Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Kid Lit: Santa's Underwear

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

Santa's Underwear by Marty Rhodes Figley

Published on August 1, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
It's Christmas Eve and Santa is busy getting gussied up for the big night. But when he goes to put on his warm, cozy (holey, ragged) Christmas underwear, they're nowhere to be found! With undies for every occasion, he tries on the rest of his collection. But nothing is quite right. Just when he's about to give up he find a surprise from his considerate team of reindeer. Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas!

My Thoughts:
Little boys everywhere will love this goofy tale about Santa's missing underwear. Moms everywhere may cringe a little. Santa has a favorite pair of red long underwear that he wears every Christmas night. Sure they're pretty worn out, but they keep him warm, and it's tradition. This Christmas, Santa cannot find them. He and the elves look everywhere. Santa tries his other holiday underwear, but nothing is just right. Then a surprise from his reindeer saves the day.

The illustrations are whimsical, and the prose is not lyrical - which makes it very easy to read aloud. I doubt this will become a Christmas classic, but it is a refreshing change from the same overdone holiday stories. It's silly and fun, and kids will love it. The target audience is definitely boys ages 3-5.

My Rating: 3 stars

On the blog last year...

Month in Review: August 2015

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Reading Together Family Book Club: Modern U.S.

Remember when I announced that I was going to be part of the Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club along with The Deliberate Reader and Quirky Bookworm? And then I only posted one subsequent post. Yeah. I've been slacking big time on that book club.

But, September/October is my topic to help lead, so I am determined to do better. Today I just want to introduce the books to you and invite you to join in the discussion over on the Facebook group page.

Our next topic is the Modern United States. We'll be reading the following books:

Picture Book

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

Where are the girls? When Grace's teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides to be the first. And she immediately starts off her political career as a candidate the school's mock election. But soon, she realizes that she has entered a tough race. Her popular opponent claims to be the best man for the job--and seems to have captured all the male votes--while Grace concentrates on being the best person. In this timely story, author Kelly DiPucchio not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system, but also teaches them the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought--and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

Middle Grade

Dancing Home by Alma Flor Ada

Mexico may be her parents’ home, but it’s certainly not Margie’s. She has finally convinced the other kids at school she is one-hundred percent American—just like them. But when her Mexican cousin Lupe visits, the image she’s created for herself crumbles. 

Things aren’t easy for Lupe, either. Mexico hadn’t felt like home since her father went North to find work. Lupe’s hope of seeing him in the United States comforts her some, but learning a new language in a new school is tough. Lupe, as much as Margie, is in need of a friend. 

Little by little, the girls’ individual steps find the rhythm of one shared dance, and they learn what “home” really means.

Young Adult

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman

My life is like one of those "good news-bad news" jokes. Like, "I've got some good news and some bad news—which do you want first?"

I could go on about my good news for hours, but you probably want to hear the punch line, my bad news, right? Well, there isn't that much, really, but what's here is pretty wild. First off, my parents got divorced ten years ago because of me. My being born changed everything for all of us, in every way. My dad didn't divorce my mom, or my sister, Cindy, or my brother, Paul—. He divorced me. He couldn't handle my condition, so he had to leave. My condition? Well, that brings us to the guts of my bad news.

Now my plan is to have a review up for Grace for President on September 5th. We'll be discussing that book on the Facebook page for the first week of September. Then I'll post my review of Dancing Home on September 12th, and we'll discuss that book for the remainder of September. My review of Stuck in Neutral will go up on October 3rd, and we'll discuss that book throughout October.

Have you read any of these books yet? Will you join us?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Juvenile Pile: Short and Sweet

We didn't read many books this week because of babysitters and because I really wanted to finish James and the Giant Peach. Also, Christopher has been super irritable lately and not willing to read at night. We definitely won't be finishing the library's August challenge, and it's questionable whether we'll get through bingo because we really only have chapter books left, and Christopher is a reluctant to continue on with any chapter book he starts.

The one summer bingo book we read this week was Wayne Gretzky Hockey Star. I selected it to be our "Book about the Past." It was more of a biography than an actual story about the past, but Gretzky did play hockey in the past, so it's close enough.

