What I’m Reading: 3 Books in 3 Weeks

What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks

I’ve always been a reader.  According to my mom, I learned to read before I went into kindergarten and before that I was memorizing books so I could read them to myself.  In 7th grade, I was reading at a 12th grade level.  But it wasn’t until I hit my junior and senior year of high school when I really started getting interested in books other than fantasy (like Harry Potter) or sweet and clean romance novels.  When I was in high school, I took an AP Literature and Composition class, which introduced me to different genres and I found that I actually liked a lot of them.  Since then, I’ve branched out and read YA fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, classic literature, sci-fi, distopic and others.  My brain gets bored if I read too much of any one genre so I try to pick up a variety of books when I stop by the library.  In the last three weeks, I’ve read three different books and all were about different topics.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on one and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for supporting me!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Rating: 5/5 stars
What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks (Heartless by Marissa Meyer)

The first book I read was Heartless by Marissa Meyer.  I took this book with me on my trip to Orlando and got about halfway through it.  If you’ve read the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter), and liked how the classic tales were retold, then Heartless will probably appeal to you.

Heartless is a prequel to Lewis Carrol’s Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.  It is the story of seventeen year old Catherine, or Cath, who is the daughter of a marquee in Wonderland.  Her greatest dream is to open a bakery with her friend, Maryann, where she can bake and sell her delicious pastries.  But Cath has caught the eye–and stomach–of the king and he intends to propose to her at a ball.  She is horrified, runs away and faints, only to find herself in the arms of the new, and very handsome, court jester, who she is instantly attracted to.  Cath knows her parents will never agree to a courtship with Jest so they enter into a secret courtship.  But in a land where magic thrives, can Cath escape her destiny?

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
 Rating: 4/5 stars
What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks (Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline)

I came upon this book when I was asking around for recommendations of what to take with me on my trip.  I would put this book into the historical fiction category, although about 1/3 of it takes place in modern day.  The reason I chose this book was because it talked about a part of US history that isn’t discussed often, coupled with foster care.  From 1854 to 1929, orphan trains used to run from the east coast into the mid west carrying children who had been orphaned or abandoned to be adopted by families who were looking for children.  (It was run by the Children’s Aid Society and was a precursor to today’s foster care program.)  Unfortunately, many of the children who were adopted were treated more as servants rather than part of the family and the system in place was underfunded and not very well run.

Orphan Train is told from two different perspectives: Vivian, a 91-year-old woman reflecting on her early life as a past-rider of the orphan train, and Molly, a seventeen year-old girl who is about to age out of the foster system.  As punishment for trying to steal a book, Molly is required to do community service hours to keep her out of juvie.  Vivian Daly has an attic full of trunks from her past that she’s asked Molly to help her sort through and as she does so, Molly finds that she and Vivian aren’t all that different from each other.

*Note: If you are interested in another book dealing with foster care, I highly recommend The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  So good!  You can read my review HERE.

Rating: 4/5 stars
What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks (The Week Before the Wedding by Beth Kendrick) 

Another author that was suggested to me by a friend was Beth Kendrick.  She writes chick lit and all her stories have dogs in them (but not as the main character).  Originally, I wanted to read The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service, but it wasn’t available at the library so I grabbed this one instead.

Emily McKellips grew up in a chaotic home environment.  As an adult, she’s worked hard to have a stable and successful career and her dreams of marrying the perfect man and living in a house with a white picket fence are about to come true.  But shortly after arriving in Valentine, Vermont at a little resort hotel, things start going wrong.  Her mother and future mother-in-law begin fighting with each other, her fiance is distracted and her ex-husband, Ryan, shows up unexpectedly.  Everything that Emily has fought for is about to collapse.  But the irresponsible and headstrong boy Emily left behind ten years ago is now a successful film producer who still has feelings for her.  She thought she had life all figured out, but the next seven days just might change her mind and her heart.

What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks (Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham) 

Next up on my list to read is Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham.  I’ve heard from a lot of people that they really enjoyed this book so I’m excited to dive in and see if I agree.

Also, I’m linking up for the first time with the ladies who host What I’m Reading Wednesday.  You can click on any of the links below to link up as well or just take a look at what everyone is reading.  Maybe you’ll find a new book!

