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We Need More Nuts!

We Need More Nuts! - Jonathan Fenske

Two squirrel brothers are out picking up nuts, only one of the brothers is getting a bit carried away with how many nuts, he is collecting. I thought this Level 2 Reader book included some pretty funny illustrations as the little brother was stuffing the bigger brother's mouth full of the nuts while the bigger brother looked like he was ready to pop! Bigger brother looked as if he couldn't handle one more nut inside his mouth but little brother kept shoving them in, all the while, counting them for us readers. At first, big brother liked having all the nuts but later, enough was enough!

I liked the word recognition of the numbers in this book (we get 1 and one, 2 and two, etc. ), the different font types used within the book, and I thought the illustrations were comical. I can see how children would think this book is funny. The book counts from 1-24.

Living With Twelve Men: A Mother in Training

Living with Twelve Men: a mother in training - Betty Auchard
Reading Betty’s stories are like sitting beside her and having a conversation. Betty doesn’t leave out anything as she writes about events in her life and I enjoyed the assortment of stories and her honesty. I found myself laughing many times as I read and I even thought, “no, she really didn’t do that, did she?”

Her story about the prayer chain hit home with me. When it came time for Betty’s turn to pray, I cracked up as she spoke to the group. I would have loved to be in that room and see everyone’s response as I think I would’ve started laughing. Her story about the guinea hens reminded me of the time I had turkeys. I don’t know how she kept her composure during that whole ordeal but I feel she’s a strong woman as I know I wouldn’t have been able to.

This is my second book of Betty’s that I’ve read and they’ve both been very enjoyable. Betty writes about her personal experiences which are honest and open. I read this book for book club and we had the honor this month (April 2021) of having Betty at our book club meeting via Zoom. Seeing her in person was wonderful, as she’s just like the individual, I pictured her to be. A very sweet, entertaining woman spoke with us. She answered all of our questions, talking about the stories in the book, asking us questions, and telling us about her life. We all enjoyed having her join us. 4.5 stars

No Vacancy

No Vacancy - Tziporah Cohen

This book had a lot of themes going through it but it worked. Miriam, an 11-year-old girl is the protagonist in the story as her family moves into a rundown motel, in the hopes of creating a new future for themselves and the business. They had only planned this to be a short-term plan, hoping to save some money and then move on. Moving into a small community was different than New York City and the longer I read, the more I realized what this family was hiding internally.

As the family moves into The Jewel Motor Inn, the two children live in one of the rooms and the parents’ take-up residence in an adjoining room. As an 11-year-old, I thought that would be fun but I could understand the novelty wearing off. Maria, continues to work at the Inn, taking care of the housekeeping issues and helping the family become familiar with the motel. I loved how she helped Miriam learn Spanish and I felt that Maria was a very kind and tolerant individual. As her parents start the clean-up process, Miriam pitches in. On an errand to the diner next door, she meets Kate. Kate’s grandmother owns the diner and eventually, Miriam ends up helping out at the diner making pies.

Now that Miriam has met a friend, the two girls start hanging out together. While talking about their small town, they come up with a plan that they think will benefit everyone in it. Now, if only they don’t get caught creating their plan! An innocent plan which when you think about it, was harmless. I thought the girls were rather clever. As guests arrived to the hotel, Miriam meets Anton. This child was a gem! Anton arrived with his mother and his wheelchair. Miriam saw the wheelchair. I really think she saw the wheelchair before she saw Anton until Anton met her in the swimming pool. After that, Miriam changed how she looked at him. Anton was not the only person who tried to help Miriam with her fear of water, Uncle Mordy tried his hand at that, too. Uncle Mordy arrived to help out the family so he decided to help Miriam. Slowly, he introduced her the water, letting the water touch her upper thighs, it was a start.

The girls felt guilty for what they did for the town but they didn’t want to admit to anyone what they did. Just as the family is enjoying their new home, they discover something painful and disturbing at the motel. This event has a snowball effect on the community which all began because of emotions and the lack of accountability. I cringed to see this happened to them and I had to hope that somehow, they found find strength to fight it.

