Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head...

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

My thoughts...I will start with I devoured this book! I had an eye strain headache and still couldn't put it down! So so good. Why was it so good? Ok, well we get to know Heidi Wood at first. She is devoted to helping and care of the less fortunate. She spots Willow out in the rain with a baby. The girl and the baby haunt her. Its not like she sees her and brings her home the next day. Everything about this girl with a baby compels Heidi to reach out and help her. Her husband, Chris is a workaholic who seems oddly detached from his wife. He is in the marriage, but not fully vested. Their daughter Zoe is a preteen struggling to find her own voice with a mother who is very involved. You can see how Heidi is almost looking for something to fill her attention.

The novel is told with three viewpoints. First Heidi, then her husband Chris and last Willow. What I absolutely loved was Heidi and Chris share the story as it is happening though their eyes, but Willow tells the story from the end and from before meeting the Wood family (I know this sounds confusing, but it isn't and it really is what makes for the suspense!)

Now I can't imagine bringing home a young girl off the streets into my home the way Heidi does, but it doesn't take long before we begin to understand Heidi's underlying reasoning. Heidi seems to bask in taking care of Willow's baby. Chris is suspicious and wants the girl out of the house. Then the story begins to spiral! While the story seems to be getting out of control, we are at the same time learning about Willows dark past--still the pieces aren't making any sense...then BAM the story explodes! I will leave it at that. A summer must read! Highly recommending!

Buy your copy of Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

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As of December 1, 2009, According to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), product reviewers on blogs must disclose whether they received products for free or received payment for their review. The books I review on this site (A NOVEL REVIEW) are sent to me by publishers, authors or downloaded from Netgalley. This is a very common practice. I never take payments for these reviews and all the reviews on this site are my own thoughts and feelings and are not influenced.

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I was sent a set of these Colore Chalk Markers by the company to review. I have never used Chalk Markers before, so I was very interested in trying them. I was really excited when I received them and started playing with them right away. You need to really give them a good shake to get started and I had to turn the tip around. I had an old chalkboard, so I used them on that. I LOVE the bright beautiful colors on the black contrast. They really pop! I used a wet cloth to wipe them off and everything wiped off. I also used them on a white board and they wiped off with a wet cloth. I like the option of having both the rounded tip for a thicker line or chiseled tip for writing.

After using these for the first time, I was suspicious of how well they would work a few days later. I just gave them a good shake and they worked great. This time I used them while making flashcards for my daughter on colored paper stock. I wanted to use markers, but they were bleeding through to the other side. I tried the Colore Dry Erase Marker set and they worked perfectly! No bleeding on the other side!I have found the more you use them them better and better they work.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The end of our first year

The kids have completed the last of their workbooks, we are done...

I had meant to post more, but the first year of homeschooling got in the way! I can't believe we are here. We did it. I feel like I should get some major award or something. In all seriousness, it has been an awesome year. I taught my daughter to read. I did that. Me. Wow. I was so afraid to get started this year, I held back from pulling C out of public school earlier, because I was afraid. Yet, I accomplished it. I accomplished what I was most afraid of and I did it well. I taught my kids and they learned.

Has it been a hard year? Yes and no. The actual teaching part was the easiest part. The teacher guides walked me through each lesson. My kids seem to pick up most things pretty fast, so there was only a few times I needed to find ways to get them to understand. Thank-goodness to pinterest for the wealth of ideas and games. The only real stuggles we had were with spelling and handwritting. I learned to give myself permission to go at our own rate. Once I did it was fantastic.

The hard part of homeschooling was dealing with the "I'm bored" my 7yo constantly complained about. It was hard for my kids to turn off cartoons and start focusing on school in the mornings. I thought about no cartoons in the morning. Honestly, it would have helped. The truth is, I need that time to run a load of laundry, throw dinner in the crockpot or to simply say 'hi' to my friends on facebook. I also tried starting a rough morning off with art. This is perfect for M, but C not so much. What has worked best was starting a marble jar. Once they complete a subject they drop a marble into their jar. They each need to reach a certain number of marbles to be allowed to play games on their Kindles for one hour after dinner.

The best part of this year was seeing  C grow as a reader. When we began this journey he didn't love reading. He thought reading was ok, but if he could get out of it he would. Now? He loves to read. I even have a rough estimate of books he has read over this school year. Are you ready? 84 chapter books. Not books I read to him. Not comic books. I am beyond proud of him. Not bad for a second grader!

M loves school. I am able to bend our time learning around her. When she begins to struggle keeping focus, I pull out a puzzle or a coloring book. I've also been buying games for her to sit and play to increase her ability to stay focused. I often wonder how she would have done in a traditional classroom. She likes to move, play, color and draw. She turns in numerous worksheet with drawings on top of her work...it's ok I just have her verbalize what I can no longer see. I feel like she has the freedom to be herself and I get the opportunity to witness it everyday.

