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Friday, August 4, 2017

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen



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The Secret of the India Orchid
by
Nancy Campbell Allen

Blurb:

"Anthony Blake, the Earl of Wilshire, is in love with his best friend's sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover shy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies--including his own--has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honorable earl for the facade of a flirtatious playboy. Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most distant regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn't as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned. She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won't confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?"

My Review:

Wow! Although this is a proper romance, it could very well fit into the mystery section as well! This proper romance isn't all flowers and love notes; it has it's fair share of romance, for sure, but it's so much more! There's murder, betrayal, kidnapping, and lots of secret keeping. Sophia is a strong female character. She holds her own against the men who sometimes desire her to look pretty and do nothing else. I liked her spunk, independence, and compassion. Anthony is also a good, strong character. He may have a soft side underneath all that military/spy persona, and it kinda peaks out every once in awhile. Predictability aside, I enjoyed this book. It has everything you want in a proper romance: a few stolen kisses, a little bit of cheese, some great "Awwwww"s, and a mystery to boot! What could be better?? It's definitely the most edgy proper romance I've read (more violent-not more racy), and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the mystery, the secrets, the search for the culprit, and that it took the book past just cheesy romance, and elevated it. I recommend this book.

Rating: PG-13 (There isn't any "intimacy," except for a few brief kisses, and there isn't any profanity-to my recollection. There is a murder, but you don't read about it as it happens, you find out after it has occurred. There are a couple of scenes where characters die, some in kind of graphic ways.)

Recommendation: YA (13+) and Adult

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


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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton


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Lilli De Jong
by
Janet Benton

Blurb:

"A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her. Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can't accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive. Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. 'So little is permissible for a woman,' writes Lilli, 'yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.'"

My Review:

I cannot imagine what it must have been like for single, unwed mothers like Lilli in the nineteenth century, or earlier. I know it must be tough now, when there are a lot more resources. Honestly, neither this topic nor the topic of wet nurses really ever crossed my mind. I suppose I have thought about wet nurses briefly, as my mother was not able to nurse. We always wondered what would have become of all six of us children without the marvelous invention of infant formula. That's about the extent of my curiosity, however. I like it when the topic of a fictional book peaks my interest and makes me think. Lilli's narration through her diary entries is well written; her voice draws you in and allows you to see into her most intimate thoughts and feelings. It's as if you're there with her through her struggles, heartbreaks, and rare contentedness. The women who run the charity home where she delivers her baby are saints in my book. I enjoyed getting to know them and thought they were good, strong supporting characters. The other women at the charity home become your friends as Lilli stays there, and you find yourself hoping that they'll all be ok. Clementina and Albert Burnham made quite the pair. Each of them were well developed and written. Clementina's attitude toward Henry broke my heart; I did not like how she treated her son. However, there were a couple of brief moments that brought her a bit of redemption, and surprised me. I was suspicious of Albert from the beginning. He seemed nice on the surface, and I felt bad for him because of the situation he was in. However, as the story progressed, I did not like him at all. There were a few bright spots: Margaret, Mrs. Baker, Frau V., and Mrs. Bernstein come to mind as women that gave hope to Lilli when she was in her darkest moments. I did like that about this book-I liked how there were a few women that stood out as loving, caring, and helping when hope seemed lost. There is still good in the world. This book shows a different side of unwed mothers, poverty and begging, and assumptions. It teaches that we may think we know the whole story and be able to righteously judge, but we don't know. We do not know why the beggar on the corner ended up there. We don't know how that young woman came to be pregnant and alone. And our job is not to judge, but to help and care for those in need. If we don't do it, who will? Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is definitely not the happiest book out there, but it does make you ponder, and I came away much more grateful for all that I've been blessed with, and with a greater desire to look outside my own life and struggles to find those who really need care and love.

Having said that, I would rate this book 3 stars instead of 4 stars because of a few scenes that were overly graphic and way too detailed for my tastes. I thought they were inappropriate and disgusting. There's an "intimacy" scene at the beginning that was a bit too detailed, but at least it was sweet. There are a couple of later "intimacy" scenes that were way too graphic and detailed; I thought the one, especially, was disgusting and inappropriate. I guess it kind of showed you the true character, but that could have been shown in much better and less appalling ways. There really wasn't a whole lot of language or violence, but there were some difficult to read pages describing the conditions of an orphanage. If scenes like those described above do not bother you then you will enjoy the story and learning about the strength of human will. However, if you are not a fan of detailed "intimacy" scenes, then I cannot recommend this book. 

