Bathe the Cat by Alice B. McGinty

4.5 stars Childrens

A fun, rhyming book that will have children and adults laughing.  Rock the dishes? Scrub the lawn?  Vacuum the cat?  What has gotten this family all riled up?  Grandma is coming! 

This is a cute story about a family of 5 who have to quit playing and clean up before grandma arrives.  When one of the fathers announces that it’s time to clean up, he assigns everyone in the family a couple jobs to complete and that’s when the fun begins.  Bobby, Sarah and the other father each listen as he reads off the assignment chart he created.  It sounds like a great plan until he assigns himself the job of, “bathe the cat.”  Just looking at the cat on that page, tells me that this is not a good idea. 

Everyone goes back to playing, including the cat but the clock is ticking away, and grandma is on her way.   Father walks into the room they’re all playing in.  Father gets angry as no one is cleaning and he starts to remind them of their assigned jobs again, only this time he changes them up and they’re even more confusing.  Feed the floor? Scrub the fishes?  The illustrations are funny and large as the characters follow the father’s directions. 

Father again tries to correct his assignments but again he fails and there’s more hilarious chaos.  How will this house ever get clean?  Just looking at the illustrations and seeing this family try to complete their job is more than half the fun, in this book.   This book will definitely put a smile on your face as you watch them try to follow what the father has to say.  4.5

The Last Laugh by Mindy McGinnis

5 stars YA Suspense

It went off the rails pretty quickly!  I suggest that you read the first book in this series before you tackle this book, as you’ll want to enjoy this ride to the fullest effect.  There was quite a bit of drama amongst the characters even before this book began.  As things started to heat up, I had a hard time putting this book down.  Taking off right where the previous book left off, Mindy’s not just wrapping things up inside this book, Mindy begins by stoking up the fire.  Into this dark storyline, I met some fantastic characters that I didn’t trust but they fit perfectly inside this story.  Thanks, Mindy, for that fantastic ending.  

Wildoak by C.C. Harrington

5 stars YA/ Middle School

Twelve-year old Maggie has been to over three different schools and she has come to the conclusion that one wants her.  Her parents argue over her and she has no friends.   She finds comfort in the tiny world that she has created at home, surrounded by the little critters that welcome her just as she is.   School Nurse Nora knows Maggie all too well, for Maggie finds refuge in her office when the time is right.  See, Maggie stutters and her disability is not accepted.

I cringed, oh……. did I cringe!!  Maggie would do anything and I mean anything to get out of reading.   The author got my attention as these words fell across the page:

“ she drove the keenly sharpened

point deep










“Shock. Pain. Tears. The pencil protruded from her hand. The blood dripped.  Those sweet words.  Relief. Her Escape.  It had worked. Again.” 

As Maggie was dismissed from class, excitement and relief filled her head as again, she had dodged the bullet.  She had found her way out of the classroom when it was close to her turn to read out-loud in the classroom.  Maggie didn’t register the pain or discomfort that ran through her body for she was used to it, anything was easier than reading out loud. 

Her parents feel there are two options for Maggie now:  an institute for treatment or her grandfather who she hasn’t seen for years.  All I knew was that Maggie would be leaving her tiny world at home.  The only place where she felt comfortable, with her little critters, were staying home with her mom.   Her grandfather was a doctor who lived in the country so I hoped that Maggie would find some new animal friends in her new surroundings.    

We also meet Rumpus in this book.  Rumpus was a birthday gift and what a surprise this was to both Rumpus and Anabella.  Unprepared for her new snow leopard, Anabella orders Rumpus removed from her home when she returns home to find her home in disarray.  Finding himself in another new surroundings, Rumpus is now in Wildoak Forest and he must learn how to survive on his own.

Even though she didn’t know her grandfather very well, I felt that Maggie was relieved and comfortable around him.  She seemed to fit right into his world and he accepted her without trying to “fix her.”   Maggie and her grandfather create a special bond based on acceptance and love.

Maggie discovers Rumpus inside Wildoak Forest and I loved their relationship.  “Something was wrong.  He stared at her and they were quiet, saying lots of things without saying anything at all.”  It was supposed to be two weeks spent with her grandfather learning to overcome her stuttering yet during these two weeks, I felt Maggie was empowered and she totally forgot about her disability.

This was a fabulous story filled with struggles, emotions, and journeys.  I highly recommend this book.

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.

Four for the Road by K.J. Reily

5+ stars Fiction YA

  “We’re all just trying really hard to cling to something we’re not entirely sure can hold us up.”

I read this book over 2 months ago yet as I think about these characters and their story, I am reliving every moment of this fantastic book! It’s only been 12 months, 3 weeks, 1 day, 6 hours, and 14 minutes since Asher’s mother died. As the thick smoke fills the house and makes seeing the television screen impossible, Asher continues watching the television as the fire consumes his home. In the hospital, the support groups that Asher initially walks into provides more than just support for him.

Asher meets a variety of individuals and I loved every single one of them.  With unique personalities and stories, these individuals have so much to offer while still dealing with their own issues.  

