Thursday, July 20, 2017

On This Day...

On This Day 2016...
We were too busy reading to post on this day in 2016, and honestly much of July 2016 at all.  But on the 18th we reviewed Welcome to Deadland by Zachary Tyler Linville.
See our review here.

On This Day in 2015...
We reviewed The Adventures of Loriel and the Wood Fairy by CJ Walery
See our review here.

On This Day in 2014...
Image result for Great Read Alouds chapter books

On This Day in 2013...
....we were busy reading...again. But a few days later we were unimpressed from reading Inexcusable by Chris Lynch.
See our review here.

On This Day in 2012...
I shared what was currently in my stack of to-reads--how serendipitous!  See that list here.

On This Day in 2011...
...we were off a day on posting, but the next day I shared reviews of four Mo Willems Pigeon books.  We love Mo Willems!
See the reviews here.

On This Day in 2010...
...we were again off by one day in posting.
 But the next day we reviewed I'd Tell You But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter.
See the review here.

On This Day in 2009...
We reviewed Need by Carrie Jones.
See our review here.

Image result for need by carrie

On This Day in 2008...
We hadn't started reviewing here at RFS, but it was coming!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What's In My Stack

Hello my reading friends.  I've been MIA for a while, but there's good reason: I've been single parenting my three daughters while my husband finishes his masters degree for the last three years, working full time, and am now able to announce I am expecting Caulder baby #4.  I'm not going to lie: it's been rough.  Thankfully, reading hasn't stopped amidst of all this; just reviewing books I've read has.  If you're needing a way to keep up with your reading, but can't stay awake long enough to keep your eyes open longer than two minutes, try audio books.  It's heaven-sent and the only way I'm keeping up with my 50 books a year challenge.  So, here's my current to-read stack:

Image result for The future of usI just started The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher.  I enjoyed reading 13 Reason Why by Asher and have meant to pick up another of his books.  I loved the idea of this book, since in 1996 I was a teenager making my way through high school and the fast changing world that did not include texting, but did include the explosion of the internet and email.  I'll let the book jacket give you more:

What if you could see how your life would unfold--just by clicking a button?

It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet. Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM. Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on--and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future. Everybody wonders what their destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.

Image result for the reluctant fundamentalistI've been wanting to read something to open my eyes to new perspectives and this book came highly recommended by one of the English teachers in my school district. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid gives an outsiders perspective of what life would have been like for those living in America, but seen as an outsider and for some a major threat.

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . .
Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his relationship with Erica shifting. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

Image result for wolf hollowWolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is another highly recommended book on my to-read stack.  As a teacher, this is one I've wanted to read as it's an award winner and deals with the aftermath of the two world wars. 

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.
Image result for truly madly guiltyTruly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty has been recommended to me many times over and I just haven't gotten to any of Moriarty's books yet.  I've been told this is a great one to start with.

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.
Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

Image result for king's cageHaving read the first two in the Red Queen series, I was anxious to pick ups King's Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard.  The first two were a new dystopian series with a different twist that felt more like the X-Men.  I'm hoping the culmination of this story is more satisfying than some of the other dystopian trilogies out there.

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.
When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Image result for Dead End in NorveltJack Gantos is coming to my daughters' school next year to talk with them about writing.  I've watched interviews with Gantos before, and he's is entertaining!  I purchased Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos earlier this year at the book fair at my daugthers' school.  I'm excited to see how his hilarious personality comes out in the books he writes.

 Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

On This Day ...

On this day in 2009, Heather posted her review of The Help, still a book everyone should read. It's one of my favorites! 

Summary: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted insider her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determinationto start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women -mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends- view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
Summary from book jacket, photo from

My Review: To quickly summarize this is the story of the help, referring to black housemaids living in Mississippi in the 1960's. It's their journey and one that will completely engulf you. If you want a more detailed explanation read Mindy's review or the above summary from the book jacket. What I will tell you is that this is an utterly delicious story that will consume you from the opening chapter right through to author's note on the final pages.

Kathrynn Stockett has written this novel in a manner which allows the reader a private journey inside the characters heads. Three main characters tell this story and each chapter is written in their unique voice. The first chapter begins with Aibleen describing herself, "I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning." And in writing as such these brave, humorous, sassy, sensitive, tough, sweet women seem to jump from the pages.

