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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 10+ hours
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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, narrated by the author, was our April book club selection. This memoir will have you wondering where child services was for most of Jeannette’s life. Her parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls, had three other children and were often negligent in their parenting, and even dangerous — placing their kids directly in dangerous situations or failing to prevent them from being in such places. The family moved a lot in the early days until her mother inherited some money that would have allowed them to live comfortably if budgeted well, but as her parents were very bohemian, practicality was outside their comfort zone.

Each child in this family was forced to find their own way to cope and survive, and some did so better than others. In many cases, the children went their separate ways, but there were times when they defended on another from their parents and from those willing to abuse them. Clinging to one another was an option, but eventually, West Virginia’s harsh landscape and judgment on outsiders forced the older children to seek their fortunes in New York City.

Walls has some tales to tell and many of them sound like they couldn’t possibly be true — did she really cook hotdogs by herself at age 3? While I wonder about the recollection of some events, I see that her point is not the chronology but the need for her to survive on her own most of the time, even though she had both parents at home. The kids acted more like adults on some occasions and when the kids called them out for it, they were punished because they were expected to respect their elders no matter what.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls at is core is a story of hope and survival. Walls should be commended for her bravery in speaking about her childhood, especially after hiding it for so long as she climbed the ladder in the world of journalism. Well written and engaging, this is a memoir that will have you regretting anytime you fought with your less bohemian parents.

RATING: Quatrain

What the Book Club Thought:

Everyone finished the book and thought the writing was very fluid. They were appalled by how the Walls’ children were treated by their parents and how the mother and father neglected their responsibilities on so many levels. There were moments in the book where some members wanted more information, particularly about the youngest child, but agreed that maybe Jeannette did not have memories of her youngest sister’s plight beyond what she wrote. This book was well discussed and raised a lot of issue as to whether the parents had an over-arching philosophy for how they lived their lives or whether it was merely selfishness. Very good discussion book.

About the Author:

Jeannette Walls is a writer and journalist. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, she graduated with honors from Barnard College, the women’s college affiliated with Columbia University. She published a bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, in 2005.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the Lost Pony (Book 8) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback,
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Owl Diaries: Eva and the Lost Pony (Book #8) by Rebecca Elliott offers lessons in what bravery is and how to be a good community member, but it also offers lessons in how we have a responsibility to listen to our elders and inform them when we’re not coming straight home. Kids need these lessons, especially as they age because they want more independence, but they often don’t realize that independence also comes with responsibility.

In this book, Eva and her friends are preparing to take the Owl Oath to be the keepers of the forest. The kids make projects to demonstrate what the oath means to them, and Eva wants to become a Storm Soldier and help the animals in the forest prepare for an oncoming storm. She creates a series of posters for the animals and tacks them up all around, but the storm comes faster than she expects.

What happens to Eva and the forest animals, and how does she meet the lost pony? Readers will love this adventure that’s full of adventure and some scary moments.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the Lost Pony (Book #8) by Rebecca Elliott is a fantastic edition to the series, and Elliott’s characters are evolving. Kids will love Eva and her friends, as well as their forest adventures. Parents will love the lessons these little owls learn about growing up and being part of a larger community.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 10+ hours
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And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, which was our book club selection for March, is narrated by Kate Reading and is the first in a series of Lady Emily mystery novels set in Victorian England. Lady Emily is a woman ahead of her time, interested in being free to do as she pleases without the constraints placed on her by society. Her marriage to Philip, the Viscount Ashton, comes quickly as she locks horns with her mother, who like Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice is eager to marry of her daughter to a man of great fortune.

Following her husbands fatal trip to Africa on safari, Lady Emily finds herself engrossed in his journals, learning more about her husband than she did during their short courtship and marriage. She’s fallen in love with him, as she never expected she would, but what she discovers could render his reputation and hers asunder. She embarks on an unconventional journey to uncover the truth, even if it means her husband is less honorable than she believed.

Alexander’s historical fiction is delightful with its colorful characters, red herrings, and societal constraints. Lady Emily has more wealth than other women would at this time, and her antics are a little less shocking in Victorian society than they otherwise would be, though her mother would disagree with me. The allusions to Mrs. Bennet are strong, but not quite as funny as the Mrs. Bennet in Austen’s novel. Lady Emily’s mother is a bit more grating on the nerves, but probably because she is only seen from Lady Emily’s point of view.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander is engaging, and I’d be interested to see what happens to Lady Emily in the second book and whether she warms up to marriage again later in her life. Living a life of independence, however, is something she’s not likely to let go of without some serious incentive.

