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I am a 24 year old Christian, bookworm, lover of all things chocolate, and soon to be knitter from Upstate New York, currently residing in sunny New Mexico (thank you U.S. Air Force). I spend my days as a Children's Librarian Assistant in a public city library and my nights working towards my MLS degree.
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Many kids have a very favorite toy that becomes an attachment. A friend in toy form for the child and a companion that he or she just simply does not want to let go of. This is exactly the case for Sophie, except that her favorite is a squash.
After choosing the most beautiful squash at the farmer's market, Sophie knows she's found something special. Rather than letting her mom cook it up, she names the squash Bernice and begins a unique friendship, despite her parents warnings that the squash will eventually rot.
When that sad time comes, Sophie is very brave and buries her rotting squash in the ground, only to find a beautiful plant growing in its place come spring time.
The illustrations, done by Anne Wilsdorf, add a hilarity to this sweet friendship story and the concept of a plant's life cycle is subtly explained, making it a great introduction into the science of autumn and what happens to plants and leaves.
Sophie's Squash would make a great read aloud to a 3 and up group, especially with the silly illustrations. Maybe librarians and teachers could tie it into a craft, helping kids to make their own version of Bernice!
Thanks to Random House for a sending a review copy! This one will be hanging out on my shelves until E is old enough to read it with me. It's a keeper!
Lyla Hamilton is a member of a cult. Ask her though and that's her normal. She and her family joined Mandrodage Meadows years ago, after the disappearance of Lyla's little sister, and she has since integrated completely with the other families and kids. She doesn't know anything else and therefore listens to whatever she's told.
Led by the Pioneer, Lyla and the rest of the members of the community have been told that the end of the world is very near. They're training for how they'll survive once the apocalypse hits the rest of the world, but Lyla begins to question the Pioneer's methods. When a strange boy visits the grounds with his family and expresses to Lyla how strange her world really is, she grows even more confused and ultimately risks her life to get the answers she seeks.
I'm a sucker for cult stories, as strange as they are. I knew I wanted to read Gated as soon as it showed up in my mailbox and though it was fairly predictable, it was still an enjoyable read.
The pace was quick enough that I ended up finishing this in one sitting (thank you, Elliott, for napping well that day) and I liked Lyla's character. She was strong in her beliefs, but also had room for a bit of healthy doubt. The kind of doubt that keeps normal people out of cults. Obviously she didn't want to upset her family for not doing exactly as the Pioneer said to do, but she also didn't understand him.
The end was definitely what made the book a page-turner with a whole lot of action and excitement crammed into just a few pages. Lyla was really a rockstar girl then. I love when books end that way!
Thanks to Random House for the review copy!
With his "Chaos Walking" series, Patrick Ness earned a spot on my favorite authors shelf. Then came A Monster Calls
and I loved that almost as much as the series. Now, with More Than This
, Ness has really solidified his place and is one of the YA authors I recommend the most to both adults and teens looking for awesome reads.
I loved the mystery of this latest book and how the reader isn't quite sure where Seth is, just as he isn't. He believes he's dead, remembering himself drowning, and quite possibly in hell, but when he finds two others in the same place he is, a place that appears to be the same town he grew up in, after days and days alone, he's unsure if hell is really where they are. Until the Driver shows up. He's crazy-pants.
As Seth starts making discoveries of his surroundings -- it looks just like a decimated version of the town he grew up in and oh yeah, the fact that he woke up in a coffin in his old bedroom -- I needed to turn the pages faster and faster. The writing is beautiful and lovely to read, which almost makes it seem a little cruel to make such a heart-pounding story, but that's exactly what it was.
There are so many layers to both Seth and his back story that it was a great experience to uncover those, while being totally riveted by Seth's current circumstances. Another absolute winner from Patrick Ness!
Thank you to Candlewick to the review copy!
My little family traveled home to Upstate NY over the Labor Day weekend and while I was there, I unplugged. Not completely -- still checked email now and then and occasionally caught up on FB and Twitter, but for the most part, I let most of my blog and feed reading take a break. It was needed. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things in the next few days. For today, enjoy a few photos from our trip:
Seagull chasing at the lake!
Channeling his inner Jason Mraz
Forgetting how marge the hills are in Upstate New York. A fun run amid the cornfields and cabbage fields with my guy though!
Maddy and Ella are best friends who do everything together and are devastated when Maddy's family has to move away. Ella becomes the caretaker of Maddy's cat, Marmalade, and is slightly comforted in knowing that her friend will return someday.
Ella and Marmalade do all the things she and Maddy used to do and though not quite the same, they have fun together until their sweet friend returns.