Rating: R (This book is NOT appropriate for younger readers. There really isn't any profanity or violence, but there are some very graphic and detailed "intimacy" scenes that I found disturbing and disgusting.)

Recommendation: Adult

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

     

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Letter To My Readers

I just wanted to take a minute and let you know how sorry I am that I have not been keeping up with my blog this spring and summer. My 15 year-old son has been super sick since the beginning of April. He missed the last seven weeks of school, spent four days in the hospital, and had a feeding tube for over a month. He is slowly recovering, but it is going to be a long, slow process to full recovery. My family comes first, and taking care of him has been my first priority. Consequently, my blog has suffered. :( I haven't even had a lot of time to even read, which is so sad. Please bear with me for the next few months as I take care of my family. I'll post as much as I can; I have many books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, so hopefully I'll be able to get back to normal soon! 
Keep reading!!!

~Monica

Monday, June 26, 2017

Quotes


How many times have you stayed up late to finish a book?
Me? Too many times to count, but still not enough. :)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Nic of Time (Phoenix Cycle Series Book #3)



Nic of Time
(Phoenix Cycle Series Book #3)
by
Mark Minson


Blurb (from amazon.com):

"After leaving Will to pursue the removal of Paul from The Council of Magic, Nicole finds the tables have turned. When she finally returns to Will's house, he has disappeared leaving her a mystery to unravel. 

Meanwhile, Kyle, Will and Leroy find themselves neck-deep in the ongoing war with MAIM. 

Can any of them survive long enough to prevail?

The thrilling conclusion of the Phoenix Cycle Series!"

My Review:

First a little disclosure: for those of you who may not remember my reviews of book #1 and book #2, Mark and I are friends. We've been friends since high school, and in fact, had creative writing together. If you want dirt on Mark, I'm sure I can think of something (On the flip side, I guess that means he could probably find some on me :). Anyway, he knows I'll be just as honest with his book as I always am, so no worries there. I have enjoyed this series from the start. The magic is fun and entertaining, the characters are interesting and well developed, and the story is full of action, adventure, and magic! The concept of the magic in this series is different from other fantasy books, and I've enjoyed Mark's take on it. I especially liked learning how Will came up with and made the spells in the last book. There's not as much of that in this book, unfortunately. Other things do make up for it though. I loved how this book combined the two story lines and brought it all together. I read the first book quite awhile ago, so it did take me a minute to remember who those characters were and how they fit in, but it wasn't a big deal. The characters get better with every book, and it's fun to see how they grow and evolve as the story continues. Mark's writing has also gotten better; however, I have to say that his grammar has not. There are a lot of grammatical errors. That particular problem is easily fixed though. I think I need to learn a few of the spells for myself (The travel spell in particular, would be awesome.) The characters worked well together, the ending was great, and I thought it all came together well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the series. I definitely recommend it. This series would be perfect for summer!

Rating: PG+ (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy" in this book, but there might be a kiss or two. There is quite a bit of violence, and several people die. It's a magic war, so there are casualties. It's not overly graphic in describing those scenes though.)

Recommendation: 5th grade (10-11 years old) and up. I kept it at this level because even though it is somewhat violent, it isn't any worse than Harry Potter, and most kids have read that by 5th grade.

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


Friday, June 9, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean



A Bridge Across the Ocean
by
Susan Meissner

Blurb:

"February 1946. World War II is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Devereux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...

Present Day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides--and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings."

My Review:

I have heard about the Queen Mary, but I did not know that it transported troops during WWII and their war brides after the war. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for those brides to see the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline come into view. Some of them hadn't seen their husbands in a very long time; it must have been quite the reunion! I enjoy historical fiction books that have a connection to present day (Blackberry Winter and The Firebird), and  so I was excited to read this one. Let me say, I had a few hesitations, especially with Brette's character, but I did not need to worry. Even though I didn't fully believe Brette's ability (nope, not really a believer), it didn't matter. I completely got caught up in the story, the characters, and the events that led them together. Each of the women in the story had a completely different story; they came from different places, they were different nationalities, they experienced the war in different ways, they had different family structures, and they had different likes and dislikes. And yet their lives intertwined at this particular moment and place. It was fun to watch their friendships grow, and to get to know each of them better. I felt as if I were on that ship with them. The characters were well developed, realistic, and compelling. Ms. Meissner's writing style is easy to read and understand, although it does take a minute to figure out who is who and where each of them is at that point. There's mystery, friendship, love, war, secrets, tragedy, sacrifice, and hope. I thought it all came together well, and once I started I couldn't stop! The title is well written, and I love the cover picture! I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There is a graphic rape scene, a murder, and an abusive relationship. It's war, so there are also war atrocities. There's not any profanity.

