Just Because by Mac Barnett

5 Stars Children’s

I fell in love with this book after the first few pages.  The sweet, calm fashion of this book had soon expanded and now, I was feeling the same way.  The situation was all too familiar for me and if only I could turn back time, it could have been me in that room, answering those questions.

Everything in this book made it perfect for me.  The way the book was laid out, its illustrations, and its text; everything had its proper place and time.   

As I watched the adult male in the illustrations, I liked how his movements changed from one illustration to the next.  I think his movements added a great deal to the book.  There are other small changes that were taking place in this bedroom scene, changes that were very important, changes that our eyes noticed automatically.

The questions that the young child asked, reminded me of ones that my own children would inquire about when they were younger. The constant questioning, the layer-upon-layer of mindful thinking. When would they stop? The answers came back in a creative response.  The adult even linked some of his responses together.  With fantastic illustrations in mixed-media tones, the illustrations complement the tone of the text, and they make you stop and take notice of them.   

A brilliant and sweet book, a book that I cannot get enough of.  It’s definitely a book that you’ll want to share.  

Link to the beautiful illustrations so you can view them yourself
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Big City Otto by Bill Slavin

4 stars Graphic Novel

I enjoyed the quick-paced story and the thought the illustrations were amazing.  It you take this story for what it is, a story, it’s a wonderful adventure and kids will think so too but if you have to analyze, you’ll probably be able to find a few things wrong with it, so just enjoy it.  It reminds me of some of the comics I used to read when I was younger.

Otto, the elephant misses his chum, Georgie. Georgie, (a monkey) was taken out of the jungle by the man with a wooden nose and Otto, like most elephants never forgot anything about the whole ordeal. Crackers, (parrot) his friend, helps Otto remember what happened that day and the two friends set off to try to find Georgie in America.

Aboard the metal bird (airplane), after being wrapped as a special and oversized package, the two land in America and begin their hunt.  Sure, they get some attention but it seems that spotting an elephant and a parrot on the streets, of a big city in America, is not that unusual.  The big question is, will they be able to find Georgie amongst all these people?

It was the adventure that these two friends had trying to locate Georgie that made this book so enjoyable.  Otto’s size caused quite a few crashes and their lack of understanding was humorous to me yet others didn’t see it that way.  Their love for one another was felt as they watched out for one another throughout their trip and they tried to fit in to their new surroundings, the best that they could. I loved how Crackers pushed and pushed to squeeze Otto into some of the smallest places for an elephant and I thought Otto’s allergy was extreme but I can see how kids would love it and laugh as the final scenes of this book processed.  The illustrations are bright and colorful, they really add to the story.

This was a fun and entertaining graphic novel designed for children.  Filled with interesting and humorous characters, I think young kids will enjoy this book.  If you’re ready for some childish, make-believe fun, pick this book up and be ready for anything.

The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh

3 stars Mystery

The loved The Weight of Blood so I was excited to read this novel.  I found myself putting this novel down many times as in the beginning, I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around the drama unfolding.  It just wasn’t as captivating as I hoped it would be for  I just wanted to drown in the misery of Blackwater because I like these kinds of books.

No one seems to care about another death in Blackwater but Sadie wants to know why her brother Shane, has died.  Crystle, his widow, was ready to move on before Shane’s body was even cold and I took a disliking to her immediately.   When another body is discovered, suddenly Shane’s case gets some attention.

You have to understand the town and its history to fully grasp the novel.  Blackwater has had its share of issues over the years.  If you’re lucky and can leave town, you just might miss out on being a part of the poverty and the drug issues that suffocate its citizens.  Leaving family behind?  Your ties with Blackwater will never be broken.  Those that don’t make it out, life in Blackwater is heavy.  You will never find that four-leaf clover or that lucky penny, for it feels as if there is a curse on the city, an evil curse.

Perhaps it was my mindset when I was reading this novel that caused me not to concentrate on it and enjoy it.   I would like to read this book again in the future.  I am looking forward to reading more from this author in the future. 