This little book put a huge smile on my face! If you're looking for a great friendship story, sprinkled with a cat and a bit of imaginative illustrating, I'd definitely recommend picking it up. Alison Reynolds is a favorite picture book author of mine and Heath McKenzie did a great job with the illustrations. Loved the fun play with text too.
I know a couple of little girls who will be getting a copy of this from me!
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy.
Before I review this fabulous book, I have a confession to make. I almost didn't read it, because I was afraid of what I would dream about after I had. I have this weird problem of having vivid nightmares about my husband dying. Often. At least once a week I wake up in a panic, thinking Aaron has died next to me or gotten in a car wreck -- it's both sad and horrifying. SO when I read the description of this book being about a young woman, not married long, whose husband suddenly dies, I just wasn't sure I could do it.
I did read it and I ended up loving it. Bonus that it did NOT give me nightmares. Hooray for that.
weaves the present with the past in a beautiful way. Elsie is a young newlywed when her husband is unexpectedly killed in an accident. We get to witness Elsie go through the grief of her newfound widowhood, alongside her mother-in-law -- a woman she's never met. This portion of the heartbreaking plot is emotional, raw, and felt incredibly realistic. I could feel her pain through the words and hated the situation she was in.
The flashbacks to the past give us the steps Elsie and Ben took to becoming a couple and I laughed through those. They were so sweet and pure and I fell in love with them as they fell in love with each other. It was a beautiful courtship and I found myself wondering if the author had gone through a similar relationship. It was both crazy fast and totally true to the characters.
As soon as I finished the book, I instantly started rereading the portions where Elsie and Ben were dating. I wanted happy and those are definitely happy. Such a great read... highly recommended!
Thanks to Atria for the review copy!
If you didn't love the beautiful art in Alison Murray's Apple Pie ABC, you are crrrrrazy. I'm happy to report, Little Mouse is just as gorgeous to look at, with a cute little story perfect for bedtime. Elliott approves!
The little girl in the story does everything she can to prove to her mother that she is not, in fact, her mother's "Little Mouse." She's tall and brave and strong and loud -- nothing like a timid, little mouse. However, when bedtime comes and the little girl is sleepy and ready to cuddle, she likes nothing more than being a perfect little mouse for her mother!
A simple story story, sweet and lovely to look at. Another hit from Alison Murray!
Thank you to Disney Hyperion for the review copy.
I'll admit, I'm not the most crafty mom in the world. I want to be... I love the idea of making homemade projects and hanging them on the fridge for our family to admire and for our son to love making something with his hands, however, I'm just not very good at it. I'm not artistic and anything that I attempt to make with my hands looks exactly like I did so -- and not in a good way. I can, however, doodle like a pro. On the phone, when E is eating breakfast as slow as possible, and whenever Aaron and I talk about the budget. I love to doodle to tune things out ;). If E does get this doodling gene, this book is something I'll hand him when he gets a little older.
Craft-a-Doodle is a super fun doodling book, perfect for older kids and teens (or adults)! When it showed up in my mailbox, I wasn't sure how into it I would personally be, thinking it might be good to have around for nieces and nephews, but I've spent many phone calls already, doodling!
There are fun pages to simply draw on, working off a small sketch, along with different activities that require a small set of additional materials (yarn, watercolors, etc.). Those will be saved for when the nieces and nephews come.
It's a great book, perfect for a gift for someone who likes to be a bit crafty!
Thanks to Sterling Publishing for the review copy.
Yesterday I reviewed
another awesome novel by Jojo Moyes, The Girl You Left Behind
. Friends, I loved Me Before You
and this one was a treat, as well. You definitely need to check this author out -- she's now a favorite!
The lovely people at Penguin were kind enough to allow me to share a Q&A with Jojo Moyes about The Girl You Left Behind and offer up a giveaway for you all! Enjoy!
THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND, though a love story, features strong female
relationships as well. What made you want to write about the connections that can
form between women? If Liv and Sophie had lived in the same time, do you think
they would have been friends?
My female friendships are so important to me; I honestly don’t know how women survive without them. I get very bored of reading manufactured narratives that pit women against women; the working mums vs. stay at homes, old vs. young, the ‘evil’ woman boss who is trying to keep younger women down—I don’t recognise these images—most women I know are actually pretty supportive of each other. So I liked having relationships in this book where women are supportive of each other, even if their relationships are often complex and
changing. To me that reflects real life.
And yes, I think that Sophie and Liv might have been friends—I think through her sister’s grief, Sophie might have understood Liv’s own. And both knew what it was like to utterly adore your husband.
The reclamation of art taken during wartime is central to the plot. How did you first
encounter this topic and what kind of research did you do to learn more about it?
