Friday, December 15, 2017

Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks, #5)

Goodreads Overview:

The finish line is only the beginning...

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can't escape the guilt that if she hadn't broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she's at war with her body, her mind-and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms...and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.


My husband is a marathon runner and encouraged me to run for a LONG time.  I ran a bunch of 5K races, but would never really consider anything much further than that.  In 2013 I decided I would try to run a half marathon, so I can definitely relate to many of the things Annie describes.  I have now completed 4 half marathons, but I'm not sure I would ever tackle a full marathon.  

I was happy to see Annie overcome her physical and mental issues in such a positive way.  She was able to achieve something she never thought she could and allowed herself to open up to friends, family, and a new love after the loss of her long time boyfriend.  She had been blaming herself for something that was not within her control.  The physical act of running, along with the friendships she made throughout the training process, gave her the insight and focus she desperately needed to see life from a new perspective.  

Jeremiah, her training coach's younger brother, is described as an adrenaline junkie.  He started out pushing himself harder and harder in your average running races and eventually moved on to more dangerous activities in order to achieve the same adrenaline rush.  Personally, I couldn't relate to that situation.  I find running to be exhausting.  Aside from the benefits of staying in shape and receiving a medal and a beer at the finish line, I consider it work instead of pleasure.  

Annie is definitely attracted to Jeremiah, but she isn't willing to risk losing someone else she loves.  Jeremiah cuts back on his risky behavior in the hopes of convincing Annie to give him a chance.  It takes a minor mishap in a relatively safe event for Annie to realize how fragile life really is.  Anything can happen to anyone at any time regardless of how careful you are.  You need to live life to the fullest while you have the chance.  

There is a great message to this story and I absolutely loved the characters.  Regardless of your running experience, this is a highly entertaining read that I would definitely recommend.  This book is part of the Hundred Oaks series, but it reads like a stand alone.  You do not need to read the prior books in the series to fully appreciate this book.  They are more like companion novels vs. a series that needs to be read in order to fully appreciate the story.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Every Tuesday they post a new Top Ten List on something bookish.  Click on the link above if you wish to participate.

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2017

I've spend the better part of 2017 finishing series and reading older books that have been sitting on my shelves for WAY too long. 

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

The sequel to If I Stay

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks, #5)

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Book 1 in the series

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1)

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Book 4 in the Raven Cycle Series

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

Unhinged by A.G. Howard
Book 2 in the Splintered Series.  I'm currently reading Ensnared, which is the final book in this series.

Unhinged (Splintered, #2)

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Book 1 in the Bloodlines Series

Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)

United We Spy by Ally Carter
Book 6 in the Gallagher Girls Series

United We Spy (Gallagher Girls, #6)

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why

One Paris Summery by Denise Grover Swank

One Paris Summer

Bitter Pill by Stacey Kade 

Bitter Pill

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

One Paris Summer

Goodreads Overview:

Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren't betrayal enough, he's about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn't support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become  the best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.


Sophie grew tremendously as a character throughout this book.  She started out as a teen who was afraid of everything.  She was in a foreign country where she couldn't speak or understand the language, which was definitely a disadvantage.  Add in the wicked step-sister, Camille, who repeatedly set her up for failure and it was destined to be the longest summer in history.  

On the plus side, she was in a beautiful city full of places to explore.  I went to Paris a few years ago and loved reading about many of the places we visited.  The catacombs, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and Versailles... just to name a few.  

When she meets Mathieu she hopes her luck has finally changed.  Unfortunately, she discovers he is one of Camille's friends, who were all instructed to make her life as miserable as possible.  Fortunately, Mathieu is not under Camille's spell and offers to help her learn French.  He even offers to let her use his piano to practice.  A cute love story develops between the two, but Camille is determined to sabotage any thoughts Sophie may have of wanting to move to Paris permanently.  

Overall, this was a fun summer read with an entertaining YA love story.  I loved Sophie, Mathieu, and Sophie's brother Eric, but Camille and Eric's friend Dane were obnoxious.  I can somewhat see where Camille was coming from, but I felt like her actions were well beyond realistic.  I detested both of those characters and often wished I could delete them from the story.  I think the overall impact would have been much better without some of their antics, but I still enjoyed the story.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Bookish Goals Status Update: December 2017

In an effort to help keep myself on track, I am going to post monthly status updates showing where I stand for each of my 2017 Goals.

