Playaways

I’ve been listening to Playaways lately. I like them as they’re small and I can use my own headphones. My library has been getting more titles lately so that helps too.

Many individuals don’t know what a Playaway is, so I’m going to explain them. Our library carries them like they carry books on CD. Most of the time, a battery comes in the box, if not you’ll need a battery to put inside the unit. I usually just leave the battery rolling around in the case or in the clip for the next person.

Opening the box, you get a little rectangle box which is the book. You’ll need to put the battery in it. Plug in your headphones and you’re ready. You can also plug this into your cars audio system with a $10 cord, I found at Target.

This little system has volume control, speed control for the voice, fast forward, reverse, pause, a lock button and other timers to show you were you are in the book. I like how small they are. You can slip them into a coat pocket while taking a walk, into a shorts pocket, into jeans pockets, etc. they’re very versatile.

Front

Back

Inside – with battery
Inside the box with Playaway at the bottom
Backside of the Playaway. Control buttons
Where you plug in headphones and box info about your car
What the device screens tell you
All the Playaways I have checked out, my headphones and a Playaway

Living With Twelve Men….. a mother in training by Betty Auchard

4.5 stars Memoir

Reading Betty’s stories are like sitting beside her and having a conversation.  Betty doesn’t leave out anything as she writes about events in her life and I enjoyed the assortment of stories and her honesty.  I found myself laughing many times as I read and I even thought, “no, she really didn’t do that, did she?” 

Her story about the prayer chain hit home with me.  When it came time for Betty’s turn to pray, I cracked up as she spoke to the group.  I would have loved to be in that room and see everyone’s response as I think I would’ve started laughing. Her story about the guinea hens reminded me of the time I had turkeys.  I don’t know how she kept her composure during that whole ordeal but I feel she’s a strong woman as I know I wouldn’t have been able to.    

This is my second book of Betty’s that I’ve read and they’ve both been very enjoyable.  Betty writes about her personal experiences which are honest and open.  I read this book for book club and we had the honor this month (April 2021) of having Betty at our book club meeting via Zoom.  Seeing her in person was wonderful, as she’s just like the individual, I pictured her to be.  A very sweet, entertaining woman spoke with us.  She answered all of our questions, talking about the stories in the book, asking us questions, and telling us about her life.  We all enjoyed having her join us. 

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

5 stars Children’s Book

This book is beautiful!  This book says it all.  If you were to buy one book to have in your library, this should be the one!  It’s almost brought tears to my eyes as the author explains how we are all unite on this one big planet. 

I really enjoyed the illustrations inside this book, from how much detail was included, to the color choice, to how much there was to look at, these illustrations were wonderfully done.  I was impressed with how the author used an assortment of each topic to get her point across.  When she addressed how individuals traveled:  she included a rowboat, tugboat, skateboard, taxi, tractor, airplane, hot air balloon, camper, police car, ambulance, race car, wheelchair, pickup, bus, etc.  The two pages were full.  The author covers a variety of subjects in this book including families, weather, food, what people do, feelings, etc.   There was this feeling of love and community that came over me as I read this book, that we all are together on this planet, breathing and hopefully working together. 

This is an oversized book (11.25 x9 approx.) with 74 pages.  This is not one book that will be read once and put away as the illustrations again, are interesting and many of them have lots of look at.  I think this one is a keeper.  I highly recommend this one and make sure you read the last page of the book as the author talks about how she arrived at writing this book. 

” There are lots of things we don’t know.  We don’t know where we were before we were born or where we go when we die.  But right this minute, we are here together on this beautiful planet.”

“We humans define ourselves be where we are born, where we live, what we believe, by the clothes we wear, and the languages we speak.  But there is no “typical” person.  We are all different.”

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps the Floor by Cherie Jones

4 stars Fiction

Oh, Lala! Why, oh why?

Pregnant Lala desperately tries to find her husband, as she struggles to stand up walking along the sandy beach.  It’s not a good sign, for the baby not due yet and Lala needs to go to the hospital now.  As Adan runs out of the house, Lala knows whatever happened inside that house wasn’t good but right now, they need to go. Recovering inside the hospital, Lala feels alone.  Adan abandoned her, as he felt the risk was too high for him to be inside the hospital and the baby that she once carried inside her, is now being cared for in the ICU. 

