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Monday, July 24, 2017

Mount TBR update

    I recently took a screen free week and got some reading done too! I've been chipping away at my to be read pile for the Mount TBR challenge. My original goal was 24 books. I'm at 15. So, I'm well on my way. I am planning on telling you about 2 books- The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver H.C. Chester and  Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke.
The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House, #1)

      This book tells about the lives of 4 orphans growing up in Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks. They are the only children as part of his show. Pippa is sort of a mind reader, but she sometimes can only tell what is in your pockets. Thomas can squeeze into small spaces. Sam is a strong man and Max is a knife thrower. Dumfrey's museum is struggling so he brings in a new exhibit- an Amazonian shrunken head. Unfortunately, at the first show that exhibits the head, a woman in the audience dies. A reporter in the audience writes an article and suggests that the shrunken head might carry a curse with it.
        This story was just "ok" to me. (Tim too) We both felt that the story had potential and that the characters were kind of fun, but the amount of deaths in the story seemed extraneous. Don't get me wrong, this is not filled with people killing each other, but we think the story could've been told without some of the deaths.  Neither one of us are interested in reading the rest of the stories in the series.

Inkheart (Inkworld, #1)

     This book has been sitting on my to read shelf forever! I don't even remember where I got it. My guess is that I picked it up somewhere for Tim a few years ago, but wanted to read it first to see if there is anything inappropriate that he shouldn't be reading. (There isn't)
      I don't often say that I love a book, but I might have loved this one- or at the very least, liked it a lot. Who knew I'd spend my summer enjoying middle grade fantasy? I love the premise of this whole book. There is a bookbinder- called Mo by his daughter and nicknamed Silvertongue by some other characters- who has the ability to read characters out of the books that they are written in. Unfortunately, when a character is transported out of their story, someone from Mo's word is transported in. His 12 year old daughter, Meggie, knows nothing about this ability since her father has always told her that he is not good at/doesn't like reading aloud. One night, Meggie is sitting in her room when she hears a noise outside. She looks out her window to see a man, Dustfinger, in their yard. She informs her father and it becomes obvious to Meggie that her dad knows this man.The 2 men talk privately and soon we learn that a man named Capricorn has been seeking Silvertongue and a book that he is in possession of.
     I don't want to give away too much of this book (even though it's from early 2000s so you may have read it!) so I'm not going to write more about the plot. Here's a few things that I loved:
1) The story in general. It's full of love for books and reading. It captures that books can take you to far away places and fill you with wonder, or scare you while you're reading alone in your room. I just felt that everything was really imaginative.
2) The characters- There is one character, Elinor, who I grew to like more within the story. She is Meggie's great aunt. She seems kind of like a bitter, old woman who is obsessed with books. Her books are kept in pristine condition in her massive house full of bookshelves and a special library. (Kind of like how my books are kept in wonderful condition within my messy apartment..lol) Elinor sees her books almost like her friends or her children and they are precious to her. Although I am not a person who is easily attached to material things, I get being attached to books.
3) The beginning of each chapter starts with quotations from other great books. I have always loved that. Is it Dean Koontz that does that in most of his books?

Read this book.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Stormy Seas

     I saw this book on NetGalley a while back and decided that it would be good for me to read. I don't know many refugees personally, and I the ones I do know I don't know well enough to ask their stories. With the events of the world and in the US lately, refugees have been on my mind more than they had previously been. I thought this book might open up some conversations with my sons about how their lives are similar/different from the lives of children in different times and places.  In the introduction, the author writes "If you're reading this, you-like me- have probably won the lottery. Not the giant-check, instant-millionaire kind of lottery. The other lottery in-   the really valuable one. That random, lucky break that means you were born-or immigrated to a relatively peaceful and prosperous place in the world. Along with all the other amazing things about you, that makes you pretty extraordinary."  I think that is an important point that many kids might not have thought about much before.
      Stormy Seas tells the story of 5 people who fled their countries on boats. Ruth is 18 when she flees from the Nazis in 1939 with the intention of arriving in Cuba. However, after 6 days in Havana Harbor, their boat is turned away and told to return to Europe. Ruth eventually ends up in England.  Phu leaves his family and travels from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon.  Thirteen year old Jose leaves the Castro regime in Cuba to come to the United States. Najeeba, 11 in 2000, escapes Afghanistan through Pakistan and India before arriving in Australia. Mohamed, a 13 year old orphan,  arrives in Italy after fleeing the Ivory Coast, working in Guinea, Mali, and Algeria, being smuggled into Libya, then crossing the Mediterranean to Malta. 
      I thought this book was good. The art in the book is similar to what you see on the cover. I liked the collage aspect of it and liked that they showed the routes each child has traveled on a map. I asked my youngest son what he thought of the art and he said he thought "it was interesting" and "likes the patterns" in the background of a lot of pages. I liked that they told what happened to each person later in their life as well. The book also includes a brief history of people who had "come by boat" before these 5 as well as after these 5.  The stories of each person were told in an appropriate manner for children. There were also a lot of subject specific vocabulary- like "refugee," "asylum," etc- that are defined for kids who might not have encountered these words in previous reading. 
      I am planning on recommending this book to our middle school librarian and the librarian at my son's school. This book is available from Annick Press.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Last Namsara

