Sep 18, 2020

Recent Reads: The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy

The Water is WideThe Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication Date:  Kindle edition, 2010; originally published in 1973

Format: Ebook
Source: Free to borrow for Amazon Prime members


Goodreads Synopsis: 
The island is nearly deserted, haunting, beautiful. Across a slip of ocean lies South Carolina. But for the handful of families on Yamacraw Island, America is a world away. For years the people here lived proudly from the sea, but now its waters are not safe. Waste from industry threatens their very existence–unless, somehow, they can learn a new life. But they will learn nothing without someone to teach them, and their school has no teacher.
Here is PAT CONROY’S extraordinary drama based on his own experience–the true story of a man who gave a year of his life to an island and the new life its people gave him.
We read The Water is Wide for book club over the past month and discussed the chapters weekly, my review is both my thoughts as well as some items that we chatted about in our discussions.

The book is a memoir by Pat Conroy who went to an island to teach the disconnected and native children on the island. These were black children, who had a school and a few teachers along the way, but had very little in the way of education. Pat goes to the island full of ideas of saving and education these children and retells a possibly dramatized version of his memories. 

Personal Thoughts: The discussions we had about this book were rich and meaningful and I thoroughly enjoyed them, however the book was not a stand out book for me personally. There were a lot of details that I thought were missing and the timeline for me was problematic. Conroy tells his tale as he thinks it all links together versus in chronological order and it makes it VERY difficult to understand where we are in his overall teaching experience. He also begins the book saying we will talk about things later and then seems to let them die out without a return. At times Conroy is overly idealistic and it was hard to read as he came to terms with what was available to these students and what was not. Since this is a memoir and it is based on remembering of events, I felt the gaps were wide for certain events and very specific for others, and I did feel like he omitted information to make things seem more dire than they might have been. 

Group Thoughts: This was a hard book to read for many reasons, it includes themes of racism, animal abuse, abusive relationships, severe punishment of students as well as shaming, and understanding that the education system did leave kids behind knowingly. Conroy did his best to shed light on these children and their lives and it was eye-opening. It also made us think about what we are still experiencing today with inequality and how this book was written in the 70's but is STILL relevant today for these themes. 

Overall, this book is not a light read, you will feel a lot of emotions going though it and not all good ones and it focuses on a lot of conflicts throughout. However, if you are looking for a book to open your eyes to inherent racism and sometimes the idealistic views of new teachers, this might be a good read for you.

Sep 15, 2020

Blog Blast w/Giveaway! My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee

About the Book
My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee
Grade Level : 4 - 8
ISBN-10 : 1534432337
ISBN-13 : 978-1534432338
Hardcover : 320 pages
Publisher : Aladdin (September 15, 2020)
Language: : English

From acclaimed author of Maybe He Just Likes You and Halfway Normal comes a powerful and moving story of learning how to grow, change, and survive.

When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother Gabriel is diagnosed with a mental illness, the family’s world is turned upside down. Mom and Dad want Zinny, her sixteen-year-old sister, Scarlett, and her eight-year-old brother, Aiden, to keep Gabriel’s condition “private”—and to Zinny that sounds the same as “secret.” Which means she can’t talk about it to her two best friends, who don’t understand why Zinny keeps pushing them away, turning everything into a joke.

It also means she can’t talk about it during Lunch Club, a group run by the school guidance counselor. How did Zinny get stuck in this weird club, anyway? She certainly doesn’t have anything in common with these kids—and even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret.

The only good thing about school is science class, where cool teacher Ms. Molina has them doing experiments on crayfish. And when Zinny has the chance to attend a dream marine biology camp for the summer, she doesn’t know what to do. How can Zinny move forward when Gabriel—and, really, her whole family—still needs her help?

