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The Week in Review: 08.23.2019

August 23, 2019
tags:

the-week-in-review

Between the Covers

Finished last week:

WE WALKED THE SKY by Lisa Fiedler intertwines the stories of Victoria and her granddaughter Callie.  Fleeing an unhappy home life, Victoria joined up with the circus for what she thought would be a short stint.  She was willing to do anything and ended up becoming a tightrope walker.  Callie grows up with the circus, learning from her grandmother, and becomes quite talented on the tightrope herself.  Then, Victoria passes away and Callie and her mother leave the circus.  At sixteen years old Callie finds herself learning to navigate a new world with the help of some things from her grandmother.

I really enjoyed this book and its unique setting.  The point of view shifts between Victoria and Callie and I thought both of their stories were compelling.  Both were trying to make new lives for themselves in settings that were unique to them.  Callie might have had an unusual life but she’s still a typical teenager – she isn’t happy with her mother and longs to be accepted.  She was extremely close to her grandmother and is dealing with grief as well as a lot of changes in her life.  This would be a fun book for book clubs – there’s a lot to discuss and it would be easy to come up with refreshment ideas.  I listened to the audio version of the book, which is narrated by Erin Spencer.  I thought she did a good job but think the book would have been better served with two narrators – it wasn’t always easy to tell whose story I was listening to.  (Review copy provided by Penguin Random House.)

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THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA by J. Ryan Stradal is the story of two sisters – Helen and Edith – who become estranged when their father leaves the family farm to Helen.  Helen sells the farm and uses the money to start a successful brewery.  At the same time, Edith’s life is a struggle even when she becomes well known for the pies she bakes at the nursing home she works for.  When her daughter passes away, she takes in her granddaughter Diana and the two of them work hard to make ends meet.  When Diana gets a job with a new brewery, Helen and Edith’s worlds collide in an unexpected way.

If there was ever a book written for me, this was it!  I thought the characters and story were terrific and loved that it included craft beer!  It’s obvious Stradal knows a thing or two about beer because he is spot on when he writes about beer.  One brewery scene had me laughing out loud because it was so true to life.  If you enjoy family drama, great characters, and/or beer, you’ll want to pick this book up.  I listened to the audio version of this book and Judith Ivey’s terrific narration kept me entertained in a horrible traffic jam.  (Review copy provided by Penguin Random House.)

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Once again, National Geographic Kids proves that they know how to make learning fun with BRAIN GAMES: MIGHTY BOOK OF MIND BENDERS by Stephanie Warren Drimmer and Dr. Gareth Moore.  This book starts out with a brief explanation of the brain and includes interesting facts like

There are no pain sensors in your brain, but there are in your skull.

The book then moves on to the senses and includes a Stroop test and a rail track illusion.  To make things even better, it explains why we perceive things the way we do.

Also included is a section on words and language with lots of fun puzzles, another on spatial intelligence that includes puzzles focusing on dimensional themes.  The next chapter is about problem solving and decision making.  It talks about decisions we have to make in our lives each day.  The puzzles in this section are a little tougher but are still fun.

There’s also a chapter on memory that includes memory games and shares information on how we make memories.  It tells us

Most people can hold about seven digits in their head for about 30 seconds.

The final chapter is on mysteries of the brain because we still have lots to learn about the brain, like why we dream and what causes emotions.

The puzzles in this book are fantastic and I love that Drimmer and Moore have included explanations for many of of them.  Answers and an index are included in the back and readers are encouraged to try their hand at creating a puzzle or two of their own.  BRAIN GAMES is printed on high quality paper that is easy to write on.  I loved books like this when I was a kid (and still do) and think this one’s perfect for curious kids ages eight and up.  (Review copy provided by Media Masters Publicity.)

Currently reading:

On the Screen

I went to see Where’d You Go, Bernadette with a friend since we both loved the book.  (She’s read it twice.)  It’s the story of an architect wife and mother who withdraws from mainstream society and eventually disappears and her family’s search to find her.  It’s been almost seven years since I read the book so I’m not sure how faithful the movie was to the plot but I am sure the movie lacked its charm.  I thought the casting was terrific and enjoyed a lot of the scenery but thought the movie was slow.  This is one you’ll want to wait for in streaming services.

