The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

4.5 stars YA

I don’t read a lot of fantasy but I thought this sounded interesting, “But Petra’s world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race.”

What exactly would this world be like? I have to tell you after the first part of the book sets up the storyline, the rest of the book was action! Hailey’s Comet has been thrown off course leaving everyone in a panic. Evacuating Earth, they select only a few of scientists and their family to start over on new planet over 300 years away. Petra wants to be a story teller like her grandmother as she loves the stories she tells and she wants to pass them on. Yet, Petra learns that as they’re in flight, each of the participates will be listening to information that they will need to survive in their new surroundings. This new information will be vital to their success on the new planet, yet Petra knows that she will lose her grandmother’s stories if she is subjected to this vital information.

Arriving on the new planet, excitement and hope should have filled the air, yet that’s not the case. What this group thought and anticipated was not what waited for them. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as I needed to know what this new planet contained.

Like these participates, I wasn’t expecting what occurred. I felt relieved that they had finally made it yet to arrive and now what will happen? I felt a deep connection with the characters as they tried to figure things out. This was one book that I couldn’t put this book down until I finally finished it. I don’t read a lot of science fiction so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

4 stars Suspense

This book got me going from the get-go.  I wanted to slap pretty, young Heather (have to keep it nice) and you don’t want to know what I wanted to do to Stephen. URG! I just couldn’t believe that Stephen thought it was okay to divorce his wife Pamela, to marry Heather.  Seriously?!  I know what you’re thinking, that this happens all the time but the deal is ….. Pamela has Alzheimer’s and is living in a nursing home.  Stephen is basically having an affair and now, he wants to get rid of his baggage. 

Meanwhile, Pamela and Stephen’s adult daughter’s Tully and Rachel are surprised of their father’s announcement.  How could their father act this way towards their mother?  The daughters decide to take some action to help their mother while at the same time protect themselves.  I enjoyed the many surprises and the endless twists this book provided.  I’m getting used to endings like these, not saying that I’m liking them but I feel it gives up readers something to talk about.  Great story.  4 stars   

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to St. Martin’s Press and to Sally Hepworth for the opportunity.

Things You Can’t Say by Jenn Bishop

5 stars Middle School

Things That You Can’t Say is actually things that you should say but the words are hard to find. Since his father’s suicide, Drew has been struggling with many issues. It’s a balancing act for Drew as he tries to balance his own life with the new responsibilities that he has taken on. As his mother recovers from the loss, Drew tries to support her while also caring for his younger brother. Drew has his own unanswered questions and ardently, this event has triggered some deep feelings and emotions which are swirling around in his head. Wanting to uphold his promise of being the new head-of-the-household, Drew feels the weight of this responsibility but like everything else, he keeps his head up and continues marching through his day. He’s now helping out at the library which he really enjoys. It’s the same library that his mother works at and with her being close, he feels safe.

When Audrey shows up at the library, I thought that Drew and her would become friends. She’s going to be working at the library and since Drew would be there, she could be the friend that he needs yet they didn’t hit it off quite like I pictured it would be. There’s some resistance but soon, they started to relax around each other and they ended up being good for each other. Just when I thought Drew was beginning to relax a bit, a guy stops by the house to see his mother. Drew puts on another hat and becomes part detective and part parent. Drew wants to know who this guy is and why he’s stopping by to see his mother?

I liked the complications that arose in this book and how things worked themselves out eventually. I thought the story felt realistic with genuine characters whose voices spoke from the heart. A great book dealing with a difficult issue. 5 stars.

One: Simple One-Pan Wonders by Jamie Oliver

3.5 stars Cookbook

This is one terrific looking cookbook.  The pictures of the recipes look fantastic, almost too pretty to eat.  The recipes look like masterpieces that took hours to create but if you read the directions, most of them took under an hour to prepare.   Jamie wants to make cooking easy, practical,  and tasty. 

Let’s talk about why this cookbook is amazing.  I’m going to start with the layout of this book.  It fits many 2-page spread cookbook layouts with a recipe the left side of the page and a picture of that recipe on the right but I think this cookbook steps it up a notch.  On each of the two-page spreads, you will also find the nutritional value information in chart-like format, at the bottom of the page.  Along the side of the recipe, you’ll find pictures of the ingredients that you’ll need for the recipe.  So, you need some garlic, you’ll see a picture of garlic.  Need rosemary, there’s a picture of rosemary.  If you have 8 ingredients listed for your recipe, you will see 8 small pictures on the side.  I liked this little addition to an otherwise empty space.  The pictures of the recipes take center stage on the right side of this 2-page spread.  Nothing unnecessary competes with this space but the completed dish. Like I mentioned before, these pictures looked amazing.

There are a lot of interesting recipes in this cookbook. I’m not a fish eater but there were plenty of fish recipes in here and the pictures made me think that I could eat it.  The Upside Down Fish Pie, Teriyaki Shrimp, and the Shrimp Fried Rice, wow….they looked delicious! Jamie Oliver sure has presentation down perfectly!  The one issue that I found with this cookbook is that although the pictures of the dishes look fantastic, I only found a few of them that I would actually prepare.  Sure, there were a couple recipes that I might create but there were only a few that I knew that I would definitely try.  The Smoked Pancetta & Bean Pasta and Honey Roast Chicken looked like something that I would definitely eat. 