I found myself tangled up within this story, completely engrossed and loving every moment of it. Tears and laughter, love and bitterness, humiliation and pride, it's all within the pages of this book and on so many different levels. It's a riveting story that addresses the ugly issue of discrimination, (not only racism but sexism and social class as well), in a delightfully entertaining manner.

It is a beautifully told story that you'll want to share with others. There is so much to talk about that this is a must pick for book clubs. While this story was based in the 60's, it's easy to see how some of the issues still apply in modern times. It will leave you reexamining the treatment of our fellow human beings, regardless of race or social class.

My Rating: 5 Stars, really not a book you should miss

If I had to sum it up in one phrase it would be: An all-consuming story of three women whose courageous actions confirmed that they had much in common regardless of their skin color.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On this Date...To Kill A Mockingbird

I think we can all agree that there are lots of iconic books out there. Just ask anyone what they think and they’ll give you a few off the top of their heads. The titles may vary and some will be obscure but hopefully, by the very fact that they’re iconic, you’ll recognize them, and I’m willing to bet that To Kill A Mockingbird will be there.  This phenomenon is similar with people’s favorite books. If you ask them to give you a list, and they’re any kind of reader at all, there is a high likelihood that they will say To Kill A Mockingbird in their list. Whether you loved that book or not (how could you not!?) you have to admit that it’s one of the most famous, most iconic, and best books of all time, if not the best.

Today, July 11, 1960, this book was published and the world was never the same. In light of this historic event, we dedicate today’s “On This Date” to a book that challenged, affirmed, and forever rocked the world.

Has it been awhile since you’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird? Maybe it’s time to re-read it again and decide why you think it is honored by many as one of the best books of all time.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How are Those Reading Lists Coming???

Happy Summer! We're officially halfway through summer break here (serenity now, SERENITY NOW!) and I wanted to check in with y'all on your summer reading. Have you adopted a summer reading list for your family? For you?

My kids are participating in their school's Reading Bingo Blackout program again, but my oldest has aged out. He's recovering from a rough ELA year, so we're really focusing on falling in love with reading again. But, that being said, here are some of the best reading lists I've been relying on! What are your favorites?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day!

We at Reading for Sanity want to wish you all a happy Independence Day today. This has always been one of my favorite holidays and makes me want to crank up the Sousa, dive into some incredible US History books, and enjoy some watermelon.

Have an amazing day!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What's In My Stack

Hi! It’s Ashley today for your dose of All The Books I Should Read. I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people who reads several books at once. I know some people have a major problem with this—how do I keep them all straight?! How do I remember what characters are what?! How do I not finish one thing and just plow right through?! Why do I do all the things I do?! I can answer a few of those, but probably not the last, all-encompassing one. So here is what I wish I could say to the incredulous naysayers about my polybibliophiling.

1.      Books are like friends to me. Yes, I have friends as well, but I also like books. I do not get them confused with each other. Do you get Sally confused with Sandra when you meet with each one? (Do you even have friends with these names? You get my drift anyway, right?). No. You probably don’t get them confused. It’s the same for me with books. They look different, they feel different, the font is different, their weight and size is different…I mean. Come on. They’re different. Disclaimer: In ten years, I may not remember the intricate details of each book and if they are similar I may get them somewhat confused. But while reading several at once? Not usually. Also: It’s not good if I get a book confused with another book. That means it’s unoriginal and has its own issues. I do not get my friends confused no matter what. Please be my friend. J
2.      I like to have different reads for different moods. Sometimes I want something heavy. Sometimes I want something light. Sometimes I want something indulgent. Sometimes I want to learn. The list could go on and on but you get my drift. I like to have different books for each of these things. Granted, a good book will cover many of these bases at once, and of course there are times when I just read an entire book without stopping and feel nary a stitch of guilt. However, most times I like to have lots of stuff to read. Even if I am sitting down to read for a spell (which I try to do daily, although it doesn’t always happen), I will have at least two books with me.
3.      As a book reviewer, sometimes I have to review things that I don’t really want to review. It’s just the way it is. If I request a book from a publisher and then I agree to get a copy, I have to read that book and review it. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like it nor that I have to read it exclusively. Sometimes while reading a book I don’t always love I will reward myself intermittently with a book I’m really enjoying. It’s an effective way to get done what I need to without gouging my eyes out in the middle of it. Sometimes I even like the book and it is one I want to read (whether it is a review book or not) but it is just so intense or heavy or hard to read that I need a break, and a lighter book will provide that escape. I get my reading in, I get what I need done, my kids get ignored for a few more minutes, it’s a win on all fronts.

