Friday, October 19, 2018

Children's Books: Halloween Reads

I've shared my favorite Halloween and fall themed picture books before, but we have come across some really great ones in the past few years.  Here are some of the picture books that we have been enjoying that are specifically Halloween themed.

Picture Books:

The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine - My monster loving son really enjoyed this slightly spooky picture book by the author of Goosebumps.

How to Catch a Monster by Adam Wallace - If you have a child that thinks a monster may live in his or her closet, this is a cute book all about a little boy who befriends the monster that lives in his closet. It's a nice reminder that things aren't always scary!


Monster Academy by Jane Yolen - I am a fan of Jane Yolen, but this book was downright strange. It was really choppy and didn't flow at all. I was shocked that Scholastic would publish this. It has such potential with the idea of the monsters being in school and having to get along, but it just doesn't deliver. I wish I would have read the reviews before I bought it for my son.

Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley - This is a cute one if you have a child who is afraid of the dark or monsters in his or her room. This story literally gives you the control to make those monsters disappear!

Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting - I adore Eve Bunting's storytelling and her use of rhyme. I loved trying to figure out, along with my son, who the "monsters" were.

The Widow's Broom by Chris Van Allsburg - This has to be one of my favorite new-to-me Halloween picture books. Not only are the illustrations fantastic, but Chris Van Allsburg (known for The Polar Express) has such an amazing way of telling a story that so many ages can enjoy - even adults. I loved this story about a widow who stumbles upon a magical broom. Even the ending was just perfect!


Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kahara - This cute picture book can be appreciated by the younger crowd, especially since the illustrations are so vibrant. It's all about a witch who has ghosts in her house. What to do? She's got a plan!

Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell - I really enjoyed this story as not only it goes over the "lifecycle" of a pumpkin, but also the story was heartwarming. I liked that it explained how pumpkins rot over time, which is a nice reminder to my son who pretty much wants to keep pumpkins up year round. 

At the Old Haunted House by Helen Kettleman - This is a fun read with very eye-catching illustrations. I liked that it reviewed numbers by counting the different spooky things throughout the house.

The 12 Day of Halloween by Jenna Lettice  - Can we all agree that any books inspired by "The Twelve Days of Christmas" need to be just over with? Who came up with this idea? It's a cute story, in theory, but after you get to the number five repeating all of those things gets seriously monotonous. I'd rather see some sort of twist on the traditional song.


Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson - We have been a fan of The Gruffalo for years, so I was finally excited to sit down and read this adorable tale. I was familiar with it, but it was the first time we read the story in its entirety.  There's friends working together in this story as well as a bit of adventure with a dragon. Halloween reading at its best!

Vampire Boy's Goodnight by Lisa Brown - A vampire boy goes out at night looking for children, because he doesn't believe they exist, but to his surprise, it's Halloween night.  This picture book was just an average read for me.

Chapter Books: 

Sleepy Hollow Sleepover by Ron Roy  - I was new to the A to Z Mysteries series, but my son liked this one. It's his first foray into the mystery genre, so it was fun to try to figure it all out. I appreciated the references to the classic story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings - This series is perfect for monster-loving young ones, especially before Halloween. I think the series is just average, but my son is a huge fan. It's all about a young boy and his friends and their adventures as they try to protect the town from monsters.

Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne - I adore the Magic Treehouse series and this book in the series is the perfect read for Halloween.  Ghosts? An old castle? Spooky Adventures? Yes, please!

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black - I read this series with my son and we both really loved it.  It's the perfect combination of adventure, spooky creatures, and magic. This would also be a great series to check out before Halloween.

What are some of your favorite Halloween themed picture books? Have you read any of these? Do you have a favorite chapter book that would be perfect for Halloween? Share your favorites with me in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Lost Girls of Paris

Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
Pub. Date: February 5, 2019

Goodreads says, "1946, Manhattan - Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.  Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.  Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war, and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances."

I absolutely loved The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach and I have have read some amazing reviews for The Orphan's Tale, so needless to say, I am excited for Pam Jenoff's latest historical novel. Doesn't it sound compelling?  What do you guys think?  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Book Review: The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

Pages: 527
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Touchstone
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Intelligent, passionate, rebellious, and brave, Languoreth is the unforgettable heroine of The Lost Queen, a tale of conflicted loves and survival set against the cinematic backdrop of ancient Scotland, a magical land of myths and superstition inspired by the beauty of the natural world. One of the most powerful early medieval queens in British history, Languoreth ruled at a time of enormous disruption and bloodshed, when the burgeoning forces of Christianity threatened to obliterate the ancient pagan beliefs and change her way of life forever.  Together with her twin brother Lailoken, a warrior and druid known to history as Merlin, Languoreth is catapulted into a world of danger and violence. When a war brings the hero Emrys Pendragon, to their door, Languoreth collides with the handsome warrior Maelgwn. Their passionate connection is forged by enchantment, but Languoreth is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of the High King who is sympathetic to the followers of Christianity. As Rhydderch's wife, Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way, her kingdom, and all she holds dear.  The Lost Queen brings this remarkable woman to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of the most enduring legends of all time."