Recommendation: Adult

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

Almost Missed You



Almost Missed You
by
Jessica Strawser

Blurb:

"Violet and Finn were 'meant to be,' said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can't help thinking that she can't believe her luck. Life is good. So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach--just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare and faced with the knowledge that the man she's shared her life with, she never really knew at all. Caitlin and Finn are best friends going way back, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin's doorstep with the son whom he's wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn't, Caitlin faces an impossible choice. Told through the alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn, and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser's Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother's love, a husband's betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn't have been kept, and spaces between what's meant to be and what might have been."

My Review:

Wow! What a ride! This book caught my attention from the beginning, and I couldn't put it down. The writing is well done, the characters come to life on the page, and the story has so many twists and turns that whiplash is real possibility. I liked all of the characters for most of the story; each of them had a moment where past choices and secrets came to the forefront, and in those moments the characters were not all that appealing. However, no one in real life is perfect all the time, so this did allow the characters to be more realistic and easier to relate to. I just had to keep reading to figure out why....Why?? When you get to the why it's hard to believe that someone would choose to go that route rather than the more sane and less criminal one, but I guess desperation will make people act ways that they normally wouldn't. The writing is captivating and engaging. It was a bit difficult at first to figure out who everyone was and the time period they were in, but it got easier as I kept reading. The title of this book is well chosen. As you read the book, the title changes meaning a little bit. It means something different at the end than it did half-way through. I liked that. I ended up really liking this book, but I didn't love, love the ending. It was realistic, but not what I had hoped. 

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There are several "f" words and adult themes. Intimacy is discussed. There isn't any violence except for a car accident.)  

Recommendation: Adult

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



Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Dark Talent (Book #5 in Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians)


The Dark Talent
(Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians: Book #5 )
by
Brandon Sanderson

Blurb:

"For years, the Evil Librarians have managed to keep this book under wraps--but Alcatraz is back at last with an all-new adventure! Alcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and his friend Bastille is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the Highbrary--known as the Library of Congress to Hushlanders--the seat of Evil Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all?"

My Review:

So here it is-the last book! Sad! I always get mixed emotions when I read the last book in a series; I'm excited to see how it ends, but I don't want it to end. This has been such a fun series, and I enjoyed every book. So what did I think about this book? You need to read it! Someone please read it and then email me so we can talk! Did this book answer all my questions? Sadly, no!! What?? I know. Seriously. I'm left hanging. Did Alcatraz end up like he said he would? Sadly, yes. :( Mr. Sanderson (aka Alcatraz) did discover footnotes though, that was awesome. The cover art is great, the story is action-packed and full of surprises, and even though I still had questions, it was a great final book. If you have read the first four, go get on amazon (my affiliate link is at the bottom of the review so it's very convenient to click right now...) and order it right now!! If it's daytime when you read this then the library is also a good option. Just please someone read it and let me know so we can discuss!

Rating: PG+ (This one is rated a little bit higher because a few prominent characters die. It's not overly graphic, but it is a bit more graphic than the other books. There is fighting. There isn't any profanity or "intimacy.")

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up


Monday, May 29, 2017

Summerlost


Summerlost
by
Ally Condie

Blurb:

"It's been a year since the devastating car accident that killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what's left of her family are spending the summer in her mother's hometown of Iron Creek and trying to mend their broken pieces. Memories surround Cedar, including strange gifts that begin to appear in the night--the type of small household items her brother Ben used to collect. Until one day a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike, and everything about Cedar's summer changes. Soon, Cedar not only has a job working at the renowned Summerlost theater festival, but also a growing friendship with Leo that will blossom as they piece together clues about the short and tragic life of one of Iron Creek's most famous residents. Emotionally resonant and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that explores the strength of family and the transformative power of friendship in the face of tragedy." 