There are many books that are pending for me right now. I've got them lined up and ready to go on my special "I'm reading this next" shelf, as opposed to my Goodreads "To Read" list which is at least 29 pages long, and I'm not exaggerating about that. These books are ready to step in at any whim, and I will often have at least five books that I am currently reading, sometimes more. I am only listing three books that I'm actively reading currently, two of which are due at the library and cannot be renewed and so they must be finished now. "Actively reading" means I carry them out with me when I'm reading and leave them out for the day in my reading chair so that I can read whichever one I'm in the mood for at the time. So without further ado, I present to you What’s On My Shelf Summer 2017:

Summary: From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes an engrossing novel that spans the past and the present and unearths the dark secrets of Bulgaria, a beautiful and haunted country. 

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes. 

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger. 

Kostova's new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss. (Summary and pic from

Summary: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep. (Summary and pic from

Summary: Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin’s Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil – felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt where the foreign visitors and diplomats who filled hotels, clubs, bars and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their windows.

Among this disparate group were journalists, businessmen, bankers, governesses, volunteer nurses and expatriate socialites. Many kept diaries and wrote letters home: from an English nurse who had already survived the sinking of the Titanic; to the black valet of the US Ambassador, far from his native Deep South; to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, who had come to Petrograd to inspect the indomitable Women’s Death Battalion led by Maria Bochkareva.

Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action – to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to a diverse group of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in a ‘red madhouse.’ (Summary and pic from

And, as always, there will be some reviews for these books once we begin again in the fall!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What's In My Stack

Patrick Griffin's Last Breakfast on Earth--Ned Rust

When Patrick Griffin passes out after a chemistry experiment gone bad, he wakes up in a strange parallel world, where everyone has huge eyes and tiny ears, and is addicted to smartphones called "binkies." Patrick thinks it's all a weird dream, but he's about to wake up to an adventure beyond his wildest imagination.

Meanwhile, a huge rabbit-like creature named Mr. BunBun is roaming through Patrick's hometown, leaving a trail of chaos behind it. Its mission? To save Earth from imminent doom.

See what happens when the fate of three worlds lies in the hands of one boy and one gigantic bunny in this first book of a hilarious and mind-bending new adventure series. (blurb from

The Last Monster--Ginger Garrett

Sofia has never felt special. Not at school, or with her track team, and especially not since she’s become sick.

She’s always been different, but this doesn't make her stand out . . . it's makes her invisible. Then something special lands right in Sofia’s lap. An ancient book that serves as a portal for the Greek philosopher, Xeno, one of Aristotle’s lost students. Sofia has been chosen to be the next Guardian.

Suddenly Sofia is not only trying to survive middle-school cliques and first crushes, she’s in charge of protecting grotesquely beautiful, lonely monsters that have roamed the Earth for centuries. Drawn into Xeno’s violent and unpredictable world of mystery, Sofia learns that loving outsiders has a price. (blurb from

The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian--Lloyd Alexander

When fourth fiddler Sebastian loses his place in the Baron's orchestra, he has to leave the only home he knows--which turns out to be the least of his troubles. He rescues a stray cat from a group of tormentors, who then smash his precious violin; and the troubled young boy he tries to help turns out to be the Crown Princess, on the run from an arranged marriage. Sebastian, Princess Isabel, and Presto the cat soon find themselves fleeing stuffy officials, hired assassins, furious guardsmen and sentries--and, in their journey, find out what is truly important in life. The action and humor never stop in Lloyd Alexander's classic novel, written on the heels of his famed Prydain Chronicles. (blurb from

Doglands--Tim Willocks

Furgul is a puppy born in a slave camp for racing greyhounds, and he has a terrible secret--he is himself only part greyhound. When the cruel owner of the camp recognizes Furgul's impure origins he takes Furgul to be killed, but Furgal manages a spectacular escape. Now Furgul must confront the indifference, complexity, warmth, and ferocity of the greater world, a world in which there seem to be two choices: live the comfortable life of a pet and sacrifice freedom or live the life of a free dog, glorious but also dangerous, in which every man will turn his hand against you.

