The Call of the Wild adapted by Ellyn Alcott

5 stars Picture book/Wonder book

This was a wonderful picture book. I was fortunate enough to get this in a Wonder Book so I was able to listen to the book after I read it.  From the way the story was presented to the illustrations, this book was prefect.

I don’t remember much about this book when I read it as a child.  I do remember having to read it in school with my classmates and how the dog Buck, found himself in some new surroundings, trying to adapt.  There are some individuals who get all emotional when you mention this book but as you can see, I’m not one of them. After reading and listening to this     I can understand how they feel.

The story begins with Buck living comfortably on a ranch.  He’s alone but he’s the “king of the ranch,’ and he enjoys that.  One night while out for a walk with one of the farm workers, Buck gets dognapped.  Buck is confused as he travels not just by truck but by trains and ship to his final destination.  Buck’s new home is a noisy, busy place.  Buck is no longer alone but he’s now become part of a team, a team of sled dogs.

The sled dogs were mean and the work was hard.  Buck was smart though and knew that if he had to work hard, if he was going to survive.  His owners had only one thing on their mind: seeking their fortunes.  Working in the snow was new for Buck but he got used to it and soon he became the lead dog.  Buck’s owners came and went but Buck, he was always the lead dog.  As spring arrived, Buck heard a calling in the wilderness, a summons that pulled deep within him. This past winter had been a rough one for Buck but also a good one.  Buck was different and he noticed it. This is a great transition in the book.  A terrific section where it’s good to think back over everything Buck has been though this past winter and to think about what will happen with Buck in the future. Buck is ready to take the lead again when he gets a new owner, but Thornton is different.  I liked how Thornton and Buck came together and the adjustment they made for each other.  The ending was perfect and I can see why some individuals get emotional when this book is mentioned.

The illustrations were terrific.  Bright, bold colors and just enough details to bring the story alive on the page.  There were instances of turmoil and chaos in the book and I liked the way that the frantic and wild illustrations that accompanied this.  The easy-to-read text had a great flow and the print was bold and easy to understand.   5 star read for me.    

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

5 stars HIsorical Fiction

I read this novel and then, I listened to this novel on audio.  I really enjoyed the story.  I liked the character of Ellie as she was a strong, caring individual.  She could have walked away from the situation and started over yet she didn’t.  Ellie held strong and thought about her family and what was best.  I liked how the story moved from the present time period into the past and how the two connected.  Presented with some questions at the beginning of the story, allowing the reader to time travel, gave us the ability to see we could get the answers we needed yet, also gave us more questions that we were able to get answers to later in the book.

Presently: Ellie is planning on moving into a newly built home with her daughter, Raine.  This new home comes with a lot of memories although the house hasn’t had any family inside its walls.  Ellie and her late husband, Jackson were both architects and have spent the past seven years designing this house.  An accident claimed the life of her husband inside the studded walls of this dream home.  Now, inside this newly developed estate, Ellie plans on beginning their new life with Raine in the house that her and her late husband designed.   With her father close by, Ellie relies on him to help with the house and with four-year-old Raine but the emotional toll of this recent death still hits hard.  With other houses being built around them, there is one older house that anchors the development and Ellie finds that she already has one neighbor, so she will be all alone.  I felt this part of the book was more mysterious and adventurous.  I found that I read these sections more slowly as it felt more discreet and secretive. 

Time travel to 1965:  Ellie wants to do something; she has a fire within her.  Every summer she works at her father’s pharmacy but this year, she has heard about SCOPE and she wants to sign up.  She approaches her parents about SCOPE: “place nearly five hundred predominantly white college students in nearly one hundred predominantly black rural and urban areas in Southern states.”  This was part of the Civil Rights Act but her parents don’t care and refuse Ellie participation.   Ellie is determined to go, so she forges her parent’s signature on the form and she prepares herself to go.  What a ride this part of the book was.  I looked forwarded to this time period as the excitement never ended.  I was excited for Ellie yet I was scared as she went through some of the events. 

