Thursday, August 17, 2017

Have you met the Indie Next List?

Looking for a little somethin' somethin' to read and your FAVORITE book blog is stubbornly STILL on vacay?  Look no further than the Indie Next List.  It's a recommended reading list put together by Indiebound, an organization of independent booksellers.  You know, the people who read for fun and recommend books for a living?!  Trust me, they know of what they speak.  Check out the current Indie Next List here.  Oh, and they have an Indie Next Kids list as well.   As well as lists for paperbacksreading groups, and so on.  If we reviewed book sites, I'd give this one 5 Stars.

PS.  If you scroll down any of these linked pages you can pretty much browse all the lists they have ever made.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

An RFS Author Spotlight (Part Two)

Here at RFS, there is an author (or two) quite close to our heart.

RFS reviewer Lara Hays Zierke (under the name Lara Hays) has written several books in the piratical adventure romance genre that we'd love you to check out:  Ocean Swept, Undertow, Rebel Tide (not yet published), and several Oceanswept Chronicles.   They are clean, action-packed, and swoony.  You can find most of them for purchase here!

Image result for oceanswept trilogyImage result for oceanswept chronicles

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Books Turned Movies in 2017

Just came across this link to 25 books that will be released as movies in 2017.  Quite a few are already out and I'm excited about a good number of them! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

An RFS Author Spotlight (Part One)

Here at RFS we are just BEAMING with pride!

Natalie Perry,
former RFS reviewer and current ROCKSTAR food blogger at Perry's Plate, has just published her first cookbook: The Big Book of Paleo Slow Cooking (200 Nourishing Recipes That Cook Carefree, for Everyday Dinners and Weekend Feasts)

Natalie and I went to high school together.  Back then, her last name was different and so I didn't even know that the girl I went to high school with and the food blogger I was madly stalking for recipes were the same person until I emailed her a question and she responded with: MINDY?! MINDY IRVING?!  One thing led to another and she reviewed cookbooks for RFS for a while before deciding to focus solely on food blogging and making adorable babies, and has been profoundly successful at both.

I haven't received my copy yet, but here are just a few of my favorite recipes from Perry's Plate if you want to try them out...

You get the idea.  She's awesome.  

Elizabeth will be posting a review shortly, but we just couldn't wait to get the word out!  If you get a chance, check out her blogpick up her book and spread the word!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

On this Day...

On this day in 2016, 
was top of the page...

On this day in 2015,
our review for 
by Elizabeth Wein

On this day in 2014,
we didn't post a darn thing...
but the next day Ashley posted 
some of her favorite

On this day in 2013,
Elizabeth posited the question

On this day in 2012,
we raved about the awesomeness that is

On this day in 2011,
we hosted a now-closed giveaway (and linked the reviews)

On this day in 2010


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Why We Do What We Do

It's no surprise to anyone that we here at Reading for Sanity kind of enjoy books. Reading is a necessity for us -- so much so that when my family moved this summer, instead of taking the much needed extra room and turning it into a guest room for out-of-state family (um, all of the them), I turned it into a library. Best. Decision. Ever. However, it saddens me when I hear so many individuals, kids and adults alike, who confess that they don't read anymore. Why?

I teach a Sunday School class and to my students' chagrin, I will absolutely NOT allow tech to be used in place of actual books of scripture. It's only taken one or two walks of shame to the library for these awesome kids to be trained, and we never have phones (ahem, Minecraft games) being used instead of bibles.

I found this article that resonated with me, and I want to get your thoughts on this. Have you noticed a change in your reading habits?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

This Day In History ... Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

See the original post here:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford

Summary: In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families,left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.
(Summary and cover photo from of

Heather's Review:
 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a beautifully crafted novel which speaks of the segregation that took place after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It addresses the difficulties of being of Asian decent during this period of time and the prejudices that arose. The novel also depicts a rocky relationship between a father and his son - an indestructible wall of secrets built between the two. Yet at it's heart Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a love story.

Jamie Ford's writing took my breath away time and time again with his tale laced with symbolism. My chest tightened as I watched one season of a life come to an undesirable end and another unpredictable future begin. My eyes were far from dry as I savored the final pages. Despite all the war and torment that takes place during this book there is a feeling of total and utter peace as the last word is read and the cover is closed.

I was fortunate enough to attend one of Jamie Ford's book talks and signings. He is a very charismatic man with a wonderful sense of humor, yet remains humble. It just made me love this book (now signed!) more.

Her Rating: 5 Stars
(I did catch the discrepancy between the time frame of the novel and the technology written about but I was so utterly engrossed in the tale that it did not distract from the story line for me. So it remains a 5.)

To sum it up: A perfect balance of fact and fiction wound together to create a beautiful love story.

Mindy's Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the quiet and expressive story of Henry Lee, told in two alternating parts—Henry as young boy and Henry as an elderly man. Young Henry lives in Seattle during WWII, and though he is Chinese, contends daily with the shameful racism brought about by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and a father who holds a deep-seated hatred of the Japanese. His father longs for his native China, but desperately wants his son to be seen as an American. Old Henry tells his story with a voice of experience and wisdom. While mourning the loss of his wife Ethel, and confronting some of the same issues he and his father faced with his own son, Marty, Henry keeps can't help but think about the past and what could have been. Through the eyes of young and old, a beautifully rich story unfolds. It is young love, hateful actions, familial betrayal, and undying loyalty, all set to the beat of Seattle’s famous jazz scene.

It seems clichĂ© to use the word bittersweet to describe this particular novel, but in the end the word is fitting, and perfectly describes my feelings as I read. I didn’t always know what was going to happen, but was content to go where the story led. If the ending tied up a little too neatly, I found I didn’t mind at all. I closed this book with a contented sigh and the feeling that all was as it should be.

Her Rating: 4.5 Stars. For the sensitive reader: I really can’t remember anything offensive. Of course, I’m a bit batty right now, so that might not mean a whole lot.

Sum it up: A beautifully written love story that should not be missed.

Average Rating: 4.75 Stars

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What's In My Stack

Ah, summer! It's the perfect time for hammocks, icy lemonade, and a stack of books while kids play happily in the sprinklers. Right? It's also the perfect time for a move, apparently. And do you know what suffers when you move? Your reading time. I'm dying to pick up a book!  Assuming I finally unearth my books, here's what I hope to dive into ... while my kids are practicing their start dives at swim.

My dad recommended this one, given my time in Austria and my interest in World War II. Can't wait to get my hands on it! 

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, the remarkable true story of the valiant rescue of priceless pedigree horses in the last days of World War II. 

As the Russians closed in on Hitler from the east and the Allies attacked from the west, American soldiers discovered a secret Nazi effort to engineer a master race of the finest purebred horses. With the support of U.S. general George S. Patton, a passionate equestrian, the Americans planned an audacious mission to kidnap these beautiful animals and smuggle them into safe territory—assisted by a daring Austrian colonel who was both a former Olympian and a trainer of the famous Lipizzaner stallions.

This one was recommended to me by a fellow GT mom, and after listening to a podcast featuring the author, I'm so curious about her book!
In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, athletes, students, and business people-both seasoned and new-that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called “grit.” Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.

Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. As a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth created her own “character lab” and set out to test her theory.

Here, she takes readers into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers-from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to the cartoon editor of The New Yorker to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that-not talent or luck-makes all the difference.

Doctor Who? Books? Sold.
The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies - think Doctor Who with librarian spies!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.

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. 


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