I was briefly the arts correspondent for The Independent newspaper in London, so I knew a bit about the legal issues. But I read an amazing news story about a young woman reporter who had been asked to mind a huge collection of stolen Nazi artwork, and was given a very valuable stolen Cranach as a ‘thank you.’ Many decades later when it came up for auction it was recognised and became the subject of a claim.
It would seem the issue of returning stolen art is clear-cut, but Liv finds herself
trying to keep a painting that may have been ill-gotten. Is there room for sympathy
on both sides?
Without wanting to diminish in any way the suffering of those who lost their precious belongings, I think there is. The more time that goes by, the more complicated the issue becomes, as people buy and sell in good faith, not knowing the painting’s tainted past. These things are also complicated when great legal industries spring up around them, as seems to have happened in the case of stolen artwork.
You create a vivid sense of French life under the German Occupation in WWI. Did
you know much about this period prior to writing the novel?
No I didn’t, but the more research I did, the more fascinated I became by it. I knew about the terrible losses suffered in northern France during the first world war, but I knew little about life away from the Western Front, and the fact that in a great swathe of northern France Belgian and French people had their homes and belongings requisitioned in such a widespread and systematic way.
Sophie and Liv exist a century apart, but their lives are strongly connected, making
the past feel very much alive in your story. Do you feel a strong link to the past or a
particular historic figure?
That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure I do. I’m always amazed when people do past life regression and say they turned out to be Cleopatra or Florence Nightingale... I think I’d be the anonymous girl who ran the fruit stall near the river, or kept the accounts in the hat shop. But I do like to look at the lives of particularly brave women in history though, undercover women agents, in wartime or Amelia Earhart, say, and try to use their actions to make me braver in my everyday life, like standing up to a traffic warden....
What do you hope readers will take away from THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND?
I hope they’ll be transported into a time and place they didn’t know about. And I hope that they will put themselves in the place of Sophie and Liv, and ask: what would I do in their shoes? I love writing strong, resourceful female characters, and Sophie was one of my favourites, so I hope some women might be a little bit inspired too. Mostly I simply hope that they will feel glad they picked up the book and took the journey with me.
If you'd like a copy of Me Before You and a copy of The Girl You Left Behind, leave a comment on this post with something you've read lately that you can't wait to hand to all of your friends. Leave the comment by Sunday night and I'll choose a winner on Monday morning. Thanks Penguin!
Jojo Moyes has now reached "favorite author" status for me. After how hard I fell
for Me Before You
, I had high expectations going into this book, but I loved it just as much, if not more.
We're introduced to Sophie LeFevre, a hardened woman running the family hotel with her sister after both their husbands went off to war. It's 1916 and the people in Sophie's small town are starving, stuck under the thumb of the Germans after their invasion. During a search of their home, the Kommandant takes an interest in a painting Sophie's husband created of her, stirring up a whirlwind of trouble for everyone involved.
Over a century later, that very painting is hanging on Liv's wall, a honeymoon gift from her husband who recently died. Liv is still paralyzed by grief after losing David and doesn't realized how attached she is to the painting until her possession of it is threatened. A court battle over the portrait of a woman Liv has never met becomes an obsession and Liv is forced to deal with the possibility at losing another chance at happiness because of it.
I was absolutely hooked from the very first chapter of this novel. Moyes does such a great job at grabbing the reader and making them need to know more about the characters -- so much so, that I wanted to both speed through the book to get to the end and savor it to make it last.
I'm a huge historical fiction fan and was completely satisfied with how the author handled that portion of the story. It was my favorite part. The details in both setting and emotion were fantastic and the power the German occupation had over life was easily understood. I loved it!
Now I must find time to fit in her backlist.
Stay tuned! Tomorrow I might just be giving away a copy of something by Jojo Moyes! Sneaky, sneaky.
Thank you to Penguin for the review copy.
Must-read alert! This is going to be one of those books I'm shoving in everyone's hands, so be warned.
Throughout all of her school years, Elise has always been an outsider, despite trying desperately to fit in. Though snarky in her thoughts and speak, she truly wants nothing more than to have a group of friends to be herself with. She has embarrassed herself more times than she can count attempting to gain friends and she thinks she's a lost cause.
On one of her regular late night walks, Elise comes across a couple of girls outside of a mysterious warehouse party. They seem to accept her as one of them right away and invite her to the party, where she finds herself in a place she finally belongs. She not only fits in with the girls, but finds a cute boy who is actually interested in her! Pair all of that with Elise finally being able to express her passion in music and her life really begins to look up.