Lies by T.M. Logan

4 stars Thriller

I listened to this novel and I really enjoyed it.  To me, it was one of those mysterious novels where something felt off and I was just waiting for something major to transpire, because it had to, right?  The answers just never seemed to add up.

I wanted to pull Joe through the pages and strangle him. His behavior was driving me crazy. Had his young son not seen his mother’s car, his wife’s affair might not have been detected.  Joe was educated yet at times, he acted like he was wearing blinders.   Exposed, Mel claims that her relationship with Ben is over but is it really?  With clever twists, the story gives you a lot to think about.    

I liked the short chapters and how quickly the novel progressed.  I liked how William (son) was involved in the novel and how he continued to play a role throughout the story.  It was a clever story and one that kept me vigilant until the very end.     

Girl, Stop Apologizing: by Rachel Hollis

5 stars Nonfiction

Girls & ladies, listen and listen carefully to what I have to say.  If you feel you need someone in your corner, you need this book.  If you have goals and lack the motivation to go after them, you need this book.  If you just need to hear someone fired up, to get you moving, you need this book.  I was not prepared for what I listened to when I put this novel in my car’s CD player. 

I have just recently purchased a couple of Rachel Hollis’ cookbooks which I absolutely love. They are composed of dishes that I would actually make. Its real food created from actual grocery stores, not food made with fancy bouquet food where I’d buy a jar of something that I’d never use again but actual food. With these down-to-earth recipes, I figured Rachel would be an easy-going girl yet what I heard in this novel was a woman who was driven, strong, and very motivated. Bring it on Rachel, we need to hear more of this!  

The more I listened to this novel, the more I understood where she got this ambition. Rachel just doesn’t try to motivate us women, she gives us some background on her own story so I know where she is coming from.  Listening to her read her own novel, I could feel how she owned each word that she had put down in print.  The energy and desire that she has to help others feel the same way she feels can definitely be felt while listening to her. It’s as if she’s trying to tell people: “Come on! Wake up and get with the program!”

Do you need Rachel in your life?  I highly recommend the audio of this book, the enthusiasm and the passion as she reads her own words is definitely worth it.

CatStronauts Space Station Situation by Drew Brockington

4 stars Child’s Graphic Novel

I love cats and I’ve been looking at these graphic novels for a while now.  The CatStronauts are just what they sound like, cats who are astronauts.  Weird, yes but feasible in a kid-friendly world.  I enjoyed all the subtle cat references, the friendships, the easy flow of this graphic novel, and their adventure.

In this mission, Pom Pom is finished helping colonize Mars and is now meeting up with his team on the Space Station. The team will now try to repair the Hubba Bubba Telescope. Sounds easy enough for the CatStronauts until transmission problems arise and they can’t talk to ground control.  They discover that meteor showers are causing all the interference.  The problems just continue for the team as they try to fix one problem after another, until they discover that if they don’t act quickly, destruction on a massive scale is in their future. 

“What the fish is going on?!” These references were just part of the text, which made me smile as I read this book.  References to the kitty box, tuna, kitties, etc., caught my attention, although there really weren’t a whole lot of them.  I felt that they added to the charm of the book and to the characters, themselves. 

This graphic novel had a good flow to it.  There was enough action to keep me engaged and the illustrations were detailed and they complemented to the story.  I’m often asked what would be a great graphic novel to give to a young child and I think this one would fit the bill.  It’s a great child’s graphic novel for any level, I believe.  I’m going to pick up other books in this series to see what these cats are up to.

“Meow, meow, meow.”

The Mystery of Eatum Hall by John Kelly & Cathy Tincknell

5 stars Picture Book

This book is a hoot!  I loved it!  The illustrations alone are worth the read but when you add in the text, you will absolutely fall in love with it. It’s a book where there are clues everywhere, but who is looking?

Glenda and Horace, are invited to spend the weekend at Eatum Hall and they’re all excited.  All the gourmet food that they can eat and they can eat a lot! Yet, when they arrive, they cannot find their host.  They find a note instead (with fun clues in it) that tells them to enjoy themselves and their host will join them later. 

