Sunday, June 11, 2017

To Review: "Hag-Seed" by Margaret Atwood

Next up to review is Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. It's a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, published by Hogarth Shakespeare.

I've read another novel from the same publisher that was the retelling of The Winter's Tale, which was called The Gap of Time, by Jeanette Winterson. Though I wasn't a huge fan of that retelling, I do like Shakespeare and Margaret Atwood, so perhaps this one will be a better fit!

I've read Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake (with The Blind Assassin sitting in my to-be-read pile!). Looking forward to getting into Hag-Seed and letting you know how it is!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

"Jesus Loves Me! A Sing-Along Book" illustrated by Gynux

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Jesus Loves Me! A Sing-Along Book is a children’s board book containing three verses of the song Jesus Love Me. It is 20 pages long of thinner weight board pages. It opens so that the pages can lie flat, which is really nice since the pictures always are across the entire spread.

The pictures feature animals going on a nature walk while playing instruments, as the book is supposed to be sung to/with children. Along the nature walk, the animals engage in other activities in addition to playing instruments, such as catching a butterfly, saving a kitten from a tree, having a picnic, and building a campfire.

The last spread features a bunch of the animals looking at the book with the instruments, as though they are actually reading/playing along. The other side of the pages is sheet music for the first verse and chorus. Since all of the verses are the same tune, this can be used to play the entire song.

The book is of high-quality, with a foam board cover. The animals are cute, but the illustrations aren’t my favorite style; they’re slightly more towards realistic in textured drawing, but with extra expressive faces.

I wasn’t super familiar with the second and third verse of the song, since usually all I heard growing up was the first verse (“Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but He is strong! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.”). This would be a really fun way to sing along with children who love music, or if you play an instrument, you could even play along given the music at the end. The sheet music is simple to follow along.

I received a free copy of this book, but was not required to post a positive review.

Monday, May 29, 2017

"All Things Bright and Beautiful" illustrated by Dawn Machell

Image result for all things bright and beautiful book  the lord god made them allAll Things Bright and Beautiful: the Lord God Made Them All is a padded board book with a handled spine. I can definitely see young ones carrying around this book full of colorful illustrations and glittered pages. 

It is described as a rebelling of a well-loved hymn. The story starts and ends by saying that God created all things bright and beautiful. In between, several examples are listed, such as the seasons, plants, and animals.

Each spread of pages contains rhyming text, colorful animals, and glitter. The 10-page book contains a surprising amount of text for its small size, but did not feel like too much. The book is six sentences long in total, with each page I'm the last spread containing a while sentence. 

I love the artistic style, which is simplistic but modern and full of interesting colors and always glitter! I especially like the adorable smiling moose, the glittered river, and the way extra colors and designs were added to the elephant’s ears and birds’ wings. This book is adorable and so cheerful, with all of the animals showing off smiling faces. I would definitely recommend this to anyone with young children, or for giving as baby shower gifts!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher but was not required to give a positive review. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom

I'd originally read Tuesdays with Morrie as a part of my high school sociology class. I was moved by it so much that I remember it clearly years later and was excited to read the new 20th anniversary edition.

For those unfamiliar with the book, Tuesdays with Morrie is life lessons from a dying professor to his former student.Though Mitch had lost contact with his old professor over the years, after seeing him on the news, he made an effort to get back in touch. The result was weekly Tuesday visits in which they talked about the world, feeling sorry for yourself, regrets, death, family, emotions, fear of aging, money, how love goes on, marriage, our culture, forgiveness, and the perfect day. The book is told from Mitch's perspective as an interview with Morrie.

For who have already read the original Tuesdays with Morrie, the message "giving is living" is given much more importance. The short afterword only added six pages, but they were six important pages. Pages that said that Morrie's lessons were still impacting Mitch and still impacting the world.

My only complaint with this book, which I don't remember being an issue when I first read it, was that the writing style was repetitive due to the interview style. Often Morrie would say something and Mitch would repeat a word or phrase that Morrie had just said in the form of a question, as a way of getting an explanation. It didn't really bother me until I was reading it aloud and it felt redundant.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my second read through of Tuesdays with Morrie. This book is a great gift for students, teachers, and people who want the world to be a more loving place. This new edition is perfect for showing the last impact of giving kindness.

