This Blog is Dedicated to our dear friend Karen.
When she left this life she left a hole in our hearts as well as several to be read books.
We, her friends, will read these books for her.
This blog will be a sort of book club for us to post our thoughts and feelings about the stories and feelings we have of Karen while we read.

Monday, June 29, 2015

#336 A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

I am so excited to post about this book. I had started to read it a few years ago. I put it aside as it was hard to get into. I knew it was one of Mandy's favorites, I knew it would be good. When Lori, Mandy and I were in Brooklyn together Mandy made mention of the book often. Oh how I wish I had read it before our trip together. It would've been fun to walk around Williamsburg together and imagined Francie walking the same streets we walked on. The stories we could've made up while we were there. While reading this I was caught up in imagining where their apartment, the schools, the church, were. I want to go back --what do ya say Mandy??

This is a story of a girl who grows up in Williamsburg,  a neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn, NY, in 1916. Her life is not an easy life, her father who she adores struggles to earn enough to support both his family and his drinking habit. Her mother works herself ragged  cleaning apartment buildings.
Francie and her brother Neeley, collect scrap metal to turn in for pennies.
All Francie wants is to go to school, and become a writer. When tragedy strikes their family her dreams are dismissed as she realizes what she must do in order to help where she can.

The story for me had many different themes, I'm curious what others come up with as they read this.
I think Karen would have enjoyed this book.

Dark Places #40 by Gillian Flynn

This book is based in rural Kansas. Such a SAD story! It is told from the point of view from what is to believed the only survivor of a murder that took place of a family in an old farm home. The teenage brother is convicted of the murder of his mother and two of his sisters. Libby his only sibling that survived ran and hid in the field until the police arrived the next day.

Libby grows up with this horrible day pretty much defining her life as the survivor/victim. She lives off of the money well-wishers had given her in a fund after the murder took place. Now 25 the money has run out and she is forced to figure out what to do with her life. She is then contacted by a group that is convinced of her brother's innocence. This was such a weird concept to her because she has always believed her brother to be guilty but then begins to question her entire view of that night especially considering she was very frightened 7 year old girl that night.

As per usual with Gillian Flynn books this one takes some twists and turns that you do not see coming. This one had a way better ending than Gone Girl I have to say though.

-read by Abby 6/29/15

Monday, June 22, 2015

#237 The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne


I'm glad I finally got around to reading this one.  It's listed under BBC's 100 must-read books so I always enjoy checking off one, however, I am not a fan of the Pooh books.  They are just okay for me.  I do love the size of the book and cover and just the feel of the book, but I was bored throughout the stories.  I think kids today would find themselves quite bored with them, too, which is too bad. 

I was surprised to find out Eeyore is not the character Disney created.  He is a very sarcastic, negative, depressed, mean and very unlikable character!  I can see why Disney would change it as no one would like him in the cartoons if he was the same character as the books.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

#66 The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls


Finally, a book that I just really enjoyed.  Perfect story telling. 

Takes place in 1970's, two sisters pretty much on their own as their mom (which had signs of bi-polar, but was not diagnosed in the book) kept taking off and abandoning her girls to care for themselves.  The girls were 12 and 14.  The girls took a greyhound all the way from California to Virginia to live with their Uncle leaving a note behind for their mom, just in case she showed up later.

The story really takes off once they move in with their reclusive uncle.  He cares for them the best he can while the girls do the rest.  They are faced with many challenges and trials and find comfort in each other. 

I just really enjoyed this book.  It was a fast read, really nothing special, but like I said, nice story-telling. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

#130 The Duckling Get a Cookie Mo Willems


This poor little pigeon.  He thinks he has it so bad and is surprised by some kindness from this little chick. 

#133 Whats Your Sound Hound the Hound? Mo Willems


Out of all of Mo Willems books (which I am a fan) this series is my least favorite.  I just think they are silly, however, they may be perfect for the early-readers. 

#158 The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! Mo Willems


I read this book to my daughter and she laughs at all of Mo Willems books.  Willems has the ability to make young and old laugh with his illustrations and stories.  This one the pigeon wants a puppy, but the description he is giving is closer to a plant.  It made us laugh.

#132 Let's Say HI to Friends Who Fly! Mo Willems


An easy-reader with bright pictures and repetitive words with a dash of humor for the beginner reader.

#143 Can I Play Too? Mo Willems


I think this one was meant to show just because people are different doesn't mean they should be treated differently. 

#154 Today I Will Fly! Mo Willems


Another great one.  I loved the facial expressions in this one.

#131 Happy Pig Day! Mo Willems


A day to celebrate Pigs! 