There were plenty of times while reading this book that I was chuckling but now, I was laughing.  Here in this isolated older house, were a plump goose and a pig and they’re looking forward to staying here by themselves. As they look around, they don’t even see all the clues that are everywhere around them.  I would have been running out the door, had it been me.  The illustrations are fantastic and you can get lost just admiring them.  Their host provided the best for them and they begin to settle in.  They were going to take advantage of this relaxing weekend. 

Noticing the clues around them, Glenda comments on the doctor’s love of art while Horace remarks on how smart the doctor is, as the doctor has put a lot of detail in making sure that his guests are comfortable in his absence. Meanwhile, the author reveals to his reader, the true identity of Dr. A. Hunter, and what his true plans are.   

This is definitely an exciting and fun book.  I’ve read and thumbed through it a few times, just admiring how it all comes together and it truly is a book worth reading. I highly recommend it.

I do feel that some children might be too young for it though. Why?  There’s a lot of inferring that occurs in this book to truly enjoy it and they might not get or understand it and/or the child might not care for the book’s ending.  Just know your child before reading this book to them.

Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook

5 stars Cookbook

Let’s talk about some Halloween food, shall we?  I came across a Halloween display at the grocery store and picked up some fun decorations to go on top of some baking treats.  Growing up, I had just the colored sprinkles and if you got lucky, we got the colored little balls that rolled all over the place when you went to put them on anything and of course, they tasted so much better than the sprinkles.  Now the choices for decorations are endless. I ended up purchasing a creepy pack and not your normal sprinkles, my friend. I thought I needed a cookbook to go with these so I found a Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook at the library and voila, I now have more than I asked for.

The decorations I picked up were a candy pack of skulls, bones, gravestones, large eyeballs and bats. My other pack is a mix of orange, black and white sprinkles of ghosts, bats, pumpkins, moons, and bright Halloween tiny balls (of course). What to do with all of them was the question that I hoped this book would answer.

Boneyard Dirt Pops were chocolate cake pops with chocolate sandwich cookies on top (dirt) with bone candies on top (excellent idea!). Tarantula Treats were cupcakes that looked like the creepy spider that I could use the eyes on. Tombstone Cupcakes were, just what they said they were and another great idea.  I was coming up with some great ideas in this book and getting hungry. The Halloween Party Pops were another great idea and I could decorate them anyway I wanted although they had some great ideas especially the spider web one.  I think I had enough ideas here. I noticed the Scary ghost Pancakes (I love pancakes) as I was making my way to the treats section.  I wouldn’t be using any of my treats but I would be eating some special pancakes.   

There are recipes for having a feast in this book.  Lots of snacks, meals, drinks, and of course desserts. In the Mystifying Main Dishes, I liked the Chicken Enchilada Mummies and the Serpent Sub. They looked like fun and a simple idea to bring the holiday to the table.   Need some Bubbly Black Punch with a Wormy Ice Ring or Lemon-Slime Punch to wash it all down?  How about some Spider Bites out of jello, or Bugs in a Blanket, or the Spiderweb Deviled Eggs (which, of my heavens looks so cool with all the lines on them). 

I would say that about half of the recipes call for premade items.  Items like Pillsbury Grands biscuits, Pillsbury Sugar cookie dough, a box of chocolate cake mix, a spice cake mix, or Bisquick.  Using these items, they explain how to shape or create the Halloween item using brown sugar, milk, eggs, etc. until you have the finished item.  Other recipes have the cook taking baby back ribs, or ground beef, or instant pudding, or chocolate ice cream or whatever and creating the Halloween treat from scratch.  If you want to make it all from scratch, make your own sugar cookie recipe, make your own chocolate cake recipe, do whatever you want or make substitutes if you have allergies, the ideas and the fun is inside the book.

There are 200 pages in this Halloween cookbook complete with an index and the recipes broken down into sections.  I hate to ruin the fun but there is a calorie counter for each of the recipes, along with step-by-step directions, the time to completion them, and how many each recipe will make.  Are there illustrations/pictures? You bet, one for every recipe which are directly across from the recipe.

