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Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Snow Day by Kyla May

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Snow Day by Kyla May is the second installment in this delightful series for early readers. My daughter loves books with mysteries and animals. This pug is adorably drawn, is curious, and loves his owner Bella so much that he’ll even risk getting wet, which he hates.

Baron von Bubbles or Bubby has no idea what snow is, but the Duchess the Cat knows a secret. Snow is wet. When Bella has a snow day from school and wants to go outside, Bubby has a decision to make. His first experience with snow does not go well, but after some careful preparation, he’s ready for his next adventure. Carefully clothed and gorgeous, Bubby ventures into the snow and finds he loves building a snow fort with Bella, loves making Pug angels, and more.

My daughter loves reading about fashion-conscious Bubby and his adventures with his bear and Bella, and we both know that Nutz the squirrel is up to no good when he offers to help. When a strange beast moves in next door, Bubby and Bella grow anxious about meeting the new neighbor on a play date later that week. My daughter and I had fun trying to guess what the beast in the next yard was, and we were both way off. But at least we know our imaginations are in tact.

Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Snow Day by Kyla May is a fantastic book that teaches kids about how to step outside their comfort zones and how to deal with anxious moments. Bubby is quite a character, like most dogs, and Bella is a sweet girl who loves her pooch. We highly recommend this series and await the next book, which doesn’t come out until July!

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Kyla May is an Australian illustrator, writer, and designer. She is the creator and illustrator of Lotus Lane and Diary of a Pug, two early chapter book series. In addition to books, Kyla creates animation. She lives by the beach in Victoria, Australia, with her three daughters.

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Campfire Adventure by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Eva’s Campfire Adventure by Rebecca Elliott is a nice installment in the series of books that have kept my daughter excited about reading. She loves Eva and all her friends. In this book, Eva and her classmates do an overnight camping trip in the woods. Their teacher instructs them to complete a project with materials from the forest to make a useful tool by the end of the week. Eva’s classmates are quick to pair up and seek out material for their projects, but Eva and her best friend Lucy are too excited about the prospect of Nellie Wingdale’s legendary treasure.

My daughter could not wait to start this book after she received it for Christmas. I’m thankful she has more than one series of books that she loves now because there is a long wait for next owl book. She begged me to read just one more chapter on a few nights, which is why we finished this one so fast.

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Campfire Adventure by Rebecca Elliott is definitely one of our favorites in the series because the owl’s work together to find Nellie’s treasure, while striving to finish their class projects using materials from the forest. There are good lessons about cooperation and team work, as well as not taking on too many projects at once because, as Eva found out, you may fail to meet the deadline of one or more projects if you spread yourself too thin. It’s a good lesson for kids and adults.

RATING: Cinquain

Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd

Source: Purchased by my Secret Santa
Paperback, 190 pgs.
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Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd includes short stories around Christmas time in Pride & Prejudice‘s Darcy and Bennet households in Regency and modern times from Amy D’Orazio, Caitlin Williams, Anngela Schroeder, J. Marie Croft, Elizabeth Adams, Joana Starnes, and Lona Manning. Each story holds true to the characters, but places them in different situations at Christmas time.

Caitlin Williams’ “The Forfeit” has Elizabeth Bennet acting as frivolous and giddy as her younger sisters as she gets ready for the local ball. Her little wager with Mr. Darcy is one that could leave her vulnerable at the hands of a wealthy man, but readers know that the wager is friendly and Mr. Darcy is a stand-up guy of character. “It was only when she was sunk deep into the iron tub that she realised she had spent the last two hours in much the same fashion as Lydia and Kitty, minus, thankfully, some very silly giggling.” (pg. 20).