Languoreth and her twin brother, Lailoken, are the children of the king, but things aren't entirely happy in their household currently as they just lost their mother.  Their father, being a 6th century king, is often gone for long periods of time, so the children find themselves at home with their tutor as well as druid who often takes care of them.  One day, Languoreth encounters Ariane, a Wisdom Keeper, who pledges herself to Languoreth. This is just what she needs as she has been longing for a female presence in her life.  Their world is unsettling as their are enemies are surrounding and consequently, the war brings many warriors to their home including Pendragon and Maelgwn.  There's also the issue of Christianity reaching their shores and challenging their Celtic old beliefs.  The Lost Queen by Signe Pike is an interesting start to a new historical trilogy giving readers a new perspective on the Arthurian Legend surrounding Merlin and his long-forgotten queen sister. 

Languoreth is a character I instantly warmed up to in The Lost Queen. I felt for her after the recent death of her mother and readers could really feel the absence of her on the page. Languoreth is surrounded by mostly men, so when she meets Ariane, I was happy for her as she really needs some guidance.  But Ariane is a Wisdom Keeper, so what Languoreth is in store for might not be what readers were initially expecting. Also, as the story progresses and Languoreth ages, she meets warrior, Maelgwn, and sparks fly. I won't give away too much, but things get very complicated.

I really liked the idea of exposing a new story surrounding the person who inspired the character of Merlin and his twin sister, who happened to be a queen that's forgotten by history. I love uncovering  stories in history like this, especially if the character is female. I thought that Pike really brought the Dark Ages to life in The Lost Queen and really illustrated the clash between the old Celtic way of life along with Christianity.  

My issue with The Lost Queen is that parts of the story truly dragged. There were various times when reading this novel that I almost put it down for good even though I truly cared about Languoreth.  I felt that the writing lacked that special something at various points that keep readers completely engaged. Once we got to more action, I felt the pace quicken, but it took quite awhile to get to that point. I also am perplexed by the comparisons of The Lost Queen to Philippa Gregory as well as Outlander. That is a reach. A big one. Other than the setting of Scotland what on earth makes this novel similar to Outlander

If you are looking for the start of a new historical trilogy give The Lost Queen a try this fall. I am not sure I will continue with the trilogy, but by the novel's end I was glad I read it nonetheless.  Have you read The Lost Queen? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

End of My Summer Kickoff and an International Giveaway!

Alright, I guess it's time to say goodbye to another awesome summer.  The warm days and sunshine stuck around for quite awhile here in PA (as did the mosquitoes!), so I was still reading my beach reads and in complete denial. However, now that Halloween is almost here, I think I'm ready.  Or as ready as I'll ever be.

So, to close up another amazing year of my Summer Kickoff Feature, I am hosting an international giveaway for the chance to win one book that I featured this summer. 

If I had to pick, I'd say my favorite Adult Fiction/Beach Read of the summer is a tie between The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams and The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand. Hilderbrand's novels are hit or miss with me, but I will say I really, really enjoyed this beach read with a side of a murder mystery.  Of course, Beatriz Williams is always a hit with me! Needless to say, both novels were really absorbing and absolutely perfect for a day at the beach.

My favorite YA beach read of the summer goes to both Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett and Save the Date by Morgan Matson. I loved both of those books and they reaffirmed my reasons as to why I still read YA. 

So, check out my list below of all the beach reads I reviewed this summer and be sure to enter my giveaway for one of the books below. My giveaway is open internationally as long as Book Depository ships to your location. Please refer to my giveaway rules and thanks for another great summer!

August and Everything After by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
 Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner
 The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey
The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis
 Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone 
The High Season by Judy Blundell
The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable
Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger
Sailing Lessons by Hannah McKinnon
Save the Date by Morgan Matson
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood
The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews
 Dreams of Falling by Karen White
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman 
The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Longest Books I've Ever Read

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about the longest books we have ever read. The past ten years, I have really read some longggggg books thanks to the Outlander series.  Check out which books made my list according to my Goodreads account.