What a great story, I enjoyed how everything came together.  I think the audio of the book was nicely done too.  I’m definitely going to be looking for more of her books in the near future. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley, Diane Chamberlain and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review.  5 stars.,other%20leaders%20recruited%20students%20nationwide.

So what is a Playaway?

We bought a house on a lake this past January and we’ve been doing a lot of driving back and forth each week cleaning and fixing up our new house.  This new lake house will be a place that we plan to use on the weekends and since my husband plans to retire next year, a place that we can escape to more, when he retires.  I could go on about this lake house which I will in future posts (boy, do I have the stories!) but today, I thought I would talk about Playaways.  If you don’t know what a Playaway is, I hope thatt by the time you finish reading my post, you will.  Playaways are amazing!

Playaway unit

I get my Playaways from my library.  I check them out, just like a library book.  They sound and work just like an audio book actually except they are more versatile and easier to use, I think.  The issue I have with Playaways though, is that the library doesn’t carry a wide assortment of books on Playaways.  They are getting better about buying them for the library which is great so we shall see.  I do notice that more patrons of the library are checking them out so that is a plus. The more that people check them out, the more the library will buy.  I guess I could buy Playaways on the web, but they’re expensive.  So what is a Playaway?

Playaway case & unit
Playaway case & unit ( shows how to use the device inside the case)

A Playaway is an audiobook.  Instead of having CD’s to listen to or having to have access to the internet/Wi-Fi to listen to a book, you’re supplied with a small rectangluar device that has your book on it.  You’ll need to have some headphones and one (1) AAA battery to work the device but once you have that, you’re ready.   

The Playaway has volume controls, speed controls, a pause button and off and on controls.  There’s an equalizer button that helps with the sound quality.  The device tells you how far you are in the chapter and it remembers your spot in the book when you shut off the device. 


Volume controls

I’ve been listening to Playaways on our drives betwee the two houses but I’ve also been listening to them while I’ve been working around the house.  I like to stick the device in my pocket and go about my day.  I’ve caught myself talking to myself as I listen to the book, either responding to what is happening in the book or stopping and letting off a few comments about what is transpiring in the book.  I currently have paint on my headphones as I was painting listening to my latest Playaway and the cord kept getting in the way BUT there was no way I was going to stop listening.  I’ve also learned that I need to keep a few spare batteries in my glovebox.  

Here’s a couple links if you want to learn more or if you want to pass some information onto your library.  Our library also have the the Wonderbooks and Launchpads.  I read my first Wonderbooks and I was amazed!

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

They came here to find a place to call home. That’s all they wanted. They were comfortable, they found what they needed, and they thrived. They had a library, a post office, and their own little Black Wall Street. A one-mile stretch on Greenwood Avenue hosted so many black businesses that a business leader Booker T. Washington called it “Negro Wall Street of America” and that name stuck. They had lawyers, schools, doctors, heck they had it all! Hotels, movie theatres and even their own airplanes. They were comfortable and enjoying their wealth.

Not everyone was pleased with how well the African Americans were doing in Tulsa. This was 1921 afterall and some of them were making more money than the white population. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

When a 19-year-old shoeshine man enters an elevator, times were about to change. The 17-year-old elevator operator charges the shoeshine man with assault and causes chaos in the city. The shoeshine man is an African American and the elevator operator, a white female. Town people fearing for the safety of the shoeshine man rush to the jail to save him but are met by thousands of armed white individuals. This will not be the last day these two groups are left with dead supporters. It was heart-breaking reading what was once a peaceful, thriving community being torn apart by hatred.

With fantastic illustrations, this nonfiction book brings to life this terrible event that occurred in history. The author includes in the last few pages of the book some author’s notes about the event and the illustrator has written some notes also. I enjoyed reading these also. What a great book. Thanks to the author and illustrator for sharing this event to our young readers.