I am seeing some areas I'd like to do better about next year. When I first started, I looked at the curriculum guides and wrote everything down in a planner. I realized pretty quick it wasn't helping me, so I stopped. Then towards the end of the year I found I needed to make sure we hit certain goals during our week. I started with a vague outline in my planner. By the end of the year, I was thrilled I had a weekly plan. Its funny how you just find what works for you. I'm excited to start planning out my next year!

I am most excited about pulling out all my new books for next year and getting everything ready! But I'll make sure we have lots of fun in the sun this summer, too!

Next years books!!!!

Monday, April 20, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton Abbey.

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.

My thoughts...Love, love, love, loved this book. From the top. Ellis and his wife Maddie, along with his bff, Hank are spoiled, rich and act like fools. Ellis and Hank were unable to serve during WWII dure to unseen 'issues'. Daddy cuts Ellis off, so Ellis decides to go off in search of real proof of Loch Ness monster in hopes of reconciling. I really didn't much care for Ellis from the get go. Hank seemed to have some sort of spark that kept him redeemable in my mind and Maddie...she was all right. I don't want to give too much of the story line away, because it is really interesting and different. I do want to say Maddie grew on me until I was rooting for her!

At The Water's Edge is a novel where you can't be sure where it is going to go, I mean they are chasing a monster while a war is going on all around them! They are in a foreign land they don't know a soul. The story really is a poor little rich girl who for the first time seeing the world from a different station where she suddenly finds herself. I'd love to gush about a few different parts of the novel, but if I do I would ruin the story for you and I hate when people spoil a review with too much detail. Let me say this was fantastic novel, I was completely transported to Scotland! I highly recommend. Definitely my favorite book I've read this year. Seriously, loved this book!

Buy At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen is an Indie Next Pick and a Top LibraryReads Pick for April

“Maddie Hyde is a Sara Gruen heroine. She's bold, she's warm, and she's been cast out of Philadelphia polite society — in this case the family of her husband Ellis, who is 4F in the middle of World War II. To avoid the glares and scowls, and to earn their own way in the world after being cut off from a family fortune, they cross the Atlantic during a high tide of submarine warfare to try to burnish their family name by hunting down an older kind of monster in a Scottish village.” —NPR Weekend Edition

“Bestselling author Sara Gruen returns with the breathtaking tale of a young Philadelphia socialite who reluctantly follows her husband to a remote town in Scotland in search of the Loch Ness Monster. At the same time another monster, Hitler, threatens to tear their world apart. At The Water's Edge is a daring story of adventure, friendship, and love in the shadow of WWII.” —Harper’s Bazaar
“Monster romance…super steamy love story.” —Good Housekeeping (GH Read of the month)
“A page-turner of a novel that rollicks along with crisp historical detail, waves of deep emotions and a dash of Scottish mystical mythology.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Riveting...Gruen’s beautiful setting and deeply sympathetic characters ensure a memorable read for new and returning fans alike.” —Publishers Weekly
“At The Water’s Edge returns to the kind of storytelling Gruen excelled at in Water for Elephants…a moving love story: think Scottish Downton Abbey.”—Publishers Weekly (pre-pub alert)
"[Gruen's] narrative description is often sublime . . . A natural for the book-club set.—Booklist

“Gruen skillfully weaves in historical reference points, making Maddie’s story seem larger than that individual focus. The author conveys the lure of the Scottish Highlands, and its storied lore and mystery help create her novel’s riveting, ethereal atmosphere. Maddie’s growing self-awareness is presented in stark—and welcome—contrast to her husband’s spiral into conceit and self-deception. At the Water’s Edge captivates with its drama, intrigue and glimpses of both the dark and light of humanity. As Jane Austen once wrote, ‘with due exceptions, woman feels for woman very promptly and compassionately.’ For all her faults, Maddie’s tragic history and her courage in the face of her present predicament will win readers to her side.”—BookPage, Fiction Top Pick

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens: Best Breeds, Creating a Home, Care and Handling, Outdoor Fun, Crafts and Treats by Melissa Caughey

Chickens make wonderful pets, and Melissa Caughey (author of the award-winning blog Tilly’s Nest) provides all the information kids need to raise healthy chickens and have tons of fun doing it! Caughey shares her advice in an engaging way so that kids understand what it means to keep chickens and what kind of housing, food, equipment, and care the chickens will need to thrive. She also suggests lots of creative activities sure to spark enthusiasm and imagination, such as speaking chicken, creating a veggie piƱata for the flock, and making a chicken fort in the backyard. She even offers ten egg-centric recipes that kids will love to make and eat, including egg drop soup and Mexican egg pizza.

