What is your reading goal this year?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Joy's Journey Home

Joy's Journey Home by Timothy Connolly

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "A heartwarming adventure seen through the eyes of a kitchen named Joy on her way back home. This story is a tale of growth and connection, which is filled with lovable characters, each with their own adventures and lessons learned, all leading Joy toward home where she belongs."

I liked this book, for the most part. It's a fast, easy read. Most of the characters are cute and lovable. I liked that one of the main characters, Angela, is deaf and uses sign language to speak. I have never read a book that has a deaf character in it, and I liked that it brought deafness and sign language to the forefront. I also liked that there were some good lessons to be learned. The characters learn about love, family, and helping each other. I did think, though, that for a cute little kitten story, it was more violent and scary than it should have been. Even though it's with a cat, there is essentially a "birds and the bees" story. I mean, it is a cat, but she falls in love with a stray boy cat, and goes off with him, then he leaves her and she comes back pregnant. She is dejected and upset because he left her alone and pregnant. I'm not sure if a little child would catch it, but I would be uncomfortable reading it to my daughters the way it is written. It's a bit much. There is also a part where a fire burns a barn, collapses, and kills a few kittens. That was a really sad and scary part. Now, there is a surprise at the end that may or may not make things better, but it happens after the sad and scary parts. I know my girls would be upset after reading that part. 

So, it has a good ending, it teaches some good lessons, and it brings deafness and sign language to the forefront. I like those things. The illustrations are very cute as well. There were a few parts, though, that I didn't think should have been in the story, or I think they should have been toned down a bit. It's tough because some of the scenes are geared more toward middle graders, but this story of a cute little kitten and her friend Angela will not appeal to them. The story line is geared toward younger children. If I read it to my girls I will definitely read it to them, and I will alter those parts a bit. It is worth reading, though, because the characters do learn some good lessons. 

Rating: PG

Recommendation: It's kind of tricky. Because it's a kitten story, middle graders really won't be interested, but a few scenes are too much for the K-3 girl crowd. I'd say K-3rd grade girls, but I'd recommend that parents read it first. Maybe other parents will be fine with it. If they read it silently, I'd make sure to discuss those parts with them. It's probably a 2nd grade reading level.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 19, 2014

MUST. HAVE. Wine.: A Toast To Motherhood

MUST. HAVE. Wine: A Toast To Motherhood by Katrina Epp and Leah Speer

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "Must. Have. Wine. It's a modern mom's mantra. No matter what type of day we're having--when we've come to the end of our rope, had the best day ever, or simply just want to unwind. Along with that glass of wine, we find comfort in knowing other moms are going through the same things we are. Must. Have. Wine. A Toast To Motherhood, is a collection of relatable stories by everyday moms assuring that none of us are perfect and we're all in this crazy race together."

This is a great book for every mother to read. We have all been there. From the cheerios strewn all over the car, to the sick days and the triumphs, every mother can relate to these stories. There are some that make you laugh and some that make you cry, but they are well written, and almost every one brought back memories of times when I went through similar situations. I know that sometimes we as moms judge each other for ways we handle certain situations or if we work or stay at home. This book just takes all that away. It doesn't matter. We as moms should rally around each other, help each other, and love each other, not judge and point fingers. We each have different situations and backgrounds, and we usually do not have all the information, so instead of judging each other, let's help and support each other! Ok, now off of my soap box. This is a really fun book. I cried, laughed, and was humbled by many of the stories. You know when you're at a playgroup or at the park and you all start into stories of your labor and deliveries, or how awful it was when your kid threw up all  over in the car, or how proud you were at your daughter's first dance recital? Well, that is how this book feels. When you're reading, you feel like you're with a bunch of your mom friends just chatting away. So fun. Although I do not drink, I do have my substitute: Must. Have. Chocolate. :) So, I totally understand. I really enjoyed this book.

Rating: PG 13 (There are a few profane words, but not many. There are a few stories of body parts and a few sad stories.)

Recommendations: Adults (Moms)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "In this imaginative adventure from Newbery Medal-winning author Beverly Cleary, a young mouse named Ralph is thrown into a world of excitement when a boy and his shiny toy motorcycle check into the Mountain View Inn.
When the ever-curious Ralph spots Keith's red toy motorcycle, he vows to ride it. So when Keith leaves the bike unattended in his room one day, Ralph makes his move. But with all this freedom (and speed!) come a lot of obstacles. Whether dodging a rowdy terrier or keeping his nosy cousins away from his new wheels, Ralph has a lot going on! With a pal like Keith always looking out for him, there's nothing this little mouse can't handle."
I read every single Beverly Cleary book when I was younger, and this was definitely high on my list of favorites! My daughter's second grade class read this for their last book club of the year, and we had a fun time with it. I actually read it to her because of time constraints, but she could have read it by herself. We liked it so much, in fact, that I went and got the second one from the library. Anyway, it's just a cute story about a mouse and a little boy. They meet and become friends, and Keith (the boy) allows Ralph (the mouse) to ride his motorcycle around the hotel. Ralph is just a kid mouse and does some irresponsible things, but ends up proving his worth at the end. It's written well and is easy to read and understand. It has a fun story line that kids like because every kid wants a mouse friend, right? And kids love hotels and the magic that surrounds travelling. Keith is a cute kid that is likable and realistic. I didn't love his mother in the story, but I'm pretty sure I'd have a lot of her same sentiments if I were in her position. Ralph drove me crazy some of the time, but he learned some good lessons and turned out ok. There are some very good lessons taught in this book: friendship, responsibility, attitude, and doing hard things are a few of the lessons learned. This is a great book for silent reading or a read-aloud. 
Rating: G (Clean!!!)
Recommendation: Second grade and up as a silent read, preschool and up as a read-aloud.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Discover America: From Sea to Shining Sea