Christopher enjoyed it. He loves hockey. It was maybe a level 2 easy reader book, but he got through the whole thing which seems like a big accomplishment lately. We enjoyed the real photos and the simple information.

3 stars

We own Duck at the Door, and it's always a fun read (along with Duck Soup). Duck comes to stay with Irene and all of her pets one winter instead of migrating with his flock. He drives everyone crazy, so they're happy to see him go in the spring. But bored without him and very ready for him to return again in winter.

Christopher started reading this one, and then I finished. It has quite a lot of words on some pages. The animal antics are cute.

4 stars

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day is a Dr. Seuss book that I'd never heard of. Christopher found it at the library. It's pretty strange, even for Dr. Seuss. It's about a rather unconventional school, Diffendoofer School, where the teachers teach some nontraditional subjects. The students have to take a test, along with all of the students from other schools, to see which school is the best. Of course they do well and then they declare a holiday - Diffendoofer Day. So weird, but also kind of true-ish with all of the standardized testing that goes on today. I liked this one line: "We've taught you...something else that matters more - We've taught you how to think." I wish that's what schools taught!

3 stars

Miss Mary Reporting is another book we originally selected for the "Book about the Past", but it was too long for Christopher to read on his own. It's about Mary Garber, the first female sports reporter. It's an interesting story about her journey as a sports writer.

It's pretty long even considering that it's aimed at older children - ages 5-8 probably. It has a lot of facts and even some quotes. We were attracted to the sports aspect, but I think it's a good story for anyone to hear. It's about going after your dreams even if it's something that's never been done before. It showcases going up against adversity and triumph in the face of discrimination.

3 stars

As I mentioned above, we finally finished James and the Giant Peach. It's a odd little story. James gets some magic crocodile tongues from a random old man, and he drops them into the grass belong the peach tree on his aunts' farm. The make things grow bigger - bugs and a peach. The giant peach becomes a traveling vessel for James and the bugs. It even kills the horrible aunts.

The journey is full of peril - sharks and cloudmen. There's some fun bantering between the centipede and the worm (which were my favorite parts) and some ingenuity from James mostly. We enjoyed it, but neither of us loved it.

3 stars

What have your kids been reading? 

On the blog last year...

Lunar Chronicles Read Along: Cinder

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Kid Lit: A Squiggly Story

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

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen

To be published on September 6, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
A young boy wants to write a story, just like his big sister. But there's a problem, he tells her. Though he knows his letters, he doesn't know many words. “Every story starts with a single word and every word starts with a single letter,” his sister explains patiently. “Why don't you start there, with a letter?” So the boy tries. He writes a letter. An easy letter. The letter I. And from that one skinny letter, the story grows, and the little boy discovers that all of us, including him, have what we need to write our own perfect story.

My Thoughts:
A Squiggly Story is a book about writing. A little boy sees his sister reading and writing stories all the time, and he wants to write a story too, but he doesn't know how. His sister tells him that it's easy. Stories are made of words, and words are made of letters, so just start with a letter. He does. And then she prompts, "What happens next?" The story continues this way with the sister, the teacher, or his classmates continuing to prompt him. The result is a fun story made of individual letters and squiggly lines.

I love that this book is encouraging kids to write their own stories. My son had to do a lot of writing in kindergarten last year, and they started with pictures and single words or simple sentences, whatever the kids were able to do. But they were able to put together some fun stories even at that level.

Reading books with young children encourages a lifetime of reading, but we don't always talk about the writing of stories. I used to tell verbal bedtime stories to my son when he was much younger, and I always hated it because it's hard to come up with ideas. But stories don't have to be long. And they don't have to be profound. This book is one that will help build a lifetime interest in storytelling and writing. I highly recommend it to parents and teachers working with children ages 4-6.

My Rating: 5 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...

My struggle with myself

Friday, August 26, 2016

Blog Launch: Opinionated Book Lover

I am so excited! My new blog, Opinionated Book Lover, launched this morning. When I attended BEA in May, I realized that my blog name doesn't say anything about books. Yes, I have it in my tagline, but if I really want to market myself to publishers as a book blog, I think I really aught to have a bookish blog title.

But I didn't just want to rename my blog because I really like writing about my family, sharing recipes, and discussing children's books as well. It seemed like a good solution to have two blogs: one for "mom" stuff (including kids books) and one for YA/Adult book reviews and discussions. So that's what I now have!