Anything highlighted in gray is currently in progress, but not yet completed.

  • Read and review at least 40 books 
    1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
    2. Everbound by Brodi Ashton
    3. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
    4. This Girl by Colleen Hoover
    5. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
    6. The Black Circle by Patrick Carman
    7. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
    8. Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout
    9. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready
    10. Unhinged by A.G. Howard
    11. The Death Cure by James Dashner
    12. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
    13. Matched by Ally Condie
    14. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
    15. Ensnared by A.G. Howard
    16. Elegy by Tara Hudson
    17. Bitter Pill by Stacey Kade
    18. The 6th Target by James Patterson
    19. United We Spy by Ally Carter
    20. In Too Deep by Jude Watson (39 Clues #6)
    21. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt
    22. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell
    23. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum
    24. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    25. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
    26. One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank
    27. The Viper's Nest (39 Clues #7) by Peter Lerangis
    28. Breathe, Annie, Breathe By Miranda Kenneally
  • I am once again participating in the New To You Challenge hosted by The Herd Presents.  I'm going to aim for 12-15 books. Any book over 80 pages qualifies as long as it is new to you.  New author, new genre, new series, etc.
    1. Three Dark Crowns - New Series and New Author
    2. Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout - New Series and New Author
    3. Matched by Ally Condie - New Author and New Series
    4. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead - New Series
    5. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt - New Author
    6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher - New Author
    7. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee - New Author
    8. One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank - New Author

  • Read at least 10 New Adult books (My definition of NA = protagonists are post high school, but under 30)
    1. This Girl by Colleen Hoover
    2. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
    3. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready 
    4. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
    5. Bitter Pill by Stacey Kade
    6. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
    7. Breathe, Annie, Breathe By Miranda Kenneally
    • Last year I read three of the books that had been on my TBR list the longest.  I now have 46 books that were all added on September 7, 2010 that would qualify.  I plan on reading at least 3 more of them this year. 
      1. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

    • Finish reading at least 5 series I have already started.  (I have several trilogies with final books I still need to read. ***Challenge Completed***
      1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater - The Raven Cycle Series
      2. This Girl by Colleen Hoover - The Slammed Series 
      3. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton - Everneath Series
      4. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready - WVMP Radio Series
      5. The Death Cure by James Dashner - The Maze Runner Series
      6. Ensnared by A.G. Howard - Splintered Series
      7. Elegy by Tara Hudson - Hereafter Series
      8. United We Spy by Ally Carter - The Gallagher Girls Series

    • TBR Challenge.  For this challenge I want to read at least 20 books that were on my TBR list AND were published prior to January 1, 2017. ***Challenge Completed***
      1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
      2. Everbound by Brodi Ashton
      3. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
      4. This Girl by Colleen Hoover
      5. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
      6. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
      7. Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout
      8. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready
      9. Unhinged by A.G. Howard
      10. The Death Cure by James Dashner
      11. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
      12. Matched by Ally Condie
      13. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
      14. Ensnared by A.G. Howard
      15. Elegy by Tara Hudson
      16. Bitter Pill by Stacey Kade
      17. The 6th Target by James Patterson
      18. United We Spy by Ally Carter
      19. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell
      20. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum
      21. One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank
      22. Breathe, Annie, Breathe By Miranda Kenneally
      • Achieve a Professional level in the 2017 Prequel and Sequel Challenge hosted by Novel Heartbeat with 76 - 100 points. You can click on the link for the sign up. ***Challenge Completed***
        1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle #4_ - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        2. Everbound by Brodi Ashton (Everneath #2) - 2 pts for a sequel
        3. This Girl by Colleen Hoover (Slammed #3) -12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        4. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton (Everneath #3) - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        5. The Black Circle (39 Clues #5) - 2 points for a sequel
        6. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (If I Stay #2) - 2 pts for a sequel
        7. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready (WVMP #4) 12 pts (finished series +sequel)
        8. Unhinged by A.G. Howard (Splintered #2) - 2 pts for a sequel
        9. The Death Cure by James Dashner (Maze Runner #3) - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        10. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls #5) 2 pts sequel
        11. Ensnared by AG Howard (Splintered #3) - 12 pts finished series +  sequel
        12. Elegy by Tara Hudson (Hereafter #3) - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        13. The 6th Target by James Patterson (Women's Murder Club #6) - 2 pts sequel
        14. United We Spy by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls #6) - 12 pts completed series
        15. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell (Kay Scarpetta #4) - 2 pts sequel
        16. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum (After the End #2) - 2 pts sequel
        17. The Viper's Nest (39 Clues #7) - 2 pts sequel