Seriously friends, despite the seriousness of the bullying and heartbreak Elise experiences this one is laugh-out-loud funny. It's real, honest, and feels like something totally true to the lives of teens. The immense power music has over Elise and her life is evident and, again, something I think a lot of teens will be able to relate to. When I was a teen, up through my mid-20's, music was a huge outlet of emotion for me, as it is for Elise. Sometimes those song writers just get it!
Elise, though frustrating and annoying at times, is so much like a real kid, I think she'll go down as one of my very favorite characters of the year.
Make sure you pick this one up, if you haven't already.
Thanks to FSG for the review copy!
Whew! It was a fun and crazy weekend! Aaron was amazing and took E with him when he went to spend the weekend at my in-laws and do a run. This left me 3 entire days to myself! Now, the smart me would have planned nothing and had a spontaneous readathon or something amazingly relaxing like that, but instead, I had already agreed to a jam-packed weekend filled with concerts, meetings, and attempting to find a pair of shoes for my wide feet.
I didn't end up with shoes, but I did go to DCFest, a huge Christian concert featuring 6 great bands (7th row seats and backstage passes too!), had cupcakes with a friend, got a manicure, cleaned my house from top-to-bottom, and attended a benefit concert for a family at our church. If you're interested in their story, they write an amazing blog
chronicling the crazy journey they've been on with their daughters. They have two biological girls, two adopted from China with severe medical conditions, and they lost their 3rd biological girl at 39 weeks gestation. It's just heartbreaking, but they're all smiling all the time. A truly beautiful family.
Finally, when my busy weekend came to a close last night, I was finally able to sit down read through a stack of picture books that had made their way into may house over the past couple of weeks, deciding which would be reviewed. Guys, there are SO MANY great picture books coming out this fall. Just you wait!
The first I want to talk about though, actually came out in July, and it's easily a favorite of the year. There's been a lot of buzz surrounding this book (a lot of it from me!) and I think it deserves a place on everyone's bookshelf.
Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker, is a powerful story of imagination. A little girl, bored and lonely, wants desperately for someone to play with her. When she's turned down time after time, she decides to maker her own fun and journey to another world in a special red boat. When captured by an evil emperor after performing an act of kindness, she must rely on kindness in return to make her escape and head for home.
I love wordless picture books, when done right, with an easy-to-follow story, and this one is illustrated so beautifully that you can't help but fall in love with this little girl's adventure. It's one of those special books that should be on everyone's shelves!
Thank you to Candlewick for the review copy.
After suffering with bipolar disorder, Laura's husband committed suicide and she's left to raise their two children, Darcy and Troy, alone in the aftermath of this tragedy. Being a single parent is never easy, but attempting to parent two teens who traumatically lost their father is proving to be more than Laura can handle.
When a well-meaning friend pushes Laura to rent out her husband's old office space to bring in more money, she's reluctant, but agrees. Aiden moves in and slowly works his way into the family, despite Laura's hesitance and Darcy's anger towards the idea of having someone replace her father.
This was a quick read, easy to get through in an afternoon, and an interesting look at mental illness. Lorrie Thomson attempted to find a balance between telling a story of mental illness within a family and the tragedies that can often occur because of those illnesses and a romance. She definitely succeeded with the mental illness portions, but at times the writing felt stilted and forced and not all the situations the Laura and Darcy find themselves in are believable.
I think a book like this is hard to describe,because there's so much going on. It was obvious that Thomson had a passion to write about the effects of bipolar disorder on families and she really did that well, however, I just didn't believe in the rest of the book -- and the "sexy new tenant" was a little coincidental (and corny) for me.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the review copy!
You can find the rest of the tour here
To say Caleb runs long distances is an understatement. He's an ultra-marathoner, which 100 mile marathons across what most would think is crazy terrain -- through mountains and deserts, rather than on simple roadways. Those of us who run sidewalks for just 3-4 miles at a time are total wimps compared to Caleb. He loves it and it's his passion, though his obsession with ultra-marathoning has also lead him to keep his distance from his from his brother, Shane, for years.
Caleb's running club adheres to incredibly strict rules for it's members and when Caleb breaks one of them by falling in love with another member and subsequently becoming entangle in a quest to save her sick daughter, we know things are going South pretty quickly. This is when Shane becomes involved and his experience with biotechnology comes into play. Told in alternating chapters, Shane and Caleb begin to work together to save the child and, Shane hopes, to bring his brother back home.
As a runner, I'm totally fascinated with the idea of ultra marathons. I don't think I'll see myself crossing the finish at a plain, old 26.2 mile marathon, let alone running a 100 miles at once, but the people that can and do are just fascinating. Race Across the Sky
totally sucked me in for that reason, as the author obviously knows ultra marathons well. He either did a whole lot of intense research or runs them himself (his bio didn't clarify).
