Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.

Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.

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Book Review of Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.

As a mother and a teacher I have seen many children who seem very dependent on technology. It’s interesting because when I get them in school they don’t know how to format a spreadsheet or put together a Google Slide presentation, but they can find memes and gifs and games no problem. I have witnessed with my own self and my children how reliant we can be on technology to cope with boredom and to numb out the feelings. When I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. The information in this book shocked and terrified me. It’s so important. What book am I discussing today? Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.

Blurb:

“We’ve all seen them: kids hypnotically staring at glowing screens in restaurants, in playgrounds and in friends’ houses―and the numbers are growing. Like a virtual scourge, the illuminated glowing faces―the Glow Kids―are multiplying. But at what cost? Is this just a harmless indulgence or fad like some sort of digital hula-hoop? Some say that glowing screens might even be good for kids―a form of interactive educational tool.

Don’t believe it.

In Glow Kids, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras will examine how technology―more specifically, age-inappropriate screen tech, with all of its glowing ubiquity―has profoundly affected the brains of an entire generation. Brain imaging research is showing that stimulating glowing screens are as dopaminergic (dopamine activating) to the brain’s pleasure center as sex. And a growing mountain of clinical research correlates screen tech with disorders like ADHD, addiction, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and even psychosis. Most shocking of all, recent brain imaging studies conclusively show that excessive screen exposure can neurologically damage a young person’s developing brain in the same way that cocaine addiction can.

Kardaras will dive into the sociological, psychological, cultural, and economic factors involved in the global tech epidemic with one major goal: to explore the effect all of our wonderful shiny new technology is having on kids. Glow Kids also includes an opt-out letter and a “quiz” for parents in the back of the book.”

My Book Review:

To say that this book shocked me is definitely an understatement. I first heard about it from a man named Collin Kartchner. He came and spoke to my school district about the harmful effects of cell phones and social media to children. I now follow him on Facebook and Instagram, and he recommended this book. He said after he read the first chapter he and his family got rid of the smart phones. After hearing that, I knew I needed to read it.

My husband and I have always been quite strict with our kids and technology. We did get our older boys smart phones the summer before they entered high school. My two girls (9th and 7th) do not have smart phones. I collect the phones each night, and they are locked with an app blocker, so nothing can be accessed on the phone. They never have access to the internet on their phones. None of them have social media, and I also turn off the wi-fi at night. They may not have Snap Chat or Tik Tok. You see, we were quite strict to begin with. Then I read this book.

Oh boy! Wow. To say that I was shocked when I read this book would be an understatement. I knew screen addiction could be bad, but I had no idea how bad it could really be. Dr. Kardaras cites study after study that backs up his claims. Video game creators write addiction codes into their games so children become addicted, and the dopamine the children receive while playing these games mimics the dopamine rush from a drug addiction. Yeah, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This book is well written. It reads well, and isn’t too full of jargon or scientific language. Its message comes across loud and clear. There are some reviews that suggest Dr. Kardaras is fearmongering, and I disagree. Yes, some of the examples he uses are extreme, but to me it shows how bad the addiction can get if left untreated. Dr. Kardaras cites studies to back up his research, and also gives anecdotes to give the reader a clear picture of what glow kids are. I always take things with a grain of salt anyway; each person is different and will react to situations and stimuli differently.

After I read this book I added even more time restrictions to my children, and I am more strict about no phones during dinner, family time, parties, etc. At school I changed a lot of things. Prior to reading this book I had my students practice their multiplication facts on a computer program because I thought it would be more fun. After reading this book I went old school and made flashcards (my daughter and I cut out flashcards for hours). My students now practice multiplication with a partner using flashcards. I also stopped using the Chromebooks for frivolous activities. As a teacher I understand that I still need to teach the students to use computers (spreadsheets, word docs, presentations, etc), but I no longer use them for things that can be done without tech.

Well, I did. Then the COVID-19 pandemic ruined all my plans about three weeks after I changed everything up. And we went to using nothing but technology. Ugh. Well, I tried. Going forward, I have no idea what will happen, but I plan to limit tech as much as possible.