#156 There Is a Bird on Your Head! Mo Willems


This was another funny one by Mo Willems.  Elephant has not only one, but two birds on his head, "love birds", that make a nest and have baby birds.  After asking nicely the birds found a new home...on Pig's head. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

#118 Among the Hidden (Shadow Box Series) Margaret Peterson Haddix


This was a good start to the series. It introduces us to Luke, who is the third son in a family and, therefore, illegal. It seems that, due to food shortages, the government passed laws that limit each family to only two children. Luke has remained hidden his whole life; living on a farm, he could be out in the yard, but if a car comes to the house, he has to run into the house and hide in the attic. Now, the woods around the family's farm are being torn down, and houses are being built near their house, so Luke can't even go outside anymore. And soon, he can't even be on the ground floor of the house, in case someone might see him through the windows. He lives in the attic and eats his meals on the stairs, while his family eats ten feet away from him at the table.

But one day, peeking through the windows in the attic, Luke sees a girl in one of the houses next door - a house that already has two boys living in it! And he realizes that he may not be the only hidden child in the neighborhood.

If I had one complaint about this book, it's that it felt too short. The premise of the two-child law is established, Luke meets the other third-child, and things come to a head and the book is over. Of course, it is the first book in a series, so there should be plenty of opportunity in the following volumes to flesh out the story more. But I really enjoyed this volume, and I look forward to continuing the series.


#200 Beauty's Release by Anne Rice


So, one of the difficulties with writing a review for the last book in a series is in writing about the plot or characters without giving away any spoilers. But I feel safe in writing about this book without revealing too much - because, just like in the other two books - not much happens! Oh sure, things are being done (usually to other people) but there's no real action to the plot.

Beauty and several of the other "love-slaves" from the kingdom are kidnapped and taken to some Middle Eastern country to serve as "love-slaves" there. The difference is that the servitude and punishments are more psychological than at the castle in the first book, or the village in the second book. The slaves are not allowed to speak, and their "masters" look at them not as humans but as beasts to be used for their pleasure (and as "art" and ornamentation on walls and furniture, apparently).

The other big difference between this book and the others is that "forbidden love" (i.e. man-on-man and woman-on-woman sex) is explored a bit more. Beauty, who in the previous books was eager to submit to her "masters" but never really loved any of them, finds herself in a secret affair with one of the sultan's wives. And Laurent (who hardly featured in the second book and wasn't even in the first book, but is now one of the main characters in this third volume) turns the tables on his master and becomes the master himself, falling in love with his former master. (Confused yet?) Immediately after these developments (and I mean *immediately*), Beauty and Laurent are re-kidnapped by people from the kingdom, and eventually, like in any fairy tale, they all live happily ever after. (Of course, their ideas of "happily ever after" are vastly different from your usual fairy tale prince and princess!)


Friday, June 12, 2015

#172 Gracelin O'Malley by Ann Moore


Gracelin O'Malley is a historical fiction novel that takes place in Ireland during some of their most difficult years.  The Irish people rented their own land from British rule and worked the land and would have to send most of their fruits and labor to England.  The Irish lived off of what was left after full days and years of farming the land.  The Irish knew they would never get ahead, but did not see another way and that's where the story takes place.

Gracelin O'Malley wed a sociopathic, English landowner that her father had insisted upon (at the age of 15) as her father wanted her to have a better life.  Gracelin endured much abuse and loss from this marriage, but she was also able to help so many as she would sneak and feed the hungry and poor of Ireland. 

Times continued to get worse in the country with the great potato famine and this seemed to go on for years.  Pages and pages I read of the starving, yellow-fever, and all manner of disease and things just continued to get worse.  I didn't realize this book was the first of a 3 book series.  I don't know if I will finish the series as I did enjoy the book, but what a relief it was to finally finish it. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

#149 Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn't Knew She was Extinct by Mo Willems


I couldn't help but think, it's too bad Danny the Dinosaur never met Edwina.  What a nice pair those two would make and a fun book, too!

#150 City dog, Country frog Mo Willems


This is not a typical Mo Willems book.  I'm not sure what to think of  it.  The illustrations were not of his own and the story felt more serious than his others.  It's about a "city dog" making friends with some country animals and the two learning from each other.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

#141 Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo Willems


This was a chapter book of sorts.  I suppose a beginner chapter book.  Lauren loved the drawings and after we finished it she grabbed a piece of paper and traced them.  Her favorite part was: "Seven cents".  She laughed and laughed.

#134 Time to Sleep Sheep the Sheep! Mo Willems


Another easy reader.  This one has repetitive words so the reader will recognize them and learn them more quickly with pictures to identify the words.  Bright colors and cute illustrations. 