Mom's Radius will remain a place for Kid Lit, Juvenile Pile, middle grade book reviews, Month in Review, recipes, and family adventure posts. So if you enjoy these types of posts, please continue reading and following this blog.

Opinionated Book Lover will be a place for honest book reviews and other literary sentiments. I will share all of my young adult and adult book reviews here along with discussion posts, Top Ten Tuesday, book tags, etc. Please check it out and follow this blog as well if you like that type of content.

My plan is to post at least 4 times per week to each blog, but I'm still working out my exact scheduling.

And as always, thanks for reading!

On the blog last year...

Waiting on Wednesday: After You

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kid Lit: The Branch

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

The Branch by Mireille Messier

To be published on September 6, 2016.

From the NetGalley Summary:
When an ice storm snaps a small girl's favorite branch from the tree in her yard, she's crestfallen. The girl's mom says it's just a branch. But not to her! “That was the branch I sat on, jumped from, played under. It was my castle, my spy base, my ship . . .” Luckily, her neighbor Mr. Frank understands. He says the branch has “potential.” “What's potential?” she asks. “It means it's worth keeping.” And so, with imagination and spirit, and Mr. Frank's guidance and tools, the girl transforms the broken branch into something whole and new, giving it another purpose, and her another place to treasure. 

My Thoughts:
What a great story! Told in first person, this book tells of a young girl's favorite tree branch that is broken off in an ice storm. Her mother does not understand the value of the branch, but the next door neighbor does. He is a wood craftsman, and he teaches the young girl about transforming branches into other valuable things. Together they two work on a very special project to make something out of the broken branch.

I love stories of friendship between children and adults, especially ones that involve the child learning something valuable. This little girl is taught how to use her imagination to see something greater out of a broken branch. And she has to plan and build the new object. This book is perfect for older children - ages 6-8 - because it has a lot of words, but also because it's a story that will inspire them and make them excited about reading and building something of their own I'm sure.

My Rating: 5 stars

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Yes Please

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between (YA)

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Goodreads Summary:
On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

Charming, bittersweet, and full of wisdom and heart, this irresistible novel from Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, explores the difficult choices that arise when life and love lead in different directions.

My Review:
I am 36 years old, and I read a lot of young adult fiction. I usually have no problem putting myself back in the mindset of being a teenager. I love the angst. I don't mind the drama. And I especially love stories of young love. But for some reason, I couldn't get into this book.

Clare and Aidan have been dating for two years, and because they're going to college on opposite sides of the country at the end of the summer, they're trying to decide whether they should break up. Aidan wants to stay together. They love each other, he thinks, so they can make it work. Clare is afraid of missing out of the college experience, so she thinks they should break up. After all, their relationship won't last forever anyway, she reasons.

On their last night together, everything comes back to this one argument, and it drove me crazy! I could not stand the indecisiveness. And as a grown woman, the whole "leaving for college" thing that seems like a big deal at the time, just didn't seem like a big deal to me now as an adult. My sister even went through this experience with her college boyfriend before she moved to Alaska for a year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and still I couldn't stomach this story.

Also, the writing style was weird. It was completely written in third person, but because it was always told from Clare's POV, it seemed really awkward to me.

One great thing...the friends! Clare and Aidan each have a best friend, and they're a little foursome gang, and I loved their interactions. The friends are both really down to Earth (and I cannot remember their names...oops), but they made parts of this book really enjoyable.

This story is cute, and if you like the final hooray type stories, then you will probably really enjoy this book. It just wasn't for me.

My Rating: 3 Stars

On the blog last year...

The meaning of my blog name

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #33: Pre-Blog TBR List

This week we're supposed to write about the books that have been on our shelves or TBR list since before we started blogging.

I started blogging in May 2015, and my Goodreads "to read" shelf has 36 books from before that date. Since I cannot possibly share them all, I have selected the 10 that I am most ashamed I haven't gotten around to reading yet.

The Art of Seeing by Cammie McGovern

I love Cammie McGovern, and I love books about sisters, so why haven't I read this book?! Seriously.