Book Club:

Unfortunately, I missed the meeting for this book, as I had not finished it in time and have found myself extraordinarily busy with work, moving, and adjusting to home life changes.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

The daughter of two philosophy professors, Tasha Alexander grew up surrounded by books. She was convinced from an early age that she was born in the wrong century and spent much of her childhood under the dining room table pretending it was a covered wagon. Even there, she was never without a book in hand and loved reading and history more than anything. Alexander studied English Literature and Medieval History at the University of Notre Dame. Writing is a natural offshoot of reading, and my first novel, And Only to Deceive, was published in 2005. She’s the author of the long-running Lady Emily Series as well as the novel Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy by Daisy Meadows

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 176 pgs.
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Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy by Daisy Meadows is a chapter book for readers who are in grades two through five. My daughter is a pretty advanced reader but she still loves pictures, so this is a little tough for her to stay focused through, which is why we chose it as our nightly bedtime read-together book. Blossom has a very important job in fairy land. She has to keep the royal wedding on track and when things go awry in fairyland, they go wrong in the real world too. Kirsty and Rachel find this out first hand when Rachel’s Aunt Angela asks them for help with the flower girls and the wedding flowers.

We had a fun time reading this book together, and she was so caught up in tricking Jack Frost’s goblins into returning stolen wedding items. We ended up reading more than one chapter per night of this one.  She couldn’t wait to see what happened and if the fairytale endings for both weddings happened.

Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy by Daisy Meadows enables kids to see how to solve problems in real life, though the girls do ask for some fairy dust to help on occasion. These girls are crafty and get the job done, even when it looks like all is lost.

About the Book:

Here comes the bride!

Rachel’s Aunt Angela is a talented wedding planner. She’s organizing the biggest wedding Tippington has ever seen — and she needs Rachel and Kirsty’s help!

Rachel and Kirsty are put in charge of the bride’s flower girls. But when Jack Frost’s goblins show up uninvited, the wedding is in trouble. Luckily for everyone, Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy has a very special kind of magic — and she’s determined to make sure this wedding goes off without a hitch!

Find the magic objects in all three stories inside this Rainbow Magic Special Edition and help save the wedding magic!

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Daisy Meadows is the pseudonym used for the four writers of the Rainbow Magic children’s series: Narinder Dhami, Sue Bentley, Linda Chapman, and Sue Mongredien. Rainbow Magic features differing groups of fairies as main characters, including the Jewel fairies, Weather fairies, Pet fairies, Petal fairies, and Sporty fairies.

Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 4+ hours
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Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines, narrated by Ralph Lister and Ray Porter, thrusts listeners into a surreal world in which lizard men are interrogated by police and travel through time and in which zombies seek full human rights even though they are dead and could possibly begin eating living human beings.

Clines’ stories are highly imaginative and often rely on tropes from science fiction, but he twists them into his own inventions that leave readers considering ethical issues and more. Science fiction fans will enjoy this set of stories, but so too will those who can suspend their disbelief and have never read a “space” novel. He twists the tales of Jacob Marley and Superman to make them his own, and these stories are highly entertaining and clever.

Generally, short story collections are books that readers dip in and out of, but in the case of Clines’ book, readers will be hooked and keep reading until they’ve finished. Each story is unique and the characters are dynamic and fleshed out, but the stories are complete and do not leave readers hanging or wanting a resolution that doesn’t come. These stories encapsulate these worlds neatly and completely.

Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines, narrated by Ralph Lister and Ray Porter, is delightful, disturbing, and fun. Readers will be hooked and may even explore other “sci-fi” or apocalyptic books about zombies or aliens or superheroes.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Peter Clines grew up in the Stephen King fallout zone of Maine and–inspired by comic books, Star Wars, and Saturday morning cartoons–started writing at the age of eight with his first epic novel, LIZARD MEN FROM THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Source: School library
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, is currently the oldest U.S. Supreme Court justice, but she’s also a woman who understands what it is like to be told she cannot do something because she is female or because she is Jewish. Even as these moments must have been disheartening and made her sad, she persisted and resisted. These are phrases that are common in today’s world as many women are finding their voice and standing up for greater equality for all — men and women alike.