My thoughts...really enjoyed reading this with my almost eight year old son. I would say the book is more geared toward a slightly older audience (maybe 12), but a really great guide for anyone. Easy to read and so much information. Even though there is a lot of information it is put together in a really user friendly way. From how to set up a coop, ten best breeds for kids (and why), if your chicken gets sick, to even how to set up an incubator.

I loved the fun recipes for making treats for chickens, chicken crafts for kids and egg recipes! We've had chickens for a few years, but I found some great information. I'm excited about making a chicken fort for our backyard and seed rolls for the chickens! I am highly recommending A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens (for adults and or kids!).

my kiddos with their chickens.

As of December 1, 2009, According to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), product reviewers on blogs must disclose whether they received products for free or received payment for their review. The books I review on this site (A NOVEL REVIEW) are sent to me by publishers, authors or downloaded from Netgalley. This is a very common practice. I never take payments for these reviews and all the reviews on this site are my own thoughts and feelings and are not influenced.

Friday, April 3, 2015

What's Up

I haven't posted in some time! My goodness life sure can get busy! We've been busy finishing up basketball season (both kids played), enjoying the finally we can get outside weather, baby chicks and finishing up lessons. We still have a few weeks to go, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
About two weeks ago, I ordered my Abeka school books for next year! All our books arrived the other day plus I ordered a few other things for school next year. I love spending all this time with my
little ones and I have found M is someone I've got to get busy. I went ahead and bought these plastic pattern blocks and got her a book to use them with and she LOVES them. Helps her stay focused while I'm working with C. She is a huge fan (well honestly both my kids and any kid who comes to my house) of Magna-Tiles, but they can become a big mess while I'm doing school. I found these Orb magnetic cubes at the Knowledge Tree store the other day thinking it wouldn't make a mess on the floor. Well again both kids loved them! I went ahead and ordered another set from amazon :) I use some old magnetic boards that came with some Doug & Melissa calendars for them to put the small magnets on. They love building me pictures (they seem to be minecraft themed).

Here are some quick links (if you order through these links I do make a small commission, but I was not asked to review any of these products I just wanted to share).

I need to write up some more posts, we also planted our garden, planted a peach tree (yay! need more fruit trees), and my husband cleared out the black berry bushes gone wild! lol. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Homeschool Music

Since we began homeschooling in August, my husband has taken over the music education aspect. He has had them on the piano, drums, ukulele, playing bells and xylophone. I love the dedicated time he spends with them teaching them music. M is on the young side, but I do see some natural musical tendencies there. C is really just now at the age to get him started. He really enjoys playing the ukulele.

My husband, loves playing and writing music. He recently wrote a song and had the kids help.

Here is a link to listen to a song he wrote and put together on Garage Band. The kids sang with him and I think it is adorable!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Three things I learned during our first 100 days of homeschooling

I can not even begin to explain how excited I am to have our first 100 days of homeschool behind us! When we first started in August it seemed like it would take forever, lol. We've had many ups and downs, but honestly I would say it has been an amazing experience. I've definitely learned so much over the first 100 days of homeschooling. 


There will be bad days and that is ok... When we first began homeschooling this year I expected the first few weeks to be rough, but they weren't. I mean I struggled with getting my day organized, buth the kids were model students. They were fantastic and eager. I was beyond thrilled. I thought I had really prepped them well and was doing a banner job. Then everything changed. The truth was homeschool began to feel like...school. Sure we play more games and have a less crazy day, but there are worksheets to do and new lessons to learn. I was met with attitudes and meltdowns. I wasn't prepared for the change of events. I walked out of the room crying not sure what to do. Then I had to remember it is ok. What we don't get done today we will get done tomorrow. It's ok to pack up the books and head to the park, or send them outside to run around. We are not bound to the classroom. We took unscheduled trips to the library, walks around the neighborhood, and started craft projects. When the moods shifted, I gently reminded them we need to finish up classwork. You know what? It got done...eventually. We still have off days or off moments in our day and I need to remind myself to be flexible. It is ok.

Make time for Momma... I would not consider myself overly social. Last year when my son was in 1st grade and my daughter at preschool, I spent a great deal of time at home. I did the drop offs and pick ups, I did a weekly Bible study, and ran one day a week with two girlfriends otherwise I was at home. When we started homeschooling I was all in. I made no time for myself to get away. I went to the hobby store--the little ones were with me. The grocery store, we went together. My break was on Sundays when I dropped them off and ran to my adult study. Then our church announced the mid-week study and this year they'd be able to care for homeschoolers. My husband pushed me to sign-up. The thought stressed me. We were already doing karate on Monday mornings and I found this really put me behind. The last thing I wanted to do was add a Wednesday morning away from home. He felt like it would be good for me and the kids. I gave in. Oh what a blessing my Wednesday morning group was. I sat and talked to grown-ups. I hadn't realized how much I missed them! The experience for C had been fantastic, too. The church had it set-up that homeschoolers would work on their own for an hour. This helped him with learning to be independent, plus if he finished with the worksheets I brought he would read. He fell in love with reading. After church, after being social, I found I was recharged. I was more energetic and felt more like myself. This allowed me to be better for them.