Off the blog

  • Carl and I signed all the paper work for our wills and it took forever.  I’m glad to have that task done.
  • I went back to the car dealer for a lesson on my car.  New cars are complicated!
  • Vance is in Maine so I’ve been working a little extra.
  • I walked at least three miles every morning and averaged almost 16,750 Fitbit steps a day.

What’s going on in your corner of the world?

Wondrous Words Wednesday

August 21, 2019

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

I found a great new word in one of my Word Genius emails.

1. mondegreen – “Singing along with Hendrix, she belted out the mondegreen “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.”

I think I can use this word a lot!  It can mean a word or phrase that results from misheard language or a  made-up lyric or line that replaces a song’s real words. You can read more about it and learn how it’s pronounced here.

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What words do you want to celebrate today?

Mailbox Monday

August 19, 2019

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia and now hosted on its own blog.  When it comes to books, it seems that it’s either feast or famine around here and this week certainly felt like a feast.

Monday

Tuesday

Thursday

Friday

What was in your mailbox?

The Week in Review: 08.16.2019

August 16, 2019
tags:

the-week-in-review

Between the Covers

Finished last week:

WINDOW ON THE BAY by Debbie Macomber is the story of two old friends, Jenna and Maureen, who’ve always dreamed of going to Paris together but something always gets in the way.  They’re both divorced and their children have all left home so it seems like the perfect time.  But things don’t go exactly as they planned.

The story alternates between the two women and I found both of them just a little bit irritating.  They’ve worked hard and raised their children without much help from their ex-husbands so I was surprised that they were both somewhat elitist. I thought the characters were pretty vanilla and the storyline to be predictable.  Tavia Gilbert, Erin Bennett, and Karissa Vacker did a great job narrating the audio version so it was a pleasant way to spend a few hours but, for me, the book was just okay – not Macomber’s best effort.  (Review copy provided by Penguin Random House.)

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Claire’s mother and grandmother are psychics and she works in the business as well but she doesn’t have “the gift”.  She’s just learned to really focus on her clients and tell them what they want or need to hear.  Rena is the mom to Stephanie, a four year old girl with serious health problems that doctors can’t figure out.  The two meet in a chance encounter on an airplane and their lives become further entangled when Rena visits Claire for a reading.

THE PERFECT FRAUD by Ellen LaCorte has one of the most unique storyline I’ve read and I was drawn in from the beginning.  The point of view switches between Claire and Rena and I was hooked on both their stories.  I flew through this book, at first curious to see how the characters’ stories were going to entwine, and then to see how things were going to work out.  LaCorte has written some great characters and story with plenty of tension to keep readers flipping the pages.  The ending leaves things open for a sequel which I would love to read.  Pick this book up!  (Review copy provided by Harper Collins.)

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MAYBE HE JUST LIKES YOU by Barbara Dee is the story of a seventh grade girl named Mila.  Mila’s not the most popular but she has a solid set of friends.  As the school year starts, the boys in her class start to touch her inappropriately and harass or bully her with unsuitable comments.  Mila doesn’t know who to turn to – her single mom has her hands full with problems at work and the assistant principal coaches all of the boys in basketball.  Mila starts retreating into a shell until things come to a head one day and she finds help where she least expects it.

This is such an important and timely book for middle grade readers!  It addresses bullying and sexual harassment and shows how harmful both can be.  Mila begins to find some power when she starts taking karate but it’s not enough – she needs adult help with this problem.  This compelling book has a great storyline, wonderful characters, and plenty of tensionb.  It belongs in every school and classroom library.  (Review copy provided by Media Masters Publicity.)

Currently reading:

On the Screen

Not much of anything.

Off the blog

  • Carl have been casually car shopping for quite a few weeks now and finally made the plunge this week and purchased a new one.
  • One of Vance’s college roommates and his fiancée (!!) are visiting and, since Vance’s apartment is so small, they’re all staying with us.
  • We walked at least three miles every morning and I averaged just over 16,850 Fitbit steps a day.

What’s going on in your corner of the world?

Wondrous Words Wednesday

August 14, 2019

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

I didn’t get much reading done while I was at my mom’s last week, so I had to turn back to my Word-a-Day calendar.