In the best tradition of The Call of the Wild and Watership Down, novelist Tim Willocks offers his first tale for young adults, an allegorical examination of human life through a dog's eyes, infused with heart, heroism, and the mysteries of the spirit. (blurb from

Thursday, June 15, 2017

On This Day...

On this day in 2009...

We reviewed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (this is my all time favorite book in Rowling's series).  See the review here

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden

Summary: At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I don’t know about you, but I have read many JFic and even YA Fic fairytale retellings over the past several years. Their popularity seems to have made resurgence not only in books but in TV as well. Even Disney is getting in on it—revamping their old tried and true fairytales for new versions or new reinterpretations or even just live action. I’ve enjoyed this movement quite a bit, actually. That’s not to say that all of the things I’ve read or seen have trumped the originals, but I think fairytales are an interesting lot and to have them be revisited and retold is really fun—especially when it’s done by a competent author who brings something new to the table.

The Bear and the Nightingale is just such a fairytale. Except it’s for adults. And that’s awesome, people. Because so many fairytales are told for the JFic and YA Fic audience. Those are fun, and I do love me some well-written JFic and YA Fic, but having an adult version really ups the ante. First of all, the story can be really complex. And this is such a story—it is many-layered and the culture plays a huge part of it. The layers bring about the complexity of the story. The culture not only houses the story, but provides a backdrop for the happenings and the beliefs of the people. These well-ingrained beliefs are the causality of the fairytale as well as the life in Russia during this time. It’s a fun juxtaposition of reality and shared cultural mythos. The new existing with the old. Those who are trying to move away from the beliefs of the past but are also paying the price for leaving the old beliefs behind.

But I think the thing that really makes this an adult book verses a book for a younger audience is that the villains are actually really scary—both the humans and the monsters. There is one particular human villain (and I’m trying not to give anything away here) who really is not what they appear to be. The monsters themselves are scary as well, and some are even scary in their ambivalence. They are not evil per se, but they just are. They do what they do and that happens to be something that maybe isn’t in line with humanity’s best interest. But that doesn’t necessarily make them evil outside the realm of humanity—they just are what they are. There are certainly some evil villains as well, and they are quite scary and do scary things. I’m being purposely vague here. This is a book you’ll want to enjoy by discovering these things yourself.

I loved the setting of this book. I felt like Arden did a good job of creating a world where both the mythical and non-mythical world could co-exist. I could feel the history and heaviness of the winters in Russia, as well as the heaviness of the circumstances in general. It is a complex book in the way that life is complex—there is a lot going on and not everyone may be working toward the same goal in the end.

If you enjoy fantasy or fairytales, and especially those with a specific cultural element to them, you should definitely check out this book. It really has a lot to offer.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language and some sex as well as violence, some of it involving fantastical creatures, but not all. I would rate it a modern PG. It is not squeaky clean but it is not excessive, either. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

On This Day...

On this day in 2016, 
Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown.  
Click here to  see what we thought!

On this day in 2015...
Dead Wake.  
Our review is HERE!!

On this day in 2014...
...we took a nap. 
But a day later we posted 

On this day in 2013...
We can't go into the details as they are top secret 
but we were too busy saving the world to post.

On this day in 2012...
We posted an awesome list (with links when available) 
of all the Newberry Medal and Honor Winners from 1922 to 2012.

On this day in 2011...
we won $532 million in the lottery and then lost it all playing blackjack.  
We were too busy bawling to post, but we pulled ourselves together 
and the next day we reviewed one of my favorite children's books HERE!

On this day in 2010...
we reviewed the final book in a fantastic series, HERE.

On this day in 2009...

We were underwhelmed.  HERE.

And on this day in 2008...
RFS was naught but a twinkle in my eye. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What's In My Stack

Hey all!  Mindy, here!  Mother of four, LEO wife, and lover of all things literary. I hope you are enjoying your summer (or are about to enjoy it)!  My kids are still in school for another ten days so I'm going to try to cram in some reading before they are home and all hell breaks loose.  Here is what is currently sitting in my stack.