    July seems to be my month to get a lot of reading done :) I cannot stop!  I would normally have no problem with this but my mental traveling into different worlds has slowed down my writing so I'd like a little more balance.   I'm looking forward to telling you about this next book, which I just received as a digital copy from NetGalley and Orion Publishing last week. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli will be released in the US on October 3 and in the UK on October 5. It is a YA fantasy.
 The Last Namsara (Iskari, #1)  
     The Last Namsara was great. I devoured it. I usually don't read a ton of fantasy but this one drew me in right from the beginning. It is about a girl named Asha, who is the daughter of the king of Firgaard. When she was a child, Asha told dragons old stories that had been forbidden by her people. One night, this almost cost her her life. The first dragon, Kozu, burned her badly and destroyed her city. Lives were lost and Asha was feared. She was thought to be the Iskari- a death bringer, created by the Old One to establish balance with the Namsara, who carried love and laughter.  In atonement for her deeds, Asha becomes a fierce dragon slayer and is promised in marriage to Jarek, the boy who saved her life and whose parents were killed by Kozu, Jarek is powerful and cruel and he serves as the commandant under Asha's father. When the king offers Asha an opportunity to avoid being married to Jarek, she is happy to oblige; her freedom from marriage in exchange for the head of Kozu. 
       If that story line doesn't sound exciting enough for you, there is way more. Dragons. (Cait, I put that first for you) Forbidden love. People coming together for an uprising against wrongs that have been done to them. Old stories telling the history of Asha's family,   It's all here.  
     I'm excited that this is going to be part of a 3 book series. I will definitely check out the other books!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Space Case

Space Case (Moon Base Alpha #1) 
       After I shared one of David's reading books with you, I decided to take a look at the books Tim is reading. Tim has loved most of the MCBA books he's read and has a goal to read them all this summer. This is his first MCBA book. I decided to check it out too (Thinking that it was one of his assigned summer reading books.. oops)  This book is geared to 6th graders. (
      Space Case is about a 12 year old boy named Dashiell (nicknamed Dash) who is growing up on Moon Base Alpha with his parents and younger sister, Violet. Life on the moon was not always what NASA had advertised. Adjusting to low gravity life, space food, toilets! and being around the same people all the time can be hard. There are not many kids on base, and the ones that are there are not exactly the type of kids that Dash wants to be around all the time. His choices of what to do are somewhat limited since kids are not allowed on the moon's surface and he has to be restricted to base.
       Life gets a lot more complicated when it's discovered that Dr. Holtz, the base's top scientist, has died after making a mistake with his space suit before going out to the moon's surface. There are a few problems with this- 1) Dr. Holtz is super concerned with safety and is particularly cautious about the space suits and 2) Dash had overheard Dr. Holtz speaking with someone about an incredible discovery that would change the course of mankind. Holtz was planning a meeting on base to reveal his discovery just hours after he was found dead. (This conversation that Dash overhears takes place during a very humorous toilet episode.Both Tim and I had a good chuckle with Gibbs' wording.)   While Dash suspects that something might be wrong, most of the other people on the base are hesitant to even address the possibility that foul play might be involved. 
       Lucky for Dash, a rocket is scheduled to arrive from Earth. It is carrying some new residents of the base, some temps who have jobs on the base and extra food/supplies. One of the new residents of MBA is a girl named Kira, who immediately becomes friends with Dash. With her help, Dash is able to examine what really happened to Holtz.
        I liked this book. There were some exciting parts. It was humorous. It did include a few "it sucked" type lines, but realistically, I know that's not the worst my son is going to be hearing from kids his age. It is part of a series and I'm sure that Tim would not hesitate to read the other books in the series. This might be a great book for kids who aren't usually readers.
      Here's what Tim had to say about this book:
      "It was very interesting and it had a lot of diversity between the types of people at the space station. I loved it. I'd honestly recommend it to everyone. It's thrilling."
   His next read was The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. I haven't read this one but he described it to me. It sounded pretty scary for a younger kid. Tim, who is usually creeped out pretty easily, read it while camping. He thought it was exciting and said he wants to try more books like this.
Tim: "The Nest was very creepy and fast paced for sure."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mountaineering Checkpoint #2 (even though I missed #1)

     One of the reading challenges I'm taking part in this year is called Mount TBR- and it is a challenge to reduce your "to be read" pile. In my bedroom,  I have a bookshelf of books I have yet to read. It is accompanied by a neat stack of books next to the shelf that just didn't fit on the bookcase. This is my first time participating in this particular challenge (and the Keyword Reading Challenge too.) My goal for this year is to reach the summit of Mount Blanc, by reading 24 books out of my piles.