If you have children or work with children in any way, you need to read this book. I see toddlers staring at phones now in grocery stores and I want to scream, “NOOOOO!!!” I don’t of course, but I want to. I like that this book has solutions in it, and they are practicable and doable. Here is an example:

A refocusing in education, at home and school, on the essentials of a healthy childhood: strong bonds with caring adults; time for spontaneous, creative lay; a curriculum rich in music and the other arts; reading books aloud; storytelling and poetry; rhythm and movement; cooking, building things, and other handcrafts; and gardening and other hands-on experiences of nature and the physical world. (pg 244)

Here are some of the quotes that stood out the most to me:

What’s more, an ever-increasing amount of clinical research correlates screen tech with psychiatric disorders like ADHD, addiction, anxiety, depression, increased aggression and even psychosis. (pgs 3-4)

…video games for the alienated kid and social media for the cheerleader are both just as addicting as heroin is to a junkie. With every burst of virtual gunfire, every text and tweet, there is a release—a little squirt—of dopamine, just as surely as cocaine tickles our dopamine neurotransmitters. (pg 14)

Dr. Dunckley came to believe that the unnaturally stimulating nature of an electronic screen, regardless of its content, wreaks havoc on the still-developing nervous system and mental health of a child on a variety of levels—cognitive, behavioral and emotional. (pgs 115-116)

Content Rating PG-13+Content Rating: PG-13+ (This book does not have any profanity, but it does discuss some violent/graphic situations, and does talk about “intimacy.”)

Recommendation: 16+

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2O5sRCn

 

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Essentialism by Greg McKeown Does Change Have to be So Hard by Julie Donley, RN The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey
 
 

Little Bella’s Nighttime Wonderland by Joy Fernandez

Little Bella's Nighttime Wonderland by Joy Fernandez

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Book Review of Bella's Nighttime Wonderland by Joy Fernandez

You know me—I love children’s books, so I always jump on the chance to review children’s books. My own children may be older (12, 14, 16, 18), but they love children’s books just as much as I do. I also teach sixth grade, and even though they pretend to be all tough and old, they still enjoy being read to. Reading books before bed is the best! I loved that time each night where we all cuddled up and read books together. This book will be a fun addition to bedtime reading.

Blurb:

“As Little Bella snuggles down for bed, she looks out her window and can’t believe what she sees! Fireflies illuminate a nighttime wonderland that unfolds right before her eyes.”

My Book Review:

What a cute story! I love children’s books and nature, and this book brings them together. As Little Bella (cute name!) gets ready for bed, she looks out the window. She sees the stars, the moon, and some amazing creatures outside. She can also hear some fun night-time sounds, as well as feeling the breeze. I want to live where Little Bella lives! It would be awesome to be able to see all those things outside your window at night!

The illustrations in this book are so cute! I love Little Bella’s beautiful, bright eyes! The nature pictures seem so peaceful and serene. I love the creatures, the clouds, and the nature scenes.

This is a very cute book. I wish my children were little so we could snuggle up and read this book together before bed tonight. If you’re looking for a new book (I know you’ve read the same book about 500 times in the last week!) you should check this one out! It’s super cute.

Content Rating GContent Rating: G (It’s clean!)

Age Recommendation: Everyone!

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/31SqOK2

 

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The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood Remember the Ladies by Callista Gingrich Nina the Neighborhood Ninja by Sonia Panigrahy
 
Photo Credit: Goodreads.com

Six Sisters’ Stuff: Healthy Eats Cookbook

Six Sisters' Stuff Healthy Eats Cookbook

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Book Review of Six Sisters' Stuff Healthy Eats Cookbook

Over the years I have reviewed several of the Six Sisters’ Stuff cookbooks. Consequently, I have tried many of their recipes. Some of those recipes are new family favorites—can you say lunch lady peanut butter bars? Yummm!  Now fast forward to this spring…and quarantine. What came with that? Oh, lots and lots of eating. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one! Now fast forward to today…what do I now need? Oh, yeah. Healthy things to eat. I need some good, new, healthy recipes so I stop eating cookies and brownies all.day.long. And, in steps the Six Sisters’ Stuff new cookbook: Healthy Eats. Six Sisters’ Stuff to the rescue!

Blurb:

When it comes to preparing meals, choosing between healthy and convenient can be a real struggle. Until now.