Other stories in the collection find the married Darcy’s enjoying some old and new traditions, together. But one of my favorites is “The Wishing Ball” by Amy D’Orazio engages readers in a mystery where Darcy has made a wish without actually making a wish, causing some confusion to a lonely single man of great fortune. But it also provides some comedy when his sister learns about the wish inside. “‘So some other man…another man, with the initials FDG and a tendency to make the letter I like he went to prep school in England, bought this ball, wrote a wish, placed it inside, then sealed it up, and returned it. Then I, your sister, just happened to come along and buy it? That’s your hypothesis?'” (pg. 52)

All of the stories in the collection will provide readers with a glimpse of Christmas time festivities in the Darcy and Bennet houses, but they also offer a unique look at how the Christmas spirit can enable Darcy and Lizzy to rethink their behavior towards one another and learn to be more charitable and forgiving.

Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd is a delightful collection of short stories with some of our favorite Pride & Prejudice characters learning to be more patient, kind, and forgiving. It was the perfect read for the holiday season.

RATING: Cinquain

Best Books of 2019

My list will include books not published in 2019, but ones I read in 2019. I prefer not to read only new books. I like to mix it up.

Each book will link back to my review, but I’ll also let you know why these books stuck in my mind even after I read them.

Click on the book covers, if you’d like to purchase the book via Amazon affiliate links and keep this blog running.

Top Five Fiction:

These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston is one of the most epic and tension-filled P&P variations I’ve ever read. I fell in love with Clarkston’s Colonel Fitzwilliam, and I wanted to hear more about his romance in Portugal. But beyond that, the story of Lizzy and Darcy takes on new levels as they dream about one another and their connection is even stronger than expected.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is an amazing tale about U.S. internment camps, hope in the eyes of adversity, questions about identity and how we define ourselves, and so much more. There are very few WWII books that are about the internment camps here in the United States, and this is the first one I read about that did not focus on the internment of the Japanese but on German Americans.

Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is told in verse and is stunning in its ability to capture so much about adolescence and growing up with restrictive parents, especially when Poet X is beginning to realize how creative and talented she is. This one really spoke to the younger poet in me.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream by Khanh Ha highlights the tragedy of war and how those that can cut the lives of loved ones short can also be the ones that provide closure to those dragged down by grief and still searching for answers.

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely is just one of two books in the series that had me laughing and shaking my head simultaneously. It is filled with humor and romance and listening on audio will have any romantic swoon. This one is a fun look at the role of the internet in romance, too.

President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid is a modern day P&P variation that places Darcy in the most prestigious position in America, which can be absolutely horrifying for someone who hates being in the public eye. I love that the presidential protocols are front and center and that Darcy will even flout them to gain Elizabeth’s favor, but what happens when they are thrust into the headlines will rock their worlds.

 

Top Four Poetry:

Skin Memory by John Sibley Williams is a more intimate look at identity and tragedy than the next collection on the list, which is why this one is so jarring and familiar to us all. Big themes are brought down to earth in this collection and grounded in the daily struggles we all face or have faced. I consider this part of series of poems begun in the collection below.

As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams is a wide look at society and identity and how we sometimes fail to realize that we tear ourselves apart in the search for what is “right.” Through recent historical events, the poet requires us to scrutinize our society through a new, intimate lens and to see the path forward — one full of hope that something new and better will rise from the ashes of the old.

Nanopedia by Charles Jensen picks apart the facade of American life, taking a scalpel to our bravery and claims of diversity to find classism, bigotry, and more beneath the surface. It is another collection that examines identity — the identity of every American and of America itself.

An Everyday Thing by Nancy Richardson looks at the intersection of politics and society, with some focus on the Kent State shootings. She juxtaposes these tragic events with the idea that these are an every day thing.

 

Top Two Short Story Collections:

Were We Awake by L.M. Brown explores our own hidden lives and the lies we tell ourselves just to keep up appearances or bury the pain we feel. Funny thing about lies, they have a way of surfacing when we least expect it. I couldn’t put it down and read it in one day.

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown is a collection of short stories set in Ireland with a cast of characters who are like little puzzles to solve. Even as we follow these characters, readers come to realize that where they come from — a tiny village bypassed by progress — is slowly dying. This dying town weighs heavily on these stories and is a character who motivates Brown’s protagonists or forces them to take action.

