Sunday, August 23, 2015

Checking in with books we've been loving

It's been much too long since I've sat down to write a post. After an incredibly hectic winter and spring, I really needed a break. I was burnt out on serving, on working, on parenting, and on blogging. I just wanted to read for pure enjoyment for awhile and I've spent this summer jumping from book to book - finishing some, not finishing others - and I've loved the peace and calm. Our summer has been busy, but filled with all good things and with the start of fall, I think I'm reading to start sharing about books again on a more regular basis. 

Elliott and I are still reading at least a dozen books a day and we've even jumped into pre-reading activities for him.  It's amazing how fast he is learning an wanting to know more about words and how they work. We're doing preschool at home this year and I'm excited to get started with that! 

Here are a few we've loved over the last few months:

Emergency Vehicles by Rod Green and Stephen Biesty

E is definitely a lover of cars/trucks/trains and we've spent tons of time looking at the first book in this series: Giant Vehicles. He recently decided, after a trip to a city event with emergency vehicles, that he wants to be an EMT when he grows up, so this new one was an instant hit. 

Full page spreads of a police car, fire truck, fireboat, air ambulance and more, with tons of flaps to open, It's perfect to just browse through or actually pick a vehicle to focus on and learn all the parts and tidbits of information. 

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Adorable. The perfect read aloud for a 3-year-old who is just really learning to pick up on cues in the story. We read it once through, both laughing over who really ate the sandwich, and each subsequent read has brought shouts on each page of "it's not the bear!" 

If you do storytimes at the library or a bookstore, or just with your own kids, you'll want to check this one out, for sure. 

I spent a lot of the summer catching up on adult backlist titles that I had missed, but I also have a handful of younger titles that I loved:

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

I loved Wonder and the phenomenon it created with readers and teachers, so when I saw this in my mailbox, I was thrilled.  Julian, Christopher, and Charlotte each get a chapter to tell how their lives interacted with Auggie and how they were impacted by him and his differences. It's a companion to Wonder, with some of this new story taking place before the action of the original and some during, and it's really a lovely addition. 

Empathy and kindness were huge themes in Wonder and they definitely continue here. 

Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes by Rock Riordon and John Rocco

Yes, I'm still on the Percy Jackson train. I love the original series, but even more so, I love this collaboration Riordan did with John Rocco. Rocco is one of my favorite illustrators and I just can't get enough of his stuff! Combined with Percy telling us the story of a dozen awesome Greek heroes and I'm completely sold. 

This and Percy Jackson's Greek Gods would make fabulous gift books for readers interested in mythology, even without having read any of the Percy Jackson series. They're huge, heavy, and beautiful. 

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Ahhh! Loved this one! Contemporary, with a realistic voice in Madeline, and a modern method of storytelling. Charts, emails, texts, etc. help to share Madeline's story of living with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency and how that basically affects her entire life. And when Olly becomes part of the picture, life just gets more and more complicated. 

I've been telling everyone about this one and how excited I am for them to read it. Out on 9/1! 

Switch by Ingrid Law

With the amount of ready I do both for pleasure and for work, I don't often read an entire series. I'll read the first book, just enough to know how to sell it, but unless I really love the books I won't continue on. Ingrid Law's books? I read all of those. I absolutely loved Savvy and was thrilled to read Scumble when it came out a year after, but I've been itching for a new book by Law and 4 years later, I'm getting one!

The Beaumont family is back in Switch and it's just as utterly charming as the other 2 stories. An excellent balance of magic, adventure, and family story. Gypsy's story is filled with fun, but also with relatable experiences and I just love that combination. 

Also out on 9/1, keep your eyes out for Switch. And if you and your kids haven't yet read Savvy, GO NOW. Even the Newbery panel says so. 

If you have a suggestion for a book I might have missed out on this summer, leave me a comment! 

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion, Penguin, Random House, and Candlewick for the lovely review copies. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

House of Hawthorne review

Since the release of Hemingway's Girl, I've been a huge fan of Erika Robuck and her ability to take a historical figure and weave their life into a fictional story, resulting in a wave of interest in that person that might not have previously existed. It's a special talent, my friends and I'm on the train of love for these books. 

After finishing one of Robuck's books, I've found myself researching Ernest Hemingway, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Zelda Fitzgerald and now Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia. To take a fiction novel to the level that Robuck does - making me want to read more about these real people and the lives they led - is fantastic and unlike any other reading experience I've had before. 

When I first opened the beautiful deckled-edge pages of The House of Hawthorne (the edges always deserve comment) I knew I was in for a treat. I had no prior knowledge of Nathaniel Hawthorne's life and I had never heard of his wife, Sophia. I'm in the minority of adults who has not had to read The Scarlett Letter at some point in my life and so, though I knew of Hawthorne, I did not have any info going in. And let me tell you, his adult life was a bit rough. 

Overall, this is the love story of Nathaniel and Sophia. Their incredibly intense romance was fascinating to read about and the atmosphere Robuck created surrounding their relationship was complicated and beautiful. I could feel the passion and pain of the characters as I read the words and really just wanted to see their story have a happy ending. Life in the mid-19th century was difficult, to say the least.  

I was completely transported to the time period and setting and after finishing the last page, found myself looking up information about Nathaniel Hawthorne. Well done, Erika Robuck. Another winner!

Review copy provided by publisher. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman

I love companion novels. I'm one of those readers who loves to have a story continue, but not necessarily follow the main character. Typically, unless the book is part of a series, the main character has had her story told and the ending is there for a reason, but there are always secondary characters I'm interested in and would love to see expanded upon. 