 

Popular bloggers and cookbook authors Six Sisters’ Stuff have gathered more than 100 of their top most-requested healthy recipes that combine their fast-and-easy cooking style with fresh ingredients for delicious and family-friendly meals. Whether you are serving a full three-course meal, grabbing a quick afternoon snack, or need to take a dish to a potluck, there is a recipe here that will fit your lifestyle and busy schedule as well as satisfy your taste buds.

 

With each recipe coming in at under 500 calories, this cookbook offers a great place to start for people who are looking to lose weight, who would like to prepare meals using more natural foods, or who are simply working to maintain a more balanced lifestyle.

 

With Healthy Eats with Six Sisters’ Stuff, it’s never been easier to provide healthy snacks and meals for on-the-go families.”

My Book Review:

With six people to feed, two being teenage boys, I need some good, easy, inexpensive, and healthy recipes. They need to be kid-friendly, too, because I have a VERY picky eater! We’ve tried a few recipes out of this cookbook, and so far so good!

We tried the Scrambled-Egg Breakfast Muffins, and they were delicious! Even my picky eater loved them…of course, she was the one that made them! I liked that I had all the ingredients for these as well. We took out the spinach and the mushrooms because my family doesn’t like them, but I like that they’re versatile enough to personalize them.

We also tried the No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies. They tasted like pretty much every other no-bake cookie I’ve had, but I did like the addition of peanut butter in them.

Another recipe we tried was the Easy Banana Cookies. Unfortunately, they were not our favorite. There isn’t any flour in them, and the texture suffered, which was why I didn’t like them. However, you may love them! The Dark-Chocolate Zucchini Cake felt the same way. It looks really good in the picture, but we didn’t love them either.

The Easy Marinated Pork Chops look delicious, as does the Lemon-Garlic Salmon. I can’t wait to try the Parmesan Crusted Asparagus and the Cheesy Zucchini Sticks.

I’m so glad to have more healthy options for my family, especially with all of the veggies I have from my garden. It’s going to be fun trying more of these recipes. If you’re looking for some healthier options for your family, check out the Healthy Eats  cookbook from Six Sisters’ Stuff.

Content Rating GContent Rating: G 

Recommendation: Everyone

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/3e8WiOC

 

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Catastrophes and Heroes by Jerry Borrowman

Catastrophes and Heroes by Jerry Borrowman

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Book Review of Catastrophes and Heroes by Jerry Borrowman

I have witnessed (on tv) many man-made disasters in my lifetime. One of the first to come to my mind is the explosion of the space shuttle when I was in third grade. I watched it live with the rest of the third grade, and it was traumatic, to say the least. I can also remember hearing about or watching trains derail, airplanes crash, decks collapse, and dams fail. It’s scary every time something like this happens. Lessons are learned, amazing people are there to help, and situations become safer because of these disasters. That is what Catastrophes and Heroes by Jerry Borrowman is about. Borrowman takes the reader through eight man-made disasters, the decisions that led up to them, the heroes that helped, and the lessons that were learned.

Blurb:

 
“A century of the industrial age saw unprecedented leaps in technology and engineering, from the first flight of an airplane to the first flight of humans to the moon. But alongside these awe-inspiring achievements were horrible disasters caused by faulty engineering or careless judgment. Catastrophes and Heroes explores eight such disasters and recognizes the unheralded heroes who stepped up to save others in times of great danger–and the policies that changed as a result.
  • Eight disaster stories spanning the globe and listed in chronological order from 1865 to 1963.
  • Each chapter contains such sections as: The Human Cost of Tragedy, Overview, Fateful Choices, Victims and First Responder Heroes, and Professional Heroes.”

My Book Review:

This well written book goes into great detail about each of these eight disasters. There are train derailments, dam failures, bridge collapses, boat fires, and more. It’s obvious that Borrowman has put a lot of time and effort into his research for this book. For each of the disasters he discusses the people involved, the safety standards of the time, the engineering knowledge of the time, and many of the decisions made leading up to the disaster. He then walks the reader through the disaster, the aftermath, the heroes that helped, and the safety standards that changed as a result.

I had never heard of any of these disasters. I’m even a history lover, and I did not know about any of these situations. As I read, I did find it interesting to learn about what happened in each of these experiences. I especially liked reading about the people who jumped right in to help the victims in their time of need. Another point of interest was learning about the safety changes that occurred because of these catastrophes. Often times we don’t know what needs fixing until it’s too late. Unfortunately, many people lost their lives in these tragedies, but fortunately, changes were made that made all of us safer today.