I can't do it all... there it is. The one thing I really hate to admit. I can't do it all. Homeschooling takes a good part of my day. When we are done with homeschooling I try to get things done around the house or sometimes I just want to do nothing. I haven't figured out how to get all the shopping, cleaning, laundry, schooling, playing, phone calls, bills paid...all of it done. I get a lot of it done. Not done as well as I would like it or in the time I would like it. My husband has been doing more, I've had to do more in the evenings (I used to get it all done during the day), I've had to learn to deal with some things just not getting done. Maybe someday I will post how I've learned to get it done. I know I could plan better. Plan all my meals, plan a cleaning and laundry schedule...but for now I'm still figuring out how to get all the schooling done because school is my number one focus. That is ok. I am learning to be ok with that. I mean it's not like my house is going to be on the next episode of Hoarders (and I do recommend watching it--you will feel much better about the condition of your own home). :) This is simply the season my family is in and honestly I'm loving it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Saving Grace by Jane Green

Grace and Ted Chapman are widely regarded as the perfect literary power couple. Ted is a successful novelist and Grace, his wife of twenty years, is beautiful, stylish, carefree, and a wonderful homemaker. But what no one sees, what is churning under the surface, is Ted’s rages. His mood swings. And the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When Ted’s longtime assistant and mainstay leaves, the house of cards begins to crumble and Grace, with dark secrets in her past, is most vulnerable. She finds herself in need of help but with no one to turn to…until the perfect new assistant shows up out of the blue.  To the rescue comes Beth, a competent young woman who can handle Ted and has the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf the Chapman household. Soon, though, it’s clear to Grace that Beth might be too good to be true. This new interloper might be the biggest threat of all, one that could cost Grace her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity.  With everything at stake and no one to confide in, Grace must find a way to save herself before it is too late.

Powerful and riveting, Saving Grace will have you on the edge of your seat as you follow Grace on her harrowing journey to rock bottom and back.

My thoughts...there is a reason Jane Green has published so many books, she is fantastic. Saving Grace is an I can't put this book down kinda novel! I really liked Grace. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of her relationship to Ted...I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see where it would lead. Then we meet the new assistant and I never trusted her, but Grace really wasn't a fool--but then the story just explodes in a way I really wasn't expecting. Wow. I mean wow. I was really proud of the leaps Grace went through and how wonderfully Green pulled everything together. Nothing felt rushed, Grace always seemed true to who she was. I would love to mention another character who I totally loved, but that would be a spoiler! I will also mention Green brings about a discussion of medication in this novel that should be a discussion we should be having in our society.

I believe the books description really gives you a good idea of what the novel is about, so I am really just letting you know this was a great read. I highly recommend Saving Grace.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another Night, Another Day by Sarah Rayner

Three people, each crying out for help.There’s Karen, about to lose her father; Abby, whose son has autism and needs constant care, and Michael, a family man on the verge of bankruptcy. As each sinks under the strain, they’re brought together at Moreland’s Clinic.Here, behind closed doors, they reveal their deepest secrets, confront and console one another, and share plenty of laughs. But how will they cope when a new crisis strikes? From the international bestselling author, Sarah Rayner, Another Night, Another Day is the emotional story of a group of strangers who come together to heal, creating lifelong friendships along the way.

My thoughts...In some ways, this is a difficult book to review. The storyline is dealing with depression, not a story to get all excited about. Another Night, Another Day is a very well written character driven story following the lives of three individuals fighting very real demons in their lives. They find themselves in a clinic facing the truth of the lives they've been fighting. I found myself particularly drawn to Karen. I could relate to her grief process and some of her feelings and questions about her grief. Having lost my own dad two years ago, I found myself feeling as if I had no right to really grieve him since I had grieved so hard for my mom and because I knew it was coming. Another Night, Another Day brought out some of my own emotional baggage. Rayner really touched on a subject rarely talked about, but one we should...The story really opened my own eyes to the emotional toll others are going through around me that I have really never thought  about. I found the novel very eye opening. I walked away with a better understanding--I mean, wouldn't it be nice if you could have someone to talk to and to help us process our emotions before they get to be too much? Instead, we have a stigma attached to going off and talking to someone or taking a medication to help us when we have emotional overload. We view needing help as weak and yet walking though your emotional pain is extremely brave and far better for us then putting it off.

While reading Another Night, Another Day I really was rooting for all the characters. Wanting them to find their footing again. I cheered for them and I cried with them.

Buy your copy of Another Night, Another Day by Sarah Rayner

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