Jamie does make each recipe easy to prepare with detailed instructions and I found that the ingredient list is not complicated, he tries to use items that most individuals can find at their local grocery store.  Jamie doesn’t include anything personal, nor does he include any additional tips or ideas on these two pages, you just get the recipe and your picture. If you’re looking for something personal, you’re going to have to look at some of the other pages in the book where Oliver talks about each of the different sections in this book, his own personal journey and why this cookbook is so special.

If you like to try new dishes or want some easy recipes that’ll make you look as if you’re an award-winning chef – you need to check this book out.   3.5 stars.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

4 stars Nonfiction

This was a quick read and I found that I could relate to many of the topics that the author covered.   I’m an individual who loves to read and I can get wrapped up inside a good novel, like I can a good blanket so when Anne discussed how getting hooked inside a good book and how a book seems to just fall into your lap when you need it, I knew exactly what she was talking about.  Anne doesn’t try to navigate her way into your bookshelf nor into your reading world, Anne explains her own world and if you look closely enough, you just find might find some similarities with her world.

Anne has her own pile of TBR books but somehow that “perfect” book lands in her lap just when she needs it.  When I read this part of the book, I took a few minutes to think how many times that has happened in my own life.  How many times I needed an escape and the perfect book was there? How many times I needed a good laugh and the book I was reading provided that?  This past month, I read We Spread by Iain Reid.  I won this book on Goodreads but I can’t tell you what made me immediately pick it up and start reading it.  I have so many other books that I needed my attention first but let me tell you, I needed that book!  In We Spread, the main character started to have some issues which were also starting to occur with someone in my own family.  I couldn’t believe how similar this felt.  To have won this book, received it, and immediately feel the need to read it – this book fell right into my lap.


This was a comfortable book, one that reminds me why I like reading so much.  4 stars.

Bob Ross: My First Book of Nature By Robb Pearlman

5 stars Children’s Board Book

I had to check out this board book when I saw that Bob Russ illustrated it.  If you’re wondering if the illustrations are beautiful, the answer is yes!  The illustrations are just like his pictures with different layers of colors, where you feel like you are standing directly in front of the scene that he created.  The reflection in the rippling water,  the haziness of the clouds, and the gradual rise of the sun all help create the mood of picture.  Such precision and detail, they truly are amazing.

The text in this is board is great too.  I love the big, bold print and the tone that the author uses as he asks his readers to enjoy the great outdoors.  Robb wants his readers to appreciate nature and he does that by having them see and experience life outside in the different seasons.  Using a variety of methods: looking at the clouds, listening to the water, talking to trees, looking at animals, and even resting, the author tries to get the reader to fully see nature.

It’s a cute and quiet book for little ones. I like the different seasons and it gives little ones things to think about when they go outside. I think the illustrations could be used for additional “talk time” with your little ones.  Depending on the age, for each illustrations your conversations could involve: what sounds do they think they would hear there, what animals might live there, would it be a good place to visit, and what would they do there?  5 stars.

“Each one of us sees nature differently.  And that’s the way you should paint it – just the way you see it.” 

National Geographic Birding Basics: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Great Bird-watching by Noah Strycker

5 stars Nonfiction

This is a good basic book.  It provides a good starting point to bird watching as it doesn’t give you too much information but gives a lot of different information to get someone started.  There was a lot of different topics, some topics that I haven’t even thought about or cared about but I read through them and I can see why they were included in here.  This book is very thorough which is too be expected from National Geographic.

As I have said before, there are a lot of topics covered in this book.  Every two-page spread covers a topic and with 239 pages, you have many subjects to read about.  On these two-page spreads, you might find some Fun Facts, ID Tips (how to identity tricky birds), or some Try This ideas (ideas for you to try to actually put that two-page spreads topic into reality). There is also an Introduction, Glossary, an Index, some acknowledgements and some information about the author in the back.  Throughout the book, you’ll find some two-page spreads scattered about that are titled “In the Field with Noah.” These pages feature Noah’s own pictures with captions of actual footage he has captured out in the field. 

I did find some interesting topics while reading this book and I did find myself frustrated, as I wanted more information on a topic but the book was just the basics.  I realize I will have to research those topics further, hopefully in another National Geographic book to find more information.  I do think this would be a good starting point for someone who thinks they like birds.  There is a lot of think about and look at when thinking about birds. 

The book talks about 15 terms that they recommend you learn to identify birds, I thought that was interesting. They mention the website BirdCast which uses radar to show the migration forecasts of birds and I think that this would be cool to check out. I know that squirrels hate chili pepper so you can put that in your bird feeder to keep squirrels out but now I know that it’s the capsaicin in the chili powder that the birds can’t taste.  I liked the Pronouncing Bird Names pages. The book also mentioned the Merlin Bird ID app that you can download for free to help identify birds, I need to check into that one.  I think my grandkids will also like to use that one.  There are a few sections devoted to eBird, a free website that helps you track your own bird sightings.  The book also lists other websites that might be helpful.  See, I told you there was a lot of fun interesting information in this book.   One more little piece of information:  “ when you see an unfamiliar bird, keep it in view as long as possible and make conscious observations of its characteristics.” Then, before looking it up in a book, write down what you saw.  Well, I don’t do that.  I grab the book and start looking up the bird as I’m watching it.  I’m going to have to change that.  As I find myself confused and just like the book says, “it’s easy to see an illustration and suddenly “remember” something you never really noticed.” 