What We're Reading Wednesday: 3 Books in 3 Weeks

Johannah  |  The Sirois Family
Whitney  |  Work it Mommy
Crystal  |  Hall Around Texas
Stephanie  |  Wife Mommy Me
Whitney  |  Polka-Dotty Place
Heather  |  My Glittery Heart
Justine  |  Little Dove Blog
Keri  |  Keri Lynn Snyder

What are you reading?  I’d love to hear!

Book Review: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows {Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

Book Review: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions) 

If you’ve been around my blog for long, you’ll notice that most of the books I do reviews on are young adult fiction.  Most recently, I finished The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (who also happens to be a co-author of one of my favorite books, My Lady Jane–read the review HERE.)  Books have always been one of my favorite ways to escape from the world.  My husband often teases me that when I’m reading a book that I can literally shut everything else out and not be aware of what’s going on around me.  I love a book that pulls you into its world and makes you feel like the characters are real people, leaving you wondering what happened to them after the book ends.  I love finding a book that I want to read over and over again, until the book is smudged with fingerprints and can’t stay all the way closed because the spine is so broken in.  These are the things I look for in a book.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on it and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

My Summary and Review: (5 stars)
The Orphan Queen is the first book in a two part series.  It is told from the point of view of Wilhelmina Korte–who goes by Wil–, a princess whose kingdom was destroyed 10 years before by the Indigo Kingdom during the One Night War.  She, along with other rescued orphan children of nobility, call themselves the Ospreys and their mission is to do one thing: restore Wilhelmina to her rightful place as Queen of Aecor.  As part of their plan, Wil and her best friend Melanie must infiltrate the castle, posing as nobility from a kingdom destroyed by Wraith–a byproduct of magic and the reason magic is forbidden.  But Wil has a secret that she’s managed to keep hidden: she has magic.  By day, she must pretend to be someone she’s not.  By night, she spends an increasing amount of time with a vigilante only known as Black Knife, helping the weak and poor in the streets of Skyvale, and struggling with her feelings for him.  But the Wraith is coming closer and Wil’s magic just might be the only thing strong enough to save them all and give her a chance at regaining the throne of Aecor.

The Orphan Queen kept me at the edge of my seat and I stayed up more nights than I should have reading it.  The book does end with a cliffhanger, but the copy I read had a couple of chapters from the second book, The Mirror King.

Book Review: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions)

Book Club Discussion Questions:

  • An osprey is a bird of prey.  Do you feel this name was well-chosen for Wil and her friends?
  • Why would Wil and her friends choose a bird to represent the name of their group?
  • What was the most surprising revelation/twist to you?
  • Do you agree with Patrick’s methods?  Would you consider him a good leader?

If you’d like to read the other book club reviews, discussions and questions, you can click on the links below:

*Reviews and/or discussion questions may contain spoilers*

Summer 2016 Reading List Reviews and Ratings
The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi

Happy reading!

    Book Review: Bucket of Awesome + A Giveaway

    Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

    For many years I’ve used writing as a way to help me work through and remember things.  I have poems written after a challenging break-up.  A stack of diaries and journals from elementary school all the way through today detailing whatever I was/am going through at the time.  Even this blog is a way for me to put my thoughts down and organize them in a way that makes sense.  Writing helps me unlock memories and remember details in a way that nothing else can.  I wonder, how often do we take the time to think back on the experiences in our life that shaped us and made us who we are today?  Are they positive or negative?  Which would you rather focus on?

    I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are 100% mine.  This post contains affiliate links, which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

    When I was presented with the opportunity to review the book Bucket of Awesome, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect.  As I opened it up to the introduction and started reading, I became excited.  Kathryn Thompson, the author of the book, explains that choosing to tell your life story from a perspective of joy, triumph, love, growth and overcoming will help you shift your focus.  This is not to say that we should only focus on the happy moments.  She suggests that we can find the good even in the bad experiences because many times those are the same things that help us become who we are today.  I love this quote: “You get to decide if your mistakes were dismal failures or learning opportunities.  You choose to focus on how you grew from your trials or how they hurt you.”

    Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

    There are many days when I feel like one day just melts into another.  I’m doing the same things, having the same conversations or arguments with my kids, taking the same routes as I run errands.  It all feels very boring and mundane and I wonder why I’d want to record that.  Who in the future is going to want to read about that?  Bucket of Awesome is laid out in a way that allows you to see things from a different perspective.  Kathryn points out that “your unique life has something worth sharing with the world, whether it’s a world of your thirty grandchildren or a neighbor or a friend who needs to hear what you have to say.”  Have you ever had someone come up to you and tell you about a time you said or did something that made a huge impact on them and you don’t remember it at all?  We all have the ability to influence others, whether we know it or not.  I would even say that we might even influence our future self with words that seem common at the time we write them, but come to mean something special later on in life.

    Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

    When I started working through the book, it felt a little awkward.  Some of the questions I didn’t have anything to write about.  Others I could have gone on for a couple of pages once the memories started flowing.  The book is designed for you to go through it at your own pace and to be flexible.  If you want to skip a question, skip it.  Come back later, or don’t.  Kathryn reminds the reader throughout the book that if writing about a certain question or topic added negativity, then don’t include it in your Bucket of Awesome.  Again, the purpose of the book is to shift focus to the positive.

    I haven’t made it all the way through the book yet.  I think that is something that is going to take a little bit of time.  But I believe that by sticking with it, I’ll get in a more positive mindset both about my life in the past, my present and also my future.  I don’t want that to sound cliche or that I’m trying to be deep.  I know from personal experience that the more I focus on the positive or things that are going right, the more I see of it and the less I see the negative. 

    If you’ve been feeling like you should write your life story down, but feel totally overwhelmed, Bucket of Awesome is for you.  It’s divided up into sections and takes the guesswork out of what to include.  This could also be a great gift for the journal writer in your life, or even something you could go through with a parent or grandparent to help them get their own life story written.

    The author finishes the introduction with these words: “You are about to embark on an amazing journey to uncover the best of what makes you who you are.  Your journey is unique.  Tell it with patience.  Tell it with love.  Tell it with Awesome.”

    Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

    Lastly, I have one copy of Bucket of Awesome up for grabs to one lucky winner!  To enter, you will need to do the following:

    • Visit Sunshine & Munchkins on Facebook (required)
    • Follow Sunshine & Munchkins on Pinterest (required)
    • Comment below on what interests you most about Bucket of Awesome (required)
    • Follow Sunshine & Munchkins on Instagram (optional, extra entry)

    The giveaway will run from today, March 8, 2017 thru Sunday, March 12, 2017 at midnight MST.  The winner will be announced on Facebook on March 13, 2017.

    a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

    Please feel free to share this post with anyone you think would be interested in learning more about Bucket of Awesome or entering the giveaway.

    Book Review: The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel {Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

    Book Review: The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel (plus book club discussion/questions)

    Earlier this week, my book club met together to discuss our most recent book choice: The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel.  Prior to the book being introduced at our last meeting, I hadn’t heard of it but a few of the people in our group had and the general feeling was positive.  The title definitely caught my attention because it seems like a contradiction.  I was able to read through it in a few days and it kept my attention throughout.

    This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on it and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

    My Summary and Review: (4 stars)
    *Contains spoilers*
    Olivia (Livvy) Dunne is the oldest of three daughters.  She is studious and has dreams of exploring the world and becoming an archeologist.  But her dreams get put on hold when her mother becomes sick shortly after the youngest daughter gets married and Livvy is left to take care of her.  When her mother passes away, she is consumed by grief and unable to work through it.  As a result, she makes a decision that unknowingly alters her future.  Livvy is sent to a small town in Colorado in the 1940s where she marries a shy farmer–a marriage that has been arranged by her father.  Overwhelmed by loneliness, she befriends two Japanese sisters who work on her husband’s farm and live at a nearby internment camp.  Slowly she begins to feel like she’s found a place and becomes more comfortable in her new life.  Meanwhile, her husband (Ray) tries patiently to show he cares about her, but Livvy is resistant based on her past.  When Olivia unknowingly become an accomplice to a crime, she finally learns how to confront her past and move forward into the future.

    The Magic of Ordinary Days was an enjoyable book with characters who feel very real.  Livvy is faced with learning how to recognize true love and how to trust others.  It is well written, however, I would have liked the ending not to wrap up so quickly.