Side Note: I also need to read Neighborhood Watch by Cammie as well.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I have heard nothing but good things about this book, but I still haven't read it yet. Maybe because it's about WWII? I don't know that I've read a YA historical fiction book about WWII though, so I really need to give it a try.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I know I've been avoiding this one because it's middle grade, but I've had some pretty good luck with middle grade recently. Plus I just read this review on The Deliberate Reader, and it renewed my interest in this book.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Maybe I'll wait for this series to be finished? :)

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Barnes is seriously my third favorite author, and thanks to my Secret Santa I have had this book in my house since December. Why haven't I read it? I need to ASAP.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I think I first heard about this book on mommablogsalot, and Jen has mentioned it several times since that original post. It sounds strange and wonderful, and I really do want to read it. Just...time. Ya know?

Legend by Marie Lu

I should get to this book this year if I keep up with my new author challenge. I know the reason I haven't read this book yet is that I am in kind of a dystopian slump. I'm hoping to be out of it by winter, so I can read this series.

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Did Jim Dale do the audiobook? Because then I'd listen right away. I love books about magic, but I haven't found the time for this book yet.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The third book in this series came out in February, so I really should have read it by now. I will. Someday.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

I had this book out from the library, and it was on my list for May. The book sat on my night stand for 3 weeks, but I had so many other books out that I never got to it, and my next month was already planned, and sadly it went back to the library unread. I will try again at some point. Maybe on audio.

Have you read any of these books? Which one should I tackle first? Are there any you recommend I remove from the list?

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review: Just Like Me (MG)

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

Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Published on April 5, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my “Chinese Sisters,” that’s who. We’re not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we’re nothing alike. They sing Chinese love songs on the bus to summer camp, and I pretend like I don’t know them. 

To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of “where are they now” newsletter. I’ll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Woods in a cabin with five other girls who aren’t getting along, competing for a campout and losing (badly), wondering how I got here…and where I belong.

My Review:
Julia was adopted from an orphanage in China, but she doesn't think of herself as Chinese. She's American. Avery and Becca were also adopted from the same orphanage. All three sets of parents went to China together to get the girls, so they've kept in touch over the years. Avery and Becca go to the same school, and they're more into being Chinese and learning about the culture than Julia is.

This summer the adoption agency manager has decided to write an article about them, so the girls go to summer camp together for a week. They've selected the camp that Becca and Avery go to every summer because Julia didn't want to go to Chinese culture camp. And they've been given journals with writing prompts to record their feelings and experiences over the week.

The book is told in Julia's voice with journal entries between chapters. And all of the adoption stuff is set against the backdrop of a cabin full of fighting girls and a crazy camp contest that Becca and another girl in the cabin are determined to win.

I loved all the camp shenanigans in this book. The serious subject was handled well, and it was not too heavy for middle grade readers. Overall, this story was a really cute, sweet, and fun read. It wraps up a little too nicely, but I was fine with it considering the age group. It would give younger readers exposure to adoption and the complex feelings that go along with being adopted.

My Rating: 4 Stars

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Inkheart (MG)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Juvenile Pile: Lots of Read Alouds

Between the Olympics and other evening plans, Christopher stayed up late a bunch this week, so he didn't do as much reading as usual. I still read a lot of books out loud though, so we'll just talk about those.

Woodpecker Wants a Waffle is a weird, but fun story. It's about a woodpecker who smells a waffle and really wants to taste one. The other animals in the forest don't understand his obsession. They try to talk him out of it, but he won't be deterred.

Christopher did start reading this one on his own, but he had a little trouble with it, so we switched halfway through. We enjoyed it, but not as much as I was hoping based on some of the things I read about it.

3 stars

Jim and Christopher actually read How to Eat an Airplane without me, but Christopher was willing to listen to me read it again, which says that he enjoyed it. Normally if I miss out on a story, and he didn't like it, then I have to read it on my own.

This book is strange! But fun. It teaches children about airplanes and about table manners. And the characters in the book are described as eating an airplane. Apparently, the author got the idea for a true story! Some guy ate a whole airplane between 1979 and 1981 I think it was. Wild, right?

4 stars

Whoosh! is another book that's based on a true story. It's kind of a biography of Lonnie Johnson, a rocket scientist who invented the Super Soaker, among other things.