I liked this book, but it was a bit too depressing for me. Borrowman definitely focused more on the catastrophe part than the hero part, and reading somber story after somber story was a bit much for me. I could only read it a little bit at a time. That being said, I did like learning about the history of it and learning about the heroes who helped in the aftermath. I’m glad that we have record of these disasters so that we do not repeat the mistakes going forward.

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There is minimal profanity; just a couple of words. There isn’t any “intimacy,” but there is quite a bit of violence as many people were killed or injured in these disasters.)

Recommendation: 16+ (I don’t think children younger would be interested in this topic anyway.)

My Rating: 3/5

3 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2AuTYnu

 

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Invisible Heroes of WWII by Jerry Borrowman Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand Slave Stealers by Timothy Ballard
 

Rakes and Roses by Josi S. Kilpack

Rakes and Roses by Josi S Kilpack

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Book Review of Rakes and Roses by Josi S. Kilpack

If you know me at all, you know that I haven’t ever been one to go after the bad boys. I like the clean-cut, well-mannered, hold a steady job kind of guy, and my handsome hubby is just that. There are some women, though, that like the bad boys. They like a little more adventure, maybe? Haha! I’m not one of them so I’m not sure. I’ve read quite a few proper romances, and none of them have had a bad boy as the romantic love interest. Until now. Fun, right? It adds a bit of fun and a bit of surprise to the story. Ok, so here is the definition of a rake according to my Merriam-Webster app: a dissolute person. And then the definition of dissolute is: marked by indulgence in things (such as drink…) deemed vices. You get the picture. What does a rake have to do with roses? Find out more in my review of Rakes and Roses by Josi S. Kilpack.

Blurb:

A Mayfield Family Romance


Lady Sabrina endured an abusive marriage, a miscarriage, and early widowhood to emerge as a smart, successful, confident woman who found a way to make her mark in a man’s world. She has friends and purpose, but cannot hide from the emptiness she feels when the parties are over and the friends have gone home to families she will never have.

Harry Stillman may be charming and handsome, but he’s a gambler and a rake who has made a mockery of his privileges. He turns to the mysterious Lord Damion for financial relief from his debts, but still ends up beaten nearly senseless by thugs and left in an ally.

When Lady Sabrina comes upon Harry after the attack, she remembers the kindness Harry once showed to her six years ago and brings him to her estate to heal. Though their relationship begins on rocky footing, it soon mellows into friendship, then trust. But Lady Sabrina needs to keep Harry at a distance, even if he is becoming the kind of man worthy of her heart. After all, she is keeping a secret that, if exposed, could destroy everything she’s so carefully built.”

My Book Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I loved the uniqueness of the story, and I loved the characters. One of my most favorite parts of the book was Lady Sabrina’s secret life. If I were in her position, I hope I could be just as generous as she is. When I learned of her past, I felt so bad for her. I’m glad she was able to rise above her past circumstances. She comes across as very relatable and realistic, and as someone you would want to meet. She seems so genuine and caring. I liked her character a lot. Some of it may have to do with her roses. I LOVE roses, and my gardens are full of them.

Harry, on the other hand, is a rake. Yes he is. He is not a nice person. I definitely would not want to hang out with him or his crowd. Harry has a lot of issues, and they aren’t pretty issues; they aren’t easy issues either. He gets himself into some pretty bad situations. He’s the kind of guy you DO NOT want your daughter to bring home. But does he have another side? A side that isn’t quite as dissolute? If he did, he might be able to convince a few women (and their dads) that he might not be so bad. There is kind of a corny part in regards to something Harry learns to do. I don’t know about that one specific part—it’s pretty cheesy, and I found it mostly unbelievable, but it’s only one small part in the book. And, I guess you never know. 

Overall, this book is well written. The characters are well developed, the story is unique and has an element of surprise in it, and I thought it was a fun book.  I found it entertaining and a great change of pace, especially during the quarantine. It’s a great addition to the proper romance genre! If you have enjoyed any of the previous proper romances, you will enjoy this one!

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy,” although there is some kissing, and a scene where it almost goes too far, but doesn’t. There is some brief violence with fighting.)