    Book Club Discussion Questions:

    • Was Livvy’s father right to insist she marry before she gives birth?  What other options were available to her?  (Remember this is during the 1940s.)
    • It takes Livvy quite a while to warm up to Ray.  Do you think Livvy is too hard on Ray?  Are you surprised her feelings changed?
    • Why is it so easy for Livvy to become friends with Rose and Lorelei?  How are their situations similar?
    • What is the significance of Rose and Lorelei’s fascination with butterflies?
    • How does Livvy finally come to learn the difference between true love and what she thought was true love?
    • What characteristics of Ray’s helped him feel like a real person?
    • Discuss the importance of love and trust in relationships.  Can you have one without the other?

    If you’d like to read the other book club reviews, discussions and questions, you can click on the links below:

    *Reviews and/or discussion questions may contain spoilers*

    Summer 2016 Reading List Reviews and Ratings
    The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
    Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi

    Happy reading!

    Book Review: Disneyland On Any Budget by Jessica Sanders

    Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!

    Before my family and I went to Disneyland last fall, I did a TON of research on a million different website and blogs trying to learn as much as possible about lodging and food and travel and strollers and souvenirs and anything else I could think of that I might need to know about when planning a trip to Disneyland.  I learned a lot and everything I found was really helpful.  Our trip to Disneyland was a huge success and I even learned a few things that I’ve been able to share with others.

    I received a complimentary copy of Disneyland On Any Budget for review.  All opinions are 100% mine.
    Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!

    But what if you don’t have the time to to sift through all that information and find what’s really relevant?  That’s where Disneyland On Any Budget comes in handy.  Jessica Sanders from The Happiest Blog on Earth is all about all things Disney.  She and her family go to Disneyland several times a year and she is always up to date on the latest changes and updates to the park.

    This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

    I received a copy of Disneyland On Any Budget and was able to read through it in less than an hour.  But all the information Jessica packs into this little book is well worth the read (and re-read)!  She covers ways to save for Disneyland, where to get discount tickets, how to save money on food, where to start your day, hotel accommodations, grocery stores, best places to find souvenirs and on and on.  Jessica really knows her stuff!

    Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!
    Used by permission from The Happiest Blog on Earth

    One thing I loved and thought was a great little touch is that each chapter/section starts off with a fun quote from a Disney movie that goes along with what the chapter is about.  Jessica also shares examples and real life experiences (both her own and others) to help illustrate her points.  At the end of each section, she gives a little recap.  If you buy the book, you also have access to bonus content on her website!

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to plan a trip to Disneyland in the coming year.  The information you’ll learn is invaluable to making your experience the best possible.  No matter what your budget is, Disneyland On Any Budget is a great tool to help you and your family visit the happiest place on earth!

    To buy the paperback version, click HERE.
    To buy the Kindle version, click HERE.

    To visit The Happiest Blog on Earth, click HERE.

    What has been most helpful to you when planning a trip to Disneyland?

    Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh {Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

    Review of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers

    At the beginning of the summer, I put together a summer reading list and challenged myself to get all the way through the list before the official start of fall.  I’m happy to say that I made it through almost all of them, plus a few others that weren’t originally on my list!  (You can find the list HERE and my reviews HERE.) The very first book I picked from my list was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I hadn’t heard anything about it other than the synopsis I read on Goodreads.

    This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

    In June of this year, we took a vacation with my husband’s family (parents, siblings/spouses and kids).  It was a lot of fun, but after being with everyone all day, I needed a little bit of time to unwind and relax.  I’d brought The Language of Flowers with me and found myself trying to find time to read it over the course of our vacation.  Everyone else would be inside visiting or watching a show and I was outside on the porch reading my book.  I was instantly caught up in Victoria’s story and knew within a few chapters that I wanted to suggest it for our book club.

    My Summary and Review (5 stars):
    Victoria Jones grew up in the foster care system bouncing from home to home, only finding comfort in flowers and their meanings.  Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria must find a way to make a living or be homeless.  She is offered a job working at Bloom and she soon discovers she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them.  Unexpectedly, someone from her past emerges and she’s forced to confront issues that have haunted her for years.  Victoria must decide if it’s worth the risk to delve deeper, and possibly lose what stability she’s found, for a second chance at happiness.

    The Language of Flowers could have been a depressing story, but instead it was thought provoking and beautifully written.