A middle school read that packs religion, faith, friendship, disabilities, and family all in one book. I found it to be a fast read and I really enjoyed it. 4.5 stars

" They stand with their arms around each other. The man points and traces somthing in the air. The woman nods and smiles and I see tears rolls down her cheeks. "
"Is what we did good or bad? Yes, we fooled people, but if it makes them happy and gives them hope and saves the motel and the diner, is that so bad?"

All He Knew

All He Knew - Helen Frost

I started to get all frustrated and concerned as I began reading this book. I felt so helpless as I read about Henry. He had begun his life alone and misunderstood. The label they slapped on him, became a wall. I felt some relief that Molly had never forgotten her brother, although he wasn’t living with her. She loved him whether he was physically present or not. The author’s creative way of expressing this factual event makes this a very powerful story.

Henry was four when he becomes deaf after falling ill. They had hoped that Henry could get his education at the State School for the Deaf. Needing to pass a test, Henry arrives for the test but he is unable to understand the tests’ directions. Failing the test, he can’t attend the state school and they label Henry, “unteachable.” With WWII on the horizon, they soon decide to place him in Riverview, a school for mentally disabled individuals. Talk about sad! Little time and effort are spent on the patients and Henry sinks further down. If I could just reach into this book and grab him out, I and I think plenty other readers would have.

As I read Henry’s thoughts, his hopes and his sadness, it’s beyond sad. I’m wondering how the other patients feel about life in Riverview. Molly is the only bright spot until I hear Victor’s footsteps mark the halls of Riverview. Is Victor a real person or is he an angel? Where did he come from? It’s sad to think that, finally one professional, seems to care.

With short chapters, this true event story is a story that will definitely make your think. Told through verse, it’s a fast read about this time period in history. 4.5 stars

Concrete Rose

Concrete Rose - Angie Thomas
“Tough situations don’t last. Tough people do.”
I get this feeling of anticipation just before I read one of Angie’s books. I know they’ll be no turning back once I read that first page, for she begins setting the stage with her authentic scenes, the intense drama, and those characters that I swear have to have an address somewhere because her fiction is incredible, it’s so natural.

With his father in jail and his mother working, 17-year-old Maverick is learning about life the hard way. It seems that he just keeps getting knocked down again and again. Following in his father’s footsteps, Maverick has joined a gang and is selling drugs. This promise is an obligation that Maverick has now committed himself to. He’s enjoying his relationship with Lisa when his one-night stand, informs him that he’s now a daddy.

The temperature is starting to get warm as Maverick tries to handle the emotions and responsibilities that come with this new accusation. Maverick doesn’t understand how this can this happen, as it was only one night. I had to smile when I read this, as that’s normally what you hear from pregnant women. What’s going to happen with his relationship with Lisa? How will he be able to juggle everything that seems to be coming at him at full speed now?

I felt that Maverick did the best that he could, given the circumstances that he was under. Oh, he was frustrated and outraged at times yet, at the back of his mind, he was focused. He saw the end of the tunnel; he was just having a hard time getting there.

Another remarkable book by this fantastic author. I highly recommend this book and all the other books in this series. I look forward to the next book that Angie Thomas writes.

The Kitchen Front

The Kitchen Front: A Novel - Jennifer Ryan

What a fun novel to listen to. It took a few chapters for things to get situated but then, I really enjoyed the history, the relationships and the idea behind this book. I liked that the female relationships inside the book took more precedence than the male/female relationships, which was what I was hoping would happen. I didn’t want a romance to spoil this drama. This was a great package: a historical fiction story, centered around a cooking competition consisting of diverse characters with an uplifting ending.