 

Top Three Kids:

Bunjitsu Bunny series by John Himmelmann is a series of books with a zen focus for kids that allows them to rethink how they react to certain situations — whether it is bullying or just something that doesn’t come easily to them — and it helped my daughter get into a reading groove when she was really struggling. Isabel is a strong character with a lot to learn and a lot to teach herself and her classmates.

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale is a new series that we started reading that has colorful illustrations, action, and adventure, as well as a cast of princess who are willing to save their own school.

Pug Pals: Yay for Vacay! by Flora Ahn is the second book in a series of pug books. My daughter loved these sister dogs and their antics. This was the best of the two we read because the sisters were over their initial hangups with each other and started working together. Plus the disguises they had were funny.

 

Top Two Memoir:

Beautiful Justice by Brooke Axtell is a journey from the darkness of sexual abuse and human trafficking, but it is so much more than that. It’s a creative journey for an artist who survived a great deal more than any child should be asked to endure. She offers a lot of examples of wrong turns she took in her recovery as well as many of the right ones. Through a mix of poetry and prose, we can catch a glimpse of the pain but her story is a tale that will speak to those who have suffered. She only asks that they find the courage to heal, to tell their stories when they are ready, and to do what they feel is right. She Is Rising is an organization the helps other women and girls that were abused or victims of human trafficking.

I Can’t Make This Up by Kevin Hart is a memoir of his rise as a comedian, and although some may find his comments crass at times and his language is foul, he tells his story with humor — laughing at himself but also presenting a case for restrictive parenting and how it ultimately helped him in his career choices.

 

Top Three Nonfiction:

The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas was a surprisingly informative, well researched, and engaging read. I initially thought that this book would be dry, but Barchas surprised me with her ability to connect with the reader effortlessly about her search for those cheap paperbacks that helped Jane Austen’s words reach the level of fame they have today. I was particularly fascinated with how companies used Austen’s cheap books to sell soap and other things.

Green Card and Other Essays by Áine Greaney is a collection of essays about the author’s immigration experience after leaving Ireland. She speaks to the sacrifices the family made when they came to the United States for a better life, but she also speaks to the secondary motivators of leaving one’s home land — not just the economic reasons many people ascribe to immigrants.

Weird But True! USA from National Geographic Kids offers a ton of information in digestible bits for kids. This is a book that adults and kids can share and quiz each other for years to come. It was fun to read this aloud as a family and revisit some of our favorites. We all learned something new.

 

Please leave your recommendations of books you loved in 2019. I’m quite sure I missed some great reads!

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is the sixth book in the series and was a joy to read. My daughter loved the colorful pictures and the adventure story. Plus princesses that become superheroes, how could you go wrong with this one.

Princess Magnolia has a poster for the science fair, but some of her classmates have created elaborate projects including a Bucket Boosting Teeter-Totter and a volcano. A volcano that talks? That can’t be right. The princess and some of her fellow students soon realize the volcano is carrying a goo monster, who is threatening to take over the entire science fair. Princess Magnolia soon transforms into The Princess in Black and spring into action to save the school’s science fair. Lucky for her she has a few helping heroes and princesses.

These princesses are savvy and work well together under pressure. My daughter loved reading how they solved the problem and determined how best to deal with the goo monster. Don’t worry, no goo monsters were harmed (too much) in the making of this adventure.

The illustrations are vibrant and action-packed just like the story. They enhance the tale. The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is a delightful book about the power of teamwork and how every day people can be heroes. And princesses don’t have to be rescued, but they can take action and solve problems on their own.

RATING: Cinquain

Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 160 pgs.
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Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski provides introductory information about computer science and coding, equating it to “the arts,” which can help kids see how they can use science to create. I liked this perspective in the introduction. I started out by reading the introduction myself and explaining it to my daughter in brief so she could follow along with the activities.

The text is a bit dense for my 8-year-old, but the activities are engaging enough for her education level. Some of these entry-level activities may be too elementary for older kids. To introduce kids to coding, the book explains logical thinking and why coding is necessary. It can help robots find things and decipher codes, and so much more. It was a good idea to share this with our daughter, but some of this may be more advanced than we expected.  It’s definitely a keeper.

Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski offers a lot of computer science inside concepts and activities for kids to try with their parents. On her own, our daughter would probably not have gotten very far because she’s not the right age for it. I think this would be better for older children. We still enjoyed our time with the book.

RATING: Quatrain

Pug Pals: Yay for Vaycay! by Flora Ahn

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Pug Pals: Yay for Vaycay! by Flora Ahn is the second book in the series in which Rosy and Sunny are off on an adventure far from home and without their human. While their human is away on vacation, Rosy and Sunny are spending time at the grandparents’ house. Sunny remembers the house, but this is the first time Rosy has been without their human and she’s a little nervous, until she begins to follow Sunny’s lead. Rosy and Sunny really enjoy watching TV with grandpa, even if the shows with Sherlock Holmes are not as exciting as the ones they watch with Officer Bert.

Rosy and Sunny are soon banished to the inside of the house after grandma suspects they’ve been eating all of her veggies and fruits in the garden. The pugs know that it wasn’t them, but they have no other suspects in sight and are prepared to accept their fate. That is until they remember Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It’s time for a quick costume change and a skip out the door.

While looking for clues, they run into Clover. He seems like a nice enough groundhog, and he’s intrigued by their efforts to find the thief. My daughter knew early on who the thief was, but it took the pugs a bit to figure it out.

Pug Pals: Yay for Vaycay! by Flora Ahn is a delightful story in which Sunny and Rosy are tasked with finding the thief and clearing their names in the eyes of grandma. In the end, everything works out and they are reunited with their human. My daughter loves these books, and we hope there are more to come. Rosy and Sunny are funny and really cute when they put on costumes — Rosy’s mustache had us laughing.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Christmas Poetry to Inspire by Jean Kay

Source: Purchased by Bookish Secret Santa
Paperback, 30 pgs.
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Christmas Poetry to Inspire by Jean Kay is a slim collection of poems about the beauty of the Christmas season and the celebrations Christians engage in. Kay speaks about a call for peace not only at Christmas time, but also throughout the entire year. There are a couple of lines that rang bitter in the first poems about changing “merry Christmas” to happy holidays, but overall, I think the poems stayed true to their message of peace and love.

In “Christmas Gatherings,” Kay’s lines speak about the burdens we all sometimes face and how God never burdens us with more than we can handle, but we all wish that we were not burdened with so much. She speaks of how Mother Theresa even felt the same, but this never deterred her from doing the great work she did throughout her life. In “Encouraging Peace,” Kay speaks about the power of peace as a state of mind and how if we encourage it in ourselves and others, it can spread like wildfire — hopefully ending the need for war and strife.

Jean Kay’s Christmas Poetry to Inspire aims to not only spread Christmas cheer, but also speak about the power of peace and our need to spread good will to others. One of my favorites in this collection was “Christmas Music,” in which Kay tells us a story with song titles from the season. Very unique and engaging.

RATING: Tercet

The Book of Queens: Legendary Leaders, Fierce Females, and Wonder Women Who Ruled the World by Stephanie Warren Drimmer

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 176 pgs.
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The Book of Queens: Legendary Leaders, Fierce Females, and Wonder Women Who Ruled the World by Stephanie Warren Drimmer breaks down 100 of the top female leaders of our history into bite-sized bits that younger readers can digest. It would be a fantastic addition to any classroom looking to expose students to these extraordinary women — rulers, fighters, entertainers, scientists, and so much more. The book includes a list of familiar names like Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Queen Elizabeth, Aretha Franklin, Ellen DeGeneres, and Helen Keller alongside less familiar female leaders, like Joan Cooney who helped create Sesame Street, Claudia Alexander who discovered Jupiter’s 21 moons, and Jeannette Rankin who helped get the 19th Amendment passed to give women the right to vote.

My daughter and I started out reading various ladies’ biographies haphazardly as she saw pictures that intrigued her enough to ask questions. We loved learning about the women who were familiar to me, but also those that were not. I love that there were so many women featured from traditionally male-dominated industries like space science. We’ll likely continue looking through this book and learning about different women.