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books, but was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Terry Pratchett's "Wyrd Sisters"

I finally finished Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters and in the end, I enjoyed it much more than the Colour of Magic.

Though I wasn't a huge fan of the plot itself, the characters were unforgettable with spot-on wittiness. I especially loved meeting Death and watching a romance unfold between a witch and a fool.

I think I'll probably attempt some more Terry Pratchett books in the future, but I stand by my thought that I do better with a physical book than audio book for Pratchett's humor. Any suggestions on the next Pratchett book to read? There's so many options!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Beginning a new journey: MA in English!

I'm excited to announce I've been accepted to a masters of English program! I'll begin taking classes this fall, one at a time while working full time at the university.

My first course will be "literary studies," which even with the course description was super vague. So I have no idea what I'm getting in to with this one, but I hope there will be some great books to read and interesting discussions with new classmates.

The university offers a focus on children's literature, so I'm planning to do that. It looks like I'll be able to take a children's literature class in the spring.

I can't wait to get started and see where this journey leads!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Summer Reading Ideas

I'm going on a trip in a few months and already trying to plan my book-load! I don't know whether I should take the paper books that I have that I've been meaning to read, or whether to splurge and purchase some eBooks for ease of travel!

What are your strategies for books when traveling? I never estimate correctly how much reading time I will have and either take way too many books or not least if I choose to take my Nook I won't have that problem!

Happy summer reading to everyone!

Monday, May 1, 2017

"The Ebb Tide" by Beverly Lewis

The Ebb Tide introduces Sallie Riehl, a young Amish-woman who has not yet committed to the church, a tension point amidst her family. Sallie has strong faith and wants to be baptized, but she has dreams of travel that would be impossible once she joined. While Sallie waitressed at a diner, a family of regulars asked her to nanny for their daughter over the summer at their beach house. Finally given an opportunity to travel and see more of the world than her hometown, Sallie agrees.

Autumn, the young girl Sallie nannies for, is having a hard time adjusting to no longer being an only child after the birth of her younger brother. During their summer at the beach, Sallie prays for Autumn and tries in many ways to show her the blessing of having a sibling.

Sallie also meets Kevin, a marine biologist familiar with the Amish traditions. They have a quick friendship driven by shared love of travelling and God. She knows she shouldn't fall for him, not when perfectly good Perry Zook was waiting to court her back home. Sallie is tempted by many fancy things she wasn't exposed to at home and comes to question where her heart lies--joining the Amish church, or following her heart and seeing the world.

I really liked the characters of this novel. Every interaction had God at its center and felt very meaningful, but not overdone. Sallie has a great relationship with her Aunt, her soon-to-be married sister Frannie, Autumn, and Kevin, so even going between multiple story lines was always interesting. Sallie's kind an loving heart seemed genuine and her struggles were believable.

Because this book was half set in the Amish town, half on the beach, it was much more modern and easier to relate to than other books of this genre--making it the best I've read thus far.

My husband commented that I wasn't reading this book as fast as some others. I explained that while I was enjoying, it was also terribly predictable. I told him how many of these Amish Christian fiction books feature young female protagonists with one or more love interests, interactions with non-Amish-folk (Englishers), and undoubtedly would have a wedding in the epilogue. To prove my point, I flipped to the end of the book and skimmed part of the epilogue and read aloud, "blending of our hearts as husband and wife." I was only five chapters in to the book and I didn't know how we'd get to the ending, or who's wedding it was in the epilogue, but I knew it was the inevitable outcome.

I received a free copy of this book, but was not required to post a positive review.

Monday, April 24, 2017

To Review: "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom

I was pretty surprised when I saw that Blogging for Books was looking for reviewers for Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.

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Since Tuesdays with Morrie originally was published in 1997, this year there is a 20th anniversary edition.

I'd read Tuesdays with Morrie when I was in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of Mitch Albom's books, I've also read The Five People You Meet in Heaven and For One More Day.

I'm really looking forward to reading it again now. Look for my review coming soon!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Relistening to Audio Books: "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline

I first listened to the Ready Player One audio book last September. I enjoyed it so much and thought my husband would enjoy it, too.