My Review:

I liked Ally Condie's Matched series, so when I saw this book on the shelf at the library I was excited to read it. The characters in this book are very well written, and I fell in love with them. Cedar and Leo are both children, yet they are quite mature for their ages. Cedar has already experienced tragedy in her life, and Leo has a very grown-up goal that he's working towards. They work together well, and I felt like I was the third person in their little group. Cedar's mom and Leo's family are supporting characters, but they added a lot, along with the other employees at the festival. I definitely got caught up in this story. I thought it flowed well, it was well written, the characters were well developed, and the story line was engaging. It was fun to read a story that didn't include fantasy characters or lots of action; it's just a fun book about two children and their summer friendship. They weren't perfect, for sure, but that's what made it so realistic. Both of them tried hard, made mistakes, and tried to right their wrongs. It was fun to watch them grow over the course of the book, and to see how a good friend can mean the world to someone. I enjoyed this book a lot and I definitely recommend it.

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity, intimacy, or violence in this book. There may be a bully or two, but nothing overly graphic.)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up (It's a great middle-grader read!)




Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Confessions of Young Nero



The Confessions of Young Nero
by
Margaret George

Blurb (Taken from amazon.com):

"The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.

Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman—or child.

As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.

While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become—an Emperor who became legendary.

With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival."

My Review:

I enjoy learning about history, so when I heard about this book about the Roman Emperor Nero I was excited to read it. Learning the history was interesting because I didn't know much about Nero at all, but that's about where my interest ended. In the afterward Ms. George discusses how most of the characters are taken from real life, along with most of the events. She may have fudged dates a little here and there, and I think she added three minor characters, but other than that, the people and events were based on historical records. It was crazy that he was made emperor when he was only 16. Today 16 year-olds can barely start working at fast food restaurants, let alone run the country! Haha! I have a son who will be 16 this fall. Yeah, nope. He's definitely not ready to run a country. :) It was sad how Nero and his young bride had to wed so young, and how neither one of them wanted it. I felt bad for her, especially. Learning about Nero racing chariots and playing the cithera was interesting; however, once the story got into Nero's "intimacy" with many women other than his wife, and then especially the scene with his mother, I was done. This book is definitely not my kind of book. There was way too much "intimacy," in scenes and discussions of, and there was way too much graphic detail. The incest scene was horrible and made me want to vomit. Seriously. I think I could have liked this book without the profanity and the graphic "intimacy" scenes, but it was not meant to be. I did not like this book at all and cannot recommend it.

Rating: R (Is there anything higher than R?) (There is some profanity and minor violence, but the worst part is the "intimacy." There are many scenes, most of them are quite detailed and graphic, and he definitely gets around. His own mother is in one of those scenes. Yeah. Gross.)

Recommendation: Adult

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


Monday, May 22, 2017

An Unseen Angel



An Unseen Angel
by
Alissa Parker

Blurb:

"When Alissa Parker lost her daughter Emilie in the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting, she started a life-changing journey to answer soul-searching questions about faith, hope, and healing. As she sought for the peace and comfort that could help mend her broken heart, she learned, step by step, how to open her heart to God's grace and will. One step brought her face to face with the shooter's father, where in a pivotal and poignant meeting, she was given an opportunity to forgive. Another step brought her into the sheltering compassion of her community as family, friends, and even strangers reached out to buoy her up with their shared faith. And several miraculous manifestations of Emilie's continued presence and influence lifted her heart and will validate the faith of every Christian. The story of Alissa and Emilie reminds us that the bonds of love continue beyond this life and that despite tragedy and heartache, we can find strength in our family and our faith."

My Review:

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the Sandy Hook mass shooting. I was driving around town running errands; I had the radio on when a breaking news story came on. Immediately I turned the station to my local news station, and listened in shock to the details. I was sobbing as I drove; tears streaming down my face. There had been shootings before, and they were horrible, but this, this was beyond that. This was pure evil. When I had the opportunity to review this book I accepted because I was so drawn to that story. I knew it would be difficult to read, but I wanted to hear Alissa's story. Well, I was correct-this is not an easy book to read. I cried most of the way through it. However, it is well written, touching, and full of faith and hope. Alissa did a very good job of telling the story with all it's ups and downs, and with its hard days and good days. I liked that she was very real in the book. There are darling pictures of Emilie throughout the book, and it just breaks your heart to recall the tragedy of her death. I think the real story in the book is how Alissa and her family were able to heal and find hope after Emilie's passing. I loved that she opening spoke of her faith, and how it may have even wavered, but in the end it brought her comfort and peace. I truly believe that we will see our loved ones again, and that hope helped Alissa through the difficult days. Hearing about the small miracles brought me to tears. Even though this is a heartbreaking story to read, I was glad I did. Alissa and her family are truly an inspiration.

Rating: PG-13+ (Although there isn't an profanity or "intimacy," she does talk about and describe how her daughter was killed during the school shooting.)