The illustrations/pictures are beautiful.  Most of the pictures are photos but there are some drawings and models of birds with the different parts of the bird labeled.  The realistic photos provide great detail and I think they definitely add to the book.

This is another excellent resource book from National Geographic but just remember, it’s just the basics.  It’ll get you started and, on your way, to bird watching.  5 stars.

15 terms to identify birds: Crown, nape, supercilium, lore, auricular, malar, eye ring, wing bar, primaries, secondaries, tertials, rump, undertail coverts, rectrices, and flanks

Nana Loves You More by Jimmy Fallon

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

Yes, Nana does love you more.  As a Nana, I can say I do love this book.  My grandson and I make comments to each other like the ones printed in this book but to have a book that puts it all in print, my heart was full.  I like the size of the book too, it’s a square.  The text is simple and sweet.  The text says a lot, the illustrations are bright, colorful and grab your attention.  Thank you, Jimmy Fallon.  5++stars

“Nana will read to you and sing you to sleep.  And fill you with memories that you’ll always keep.” “More that cats with SUPER cat powers.”

Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! by Laurel Synder

5 stars Children’s Fairy Tale Retelling

Holy Mogoly!  This book is just amazing!  I started this book over and over again and every time, I got a different outcome.  It truly was one terrific book.   If you love children’s books, love fairy tales, love twisted stories, or just love choose your own path stories, this book is for you.

Let me start by saying that this is an oversized children’s book which provides the reader with some pretty fantastic illustrations.  The faces and the drama that occurs in this book falls right into your lap as you open this book.  When the author says “ENDLESS VARIATIONS” they definitely mean it.  As I read this, Little Red Riding Hood ran into characters from other Fairy Tales including Hansel & Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Jack, Snow White, the wolf, a witch, a goose, some piggies, and a grandma. 

Little Red is headed to her grandma’s with a cake, Rosie as she is known in this story needs to pick out a coat to wear.  Does she wear her favorite red cape or a cozy faux fur coat?  This first choice will have you turning to page 6 or page 20.  What will it be?  

If you chose the red cape, you (Rosie) find a wolf waiting on the path.  Oh, no!  He looks ornery and he starts asking you lots of questions.  You (Rosey) wish you’d never seen him or talked to him.  But now what do you do?  Go back home and start over tomorrow or continue on your journey?

If you chose the cozy faux fur coat, you’re (Rosie)skipping along but you soon notice a different house on the path.  Do you knock and meet these new neighbors or do you continue on to grandmas?

You never knew what awaited you when you turned the page on this book.  Was it is a good choice or a bad choice?  I thought that each time I created a new story, it wasn’t a short, senseless story but it was fun.  I enjoyed making all the choices that I got to make and the illustrations were amazing and they really helped make each story great.  I can’t say enough about this book except you have to read it – you really do!!  10 stars+++

Malice House by Megan Shepherd

5 stars Thriller

Never saw that one coming!  I was expecting some exciting chapters in this book but dang, I actually had to pause a few times so I could enjoy the little twists that were provided.  It’d been two years since Haven had visited Malice House and she thought, she knew what she was walking into.  Her father’s dementia explained the demon that was living within the walls of the house.  Being a famous writer, a member of the local Ink Drinkers, the monster’s detailed description was fitting but what Haven didn’t know, was that her father’s illness didn’t explain what was actually going on inside Malice House.

Haven’s inheritance had dwindled down to Malice House by the time of her father’s death and now, standing outside the mansion, she surveyed her surroundings.  Discovering one of her father’s manuscripts hidden inside the house, Haven sees the opportunity to make some cash yet she feels she might be missing something, if she doesn’t add a piece of herself to the manuscript.  This sounds like a great plan but as the story progressed, I began to think that perhaps Haven should have just hammered a For Sale sign in the front lawn, packed up a U-Haul and walked away.

“Oh, my!”  “No, it can’t be!!”  “What is she doing?!?!”  “a Monster” “collars, dog tags and a fire pit – and she’s combing through it – work faster!!”  “Is this a curse”

These are just a few of the notes I made as I read.  You can tell it was pretty intense at times and of course, I couldn’t stop reading until I got my questions, answered.  There were too many thoughts running through my head, too many directions this story could have gone.  Haven wanted to sell her father’s manuscript, for she needed the money but as an illustrator, she wanted to add her own personal touch to her father’s stories.  This could be a great father-daughter duo until she saw their reaction.  She took their response hard and her reaction was dramatic and emotional.  Unfortunately, Haven had set the wheels in motion and there was no going back now.  Tick, tick, tick ……time is moving fast and Haven needed to put all the pieces of this puzzle together.  What a fun, engaging story.  5 stars