I choose a Wonderbook for this book. This was my first Wonderbook and it fantastic! These types of books are new to our library so I wanted to check them out. Basically, what it does is read the book to you while you follow along with the printed text. You don’t need to supply anything – no batteries, no plug-in, nothing. The directions are inside the cover of the book. I pushed the button to start the book, it chimed to tell me to turn the page, and I could follow along reading the text or in-the-case with this picture book, I could just follow along with the illustrations. I could stop the book whenever I wanted also. I see that there are other children’s books including chapter books for these Wonderbook titles and I’m going to look into these for further reads. What another wonderful way to read books. 5 stars

Inside the front book cover – the Wonderbook directions and buttons

The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben

4.25 stars Mystery

This was better than I anticipated. I listened to this book on a Playaway and I liked the character of Wilde.  He was the boy who they had found in the woods and although he was a bit different than anyone else, I thought he used that to his advantage.  I thought this book might be more about him but it had to do with him and a case that he was working on.  Wilde knew people judged him on his past but he knew things that others didn’t. Wilde didn’t try to shine in front of others yet he also didn’t let others walk on him- he held himself up and he did what he thought needed to be done.  He got the job done like a professional.

Wilde is asked to help search for a young girl who has disappeared.  I thought it was interesting why they asked for Wilde’s help but with some professional background he knows the protocol and he definitely knows the area.  Wilde’s actions and demeanor reminded me of crafty spy.    

When I first started to listen to this audio, I got a bit confused and had to replay the first couple chapters but then, I got on Wilde’s team.  His voice on the audio was exactly what I thought he would sound like too.  I saw that this was a series so I now have to listen to the sequel to see what happens.  4.25 stars

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Saenz

4 stars YA

And this is why I wait.  When I first read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, I thought it was an okay read but reading it a second time was a different experience for me.  Whether this was because I was in a different place in my life, or my mood at the time, or perhaps I was just more ready for it, I found this first book in this series had become more enjoyable and encompassing.  After discussing it in book club, instead of gazing into my crystal ball and envisioning the future of the characters, I picked up the new sequel.  I couldn’t believe that it had taken this long for it to finally come out.  At least now, I would have some solid answers.

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World begins right where Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe left off, so I’d read the first book before diving into this one.   Since the two boys have finally come to terms with their feelings towards each other in the first book, now it’s time to address the rest of the world.   We knew the struggle would be difficult as the boys’ deal with their peers and with the family dramatics but they also are looking at their future together.   Will this love last?  


What I enjoyed about this series were the relationships and how lifelike these characters felt.   Having other family members and their stories brought into the book filled out the story and gave us a true picture.  These characters struggled, their emotions felt strapped, and yet inside some of them were really glowing.    I listened to this book on audio and I highly recommend it. 4 stars.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

5 stars Historical Fiction

That Opal was a hoot!  I couldn’t believe the transformation of this lady from the beginning to the end of the book.  I was grinning from ear to ear as I heard her, her spunk, determination, and compassion just fell out of the book.  Being a black woman, she knew exactly where her place was but that wasn’t a place were Opal wanted to be. If you think about the time period that Opal and Nev were an item (1970’s), equality was a hot issue.  Liberation, racism, and equal rights were being sought after and it seemed that everyone was on edge. 

On stage, I could only image what their performance was like and I would have loved to just see them up close.  I doubt any performance was ever the same as their personalities, feelings, and the chemistry of the stage all came into play when they took the stage. Opal seemed to be the one who pushed their performances, who shined, while Nev filled in where he was needed and he worked on other matters. 

Set up like an interview, this book is an oral history of the lives of Opal Jewel and Nev Charles, a singing duo from 1970’s.  I loved the book, Daisy Jones and the Six so I knew I would enjoy this book also.  The two books are alike yet they’re different.  I liked how this book was an interview which consists of flashbacks that told the story of Opal and Nev.  We hear from their friends and family, they speak about their ups and their downs, and we forget that this book is a work of fiction. As I read the book, I imagined hearing Opal’s voice as she talked about her relationship with Nev and then, I had to get the audio of this book to actually hear her words being spoken.  Her voice brought strength to the words that I had previously read, for it solidified what I had previously thought about her.  I really enjoyed the audio version of this book and the books was fantastic also, I got the best of both worlds!   