  “We’re all just trying really hard to cling to something we’re not entirely sure can hold us up.”

As the groups gathers, Asher hears his own struggles and pain coming from the mouths of those around him.  These individuals know the battles and scars that he has, he’s not walking alone.

       “I’m not completely alone in my head with this monster.”

Asher needs closure so he can move on and these individuals are there for him. With a list of questions, Asher decides to find the answers.  It’s a road trip and Asher is not going alone. The new friends that he includes in this ride are perfect.  I was smiling, laughing, and enjoying this car trip so much.  What a ride!  The group does more than just get answers to Asher’s questions, they have an adventure.   Everyone benefits from this excursion.    

With short chapters, fun and entertaining characters, this was one book that I couldn’t put down.  I enjoyed the author’s use of language as there were many great passages inside this book.  I thought the author did a great job handling the topics covered inside this book.  One of the best books I read this year.  I highly recommend it!!! 5+ stars

   “Then I start thinking about how many grieving groups they would need to have just for the 10,262 people killed last year by drunk drivers and how there just aren’t enough days in the week to take care of that many people with dead family members so I just sit down on the garage steps and think about hammers and baseball bats and then my dad sits down next to me.”

The Second Home by Christina Clancy

4.5 stars Fiction

What an interesting story, one that got me thinking. The story kept building, lies hidden beneath it all, how long could this deception go on? If the truth would finally be revealed, who would be left? As teens, they were friends. Michael seemed to fit nicely into their family and so, the family decided to adopt Michael. At first, this seemed like a perfect fit. The two sisters enjoyed having Michael as a brother now and father proudly showed him some of the items around the summer house which someday, he would now own. This adoption changed Michael too, for now he wasn’t the quiet boy he once was.

Leaving life in Wisconsin, the family would take off each summer and spend some time in Cape Cod in their summer home. Poppy and Ann look forward to this time every year and they can’t wait to show their brother Michael everything they do. I thought it was interesting how Michael initially views this vacation spot and how this changes as he got older. One summer, one of the sisters finds herself in a difficult situation. As I read these pages, I couldn’t read them fast enough, as I wanted it over with yet I wanted someone to intervene. The outcome was heart-breaking and frustrating to me but they thought it was the best way to get this matter settled. They thought that this situation was behind but it wasn’t.

As the years pass and the story progresses, their parents have now died. The children are now adults and Poppy and Ann have decided to sell the cottage in the Cape. I was steaming mad at this point. One of the girls couldn’t keep her mouth closed and the other one couldn’t open her mouth and talk. Holy macaroni folks! I can’t tell you all that went on but I wanted to speed read as things started to heat up but I didn’t want to miss anything. There are lots of memories in this house, good and bad but you just can’t walk away and lock the door and leave them behind. This was a great book for me but I don’t think the cover was very exciting on it.

Note: Tell your loved ones where your Will, Power of Attorney, Living Will, etc. these important documents – are when you have them done. Don’t wait till you’re old or dying to tell your loved ones where they’re at. I want to thank St. Martin Press, Net Galley and Christina Clancy for sending me an arc of this book. This review was my own personal opinion. 4.5 stars

A Day For Sandcastles by JonArno Lawson

4 stars Picture book

It’s a beautiful day for building a sandcastle or should I say sandcastles?  That’s exactly what happens in this picture book as these three young children set about making a sandcastle on a bright, sunny day at the water’s edge.  They’ve scooped, packed, and smoothed everything down to make their amazing sandcastle when suddenly, something happens to it.  From a hat flying into it to someone walking over the top of it, these youngsters see their masterpiece collapse and they’re pushing the sand back up and beginning again. 

I liked how the children worked together getting the sandcastle built each time and their attitude each time they had to rebuild.  I enjoyed how the story along with the illustrations conveyed this happy, relaxing day at the beach.  Being a picture book with no words, the soft colors and the way that the story flowed, it felt like a warm, relaxing summer day as the beach goers enjoyed the sunshine. A cute book with fabulous illustrations that complete the story. I do wish that I could see more of the expressions on the individual faces in the illustrations, I think that would add more to the story.   4 stars 

Better Place by Duane Murray

5 stars Graphic Novel

My emotions were all over the place with this graphic novel.  It started out super sweet with a grandson and his granddad playing the parts of Red Rocket and Kid Cosmo, the grandson’s favorite comic heroes. Mom had had her father move in with them and the duo were creating their own real-life versions of the comic book duos adventures.  With granddad behind the shopping cart handle and grandson Dylan, helping with the navigation, they glide through the neighborhood saving the universe.  As a new kid, Dylan doesn’t know anyone so granddad is the perfect friend. 

Mother knows she should get granddad into a home since his recent diagnosis but granddad doesn’t want to go and they know that Dylan would be lost without him.  Then, there’s an incident with Dylan in the parking garage and later, they arrive back home to some emergency vehicles at their house.  Oh, granddad.  I wasn’t ready for what happened next but granddad is no longer in the picture. Instead of being honest with Dylan, she tells him that granddad went to a “better place.”  While mother deals with the loss of her father, Dylan begins another adventure looking for the “better place” so he can find his granddad.

