Friday, October 30, 2015

My Kids’ Top Halloween Book Picks for 2015

I have three children, a son, Kile, age nine, a second son, Daniel, age seven, and a daughter, Penelope, who recently turned five.  Between the three of them, they love a variety of different types of books.  Fortunately, like their mother, they love to decorate for the seasons and also change books for the holiday at hand.  I brought out the Halloween books at the start of the October and it was very exciting to have new books.  Here are what they tell me are their favorites for this year.

Penelope (5 years old)
Miss Penelope is in 4K preschool and is just starting to learn words and begin to read.  She doesn’t read entire books for herself quite yet so these books are what she told me where her favorites that my husband and I read to her at night.

Fancy Nancy’s Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection by Jane O’Conner
Penelope LOVES Fancy Nancy.  She loves the Halloween part in this collection and especially the costumes.  She also really loved the family being together in the Thanksgiving story.

Sofia the First:  The Halloween Ball by Lisa Mangoli
Another favorite character for Penelope is Sofia the First from the Disney channel.  She also loves dances and balls so this is a good story for her.

Mickey’s Halloween Treat by Thea Feldman
This is actually an old favorite of the boys’ as well, Daniel was just reading it last night.  Penelope loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and likes the different costumes in this book and how Pete is trying to trick the friends.

The Magic School Bus:  The Wild Leaf Ride by Judith Stamper and The Magic School Bus:  In the Bat Cave by Jeannette Lane
 Penelope really enjoys The Magic School House books.  She loves the adventures and checking out what dress the teacher has on.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandra
The kids all love the “There Was an Old Lady” series and having me read them the different versions.  I will say that this mother loves the original the best.  I’m kind of grossed out how the old lady basically throws everything up at the end, but Penelope thinks it is hilarious.

Pinkalicious Pink or Treat:  By Victoria Kann
Pinkalicious is another favorite series of Penelope and she loves this holiday chapter.

Happy Halloween, Little Critter by Mercer Mayer
All of the kids have loved the Little Critter stories over the year.  They love this book as it has hidden items you reveal by moving the page.  They also love the costumes and Halloween party storyline.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
This is also another family favorite.  My kids definitely do not like to be afraid, so they love this book and how the little old lady faces her fears head on.  It’s also fun to read with all of the sounds that are made through the story.

Daniel (7 years old)

Daniel is into reading chapter books, but that doesn’t stop him from loving T.Rex Trick or Treats by Lois Grambling.  Other favorites included:

Trick or Treat from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler
Daniel said that he likes how one of the characters decided to be a clown because it’s funny, but he might not get any candy because he isn’t scary (not getting candy is Daniel’s worst fear).  He liked Count Dracula and how they acted like real characters.  He also enjoyed how they leave you hanging at the end so you want to read the next book, “which some authors do to make more money.”  I laughed when he said that.

Horrible Harry at Halloween by Suzy Kline
Daniel liked the surprise ending although he says he was not surprised because he’s read a lot of Horrible Harry books.  He liked Horrible Harry’s costume (a police detective), but he didn’t like that Sidney was the criminal again.

The Magic School Bus Chapter Book #1:  The Truth About Bats by Eva Moore
We’ve just started this book, but Daniel loves Magic School Bus books.  He really loves science and loves the adventures that the class goes on with their teacher.

Kile (9 years old)
Kile refused to read any of the Halloween books and said they are all too scary.  He decided instead to read more adventurous books. After reading Great Illustrated Classics:  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne last year, Kile wanted to read more Jules Verne.  The Great Illustrated Classics are a great way to introduce kids to classic stories.
Great Illustrated Classics:  A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Kile liked it and the adventure.  The pictures were enjoyable and it was a nice quick read.  I enjoyed it as a parent reading it with him as well.  I’ve never actually read the adult version of this novel.

Great Illustrated Classics:  Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Kile also enjoyed reading this adventure as well, although he was dismayed that there was a bit of romance at the end of the story.  We were both amazed to find out that there actually isn’t any travel around the world in a balloon as we had both thought there was.

Kile rated 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as the best followed by Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in 80 Days.