I'm about three chapters into Read Right! and while we haven't gotten to the practical application yet, the theory is fascinating.... "According to  the latest breakthroughs in cognitive theory and brain research, excellent reading ability involves a complex process that is "figured out" by every reader.  Preschool-age children with a wide range of IQs are capable of figuring out the complex process for themselves, which is the basis of Dr. Dee Tadlock's innovative Read Right system.  Read Right! provides simple techniques to help parents guide young children into their own reading excellence, with fun, easy activities designed to be integrated into everyday life.  Based on nearly 25 years of research, the Read Right system is a proven alternative to phonics-based or whole-language methods.  Most important, this interactive system can teach anyone, even adults, how to "figure out" the process of reading."  (blurb from back cover)
In Anna Quindlen's Rise and Shine..."It's an otherwise ordinary Monday when Meghan Fitzmaurice's perfect life hits a wall.  A household name as the host of Rise and Shine, the country's highest-rated morning television talk show, Meghan cuts to a commercial break--but not before she does something that, in an instant, marks the end of an era, not only for Meghan, who is unaccustomed to dealing with adversity, but also for her younger sisters, Bridget.  A social worker in the Bronx, Bridget has always looked up to Meghan while living in her long shadow.  What follows is a story about how, in a very different ways, the Fitzmaurice women adapt, survive, and manage to bring the whole teeming city of New York to heel by dint of their smart mouths, quick wits, and the powerful connection between them that even the worst tragedy cannot shatter?"  (blurb from back cover)

In Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard... Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble.  Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and truant officers.  One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down -- his Uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about.  Whn Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches.  Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus's birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.  The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place.  Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus's memory.  But he doesn't have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents...Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.  (blurb from back cover)

 Since its original publication in 2000, Leadership and Self-Deception has become a global phenomenon with sales increasing year after year and editions available over thirty languages.  Its powerful ideas are based on Arbinger's work over the last 35 years -- work that has fueled the success of thousands of organizations around the world.  Through an engaging story about a man facing challenges on the job and in his family, the authors expose the fascinating ways that we blind ourselves to our true motivations and unwittingly sabotage our own efforts to improve performance and achieve success.  Read this extraordinary book and discover what millions have already learned -- how to tap into an innate ability that dramatically improves both your relationships and results.  (blurb from back cover)
The Orphan Keeper is based on a remarkable true story...Seven-year-old Chellamuthu's life is forever changed when he is kidnapped from his village in India, sold to a Christian orphanage, and then adopted by an unsuspecting couple in the United States.  It takes months before the boy can speak enough English to tell his parents that he already has a family back in India.  Horrified, they try their best to track down his Indian family, but all avenues lead to dead ends.  Meanwhile, they simply love him, change his name to Taj, enroll him in school, and make him part of their family.  And his story might have ended there had it not been for the persistent questions in his head:  Who am I? Why was I taken?  How do I get home?  More than a decade later, Taj meets Priya, a girl from southern India with surprising ties to his past.  Is she the key to unveil the secrets of his childhood or is it too late?  And if he does make it back ot India, how will he find his family with so few clues?  From the best-selling author of  The Rent Collector, this is a deeply moving and gripping journey of discovering one's self and the unbreakable familiy bonds that connect us forever (blurb from back cover)

Stars Above is a actually a compilation of short stories set in the world established in the Lunar Chronicles collection.  You can read my review of the first book in the series, Cinder, here (spoiler: I loved it!).....  The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories -- and secrets -- that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic.  How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing?  How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer?  When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?  With nine stories -- five of which have never before been published -- and a special bonus excerpt from Marissa Meyer's most recent novel, Heartless, about the Queen of HEarts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles. (summary from book cover)
A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic, A Clockwork Orange.  In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invted slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends social pathology.   A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom.  And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to "redeem" him, the novel asks, "At what cost?"  This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."

Friday, June 2, 2017

Happy Summer!!

Happy Summer! We'll be checking in occasionally this summer (Tuesdays and Thursdays), but for the most part, we plan on doing lots of this!

