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Sandy

My Never Ending List

I read almost every genre & I enjoy venturing into unfamiliar territory. As a library volunteer, I'm constantly bringing home novels. Being a substitute teacher, I read lots of YA & children's books.  

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined - Danielle Younge-Ullman
This book was a beauty. I thought I was getting a novel about a teen on a camping survival excursion but I got way more than that. This novel was more than survival, it was about living and loving.
 
Ingrid grew up under the lights of the opera house, her mom was a star and she enjoyed being the center of attention. The glamorous life suited Margot-Sophia until her voice stopped working for her. Now, Margot-Sophia was on a downhill spiral and she was taking Ingrid with her.
 
Ingrid was now forced to avoid music, forced to avoid anything that had to do with music for in doing so, this was one area where tranquility was felt in the household. This evading was hard on Ingrid as she loved music yet, keeping her mother calm had been worth it for many years.
 
There aren’t many years of school left for Ingrid so she secretly decides to try out for the school play. When she surprisingly gets a part, I cringed to think what her mother would do. They’re both strong-willed individuals at this point in the novel but someone has to compromise here. They both held on tight as Ingrid breaks the news. Adjusting to this new routine, they each tried to hold their own ground while tensions ran high. Wow, this section of the novel was intense and the pages were flying.
 
Currently, we find Ingrid frustrated again with her mother. Mother signed Ingrid up for a 3-week summer camp which was okay with Ingrid. This camp is another one of mother’s devises and as Ingrid discovers, this camp is not the same camp on the brochure Ingrid had. This is a 3-week survival camp that will push Ingrid abilities, strengthening her physically and mentally until the very end. Ingrid will spend 3-weeks with teens who are struggling with a variety of issues and at first, Ingrid feels like an outsider as she feels she has nothing in common with them. As the days pass, Ingrid begins to see things differently.
 
After a couple chapters, I realized I couldn’t put this novel down. I liked how the novel flashed back and forth from Ingrid childhood to present day. I enjoyed reading about the challenges the group had the 3-weeks at camp. The assault in the novel threw a whole new set of emotions and thoughts through me. I really enjoyed the ending, I thought it was fantastic.
 
This is a novel that you’ll be glad that you picked up as I’m sure glad that I did. It’s one that I’ll definitely be rereading in the future.

 

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair - Amy Makechnie's
What a fantastic read. This story was more entertaining than I had anticipated as it has interesting characters with captivating storylines. I enjoyed the character of Gwyn as she was a spunky, sassy ten-year old who I found, was unpredictable. As her family moves to Iowa to try to help her mother, Gwyn discovers just because Iowa has small town living, doesn’t mean it is short on adventure.
 
Gwyn’s father is hoping that moving to Iowa will help his wife who has a brain injury. As the family moves in with Nana, into their mother’s old childhood home, mother moves into a care center in town. With familiar faces and sights surrounding them, the town offers the family comfort and history. As Gwyn and her sister Bitty make new friends, they find that the connections that they are now making were once friends with her parents or they were somehow connected to her parents. This is definitely not like New York where they had come from.
 
When Wilbur goes missing, Gwyn puts on her mystery hat and she becomes Nancy Drew. She starts her own investigation because she feels that there’s not enough being done to resolve Wilbur’s whereabouts. As Gwyn investigates, she discovers other information about individuals in her life, information that gets Gwyn thinking. Gwyn never thought living in Iowa would be this interesting.
 
I loved all the characters and the energy they added to the novel. Gaysie was a handful, the more I read about her, the more I started to understand her yet I wondered who else in the town really understood her. The Christmas gift that Gwyn got from Gaysie was priceless and that gift surprised me. Chapter #13 had to be one of my favorite chapters. I was having a good time as I laughed, was alarmed, was surprised and just kept on reading as this chapter thrilled me. I was touched by Bitty and Gwyn’s unspoken code. They warranted the code, as it was one of the benefits of Vienna being their mother, “benefits.” I liked that.
 
I think this would be a great read aloud and definitely a book to share in the classroom. I really enjoyed it.
 
“Sometimes quiet Iowa was way scarier than cray, loud New York ever was.”

 

There Was An Old Mermaid Who Swallowed a Shark!

There Was An Old Mermaid Who Swallowed a Shark - Lucille Colandro
This children’s book is just like the traditional, “I know an old lady who…….” but this book has a slight twist. This book is educational and it is filled with ocean creatures and has more sentences inside than the traditional book of its nature. This book has more meat to it, more substance, and I feel that I enjoyed it more. I did have to slow down to read it which took a bit out of me since I usually have a rhythm down when I read this type of book.
 