1. impious – “Hydaspes ends his speech by appealing to the gods’ forgiveness for his impious words.” — Silvia Montiglio, Ancient Narrative, January 1, 2010

Impious is an adjective that means marked by irreverence toward a deity, a person, or a thing.    

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2. lucubration – “The historical archives include handwritten lucubrations from Benjamin Franklin himself.”

Lucubration is a noun that means laborious or intensive study; also: the product of such study – usually used in plural.

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3. valetudinarian – “Will complains constantly of his aches, pains, and sniffles; he is truly a valetudinarian.”

I know someone just like Will.  A valetudinarian is a person of a weak or sickly constitution; especially: one whose chief concern is being or becoming a chronic invalid.

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What words do you want to celebrate today?

Mailbox Monday

August 12, 2019

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia and now hosted on its own blog.  It was a slow week for my mailbox, but I’m not complaining since I have plenty to read.

Monday

What was in your mailbox?

The Week in Review: 08.09.2019

August 9, 2019
tags:

the-week-in-review

Between the Covers

Finished last week:

I’m sure most people know FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL by Sheri Fink is the story of New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital, the people who worked there during Hurricane Katrina, and the investigation into their actions afterward.  When I mentioned I was reading it a lot of people told me how much they loved it but I had mixed feelings about it.

The Good:

  • Fink’s research is top notch.
  • The writing is terrific and very approachable.
  • There is a map of the hospital and a list of “characters” at the beginning of the book.
  • The story is thought provoking and would spark great discussions.

The Not So Good:

  • I waited too long to read it, so most of the information in the book wasn’t new to me.
  • The story got bogged down with what felt like (to me anyway) unnecessary details.

I’m glad I read the book and think those who haven’t read much about Katrina will enjoy it more than I did.  This book is worth reading but it won’t make my list of favorites for the year.  (Review copy provided by Penguin Random House.)

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CHANCES ARE. . . by Richard Russo is the story of three college friends who reunite after over forty years.  The three are very different but they always had one thing in common – they were in love with the same girl, Jacy.  She disappeared one weekend in 1971 and no one ever knew what happened to her, but they all had their suspicions.

The store moves back and forth between the present and the past and I liked them equally.  I really enjoyed my time with this book and found excuses to spend more time with it.  Russo’s writing is top-notch, the characters felt real to me, and there was plenty of tension to keep the story moving along.  (As a side note, there was a character named Vance in the story, but the other characters could never remember if his name was Vance, Chance, or Lance.  I mentioned this to my Vance and he said, “That’s the story of my life.”)  I listened to the audio version of CHANCES ARE. . . and thought Fred Sanders did a good job with the narration.  (Review copy provided by Penguin Random House.)

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SUPERMAN OF SMALLVILLE by Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani is a graphic novel from the new DC Zoom Imprint for middle grade readers.  In this book, Clark Kent is just starting middle school and is figuring out how to use his powers for good.  His parents are trying to monitor his activities to protect him.  When things around town start to levitate and disappear, his parents accuse him and suggest he stay in for a few days.  Clark knows he’s innocent, though, and is determined to prove it.

I don’t think I’ve ever read or seen anything featuring Clark Kent as a teen and I thought this book was loads of fun.  Clark is just a normal kid with super powers that he wants to use for good and, of course, his parents want to make sure he’s not taken advantage of.  Middle grade readers will relate to Clark and his problems and will love the fabulous, full-color illustrations by Art Baltazar.  There’s even a little code that can be interpreted with the included key.  This book is perfect for reluctant readers and avid readers alike. (Review copy provided by DC Comics.)

Currently reading:

On the Screen

Not much of anything.

Off the blog

  • I spent most of the week visiting my mother and we got a lot accomplished including, having her hearing tested and ordering new hearing aids; having her eyes checked and having YAG laser procedure done on one eye; and straightening out an issue with her utility bill.  I had a flare up with one of my eyes while I was visiting her and had to see her opthalmalogist too.
  • We moved into our current location/home 12 years ago today.  It’s the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere.
  • I averaged almost 9,900 Fitbit steps a day.

What’s going on in your corner of the world?