Another great book from Betty Crocker.  I was entertained and I will be making some of these tasty treats this year.  

Amazon has some great pictures of the inside of the book: https://www.amazon.com/Betty-Crocker-Halloween-Cookbook/dp/1118388941/ref=sr_1_1?crid=14T18TV5N9F9G&keywords=betty+crocker+halloween+cookbook&qid=1568588181&sprefix=betty+crocker+hallo%2Caps%2C175&sr=8-1

A Ghostly Good Time: The Family Halloween Handbook by Woman’s Day Special Interest Publications

4 stars Nonfiction

I liked how this book has a little bit of everything in it. From recipes to make, to costumes to throw together, to decorations for your little part of the world, this book is Halloween DIY. You can be a beginner or an intermediate DIY individual to be successful as the author helps you with great directions.

When I first picked this book up, I was looking for a couple easy crafts to make and after looking through it, my list of Halloween items is long. I started out just flipping through it and stopped. I decided to go page-by-page, writing ideas and instructions down, so I knew what to do later.

There are a few items that I’ve seen done already and that’s fine. There are also a few ideas that were way out of my league but hey, they’re cool ideas if you have that talent. I liked the paper witches. Tracing them, you enlarge them (as big as you want) and put them on kraft paper and place them in your window with tape. (They supply you with 3 witches on graph paper at the bottom of the page). The Unwelcome mat was fun too along with the Boo and Beware mirrors but I don’t think I’ll be making them but they look super easy to make. The costume section was really cute and clever. The crow and swamp girl were my favorites. I liked that they made using simple, cheap items that you’d be able to find and not something that you’d have to spend a lot of money on, tear it up and then get creative. The recipe section had some fun and festive ideas and if I wanted to get creative, I could make the Haunted Cookie House. I’m sure my granddaughter would love to help me. It’s mostly snacks and goodies here except for some stew, bread, and a Sand-Witch. Put that Sand-Witch in someone’s lunch and see what they have to say. Lots of fun, I say.

I liked the hand & spider cutouts and I am planning on using them on a few pumpkins this year. They work the same exact way as the paper witches, only you trace them on a pumpkin and a hand is illuminated. There are lots of other fun ideas on carving pumpkins too. As far as the crafts, which is what I got the book for, I only found one that looked promising to me. There were no directions for it, as it was used as a prop but I think I can make it. There were some recipes that caught my eye especially the cookies and the cupcakes.

This is a super cute Halloween book that I’m sure you will find something inside to try. Could I get these ideas from a magazine? Sure, probably but I like how this book is set up and it’s all put together for me. Like I mentioned before, you can try something easy like the pumpkin carving or go extreme and attempt the Colorful Cushions. Did I mention the bird skeleton in the antique bird cage? Great book to find some neat ideas.

Link to some pages in the book

Gold Digger: The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor by Rebecca Rosenberg

4 stars Historical Fiction

I read this book for book club otherwise I don’t think I would have picked it up.  From reading the title, I expected a more somber novel about the gold-rush era, not the adventurous, dashy story that I read.  Baby Doe gave this era, something to talk about. 

I knew nothing about Baby Doe before picking up this novel.  Now, after reading this novel, I want to read more about her to hear the whole story.

The novel begins with Baby Doe traveling with her new husband Harvey to Colorado, in the late 1800’s, as Harvey is going to manage a mine that his father owns.  Baby Doe has plans of her own, to send money back to her parents to help them get by.  Her husband ends up not being as business smart as they thought and Baby Doe ends up helping him out with the business which I feel is an important part to who she ends up becoming.

The mine becomes the central part of the story with the individuals who work in it and their families also.  Baby Doe becomes a working woman, yet some men are drawn to her beauty and don’t take her seriously.  She’s a smart, determined individual who knows more than you think.    

This was a fast-paced story what once I started, I couldn’t quit.  There were numerous times while reading this story, I found myself talking out loud, reacting to the other characters as they conversed with Baby Doe.  I laughed a few times and there were even some harsh words spoken, for I thought they were being very deceitful, given the circumstances.  Baby Doe’s story is definitely a story that you need to read.