This book begins when the old mermaid swallows a shark and “it left no mark” and then, on the next page we learn a bit more about sharks. The old mermaid then, swallows a squid, “that’s what she did!” and she did that to float with the shark, because I guess the shark was lonely. The book continues on with a fish, an eel, a crab, and a few other ocean creatures until the very end. Through the book, we learn about the various creatures the old mermaid swallows in cute, rhyming sentences. At the back of the book, there is a two-page spread with detail information about the various water creatures the book mentions. There is also a Search and Find in the back pages, allowing readers to search back through the book to find other creatures that are located in the ocean. By matching the pictures/words on these two pages to where the creatures are located in the book.
 
The illustrations in this book are bright and colorful and I liked the size of this book, as it’s easy to grasp. The old mermaid is looks exciting and happy as she swims about in the ocean. I think the educational information provided in the novel is worthy and not overwhelming. The book has a great flow and it’s a fun book to read and look at.

 

Pretend I'm Dead

Pretend I'm Dead:  A Novel - Jen Beagin
I don’t know what possessed me to read this book. I mean, this is totally out of my character. There were a few times I wanted to put this book away but I trudged through it. I enjoyed this novel at the beginning but the more I got into it, it was like a rollercoaster, some parts were really good and then they became twisted and bizarre.
 
Mona cleans houses for a living and she also volunteers at the needle exchange. She usually sees the same clientele when she volunteers but it is this one fellow who catches her eye. She calls him Mr. Disgusting and she starts to daydream about him. Well, daydreaming isn’t enough for Mona and after receiving his contact information, she calls and visits him. They are good together for they’re alike in some ways yet they’re from different worlds. The two of them are unusual people yet Mona is stable while he likes to live on the edge.
 
When Mona decides to enter Mr. Disgusting drug world, I cringed. What happened next turned the novel upside down, I thought. Mona’s response was not expected and Mr. Disgusting takes a turn for the worst.
 
Walking down memory lane with Mona, she evoked in me a variety of emotions, as she told stories of her eccentric behavior. Her fascinations and her fantasies, were for the most part on repeat.
 
I should have quit reading while the reading was good. I should have quit when my image of Mona was not as warped as it is now. I’m just glad I don’t have a house-cleaner and my private things are somewhat safe.

 

Where the Watermelons Grow

Where the Watermelons Grow - Cindy Baldwin
This book is spectacular. Cindy tackles the issue of mental illness on a young family: its unpredictability, the stress, the emotions and how this illness affects everyone around them. This middle school novel is not just for children, it’s for anyone who has been touched by mental illness as Della’s father says it perfectly when he lies about his wife’s absence. “Lots of people, they don’t understand an illness like your mama’s, like schizophrenia. They hear that name and start to use hurtful words, like “crazy” and “psychotic” and start seeing a person as just a disease, not a human being.” So, they feel that it’s just better that they lie or not say anything about her condition.
 
Eleven-year old Della would do anything to cure her mother. Della feels she’s at fault for her mother’s disease and since her mama won’t go to the doctor, she intends to cure her. She doesn’t just want the symptoms go away, like they have in the past, she wants a healthy mama. But as the days go by, it seems mama is getting worse.
 
Della tries a variety of ways to cure her mama but mama’s behavior is worsening and she is being unpredictable. In an area where neighbors help neighbors, Della feels alone and scared as she knows she can’t reveal to anyone their family’s secret. Arden, her best friend, who knows a bit about the situation, carries the weight of secrecy and friendship, watching her friend suffer.
 
I loved the Southern atmosphere of this novel where the community was positively involved in the lives of their neighbors. The concern for them yet the knowledge of knowing when to step away was felt as individuals drifted into Della’s family’s routine. The weight of responsibility that Della felt for her mother’s illness was heavy, yet that is how she felt as words of her mother’s illness were heard upon her ears. I felt for Della as she tried to help but it was like a losing battle.
 
Her little sister was a handful and I had to laugh and shake my head at her adventures. I felt Mylie needed someone to take her out and just run with her: run and run and run!
 
I loved the reference to the books as I read. Since I love The Graveyard Book, I was thrilled to see this book mentioned and how the character cited it. This book is filled with friendship, struggles, family, determination and love, it’s a book that you will not forget. I really enjoyed this book and feel that it’s a book that not only children will enjoy.
 