Jim has been bemoaning the poor quality of Super Soakers since they were bought by Nerf, so I knew we had to read this story. Sadly, it's a bit too long for a 6-year old. It would probably be best for ages 7-9. It's just too factual, not fun enough considering the title. I enjoyed it, but Christopher was definitely glazing over, so I sped through it as quickly as I could.

3 stars

Chicken Butt is another book that didn't go over as well as I was hoping. I heard that it was really funny, and I thought it was. I think Christopher was just too tired to appreciate it. He read this one. The prose is very simple. It's about a boy and his dad. The boy is constantly asking his dad questions like, "Guess what?" And then replying, "Chicken Butt!" or "Chicken Thigh!"

I think younger kids, ages 2-4 maybe, would really get into the nonsense in this book. Perhaps Christopher is just too mature? Ha. I wish. I'm sure it was just an off night.

4 stars

The characters in Nobody Likes a Goblin reminded me of the heroes in a dungeon crawling game, i.e. Dungeons & Dragons. We play Hero Quest, a kind of simplified, physical version of that game, with Christopher, so I enjoyed that aspect of this book. The story didn't really hold our interest all that much though. Goblin goes on a quest to save his friend, Skeleton, and many people are out to kill him because they don't like goblins. The ending is cute but nothing spectacular.

3 stars

Dirtball Pete is another book I reserved because I'd heard about it. I had to force Christopher to listen to this one. He wasn't that attracted to the cover or the title or something.

I should have listened to him. We didn't love this one. It's about a little boy who can't stay clean. His mother cleans him up for a performance at school about the 50 states, but once he gets there, he gets all dirty again before his time on stage.

I think the moral is supposed to be that he did well in the performance, better than anyone else really, despite his appearance. Kind of odd.

3 stars

We own There's an Alligator under My Bed. My aunt and uncle bought it for Christopher at his (my?) baby shower. I'd never read it before then, but it's become one of my favorite childrens' books over the year.

It's about a boy who's scared of the alligator under his bed. His parents can't see it, so they don't offer any help. It's up to him to take care of the problem! I love his solution. The words are simple, the illustrations are wonderful, and the resolution is great. We read this book over and over. It's so much fun!

5 stars

I can't remember where I heard about Are We There Yet?, but I think it was the road trip aspect that caught my eye. Who hasn't been stuck in the car as a kid asking, "Are we there yet?" And now as a parent, I've experienced the other side of that question. Ugh.

The interaction of this book is cool. You have to rotate the book a couple of times. But the story is so strange. Honestly, I didn't get it at all. And I know Christopher didn't. It had some message about living in the moment, but it just didn't work.

2 stars

Christopher had originally selected The William Hoy Story from the new non-fiction shelf at the library as his "Book about the Past" for bingo. Since he didn't read, it doesn't count, but we did enjoy this one together.

I'd never heard of William Hoy, but he was a deaf baseball player from the late 1800s who may have contributed to the addition of hand singles in baseball. Kind of cool! This book tells of his career in a very relatable way.

4 stars

Since Christopher attends Ronald Reagan Elementary School, we selected Ronald Reagan (Rookie Biography) as his "Book about a President." It was a very simple biography. He read only the first half, but I still gave him credit for bingo. We might not make it by the end of the summer, so I'm getting lenient.

Christopher was actually really interested in this book, especially in the years and how old Reagan was at certain times. He also liked finding him in all of the pictures. Reagan was elected the year I was born, and he thought that was pretty cool. But he couldn't wrap his head around how the U.S. has only had 44 presidents.

4 stars

The Reagan biography mentioned Reagan getting Alzheimers, so I thought it would be appropriate to read What a Beautiful Morning with Christopher to try to help explain the disease. I'd read it on my own when I reviewed it for last week's Kid Lit.

What has your family been reading?

On the blog last year...