Discover America: From Sea to Shining Sea Illustrated by Julie Olson

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Follow the patriotic journey of a little red balloon as it makes its way from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States. Accompanied by the words of one of Americas most beloved anthems America the Beautiful, From Sea to Shining Sea shows the diversity and beauty of our great country through the eyes of our nations children. To add an interactive experience, kids all across the United States will be able to go online to send their own balloons on their own journey." 

I have always loved the poem "America the Beautiful" by Katharine Lee Bates, and this children's book, illustrated by Julie Olson, is a perfect fit. The words of the book are the words of the poem, and the illustrations are beautiful. I love this book! Not only are the illustrations extremely well done, but there is a fun side story with a red balloon floating across the country. The illustrations are of real places, and the balloon ends up floating from the west coast of the country all the way to the east coast. There is a map at the end that shows its route, and it was fun to see that I have been to a few of the landmarks. This book is perfect for home, school, and everywhere in between. It will be a new favorite at my house, for sure. There is also a website that goes along with the book. It is www.discoveramericabook.com, and it has some great resources. You may send off your own digital balloon and track it, there are coloring pages, quizzes, lesson plans, and so much more. I highly recommend this book to everyone!!!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone!

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Shadow Year

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "Lila, a young woman who's just suffered a terrible loss, finds a welcome distraction when she mysteriously inherits a ramshackle lake house in need of a major renovation. Scraping away layers of old walls, she unexpectedly stumbles upon cryptic notes and other clues that offer an intriguing glimpse into the lives of her home's previous residents. Slowly, she begins to piece together the story of a group of idealistic university graduates who'd thrown off the shackles of bourgeois city life to rely only on one another and the land for one year. But as she delves deeper, it becomes clear that their experiment ended in tragedy. In untangling the house's web of shocking secrets and lies, Lila will have to come to terms with her own loss and find a new path for herself."

This is one of those books that you finish and immediately want to call someone to discuss it. I was so upset that I couldn't discuss it with anyone. Ahhhhhh......at least I get to write my feelings. Then when you read it you can post comments and we can discuss it. Wow. You all know me fairly well by now, I think. I do not read summaries before I read the book. I want the surprise. You also probably know that I usually don't sit and ponder books and try to figure out where they're going. I don't try and figure out who did it or how it all happened, I just read. I just read the book and enjoy it. This book, though, was different. Every time I put it down (which wasn't very often), I kept thinking about it. How did these two stories connect? There's got to be something to connect them, right? And then as I read more I started to get glimpses and think maybe I had it figured out. Nope. Okay, well maybe this instead? Nope. I'd go back and check to see if something earlier gave it away but I didn't realize it when I read it......Nope. So, I just had to keep reading until I finished. And the shock at the end. Wait, what?? What? Really? I haven't been as shocked by an ending in a long time. Who knows. Maybe you are all a lot smarter than I am and will figure it out, but I did not see that one coming. Obviously, this book is well written. It's engaging, intriguing, creative, and addictive. Her descriptions are right on. They are well done yet not over-the-top. I felt like I was right there in that cabin with Lila. The characters are also very well done. Each of them has a distinct personality and I felt like they stayed true to themselves all the way through. There were some character traits that I did not expect. You'll see. I felt like I related to Lila more than I did the other characters. Even though I didn't really relate to the other characters, it didn't matter this time. The story was so interesting that I got lost and didn't even think about it. Lila made me nervous though. Here she had just lost something so precious, and I didn't want her to lose the one thing she had left by running away. She definitely put herself in some situations that made me nervous, and I kind of agreed with her husband. I never liked or trusted Simon, and that dislike got even greater the more I read. There were times in the book that I liked Kat, and times that I didn't. She was a little too infatuated for me; it clouded her judgement. She had a quick temper and tended to trust those she shouldn't more than she trusted those she should. The dynamic of the group was interesting, to say the least. It's an experiment that would definitely try the best of relationships. 

With all that, you'll be surprised I liked it when you find out what is in it. Normally I don't think I'd like or read a book that contained so much drug use. Wow. It was 1980 and these college graduates definitely believed in the 60's mentality of free love and drug use. They definitely didn't see those commercials with the fried egg that said "This is your brain (picture of an egg), this is your brain on drugs (picture of a fried egg)." Do you remember those? Well, I'm pretty sure these kids didn't see them. So, lots of drug use in this book. There is also a lot of "intimacy." As I said, they believed in free love, and when you add the drug use to the free love mentality, guess what happens? There is also quite a bit of language in this book. There are several "f" words along with some other language. And yes, after all that, I actually really liked the book. I'm still not sure about the ending, but I did like the book. I was so engrossed in it I'm pretty sure I ignored my children and laundry for a couple of days. But, you know, they understand. 

Rating: R (Language, including several "f" words, lots of "intimacy," and lots of drug use.)

Recommendation: Adult (This book is NOT appropriate for the YA crowd, it is definitely an adult book.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.