see the movie, and I believe in reading the book first as often as you can. I can't really remember everything that happens, but I know it's a magical adventure, and I'm excited to share it with my son.
5 stars

What have your children been reading this week? Any good books we should check out? Do you still read out loud to your kids now that they're reading on their own?

On the blog last year...

What a difference a day makes

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Kid Lit: Big Red and Little Bitty Wolf

I received this book for free from Magination Press at BEA 2016. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

Big Red and Little Bitty Wolf: A Story About Bullying by Jeanie Franz Ransom

Published on February 1, 2016

Goodreads Summary:
Big Red Riding Hood has been bullying Little Bitty Wolf since she moved into the neighborhood and his parents' advice does not help, but their school counselor, Mr. Know-It-Owl, makes a comment that just might set things right.

My Thoughts:
This book is an interesting twist on the classic fairy tale. Little Bitty Wolf has to walk through the woods to get to his elementary school. He carries his lunch in a nice basket, and he used to love going to school. After Big Red moves into the neighborhood and starts walking that path, he no longer likes it. Big Red is a bully. She jumps out at him from behind trees, pulls his tail, and eventually steals his lunch. Little Bitty Wolf asks his parents for advice, but telling Big Red to stop and puffing himself up to look bigger don't help. Finally, his teacher takes him to the school counselor. Mr. Know-It-Owl tells him to do something unexpected. Little Bitty Wolf smiles at Big Red and doesn't react to her bullying the next time, and she gives him his lunch back. He wonders how often people smile at her, and he decides to be nice to her from now on.

There is a parent resource section at the end of the book with information on signs of bullying and being a bully. It also talks about ways to deal with it and how to help your kids even if they're just bystanders.

I was a little uneasy about the resolution to bullying in this book. And I was a little surprised the end note didn't address the solution a little more. I think it can be true that bullies are hurting and in need of friends or just looking for attention, even in negative ways. The more I thought about it, I remembered by own experience with my older brother who liked to torment my sister and me. I remember telling her to ignore him and not get upset by his behavior. She never listened. She always yelled or fought back, and he always enjoyed messing with her more than he did me.

This book strives to start the conversation between parents (or teachers) and children about bullying, and I think it serves that purpose well. I haven't read it with my son yet, but I will. I think it's a good resource, but it's not the best resource out there for bullying.

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...


Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Review: The Unexpected Everything (YA)

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

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Published on May 3, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Andie had it all planned out. 

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. 

And where’s the fun in that?

My Review:
I love Morgan Matson, but sadly I didn't love this book. I just liked it. And I feel kind of bad about that. I know a lot of people loved it. I have put off posting my review for this book for 3 weeks because I wasn't sure what to say about it. I am going to break it down into the good and the bad I think instead of writing a more traditional review.


Oh, my. This boy was amazing! He is a nerdy t-shirt wearing fantasy write at age 20 (right?). I mean, super adorable! I loved him, and I loved how having him as a character gave Morgan a chance to talk about the writing process. It was so interesting. He was just the perfect boyfriend. Serious crush material here.

Congressman Walker
Andie's dad plays a huge role in this book, which is always nice to see in YA. Other than one scene where he was a little over-the-top with trying to parent Andie, I really liked him character. He is still struggling with the loss of Andie's mom 5 years later, and now he's had a huge career set back. I love that he embraced that and gets more involved with Andie's life. Also, it was interesting to read about and think about how having a congressman for a father would affect Andie growing up.

Summer Time
I love summer stories. It makes the plot so much easier (and enjoyable) to not have to deal with characters being in school all day. Also, it time boxed the story, which is always nice.

Andie has a great group of friends. They have some serious drama, but it was fun to read about their crew and all of the craziness they got up to. Payton's boyfriend Tom and Clark were seriously cute together. I loved how easily Clark fitted into the group. And I loved the scavenger hunt and the crazy text chains and the challenge to have one girl only text using emojis all summer long. So fun!


I gotta say it. Andie was so annoying! She was superficial and only interested in surface relationships. I know she suffered when her mom died, but I just couldn't like her. And she doesn't read...seriously?! No. Just no. Sorry.

Ugh. This book was just way too long. The introduction took forever, and then even when the story got going, it dragged way too much. It could have been told in 300 pages instead of 500 pages. There was way too much detail about everything.

Lack of Plot
Nothing really interesting happened. I know Morgan Matson's books are all character-driven, but the others have had some overarching plot that held my interest. This book just kind of dragged on and on. I need more than just a love story to hold my attention.

I am not a dog person at all, so that part of the plot didn't interest me. Although there were not as many dog bits as I'd been expecting based on other bloggers' review. So that was kind of good I guess.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: The Life List

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer Reading Book Bingo

In the spring I started to see Book Bingo images pop up on blogs and other social media sites, but many seemed to be geared towards older readers. I wanted one for Christopher that would work well for picture books and early chapter books, so I decided to make my own!

I haven't printed it for him yet because he's still pretty pumped about our library's Summer Reading Program. I'm going to save this for July when his enthusiasm has worn off a bit, and he needs some additional inspiration in his reading life.

I couldn't figure out how to embed a PDF, so if you would like a copy of this book bingo PDF, please email me at

How do you encourage your kids to read over the summer? Have you ever used Book Bingo?

On the blog last year...

Choosing what to read next

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Book Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe (YA)

Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally

Goodreads Summary:
Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

You all know that I don't often buy books, but I bought the Kindle version for this one right away after reading this review on The Quite Concert. I have been trying to motivate myself to run, and I thought that this story might help. Sadly, it did not.

My Review:
This book was good. Six months after her boyfriend dies in a car accident, Annie is training to run a marathon in his honor. She's signed up for a group program run by this guy Matt when she meets his younger brother, Jeremiah. It was one of those stories where the love interest is supposedly bad news. Jeremiah is an adrenaline junky, and since Annie is obviously nervous about losing someone else she cares about, so it causes some conflict. I thought they were a cute couple.

I liked Annie, and I loved reading about her training. She is tougher than she realizes, and the reactions her body had to all of the physical exertion were very accurate. They were based on Miranda's own training for a marathon earlier in her life.

There is also a fun mix of girl friends, with some associated drama, and their boys. During the book she's also moving away to college. I liked those parts of the story as well. Annie's mother and brother are present and add to the story's depth.

Overall, this book was fun and entertaining, but I don't think it will stick with me. I enjoyed Miranda's writing, so I may have to check out some of the other Hundred Oaks books.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: The Last Anniversary

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #27: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2016

Today I'm talking about the new releases coming out during the second half of this year. I already wrote about my most anticipated reads from BEA, so I'm going to skip those titles and only mention other books I'm looking forward to. These are all books by authors I love.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (July 26th)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, & John Tiffany (July 31st)

Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino (August 9th)

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu (September 20th)

What Light by Jay Asher (October 11th)

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (October 18th)

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (November 1st)

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (November 1st) - OK, I know this one was on my BEA list, but now that I've read Everything, Everything, I am looking forward to this book even more.

Bad Blood (The Naturals #4) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (November 1st)

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (November 8th)

What books are you looking forward to later this year?

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