What are your favorite Halloween books for kids?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

After You by Jojo Moyes

Title: After You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Read by: Anna Acton
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Length: Approximately 11 hours and 6 minutes (9 CDs)
Source: Kewaunee Public Library – Thank-you!

JoJo Moyes’ novel Me Before You was a book club favorite from last year.  The storyline was riveting, and the characters were realistic and moving.  When I discovered Moyes was writing a sequel, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! 

Louisa Clark is still reeling after the death of Will Traynor.  As she says in brief, sometimes a story ends with a tragedy that has somehow put everyone’s life in a good spot, but that is not real life. Louisa has taken the money left to her by Will and traveled the world, but everywhere she went she was lonely, and missing Will.  She buys a sad flat in London with the money left and gets a job at a pub within an airport.  She is not happy at her job, especially when she gets a new boss whose sole purpose seems to be to make her miserable.

After an unfortunate accident that may have been caused by a lethal combination of alcohol and regret, Louisa is confronted with hard truths from her family and vows to put her life back on track.  She joins a group that deals with the loss of loved ones, the Moving On Support Group, and she meets a new man that finally make her think about starting a new relationship.  She also meets someone she never expected to meet that she spends a lot of time helping out (I don’t want to ruin the surprise by saying who this is).  Ultimately Louisa needs to determine whether she should take a risk and move on with her life, or if she is going to hide behind everyone else and remain stagnant.

I loved reading about Louisa and the cast of characters I grew to love in Me Before You.  I also loved the new characters.  There was a giant Will sized hole through the entire book and I’m glad it was addressed and the real feeling of loss was present.  Louisa seems real as she has her struggles, but she is not lost to them.  I did feel there were a couple of tragedy plot points, especially one near the end that took things a bit too far – it felt like a soap opera instead of a real characters and a comedy of manners as the rest of the novel felt.  That aside, I want to read more about Louisa, the Clarks, and the Traynors and I so hope there will be another book in this series.

The audiobook was a joy to listen to on my daily commute.  Anna Acton was a good narrator and was the voice of Louisa for me.

Overall, a good sequel for Me Before You, but I would definitely read or listen to the first book before I attempt this one.  Before You had riveting characters, but a storyline that used tragedy one too many times too move things along.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Miracles by Karen Kingsbury Review and Giveaway!

Miracles is a book that brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion.  It is a 52-week devotional.  It is basically 52 short stories that detail different miracles complete with Bible verses.  These stories were very, very moving and inspiring.  I summarized just a few at dinner with my family this weekend, and my kids were all riveted.

A couple of my favorite devotionals included stories of miracles that occurred for those that were struggling with being able to have children, or those whose lives were saved through miracles, and also friends and family that were separated because of misunderstandings, but then were reunited in a miraculous way.  One of my favorite stories was a doctor that came home after a long day and was stopped by a little girl that said her mother was in trouble.  The doctor went with her to her home and helped out her mother.  The mother asked how she knew she was in medical distress and the doctor responded that her daughter had told her.  The mother said that her daughter had died a few months ago.  The doctor saw the same little girl coat hanging up that the girl had worn to come and get her.  The angel of the little girl was watching over the mother and went for the doctor providing a miracle for the woman.

I also loved one explanation in the book when a woman wonders why God saved her from an accident that killed many others.  Her father replied that God has a different time for everyone to be called home to heaven and it was not her time.  I loved thinking about it like that.  Some people are just wanted in heaven sooner than others.

Overall, I loved Miracles by Karen Kingsbury.  It is a wonderful devotional about true miracles that have taken place through God that are inspiring and emotional to read.  I have a few people on my Christmas list that I am going to buy this book for!

Source:  Review Copy from Hachette Book Group – Thanks!

 One lucky winner will receive a copy of  Miracles by Karen Kingsbury courtesy of Hachette Book Group.  If you would like to win Miracles, please leave a comment on why it sounds interesting or about a miracle that you have witnessed.
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. 
For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments. 
This contest is only open to US  residents (Sorry!). 
No P.O. Boxes. 
The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday November 6th!
Please make sure to check the second week of November to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.
Good luck!