Imagine a time in history when women were told to find a husband instead of go to college or even law school. Imagine being one of 10 female students in law school where there were 500 men in one class. Imagine doing your best and there were still impediments to getting the job you wanted. These are the obstacles Ginsburg dealt with as a young woman and mother, but these are also the same obstacles that many minorities still face even in the 21st Century.

When reading this book with my daughter, she thought it was weird that Ginsburg was told she couldn’t be a lawyer because she was a mother and that she wouldn’t pay attention at work. She also thought it was mean that Jews were not allowed in certain places.  My daughter’s world is different in many ways, but in many ways still the same. I loved how Levy portrays Ginsburg’s tenacity without preaching and how she makes her relateable to elementary school kids, but does not talk down to them.

Ginsburg’s career and its law speak may be hard for some kids to understand, even the word “dissent” may need explanation. But this book will open a dialogue with children. I love that Levy has created a downloadable curriculum guide for classrooms, as well as the Glorious RBG Blog.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, is a wonderful addition to my daughter’s library at school, and funny enough, I purchased her a copy for her upcoming birthday this week.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Debbie Levy writes books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for people of all ages, particularly young people. Before becoming an author, she was a newspaper editor with American Lawyer Media and Legal Times; and before that, Levy was a lawyer with the Washington, D.C. law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now called WilmerHale). She lives in Maryland with her husband, Rick Hoffman.

Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery (Book 7) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery by Rebecca Elliott is the seventh book in this series with Eva Wingdale and her elementary school friends. In this book, Eva and her pals are going to help raise money for their friend Mia’s sister, who needs a special chair to help her fly. Not only does this book help children realize that people who are disabled are just like us with the same interests, but it also inspires them to creatively find ways to help their friend.

However, as kids are eagerly crafting ideas to help Mia’s sister, they soon make their plans competitive, eager to see which team will raise the most money and win. Losing sight of the purpose, Eva and her friends must find a way to work together to achieve their goals. Elliott’s characters mirror their human child counterparts — male and female — and they act as elementary kids would.  They are full of ideas and creativity, but they are also eager to show their teacher and others who is the best.

Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery by Rebecca Elliott is another wonderful book in the series that makes learning fun. The questions in the back are an added touch that teachers and parents can use to discuss the reading and get kids to think more broadly about their own school experiences.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: Baxter Is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Baxter is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott has Eva looking for her missing pet bat, Baxter. Eva is a very busy and social owl, but Baxter is her best friend and when he goes missing, Eva can’t help but blame herself, blame squirrels, and more. Her anxiety about not finding Baxter is fresh and keeps young kids concerned throughout the whole book.

Kids will learn how to deal with anxiety constructively in this book, as Eva gathers her friends and classmates around to search for Baxter. Even though no one has seen Baxter, they’re eager to help.

Owl Diaries: Baxter is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott is another delightful installment that helps kids navigate overwhelming feelings and loss without too much drama. Eva is an owl who looks to solve her own problems the best she can, but can accept help when she needs it. This is an important lesson for growing kids.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Said Not Said by Fred Marchant

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 78 pgs.
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Said Not Said by Fred Marchant differs from his previous collections that focused heavily on the Vietnam War and the effects of war on soldiers and those nations caught in war. His poems here tow the line between direct speech to the reader and remaining deafeningly silent, requiring the reader to parse out the meaning of his lines and over-arching themes. In this collection there are poems about the Vietnam War, the Benghazi issues, and the deterioration of his sister.

The poet is both witness and subject, and Marchant has an uncanny ability to not only empathize with “the other” but to inhabit their suffering in a way that makes it his own and requires the reader to take their own ownership of that suffering.

“Twin Tulips” is particularly powerful as the narrator is running his finger down the stem of tulips painted in watercolor that falls down the page like tears she shed as she struggled to hold onto her memories and herself even as her mental faculties stripped them away. There is significant beauty in the sorrow, but there is a longing that remains with the last words — “as long as” — because we often feel the same. We want to hold on as long as we can, even though we know that time in finite for each of us.

This theme is carried through the collection and appears in “Forty Years”:

How the sound of the rust-bucket trawler named Memory followed her
wherever she went, its torn nets dragged across the floor of her being, the
silt clouds and debris fields, a stern winch sounding a lot like pain.