    Book Club Discussion Questions:

    • What did you think about the story telling style of the book? (switching from past to present)
    • Do you think the novel provided a fair depiction of the foster care system?
    • Why was Victoria so empathetic to the needs of others and is able to pick them the perfect flowers to express their feelings, but she has no sense of love or empathy for herself?
    • Do you agree with Victoria’s decision to give her baby to Grant?  Can you empathize with some of her feelings as a new mother?
    • Use one or two words to describe the book as a whole.
    • What do you think about the language of flowers?  Do you think the meaning a flower has gives some kind of power?
    • What would your wedding bouquet say about you and your spouse?  Is there any truth to it?
    • Do you like the openness of the ending?

    If you’d like to read the other book reviews and questions/discussion I’ve posted about, you can click on the links below.

    *May contain spoilers*

    Summer 2016 Reading List Reviews and Ratings
    My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
    Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi

    Happy reading!

    Summer 2016 Reading List Book Reviews and Ratings

    Reviews and ratings on each of the books on my summer 2016 reading list

    At the beginning of the summer, I put out a reading list with all the books I hoped to read during the summer.  I loved being exposed to new genres that I wouldn’t have normally picked up, although for the most part my favorites were still the young adult fiction that I stick to.  I did stray from my reading list a bit due to my book club, otherwise, I feel sure I would have finished all the books on my list.  I’ve included a short review for each book along with a rating out of 5 stars.  (If you want to read more about any given book, click on the title to be taken to the Goodreads summary.)

    Reading List (11 out of 14 finished)

    Austenland (4/5 stars)
    I thought this modern day Pride and Prejudice retelling was really sweet.  The characters are likeable and relate-able.  It was an easy read and I finished it quickly.  (Side note: I also watched the 2013 movie adaptation of the book and thought it was cute, but preferred the book.)

    The Language of Flowers (5/5 stars)
    I didn’t know what to expect from this book when I started, but it quickly became one that I had to drag myself away from.  The author wrote it in part to bring some awareness to the foster care system and how difficult it can be for the children placed in it.  One thing that I loved about this book is that the characters evolve over time.  Sometimes you really dislike them, but other times you can’t help but like or admire them.  (Side note: I recommended this book for book club and we’ll be discussing it in November so I will put a full review of it up then along with some book club discussion/questions.)

    The Time Keeper (3/5 stars)
    The main purpose of this book was to show that no matter who you are, everyone is affected by the thief of time.  In addition, what we do with that time and learn from it is important.  I thought the story around how the information was presented was interesting, but I viewed the book more as one to get through so I could start on the next one.

    Six of Crows (5/5 stars)
    This book reminded me of the Oceans 11 movie series in that there is a group of people who each have really specific skills and are trying to accomplish an impossible heist.  The story is set in an alternate world and the author did a great job of creating it.  I liked the characters and although the narrative jumps around between a few main characters, I liked the change of perspective it brought to the story as a whole.  (This is a duology and the second book is called Crooked Kingdom.)

    The Night Circus (5/5 stars)
    I was really looking forward to this book due to so many good review from my own friends.  I was not disappointed.  The Night Circus weaves magic into the world in a seamless way that makes you believe that it just might actually exist.

    Where’d You Go Bernadette? (4/5 stars)
    Using a compilation of emails, notes and letters, Bee searches for her mother, Bernadette, who has inexplicably disappeared just at the time when they are supposed to be going on a cruise to Antarctica.  This book had me laughing at times or simply shaking my head in disbelief.  It was a different sort of book than I usually read and while it’s not at the top of my list of recommendations, I did enjoy it.

    Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (4/5 stars)
    Set in England during 1817, the entire book is comprised of letters between Cecilia and her cousin, Kate, who is enduring her first season in London.  By accident, Kate gets caught up in a plot involving witches and wizards who are attempting to solve a feud surrounding an enchanted chocolate pot.  I loved each character and laughed out loud several times.

    Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (4.5/5 stars)
    I don’t generally read non-fiction, but Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother appealed to me because she writes it as a memoir about the differences between her own Chinese parenting style and what she calls Western parenting.  At times, you will be completely shocked by the things she does and other times you want to side with her.  It made me reflect on my own parenting style.