Age Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/3eQL2I2

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Wizard For Hire: Magic Required (Book #3) by Obert Skye

Wizard for Hire Magic Required (Book 3) by Obert Skye

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Book Review of Wizard for Hire: Magic Required (Book #3) by Obert Skye

This is such a fun series! Book #2 ended with such a huge cliffhanger that we’ve (my kids and I) been waiting and waiting for this book to come out! Yes, before I even received the book, my kids were fighting over who got to read it after I read it. And yes, I got to read it first. Haha! It’s the privilege of being the one to review it. I love the mystery in this series. There are times you’re thinking, “There is NO way he’s a wizard.” Then 20 pages later you’re thinking, “Oh, he’s definitely a wizard.” I think this mystery and wondering is part of what makes these books so fun. So…the big question…IS Rin a wizard? Do we finally get to find out? Well, no spoilers here, but I hope you enjoy my review of Wizard for Hire: Magic Required (Book #3) by Obert Skye.

Blurb:

The final answer to the existence of magic.


Ozzy and his friend Sigi are in more danger than ever before. After being injected with the mindcontrolling serum, Ozzy is learning to control the minds of people, but he is still being hunted by Ray, the power-mad villain who will stop at nothing to find and possess the formula. And on top of that, Rin still claims he’s a wizard, but he and Clark are missing, leaving Ozzy to wonder once again if magic really does exist.

When it becomes apparent that the minds and free will of all mankind are in danger of being controlled by whoever controls the serum, Ozzy and Sigi join forces with strange new friends that claim magic-like abilities. When Rin finally returns, Ozzy will discover once and for all what happened to his parents, what really happens at those popular fantasy conventions, and if magic truly exists.”

My Book Review:

There’s a lot riding on this book! I have to say that we all had REALLY high expectations for book #3. So, did it live up to the expectations? Yes, yes it did! As always, Ozzy and Sigi have some crazy adventures, and put themselves in grave danger. This time is a little different because they’re in even greater peril than normal (if that’s possible). They make some poor choices, as usual, and no one is there to help…or is there? Some surprise visitors come along, and add to the twists and turns of this crazy story.

Once again, I love the characters in this book. Even though Ozzy and Sigi sometimes make me cringe because of their antics, they are such fun characters. They want to help, they want to make sure Rin is okay, and their intentions are good—they just don’t execute plans very well. As characters, though, they are relatable, realistic, and fun to be around. This book has enough action and mystery to capture the imaginations of even the most reluctant readers. There are crazy twists and turns, and unexpected answers.

This book is well written. The characters are well developed, and the writing style is easy to read and understand. It flows well, and just sucks you right into the story. I love Obert Skye’s figurative language. He hits it out of the park! 

Darkness pushed down like a fat wad of clay under the pressure of a heavy thumb–shoving itself into any cracks, crevasses, or corners it could find. 

If you like action, adventure, mystery, magic, fire, road trips, traffic jams, and Comic Con, you’ll love this story! And…if you want to know whether or not Rin is REALLY a wizard—you need to read this book! I loved it, and my kids did too! Yep, it lived up to expectations and we loved it! Also, the fabulous Brandon Dorman has done it again–the cover art is amazing! You’re free to judge this book by its cover. 

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity, but he does use similar words as substitutes. There’s not any “intimacy,” but there is some violence. Ozzy, Sigi, and Rin fight the bad guys, and there is a kidnapping.)

Recommendation: Middle-Graders (4th-6th) and up

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2UOxvZk

 

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Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker

Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker

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Book Review of Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker

As a woman, I’m so thankful to be alive in 2020! Everything may not be perfect, but as a woman in the United States I can vote. I can own property, start a business, have a bank account, and get a college education. I can become a doctor, lawyer, CEO, or even president. I can provide for myself because there are limitless possibilities for a woman in the United States today. Unfortunately, there are still places around the world that prohibit women from certain things, and that needs to change. Now. This book takes place in England in 1820, and things were much different. In order for a woman to be provided for, she needed a good marriage match. Thank goodness we are over that here today! I hope you enjoy my book review of Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker.