Lala, oh Lala. If only you could see the future.  But yet I wonder, if you could see the future, would you really change anything?

I had to draw a character map of this story, even though there weren’t that many characters because I felt the connections between the characters got confusing as I read.  When the story changed characters, I felt that I was confused at how the characters were connected or associated with each other and I didn’t want to miss this. 

This is one that you’ll want to pick up and enjoy.  I thought it was more of a deep fictional story with layers and not a mystery as some individuals have labeled it. 

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

5 stars MIddle School

The ending of this book was fantastic!  That was one adrenaline rush! I seriously don’t think I took a breath as the minute-by-minute action played out.  As I reflect back on this book, I realized just how much I enjoyed it.  After I had been introduced to the characters, I didn’t want to put this book down. 

Zoey didn’t want to be on the debate team, nor did she want to be a part of the debate club. It’s not like she didn’t have an opinion, its just that she doesn’t like to talk out loud in class and isn’t that important in debate?  Zoey’s teacher sees something in her and she motivates her to join.  As Zoey attends a few of the meetings, I had to laugh as she begins scribbling information down and it seems as if she’s just “existing” while she’s there.  You can tell she’d rather be anywhere else then, sitting there in these meetings.  Yet, she’s listening and she’s grasping what’s really transpiring all around her, is anyone else doing the same?  

Zoey’s life at home is complicated.  She has three younger siblings (Hector, Bryce, and Aurora) which she helps care for when her mother works at the Pizza Pit.  Zoey doesn’t see her father and Bryce and Aurora don’t visit their father either.  Her mother is trying, she really is. With a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep in, her mother is trying to make a better life for her children. They’re all currently living with Hector’s father, Lenny and his grandfather in a trailer.  Sounds cozy, doesn’t it? 

I could see myself in Zoey’s mom, so much that it hurt. Her mom saw a goal and she was trying to reach it.  In-between her and that goal were her kids -that’s it……nothing else.  She was trying to make a better life for them and that was her goal.  Zoey: her view through the lens was different. With everything that Zoey is juggling, she wants to help her mom now.     

This is an excellent story that addresses the issues of poverty and abuse through the eyes of a middle-schooler. I really enjoyed how Zoey’s knowledge of debate came into play and how Zoey’s character matured in this book.  Zoey relationships with her peers and her family played a huge part in her life.  The responsibility she shouldered and her attitude was remarkable.  I loved how realistic this book felt and how smooth the writing was.  It deserves more than 5 stars!   

The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

4.5 Stars Historical Fiction

This wasn’t the path they had planned to be on, yet here they were.  Edith and Vera had been best friends forever, living across from one another their whole lives but now, the war changed that. Creating a plan, scrunched together in the dark cattle car, these women’s lives would never be the same. 

Waiting in the grass, watching for movement, watching for any signs of life, they left disappointed.  They knew what they needed to do now and they moved quickly. Soon the world would be theirs, the war would be officially over and they could make their mark upon it. It was an impressive journey as the girls begin experiencing life on their own.

I enjoyed how the girls looked out for one another.  Vera was the hard-working one, who immediately was concerned about money and tries to find employment so they can survive. Vera’s concerned about paying for rent, buying food, and taking care of her friend, Edith.  She tries not to let her emotions get in the way.  Believing that her boyfriend Stefan has died, Edith can’t get herself together.  Her grief has led her to become very promiscuous, causing Vera to keep her eyes on her when men are around.

I liked how the characters of Vera and Edith were alike and how they were different.  Vera is dependable, serious and her emotions are in-check. Edith is fun, to a point.  Don’t go too far, or she will lose it. If you looked inside her, she’s all-over-the-place.  They’re perfect for each other.  Vera is Edith’s landing spot whereas Edith gets Vera out of her comfort zone.  After the girls escaped out of the cattle car, they both realized that their parents weren’t so lucky and had died in Auschwitz.  This is a heavy burden for the girls to carry, as this event replays throughout their lives.