The running club portions bothered me a bit and felt like an unnecessary portion of the story. I was all into reading about this awesome ultra marathon runner and then I was hit with the running club. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about them, but I really wish their strict rules had been left out of the story altogether. I was psyched about a novel on running, as I've yet to find one, and with this being compared to Born to Run, I was even more excited. A little let down after getting really into the story.
On another upside, I did really like the biotechnology aspects of the story and was totally fascinated with learning a little about how pharmaceutical companies work, though I did find it super convenient that Shane happened to go into pharmaceuticals and his estranged brother happened to need his help desperately, which is how they came back t
ogether. Lots of little "coincidences" like that.
If you're a runner and the idea of a novel about runner intrigues you, give this one a try. I had a few quips with it, but was entertained overall. Plus, we all know, I often have irritations that most readers do not. I'm weird like that and not ashamed!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy.
I have a confession to make. I'm suffering from blogger burnout. Those who have blogged for years, as I have, know what I'm talking about -- not fun! I love blogging and definitely don't want to stop, however, my life is a lot different now then it was a year or two ago. I don't have nearly as much time to read books and write up reviews, but I love sharing this with you all. I'm searching for new and fun content all the time and this particular one was so much fun to write up.
Today I read the latest post from Jamie
, one of my very favorite book bloggers. She takes us back to the years of MySpace and all the silly surveys we all filled out and created an A to Z Bookish Survey
. I think this is a great way to not only get to know other bloggers, but it's just a fun way to talk about books, without sitting down to write a review.
Author you've read the most books from:
According to Goodreads (Go to your account, hit "my books" and on the left side under the shelves you'll see "Most Read Authors.") Jacqueline Winspear is at the top. I'm obsessed with her Maisie Dobbs books, so that makes sense. Closely followed by Shannon Hale and Sarah Dessen.
Best sequel ever:
Hmm... Loved Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Also loved The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness and The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan. I don't even know if I can pick a favorite. Probably Potter, because I was more than a little obsessed with them.
Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman. Not in love with it, so not sure how much more I'll read.
Drink of Choice While Reading:
Coffee. Hot or iced.
E-Reader or Physical Book:
Definitely physical book. I only have a first generation Nook and I've read maybe 3 books on it. Just don't love it.
Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated in High School:
Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars.
Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. It turned out to be the first book in one of my favorite series, but typically not a book I would have picked up. I gave it a chance and loved it.
Hidden Gem of a Book:
After the Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart. It's marketed as adult, but definitely crosses over to YA easily. A great story and the first book in a series.
Important Moment in Your Reading Life:
Moving to DC. I've always been a voracious reader, but moving to this area, with all the local indie stores and book signings has really created a real life reading community for me. Twitter and other online friends are awesome, but there's nothing like the real thing.
Gaining Ground by Forrest Pritchard. Local author and a really great book on farming and local food.
Kinds of Books You Won't Read:
I don't really read romance or sci-fi, but I definitely WON'T read erotica or anything sexually explicit. Just not my thing.
Longest Book You've Read:
Again, according to Goodreads, it's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, coming in at 870 pages.
Major Book Hangover because of:
The Book Thief. Nothing sparked my interest for a long time after that one.
Number of Bookcases You Own:
8. For a book-obsessed person like myself, I actually don't have that many books. I only keep what I really, really love, so these shelves also hold picture frames and other pretty things. Might as well pretend I have some sort of home-design style right?
One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I've read all of them multiple times, but that one has seen probably the most rereads.
Preferred Place to Read:
I have a big, comfy green reading chair that I hardly ever utilize. It's in the den/playroom connected to my kitchen, so as soon as I sit down I can see all the other stuff I should be doing. I'd love to read in that chair more, but in reality reading is bed is what gets the most pages read for me.
Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read:
"That's the thing about pain," Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. "It demands to be felt."
That I never really got into "classics." I've tried, believe me, but I just can't fall in love with Jane Austen or F. Scott Fitzgerald or any of those great writers. I'm know they are great comfort reads for some people and I wish I had that connection with them.
Series You Need to Finish (all the books are out in the series):
Maisie Dobbs. I only have one to go and I'm so sad the experience is almost over. I hope Jacqueline Winspear keeps the series going for a long time.
Three of Your All-time Favorite Books:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Unapologetic Fangirl for:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. He doesn't need my help by any means, but I just love that book.
Very Excited for This Release More Than All the Others:
I'm pretty excited for Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi next year. Also, I'm kinda dying for a new John Green. No word on anything though.