1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read).  If you're really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you've read correlates to actual miles up Pike's Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc. And feel free to tell us about any particularly exciting adventures you've had along the way.

    I am currently at 13 books, a little more than halfway up Mount Blanc. I'm happy with this since I'm participating in 3 challenges and not all the books I'm reading are from my to be read pile.

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:

 A. Choose two titles from the books you've read so far that have a common link. You decide what the link is--both have strong female lead characters? Each focuses on a diabolical plot to take over the world? Blue covers? About weddings? Find your link and tell us what it is.

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry, and A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by AlexandraPetri were both humorous books that I won in giveaways from Goodreads.

 B. Tell us about a book on the list that was new to you in some way--new author, about a place you've never been, a genre you don't usually read...etc. 
        One of the books I enjoyed the most was Sparks and Shadows by Kendrick von Schiller. I have never read anything from that author before and I haven't really read too much fantasy. In addition, this was another Goodreads win and the author signed my book and wrote me a really nice note. I'm looking forward to her next book.


Wild in the Hollow

  Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home

This book came highly recommended to me by a friend. I was really excited to read it. Unfortunately, I just didn't connect much. The redemptive theme that God is often found in broken places and the topic of things that are not working right now in American churches were important topics, but I think I was lost in the flowery language and the fact that the author's life is extremely different from my own.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

On Edge- a Journey Through Anxiety review

   Thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review.     As you can guess by the cover of this book, this book deals with living with anxiety. The author, Andrea Petersen, shares her experiences with her lifelong struggle with anxiety and how it has affected her relationships, work, and ability to live life.  "It (anxiety) is a chronic sense of uneasiness about a vague future, a gnawing worry about what may or may not happen."  I appreciated the mix of personal reflections with the scientific research that she presented.  Peterson tells about research regarding heredity and anxiety,  possible links between anxiety and other medical issues, and strategies for dealing with anxiety- both non-drug therapies and medications. Although I really enjoyed the research aspect, I might caution you if you're not interested in reading research or information about neuroscience. 
    I appreciated the author's vulnerability in telling her story. I have often wondered if I would be diagnosed with anxiety if I ever had an evaluation. (The answer is probably yes.) My thoughts are constantly racing, I often obsess about the possibilities in any situation- even though I understand that there is usually only 1 outcome. I have often shared some of the questions that she has- "Is this normal?" "What if I end up like this relative?" "Am I just worrying, or is there something actually wrong?"   If you would like to learn more about anxiety- or work with people who may be dealing with anxiety, I think this is a great read.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Kids summer reading/ The Truth of Me- review

Here's something a little different from me. As part of our summer reading, Tim has read many Massachusetts Children's Book Award books. This year, David is old enough to enjoy them. Tim's summer reading goals are to:
1) Read 2 books from his middle school reading list.
2) Report on both of those books
3) Read all of the MCBA books (There are 25)

David's reading goals are to:
1) Participate in the Barnes & Noble reading program
2) To finish 1 MCBA book and write a report on it.
     He just completed that goal- so his new goal is:
3) Read 10 MCBA books this summer and complete reports on each 

The Truth of Me 
     This is David's first MCBA book. We read it together. I thought it was delightful. This book is about a boy named Robert who is sent to his grandmother's house for the time that his parents are performing in a concert tour.  Robert doesn't mind much since his parents, especially his mom, seem to care more about music than they do about him. In addition to that, his grandmother, Maddy, and her friend, Henry, are welcoming and adventurous. He also gets to bring his dog, Ellie. During his stay with Maddy, Robbie learns some "small truths" about himself, his family and life in general. 
       The characters in this book are really interesting. The author was gentle with dealing with the personality flaws of each character. At first, and maybe it's just because I have often felt guilt about leaving my kids while I'm doing a concert/running an event, I felt very badly for Robert and for his lack of relationship with his mom in particular. As the story progresses and you learn more about his family, things get a little better. 
       This book is geared for about a fourth grade level. David will be entering fourth grade. He really enjoyed the dialogue between Maddy, Henry, and Robbie. He loved Ellie and her role in the story. We chatted about Robert's feelings about his mom and grandma and what "small truths" were. I thought the reading level was appropriate, but there were some music specific vocabulary that kids who are not musicians might not understand. (quartet, allegro, violist, etc.) This is the first book I have read from Patricia MacLachlan and I look forward to reading more.