                                                          Total Points = 112
      • I joined the New Release Challenge hosted by Unconventional Book Views and Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My! My goal is to reach New Release Newbie level with 12 new releases read/reviewed during 2017.  The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages. 
        1. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee- Released 6/27/17

          Monday, November 20, 2017

          COYER Winter Challenge Sign-up


          It is almost time for the Winter COYER challenge.  As usual we have three amazing hostesses: Michelle @ Because Reading is Better than Real Life, Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My! and Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun.  The official sing-up post is over at the COYER web-site.

          I have participated in the COYER challenges since the summer of 2015 and always look forward to them.  I was excited to see they are having the List option again.  I participated in the List Challenge last summer and felt like it gave me some added motivation and focus.  ANY book in your possession prior to the start of the challenge will count as long as it was acquired legally.  For every 5 books completed, you can add 5 additional books to the list.  The challenge will run from midnight on December 16th and ends March 9th at midnight.

          They have a couple of additional challenge options, which you can check out on the sign up post, if you aren't interested in completing a list.

          The following is my Winter Reading Challenge List:
          1. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
          2. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
          3. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin - Completed
          4. Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout - Currently Reading
          5. Crossed by Ally Condie - Completed
          6. The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright
          7. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray Kacvinsky
          8. High Five by Janet Evanovich 
          9. Mrs. de Winter by Susan Hill
          10. Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols
          11. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
          12. Between the Lines by Tammara Webber
          13. The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
          14. Once and for All by Sarah Dessen
          15. Invaded by Melissa Landers
          16. The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
          17. Never Never by Colleen Hoover
          18. The Sixth Man by David Baldacci
          19. The Silver Spoon by StaceyKlemstein (Stacey Kade)
          20. One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
          21. Dare You by Jennifer Brown
          22. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
          23. Replica by Lauren Oliver
          24. Cress by Marissa Meyer
          25. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
          26. Love Show by Audrey Bell - Currently Reading
          27. See How They Run by Ally Carter
          28. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
          29. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
          30. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
          Additional 5 books added after completing 5 books:

          Thursday, November 9, 2017

          Creativity Corner - Halloween 2017 Jordan Spieth Costume

          My 12 year-old son, Preston, is very crafty and enjoys all forms of art.  I decided to start this Creativity Corner feature as a way for us to look back on our projects while sharing ideas with others.

          Preston is a 7th grader and was on his middle school golf team this year.  He decided he wanted to be Jordan Spieth, a professional golfer, for Halloween.  That was easy enough since Jordan is sponsored by Under Armour and my son's closet is full of Under Armour golf clothes.  The only problem, he would have looked like himself walking around asking for free candy. 

          In order to pull off this costume, I decided I would be his caddie and he would have to be Jordan after his Masters victory.  The green jacket with the Under Armour apparel would give it a more thought out appearance.

          I bought the white jumpsuit like the caddies wear at the Masters on Amazon and added "Spieth" to the back with heat transfer vinyl that I cut out on my Cricut.  I also added the #80 to the front since that was his caddie's number the year he won.  I bought the Master's patch on Etsy and attached it with velcro to a blazer I already had.  Everything else we already had, so it was a pretty inexpensive costume this year.

          We stopped at the course for a few pictures before trick or treating.

          "Jordan" made me carry his full set of clubs all evening.  Fortunately, I could take out the 30+ balls he had stashed in that bag.