Blurb:

Brighton, England 1820


Amelia Moore wants only one thing—to secure the future happiness of her younger sister, Clara. With their stepfather’s looming death, the two sisters will soon be on their own—without family, a home, or a penny to their names. When an invitation arrives to join a house party at Lakeshire Park, Amelia grasps at the chance. If she can encourage a match between Clara and their host, Sir Ronald, then at least her sister will be taken care of.

Little does she know that another guest, the arrogant and overconfident Mr. Peter Wood, is after the same goal for his own sister. Amelia and Peter begin a rivalry that Amelia has no choice but to win. But competing against Peter—and eventually playing by his rules—makes Amelia vulnerable to losing the only thing she has left to claim: her heart.”

My Book Review:

This is such a fun book! The characters make the story, for sure! Amelia personifies a big sister; I love how well she takes care of her little sister Clara. You can feel her love for her sister in all her actions and hear it in all of her words. I love the relationship between the two sisters. If Amelia personifies a big sister, Peter follows suit as a big brother. He has all the qualities a little sister needs to feel safe and protected. He will go to any length to make sure Georgiana has all she needs and wants. The highly sought-after Sir Ronald has his work cut out for him! I liked him as well. He’s a gentleman through and through, which definitely makes the women swoon after him!

I love how the characters are relatable, well developed, and fun. As you read the story, you become a part of this group of friends. That feeling is one of my most favorite parts about reading. How amazing is it to be a part of so many stories?

This book is well written. The writing style of this book draws you in from the beginning. It’s a fun, casual writing style that is easy to read and understand flows well, and allows you to immerse yourself in 19th century England.

I loved this book! It’s a fun story with lots of romance and rivalry. I love how the characters play off of each other. The dialogue is interesting and the story line is fun. Really, though, I’m so glad I don’t live in 19th century England. I’m glad I can provide for myself and not have to rely on a match with a wealthy husband. This is a great book, and I recommend it! It’s a perfect addition to the proper romance genre!

Lakeshire Park Graphic

Content Rating PG+Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity or violence. There’s not any “intimacy,” except for some brief kissing.)

Recommendation: YA (12-18)+

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/3d0l03a

 

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Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

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Book Review of Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

I’ve only seen whales a couple of times in my life. You see, I live much closer to the mountains than I do to the ocean. I LOVE the ocean, though. Well, I actually LOVE the beach, not really the ocean. The ocean scares me. I’ve snorkeled a few times, and it just scares me—especially after I got stung by a jellyfish on my honeymoon (a story for a different day…). I’ve seen Shamu and the other orcas (killer whales) at Sea World, and I’ve seen gray whales off the Oregon Coast. We saw the gray whales on our trip down the Oregon Coast last summer, and it was definitely a highlight of the trip. It’s easy to see why Willa loves whales so much– they’re incredible to watch. I’d love to go out on a whale watching trip sometime, but for now I’ll be content with reading Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown.

(Here is a pic of a gray whale we saw last summer off the Oregon Coast.)

Blurb:

“Can a whale talk to a human? Willa thinks so . . .

After losing her mom, Willa is grieving and having a hard time living with her dad and his new family on an island off the coast of Washington State. Her dad tries to cheer her up by taking her whale watching, something Willa’s mom used to do.

While all the passengers are on one side of the boat, Willa encounters a humpback whale on the opposite side. Willa feels so lonely that she starts to talk to the whale—and the whale talks back!

The whale, named Meg, quickly becomes a trusted friend and confidante Willa can speak to whenever she’s by the ocean.

Meg offers sound advice Willa needs about dealing with a nemesis at school and trying to figure out why her friend Marc is keeping secrets about his family life.

Before the story ends, it will take all of Willa’s courage and connections to tackle a problem that’s as big as a blue whale!”

My Book Review:

I LOVE the combination of Chad Morris and Shelly Brown! They have written some amazing middle-grade books! Consequently, I couldn’t wait to read this one; it did not disappoint. I love the writing style they have together—it’s easy to read, understand, and relate to. It’s a casual, yet poignant, style that easily combines children and their curiosity with bigger and difficult-to-talk-about topics. They’ve tackled disability and illness in previous books, and this time around they discuss the death of a loved one.