Sometime last year, my book club read The Midwife of Hope River and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but was left wanting to know more about Becky. I apparently just needed some patience. The Reluctant Midwife follows Becky as she returns to Hope River during the Great Depression, accompanying Dr. Blum to help care for the poor. 

The characters are well-formed and detailed, as in Harman's previous novel, and I enjoyed this one very much. I really loved all the bits of American history woven into the story and it was obvious the author did an immense amount of research before creating this story. It was believable and felt like it could have been out of the pages of a diary of a midwife in the early 1930's. 

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction or Call the Midwife.

You can find Patricia Harman on Twitter, Facebook, and at her website. You can find the rest of the TLC Book Tour here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

Alys has a pretty typical high school life. Boyfriend, best friend, good grades, etc. She's a talented musician with a hopeful future and not much to truly worry about. Then her older brother walks into their high school and kills fifteen people and then himself. Her friends, her classmates, her teachers are dead. Her brother is gone.

Alys must deal with the aftermath of her brother's decision, all while grieving the loss of her sibling. She is shunned by people she thought loved her, her parents can't stop arguing, and she can't help but feel she should have known something was going to happen and have been able to prevent such a horrible tragedy.

This is a dark, gritty, novel filled with hard stuff. So close to reality for too many people. The writing is beautiful and haunting and I felt an instant connection to Alys. She was just a girl who went to school one day and her sibling made a horrific decision, forever changing her entire life.  Her brokenness after the shooting was expected, but the way Banash put it on the page felt real and honest.

I finished this a week ago, but I can't stop thinking about it. The perspective was unique and the emotion was just pure and raw. A hard read, but a good one.

Thank you to Penguin for the review copy.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson is out!

After years of excessive drink and sex, Patrick has suffered a massive heart attack. Although he's only fifty, he's got just months to live. But a tragic accident involving a teenager and a motorcycle gives the university professor a second chance. He receives the boy's heart in a transplant, and by this miracle of science, two strangers are forever linked.

Though Patrick's body accepts his new heart, his old life seems to reject him. Bored by the things that once enticed him, he begins to look for meaning in his experience. Discovering that his donor was a local boy named Drew Beamish, he becomes intensely curious about Drew's life and the influences that shaped him--from the eighteenth-century ancestor involved in a labor riot to the bleak beauty of the Cambridgeshire countryside in which he was raised. Patrick longs to know the story of this heart that is now his own. (publisher) 

Out now, go check it out!

You can find the rest of the stops on the tour here

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Beautiful Daughters (giveaway)

If you've been with me since the beginning (7 years -- can you believe it?!) you'll know that I've been a huge fan of Nicole Baart since her very first book, After the Leaves Fall came out. It was the first in a trilogy and I absolutely loved it and gave it as gifts to all my girlfriends. Since then, Nicole has published several other books and I've loved them all, so when I had the chance to read an early copy of her latest book, The Beautiful Daughters, I jumped at the chance.

A story about family and best friends and first loves, and what it means to help mend the hearts of people you love. The characters were the shining star of the entire book and I felt connections with all of them -- despite also wanting to shake them sometimes. Adri had her moments of being incredibly frustrating with her consistently stoic behavior and Harper was just a hot mess, but understandably so. Trust me, pick up this book and you'll become invested in the lives of these women and the men in their lives. It was enthralling.

I'll add a finished copy to my shelves once the book is published (April!!), so I'd love to share my advanced reader copy with one of you. Whether it's your first Nicole Baart novel or you've been following her for years as I have, you should enter! Leave a comment on this post by Friday night and I'll pick a winner Saturday morning. It's definitely worth a read!

Friday, February 13, 2015


One of my favorite bloggers, The Modern Mrs. Darcy, occasionally hosts a feature she calls Twitterature, where bloggers can share what they've been reading in short, casual reviews. Though she hasn't posted one in awhile, it's my favorite way to review lately as my time is short but my desire to share about my reading is high! I often review picture books this way, but I wanted to briefly fill you all in on my own reading and hopefully give you a few more titles to add to your own TBR piles.

First up, a couple of non-fiction titles.

The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley

Absolutely fascinating. Traveling around the world, Ripley explores huge differences between American schools and other education systems. A lot of information was given on the lack of quality education in the U.S. and how other countries manage to achieve higher test scores with less (or more) work. As the parent of a child who will soon be school age, this was incredibly eye-opening. Highly recommended.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This one has been all over the place and I finally got my hands on one! If you follow me on Twitter, I talk a lot about simple living and not having a lot of stuff, and the author expands upon this idea, teaching readers just how to get rid of stuff and why we should do it. Some of her ideas are a little extreme (thank your bag or sweater for a "job well done" at the end of the day), but overall, a great resource for someone needing that extra push to start decluttering.

A couple of notes on books I haven't been loving lately. I rarely finish books I'm not loving, but I did finish these two and felt the need to chat about them.

Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukoup

I really like the blog this book is based on, also titled Living Well, Spending Less, but I was disappointed in the book. This read more like a memoir (and not a well-written one) of how Soukoup got over her own spending addiction, than an actual guide on how to spend less money and still live well. There were very few actual frugal living tips, instead, briefly mentioning things in a very basic manner, like budgets and not buying things that aren't necessities, then going right back to her own personal story.  I was left wanting a lot more.

The Taste of Many Mountains by Bruce Wydick

This was a hard one to get through. Despite the fascinating topic of fair trade coffee (something I'm passionate about) it felt like reading a journal article or textbook every time the characters were speaking to each other. Flat, wooden dialogue with uninteresting characters. What was supposed to be a thrilling story was actually dry and boring. Such a bummer.

Both of these books were sent courtesy of BookLook Bloggers.