Recommendation: 16-17 years old and up. This may even be too much for some 16 year-olds.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Simplify Supper



Simplify Supper
by
Krista Numbers

Blurb:

"From her grandfather Salvatore Granato's roots in Southern Italy to the legacy of her family's beloved Italian deli in the heart of Salt Lake City, Krista Numbers has a deep-seated love for good food. In Simplify Supper, this busy wife and mother proves that simple can be satisfying as she dishes up dozens of delectable dinners. According to Krista, "Some of the best recipes are a simple combination of fresh and flavorful ingredients made with care and served with love." From a few of her family's best-loved Italian meals to fast feasts with an international flair, discover quick comfort foods you'll want at the heart of your dinner table, such as
-Angel Hair Pasta with Basil Cream Sauce
-Smoked Turkey Panini with Pears and Blue Cheese
-Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas
-Teriyaki Chicken with Ginger Rice
In addition to her collection of simple and satisfying meals, Krista shares personal anecdotes, sanity-saving kitchen tips, and suggestions for making family dinner a time for good food and good conversation. No matter the occasion, there is a recipe here to help you get a delicious supper on the table, pronto."

My Review:

You have to know that I'm an ok cook. If I have a good recipe I may be able to make a decent meal. I like fast and easy (think grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup), and there can't be any crazy ingredients. I know I won't go out of my way to find one strange ingredient. I'll either not put that ingredient in, or I'll make something different. So I'm definitely in need of simple recipes. These recipes all look delicious. Some of them look simple; some of them don't. Last night for dinner I made the "Easy Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches." They were actually really good! The recipe wasn't difficult. It was definitely the first time I've gone to the deli counter to ask for sliced roast beef, but it won't be the last! The meat was easy to prepare, and the cream cheese was the perfect touch. It added a lot of creaminess. I will for sure be making them again-even the kiddos liked them! My 13 year-old doesn't like green peppers, but he admitted that "in this particular instance" the green peppers tasted good. Yay! There were lots of dishes that I wanted to try. The sloppy joes looked really good, as did the enchiladas and the different pastas. There are even some delectable desserts. I was a little disappointed that there were a couple of things that if I did them it would definitely make my life less simplified. For example, buying dried pasta in a bag is very simple. Making my own pasta = not simple. Eating my sister-in-law's homemade tamales = simple. Making my own tamales = not simple. I guess it would simplify the ingredients, and for someone who has time and enjoys doing it, go for it! (And then call me-I'll be right over!)  I, however, will not be trying those recipes. Now, the Italian Sodas or the Sopaipillas, yes, I will for sure be trying those! I also enjoyed her little snippets of info. throughout the book. She has advice on hosting, things you need to have in your kitchen, how to plate your dishes, and even a bit of info. on salt. Yep, who knew salt could be interesting? I'm excited to try more of these recipes!

Rating: Clean!

Recommendation: Everyone



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Vicar's Daughter



The Vicar's Daughter
by
Josi S. Kilpack

Blurb:

"Cassie, the youngest of six daughters in the Wilton family, is bold, bright, and ready to enter society. There's only one problem: her older sister Lenora, whose extreme shyness prevents her from attending many social events. Lenora is now entering her third season, and since their father has decreed that only one Wilton girl can be out at a time, Cassie has no choice except to wait her turn. Evan Glenside, a soft-spoken, East London clerk, has just been named his great-uncle's heir, and though he is eager to learn all that will be required of him, he struggles to feel accepted in a new town and in his new position. A chance meeting between Evan and Lenora promises to change everything, but when Lenora proves too shy to pursue the relationship, Cassie begins to write Mr. Glenside letters in the name of her sister. Her good intentions lead to disaster when Cassie realizes she is falling in love with Evan. But then Evan begins to court Lenora, thinking she is the author of the letters. As secrets are revealed, the hearts of Cassie, Evan, and Lenora are tested. Will the final letter sent by the vicar's daughter be able to reunite the sisters as well as unite Evan with his true love?"

My Review:

This is a fun new addition to the proper romance genre! It is well written, has good character development, and a sweet love story. Although I usually liked Cassie, there were times when I wanted to scream at her; she could definitely be strong willed and had a tendency to make poor choices. Lenora was more complex than you think she will be the first time you meet her, and she could also drive me crazy at times. Evan was a great character. I actually liked him a lot. He wasn't perfect, but he was a gentleman and did his best. I like how he protected his family, and how he felt he had to take care of them. This story was a bit predictable, and cheesy in some parts, but that's what we love about romances, right? I think it ended a little too perfectly, but that doesn't mean I didn't like the ending. :) If you're a Josi Kilpack fan, or if you enjoy the proper romance genre, you will definitely enjoy this book. It was entertaining and was a cute story.