You can purchase My Life in the Fish Tank  at the following Retailers:



“I loved My Life in the Fish Tank. Once again, Barbara Dee writes about important topics with intelligence, nuance and grace. She earned all the accolades for Maybe He Just Likes You and will earn them for My Life in the Fish Tank too.” —Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
, author of Fighting Words and Newbery Honor Book The War That Saved My Life
”I felt every beat of Zinny Manning’s heart in this authentic and affecting story. Barbara Dee consistently has her finger on the pulse of her middle grade audience. Outstanding!” —Leslie Connor
, A Home for Goddesses and Dogs and The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle (National Book Award Finalist)
“Barbara Dee offers a deeply compassionate look at life for twelve-year-old Zinny, whose older brother faces mental health challenges. This touching novel will go a long way in providing understanding and empathy for young readers. Highly recommended.” —Donna Gephart
, award-winning author of Lily and Dunkin and The Paris Project
“My Life in the Fish Tank rings true for its humor, insight, and honesty. Zinny is an appealing narrator, and her friendships with supporting characters are beautifully drawn.” —Laura Shovan
, author of Takedown and A Place at the Table
"MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK is a powerful portrayal of a twelve-year old dealing with her sibling’s newly discovered mental illness. Author Barbara Dee deftly weaves in themes of friendship, family, and secrets, while also reminding us all to accept what we can’t control. I truly loved every moment of this emotional and gripping novel, with its notes of hope that linger long after the last page." —Lindsay Currie
, author of The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street and Scritch-Scratch.

About the Author
Barbara Dee is the author of eleven middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including the The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.

Find the Author

Photo Credit: Randy Matusow
Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

- 5 Winners will receive a Copy of MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK by Barbara Dee.
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Sep 14, 2020

Recent Reads: The Mystery of Alice by Lee Bacon

The Mystery of AliceThe Mystery of Alice by Lee Bacon
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date:  May 2, 2019

Format: Audible Audiobook
Source: Freebie for Audible Subscribers in May of 2019.


Goodreads Synopsis: 
Thirteen-year-old Emily Poe has been given the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to attend the exclusive Audyn School in Manhattan. But to win the scholarship, she has to pass a test like nothing she’s ever experienced before: a nearly bare room, a set of strange clues, a locked door. Plus, a mysterious organization—the Leopold Foundation—is watching her every move.
But the real test has just begun. Despite the strange circumstances—in a new house, at a new school—Emily instantly bonds with fellow scholarship winner Alice Wray.
And then Alice goes missing.
Chronicling every surprising twist and turn of her search through her own private video diary, Emily sets out to find the truth behind Alice’s disappearance. Soon, she’s drawn deep into the inner circle of the Audyn School’s elite, the Nobility, who each have secrets of their own. As clues and lies mount, Emily must sort truth from fiction to solve The Mystery of Alice before it’s too late.
The Mystery of Alice is a full-cast-read audiobook from Audible that follows Emily and her video diary as she is invited into a prestigious school through a scholarship. We met Emily when she is at home and has just received her invitation to apply letter and as she travels to NY to take her very strange admissions test. She prevails and is accepted into the scholarship and then meets a girl named Alice that is in a similar situation as her. They become close friends until Alice starts hanging out with the rich kids a the school.

The book is full of interesting characters seen through Emily's eyes and diary, as well as a lot of mysteries and weird situations. When Alice goes missing, Emily is scared and wants to help find her friend but she thinks another person at the school is involved. It is whirlwind of speculation and sleuthing that ends in deception, murder, and risk. 

The book was a fun listen, and the full-cast was a nice addition to help the story along. It was a pretty short story, so there is some rushed plot, but overall I found it to be a good story that kept me on my toes and guessing. I never would have thought of the ending and the turn it took, it is shocking and a great way to end it. 

My only criticism was that it was hard to tell the ages of the characters, they were said to be in middle school but acted older and then sometimes younger... some of it was hard to believe, but overall a good plot.

Sep 13, 2020

Building the Book Pile #333

Welcome to Building the Book Pile!  A Weekly meme inspired by Stacking the Shelves

Hello Readers, Bloggers, and Awesome people! 