Enjoy your summer reading, and we'll see you when school starts again!!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Happy Memorial Day

Hawking's Hallway - Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman

Summary: Nick Slate, in order to protect his father and little brother, reluctantly must help the Accelerati complete Tesla's great device. Their power-mad leader wants nothing less than to control the world's energy--but there are still three missing objects to track down.

Nick's friends can't help him, as they are spread across the globe grappling with their own mysteries--with Vince in Scotland, Caitlin and Mitch on their way to New Jersey, and Petula's whereabouts unknown. On his own, Nick must locate Tesla's final inventions-- which are the most powerful of all, capable of shattering time and collapsing space. (Summary and image from

Review: All of Nick’s plans seem to have fallen to bits. He tried so hard to keep his family from knowing what he was really doing, and now they’re in the clutches of the Accelerati. He’s had no choice but to join forces with the Accelerati to save the lives of his dad and brother, not to mention his friends. And soon—much too soon—he finds himself face to face with the leader of this nefarious group — Thomas Edison, himself. Still. Somehow.

I’ve got to be honest. This book is action-packed, moves in eighty different directions, there’s time travel, split people, stolen babies, the emergence of not only Thomas Edison, but possibly Nikola Tesla, there’s a lot going on. A LOT. While the other two have been good at setting the stage and endearing the reader to the characters and their cause, this is the final act, and there’s a lot to resolve. It gets intense. It gets downright scary. I may have teared up a bit at one point.

I really ended up loving this series, and very much appreciated the twists and turns of this novel. I loved the tidbits of history that found their way into the narrative. I loved the development of the characters, their resolutions, and the final product. It was definitely a satisfying conclusion to the end of the series.

To be honest, I binge-read this series in a  day and a half. I love doing that. Honestly, it was beneficial to me to have read all of them quickly so that I could follow all of the characters and their storylines. I’d recommend reading this series like that, otherwise, it may be too easy to get a little lost.

Rating: Four stars

For the Sensitive Reader: We revisit the fire that started the series, there are deaths, Edison is disturbing, and there is an infant abduction.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Be Still My Beating Heart...

Tonight, I came out of the room after putting my youngest 
down for bed and I ran smack into this... I almost cried. 

 To quote Kelly Clarkson...
Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this! 

The only way to make it better would be for L and I to be snuggled in there, reading too!  For those who are curious, C is reading an early reader about the Avengers.  S is reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and K is reading Fall of Hades, the sixth book in the Michael Vey series.  

What are your kids reading?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Baba Yaga's Assistant - Marika McCoola; Emily Carroll

Must have skills in hauling, obeying orders, cooking, and cleaning. Magical talent a bonus. Must be good with heights. Enter Baba Yaga's house to apply.

Most children think twice before braving a haunted wood filled with terrifying beasties to match wits with a witch, but not Masha. Her beloved grandma taught her many things: that stories are useful, that magic is fickle, and that nothing is too difficult or too dirty to clean. The fearsome witch of folklore needs an assistant, and Masha needs an adventure. She may be clever enough to enter Baba Yaga's house on chicken legs, but within its walls, deceit is the rule. To earn her place, Masha must pass a series of tests, outfox a territorial bear, and make dinner for her host. No easy task, with children on the menu!

Wry, spooky and poignant, Marika McCoola's debut--with richly layered art by acclaimed graphic artist Emily Carroll--is a storytelling feat and a visual fest.  (Summary and picture from

My Review: So, strolling through the graphic novel section of the library (it's what I do), I spotted the name 'Baba Yaga' on a book spine and snatched it up without even hesitating.  I'm morbidly fascinated by weird dark fairy tales so, hence, my love of Baba Yaga stories.

For the uninitiated, Baba Yaga is a witch from Russian folklore.  She presents impossible tasks, eats children, and lives in a house that walks around on giant chicken legs.  When she's tired of that, she flies around the land in a mortar and pestle.  All around spooky and haunting.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was a quick read, but it did a lovely job of intertwining past, present and fairy tale, especially Masha's belief in the fabled witch even during modern times.  It presented a new story while hearkening back to other Baba Yaga stories within the tale.  Using her knowledge of Baba Yaga folklore, shared with her by her late grandmother, Masha is able to weave her way into this mythical world and work out some personal problems along the way.  I love when a character uses stories or fairy tales to help them in any situation, because stories have a way of helping us prepare for the world around us, and that's a theme I love finding in any book.