    The Invention of Wings (4/5 stars)
    This book is set in Charleston, North Carolina during the early nineteenth century.  It is the story of Hetty “Handful” Grimke who is a slave in the Grimke household.  One of the daughters of the house, Sarah is uncomfortable with slavery and grows up wanting to do something about it, but unsure of what to do in a time when women didn’t have much influence in the ways of politics.  The story starts when Hetty is “given” to Sarah at the age of 10 and continues over the next 35 years and covers love, loss, pain, guilt and defiance.  Parts of the book were difficult to read because I know that those things actually happened and they are so sad, but it also gave me greater insight into what life was like during that time period.

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (3.5/5 stars)
    Set during a time when the size of a woman’s feet determined their beauty and marriageability, Lily is born to a poor family in a remote Hunan village in China.  At the age of seven she is paired with a laotong, or “old same” named Snow Flower.  Together they grow into women, share their sorrows and find comfort in loneliness.  They mainly communicate using a secret written language known only by women called nu shu but a miscommunication arises and threatens to damage their relationship.  I enjoyed learning about a culture and time that I was previously unfamiliar with but the story didn’t resonate with me on an emotional level.

    The Thirteenth Tale (3.5/5 stars)
    A famous writer named Vida Winter has a mysterious past that no one can trace.  When she becomes terminally ill, she invites a biographer named Margaret Lea to her home so that she can share her hidden past and put her mind at peace.  Margaret gets drawn into the story and mysteries as they unfold to her and also reaches some conclusions about her own past.  I liked the way the story unfolded and how I found out things at the same time as Margaret, but towards the end, the story drug on a bit and I found myself just trying to push through to the end.

    The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (didn’t read)
    I’ve been on a waiting list for this book so I haven’t been able to read it yet.  I will update this post once I’ve read it.

    Me Before You (didn’t read)
    Ultimately, I decided not to read this book as many of the other books on my list interested me more.

    The Maze Runner (didn’t read)
    I will probably read this at a later date.

    As I mentioned, there were a few other books that I read throughout the summer that weren’t part of my original summer reading list.  I’ve included those books below with my summary and rating.

    Other books I read:

    Midnight In Austenland (4/5 stars)
    A few of the same characters appear in this book as were in Austenland, but it is not a sequel and could be read independently.  This retelling of Pride and Prejudice has a mystery element to it and the ending made me smile.

    First Love and Forever (3/5 stars)
    A woman in an unhappy marriage meets a man from her past that she almost married and begins to have doubts about continuing with her current marriage.  The setting doesn’t necessarily translate to modern day (no cell phones, no computers, no social media), but the feelings that the main character struggles with and the decisions she ultimately makes will get you thinking.  (LDS fiction)

    A Date with Danger (4/5 stars)
    An acquaintance from high school actually wrote this book so I was excited to get my hands on it shortly after it came out.  The story follows Jacklyn (Jack), a typical twenty-five year old single woman whose had some bad luck when it comes to dating.  Then she is contacted by the FBI to assist with a case where a woman has gone missing and the only link they have is that her online dating profile is similar to the missing woman’s.  Jack agrees but finds that pinpointing the culprit is harder than she expected.  Plus, the handsome FBI agent whose been assigned to work with her has made it difficult to keep her attention focused on the case.  I loved this book and thought it was funny and witty.  (LDS fiction)

    My Lady Jane (5/5 stars)
    If you haven’t seen my review on My Lady Jane, go check it out HERE.  It has easily become one of my favorite books and I haven’t hesitated to recommend it to anyone who likes a good laugh, a little bit of magic and happy endings.

    Graceling (4.5/5 stars)
    Katsa has been “graced” with the gift of killing.  As the niece of a king, she is sent to do his dirty work.  But behind his back, she and a select few men are disobeying the king and trying to assist those in need.  During one night on a secret mission, she meets a mysterious stranger who later comes to the king’s court in search of someone and he believes Katsa can help.  Prince Po and Katsa slowly become friends and she learns to trust him as they set off on a journey to uncover a terrible secret.  I loved the characters and thought the author did a great job showing the conflicts they face (both internal and external) and how they resolve them.

    So there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed reading my reviews and hopefully they got you interested enough to read the books.

    Let me know what other books I should put on my reading list in the comments!