YA Book Club: August 2015

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kid Lit: Hey, That's My Monster

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

Hey, That's My Monster by Amanda Noll

To be published on September 1, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
When Ethan looks under the bed for his monster, he finds this note instead: "So long, kid. Gotta go. Someone needs me more than you do. -Gabe" How will Ethan ever get to sleep without his monster's familiar, comforting snorts? And who could need Gabe more than Ethan does?Gabe must have gone to Ethan's little sister's room! She has been climbing out of bed every night to play, and obviously needs a monster to help her get to sleep - but not HIS monster! Ethan tries to help his sister find her own monster, but none are the perfect blend of cute and creepy. Just when it seems that Ethan will lose his monster forever, an uninvited, tutu-toting little monster full of frightening fun appears.Following in the spooky-silly tradition of I Need My Monster, here's another irresistible monster-under-the-bed story with the perfect balance of giggles and shivers."

My Thoughts:
This book is just plain fun. Ethan finds a note under his bed instead of his monster. He's gone to help someone else who needs a monster to stay in bed - his little sister, Emma. Ethan knows that Emma gets up at night and plays, but he doesn't want to give up his monster, Gabe, even though he's afraid of him. He needs the fear of his monster to sleep at night. Ethan is determined to find another monster for Emma, so Gabe agrees to give him 3 tries. Unfortunately it seems that no monster will be able to scare Emma into sleeping.

I love any book that takes the fear of the dark or fear of monsters and makes it into something fun instead. This book, which I didn't realize was a sequel, does just that. It gives a reason for monsters being under the bed, and makes it something necessary instead of something scary. And the illustrations and the sibling element make it even more enjoyable. I have already reserved the first book, I Need My Monster, from the library.

This book has quite a lot of words, so I'd say it's best suited for ages 3-6.

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...

Book Review: Girlchild

Friday, August 19, 2016

Book Review: Spirit Level (YA)

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

Spirit Level by Sarah N. Harvey

Goodreads Summary:
Harriet is a donor-conceived, an only child. She has never considered her family unusual.

But things change when her longtime boyfriend chooses New York over their relationship, and her best friend leaves her for Paris. Level-headed Harry can’t keep it together.

Maybe it’s time to do something other than cry into her pillow and wallow in smoothies. Maybe it’s time to think about the bigger picture. Maybe it’s time to find some half-siblings and redefine her idea of family.

My Review:
I didn't know what to expect with this book. I honestly don't even remember getting it at BEA. It was kind of refreshing to read a book having no expectations. Harry (Harriet) is a donor-conceived child. Her single mother decided she wanted a baby, so she used an anonymous sperm donor to get pregnant. Now she's 16-years old (I think) and alone for the summer. Her best friend is abroad, and she just broke up with her boyfriend who moved from Seattle to NYC with his father. Harry decides it's time to find her half siblings using the Donor Sibling Registry.

Harry ends up finding two sisters who also live in Seattle. Lucy is 14-years old and half Asian. Her moms used the same donor to conceive her and her half brother, who's away at college in Oregon. Meredith is 18, and she's run away from Montana to come find her father (as she calls their donor). She's brought along her best friend, Alex. Lucy is sweet and SUPER peppy. Meredith is sullen and angry and a little unstable.

This book was rather short, but I enjoyed the very different story. Harry, Lucy, and Meredith had some serious drama, just like any sisters. All of the adults in this book were very realistic and really added to the story. I especially loved Harry's "grandmother."

There were some other unexpected topics involved in the plot that I won't mention because I don't want to spoil anything, but I am unsure what to think about how one thing was handled. It was a rather optimistic outcome, but I appreciated the juxtaposition to another book I read recently. Did I just annoy the heck out of you with that ambiguity? Sorry! Not sorry. You'll have to read the book.

My Rating: 4 Stars

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Joyride (YA)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Recent Recipes: July/August 2016

I almost did it. We almost used up all of the meat in the freezer. Here're some more recipes I tried recently. Once again all of these recipes are from Taste of Home because I can peruse it at work.

Pumpkin & Sausage Penne

As soon as I saw this Pumpkin & Sausage Penne, I knew I had to make it.  I love everything pumpkin, and even though it's not fall yet, I decided to give it a try. The recipe is meant for 2 servings, but it uses 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree which just seemed wasteful. So since I love having leftovers for lunch (something my teenage self would never have imagined I'd say), I decided to triple the recipe. Then once I was finished cooking, the amount of pasta to sauce seemed WAY off, so I ended up cooking the full box (double what the tripled recipe called for), and it was just about perfect. We ended up with 6 fairly large portions.