It’s the popular BBC broadcasting of the British Show, The Kitchen Front with Ambrose as the show’s host. The show has decided that they need a female co-host and has launched a cooking competition to find her. Located in Finley Village, England, are four women who are supposedly using their war rations to make the winning entries and to prove to Ambrose that they should be his co-host. Here are four women who desperately need this position. These four women come from such different situations and circumstances in their lives. These four women give this competition everything that they have. And who do I think should win it? Nell? The kitchen maid at Finley Hall who started the competition so timid that she can hardly talk but she can cook. Lady Gwendoline? She married into money but does money buy happiness? Audrey? Lady Gwendoline sister, a war widow with 3 children who is trying to keep her head above water. Zelda? A previous London chef who is now pregnant (and unmarried).

I enjoyed listening to these ladies’ stories. How their lives were before the war and how their lives have changed since the war began. It was fascinating how they created their recipes using their war rations and how some of them used nature to help them spread their rations even further. Their resourcefulness really shined. What started out as a competition for these ladies, as they lifted up their dome lids and everyone marveled at their creation hidden underneath, ends in another type of celebration as the winner is selected. I highly recommend this novel.

A Women Is No Man: a Novel

A Woman Is No Man - Etaf Rum
I know whatever I write about this book will not contain everything that I felt about this book. I should just write capital letters with exclamation marks adding in a mixture of facial expressions as that sums up how I felt reading this book. I had no expectations going into this book and as the two stories in the book converged into each other, I was swept away. The ending had me staring out the window, little tiny bumps spread across my arms and tears were falling down my face. The book was over but was it really over. There was nothing left for me to read but I couldn’t let these ladies go. And so, I stared out the window, waiting until something else came along to fill my mind.

The year was 1990, Isra in the kitchen with her mother cooking dinner, this has become her daily routine. Recently married, she’ll be moving from Palestine to America, where her new husband owns a deli. Isra is nervous about life in America. What will her marriage be like? What will her husband be like? Isra wants a romantic marriage with her husband yet she hardly even knows the man that she married. She’s hoping that her American marriage will be different than the one that her mother and father have. As she discusses her concerns, it was sad listening to her mother’s words. “Love each other? What does love have to do marriage? You think your father and I love each other?” After listening to her mother’s remarks, she’s hopeful that by leaving the country, her marriage will be different than her mothers and the abuse that her mother endures as a wife, will not follow her.

The year is 2008, Deya is one of four sisters living with their grandparents. Deya is the oldest and grandmother is on the hunt, trying to find a suitor for her. Although times have changed the girls still need to preserve their culture. Deya is not ready for marriage and would rather continue on with her education but according to Islamic traditions, Deya must get ready to become a wife and mother. It’s a battle of values, family, freedom and principles that Deya struggles with as she enters adulthood.

I found it fascinating to read about the idea of arranged marriages currently in our society and the implications of how the status of a wife remained the same for many of these women. Isra and Deya were both dealing with the notion of being in an arranged marriage. If that wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with the idea of what being a wife really meant and how that differed from what they really wanted.

As the chapters fluctuated between these two women, Isla story tore at me. She pictured America to be a wonderful place, an opportunity for her yet when she arrives, she realizes that they’ll be sharing a house with her in-laws and his siblings. The romantic marriage that she hoped to find, will have to be on the quiet-side, as everyone is sharing the same house. This was just the beginning of Isla’s spiral tale of what America had to offer her. Deya story was different because she was a fighter. She used what she had to fight back, even if it meant further consequences for her. Cheering for her, I pushed her. I wanted her to push the envelope until she couldn’t push it anymore. She was ready to accept whatever happened at the end. I loved how the author made the stories come together also.

I felt exhausted as I closed this book. As they stood there, I fell in line with them, just waiting. I felt tired yet there was this energy and excitement that I felt within me. What was next? I highly recommend this book. I can’t wait to see what else this author writes.

Grown

Grown - Tiffany D. Jackson

“Content warning: mentions of sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids.” Yes, to all of this but yet, there is no warning about not being able to eat, drink, or think of anything else besides this book once you step inside its pages. Then, there’s that book hangover, once you’re finished and you’re left staring at the back of the book breathing, reliving those incredible scenes that were more than just words on a page, where was this warning, as my mind tries to unwind.