1.  The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon

2.  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

3.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand 

4.  Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

5.  A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) by Diana Gabaldon

6.  Middlemarch by George Eliot

7.  The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

8.  Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon

9.  Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati 

10.  Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley

What are some of the longest books you have ever read? I don't mind reading a lengthy tome as long as it's good. Do you have a preference? Let me know in the comments. This meme is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Monday, October 8, 2018

Audio Book Review: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Other Books By Author: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.  Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?"

Lauren and Ryan have fallen into a major marital rut, like we are taking a major abyss.  They are fighting over everything, including where they parked their car in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Everything that he does is irritating her and vice-versa. They are, obviously, heading down a slippery slope.  But, this is painful for us readers as Reid flashes back to better days when they first met, when they got married, and other happy memories. Can they make things work or is it too late? Ryan and Lauren decide to take a break from their marriage for one year and then reassess.  They plan on pursuing other interests, spending time with friends, working on themselves, and they don't plan to talk to each other under any circumstances.  The thought of this is frightening to Lauren at first, but then all this freedom starts to sink in.  A flowery bedroom is possible....more time with friends.....full control of the TV....eating lots of food that Ryan doesn't  She's not really sure about the last option, but as they separate, things things start to get even more complicated.  Taylor Jenkins Reid writes such absorbing and compelling novels; After I Do doesn't disappoint.

What is so effective about After I Do is how real it is. What Lauren and Ryan fight over feels very authentic. I mean it could be anyone's marriage!  But what is a bit unconventional is how they proceed with a year long break.  It was very, very interesting to go along on their journey and experience both the good stuff and the bad stuff, at least from Lauren's perspective.  Everything is from Lauren's point of view, so I was dying to find out what Ryan was up to.   I found Lauren very easy to relate to and although I didn't always agree with her choices, I could understand why she made them. I also really liked her relationship with her sister as well as her mother, grandmother, and brother, who both play a prominent role in After I Do.

After I Do is heartbreaking at times. I found myself getting emotional, because Reid is such an effective storyteller. She not only makes us love Ryan and Lauren, but she even shares with us flashbacks to happy memories so we fall in love with them even more.  This makes the hard part of the novel that.mush.harder.  And that much more heartbreaking.  After I Do will definitely, definitely tug on your heartstrings.

I loved the audio book of After I Do. It was easy to get absorbed in it and I thought the narration, done by Tara Sands, was also decent.  She wasn't my favorite narrator by any means, but she did well enough and she wasn't distracting to the story.

There were some real amazing quotes and memorable moments in After I Do that will truly make you think, especially if you are married.  Here are a few of my favorites: 
“Isn’t it nice … once you’ve outgrown the ideas of what life should be and you just enjoy what it is.” 
“The sun rises the next day after mothers lose their babies, after men lose their wives, after countries lose wars. The sun will rise no matter what pain we encounter. No matter how much we believe the world to be over, the sun will rise. So you can’t go around assessing love by whether or not the sun rises. The sun doesn’t care about love. It just cares about rising.” 

So, as far as I am concerned Taylor Jenkins Reid can do no wrong. She is easily becoming one of my favorite authors of adult fiction. So, if you are looking for an audio book or an adult novel that will make you feel all the feels and leave you thinking, but hopeful, definitely give After I Do a try.  

Are you a Taylor Jenkins Reid fan?  Which of her books is your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, October 5, 2018

What I'm Reading Next (15)

So, I am majorly behind my review book schedule, so I will definitely be tapping into some of the books I should have read last month. I'm looking at you Bellewether, The Address, When We Caught Fire, and The Glass Ocean.

This month there are some awesome books coming out; plus, I'd like to read a creepy/atmospheric novel this month or even a thriller. I mean it's October, how could I not? Here's what my TBR pile looks like this month:

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton 
Doesn't this murder mystery sounds really good? I heard it's really innovative and very twisty. Sound like the perfect book for October, right?

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher
I love any novel involving the Kennedys and I am really curious about this one as it focuses on "Kick" Kennedy, who lived a very, very interesting life. 

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
A new Kate Morton! I never got around to reading Morton's last novel (The Lake House), so I really want to make time to read this one as she never disappoints me. There's a mysterious murder, a love affair, and more!

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hestor Fox
Is this a quintessential October read or what? 

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
I will never tire of Anne of Green Gables, so I knew that I had to read this novel, which focuses on Marilla. I'm excited to revisit Green Gables....I hope it doesn't disappoint! 

What do you plan to read this month? Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.

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