Worst Bookish Habit:
I eat when I read and I often lay my book face down. Only review copies and those I own. No worries to people who lend me books!
X Marks the Spot: Start at the top left of your bookshelves and pick the 27th book:
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. One of my faves!
Your Latest Book Purchase:
Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood. Still haven't read it! Must fix that!
ZZZ-snatcher Book (last book that kept you up WAY late):
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan. It's not a thriller, but I had to know what happened to the characters before I could contemplate sleep.
Thanks again, Jamie!
From the time E was born, I was that mom that insisted I wouldn't be having gobs of character stuff in my house. No Elmo, no Dora, no Mickey, and no Thomas. I felt that if I allowed E to get into something that had a television show basis, that's all he'd want to do 24/7 was watch tv and my house would look like a walking advertisement.
Well, Thomas has invaded... and I'm actually ok with it. E's tv time is just as limited as it was before he became interested in a specific character and my house doesn't look like a Thomas explosion. Yet. We do have quite a few trains (thank you Craigslist for an awesome deal) and a friend gave us a Thomas tent she picked up at a yard sale for 50 cents. Other than that, E's entire Thomas "collection" is in books.
Random House was kind enough to send a few new ones for us to check out. I let him open the package and you would have thought it was Christmas! Big smiles all around!
Busy, Busy Thomas is a sturdy board book with flaps to lift. There were over 30 flaps, which made for quite a bit of entertainment, and the flaps were nice and thick, so no tearing. A great feature for little toddler hands.
Thomas' Big Book of Beginner Readers is probably his favorite. In the last few weeks he's started sitting through longer stories and these are the perfect length. He's obviously not using them as an early reading jumpstart or anything, but the larger letters, short text portions, and big illustrations are a hit. He also seems to really like being able to turn lots and lots of pages. He sat through 3/4 of the book yesterday, which I think is pretty impressive for a book this size with a 20-month-old. Score another one for Thomas.
Finally, we received Thomas and Friends Little Golden Library. These particular books are a little advanced for E right now -- long stories, small text, lots of time on each page, so we have been reading them, but he does really like to try to turn the pages himself and look at the illustrations. James seems to be his favorite engine and he'll point to James on every page he appears, exclaiming his delight in his own little language. Still working on the talking.
My piece of advice to new moms is to just not fight it. Thomas is perfectly fine and enjoyable, as I'm sure the other characters can be too. As long as the kids aren't plopped in front of the tv 6 hours a day and you say no to a portion of the onslaught of toys well-meaning family members are sure to purchase, your house won't be totally taken over. Thomas did invade our house, but I can still stick him on a shelf for now. I was also the new mom that said I didn't want plastic toys in my house. HA!
Books and I just haven't been getting along lately. When I get into this occasional funk, I typically want something comforting to read or something I already know I love. I listened to this one way back in the beginning of the year and enjoyed it so much I reread it this weekend when nothing else could grab my interest. Historical fiction has really been my love this year and The Chaperone has been one of my favorites.
Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.
For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive. (Goodreads)
This time period in our history was definitely one of transition and seeing it through the eyes of two women of different backgrounds, maturity levels, and attitudes was amazing. That aspect alone made the setting and historical aspects come alive. I really appreciated the care that went into molding both Louise and Cora into these characters who were very different, yet at times, very much alike.
Seeing the famous Louise Brooks in this fictional manner was also a lot of fun! I highly recommend this ones to fans of historical fiction or someone simply looking for a glimpse into an awesome period of history.
Well, it's August. Anyone of you out there pleading with the universe to get fall weather here quicker? Typically, by this point in the summer, I would be one of those that have had enough with the heat, anxiously awaiting sweater weather, but this year I'm enjoying summer with my boy. It's great that we can head out and play for an hour after dinner, soaking up the sun a little bit longer. It also means I can read outside later and not freeze my toes off.
I didn't feel like I accomplished many books in July, when in fact, I read quite a few! My non-fiction-loving-self finally sat down and read a few of the books on my TBR and I really enjoyed mixing up the fiction a little more.
Favorites from the month:
It was only a matter of time before E started taking over the blog. We all knew it would happen, right? Well, I'm not totally handing over the reigns yet, but I'm allowing him to have a new feature that I hope will become a regular posting.
Before summer started, we were in the library about once a week, but not on a consistent basis. Since our local summer reading program, Dig into Reading, began in June, I've made sure that one day a week (usually Mondays or Fridays) is designated as library day, for us to return books, pick out new ones, and pick up his reading program coupons and prizes.
