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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.  

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.


Almost finished

Love and Ruin - Paula McLain

The dirty, rotten slime ball!  


Marty (Martha) is a go- getter but now, I think she needs to take him to the vet. 

Do Not Open This Math Book

Do Not Open This Math Book - Danica McKellar
I really enjoyed this beginning math/subtraction book. Although geared towards elementary children, I think this book has potential for anyone struggling with the basics of addition and subtraction. Working with students from kindergarten through 6th grade and some struggling adult learners, I think this book is a gem.
What makes this book fantastic in my eyes, is the way the concepts are presented. There are great visuals displaying the information and fantastic ideas to help bring the concepts to life. Danica’s language that she uses to get her point across in this book is fabulous. I found this book entertaining and educational, and although some concepts she builds upon immediately, sometimes she leaves a concept and later comes back to it adding to it.
From adding basic numbers together to subtracting two-digit number, Danica shows how to do that visually and by reading this text, it seems as if she’s right there beside you. There’s a cute, little mouse as Danica sidekick in the book, who is reluctant to learn but with Danica’s help, he starts to learn and is successful.
There is a section on place value, fact families, mental math, regrouping, and then subtracting with borrowing. Like I mentioned before, she starts out basic and moves into more complex material but it’s a gradual shift. The books language is positive and in reading the book, it’s as if you had your own teacher right there with you explaining the concepts. I think using this book with a child would be very beneficial and for children who can read, the ability for them to work through this book on their own would be valuable and an accomplishment. There are games, exercises and lots of examples inside this book.
Thank you, Danica, for creating this book, what a terrific book teaching these concepts. I highly recommend checking out this book.
Excerpt: (how readable and positive the book’s language is) “Just so you know, the whole point in moving the buns to “fill in a tin” is so we can turn these problems into the easy ones we saw on the chart on page 26, like 10 + 5 = 15 and 10 + 6 + 16. By filling the tins wherever we can, we’ll be making the problems easy, like magic.”


Drawn Together

Drawn Together  - Tuan Minh Le
Wow! With few words, this children’s book shows us the power of unspoken language. I loved how the novel came alive, as each of the characters grabbed their choice of writing instruments to draw and to connect to each other. The years faded between the grandfather and his grandson as they sketched and united on paper.
Mother dropped her son off at her father’s house and immediately you can sense the dread the boy feels as he trudged up to his grandfather’s door. Grandfather is excited to see his grandson but the differences become apparent as you turn the pages. They each speak a different language, the food grandfather prepares for each of them is different, and what they want to watch on TV is different, there is not much excitement in this reunion. The young boy grabs his backpack and goes to the table and sits down. He pulls out blank pieces of papers and markers and he begins to draw himself as a superhero. Grandfather comes over and glances over the boy’s shoulder, sparks fly. Grandfather grabs his drawing supplies and returns. Soon the two of them are creating their own world on paper. Two unique superheroes battling a colorful world of creatures where only these two know what lies ahead. The night ends differently than how it started and I am sure this boy will soon be asking his mother when he can visit his grandfather again.
What a cute, children’s book about a grandfather and his grandson. I loved how they bridged the gaps they had in their relationship and the illustrations were fun and detailed. An excellent children’s book with few words but a great message.


We Don't Eat Our Classmates

We Don't Eat Our Classmates - Ryan T. Higgins, Ryan T. Higgins
This book is hilarious! Seriously! What else can you do when you are a T- Rex and your classmates are children. Oh, my heavens! I can’t stop laughing about this children’s book. I love it when Penelope Rex arrives home from school and her father questions her about her day and then comments, “You see, Penelope, children are the same as us on the inside, Just tastier.”
Penelope is nervous to start school but with her 300 tuna fish sandwiches and her pony backpack (because she loves to eat ponies) she arrives at school. Surprised to find her classmates are children, she eats them. Her teacher tells her to spit them all out, which she does and then no one wants to be her friend (do you blame them?!). Penelope tries to make friends. She showed them her finger painting (a t-rex eating a happy child) and she was going to catch children at the bottom of the slide (in her mouth) but still no one wants to be friends with her. Penelope was lonely. Finally, an unlikely event at school changes Penelope (and leaves me laughing)and things at school improve for everyone.
What a cute novel. I think you need to know your audience for this novel as some children (young children) might be scared of what occurs inside this novel but I think most children will laugh and understand the author’s purpose. I love the illustrations in this novel as they are perfect for this book. The facial expressions are priceless. This would make a great book to read aloud or read together. I really enjoyed this one and I am picking up a copy for myself.