#148 I Love My New Toy! Mo Willems


"Friends are more fun than toys."  Says it all. 

#151 I Am Invited to a Party! Mo Willems


Another one that made me laugh.  The ending was perfect.  Very cute.

#145 Elephants Cannot Dance! Mo Willems


Piggie wants Elephant to dance, but elephants cannot dance.  However, once he tries he becomes quite the hit and others want to learn the "elephant dance".

#142 Pigs Make Me Sneeze Mo Willems


Another great one about Piggie and Elephant.  Elephant catches a cold but thinks he is allergic to his best friend.  Elephant's dramatic facial expressions make this book.

#137 Cat the Cat Who is That? Mo Willems


This is a very beginner reader.  Some rhyming, easy words, just a few per page and a very short book, too.  I am sure kids enjoy the bright colors and large words to help them get excited about reading.

#147 Are You Ready to Play Outside? Mo Willems


This one wasn't as funny as I Am Going! but it was cute and sweet.  Piggie wasn't happy it started to rain and ruined his plans, but Elephant made it all better.  What a good friend.

#140 I Am Going! Mo Willems


This book was so funny.  Elephant is one needy friend.  Pig needed to go and Elephant wouldn't let him go and overreacted.  Lauren was laughing so hard at Elephant.  Such good books.

Friday, June 5, 2015

#201 Beauty's Punishment by Anne Rice


So, in the first book there was very little real plot. A lot of activity, but it was all "I do this stuff to you, now go over there and they'll do some more stuff to you, and now come back here and I'll do some different stuff to you, and do you like it? Then I'm not going to do it, I'll do this other stuff instead."

In this second volume, Beauty and Tristan (another slave) are taken down to the village, so the villagers can do some more stuff to them. But at least it's a change of scenery. And the chapters alternate between Beauty's story and Tristan's. We begin to see the soul-searching that we saw a little of at the end of book one; Beauty and Tristan both, for different reasons, begin to recognize that they want and "need" the kind of treatment they're receiving. There is a bit of self-realization beginning to develop in these two characters (although the rest of the characters remain pretty one-dimensional).
And then, finally, at the end of the book, there's a bit of actual plot, some things start to actually happen. And the book ends.

Unlike the first volume, which I felt failed as erotica, this volume seemed to "keep my interest ", if you know what I mean. Perhaps it was because half of the story is told from the male character's point of view. At any rate, I feel this was more successful as a piece of erotic writing. And there was more happening (plot-wise) than in the first volume, so this was more entertaining to read in general.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

#160 Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

490867When I grabbed this book from library Sam said, "Oh, I loved that book."  Funny, because I don't ever remember this Mo Willems book.  Even after reading it, it's not familiar to me.  What I did enjoy is seeing an onlooker in the story wearing a t-shirt with the pigeon from another series of Mo Willems.  Very clever.  It was like spotting Stan Lee in one of his Marvel movies.  I think any mother reading this can relate in a sense if their child had/has a special security blanket/stuffed animal/etc...  Another good book by Mo Willems.

#135 Time to Say Please by Mo Willems


This book reminded me of a Children's Lit class I took in college several years ago.  It fits all the criteria the teacher told us to look for such as, "does the book show people of different race and culture?"  And this one did.  You had families of all colors and what I like about that is how this book is about manners and it doesn't matter where you come from or what color you are; manners are important.  Good children's book.

#157 Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems


I wonder if "Monsters Inc." came from this story.  Very similar to each other.  Leonardo wishes to be scarier and decides to find the "biggest scaredy cat to scare the tuna salad out of him" and so he find a boy named Sam.  Well, he wasn't able to scare Sam, but he learned why Sam was so sad so decided to become his friend instead.  Cute story.

#138 I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems


These books are best read aloud (to young kids).  When I read them aloud to one of my kids (even though they are older) we laugh and laugh.  When I read it to myself I do smile, but it's not the same.  I did laugh at Pig's face after getting annoyed with Elephant's long story about how he broke his trunk.  These two are very funny.

#155 My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems

My Friend is Sad

Another great one by Mo Willems.  Pig was trying to cheer up Elephant by dressing up as the elephant's favorite things, but nothing seemed to cheer him up until the pig came as himself.  Elephant just missed Pig.  Sweet and funny story.

#144 Watch Me Throw the Ball! by Mo Willems

Watch Me Throw the Ball!

I read this with Sam while waiting for our burgers at Sonic and we were both laughing.  So, so funny.  This one is definitely my sense of humor and I'm looking forward to sharing this series with our new little one down the road.