          This was also the first year Preston designed and carved his pumpkin all by himself. Here is his spooky creation.

          Wednesday, November 8, 2017

          Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

          The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide, #1)

          Goodreads Overview:

          Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

          But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

          Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

          My Review:

          I started out reading the book, but I got busy and the library snatched my ebook. I switched to the audio version about 1/3 of the way through because it was available, so this is a combined book/audio review.

          The description of this book was very catchy from the start.  1700's historical fiction, England, Paris, reckless rich boys...  In fact, I really enjoyed the concept along with the characters and their travels.  I loved listening to Monty's accent, the vocabulary, and reliving their lack of innovation.  I also enjoyed hearing about some of the places I have visited in Paris, such as Versailles when it was at its finest and still the home of the royal family.  

          On the other hand, I felt like this book would never end.  If some of the nonsense was removed and the important elements were condensed, the story would have been far more entertaining.  I also felt like some of the major plot points were a bit far fetched towards the end, which contributed to the dragging feeling.

          Overall - I ended up giving it 3 out of 5 stars.  It was better than okay, but it never captivated my attention.

          Wednesday, September 6, 2017

          Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

          Thirteen Reasons Why

          I heard about this book back when it was released, but I really didn't think it was for me.  I wasn't interested in spending my leisure time reading about suicide.  It sounded like something I would have been assigned to read in nursing school vs. something I would select for pleasure.

          When the Netflix series was released it was once again in the news.  My son's middle school principal sent out a message regarding the series and suggested parents watch it with their children as an educational tool, so my husband decided to watch it.  He didn't think it was suitable for our 7th grader, so I decided to read the book.  I can't watch a series or a movie without reading the book.  That just isn't how things should be done.

          I was addicted within the first couple of chapters.  The story is told from both Clay Jensen's and Hannah Baker's points of view.  Clay was the recipient of a mysterious package which contained seven audio tapes created by Hannah Baker.  Clay listens to the tapes throughout the book and we get to hear not only what Hannah experienced the past few years that led up to her ultimate decision, but also Clay's thoughts and interpretations of the events.

          It is easy to see how one small "joke" can snowball into something that soon spirals out of control.  All of the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly yet nobody could see how each tiny piece made a huge impact on the entire picture.

          This book wasn't depressing or a tear jerker like I thought it would be.  It showed readers how even small actions can have large consequences.  I don't think anyone will walk away from this book and treat people and situations in the same flippant manner they may have in the past.  

          While the book is Young Adult/Teen, I will not let my 7th grader (12 year old) read this book or watch the series yet.  They are going to discuss suicide in his health class this year, so I'm not questioning that portion of the content.  It is the other adult material that I do not feel is appropriate for middle schoolers.  I would recommend this book for individuals fifteen and over.

          Overall, I thought Thirteen Reasons Why was fantastic.  I couldn't put it down and I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.  I am anxious to watch the series, but I will be sure to do so when my son is not around.

          Wednesday, August 30, 2017

          Queen of the Kitchen: Instant Pot Chicken Broccoli & Rice

          I have been reading rave reviews of the Instant Pot (IP) for quite a while.  Last week I finally broke down and ordered the Instant Pot Ultra from Amazon and it arrived on Friday.

          After taking it out of the box and performing the mandatory water test, I was ready for my first recipe.  I had some chicken in the fridge and found this Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Recipe on I Don't Have Time For That's site. (You can click on the link for the recipe and step by step instructions and pictures).

          The recipe was VERY easy to follow and I had a delicious meal on the table in about 10 minutes with minimal effort or mess in my kitchen.  The most time consuming part of this recipe was cutting the chicken into cubes, which only took a few minutes.

          The only other food prep was chopping some broccoli.  I used my Pampered Chef food chopper, so that was also a breeze.

          During the five minutes the Instant Pot was cooking I was able to clean up the kitchen and I only had a couple of measuring cups and the IP to tend to once we were finished with dinner.

          My husband and I gave it two thumbs up and I've already added it to my recipe collection for future use.