Happy Sunday! It was a good week, although I feel like I didn't accomplish everything that I wanted to... but that is ok. How was your week?

Tomorrow starts the craziest week in a long time... work busy season kicks off, I start a new school term with a class that has SO MANY assignments, and we are closing on our new house in FL.... so then I have to move too. I am exhausted just thinking about it. 

Still trying to read to stay sane. 

What are you reading this week? How are you feeling?

If you enjoy the blog and want to share some love and caffeine, you can buy me a coffee via Ko-fi

Current Giveaways

None BUT one is coming this week.

Coming up on the Blog

Recent Reads: The Mystery of Alice by Lee Bacon (Audio) - delayed from last week, it took me longer to finish than I anticipated.
Blog Blast w/ Giveaway! My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee (MG)
Recent Reads: The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy (Adult)

Books Received Recently...
    Mr. Lemoncello and the Titanium Ticket (Mr. Lemoncello's Library, #5)

         Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater from Netgalley and DC Comics for review.

Mr. Lemoncello and the Titanium Ticket by Chris Grabenstein - bought on Audible. SO EXCITED, I ADORE THIS SERIES... get it, read it!!!

Have you missed anything lately?

Comment and leave me a link to your Round-up/ STS/ Weekly...anything, post and I will stop by and say hello!
Happy Reading!

Sep 10, 2020

Recent Reads: The Great Realization by Tomos Roberts

Source: From SparkPress for review consideration, this in no way alters my opinion or review.

The Great RealizationThe Great Realization by Tomos Roberts
Publisher: HarperCollins Children
Publication Date:  September 1, 2020

Format: ebook

We now call it The Great Realization
and, yes, since then there have been many.
But that’s the story of how it started . . .
and why hindsight’s 2020.
We all need hope. Humans have an extraordinary capacity to battle through adversity, but only if they have something to cling onto: a belief or hope that maybe, one day, things will be better.
This idea sparked The Great Realization. Sharing the truths we may find hard to tell but also celebrating the things—from simple acts of kindness and finding joy in everyday activities, to the creativity within us all—that have brought us together during lockdown, it gives us hope in this time of global crisis.
Written for his younger brother and sister in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tomos Roberts’s heartfelt poem is as timely as it is timeless. Its message of hope and resilience, of rebirth and renewal, has captured the hearts of children and adults all over the globe—and the glimpse it offers of a fairer, kinder, more sustainable world continues to inspire thousands every day. 
With Tomos Roberts’s heartfelt poem and beautiful illustrations by award-winning artist Nomoco, The Great Realization is a profound work, at once striking and reassuring, reminding readers young and old that in the face of adversity there are still dreams to be dreamt and kindnesses to be shared and hope. There is still hope. 
The Great Realization is told from a time after 2020 and a vaccine for the virus we are all living trough right now. It is a poetic children's book that talks about how we were damaging the earth and living connected to our phones. Once the virus hit we all changed our priorities and habits as we hunkered down during stay home orders. With people staying home the planet was able to breathe again and we saw some drastic changes for good.

This book was beautifully written with a sense of wonder about the past and admiration about how we can change from this experience. It was also beautifully illustrated with vibrant watercolor images that matched the feel of the text throughout. I would have loved to give this book the full five stars, but since we are still living in this new normal I can't. It is a very optimistic view of how things are going and it does not really shed any light on the other things that have happened due to the virus, yes, we found new hobbies and stayed home, and yes we helped the planet and ourselves by doing so BUT we are living through so much sadness, frustration, anxiety and death that this look back on the past does not account for and it is also a piece of the puzzle.

I really enjoyed this book, it is my wish that this hope progresses and we do stay on this course of planet regeneration and still taking the time to do the hobbies we have adapted to in quarantine.

Sep 8, 2020

Building the Book Pile #332 - Late edition

Welcome to Building the Book Pile!  A Weekly meme inspired by Stacking the Shelves

Hello Readers, Bloggers, and Awesome people! 