    Book Review: My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

    If you like The Princess Bride, you can't help but like My Lady Jane! (Book Review and Book Club Discussion and Questions)

    At the beginning of the summer, I mentioned that I am in a young adult fiction book club.  Each book we read is suggested by another member of the group and then we meet every other month to discuss it and, of course, visit and eat treats.

    This month at our book club we talked about the book My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows.  After reading it, I have to say that it is easily one of my favorite books and I don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

    This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

    My Summary and Review (5 stars):
    My Lady Jane is based loosely on the historical figure Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days due to being named successor by her first cousin once removed and current king, Edward VI, who was dying.  On the ninth day, she was removed from the throne by those who wished for Edward’s half-sister, Mary (also known as Bloody Mary), to be queen and charged with high treason.  Ultimately, she and her husband were executed.

    Not a very happy story is it?  Well the authors didn’t think so either, so they decided to rewrite history to their liking, while including some elements of magic.  They tweaked some of the details and changed some of the timeline so that ultimately there was a happy ending.

    My Lady Jane is funny and will have you laughing out loud throughout the book.  It is an easy and light read that you won’t be able to put down.  If you like The Princess Bride, you will love My Lady Jane.

    Book Club Discussion Questions:

    • How does sexism come into play between the characters?  
    • How/where is sexism seen in the world today?
    • What did you think about Edward’s inner struggle? (desire to be king/not be king, Verities vs Edians, etc)
    • Did you trust Gracie?  Why or why not?
    • Did the characters show characteristics of their animal form when they were in their human form?

    Happy reading!

    Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

    Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

    Every other month, a group of my friends and I get together for a young adult book club.  Someone in the group hosts and we all discuss the most recent book we read, eat treats and laugh a lot.

    This month, we read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

    My summary and review (4 stars):
    (*contains spoilers*)
    When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  (I wanted to like it because I want to go into most books with the hope that I will like them and they will be worth my time.)  If I hadn’t read the synopsis, I would have had a hard time figuring out what was going on since the story starts after a lot has already happened.  Juliette seems like a likeable enough person, but you can tell that being isolated for so long is taking a toll on her.  She’s trying to keep herself from going crazy but bits of it creep in, which I think is to be expected.

    When Adam shows up in her cell, I was worried that the book was going to turn into this romance where because he’s nice to her that she falls in love with him.  Turns out she already knew him from her time before The Reestablishment came and she was already in love with him but she thinks that he doesn’t remember her.  As time passes, they become friends (again) and she begins to trust him.  I think it’s reasonable to believe that a person who isn’t able to touch anyone else (because their touch is deadly) would both fear and desire trust and acceptance from others.

    After a time, Juliette is taken up to meet Warner (the other guy in the love triangle), transferred to a type of military headquarters and given nice food, running water, clean clothes and a bed.  Juliette is visibly shaken by this after being kept in such an awful place for 2/3 of a year and knowing that so many other people in the world are living in poverty.  I think the author did a good job of showing Juliette’s raw emotion.  Juliette reacted the way you would expect: with anger and a desire to rebel.  We see this anger and hatred, especially towards Warner and The Reestablishment, and it is what drives her until she discovers that Adam can touch her without getting hurt.  Then of course her libido kicks in and Juliette uses her love, or what she understands love to be, as her motivation to keep going.

    When Juliette and Adam escape to his “house” and stay with Adam’s little brother, the libido kicks in again and I was ready to skip through a few paragraphs because I get tired of these type of scenes.  Thankfully, nothing really happens and the next day Kenji (Adam’s friend in the army) shows up injured and convinces Adam and Juliette that he knows of a safe house he can take them too.  The place he takes them to is Omega Point and is the headquarters for the resistance, which we find out that Kenji is a part of and also has a special power.  Juliette meets Castle, who is the leader of the rebellion, and helps her feel at ease and more comfortable in her abilities and less afraid of hurting anyone by giving her a special super suit.  And then the book ends.