This book is clean! There may be a kiss or two, but the only scandalous thing in the book are a few secret (clean) letters. Boy am I glad times have changed for dating and marriage!

Rating: PG (It's clean!)

Recommendation: YA and up

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


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Magnolia Story



The Magnolia Story
by
Chip and Joanna Gaines
(with Mark Dagostino)

Blurb:

"Sometimes the messiest stuff and the biggest mistakes can take you someplace wonderful. With the help of their hit TV show, Fixer Upper, the husband and wife team of Chip and Joanna Gaines have transformed the seemingly everyday work of renovating homes and flipping houses in Waco, Texas, into something much more. With their fun personalities, good humor, strong love of family, and unique design style, they've managed to capture the hearts of Americans from all walks of life. It all happened so quickly, their ever-multiplying fan base has been left to wonder: Who are these people? Where did they come from What's the secret to their success? And should I pack up and move to Waco, too? From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together to the project that nearly cost them everything, The Magnolia Story offers a peak behind the curtain of who Chip and Joanna are today. This first book also includes stories and photos from the childhood memories that shaped them and the twists and turns that led them to the life they currently share: on the farm with their four kids and countless farm animals, and in their ever-expanding roles and entrepreneurs, designers, and good neighbors. It also answers (in hilarious detail) the one lingering question that fans of the show always ask: Is Chip really that funny? 'Oh yeah,' says Joanna.' He was, and still is, my first fixer upper.'"

My Review:

I have a confession to make. Yep, you guessed it. I'm an HGTV addict. I may watch a few too many shows on that channel. (When I'm not reading, of course!) Fixer Upper has always been one of my favorites. I think that Chip and Joanna seem so sincere, and you can feel the love they have for each other and their children just radiating through the tv waves. When I saw this book at the library I grabbed it. And now it's four days late, so I better review it and get it back to the library quick! I really enjoyed this book! It is written from both Joanna and Chip's perspectives. There are two different fonts representing each of them, and it's easy to read. The voice they have is great. I love how much importance they put on their family, and the importance they put on their marriage. Their voices in this book are great. They say that individually they are good, but together they make each other stronger, and I love that! They didn't have perfect childhoods, and not everything has come easy to them, but they work very hard, and they dream big. They have some fun stories from their childhoods, and also from their marriage. The big houseboat surprise is hilarious. I liked that they made it clear that they are not perfect. They have disagreements, they have made a few poor business choices, and they each have areas they need to improve in, but they do their best, they forgive each other, and they always put family first. This book is well written, has a positive voice, and is inspirational. I love that they discuss how God has blessed them, and the miracles they've witnessed in their lives. 

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: 5th grade and up (My daughter is in 5th grade, and I'd be fine with her reading it. I don't really think she'd care to, but it is appropriate.)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Alcatraz vs The Shattered Lens (Book #4)


The Shattered Lens 
(Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians: Book #4)

by

Brandon Sanderson

Blurb:

"Alcatraz Smedry is on a mission to save the day! The boy with all the wrong Talents has a lot to prove and, as always, little time in which to do it. In this final adventure, Alcatraz faces an army of librarians--and their giant librarian robots--as they battle to win the kingdom of Mokia. If the librarians win the war, everything that Alcatraz has fought so hard for could end in disaster. With his incredible Talent for breaking things, some explosive teddy bears, and the help of his friends, Alcatraz must face the glass-shattering gigantic robots, an entire army of evil librarians, and even his own manipulative mother! But will he be able to save the kingdom of Mokia and the Free Kingdoms from the wrath of the librarians before everything comes crashing down?"

My Review:

This series has definitely become one of my all-time favorites! I love the humor, wit, and creativity in these books, and this one is no different. For example, this is part of the Author's Forward: "This is my story. Or, well, part four of it. Otherwise known as 'The part where everything goes wrong, and then Alcatraz has a cheese sandwich.'" Hahaha!!! Seriously. I haven't ever laughed out loud so much in a book before. Explosive teddy bears? Magic glasses? Dragons as cabs? The wrong Talents that actually wished for and celebrated? Who comes up with this stuff? So fun! As usual, there is trouble in the world and Alcatraz feels the need to save the day. Sitting back and letting things play out is not his strong suit. This book is a continuation of all the fun that happens in the first three books, and I thought it was great. There are a few surprises, and definitely some creative uses of magic and lenses. There are, of course, lots of evil librarians, but there are lots of good guys too. If you want lots of action, fun, humor, wit, giant robots, and lots of breaking things, this book is for you! If you enjoyed the first three then you for sure need to read this one! If you haven't read any of these books yet, go brave the evil librarian at your local library and pick up book #1. I promise you won't be disappointed!