Good morning! This was a productive Blog week YAY! and yesterday I spent more time reading and prepping posts for the coming weeks (also YAY). 

I hope everyone is doing well, times are still weird, and the new normal is still wearing on people. I have been reading as an escape for decades and it is doing good now too. What are you doing to cope with the new norm?

What are you reading this week? How are you feeling?

If you enjoy the blog and want to share some love and caffeine, you can buy me a coffee via Ko-fi

Current Giveaways

None for now...sorry!

Coming up on the Blog

Recent Reads: Builders by Reina Ollivier & Karel Claes (Youth)
Recent Reads: The Great Realization by Tomos Roberts and Illustrated by Nomoco (Youth)
Recent Reads: The Mystery of Alice by Lee Bacon (Audio)

Books Received Recently...
      Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic  The Great Realization  

         Welcome to the United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster - Free for Prime Members with September First Reads 
The Great Realization by Tomos Roberts and Illustrated by Nomoco - from SparkPress for review consideration 
Melody Finch by Ian Boyd and Gary Luck - from the Author for review consideration

Have you missed anything lately?

Comment and leave me a link to your Round-up/ STS/ Weekly...anything, post and I will stop by and say hello!
Happy Reading!

Sep 7, 2020

Recent Reads: Builders by Reina Ollivier and Karel Claes

Source: From Netgalley and Clavis Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review. 

BuildersBuilders by Reina Ollivier and Karel Claes
Series: Super Animals #1
Publisher: Clavis Publishing
Publication Date:  August, 11, 2020

Format: Ebook


Just like people, animals need a place to live. The nine animals in this book are very talented builders and make their own homes! Discover the amazing beaver, cross spider, sociable weaver, termite, stork, meerkat, honeybee, Japanese puffer fish, and mole. 
This is the first book in the Super Animals series, beautifully illustrated nonfiction about special animals. For little biologists ages 5 and up.
Builders is a cute books for kids that love to learn about animals. The book showcases different animals that are all builders - beavers, moles, bees, meekats and a bunch more. The showcase of each animal includes detailed illustrations of the animals, which they might eat, their builds as well as details them. The text of the book is a combination of lists, bullet points, as well as short paragraphs of information about each animal and all of it is to the point and very informational. 

There was a good number of animals selected and a large variety from mammals to insects and this non-fiction review of them was very good. This book would be a good addition for any one,  young or old, that enjoys animals or has a child that is really into learning about animals.

Sep 4, 2020

Early Reader Review: Time for Bed's Story by Monica Arnaldo

Source: From Netgalley and Kids Can Press in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review.

Time for Bed's StoryTime for Bed's Story by Monica Arnaldo
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date:  September 1, 2020

Format: Ebook


Goodreads Synopsis: 
In this engaging, laugh-out-loud funny picture book, a child's bed tells it like it is.
Bed has something to say.Bed knows you do not like bedtime.And Bed gets it. But look ...YOU are not so great, either ...
Bed is fed up. Bed's patience is wearing thin. For years, Bed has put up with the kicking at night, the jumping during the day, not to mention the storing of all manner of stinky items. But enough is enough. Now it's time to consider Bed's feelings ...
In a story that's never been told before, Monica Arnaldo's hilarious picture book explores the point of view of an unusual narrator: a child's bed. Irreverent and full of personality, Arnaldo's Bed is also full of love and compassion, making for a relatable and, ultimately, endearing story. This playful and highly original book offers a lighthearted way to approach discussions on communication, perspective and viewpoint. It can be used to promote critical thinking in young children and an understanding that there are at least two sides to every story. It also contains character education lessons on compassion, respect and empathy.
This book is adorably cute and I loved it. It really is a laugh-out-loud book which every family should own. Bed's story is just that a bedtime told from the point of view of the bed, and Bed has had enough, there is too much kicking and bouncing and stickers, really stickers?! It was a great portrayal of what a children's bed experiences. I loved the overall plot.