Willa’s parents divorce, and she moves far away with her mother. After her mother passes away, she moves back to the United States to live with her dad and his new wife and family. They live off the coast of Washington state. Lucky for them, they live in a beautiful part of our country. It’s so green! I love it there. In an effort to cheer Willa up, her dad takes her on a whale watching expedition. While out on the ocean, she meets a humpback whale. To her surprise, the whale talks to Willa!

This story has some tense moments, but it’s a sweet story of friendship, family, love, nature, swimming, and overcoming hard things. The book is well written. The characters are my favorite; they are well developed, relatable, and realistic. Willa and Meg have such a sweet friendship, and I love how Willa fights to reclaim her friendship with Marc. You know how much I love lessons in children’s books, and this one is FULL of great lessons! The great thing is that it’s such a sweet and cute story that the kids won’t even know how many lessons they’re learning.

I loved this book, and I highly recommend it for any home or class library. I have such a hard time because I have all these great books at my house, and I want an extra copy of all of them for my classroom library. My own children would revolt if I took the books to school, though.  I think this would also be a very fun read-aloud.

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (This book is clean. There isn’t any profanity, intimacy, or violence. There is a description of Willa’s mother’s death, and there is a lot of discussion of death and grief. There’s also some discussion of drug addiction and rehab.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-Graders (4th-6th) +

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/37gFu6G

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

mustaches for maddie Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris
 
 

The Milkman’s Son by Randy Lindsay

The Milkman's Son by Randy Lindsay

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Book Review of The Milkman's Son by Randy Lindsay

Have you ever felt like you’re the odd-one-out in your family; or been teased that you’re the milkman’s child? Or, have you ever tried your hand at family history work? Randy Lindsay did both, and it didn’t turn out quite like he expected. DNA testing has been able to do amazing things with family history, including finding links to people you never knew you were related to. It’s been so helpful, in fact, that it has been known to find a few surprises in families around the world. Randy Lindsay’s family tree had a big surprise waiting for him! Find out more in my review of The Milkman’s Son by Randy Lindsay.

Blurb:

“Raised in a family he bore little resemblance to, Randy was jokingly referred to as ‘the milkman’s son.’  This warm and candid memoir chronicles the unraveling of a family secret, which begins with Randy’s dad having dreams about deceased relatives urging him to complete their family tree. Randy agrees to help with the genealogy, but after his searching leads to a dead end, he takes a commercially available DNA test. The results reveal a possible genetic match to a sister, which begins a familial quest that forever changes the author’s life.

Featuring a cast of vivid characters, richly drawn from two distinct families, The Milkman’s Son reveals one man’s family tree, pulling back layers of new information as he gets closer to the truth—a biological father, siblings, and family members he never knew about.

This is a story of accepting, forgiving, reuniting, and, most importantly, it’s about the bonds that connect us and the unconditional love that makes us feel like we belong.”

My Book Review:

This story is crazy! It’s one of those stories where you’re thinking, “You can’t make this stuff up!” Lindsay’s writing draws you in from the beginning. His writing style is easy to read, casual, and has a good amount of humor in it. It’s easy to get lost in this story because it flows well, it holds your attention, and you have to know more. What? What happens next? You found out what??

At the beginning of the book I wasn’t sure if I’d care about some unknown person’s family tree, but I did! I think I cared because of Lindsay’s writing. I loved the humor he added. Lindsay draws you in, and you feel like you’re a branch on his family tree. You care for the people he discusses; you cry with him, laugh with him, and are just as shocked as he is at some of the surprises he finds.

One thing I really wanted to know more about was his mother. That part of the story remains a mystery, and I think her side of the story is important. Not knowing her side definitely left a hole in the story. She would have been able to answer a whole bunch of my questions. 

My siblings are really good at family history. I find it fascinating, but I haven’t put as much time and effort in as they have. On my dad’s side, we can only go back as far as my great-great grandfather, and then the line stops. We, too, are now delving into the land of DNA to see if it helps. I hope we don’t find too many surprises along the way!

I enjoyed this book. It’s quite the story! I think it will inspire a few people to look into their family history because of the way Lindsay describes it, and because of his surprises. You’ll enjoy this book even if you’re not into family history at all.

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (This book is pretty clean. There isn’t any profanity or violence. There isn’t any “intimacy,” but there is a situation that is implied.)

Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 3/5

3 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2yXxsCN

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand The Immortal Llife of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
 

What the Other Three Don’t Know by Spencer Hyde

What the Other Three Don't Know by Spencer Hyde

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Book Review of What the Other Three Don't Know by Spencer Hyde

I have only been white-water rafting one time, and it wasn’t even on a scary river. I went as a leader for a church youth group, and we got to do zip lines, mountain climbing, and white-water rafting. We had so much fun! One of the girls that was in our boat lost her shoe on the river, but what was more nerve-wracking was that she almost fell out at a really bad time. We were really glad that we just lost her shoe and not her! Overall, I had a great time, but I don’t know that I’d want to do a five day trip on a river! In Spencer Hyde’s new book What the Other Three Don’t Know, four youth spend five days on the Snake River. Along the way, they find out a lot more about each other, their guide, and the secrets they all keep.

Blurb:

Will I still be loved if I show people who I really am?  
Four high school seniors. Four secrets about to be told.

If Indie had it her way, she would never choose to river raft with three other high school seniors, mostly strangers to each other, from her journalism class.

A loner, a jock, an outsider, an Instagram influencer. At first they can’t see anything that they have in common. As the trip unfolds, the unpredictable river forces them to rely on each other. Social masks start to fall as, one-by-one, each teen reveals a deep secret the other three don’t know.

One is harboring immense grief and unwilling to forgive after the death of a loved one. One is dealing with a new disability and an uncertain future. One is fearful of the repercussions of coming out. One is hiding behind a carefully curated “perfect” image on Instagram.

Before they get to the end of Hells Canyon, they’ll know the truth about each other and, more importantly, learn something new about themselves.

What the Other Three Don’t Know is a poignant and gripping YA novel about the unlikely friends who accept you for who you really are and the power of self-acceptance.”

My Book Review:

One lesson I’ve learned in my life is that if you want to get to know someone better, you need to spend time with them. Hanging out is good, but a vacation together is even better! It’s especially better if you don’t have cell phone service or tv or any other distraction devices. When you get to know someone better, you begin to feel more comfortable sharing who you really are. You start to let down your guard and bring your walls down. It’s a good thing! That is exactly what happened when Indie, Skye, Wyatt, and Shelby spent five days together, with their guide, in Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River.

I liked this book a lot! It is well written, and the characters make the story! Each character has his or her own unique story. Have you heard the saying that has gone around lately that you need to be kind to everyone because everyone is fighting a personal battle? That sentiment is the basis for this book. Each one of the high school seniors has a secret, and each one is afraid to let down the walls surrounding him or her. As these teenagers spend time getting to know each other, and their strengths and weaknesses, they begin to see that they aren’t all that different. They begin to see commonalities, and they start to see each other in a different light.

The characters in this book are very well written and thought out. The events that occur are not overdone or too dramatically written. There are some tense moments, but the writing allows it all to feel real and raw. As you read you can feel the emotions of the characters, and you also begin to relate to each of them. The writing style draws you into this world, and you really feel as if you are in that raft feeling the spray of the water and the danger of the situation.

There are some difficult things discussed in this book. Death, disability, and LGBT feelings are only a few. I like how the trip (for the characters) and the book (for the readers) provide a safe place to talk about hard issues. I think it is important for everyone to find a safe place to talk about the hard things in our lives. If you have a friend, family member, therapist, church leader, or school official that you can confide in—a connection—then you have a better chance at resolving your issues and feeling more loved.

I think this is a great YA book. Many YA will be able to see that it is ok to let your guard down, to not be perfect, and to get help if you need it. I love the themes of hard work, working together, helping each other, listening without judgment, accepting and loving without judgment, and being brave enough to talk about your feelings with others. Another thing I love is that this book allows YA (and all readers) to see that even the “popular people” struggle with things. Even the “popular people” aren’t perfect and feel insecure. This is a good thing for high school students to learn, because it makes people much more approachable and relatable.

Content Rating PG-13Rating: PG-13 (There are a couple of minor swear words–the canyon is called Hell’s Canyon, and there are some very tense and scary moments, but there isn’t any violence or “intimacy.” There are also some difficult themes discussed which may be too much for younger readers.)

Recommendation: YA (13-18)+

My Rating: 3.5/5

Disclosure: I received a free book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2XABmJZ

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore Wonder by R.J. Palacio