          Tuesday, August 29, 2017

          Review: Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

          Until the Beginning (After the End, #2)

          Until the Beginning is the conclusion of the After the End duology.  It picks up pretty much where the first book left off.  Miles and Juneau are running from Mr. Blackwell, who is the owner of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company....and is also Miles's dad.  Juneau and her clan developed a drug that prevents aging and cures most known diseases which Mr. Blackwell is desperate to get his hands on.  

          Mr. Avery is also interested in the drug and has kidnapped Juneau's clan.  The majority of the book is spent finding and trying to rescue her clan.  Along the way Juneau discovers the Elders in her clan have been lying to them for generations.  She begins to question everything she has known and accepted her entire life.  

          Overall this book was a little better than okay for me. Most of the magical elements were so far fetched it made the story unbelievable at times.  I couldn't quite comprehend how a medication could cause side effects that can't be explained by any form of science, which is exactly how Miles felt when he first met Juneau.  She sticks to her beliefs and eventually convinces him by showing and teaching him.

          Now...I know you can argue that I have loved books and series involving ghosts, vampires, and other mythical creatures, but the authors of those series were able to convince me the events could really happen.  In this case, I enjoyed the characters and their developing relationship, but I just couldn't believe everything that was happening.  It isn't a bad story, just a little too much science fiction for me.

          Monday, August 28, 2017

          Review: Cruel & Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

          Cruel & Unusual (Kay Scarpetta, #4)

          Cruel and Unusual is the fourth book in the Kay Scarpetta series.  Kay is the Chief Medical Examiner in Virginia and assists the police and FBI with solving murders that make their way through her office.  In this case, the killer sets Kay up to take the fall.  She needs to work to clear her professional reputation as well as prove her innocence in all of the crimes.  

          The story begins with the execution of a death row inmate named Ronnie Waddell.  Kay completes the autopsy while her assistant Susan has to excuse herself for some strange reason.  Susan's behavior becomes increasingly erratic, which she blames on her pregnancy.  

          When Waddell's fingerprints turn up at a number of crime scenes after his murder Kay is at a complete loss.  She tries to find Waddell's fingerprints within her files, but discovers they are nowhere to be found. Someone hacked into her computer system and even her administrative and HR files have been tampered with.  

          Kay calls in her niece Lucy, who is a 17-year-old college student with a genius level IQ in computer science.  She sets out to find out who logged into Kay's computer and what was altered.  I obviously have no idea what will happen later in this series, but I have a feeling Lucy will eventually work for the FBI and help Kay solve future cases.  

          Overall this was an excellent murder mystery.  I started this series at least 15 years ago and really enjoyed the first couple of books.  I think I lost some of my motivation because there are so many books in the series.  As of this post there are 24 novels, so I still have 20 to read if I'm going to catch up.  

          Thursday, August 17, 2017

          Review: When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt

          When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

          This was one of the choices for my son's 7th grade summer reading, so we both read it.  The book is about a boy name Toby who lives in Antler, TX, which is a small town where "nothing ever happens."  The story takes place during the summer of 1971.  His best friend Cal's older brother is currently serving in the Vietnam war and has been writing each week, so we learn that war is nothing like how they used to play soldiers in the lawn.

          The biggest thing to happen in Antler is the day Zachary Beaver's trailer pulls into town.  He is supposedly the world's fattest boy and is put on display like a circus act.  People can pay $2 to see him in person.  This would have been a novelty, but Zachary's legal guardian leaves town without him and nobody knows when he will return for Zachary.  The town sort of adopts him and the boys soon realize they have more in common with Zachary than they ever imagined.

          Another theme in the story is abandonment.  Not only was Zachary abandoned, but Toby's mother leaves for Nashville to try out in a singing competition.  Toby eventually realizes his mother's dreams of becoming a country music superstar were not being fulfilled in Antler and she wasn't happy here.  He begins to wonder when or if she is really coming back.

          This was a pretty fast read with a number of thought provoking topics for young readers.  My son and I both remained engaged throughout the book and enjoyed the characters and their stories.  I would definitely recommend it for middle school children.  There was a lot more substance to this story than your typical middle grade book and it allowed my son to read something a bit different from his typical reading selections.