“Sometimes when things are bad for me, books get to be some of my best friends.”

 

The Mortification of Fovea Munson

The Mortification of Fovea Munson - Mary Winn Heider
If you’re ready for some silliness, this children’s book is for you. If you can handle talking heads and I am not talking about the band, this kids book is for you. If you like a feisty, entertaining grandma, who loves to have a good time, start reading this book, as grandma will show you how she’s leading her life and she will not let you down.
 
You start to feel sorry for Fovea as her parents work on cadavers and she’s embarrassed at what they do. Her best friend has ditched her and when summer camp is cancelled, Fovea plans for the summer are zilch.
 
When Fovea’s mother suggests that she work at the lab with them, Fovea immediately thinks of many other things she’d rather do but her mother wins and Fovea summer plans are at the lab. Supposedly alone at the lab, Fovea hears voices but that can’t be right. She soon discovers that two defrosting heads are carrying on a conversation on the lab table. Try to wrap your head around that one! In a restricted room, Fovea tries to cover her tracks so her parents don’t find out she was in that room, but the heads know she was there and they talk to her. They want a favor from her but she must leave quickly before her parent return.
 
As Fovea tries to come to grips with her encounter, she notices that her parents are acting quite peculiar. Left alone again, Fovea makes some new discoveries on her own before talking to the men who sit on the table.
 
The men which now amount to three, still need a favor from Fovea and after what she had discovered, she needs help from these men now too. It’s quite an adventure for Fovea as she tries to help them and seek the answers she needs.
 
It’s a silly escapade for Fovea to undertake but quite an entertaining journey for her summer vacation. I liked how there were a few illustrations inside the novel. I enjoyed having her grandma along for she added spark and entertainment to the adventure. The story moved quickly and I think the story will be enjoyed by kids who like their stories a bit crazy.

 

The Creativity Project

The Creativity Project - Colby Sharp
I thought this book was interesting. It is filled with writing prompts and then, responses to these writing prompts. From pictures to texts, these writing prompts were all over the place for they had great variety. I really enjoyed the prompts and the responses were okay. Many of the responses felt off for me, and I just didn’t care for them. There were a few that I really enjoyed and they were very creative. The book is about promoting creativity and that they did. I really liked the idea behind using picture prompts and writing a response based on the picture. The pictures they included in this book consisted of nature scenes, faces, and drawings. The writing prompts were creative and included: parts of poems, the beginning of a sentence, a conversation, a scenario, and situations similar to these.
 
These were a few of my favorites: You’re visiting a distant relative who lives in an old Victorian house. While everyone is downstairs, you sneak away and go upstairs and come across a loose floorboard. You inspect it, the board comes up, and inside it you find….. “I have everything I needed inside my pockets: twenty-five dollars, Chapstick, a map and …………………….” “create something that includes a tree looking out of place.” I remember………..for 5 minutes write down everything you can remember- good and bad memories, funny memories, anything. Then, pick one and write about it.
 
I liked the variety inside this book, some ideas were more creative than others but their ideas were worth pondering over. Their ideas might inspire you/me to create some great writing prompts yourself/ourselves. This is a fun writing tool.

 

Shark Lady

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist - Jess Keating, Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Eugenie love for sharks started at a young age. She began studying them and soon she was fascinated by them. While others were trying to direct Eugenie towards a more female dominate career, she already knew in her heart what she wanted to do. She wanted to study zoology. Discouraged by her college professors, Eugenie dove into her studies and was determined to get the degree she wanted.
 
With her degree in hand, Eugenie was not finished, for there was work to do. Work that she was very successful in getting accomplished and paving herself a fine path in recognition. She was so successful that she earned the name, “Shark Lady.” Eugenie was a very brave and spirited woman who proved many people wrong and she lived out her dream.
 
This book is very colorful and shows the life of Eugenie is a positive and dynamic way. It shows her determination, her fascination with sharks, her ambition and what she accomplished. There were a few pages in the back of the book with facts about sharks and there is also a timetable high-lightening the important events in her life. She was truly an important individual whose spirit brought forth some important discoveries to these underwater species.

 

If Sharks Disappeared

If Sharks Disappeared - Lily Williams
If all the sharks disappeared in the world, life as we know it, would cease to exist. It’s the circle of life inside this children’s nonfiction book and I enjoyed how Lily Williams told this story.
 