Geraldine - Elizabeth Lilly
When Geraldine lived with other giraffes, she did not stand out and she was not special but when her family moves, things change. Watching and reading about Geraldine’s spunk and disgust about moving, is comical. Moving amongst people, Geraldine the giraffe, is now noticed as she is now the only giraffe. Geraldine does not like to be different and she tries to hide and she wants to be left alone.
One day, she meets Cassie who also feels alone and special. I liked Cassie’s attitude, as she is feisty and angry and she just wants Geraldine to leave her alone. Over time, the two of them create a bond over games, lunch and time spent together. The illustrations show the two of them doing a variety of activities together. When Geraldine decides to introduce Cassie to some girls sitting at a lunch table, I liked how the two friends prepare and encourage each other before the introductions. I feel, that part of how they are accepted to their peers has to do with how these two friends are presented. The end of the novel is cute and put a smile on your face.
Cassie’s attitude was perfect for this novel and I liked Geraldine’s shy and withdrawn mannerism. Geraldine didn’t shy away from Cassie when she spoke back to her but she continued on, which is interesting. I liked the water colored illustrations and enjoyed that the illustrator sometimes included lots of smaller illustrations on one page rather than one large one. Nice children’s book.


Positively Izzy

Positively Izzy - Terri Libenson
I didn’t catch the twist on this one till I was about halfway through and then I ended up reading this graphic novel twice so I could truly appreciate it. Honestly, I wonder how many teens/children will really get the twist on this book. I enjoyed the “play” on this book but I think more hints could have been inserted in the novel to make it more enjoyable.
There are two stories taking place in this novel constructed of both graphic novel and narration. As you read the novel, there is a clear distinction between the two, on which story you are reading.
One story is about Izzy who lives with her sisters and her mom. Izzy loves drama but school work, not so much. When her mother discovers Izzy’s failure to keep up with her schoolwork, Izzy feels like her world is falling apart. I liked how this story came together in the end and Izzy’s family. The other story is about Bri, who is smart but doesn’t care about drama. Bri’s mother is the drama teacher at school. At the last minute, Bri is asked to fill in for someone, on stage. I enjoyed watching Bri deal with this new experience and I liked the conclusion.
The illustrations were bright and colorful and the text was easy to read. I liked that the author used two different styles, to write the two different stories within this graphic novel, so that it is easier to tell the stories apart. I think you need to read this novel a few times to fully appreciate it (once you understand the twist in the story). Again, I wished the author would have added more in the writing to help uncover the twist as I feel some individuals will not see it and that would be a shame. I would recommend to older elementary and middle school readers, so they can understand the twist or perhaps uncover the twist to other readers, if they don’t discover it after they read it (so they can fully appreciate the novel).


Unraveling Oliver

Unraveling Oliver: A Novel - Liz Nugent
The first line of this novel and the cover sold me on reading it. From there, I should have stopped. As I read, I was seeking an explanation, a reason why, and I was expecting the novel to be twisted and dark because who in their right mind would say such a thing about their wife, unless they were, twisted and dark themselves.
After Oliver commits a crime, the novel reflects back over Oliver’s life and tries to piece together where this fiery episode originated from. Reading about Oliver’s previous life and listening to what individuals have to say about Oliver, was not surprising to me. The narration felt tedious after a while and I found nothing fascinating about him. So, what exactly set Oliver off, that made him hit his wife? Why couldn’t Oliver stop this behavior before he ended up putting his wife in a coma? What was up with Oliver?
As individuals help to strip down Oliver to his true identity and I attempted to see Oliver for who he truly is, I was hoping for something else besides what the author was providing me. When someone writes, “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.” I expect drama and an enticing read. This just wasn’t a good novel for me and from the reviews, I am the odd man (gal) out on this one.


Book garage sale

Now when someone posts “Love books or puzzles? This is the sale for you.” I had to go to this garage sale, now wouldn’t you?  I was greeted with lots of older Koontz, Hooper, King, Stephanie Plum, and Brown novels. Lots of other authors were thrown in but this was the majority. I found a few things but being a quarter up to a dollar a piece, the price was terrific.   I’m also trying to find books for my aunt who is stocking her neighborhood parks reading library.  I found these Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine/books there for a quarter and bought them all. Don’t know anything about them but I figured for a quarter, they’d go in the reading library.  I do know that there’s a lot of reading in them and some of the covers are beautiful. 