          Friday, August 4, 2017

          Review: In Too Deep by Jude Watson

          Image result for In too deep 39 clues

          In Too Deep is the 6th book in the 39 Clues series.  This time around Amy and Dan are off to Sydney, Australia.  This was the last destination their parents visited while on their quest.  Amy and Dan visit their Dad's cousin Shep who is a pilot and surf bum in Sydney, to see if he has any clues as to what their parents discovered or where they may have visited.  He helps them trace some of their parents steps, which of course puts them in great danger at the hands of the other Cahill family members.  

          Irina informs Amy that the only person who can tell her who killed her parents is herself.  She begins having increasing flashbacks and starts piecing the events of that night together.  She is afraid to tell Dad what she remembers, which causes some tension between them.

          Our history lesson in this book is about Amelia Earhart.  Her final journey involved stops in several of the areas Amy and Dan visit and of course they discover Amelia was a Cahill.  

          The stakes are getting higher and the violence continues to escalate.  One of the Cahill family members even dies in this book, which was a bit of a shock.  Amy and Dan have been told from the very beginning that they shouldn't trust anyone.  They are now even questioning if their au pair, Nellie, is working for someone involved in the quest. 

          This was another entertaining story.  My son and I have enjoyed learning some history while following the Cahill children on their quest.  Once he finishes his assigned summer reading for school I'm sure we will start the next book in the series.

          Wednesday, August 2, 2017

          Review: United We Spy by Ally Carter

          United We Spy (Gallagher Girls, #6)

          United We Spy is the 6th and final book in the Gallagher Girls series.  The Circle members have been after Cammie for the majority of the series, but their identities and motive have always been a mystery.  Now they are on the verge of starting another world war, so time is running out.

          The Gallagher Girls and Zach can't rely on the CIA, MI6, or any other government agencies because someone is leaking information to the Circle from the highest levels.  Fortunately, they have the unlimited resources of Macey McHenry's family.  Their private jet comes in handy on more than one occasion and Macey has a few other tricks up her sleeve.  With a genius like Liz on her team and some of the best trained spies in the world as her best friends, Cammie sets out to complete a mission that has been escalating for generations.

          Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the conclusion of this series and my time at the Gallagher Academy.  From the castle like stone building to all of the secrets it contained, this was a very unique setting for an action packed and highly entertaining series.  With the girls graduating from high school and moving on with their careers, we can only hope their most dangerous mission is now behind them.

          Saturday, July 29, 2017

          Stacking the Shelves: Untamed by A.G. Howard

          Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, be it physical or virtual.  This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

          Tynga publishes her post each Saturday, so be sure to link up your posts and check out what books others have added to their shelves that week.

          From the Library

          Untamed by A.G. Howard

          Untamed (Splintered, #3.5)Goodreads Overview:

          A post-Ensnared collection of three stories—available in both print and e-versions.

          Alyssa Gardner went down the rabbit hole and took control of her destiny. She survived the battle for Wonderland and the battle for her heart. In this collection of three novellas, join Alyssa and her family as they look back at their memories of Wonderland. 

          In Six Impossible Things, Alyssa recalls the most precious moments of her life after Ensnared, and the role magic plays in preserving the happiness of those she loves. Alyssa’s mother reminisces about her own time in Wonderland and rescuing the man who would become her husband in The Boy in the Web. And Morpheus delves into Jeb’s memories of the events of Splintered in The Moth in the Mirror, available in print for the first time.

          This collection expands upon Ensnared's epilogue, and includes some deleted scenes to provide a “director’s cut” glimpse into the past and futures of our favorite Splintered characters.

          Wednesday, July 26, 2017

          Waiting on Wednesday: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

          Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.  You can also check out Can't-Wait Wednesday hosted by Wishful Endings.

          A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
          Release Date: September 5, 2017

          I saw this on one of last weeks WoW posts and thought this sounded like an interesting read.  I haven't read Our Chemical Hearts, so I should probably check that one out in the meantime.

          Goodreads Overview:

          A Semi-Definitive List of Worst NightmaresFrom the author of Our Chemical Hearts comes the hilarious, reality-bending tale of two outsiders facing their greatest fears about life and love one debilitating phobia at a time.

          Ever since Esther Solar's grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther's father is agoraphobic and hasn't left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

          The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them. 