The Book of Queens: Legendary Leaders, Fierce Females, and Wonder Women Who Ruled the World by Stephanie Warren Drimmer is a look at all of the women who have significant influence on politics, the world of science, fashion, music, and so much more. Included are a few short bios of men who may have influenced society as well. Drimmer makes each bio engaging and short enough to keep the interest of younger readers, which will get them thinking about where they can find more information about these famous women and men.

RATING: Quatrain

Diary of a Pug: Pug Blasts Off by Kyla May

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Diary of a Pug: Pug Blasts Off by Kyla May is another Branches book from Scholastic, which are books aimed at readers on the cusp of transitioning to chapter books and who are independent readers. We’ve read a number of books in the Owl Diaries series, but this is a new series my daughter found at her school book fair. She was able to buy this one while at school on her own, and I’m glad she did.

Baron von Bubbles, also known as Bub, is a pug who loves his owner, Bella. Bella is a smart, creative kid, who loves to invent things, and she’s getting ready for the school fair. Bub wants to help in any way he can. My daughter can read most of this book on her own, which is great because when she wasn’t tired one evening after her activities, she asked to read just one more chapter on her own before bed. The next day, she happily told me what happened, so I wouldn’t be lost when we picked up with the reading the following night.

Bub does not like to be wet, but he does love belly rubs, his skateboard, and peanut butter. In this adventure, Bub takes flight in his quest to retrieve his favorite teddy bear from Nutz, the squirrel. I was surprised Bub made it back home in one piece.

Diary of a Pug: Pug Blasts Off by Kyla May is full of fun adventure, and Bub is just adorable. My daughter really likes this series, and I think that she’ll likely be reading more.

RATING: Cinquain

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 2+ hours
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The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York, is a short novella similar to a Hallmark movie in which a young professional finds a certain young man from another division at her company annoying. Riley Kennedy‘s emails keep being sent to Kennedy Riley, who works in another division at the same company. But rather than simply forward her replies, he has to offer his two-cents. Clearly, writing personal emails to an advice columnist is ill-advised from a work email account, but Riley’s really bummed about the holiday’s and her mother’s bragadocious Christmas letter to everyone in the family about her siblings.

Kennedy offers her an out — take him home for the holidays as her boyfriend.

Yes, Hallmark lane, here we come. Is it cheesy? predictable? Ultimately, yes. However, we all need that feel-good, hilarity once in a while, and this one fit the bill for me. It doesn’t hurt that my ears have a crush on Sebastian York’s sultry voice, either.

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York, is fun, funny, and delightful. Complete with the white horse and city streets of New York.

RATING: Cinquain

Polar Bears Past Bedtime by Mary Pope Osborne

Source: Gift
Paperback, 71 pgs.
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Magic Tree House: Polar Bears Past Bedtime by Mary Pope Osborne finds our intrepid adventurers, Jack and Annie, on a night time excursion to the Arctic. Sadly, they fail to plan ahead and arrive in only their PJs, but lucky for them Morgan La Fey has sent them some help. A seal hunter soon arrives with his huskies and dogsled and offers them some warm clothes and parkas. Although we have not read these books in order, we are aware that the ultimate goal for Jack and Annie is to become Master Librarians. To achieve this, each adventure includes a riddle they have to solve, with each successful journey, they get closer and closer to their goal.

My daughter loves the adventure of these books, and I love that she’s learning new things. She’s studied Arctic foxes in school, as well as a little bit about polar bears, but this was an eye opener for her regarding seals and polar bears alike. When the ice is cracking and Jack and Annie are in trouble, she was surprised that they learned how to save themselves by watching a polar bear. What’s even funnier, is that we saw a similar situation in a Christmas movie after finishing this book and she told the characters in the movie what they should do to escape the cracking ice.

Magic Tree House: Polar Bears Past Bedtime by Mary Pope Osborne enables early readers to see and read what the protagonists are facing, understand the dangers, and realize that solutions can be found in nature and in books. We love this series, and these kids are intelligent with different personalities. Jack’s reserve and bookish nature balance out Annie’s intuitive and adventurous spirit.

RATING: Quatrain