On Brassard's Farm

On Brassard's Farm - Daniel Hecht
Ann takes what is left of herself and buys some remote land in Vermont. The land was once part of the Brassard’s Farm, a dairy farm ran by a couple and their hired hand, Earnest. This was an impulse buy for Ann, as her original plan didn’t pan out. Ann finds herself living in a tent and cooking over a camp stove. It’s scary living out on her own, under the stars, but Ann wanted to leave her old life behind and start anew.
She’s bought the land with some inheritance money that she had received from her aunt and when the rest of the monies didn’t come through, Ann finds herself working at the farm to pay off her debt. It’s hard work, harder than she thought. Every evening she struggles to make her way up the hillside to her land, to finish out her day, so she can repeat the process again the next day. Ann begins to find a rhythm to her daily life, finding both physical and mental strength as she helps around the farm. Slowly, she becomes a part of the inner workings of the other individuals who make up Brassard Farm. The farm becomes a part of Ann, she finds comfort and pride in her surroundings.
As I read this novel, I was immersed into the Vermont landscape. The green, rough terrain and vast beauty of the trees and brush, were at my side. As Ann cooked out on her camp stove, I imagined the smells and sounds as they trickled down through the hills. The wildlife ran free, they ate their fill and slept where they wanted, for they didn’t need humans to make their lives comfortable. The endless cycle of being a dairy farmer made me tired, it was the relentless upkeep and organization that filled their lives. The fear of the unknown, the fear of no control and the fear of tomorrow were always looming over their head. It all seemed too real yet it was something I hadn’t stopped to think about. It was called home for many but for me, this was an adventure. I was allowed an opportunity to view a life that I would never lead.
I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review.


The Stolen Marriage

The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain
I absolutely loved this novel. I loved all the historical elements the novel held in it, the twists and turns, the characters and I especially loved how Tess tried to maintain who she was, with all the excitement that was happening in her world. Right from the beginning, the novel took off and it continued right to the very end, there was never a lull. Rich in the history, laden with fantastic characters and situated in an area where favoritism happened on many levels.
The year was 1944 and 23-year-old Tess went on a trip with her best friend, Gina. Once they reached their destination, the plans had been changed and the two friends, headed out for dinner. Tess and Gina had quite the night, Tess’s behavior was unlike her normal studious, conscious self. Tess finds herself pregnant, her fiance, Vincent is not the father. That one-night out has changed everything.
Locating the father of her baby, Tess agrees to marry him as that would be the proper thing to do for her baby. Vincent is no longer in the picture but Tess thinks of him constantly. Immediately, Tess seems to forget what her needs are and as Henry starts to take control of the situation, I am fearful of what might occur. Tess feels she can fit into his rich, strict family but when we meet Henry’s mother and the rest of the community, I think Tess has bitten off more than she can chew. Tess has a big heart and I loved how she didn’t fall into her role but rather she tried to maintain who she was and she saw individuals for who they were. Their marriage is strange, his family is unusual, the only people I, myself, feel comfortable with, are working in the kitchen and I think Tess feels this too. When polio hits the region, Tess feels the need to do her part and when she stood up strong, I was cheering for her.
The novel is filled with wonderful emotional moments: there were times that I was smiling, laughing, angry, frustrated and yes, times where tears were escaping from my eyes. Where would this novel end as Tess battles her way through Hickory? Excellent historical fiction novel that I highly recommend.


I did it again.  Our volunteer coordinator at the library asked me if I would like to be the volunteer for our dog program and of course, I said yes!  These are service dogs that their trainers bring to the library and kids get to pick out books to read to them.  The dogs come for a half-hour once a month.   Then, at the end of the program, the dogs do little tricks (roll-over, give 5, balance treats on their noses, weave in and out of legs, sit-ups, etc. We had to quit the program last year as we ran out of dogs to provide to the kids.  I have to go early and find books for the kids to read, set up the room, and get the table ready of goodies for when the kids leave they can take something home with them. 


Well, in May we had 6 dogs show up and only 8 children for the half-hour, so each children basically had a dog for themselves for the whole time.  The children loved it.