Korey, was everything she ever wanted. He was perfect, at least that side of him was. When Enchanted finally sees all sides of Korey, it’s too late. This was a fantastic page-turner of a book, a book in which I felt a deep connection to the characters and the story couldn’t have been more honest and real unless I knew these individuals personally.

The book opens with a brutal murder and then, the book flashes back to when the characters first met each other and their story unfolds. Enchanted was trying to fulfill her dream, a dream filled with music when she is spotted by Korey. Korey, the famous R&B artist has taken an interest in Enchanted and tells her everything that she wanted to hear. As he works his charm, she is swept away. Korey knows exactly what he’s doing, as he wins Enchanted over but Enchanted is an innocent, 17-year-old, victim who just wanted a music career. And Korey, he’s a manipulator, a controller, an abuser(mentally), and a serial pedophile, who just got his next victim.

This was a hard book to read as Enchanted voice got harder to hear. Korey began placing restrictions on her which confused her yet Korey made them seem like a positive part of their relationship. More constraints and limitations began to weigh Enchanted down. She was losing control as she began acting like a puppet, doing what she was told, losing her self-confidence as she feels she has no other option. Such a powerful book, a book that had important messages and I appreciate the author addressing these issues openly and directly. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy stories addressing these issues. Amazing story!
 

The Dilemma

 The Dilemma - B.A. Paris

This can’t be a B.A. Paris book, no way! What a huge letdown! I can’t believe I actually finished this book. I don’t think I liked a single one of these characters. I thought the main couple was childish and simple, Livia needs to realize that not everything is about her. I kept thinking there had to be a major twist or a huge reveal or something major coming up as I read, for I knew this book wasn’t like her other books but it couldn’t be like this, could it?

To compensate for the wedding that she never had, Livia sets her sights on having a 40th birthday party blow-out. The idea of this party consumes her, I mean totally consumes her. Every beautiful item that Livia sees, up to the day of her party, she ponders on whether she could use that item for her party. Every item! From food, to clothes, to furnishings, Livia has these thoughts running through her head for years. You know Livia, you are an adult now, act like one. Adam, her husband, is a yes man. He loves Livia dearly and would do anything to make his wife happy but I think he needs to learn to be adult also. Adam also has a very close bond with their daughter, Marnie. His relationship with their son, Josh is a different story. I felt sorry for Josh a few times as I read this story, it seems like he was trying and he did make some compromises. I thought the children played an interesting role in this book.

There are a few other individuals in the story but everyone comes together with Livia’s 40th birthday party which should be a five-star production, since she’s had years to plan it, but the secrets that individuals are holding put a damper on the festivities. It frustrated me that these secrets ballooned. They didn’t seem to amount to much, when compared to the drama the individuals who kept the secrets were making them out to be. It was that anticipation of their reveal, that energy and that mysterious reaction that was going to be brought out by the characters not sharing the information until the last possible moment, that keeps the pages moving forward. I’m a huge fan of B.A. Paris but this one is not my favorite B.A. Paris book. 2.5 stars

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion.

Attack of the Underwear Dragon

Attack of the Underwear Dragon - Scott Rothman
Dreams do come true, at least for Cole and knights, they really do cry. When Cole wanted to be an assistant knight to Sir Percival (a knight at King Arthur’s Round Table) he wrote him a letter asking for the position. This letter touched Sir Percival so much, that he cried and then, he appointed Cole his assistant knight.

Cole did everything that Sir Percival asked from him and he learned a lot! Cole learned what it was like to be a knight and he learned what Sir Percival was most scared of, a big, scary Underwear Dragon. Sir Percival would dream about this dragon when he was sleeping. Cole loved being an assistant knight even if sometimes this job was difficult and hard.

Dreams do come true for knights also, unfortunately. The day came when the kingdom was under attack by.... an Underwear Dragon! Yes, you heard me right. All the knights were fighting this Underwear Dragon and it wasn't looking good, for this dragon was fierce. Sir Percival was nervous as he didn’t want to have to fight it. Cole, being an assistant, knew how to fight like a knight should Sir Percival need him, but Cole was still just an assistant. The Underwear Dragon was putting up a good fight and Sir Percival thought he might be going into battle.