The illustrations throughout also fit the overall theme really well and are bright and detailed and go along great with each text spread. The book has a picture book feel but there is text throughout. 

The tale and illustrations don't really have a lesson but it might make kids think more about how they treat their bed if they personify it in the way this book does. I highly recommend this fun and funny read.

Sep 3, 2020

Spotlight: Caley Cross and the Hadeon Drop by Jeff Rosen

Hello Book Lovers, 

Here is another spotlight for you.

Caley Cross and the Hadeon Drop by Jeff Rosen, releasing next week on September 8th, is  "Perfect for fans of The Chronicles of Narnia and the Evermoor Chronicles" and "explores humans’ relationship—and sometimes war—with the natural world (a timely issue for youth today), and the capacity for good and evil in all of us." Sounds fun, right?! Keep reading to learn more.




Caley Cross and the Hadeon Drop (Caley Cross, #1)
Caley Cross and the Hadeon Drop by Jeff Rosen
Series: Caley Cross #1
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication Date:  September 8, 2020

About the Book
Caley Cross has always known she's not a “normal” thirteen-year-old (her ability to create zombie animals was her first clue). Still, she never expected to be whisked off to a faraway world―Erinath―where she is Crown Princess and people have “baests” that live inside them, giving them fantastic, animal-like powers. Which would be cool, except that Caley’s baest turns out to be an ancient monster that can swallow planets. Despite this, Caley manages to make the first friends of her life, Neive Olander and Kipley Gorsebrooke. They help her navigate the Erinath Academy, where students train to compete in the annual―and deadly―Equidium contest, flying giant, dragonfly-like orocs. But to add to her usual (bad) luck, an evil “Watcher” known as Olpheist is seeking her, anxious to retrieve something that will make him immortal. The first in an epic fantasy series from Jeff Rosen that will keep readers laughing and on the edge of their seats.
About the Author

Jeff  Rosen
Jeff RosenWhen he’s not writing Caley Cross, Jeff creates award-winning children's television series like Bo on the Go, Poko, Animal Mechanicals, The Mighty Jungle, Pirates!, Monster Math Squad, and Space Ranger Roger. He was the principal writer of the beloved Theodore Tugboat. Jeff’s programs have been viewed around the world and translated into numerous languages. Jeff was the founding creative partner of WildBrain (formerly DHX Media), a global children’s content company, home to Peanuts, Teletubbies, Strawberry Shortcake, Caillou, Inspector Gadget, and Degrassi. An accomplished painter, Jeff’s work can be found in galleries, at and on Instagram @ jeff.rosen Jeff lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his wife and vampire poodle, Vlad.


Sep 2, 2020

Early Reader Review: Fangs by Sarah Andersen

Source: From Netgalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review.

FangsFangs by Sarah Andersen
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date:  September 1, 2020

Format: Ebook


Goodreads Synopsis: 
A new gothic romance story from the creator of the enormously popular Sarah's Scribbles comics. 
Vamp is three hundred years old but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets a charming werewolf. FANGS chronicles the humor, sweetness, and awkwardness of meeting someone perfectly suited to you but also vastly different.
Former web comic now as a hardback! This graphic novel edition is hilarious and absolutely wonderful! I read it a few months ago and still giggle out loud when I think about scenes from it.

The graphic novel follows a vampire, named Elsie, who is obviously a little older than most, but living as a paranormal in our normal world. She meets Jimmy, a werewolf that strikes her fancy and we are along for a hilarious and wonderful ride as they adapt to one another's specialties and issues. The plot focuses on their love story and how they are together but also so very different but also how it all works. There is some awkwardness along with the hilariousness and it makes for a really adorable graphic novel. I absolute adored it, would read it again and again, and will be picking this one up for my collection. 

Perfect for fans of the paranormal, gothic, and funny romances.