In June, we had 7 dogs and about 29 children show up!  The room was packed! I had people showing up 30 minutes before the event time. It was so exciting seeing all the kids trying to read to the dogs.  We had one boy who was scared of dogs and he was actually reading to the dogs and kept reading the whole time, moving closer each time.  His mom and me were watching him and commenting on his progress and he was smiling and wanting to come back next time.


When the kids leave, they can get a free new book, a bookmark and a sticker, if they want.   I was surprised how many kids didn't want them. They were just happy to come read to the dogs.  


We also started our summer reading program this month.  This is our third summer for it and our site has about 35 children on Tuesday's.  This program is for children (kind- 5th grade) who don't normally get to the library and are in a large childcare summer  facility (like a Y program or a low-income site). I am started doing a short book talk each week this year with the children about different book genres.  Last week, I talked about reference books and they were excited to look at them when I got done.  This week, it's graphic novels.  Each week, the children are split into three groups and they're rotated into a book group, a craft group and a tablet group.  We bring 50 different books each week from the library to leave with them so they can read them over the week and then we exchange them the following week.  We ask them for ideas on what they want us to bring and we bring books based on the genre of the week.  I won that award for Adult Volunteer of the Year and I got $$  to send to a nonprofit so, the library used that money to buy books just for this program.  That money bought a set of books for all 5 sites of this program of the popular books so they will stay there all summer for the kids which is super cool (books like Captain Underpants,  Harry Potter, Tree House, etc.)  


I also just signed up to help with the rooftop garden that is on top of our library.   I love being outside and it's just pulling weeds and making sure that everything looks okay on the green space on library roof.


I'm trying to get ready for our family vacation this weekend.  We rented a house that has a pond and a pool off the deck for 5 days for a getaway with our family., that's about 2.5 hours away.  My three children and their spouses are coming with my  5-year old granddaughter and it will be fun to just hang around each other and chill out.  I hope to read but I have a feeling that won't happen but I 'm packing 4 books.  We've been taking these adult family vacations for 4 years now and the kids love just hanging out and not doing anything but playing games and talking (and drinking & eating).  We are celebrating my son's 38th birthday too (dang, he can't be that old) while we are there too.   


I really need to focus on reading but I've had so much on my plate lately,  I have so many great NetGalley reads that I am behind on and a stack of library books to read.   I hoping after this vacation, I can get back to holding a book in my hand.  


Bearskin - James  McLaughlin
Rice takes his job seriously. He’s taken the assignment of being the caretaker of the Turk Mountain Preserve for the isolation and the security that he hopes he will find up in the mountain ranges. He’s content doing physical labor and making his rounds, until a mushroom hunter finds his way onto the property. This hunter shows Rice the remains of the bear. Killed illegally on the protected property, Rice sets off on a mission to find the individual(s) responsible for this criminal act. Rice is an outsider to the area and he soon realizes, that he’s not welcomed nor will the locals willing give up information to help him out. It’s not just him either, the previous caretaker’s experienced problems also. As Rice tracks down these illegal hunters, his efforts get mingled with his past and Rice takes to the great outdoors.
I enjoyed the author’s writing, I felt as if I was in the mountains with the brush and the terrain right in front of me. It was entertaining when Rice was living outdoors, with mixed emotions I read, as Rice experienced a variety of incidents. When Rice put on his undercover suit, I had to laugh but boy, he knew his stuff and he blended right in. This was a great novel, sometimes taking on a relaxed feeling as Rice got a feel for the world around him and other times it was exciting as individuals started to invade his space. I enjoyed it.



Maps - Aleksandra Mizielinska, Daniel Mizielinski
I enjoy looking at Mizielinska's books. They are packed full of information and they are books that take a while to get through, and this book is no exception. A book of maps: maps that look historical in nature, maps that are full of facts and pictures to intrigue your mind. Some of the maps are placed horizontally and some are vertical, depending on the region. information on each page include: capital, languages, population, area, flag, animals and foods of the region, cities, and interesting information about that region.
I liked that there is an illustration for each fact that they share on each page. Even though some of the illustrations are not very detailed, you can understand what the illustrator was attempting to highlight. I also liked all the facts on the pages, how the author tried to fill each page with interesting information. I liked the interesting facts that the author chose to include, from basic information, like animals to trivia information. It's a fun book to pour over, I'm sure you'll find something you didn't know.