    I hated the ending.  It was too abrupt.  At the same time, it did make me want to pick up the next book and start reading so I guess that’s saying something.  I had a few things about the book that I didn’t like:

    • Juliette would use these metaphors that sometimes made sense and sometimes made no sense at all (this is a recurring theme throughout the book).  I think that by doing this, the author maybe just meant to further show her fragile mental state but it was frustrating as a reader because when I read/hear a metaphor, I want it to make sense.  I don’t want to wade through a lot of words to find the meaning.
    • I had a hard time picturing the world the characters lived in.  Was it completely desolate with buildings few and far between?  Was it cities that had been mostly destroyed but people were still living there?  What was the landscape like?
    • From the time Adam and Juliette escape from Warner, it’s less than a week and Juliette goes from being insecure and afraid of her powers to confident and ready to become a part of the rebellion.  You can tell that she’s trying to be strong and have courage but this seemed like a big jump for me.

    Even though there were things about the book I disliked, overall, I enjoyed the book.  If you like dystopian/paranormal books, then this is for you.  It has kind of an X-Men feel to it.  (I haven’t read any of the other books in the series as of yet, but I understand from others that they answer a lot of questions that that first book brings up.)

    Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

    Book Club Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think the author’s background may have influenced how her characters interact in the book? (Tahereh is Iranian-American–her parents are immigrants.)
    • There was a lot of backlash from the Muslim community when this book came out.  Why do you think that is?
    • How did you like the author’s/Juliette’s writing style?
    • What does the writing style show about the mental stability/progression of the Juliette?
    • Do you think Juliette’s reaction to not being touched her whole life is normal?
    • Do you see any similarities between their world and ours in terms of how we react to people who are different?  Cultural?  Political?
    • Do you think there is an inherent part of us that makes us want to touch other people?
    • How did you feel about the use of metaphor throughout the book? 
    • Discuss the symbolism of birds.

    What did you think about the book?

    How Do Dinosaurs Books Review

    How Do Dinosaurs Books Review

    Ever since I was young, books have been a huge part of my life.  I have a memory from when I was about five years old walking home from the library with an entire wagon full of books we had checked out.  That little wagon sat in our front room where I could pick a book and look through it or my mom would read it to me.  Before the week was done, I had looked through all the books at least once.  The next week, we took the books back and got another wagon full to bring home.  This love of reading has stuck with me all my life.  I love getting lost in the world of books.  My husband laughs at me because if I’m reading a book, I have no idea what’s going on around me.

    I’m happy to say that this love of reading has been picked up by my own children.  We have all types of books from Dr. Seuss to Sandra Boynton to Sesame Street to Disney.  In the last year or so, my son has started to take a special interest in dinosaurs.  So when we went to the library last month, I picked up a few books from the How Do Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.  I’d heard about the series from a friend of mine who has two boys who also like dinosaurs.  The moment we got home, my kids pulled all the library books out and asked me to read them.  We had borrowed three of the How Do Dinosaurs books and with the exception of Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy, even my daughter loved reading them.

    How Do Dinosaurs Books Review
    Illustration from How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

    So why do I love these books?  First of all, the illustrations are amazing.  The illustrator draws pictures of dinosaurs doing the things he talks about in each of his books (along with the name of it).  I’m just as captivated as my kids are.  Second, they’re educational and promote good behavior.  My kids learn lessons about how to behave at school or when they are mad through the use of humor.  After only reading the books a handful of times, both my kids could “read” the story based on the pictures.

    How Do Dinosaurs Books Review
    Illustration from How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

    I’ve decided that these books are definitely worth spreading the word about and definitely worthy of taking up space on our bookshelf.  I hope you and your kids love them as much as mine do!

    Below you can see a list of all the How Do Dinosaur books as well as links to purchase them on Amazon.  (Note: any purchases made by clicking on these links will provide me with a small commission at no extra cost to you).

    How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? (Hardcover)
    How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? (Hardcover)
    How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms? (Board Book)
    How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? (Board Book)
    How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? (Hardcover) (Paperback)
    How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? (Board Book)
    How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors? (Board Book)
    How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? (Hardcover)
    How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? (Hardcover)
    How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats? (Board Book)
    How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs? (Board Book)
    How Do Dinosaurs Laugh Out Loud? (Board Book)
    How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday? (Board Book)
    How Do Dinosaurs Go Up and Down? (Hardcover)
    How Do Dinosaurs Play All Day? (Paperback)
    How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? (Hardcover)
    How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies? (Hardcover)
    How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? (Hardcover)
    How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe? (Hardcover)

    What are you favorite children’s books?