One small irritant about our summer program: I love that birth and up can participate, but the prizes for the little kids are terrible. One sticker for reading 5 books? A coupon to the county fair for 15 books read? He gets in free for being under 4! I get that there are budgets and this program is offered for free, but the lack of imagination is a little irritating. He certainly doesn't understand, but a preschooler will!
I've started letting E pick out a few of his own books, while the attention span lasts, but I've also just been randomly choosing ones. Never know when we'll find a gem, right? Below are a few "old" books -- published years ago -- that the kid has just fallen in love with. Sam's Bath
by Barbro Lindgren (published 1983)The Little Train
by Lois Lenski (published 1940)Hop Aboard! Here We Go!
by Richard Scarry (originally published 1967)Truck Stop
by Bonnie Dobkin (published 1994)
The transportation books were no surprise, as he loves anything that includes trucks or trains. Truck Stop is actually an older Rookie Reader, but it's perfect for toddlers. Very short text with large illustrations.
Sam's Bath is part of a small series of Swedish books featuring a little boy named Sam and his dog named Doggie. The dog usually gets in trouble for things Sam makes him do, but other than using the word "dumb" often (I change to "silly"), these have been a big hit with both of us. Lots of repetition and cute pictures.
These are Elliott approved, so I definitely recommend checking them out if you have a young toddler at home.
Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir. Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the absurd demands of life at the royal court and by Xenia's growing obsession with having a child -- a desperate need at last fulfilled with the birth of her daughter. But then a tragic vision comes true, and a shattered Xenia descends into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that alters the court of her life. Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving all her money and possessions to the poor. Then, one day she disappears. (Publisher)
I love a good historical fiction novel and especially one centered on a country or time period I don't know a whole lot about. Russia in 1736 fit the bill. I really enjoyed getting a peek into the Russian royal court and the events that surrounded the years the book spanned, without going too deep into the history. Books like this are great, because they encourage further research, if interested, rather than being a timeline. That's why I like historical fiction.
The pacing was excellent -- moved quickly enough to keep me interested -- but, unfortunately, I really didn't connect with any of the characters. I felt it odd that a secondary character was doing the narrating, rather than Xenia, and though that often works in other books, I feel it created that disconnect here. Dasha definitely was the more rational of the pair, so I guess I do understand why she was the more reliable narrator, however I wanted to feel connected to Xenia and I did not.
The detailing in everything from outfits worn to the settings and levels of excess the court exhibit was fantastic and showed the beauty of Dean's writing. Though I didn't fall in love with the book, I did very much appreciate the beautiful writing and the historical aspects.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the review copy. You can find the rest of the tour here
Wasn't there a horror movie called "A Cabin in the Woods" that came out a few years ago? Our cabin was absolutely perfect, so no comparison to the movie, I promise. We rented a cabin outside of Harrisonburg, VA, only a couple of hours away from us, but it seemed like it was in a whole other world!
We were lucky enough to get a property that also had two ponies, a dozen or so chickens, and three adorable baby goats. Not only could we hear the stream rushing across the street, but Elliott was totally entertained by the animals the entire time we were there. We hiked, played in the water, took walks, and the kid slept in every single day. It was fantastic.
We also visited the Explore More Discovery Museum
in downtown Harrisonburg. It was fabulous! Absolutely perfect for preschoolers. Hands down the best museum we've visited with Elliott (and the cheapest). I highly recommend going if you're in the area.
You should also hit up the coolest playground EVER if you happen to be passing through that area. I've never seen anything quite like Dream Come True Playground
. We happened upon it by accident, but stayed for almost an hour. Separate areas for younger and older age groups, hammocks, rock walls, drawing walls, a roadway for scooters, and so much more. There's even a handicap accessible swing for wheelchairs! SO impressed.
And finally, the biggest peanut butter and honey sandwich ever:
We're back and I'm ready to get back into the swing of blogging. I have a few great reviews coming up this week, as well as a new feature. Check it out on Wednesday!
I also finally started a Facebook page for this blog. It only took me 6 years! If you enjoy reading the posts, head on over and "Like" me
As she's mentally and emotionally working through an intense tragedy, Abby Sinclair heads to Stargazey Point to stay with a trio of octogenarians in their plantation house. She's hoping to find a refuge from her life and that's exactly what she finds. No longer a tourist attraction, Stargazey Point has fallen to ruins, leaving the residents scrambling to make money and the residents tempted to sell their homes to developers.
What I loved most about this beachy read was the beautiful setting. I grew up in Upstate NY, land of lakes, and currently live outside a major metro area, so when an author writes of a beach setting and does it well, as Shelley Noble very much does, I'm immediately sucked in. The descriptions of the town and it's seaside local had me from the very beginning and transported me to Stargazey Point.