This book contains quite a bit of fighting because it's a war. It's not overly graphic, though. There isn't any profanity or "intimacy." Alcatraz may be naked for a short while; however, it's not because of anything inappropriate. There might be a small kiss?

Rating: PG (For minor fighting of those evil librarians.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up



Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Reading Lists Interview

A few weeks ago Phil from The Reading Lists contacted me for an interview.
Well, he posted it today! I'm honored to be featured on this site!!


Everyone go check it out!!

Thanks Phil!!!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Settle For More



Settle For More
by
Megyn Kelly


Blurb:

"In the three years since her show The Kelly File premiered on the Fox News Channel, Megyn Kelly has cemented her reputation as one of the most respected, hardest-hitting journalists in America. Tackling issues from both sides of the aisle, live on prime time five nights a week, Megyn has embraced difficult questions and pressed for real answers, redefining the face of news for her more than two million regular viewers. Now, in her debut book, Megyn goes behind the scenes of the stories and the storms that landed her in the anchor chair of the most successful news broadcast in cable news. Having grown up in a family whose values rejected the 'trophies for everyone' mentality, Megyn traces the experiences that shaped her professional ascent--from her father's sudden, tragic death while she was still in high school to the events that propelled her rise in journalism. Speaking candidly about her decision to 'settle for more'--a motto she credits as having dramatically transformed her life at home and at work--Megyn discusses how she abandoned a thriving legal career to follow her dream in the news business. Through her unique blend of hard work, humor, and authenticity, she has won fans across the political divide. Megyn also opens up about the controversy that made her, unwillingly, one of America's most-talked-about public figures, giving her side of Donald Trump's feud with her while sharing never-before-heard details about the first Republican debate and how she was able to persevere through the difficult aftermath. In addition, Megyn sheds light on the challenges she has faced as a professional woman and working mother, revealing her approach to issues of gender in the workplace, as well as how her success is rooted in the adage 'Be so good they can't ignore you.'"

My Review:

No matter what your political viewpoints are, no matter where you stand on the issues, and no matter your opinion about Fox News, you have to admit that Megyn Kelly is a strong woman. Her hard work ethic, determination, and attitude have worked to put her at the top of broadcast news. I saw her at the Republican debate when she asked Donald Trump the infamous question that resulted in their feud, and I was curious to know more about that whole situation. I hoped her book would shed some light on the subject. I had also heard about Roger Ailes and the women reporting that he had sexually harassed them, and I hoped to learn more about that situation as well. So I picked this book up at the library. It was slow going at first. Learning about her childhood and youth years was interesting, and it always helps you learn more about the person, but it was definitely slow. I really don't know much about practicing law, so maybe that's why, but I though those years in her book were also a bit slow. However, I was very impressed with her courage. Making the decision to leave a high powered and high pay job to go do something completely different with a lot less money would be a difficult decision. If the job is killing you though, maybe it's an easy decision? I thought the book got much more compelling once she got to the last few years. The "Year of Trump," as she calls it, sounds awful. It kind of scared me, actually, that someone running for president of the United States could use his resources (and supporters-real people) to wage such a bitter vendetta against a reporter. Yes, she asked a difficult question, but really?? That much?? The section about Aires was also crazy. Seriously, I had no idea that situations like that still went on in this country. Thankfully, I've never encountered anything like that. Megyn's writing style is easy to read (unless she's discussing the specifics of law, which seem like a foreign language...), it flows well, and is well written. I like the message of her book; it's empowering. The title message comes from a Dr. Phil quote: "The only difference between you and someone you envy is, you settled for less." So go out there and don't settle, work until you get what you want! Her message also includes taking responsibility for your own product, actions, results, etc. The blame game is not productive. Another part of the message that I liked was that instead of worrying about things you can't control (finding a boyfriend, getting a raise, the way other people think about you, etc.), "Put all of [that] energy back into yourself." In other words, don't worry about it or stress about it-just do the best you can do. Be the best you, and things will work out. Overall, I liked the book. She does highlight a lot of her successes, making it seem like she's bragging a bit, but she also does talk about her failures. And, if you've gotten to where she's gotten in life, and you've worked that hard to get there, then I think you deserve a small right to brag. :)

Rating: R (There's quite a bit of profanity, including several "f" words. She doesn't say them, but she's quoting others who do. There isn't any "intimacy," and there isn't any real violence, besides discussing stalkers and such. There are many adult themes as well.)