This was a cute story and the illustrations were wonderful. I thought Cole was a courageous young boy and I liked how he thought his way through the various situations that he was presented with. I liked how down-to-earth the issues were and how fun the book was. It’s a cute and entertaining story.
 
 

 

Everything Sad Is Untrue

Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story) - Daniel Nayeri

This is the story of Daniel; he’s not sitting beside you as you read this book but it’ll seem like he is.  Daniel is telling his classmates about Iran, exactly how he remembers it and what it was like when he left that country, because that’s important.

 

Twelve-year-old Daniel currently lives in Oklahoma with his family. Residing in Mrs. Miller’s classroom, Daniel knows about inequity and how individuals feel about Persians.  Giving his own personal story, Daniel wants his classmates to know him, to know who he is, as a person.  So, sit back and enjoy his story.  For these are his own memories, his whole personal life (his twelve years) you will be holding securely in your own two hands.

 

I adored this book, I really did.  I loved how he wrote the book; the way that I felt a part of it and how the style of writing he used, personalized the book.  The stories he wrote were interesting and they felt genuine and vivid.  When the family fled Iran with their hard, gray suitcase and his memories of his extended family, even the smallest of details, felt so important.  What a great treasure!

 

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” ….. “It’ll be alright in the end, folks.  If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.” 

 

(Wow, I really enjoyed this and it made me stop and think, it’s so true. If you want a happy ending to whatever is happening, keep going till you get one.  If you feel you’re getting an unhappy ending, keep going, perhaps you’re not at the end and you can change things.)

The Girl With the Louding Voice

The Girl with the Louding Voice - Abi Daré

All fourteen-year Adunni wanted was an education but her father had other plans for her.  He had promised her mother that Adunni would be attending school but that was before her mother passed away and the rent became due. Now, Adunni’s bride price was dismissing both of the promises that he had made to his wife about Adunni’s future.   

 

Adunni will become wife number three to Morufu. A third wife!  I cringed when I thought of what that must have been like for her. To enter an established household with two other women and four young children already running around. As Adunni enters the house, it was a bit better than I had thought it would be.  She’s not able to stay long, as a tragic event sends her packing and she is off to Lagos. 

 

Adunni has always dreamed of going to Lagos but currently, she cannot follow those dreams as she must find a way to survive.  Finding work with Big Madam, she finds the mansion impressive as she arrives for work, until she realizes that she’ll be a housemaid inside that mansion.  Adunni days remain dark, as Big Madam relentlessly controls her, “expect me to clothe you and accommodate you for substandard work, do you?”

 

Adunni knows that she needs her education.  She’s been out of school for too long and she knows that it’s her only way out of these dark days, that have become her way of life. An awaking begins to occur within Adunni and things start to change in the book. 

 

I didn’t love this book as much as other individuals did.  I did enjoy the book and the storyline.  I guess the main issue I had was that the story didn’t captive me and draw me in.  This is an interesting story with great characters, it just didn’t grab me like I thought it would.  3.5 stars

Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook - Ina Garten
I used to watch Ina on cable and she was such a joy to watch. She had this calmness about her and the way that she moved through the kitchen, putting her recipes together, it all seemed so easy. I've tried a few of her recipes and they've been great, so I thought I would love this cookbook. I also love cookbooks. I have quite a few cookbooks (my husband thinks I have too many) and I also subscribe to some cooking magazines, but I like to read and try different things (within reason). When I saw "Modern Comfort", I thought who doesn't love comfort food? You know how some people definitions are different? I think this is one of them.