Said Not Said by Fred Marchant is wonderfully rendered and deeply emotional. It tracks the sorrow tied to mortality, but it also demonstrates the connection we share as a humanity. This connection needs to be cherished and never forgotten no matter how we age. It is this connection that imbues us with empathy and understanding — something we need more of in modern society.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Couldn’t resist sharing this old gem.

About the poet:

Fred Marchant is the author of four books of poetry, including Full Moon Boat, The Looking House, and his most recent collection, Said Not Said, all from Graywolf Press. His first book, Tipping Point, won the 1993 Washington Prize from The Word Works, and was recently re-issued in a 20th Anniversary Second Edition. House on Water, House in Air, a new and selected poems was published in Ireland by Dedalus Press. He is the editor of Another World Instead, a selection of William Stafford’s early poetry, also published by Graywolf Press. With Nguy?n Bá Chung, he co-translated From a Corner of My Yard, poems by Tr?n Dang Khoa, and published in Hà N?i. Emeritus Professor of English at Suffolk University in Boston, Marchant is the founding director of that school’s creative writing program and Poetry Center. He lives in Arlington, MA.

Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (Book 5) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (Book 5) by Rebecca Elliott is a delightful addition to the series in which the owls celebrate a holiday like Valentine’s Day. But the owl’s holiday is more about getting along with everyone and learning to help one another out. Elliott helps younger readers learn empathy and how to prioritize things that happen in their lives.  While making presents for family is a nice way to celebrate, it is better to share gifts with those in need and to help those less fortunate.

This series is going fast, with my daughter asking for more than one chapter to be read per night. We’re sometimes reading two chapters at a time, and the other day, she wanted to buy owl pjs so she could be like Eva Wingdale. Ms. Elliott is missing out on merchandising here.

As always, the book is told in diary format with colorful illustrations. This format makes it easy for younger readers to follow along, and my daughter is getting to know the days of the week better than ever by sight.

Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (book 5) by Rebecca Elliott is just one in a series of books to share with your children at bedtime. Eva is a delightful, caring little owl who is still learning how to see beyond her own concerns.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Finding Momo by Andrew Knapp

Source: gift
Paperback, 144 pgs.
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Finding Momo by Andrew Knapp is photography-activity book for young and old alike. If you ever had fun looking for Waldo, you’ll have fun looking for Momo. Knapp’s photos of Momo are inventive.  Whether in fields or outside homes, Momo is easily spotted with his black-and-white fur, but there are some instances where he blends right in. Knapp even includes a key in the back if you need a little bit of help.

My daughter had a good time when this book arrived.  I spent another day on my own checking out Momo and seeking his cute little face.  It’s clear this dog and his owner go on a lot of adventures together. I may just have to follow Momo on Instagram where it all began.  How about you?

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Andrew Knapp, born in Sudbury, Ontario and has travelled extensively with his border collie. In his first book, New York Times Bestseller Find Momo (2014), the reader is introduced to the hide-and-seek loving Momo who is cleverly camouflaged in each photo. His second book, Find Momo Coast to Coast to be released May 19th, 2015, and features photos of landmarks and odd finds on a road trip from coast to coast across the United States and Canada in a VW camper van. Andrew is also the co-founder of We Live Up Here, a multimedia project founded to connect and inspire folks in his hometown and across the world through collaborative art.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl (Book 4) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs
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Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott is the fourth book in this illustrated series of chapter books for younger readers. My daughter is so eager to read these, it is tough to say no even when it is a school night and it’s past her bedtime.

Eva’s class learns that a new owl will be joining the class, and the whole place is aflutter with anticipation. Eva is determined to make friends with the new owl, and to make sure that the new owl is not friends with Meany McMeanerson, aka Sue.  Lucy, Eva’s best friend, also wants to be friends with the new owl, but Eva is so enthusiastic that she loses her focus and starts to neglect her best friend.

Without preaching too much, Eva’s mother offers her daughter some sound advice about friendships.  Elliott certainly understands what keeps younger kids interested in stories — colorful pictures and stories they can relate to — and this fourth book is definitely engaging.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott will teach kids about what it means to be a true friend and how new owls shouldn’t take the place of the old. I love that this series has comprehension questions in the back that are fun for kids, allowing them to revisit the story after they’ve finished reading it.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.