Jim ate 1 serving the night I made it, but he never had any leftovers. I'm taking that as a sign that he didn't love it. I did! I ate it Monday night for dinner, and then had it for lunch Tuesday through Friday, and I wasn't even sick of it by the end of the week. The sausage was a mix of mild and hot, so it had a good amount of spice to it. And then the pumpkin spices made it almost sweet as well. I did mess up the amount of nutmeg - using 1/2 teaspoon like the other spices. I also skipped the sage because we didn't have any.

Chicken & Broccoli Cheese Casserole

I chose this Chicken & Broccoli Casserole recipe with Jim in mind because he loves cheese. It's similar to a Chicken Divan recipe that we make, and while it wasn't as good, it one of those recipes where nothing is fresh, so it could be one where we just have the ingredients on hand for a last minute dinner.

Jim gave me a hard time because I didn't follow this recipe very closely. I used it more as a guide because I wanted more chicken, and I didn't have the right size pan. I ended up using 4 frozen chicken breasts, 1 package of turkey stuffing (it was on sale 1/2 off, so I couldn't resist - turkey and chicken are similar, right?), 2 cups of frozen broccoli, 2 cans of broccoli cheese soup, and 1 cup of shredded cheddar.

It was decent, but not great. I cooked it in a 9x13 pan, and it made 6 servings. I paired it with Kraft Mac & Cheese for Christopher. I thought that was kind of theme - cheese. Jim ate 3 servings left over. I ate one.

Caribbean Beef Pot Roast

This next recipe was pretty out there for us. We've never really cooked beef roast in the slow cooker any other way than just with onion soup mix, but this Slow-Cooker Caribbean Pot Roast was really good. And different!

I followed the recipe almost exactly this time. We didn't have any celery, so I left those out. The sweet potatoes turned into almost a sauce since they were complete mush by the time the roast was finished cooking. It was really good though. It reminded me of a curry - although no curry powder (because Jim hates it).

We ate it just plain - as a stew. We again ended up with 6 servings. Jim ate it once left over, and I ate it twice. One serving didn't get eaten in time. As a general rule, we ate all of our left overs for one week, and then we throw them away.

Summer Orzo Salad

We had a neighborhood BBQ at the beginning of the month, and I couldn't decide which recipe to cook because I'd seen two in Taste of Home magazines that really caught my eye. So I just made both!

This Summer Orzo salad was so good. I need to make it again soon as just a side dish when we have chicken or something. I left out the capers, mint, and lemon peel because I didn't have any of those items, but I don't think it mattered. This recipe made WAY too much, and sadly I had to throw out a lot because it had been sitting out all afternoon/evening. Luckily, 2 servings hadn't fit in my serving dish, so I had those left over for lunch during the week. I was really sad when it was gone.

Strawberry Corn Salsa

I also made this Strawberry Corn Salsa and served it with tortilla chips. I halved the recipe, and a good amount was eaten. I only had a couple of bites, and I didn't really love it. I had left out the cilantro because I don't like it. But the sweetness of the strawberries just didn't work for me.

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag

I saw this Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag recipe and thought it would be a fun thing to do with Christopher. I couldn't find raspberries at the store, so I had planned to just make vanilla. Christopher complained and said he wanted chocolate, so we used some chocolate Nesquik powder for his.

We mixed all of the ingredients in pint glasses first, so he could add the chocolate powder, and that worked really well. He made chocolate, and I made vanilla. We used up all of our salt and almost all of the ice from our ice maker, but we managed to get both of them going.

We wore gloves because the bags got really cold! Mine mixed a lot faster than his did, but because of a leak in my bag, I entered up with more of a milkshake consistency. Jim did most of the shaking for Christopher's, and it turned out as soupy ice cream, which is his favorite anyway. He always likes to let his ice cream melt and then drink it, so it was perfect.

I got about 10 oz. of vanilla milk shake that was delicious! But Christopher got the full 2 cups, and he wasn't able to finish his in one night. We put it in the freezer to harden, and then he ate it a couple of nights later. He's been asking to make it again, but we need to get more half and half first.

What have you been cooking lately? Anything good?

On the blog last year...

A dream come true: a weekend alone