As the protagonist, Abby was intriguing and emotional. She had a depth to her that a lot of characters in "lighter" reads don't necessarily have and her extreme grief was not only evident from the start, but was able to be transferred to me as the reader.
I absolutely loved the whole plot point about restoring a carousel and Cab's obsession with staying true to what Stargazey Point was all about. He was an excellent character, as well.
If you still have a beach trip planned this summer, grab this one to throw in your bag. It was a great read!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy. Check out the rest of the tour here
The Rules of Disappearing by Ashley Elston
When I read the words: "Witness Protection Program" on the cover flap, I was sold. I've always been really intrigued by the whole idea of a program like this and how it works and how families actually survive after having their identities removed and replaced. Elston did an excellent job at creating a main character that felt realistic, with a vulnerability that I can only imagine other teens in this program must feel.
The story flew by and the ending was kind of an OMG moment for me and that doesn't happen nearly enough. Highly recommended for a quick read this summer.
Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal
This one was a tad out of my comfort zone, but so many bloggers were loving it that when it showed up at my door I knew I had to take a chance. It's a quirky fantasy with great main character and the added bonus of having the Grimm fairytales play a huge role. Who doesn't love Grimm?!
Jeremy hears the voice of one of the Grimm brothers, obviously setting him apart from his peers and making for a very interesting twist. The plot is both creepy AND whimsical (not that the combo makes any sense), and secondary character Ginger is really the star of the show. She's awesome in an often terrible way.
This one won't be for everyone, but I encourage you to give it a try. Follow my lead and step outside your comfort zone!
Since You Asked by Margaret Goo
Snark, romance, and cultural all crammed into one book. I laughed my way through this entire book in one afternoon. Main character Holly is Korean American and loves her family and culture, despite the high expectations placed upon her, but she works throughout the book to find a balance to the craziness of her parents and the ups and downs of high school in general.
The solution apparently was getting out all her angst in a hilarious newspaper column. I loved the characters, I thought the plot was fresh and fun, and Holly had a realistic teen voice.
Thank to Disney Hyperion, Knopf, and Scholastic for the review copies.
Molly has been in foster care most of her life, but is about to age out of the system. She's an incredibly lost girl, unsure of herself (and really who could blame her) and in a difficult moment, steals a book from the library. Rather than sending her to juvenile hall, the judge orders her to do community service.
Placed with Vivian whose attic desperately needs cleaning out, Molly is unable to understand how she'll possibly learn anything. Vivian is old and that's all Molly really sees. What actually unfolds is a beautiful friendship of understanding.
From both being shunned for their outward appearances and heritage to being orphans and experiencing incredibly hardship, both women have truly inspiring stories and quite a bit in common. The reader gets to know both of the characters through flashbacks to Vivian's life at the turn of the 20th century and Molly's current status as foster care kid/juvenile delinquent.
Molly's heartache for her situation and her process of acting out was done in a way that made me want to help her. It wasn't over-the-top, but instead, realistic and an excellent precursor to meeting Vivian and learning her story.
I've always had a strange fascination with orphan trains, though I haven't found many stories about them. The historical detail in this story was excellent and I finished the book knowing more about both the trains and the current foster care system than I had going in. Pair that new knowledge with two beautifully written characters and this book really was a winner for me.
A little bit historical, a lot of emotions, and great characters. Christine Baker Kline is a talent, that's for sure. Highly recommended!
Check out the rest of the tour stops here
. Thanks to William Morrow for the review copy!
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4 friends grew up together in Oakpine, Wyoming, some going their separate ways after graduation and others sticking around. Craig and Frank stuck out life in the small town, while Mason moved to Denver after college and became a lawyer. Jimmy, however, ran away to NYC after a family tragedy, never returning to the town or his friends. Until now -- 30 years later.
While the guys were in high school they had a rock band that took over their lives. When they're all back together in one place, they start to think that getting the band back together might just help them all deal with the latest curveball life has thrown.
I wasn't sure what I was going to think going into this. Though I'm not typically biased about books with male main characters, this one had 4 men in the main roles and the whole story centered around their issues. I wasn't sure I would be able to connect with any of them enough to invest myself. I was definitely wrong.
Author Ron Carlson made me care about each of the men and their unique friendship. I found myself flashing back to my tiny high school class, wondering if any of the groups of guys I know were close then are still close now. The bond these men had was pretty amazing and the idea of getting a band back together really was the best thing they ever could have done.
The plot was believable, the characters well-written, and I definitely needed a tissue box by the end. My favorite part though was Larry and his amazing descriptions of running. If Ron Carlson isn't a runner then I want to know where his inspiration came from, because he totally gets it!
Thanks to Penguin for the review copy!