I loved the relationship between Dylan and her granddad.  Even though his granddad was sick and didn’t act like a typical granddad, they had fun together and you could see how much they loved and appreciated each other.  Mother never really had time for Dylan at the beginning of the novel which I thought might change once her father died and left Dylan with no one but mom had her own emotions and issues surrounding her father’s death.  It’s quite emotional as both Dylan and his mother realize what granddad’s death means in their life.  They’ll need to start relying on each other.

The book did a great job of showing the emotions and difficulties that Dylan went through, whether he sailed or struggled through them.  I really enjoyed the illustrations. I feel there is something about the facial expressions in a graphic novel that bring the story to life and these were spot on.  With terrific details and the slightest use of color, this graphic novel is a winner.  5 stars

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

3 stars Fiction

Too many flashbacks, that’s what I say.  I may be the oddball out but I think this book could have been written differently had you wanted to put ALL and I say ALL with capital letters, all those Egyptian rules and information in there.  Don’t get me wrong, I like reading a book and getting educated at the same time but don’t present it in the way you did here by having the reader jump back and forth through time periods.  I did like the two separate stories but let’s keep them separate and then, converge them together. 

It was a story of what if. What if you’d taken a different path instead of the path you had chosen? That’s the question Dawn had on her mind and one she needed answers to.  Was her husband Bryan a good choice or should she had stayed in Egypt with Wyatt?

While studying to be an Egyptologist, Dawn meets Wyatt who ends up being her friend and later, they have a relationship.  Dawn learns one day that her mother is dying and she returns to the states.  While visiting her mom, she meets Bryan who is also visiting a relative. They begin as friends but it leads into a relationship, then a pregnancy, and eventually, they get married.  They have a stable life, they’re content, but does she still love him?  One day at her job as a death doula, Dawn gets a request from one of her patients.  Can she do this for her patient – the patient’s dying wish? This wish gets Dawn thinking about her own past and about her relationship with Wyatt.  

With her stable life at home, Dawn feels compelled to return to Egypt to see Wyatt.  Dropping everything, she’s off!  I felt for Bryan as he’s at home while his wife is off in Egypt seeing if there’s still some fire in her old relationship.  With tons of information about Egyptian ruins and mummies I felt overwhelmed at times on whether I was there to learn about Dawn’s relationship or about historical facts.  The facts were interesting but they felt heavy as I made through this book.  Would I need to know these interesting facts later and would they come into play later in the book?  I sure hope not as there were just too many of them.  Dawn was getting on my nerves as it felt as if she was playing now in Egypt while the rest of the team was trying to work and make some amazing new discoveries.  They needed funding; each minute meant money to them yet Dawn just needed to know if she had made the right choice when she didn’t return years ago.  Quit talking about the wrappings and the mummies, let them get some work done. 

This didn’t read like some of the other books I have read by Jodi. I liked the stories; it was the presentation of the stories and all the nonfiction information that threw me off. If you’re able to block out distractions while reading, this might be a good book for you but it wasn’t a good book for me.  3 stars    #TheBookofTwoWays    #NetGalley

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest opinion.  Thank you for letting me review this copy. 

Answers in the Pages by David Levithan

5 stars Middle School

It became the forbidden fruit. The students in Mr. Howe’s class were assigned to read The Adventurers but it seems that one of the parents found something they didn’t like about the book and they challenged the book before the school board. Ah! This challenge has now caused a mad rush for the 5th graders to read the book before they must turn their books into their teacher as the book goes through this process. What is so wrong about this book? What is the excitement all about? The students want/need to know!! Why did Donovan have to leave his copy of the book out so that his mother would find it?

The subject of banned books is front and center as Donovan’s mother reads the ending of her son’s assigned reading book and becomes upset when she feels that the characters in the book are gay. He’s only in 5th grade and he’s reading this! The author did an excellent job presenting both sides of this issue as it gets discussed openly in a formal meeting with a variety of individuals speaking. I enjoyed Donovan’s feelings as he’s embarrassed with the production his mother is making out of this book and I liked how he handles himself throughout the proceedings to get this issue settled. It becomes a bit sensitive as Mr. Howe discusses his own partner and he openly talks about his gay relationship.

This book was one of those stories which I noticed that my reading pace slowed and increased around the events of the book. There were some great moments in the book, times when individuals spoke from the heart and it brought a smile to my face. This becomes a personal issue for some and you can feel their emotions in their behavior and in their voice. A fantastic read that I highly recommend.

(page 32) ” For the first time, he realized teachers had a hard job, deciding which really good books to teach, since there were definitely more really good books than there were days in the school year. “

(page 98) ” Whether or not you think they’re gay, it’s not a big deal. It’s not the point of the story. Being gay is not the point of my life or Bert’s life. It’s an important part of it, definitely. But it’s not the point.”

(page 146) “……..a person’s humanity should never be a matter of debate. Instead, it is a matter of the highest principle we can aspire to, which is equality.”