Romance plays a big role in this book as Edith and Vera find themselves falling in and out of love. Over time, they both seem to want it and find it, so differently.  I’m not one who enjoys a lot of romance but I did enjoy the twists and turns these two girls take when they start turning heads.  

It’s a great book about friendship. I enjoyed Vera’s and Edith’s relationship and how it changed over the years. As the world recovers from the war, the girls begin a life together out on their own.  Finding jobs, their life begins to take off and soon they’re meeting individuals and dating.  I found the book intriguing as they began navigating their new lives. 4.5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me an advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

4 stars Middle School

Everything her mother ever said about Zoe’s father was negative when she asked. Zoe knew where her father was but she didn’t know what he did, to end up in prison.  Now, on her 12th birthday as Zoe grabs the mail from their mailbox, she finds an envelope addressed to her with a return address from the Massachusetts State Penitentiary.  That envelope could only contain one thing, something from her father. 

This book had an excellent flow to it and the story was fun to read. I thought the author did a great job showing us the different emotions that Zoe experiences throughout the book and I liked how grandma tried to do the balancing act with the different characters.  I understood exactly why/how grandmother felt the way she did, as she maneuvered around the individuals in her life. Zoe’s friend Trevor, was good for her.  I was surprised how quickly he forgave her and how willing he went along with her suggestions.  I don’t think Zoe gave enough credit to Trevor. 

There were a few instances in the book that didn’t make sense to me.  These were based on the characters and our current time period.  I don’t want to spoil the book by mentioning them but Zoe is only twelve-years old and some of the things that she was doing just didn’t seem feasible for a person of that age.  But, if you let your imagination take you away, anything is possible.

In the book, Zoe begins to secretly write her father in prison, asking him a variety of questions.  Her father claims that he’ll be honest with her in his return letters but Zoe is torn between believing what her mother has said and the man, who she has never known.

Her grandmother accidently discovers Zoe’s secret and grandmother strikes up a deal with Zoe and now, who knows where this will all end.  I understand grandmother position in this mess but I also feel that there’s going to be fireworks, if and when Zoe’s mother finds out (and she will eventually find out, she has to, you just know she will).

If that’s not enough, Zoe told her parents that she would do a summer internship at her aunt’s bakery.  She needs to prove to them that she’s ready to enter a kid’s cooking competition on the Food Network. Did someone say cooking competition?  Zoe believed that this would be a great opportunity for her, yet when she arrives, it’s not what she expected.

It’s an eventful summer for Zoe with her internship and secretly corresponding with her father in prison.  It jumps into high speed when she learns some interesting information about her father and decides to explore it further it.  A conflict with her best friend Trevor, will need to be resolved quickly as she can’t do this alone.

Revenge of the Red Club by Kim Harrington

Middle School 4.5 stars

Riley has always had a way with words, she uses them to get her point across.  In Riley’s school, The Red Club, has been meeting for years, but this year it’s under attack. This challenge was just the first of many that were revealed and challenged under the roof of Riley’s middle school.  Riley and her friends want an equal playing field, they have excellent points to back themselves up, so watch out Hawking Middle School, the battle has just begun.

I enjoyed how this middle school book addressed a variety of controversial and important issues.  The Red Club is a long-standing club at this school yet this year, it’s coming under fire.  The club is for girls who have started their menstrual cycle.  If you haven’t experienced “Aunt Flo,” you can’t be a member of the Red Club.  There are positives and negatives to being a member of the club and as the students respond to the club and its members, I learned what some of these reasons were.  The book centers around this club but the book also addresses bullying, double standards, dress-code, self-absorbed individuals, pressure, communication, family, and friendship. I know, it’s quite a list.

One day, Riley offered some female help to Julia.  Being new to the school, Riley then told Julia about the Red Club, who seemed excited about it.  Yet, Julia informed Riley later her mother didn’t like the idea of the club therefor she wouldn’t be attending the meetings.  What?  Why is that?

It isn’t long before the principal closes down the club which ticks off the members.  Some of the girls still decide to meet off-site (love this!).  Riley, an excellent investigative reporter for the school’s newspaper wants to investigate but, the newspaper is now shut down.  What!?  Riley is good at exposing the truth, her articles have raised a few eyebrows including the principals.  What can Riley do now? It’s time for the girls to unite. 