I love many things about this cookbook but the recipes themselves, they just don't do much for me. I'll get to that in a minute but let's talk about what's great about this cookbook. The cookbook is very attractive and pleasing to look at. It's definitely a heavy one too, with 256 pages. I liked the smooth, glossy pages and the page count includes the two recipe indexes yes, I said two! She has included one A - Z index and one index that breaks the dishes into their specific categories. These categories include breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails, vegetables & sides, and desserts. The author also made a reference to these categories at the bottom of each page, down by the page number, so you know where you’re at when you’re looking inside the cookbook. I like these little extra touches. Each recipe gets a 2-page spread with the recipe on one side and a picture on the other. Detailed, step-by-step directions are easy to follow and each recipe includes a small paragraph about the recipe too. The recipe includes how many it will serve but not the individual serving size. It might say, "Serves 6" but it doesn't say how big each serving size is.

The book itself is set up by categories, the ones I mentioned earlier. The first section is Cocktails. Listed on one page, it has all the recipes for that section. I thought it would have been nice, had she also listed the page number for each cocktail on this page. I know that the recipes go in sequence according to this list, and I know that I can go back to the indexes but having it here would be helpful.

I found there were only about 5-6 dishes inside this cookbook that I found comforting. When I was thinking “comforting”, I was thinking pasta, meat, potatoes, salads, soup and “modern” to me meant, making these foods healthy and/or easier to prepare. This is where I was confused. I found inside this cookbook Brussels Sprouts Pizza Carbonara, Roasted Shishito Peppers with Easy Hollandaise, Maine Lobster Stew, English Lemon Posset, and Pomegranate Gimlets. These didn’t sound comforting to me. These seemed rather fancy to my everyday life. It’s a beauty of a cookbook but it’s just not one that would get much use at my house. 3.5 rounding up to 4 stars

The Story of Fish & Snail

The Story of Fish and Snail - Deborah Freedman

I will admit, I had to read this picture book a second time to fully understand it. There were a few key points that I was definitely missing to fully appreciate this story even after I slowly read it and looked at the illustrations the first time through. The story is about two friends who have a disagreement and what happens.

Fish and Snail live inside the pages of a storybook. Snail waits patiently, every day for Fish to arrive, to tell him a story. Snail's ideal story would have kittens and princesses in it but when Fish arrives today, he wants Snail to join him in a new book that he has found. A huge agruement errupts as Snail doesn't want to leave their current book yet Fish tries to presude his friend how much better, the new book actually is. Fish is ready to make the leap into the new book and leave his friend behind.

I can't talk about what caused my confusion without giving away some of the story's ending but it made more sense for me after a second reading. I was really surprised by Fish's actions and I thought that Snail was brave. I can see children enjoying this story. The illustations were creative and interesting too.
 

A Stone Sat Still

A Stone Sat Still: (Environmental and Nature Picture Book for Kids, Perspective Book for Preschool and Kindergarten, Award Winning Illustrator) - Brendan Wenzel

This is all about perception. This is a stone (or a rock) which is surrounded by water, dirt, and grass and it is, what it is. To all different animals, through all the different scenarios, this stone sits where its at and it becomes whatever it needs to be for its habitat. It could be daylight, the stone could be large for some animals or tiny for others, it didn't matter the time of the year or the weather condition, the stone was there. This stone, this hard, solid piece of matter was predictable, and all the the animals were using it.

The illustrations were fantastic and I loved how they showed exactly the different scenarios how the stone was used. It's a great book to get you to start thinking. What a terrific book.

Sumokitty

Sumokitty - David Biedrzycki
He was just a hungry kitty looking for food when he met up with the sumo wrestlers. He'd sneak in and eat their leftovers after they finished their meals each day. Kitty was soon offered a job at the heya (training center) and he doesn't have to sneak around the heya any longer.

Kitty was good at his new job, actually he was very good and it began to have a negative effect on Kitty's appearance. It got to the point where it started to affect Kitty's job but he just couldn't do anything about it. Or could he? He's had an ideal opportunuty right in front of him this whole time yet he hadn't realised it until now. It might take some hard work and lots of disapline but within Kitty there lives a SumoKitty.

I learned a lot about sumo wrestling while reading this book, which was interesing and included more specific words than I realized. This story had some humorous moments which the ilustrations do an excellent job emphasizing. This was an entertaining read and I thought there were some great messages in the book.. The illustrations were fun and they definitely added to this story. 4.5 stars