The art was fantastic, especially every time Baba Yaga was on the scene.  Her character design was delightful, and there was just enough danger in her looks while at the same time a feeling that she's not always what the stories make her out to be.  I felt the artist captured her essence very well, and it was very emotive and colorful, adding to the story.

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: Nothing offensive, just mildly spooky (it is Baba Yaga, after all).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas & Grandpas - Sally Lloyd-Jones (illustrated by Michael Emberley)

Summary:  Did you know that when you have a grandma or a grandpa, there are guidelines for how best to take care of them?  There are all sorts of special things you need to do to make them feel loved.  Now here at last is a manual packed with advice, pointers, and helpful hints.  For instance, you need to dance for them, sing to them, draw pictures for them, and even hold their hand when they cross the street!  It's also very important to take a nap with them (so that they're not the only ones).  But most importantly, you need to give them lots of hugs and kisses -- because that is what grandmas and grandpas like best! (Summary from book flap)

My Review:  My youngest daughter is turning five tomorrow but still has a somewhat flawed selection process when it comes to choosing books at our local library.  Upon arrival, she runs to the kiddie section and proceeds to grab grab grab from the shelves until she has a Pisa-like tower of books and declares herself ready to check out.  As you might imagine, her reading choices can be somewhat hit and miss in the quality department and come story time, I usually regret my lack of guidance.  This has led to me reading far more Barbie and Biscuit books that a person really needs to read in a lifetime. However, very occasionally she manages to bring home a winner and this book is stinking adorable.

The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas & Grandpas is an adorably tongue-in-cheek care and keeping manual for the younger generations.  Each page shows a different set of animal grandparents and their grandchildren engaging in shenanigans and includes a little tip for kids on how to keep their grandparents safe, well-fed, and entertained.  Of course, there is the standard "let them spoil you" shtick but children are also directed to listen to their stories, gobble up the dinners they make, share their ice cream, go outside, and do fun things together.  There are even great little safety tips that any grandparent (or parent, really) can appreciate -- like being able to see your grandparents all the time "in case they run off" or hold their hand when they cross the street.  I can see it being a great gift for your little one to take with them the first time they stay the night at grandma and grandpas house OR (possibly even better) a great way to announce to your parents that they are becoming grandparents.  Either way, this book is a Goldilocks length for bedtime stories (not too long or too short) and would also work well as a read-together book for your up-and-coming reader.  I'm glad it managed to find its way home to us and I imagine we'll have to buy a few copies for the grandparents in our lives.

My Rating:  4.5 stars

For the sensitive reader:  As long as you have nice grandparents things should work out just fine.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Prisoner B-3087 - Alan Gratz

Summary: Survive. At any cost.

10 concentration camps.

10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.

It's something no one could imagine surviving.

But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner -- his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.

He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.

Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will -- and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?

Based on an astonishing true story. (Summary and image from

Review: Yanek feels safe and happy in his Polish town, until the Nazis appear. Suddenly, school isn't an option. Having food for dinner is a constant struggle. His Bar Mitzvah is conducted in secret, by cover of night. His family lives governed by fear first, by Nazis and the Judenrat second. His main goal in life becomes survival, at any cost.

Prisoner B-3087 is based on the true experiences of Yanek Gruener. As a child, he suffered through an unimaginable ten concentration camps, a death march, and the loss of his family. He survived. Miraculously, he survived. This is his story, told in a way that middle grade/young adults can grasp the desperation, the ingenuity, the terror, and the relief of his experience. Beautifully written, compellingly presented, and surprisingly hopeful, this is definitely a book that students studying World War II should read.

I was so impressed with the tact with which Gratz approached Gruener's story. I can't begin how difficult it must be for a survivor to relay what he went through, and then adding the further challenge of making his experiences age appropriate for the reader, it's nearly a Herculean task. Gratz doesn't stoop to the "shock and awe" factor to spice up Gruener's story, he relays the information in a tactful and appropriate manner. The simplicity itself is beautiful, especially for a reader just hearing about the horrors of the Holocaust for the first time.

Rating: Four stars

For the Sensitive Reader: This is a book about the Jewish Holocaust. While the atrocities are downplayed, they are very much there.


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