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest opinion.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

5 stars Historical Fiction

This novel covered only three days yet those days felt longer than the typical 24-hours.  I enjoyed the diversity among the characters in this novel, as they balanced each other out.  Inside this makeshift maternity ward, the mothers are facing a lot of uncertainty.  Although one might have experience working with expectant mothers, the Spanish Flu was a variant that no one had experience with.  As Julia dives into her new position, Bridie walks into her life.  Bridie, her honest and accommodating spirit, I loved everything about her. 

When I first met Bridie, I had a tender spot for her.  There was this warmth and grace about her, it was just something that I felt as I read the book. Julia and Bridie build this great relationship in the book as they work with each other and their patients. Even though one had more experience, they balanced each other as Bridie kept Julia grounded.  They nurtured each other.  I liked the uncertainty of the situations that they were facings, the characters, and the relationships that transpired. I thought this was an excellent audio as I listened to it on a Playaway (an audio).   

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

3 stars Fiction

I listened to this book on audio one weekend as I did projects around the house. I was hoping for something along the lines of a thriller, for that’s what the synopsis promised me but I found that, the book was more dramatic and historical in nature. Returning to Brooklyn, Sydney finds the neighborhood that she once called home changing. Although some change is expected, this modification becomes more like a revolution as the issues become deep and connected.

Sydney was trying to make a difference in her old neighborhood when she moves back to Brooklyn. Conducting research for a new job that she’s creating; she discovers what’s truly happening right before her very own eyes. I liked Sydney’s initiative and eagerness to move forward in her own life when she returns home and I liked how she steps up and starts to care for the garden area which was her grandmothers. The neighborhood of her childhood, which was once predominantly Black, is now being uprooted. The individuals behind this and why they’re allowed such behavior is what Sydney needs to uncover. She never expected to find gentrification or racism on her neighborhood block but what can she do about it? I wish I could leave the book like this but then, the ending came. I clearly was not a fan on how things came together in the final pages. I’m glad that I read the book as it deals with some of the current issues that some individuals face. 3 stars

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

5 stars Historical Fiction

What a fun novel to listen to.  It took a few chapters for things to get situated but then, I really enjoyed the history, the relationships and the idea behind this book.  I liked that the female relationships inside the book took more precedence than the male/female relationships, which was what I was hoping would happen. I didn’t want a romance to spoil this drama.  This was a great package:  a historical fiction story, centered around a cooking competition consisting of diverse characters with an uplifting ending.

It’s the popular BBC broadcasting of the British Show, The Kitchen Front with Ambrose as the show’s host.  The show has decided that they need a female co-host and has launched a cooking competition to find her.  Located in Finley Village, England, are four women who are supposedly using their war rations to make the winning entries and to prove to Ambrose that they should be his co-host.  Here are four women who desperately need this position. These four women come from such different situations and circumstances in their lives.  These four women give this competition everything that they have. And who do I think should win it?   Nell? The kitchen maid at Finley Hall who started the competition so timid that she can hardly talk but she can cook.  Lady Gwendoline?  She married into money but does money buy happiness?  Audrey?  Lady Gwendoline sister, a war widow with 3 children who is trying to keep her head above water.  Zelda? A previous London chef who is now pregnant (and unmarried).


I enjoyed listening to these ladies’ stories.  How their lives were before the war and how their lives have changed since the war began.  It was fascinating how they created their recipes using their war rations and how some of them used nature to help them spread their rations even further.  Their resourcefulness really shined.  What started out as a competition for these ladies, as they lifted up their dome lids and everyone marveled at their creation hidden underneath, ends in another type of celebration as the winner is selected.   I highly recommend this novel.