Beginning with how important sharks are to our environment, to their evolution over the years, sharks are important, no matter how scary they are. On the top of the food chain, sharks help create a balance in our world and without that balance, our world would become unstable and even us humans, would be affected. Beginning in the water, this devastating event would affect many inhabitants on land, water and air.
 
Great illustrations accompany this education text. A book that shows how one event can have a rippling effect. I picked up this novel because Shark Week is coming up.

 

Hot X: Algebra Exposed

Hot X: Algebra Exposed - Danica McKellar
I am impressed with this math book, I just wished that I would have had something fun like this when I was in school. Although geared towards girls, I am sure boys will be able to learn from her examples and the way that she presents the material inside this book. I haven’t read everything inside the book yet because the book is packed with lots of information and I want to purchase my own copy and add post-its as I go through it, with things I want to refer back to.
 
Inside the book, you will find examples, diagrams, tips and Danica’s own twists on math. She just doesn’t touch on the subjects but she gives lots of examples and she elaborates on these examples. I especially like the language that Danica’s uses in the book, it is plain and simple, yet not slow and lengthy. She explains the math in an easy-to-understand language. As a substitute teacher, I can’t wait to get a copy of this book and get some tips that will help the students in the classroom. Any help that I can find for them will be beneficial. Thanks Danica for giving students the tools to make them successful. Hopefully, this will encourage them and make this subject less of a struggle for them.

 

Lions & Liars

Lions & Liars - Kate Beasley
Frederick just wants to be popular and important. I think many 5th grade students feel like Frederick, but Frederick takes this position to the extreme in this novel. This novel is funny and yet it is serious in sections, as Frederick comes to understand life and who he is.
 
When his family’s vacation plans get cancelled, Frederick feels as if the world is coming to an end. No longer able to be pampered on a cruise, Frederick attends his friend’s birthday party where a surprise is waiting for him. A humorous gift is presented to Frederick which was supposed to create playfulness and laughter amongst the friends but instead it generates bitterness and friction. Frederick takes his gift, leaving his friends behind, as he tries to make a point with his friends. I soon realize that Frederick is the last person who should be left alone with such a gift but as I laugh my way through this section.
 
Frederick later finds himself at a camp. This could be his saving grace, as no one knows him but the campers think he is Dash, a boy who was signed up for this camp experience. Frederick accepts this boy’s identity and he is immediately welcomed with open-arms by the other male campers. Dash’s reputation is well-known and now Frederick is popular and he is relishing in the attention of the other campers.
 
I thought it was funny how Frederick just assumes Dash’s identity without knowing anything about him. The immediate transformation of Frederick was crazy, as he instantly began to shine and I could almost see him walking around with his head up. Frederick thought life would be great when he would become popular and well-liked but when he finally achieves this, he soon realizes other things occur in his life, that need to be addressed. Life does not stand still.
 
I liked this novel as I felt it addressed some real-life issues that kids face and I liked the way it handled them. I really enjoyed the cast of characters, they were fun and made the book interesting. I think this novel is great for boys and girls and would be a great read aloud. I highly recommend this novel.

 

The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast

The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast - Samantha M.Clark
When I finished reading this middle school book, I immediately thought of The Wizard of Oz as it had that fantasy, dreamworld aspect to it. This book has this mysterious element to it as a boy wakes up on a mysterious island and he tries to make sense of who he is, where he is and what he should do next. As I read the novel, the pieces started to come together but then more difficult and deeper questions plagued my mind about this boy and his troubles.
 
The novel begins was a boy waking up on a beach. On one side of him, there is a green wall consisting of trees and bushes and on the other, waves are crashing onto the beach. Wearing only a T-shirt, with which he doesn’t remember owning, and swim trunks, the boy is disoriented and confused. The boy has a constant fear of something in the water and inside the green wall, that he claims are out to get him so, he tries to stay clear of those areas.
 
Images materialize before his eyes and whether they are real or not, that is up to the reader to decide, but to the boy, for that moment they are real. The boy hears voices and he struggles to accept what they tell him. He needs to find a way off the beach and find his way home, only which way is that going to be.
 
This was a mystery from the beginning and as the boy becomes familiar with his surroundings, his world becomes more confusing. I found that as I read this novel, I had more questions that needed to be answered but by the end of the novel, my questions had been answered. It was an entertaining read and I really enjoyed the ending.