Recommendation: Adult



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!!


Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!!

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The 

more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

~Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was                born on March 2, 1904. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts to Theodore and Henrietta Geisel. His mother's maiden name was Seuss, and it was also his middle name. At Dartmouth College, he worked on the school's humor magazine called the Jack-O-Lantern, until he and his friends were caught having a drinking party, which was not allowed. His official position was terminated, but he continued to contribute under the name "Seuss." Ted's father wanted him to be a college professor, and so after Dartmouth he went to Oxford University in England. He became bored, though, and ended up touring Europe instead. While he was there he met Helen Palmer. They later married, and she became a children's book author. When he returned from Europe, he tried to be a cartoonist, and did publish a few things. However, he did work for Standard Oil for 15 years creating their advertising campaigns. Towards the beginning of WWII, he began contributing political cartoons to PM Magazine. He also worked on creating training movies. After working on the illustrations for  a collection of children's sayings for Viking Press, which didn't do well, he wrote And To Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street. It was rejected 27 times before Vanguard Press published it. It was his next book, The Cat in the Hat, that really began his career. It was a joint effort between Houghton-Mifflin and Random House, and they asked him to write a story using "only 225 'new-reader' vocabulary words."(1) He passed away on September 24, 1991. At the time of his death he had written and illustrated 44 children's books. Over 200 million copies of his books have been sold, and he was awarded "two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody award and the Pulitzer Prize."(1) 

Our home library has many Dr. Seuss books in it, and they have been read many, many times! My children have loved them, and the kids I taught at school also loved them. Dr. Seuss is beloved by many, and has contributed to my love of reading as well as my kids' love of reading. Thank you Dr. Seuss for your creativity, determination, and imagination! 






Here are some great links to Dr. Seuss information and activities!!!





Doesn't this sound like so much fun? You have the kids scan the qr code and they can 
listen to the stories. Click the photo.

Click on the above photo to find the Dr. Seuss cut and paste bingo!

How fun to celebrate Dr. Seuss Day with a fun photo booth! Click on the image for the link.

Everyone loves cootie catchers! Click on the above photo to make yours!



Have fun celebrating today!!!








Monday, February 27, 2017

The Knights of Crystallia (Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians Book #3)



The Knights of Crystallia
(Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians Book #3)
by
Brandon Sanderson

Blurb (Taken from goodreads.com):

"When Alcatraz and Grandpa Smedry make a pilgrimage to the Free Kingdom city of Crystallia, the Smedry home base, Alcatraz is shocked to see that he is, in fact, a legend. When he was a baby he was stolen by the Evil Librarians, and his mother, a Librarian herself, was behind the whole scheme. Now, with his estranged father, who is acting indeed strange, Bastille, who has been stripped of her armor, and Grandpa Smedry, who is, as always, late to everything (that's his Talent), Alcatraz tries to save a city under siege. From who? Why, the Librarians of course!


My Review:

Seriously! These books are so much fun! I love the humor and wit, the creativity, and the imagination in these books, and this one is no different. It starts out different from the other books, saying that he's awesome; in the other books he makes it very clear that he is not a hero, that he's a liar, etc. I was intrigued from the get-go. It seems that fame has gotten to our non-hero in this book. Alcatraz begins to be just a bit arrogant and cocky. He lets the pride go to his head, and there are definitely consequences to that. The capital city of Nalhalla seems like such a cool place! I loved the descriptions of the buildings, the dragons that climb on buildings and act as taxis, and the technology they have there. Of course, there's trouble, and Alcatraz' mom is involved somehow. This time, however, the gang is not at the top of their game. They have to be doubly creative to make up for what they're lacking. This book has lots of action, danger, librarian schemes, surprises, books that sing, and more amazing Talents. If you enjoyed the first two you will love this one! My family always ends up hearing a lot of these books because I'll be sitting there reading and will burst out laughing; then they'll want to know why and I'll have to read it to them. It's awesome! I can't remember the last books that I actually laughed out loud at while reading. I love it; it's definitely a breath of fresh air!

Rating: PG (There's no profanity or "intimacy." There is some minor violence as they fight off those evil librarians.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up! This book would also make a great read-aloud!