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So six months later, I listened to it again with him this time, and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more. It was so fun to experience it with another listener.

I don't think I could read a book so soon after reading it the first time, but for this audio book, it worked out perfectly.

Now, we're both excited to see the movie next year! I don't think there's even a trailer out for it yet, but I'm hoping to see something soon...

Friday, April 14, 2017

To Review: "The Ebb Tide" by Beverly Lewis

After reading and reviewing Beverly Lewis' The Atonement last April, I'm excited to announce that I've just received a copy of her new book, The Ebb Tide, to review!
Oh to see the ocean, Sallie thought. And to spend the summer as a nanny. She shook her head in amazement. This seemed to good to be true, but she really must talk it over with Dat and Mamm, especially since she'd be gone so long.
And after I promised Mamm I'd take baptism classes this summer... 
--From the back cover 
Look for that post coming soon!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"When God Made You" by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow

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When God Made You is a beautifully illustrated children's book with the message that children are unique and exactly how they were meant to be.

Each page has one or two couplets expressing that God knows you and made you purposefully just the way you are. Later in the book some spreads of pages only have one line that rhymes with the line on the next spread of pages. Though the text is spread out, there is still quite a bit; there is definitely enough examples/evidence that God makes each child unique.

The illustrations are bright and whimsical. My favorite part is the scruffy puppy that appears on each spread of pages. The adorable puppy definitely would have been my favorite part as a child.

Its an encouraging and inclusive message that also inspires creativity: "use your talents and passions, / those gifts that God fashioned. / Think up ideas and then / put them to action." It gives up examples of art, story-making, and dancing.

I received a free copy of the book from Blogging for Books, but was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

To Review: "When God Made You" by Matthew Paul Turner illustrated by David Catrow

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I just got another children's book to review: When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner illustrated by David Catrow. Just flipping through, I can already tell I'm going to be captivated by these colorful illustrations. I can't wait to read it with my niece (4 years old) and nephew (2 years old).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Currently Reading...Everything?

Do you ever have those times when you start reading many books all at once and then get distracted by other books and then have a bunch of partially started books?

I hope that makes sense to other readers, too, and not just me. Because honestly sometimes it makes me feel a little scattered. But, hey, there's just so many books that I want to read that I want to read them all--all at the same time.

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I've been reading the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling, which is fabulous! But since I know what happens already, I keep setting it down as other books come by. Hoping to finish this one soon, but I'm guessing it'll drag on in to the summer.

Also, one of my coworkers lent me Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. It's also very good, but I'm only reading it on breaks at work, so it also is taking quite a long time to get through. I'm hoping my coworker is okay with the long-term lease! Having listened to Terry Pratchett's The Color of Magic on audio book, I must say, his humor comes through much much better in the paper book.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I'm getting the feeling that I would've enjoyed The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson better as a paper book than audio book. I'm finding it hard to get drawn in by this one.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1 Audiobook

The performance was given mostly four star reviews, so I think maybe it's just me not doing a great job of listening to this story.

You can listen to a sample here. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: "Life After" by Katie Ganshert

Image result for life after katie ganshertIn the Christian fiction romance novel Life After, a bombing of a Chicago train ends the life of 22 people, but inexplicably leaves one alive. Autumn Manning still struggles with the questions of why a year later. Her obsessive need for the people who died to be remembered leads her to revisit their graves, track newspaper articles, and search for photos of their lives. In the unlikely new friend, the young daughter of one of the victims, Autumn finds new purpose: creating a video memorial. In befriending the daughter, Autumn comes to know Paul, her father, and a complicated romance forms between the survivor and the widower.

Life After is a story of finding a way to move on past tragedy with faith as a guiding principle. Author Katie Ganshert does a nice job of weaving God into the heart of the story, but keeping it very natural and unforced.

As a former Chicago resident, I enjoyed hearing about the places that I was familiar with; of course, the premise of the book with the bombing also made it a little difficult at first because I took the train every day to work. It's a scary premise, but it was addressed respectfully in a way that explained the bomber's mental illness and it focuses not on tragedy, but on the hope of the future and healing through God.

The plot was captivating and the characters were well-rounded and a pleasure to get to know through the book. I appreciated the fast pace and various threads of plot that all moved together seamlessly.