 

The Princess and the Pit Stop

The Princess and the Pit Stop - Tom Angleberger
You could really feel the energy inside this children’s book with its bright, bold illustrations and the words the author chose to include in this text. It’s a wonder that the Princess decided to continue with the race, after what her Fairy Godmother told when she made a pit stop. The Fairy Godmother informed the Princess that she only had one lap to go in the race but the real problem was, the Princess was already in last place before she stopped.
 
As the announcer gave a play-by-play of the Princesses last leg of the race, I liked how the text was sometimes set off by interesting text boxes. It created an energy and excitement to the novel. The text also carried all kinds of text sizes which were also fun. The illustrations contained dazzling colors, as the Princess raced across the page with her race car trailing a rainbow behind it.
 
I liked all the different fairy tale characters that competed with the Princess. Their illustrations were fun to view. It was the play on words with these fairy tale characters that I feel, deserve the most credit. As the Princess raced beside her competitors, she gave them a run-for-their-money as she, “blew the doors off the Big Bad Wolf,” “smoked the Three Little Pigs,” “honked the Golden Goose,” and ”….butted in front of the Three Billy Goats Gruff!” The Princess raced to be in front of a variety of fairy tale characters as the author created a fun, unique to publicize the news. As the finished line came into view, who would win this race?
 
This was a cute book with a simple story line. Simple is the word here, so enjoy the illustrations and the author’s text.

 

Cover Love

Portraits of the Dead - John  Nicholl

I saw this cover and fell in love with it.  Then, I read the post from a fellow blogger about how wonderful this novel was so, then I naturally had to buy it.  I looked over the rest of John Nicholl's novels and well, I think he's an author I'm going to have to read.  Yes sir, he has something going on!

 

Guess this baby is going to make it to the top of my stack of reading material!

 

Don't you love it?

Love and Ruin

Love and Ruin - Paula McLain
I knew nothing about Martha (Marty) Gellhorn before I started reading this novel but I learned a great deal about her and her marriage to Ernest Hemingway. With great detail about the time period surrounding WWII, Marty wanted to make her mark in the world as a writer and she would stop at nothing to do so.
 
As I read this novel, Marty’s fathers last words were always on the back of my mind and I had to wonder if perhaps, they were part of Marty’s driving force. They stung when they were spoken but I felt they were spoken out of love and the desire for Marty to aim high. Marty was a strong, determined lady, which not everyone appreciated in a woman in this time period. As her books went to print, she wouldn’t settle and be content with what she had accomplished, she wanted more.
 
Her idol was the famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and when she met him on vacation with her family, she was speechless. Thinking life couldn’t get any better, she discovered that Ernest actually had read her novel and he wanted HER autograph. Ernest was traveling overseas to report on the war and he asked Marty to join him. This sounded like a terrific opportunity for Marty: a chance for her to write and be with the famous writer, so she travels as Ernest companion.
 
With the front so close to their rooms, Ernest found himself at Marty’s door checking on her welfare. It seems innocent enough but before that trip was over, the two of them were in a relationship. Wow, if only Ernest wasn’t married with children.
 
Returning home, they both continued to write but the war was calling and they both left again to continue their coverage on the war. They are so right for each other and yet so wrong. As the war blazed away in the background, the lovers mixed their work with play. Ernest was leading two lives and he had to choose what life he wanted to lead and I knew someone was going to get hurt in the end.
 
Between writing books and stories about the war, Marty and Ernest passion and desire with each other took centerstage. Each character underwent a transformation to arrive at their final resting place.
 
I really enjoyed the details that the author included inside this novel. The emotions and the drive that the characters felt is relived through the novel and they created a momentum within the novel. I enjoyed reading this novel and I highly recommend it.

 

The Cardboard Kingdom

The Cardboard Kingdom - chad sell
This graphic novel was not what I expected. I liked the imagination the characters had as they designed their costumes out of cardboard and the adventures they had with each other. I enjoyed the diversity of the characters. This novel had a little bit of everything and I had to wonder if younger children would understand or get some of the diversity that this novel held. From family to personal issues, and onto bullying, this book covers a lot of ground.
 
The chapters are quite short so this graphic novel can be split up into many different reading periods. Some of the chapters have no words which make those stories go quickly. The illustrations are bright and colorful and the book is printed on glossy paper which makes these illustrations pop.
 
As these children go on different adventures, they are having fun and working together. It’s a book that I can see some children really enjoying everything about it, a book where some children will understand parts of it, and a book where some children will just love the illustrations and the imagination that they spark.