          Esther doesn't know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares. 

          Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn't counted on: love.

          Wednesday, July 19, 2017

          Waiting on Wednesday: Dream Fall by Amy Plum

          Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.  You can also check out Can't-Wait Wednesday hosted by Wishful Endings.

          Dream Fall by Amy Plum
          Release Date: September 7, 2017

          I'm currently reading Amy Plum's most recent release, Until the Beginning, and decided to share Dream Fall this week.  This book appears to be considerably different from her previous books, but I have enjoyed all of her others and will definitely give this one a try.

          Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1)Goodreads Overview:

          Cata Cordova suffers from such debilitating insomnia that she agreed to take part in an experimental new procedure. She thought things couldn’t get any worse...but she was terribly wrong.

          Soon after the experiment begins, there’s a malfunction with the lab equipment, and Cata and six other teen patients are plunged into a shared dreamworld with no memory of how they got there. Even worse, they come to the chilling realization that they are trapped in a place where their worst nightmares have come to life. Hunted by creatures from their darkest imaginations and tormented by secrets they’d rather keep buried, Cata and the others will be forced to band together to face their biggest fears. And if they can’t find a way to defeat their dreams, they will never wake up.

          Tuesday, July 18, 2017

          Review: The 6th Target by James Patterson

          The 6th Target (Women's Murder Club, #6)

          The 6th Target is the sixth book in the Women's Murder Club (WMC) series.  In this installment Lindsay Boxer, a San Francisco homicide detective, is called to the scene of a shooting on a ferry boat.  Four people are dead and one of the members of the WMC is seriously injured.  There are a slew of witnesses, but the shooter manages to escape.  

          Lindsay is also investigating a series of incidents that have occurred in Cindy Thomas's apartment building.  Cindy is a reporter for the local newspaper and one of the four members of the WMC.  She got a great deal on this new apartment, but she is beginning to wonder if this move was a big mistake. 

          There is a third case that develops when a child prodigy is abducted along with her nanny at a local park.  The family is very wealthy, so Lindsay assumes a ransom note will soon follow, but the kidnappers never make contact with the police or the family.  When Lindsay discovers this isn't the first incident involving a gifted child and a nanny, she begins to connect the dots.

          District attorney Yuki Castellano is called in to prosecute the ferry shooter.  With video footage of the shooting clearly showing the defendant in action, this should be a slam dunk case.  She even has a number of witnesses who can clearly identify the defendant, but she knows she will need to proceed with caution.  She is up against a high profile defense attorney who will leave no stone unturned.

          This was another great addition to the series.  I love seeing how the characters evolve and how their combined talents can solve some of the toughest crimes.  The books are action packed and relatively fast reads, but this series is still a major commitment.  There are currently sixteen books available and I'm sure there are more to come.  

          Wednesday, July 12, 2017

          Waiting on Wednesday: Snow Lane by Josephine Angelini

          Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.  You can also check out Can't-Wait Wednesday hosted by Wishful Endings.

          Snow Lane by Josephine (Josie) Angelini
          Release Date: January 2, 2018

          I have been a fan of Josie's since reading her Starcrossed series, which I would highly recommend if you haven't read it.  She just posted on her blog about her upcoming release Snow Lane, which is based upon true stories from her childhood, but it is still a work of fiction.  Like the character in this book, Josie is from a large family.  She was the youngest of eight children and was encouraged by her husband, agent, and editor to share some of her hilarious family stories.  Snow Lane sounds more contemporary than her other books, so I am definitely intrigued.  

          Snow Lane

          Fifth grader Annie is just like every other girl in her small suburban town. 
          Except she’s starting to realize that she isn’t.
          Annie is the youngest of nine children. Instead of condemned to the lowest spot on the totem pole, she wants to carve out place for herself in the world. But it’s hard to find your destiny when the only thing you’re good at is being cheerful. Annie is learning that it’s difficult to be Annie, period, and not just because her clothes are worn-out hand-me-downs, and she suffers from a crippling case of dyslexia, but also because there are secrets in her life no one in her family is willing to face.

          Snow Lane is a story about a resilient girl who, in spite of many hardships, can still find light in the darkest of places.