I received a free copy of this book, but was not required to post a positive review.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How is it already March?!

I just realized I've been totally neglecting my pages...

I've had by "Read in 2014," "Read in 2015," and "Read in 2016," up, but here it is three months in to 2017 and I hadn't compiled a list of the books I've read thus far in 2017!

Needless to say, that has been remedied. Introducing, "Read in 2017"!

Check it out now for links to my reviews and a comprehensive list of what I've been up to reading-wise!

What have you been reading in 2017?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Stephanie Perkins Audio Books

Last month I listened to Anna and the French Kiss. I enjoyed it so much that I sought out more audio books by Stephanie Perkins.

Anna and the French Kiss Audiobook

 There were a few options, but I decided to follow it up with Isla and the Happily Ever After because it featured a character I'd already met in Anna in the French Kiss. Both of these books made great, easy to listen to audio books and I highly recommend!

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I'm going to have to get Lola and the Boy Next Door soon now...

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Monday, February 13, 2017

To Review: "Life After" by Katie Ganshert

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I'm excited and a little nervous to being reading Life After by Katie Ganshert. I lived in Chicago for a while, so I am interested in reading about familiar locations. However, given that the premise of the book is a Chicago train being bombed, I think it will be a very difficult read. It's a Christian book, though, so I know at least it'll be God-centered and have a message of hope and peace.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: "In the Shadow of Denali" by Tracie Peterson & Kimberley Woodhouse

Image result for In the Shadow of Denali (The Heart of Alaska)
In the Shadow of Denali is a pretty straightforward christian love story. The main story line involves a young woman, Cassidy, who is suddenly attracting two men at the hotel where she works. However, the main love interest, Allan, has come to Alaska to learn more about his father's death, which could have been the cause of some mystery and suspense, but is not presented that way. Cassidy's father ends up being a christian mentor to both Allan, and the smitten-with-Cassidy young kitchen hand, Thomas.

The relationship between Cassidy and her father is quite endearing. He shares a lot of wisdom with her and it is obvious throughout the book that she has taken his lessons to heart.

There's also an interesting story to the head cook with whom Cassidy works, Mrs. Johnson. She seems more genuine than the other characters and willingly shares her struggles with Cassidy. The parts where Cassidy and Mrs. Johnson talk about God and faith are more engaging than other moments where the interactions between characters seem forced.

As a work of historical fiction, the book performs admirably. I learned a lot about Denali from reading it. It includes some interesting passages where the President visits the mountain. There's a few pages at the end of the book that explain all of the historical context and what necessitated fictionalization. It was an interesting insight both into the available information (gaps included) and the writer's process.

However, overall the book fell flat for me with repetitive monologues from characters pining over one another, assuming that feelings were unrequited. If you're looking for a quick read that ties up all story lines in a nice little bow, has a tiny bit of suspense, and characters who fall in love with the idea of one another, you may enjoy this book more than I did. There were many places this book could have been more mysterious but chose to give everything away and spell things out for the reader. It ends in a tired way, leaving nothing for the reader to think or wonder about.

I received a free copy of this book, but was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Audio books, audio books, and MORE audio books!

I was given the great gift of an audible member ship for my birthday and Christmas. Now I'm ready to select out a bunch of books...

Here's what's on my list so far:
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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1 Audiobook

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

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The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Monday, January 16, 2017

To Review: "In the Shadow of Denali" by Tracie Peterson & Kimberley Woodhouse

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I love Alaska and wilderness I'm happy to say I'll soon be reading and reviewing In the Shadow of Denali by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse! It's book one of The Heart of Alaska series. I can't wait to share my review with you!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance

I haven't read much nonfiction lately, so I am looking forward to reading and discussing Hillbilly Elegy with a book club through my church. I'd had a few people mention how much they enjoyed the book, so when it was announced as our January book club selection, I was ready to jump in right away.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

What were the best books you read in 2016?

I read a lot of good ones! If I had to choose, these would be the top-tier of my 2016 reading!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Door that Led to Where by Sally Gardner
This Is Not the End by Jesse Jordan
Dark Places and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

And, what are you looking forward to reading in 2017?