This wasn’t a female vs. male book, rather it shows the perception of issues.  There were some males who understood what Riley’s and her friends were saying and stood with them as they faced their opponents.

It thought it was a great read and I only had one issue with the book. When Riley talks with her mom, I had an issue with that scene.  It’s definitely a terrific middle school read.    

Crossover: graphic novel by Kwame Alexander

5 stars Graphic Novel

This was fantastic!  You could really feel the energy and the emotions in this graphic novel which is an adaptation of the original novel with the same name.  I think kids will love this book.

This is not your typical graphic novel with text boxes, this graphic novel’s illustrations and text fill up the entire page.  Whether the page includes one illustration or four, it is the exact amount that is needed to get the point across.  With varying sizes of text, you will find yourself catching the rhythm of the book, as the story unravels. Using only shades of orange, black, and white, throughout the book, it’s amazing how captive you will become to Josh’s story.

You see, they were twins, Josh and Jordan.  Great basketball players who did a lot together.  Their father was a legend, on the court, many years ago.  Lately though, Jordan’s eyes have not been on the ball so much.  His eyes are on a girl and Josh feels ignored/left out/abandoned. Josh wants his father to intervene but his father won’t. Dad has some health issues that mom has been riding him on but dad says he’s fine.  I love the word play this couple speaks to one another. 

You can feel the energy soaring through the pages, the pain that’s growing inside of Josh, and witness the relationship that’s building between Jordan and his new friend.  The words were carefully chosen, they fit, they fit like a glove to make this graphic novel pulse.  

Then, he does it.  Josh unleashes his frustration and I hope that he feels better because everyone else doesn’t.  He’s done more harm then good and the repercussions of his anger, he’s paid a price for it. 

Excellent graphic novel!  Very powerful and is one that is definitely worth reading.   

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

3 stars Graphic Novel

Have you ever read a book and even though it stretches your imagination, you’re actually liking it, and then……bam, they’ve totally lost their minds and you wished, you could undo what you’ve just read?  That’s what I felt as I read Making Friends. This middle school graphic novel was dealing with some typical teen issues in a unique way when suddenly the main character cracked.

Dany’s Aunt Elma died, leaving the family to sort out her estate on their own.  Dany finds herself in the possession of one of her aunt’s sketchbooks, one of the few items the family didn’t fight over. Labeled, “handle with care,” Dany finds many of the pages empty and after a hard day at school, she begins to sketch in it.

Life was easier in elementary school when Dany had Joan and Leah at her side but now in middle school, it was getting more complicated.  Dany decides to draw Prince Neptune, yet she stopped after only drawing his head.  Neptune would protect her, if he was real.  Dany talks to her drawing as her pencil slides over the paper. Admiring her finished drawing, Dany is stunned when the image pops off the paper and becomes a living thing! Remember, she only drew his head so the Prince is now a talking head.

Prince Neptune is immediately head-over-heels in love with Dany and calls her Princess Dany and boy, how fun is this!? Dany is enchanted and scared at the same time.  What has just happened?  The prince is compassionate, caring, and supportive to Dany (even though, sometimes his ideas are a bit extreme) but you need to remember that he’s just a head, that was drawn to protect Dany and he doesn’t know that much about this world and then you’ll understand why he says what he does. 

Having the prince around does help Dany but it’s not like the prince can be out and around everyone else.  Dany wants other friends and she wants to fit in, but how? You guessed it!  She takes her pencil and she begins drawing in her aunt’s sketchbook. I see the dangers of this right away but Dany, she thinks it’s going to work out wonderfully.

Now, Dany is on a roll and she can’t stop now.  It’s as if someone has taken over this girl and she has become a different person, who is she? Dany is this loud, screaming individual who rants and yells. Her face takes up the whole text box.  Someone, please push her off button.  I was liking this book until Dany got greedy.

Overall, it was a fun book that I was enjoying until things got out of hand.  Why Dany had to go extreme, I have no idea but it was a turn-off for me.