Friday, June 17, 2016

Bedtime Story: Goodnight Loon by Abe Sauer

Synopsis: " charming retelling of a children’s classic in a distinctly Northwoods voice There’s a loon, of course. And a Duluth pack. And crop art, Tater Tot hotdish, and, inevitably, deer ticks. The familiar green room is set on a pontoon, lit by the moon over a quiet lake. The childhood classic Goodnight Moon is transformed into a must-have for every Minnesota child’s bookshelf. Written and illustrated by two fathers who value good rhymes and the power of simple, evocative illustrations, Goodnight Loon moves the story that so many parents know by heart into Northwoods territory. Author Abe Sauer and illustrator Nathaniel Davauer created this book as a tribute to the cherished favorite written by Margaret Wise Brown. Their faithful homage brings fresh life to a much-loved story. The words rhyme, rock, and soothe with the same cadence as the original. Yellow canoes, snowshoes, and a hungry raccoon all make appearances in the room inhabited by a beaver in a sleeping bag and his voyageur companion. Illustrations inspired by the style of Goodnight Moon will give even the youngest child something to search for on every page. It is the perfect bedtime book for babies, children, and parents looking for a story written especially for their Northwoods little ones. And where else will you find walleye eating rhubarb pie?"

My Review: So I picked this up on our recent trip to Minnesota, I have been there countless times but have never seen this book before. It is a perfect souvenir for young travelers. Munchkin loves Goodnight Moon and this was such a fun play on that original book. So many of the things you could point out to them, though I have to say most of it was from my own memories of my many visits. This was a fun and simple book to enjoy and I am so glad I came across it!
My Rating: I don't always enjoy plays on classic children's books but this one is so well done.  I must admit I got much more entertainment out of it than Munchkin did but he still really enjoyed it too! We give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Beginning Reader Review of The Ice Cream Shop by Jennifer E. Morris

Read for: Early Reader Challenge
My Review: "A brand new reader series featuring two unlikely friends!

Steve really wants an ice cream cone, but he can't seem to figure out how to get one...until Wessley comes along to the rescue. Readers will love being in on the joke as Steve struggles to get what he wants.

This hilarious new reader series introduces Steve and Wessley, two friends who always seem to get into the silliest situations!"

My Review: This is a fun and simple level 1 reader. I haven't read any Steve and Wessley books before but they seem like characters that young readers will enjoy and laugh about. This book has a cohesive story and simple sentences and words for those young readers. It also focuses on a simple concept with two words that are encountered in daily life, "push" and "pull". It is a fun story that kids will want over and over but that the parent won't grow bored with either.
My Rating: This was a great level 1 reader, and great for summer too. I like how it focused on 2 simple words and concepts that kids encounter in daily life.  We give it a rating of Four Paws!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

After Dark Review of Playing for Keeps by R.L. Matthewson

I have added After Dark Reviews to my blog as a way of notifying you of a review of a book with Adult themes and scenes. From now on I will keep my reviews of all books I read that have explicit scenes in them for late night posts for those of you who prefer to avoid them or easy to find for those of you who seek them out ;)
Read for: Mount TBR Digital
Synopsis: "Done with being the world's biggest pushover, Haley decides that things are going to change starting with the aggravating neighbor who has too much charm and not enough restraint. What she didn't expect was to sucked into his world, but Haley has a game plan and she won't let herself forget just what the bad boy next door is capable of.

The last thing Jason expected was for his little shy neighbor to go Rambo on him over some ruined flowers. After he decides to take her under his wing he can't help but that notice that she fits very nicely in his life. Now the only left is to convince her that this is anything but a game."

My Review: I have had this book sitting on my kindle for ages and finally got around to reading it. While I did enjoy it for the most part, I still had issues. For one I did love Haley as a character though I kept being told she was a doormat and let everyone walk all over her, but right from the get go she was vocal and outspoken. I did also enjoy Jason but found him to be immature most of the time, especially his interactions with is friends. With that said I did really love how the relationship developed and the back and forth between all the characters and sub-characters too. It was a light and entertaining book to read. I don't know if I would go on to read more in the series but it was a good break from more intense books.
My Rating: While this was an entertaining book to read I did find several issues with it, mostly immature characters and inconsistency in what was presented about the characters and how they actually acted.  I give it a rating of Two Paws and a Stump Wag.

Pen to Paper: What I Have Learned - Where to Find Pen Pals

Hello everyone, sorry again about missing last week. I almost missed today's post too because I have been wrapped up in a fantastic book!  But I really wanted to share some of the things I have learned it the past year of really diving into letter writing and pen pals.   You may recall last year when I posted about where to find pen pals (Websites Post and Advertisements).  I started this journey more than a year ago writing to a couple of close friends I found through MLP collecting and book blogging or family and friends I have known forever.  I have now expanded my pen pal list dramatically and have been meeting some amazing people and making friends!  Today I want to share some of the places that I have found some really great pen pals this past year.
I mentioned this in my previous post last year, I have pretty much stopped participating in swaps due to time constraints and space to keep my crafting supplies out. I have however continued to write to the pen pal I mentioned in the last post, she was brand new to me then, and now after nearly 9 months of exchanging letters, consider her a friend.  It may take time to find a regular pen pal through this site as it appears most people just want to participate in one time swaps (oddly enough my friend and I have never swapped pocket letters even though we met through the site) but it is possible to find a great friend.
I only recently discovered this site, but have already gained a new pen pal that I think will become a great friend as well. It is like a dating site for pen pals, it is free to sign up but you are limited to the number of message you can send each day to 3.  As with any website you must use caution with your personal information.  I have been contacted multiple times by people seeking pen pals but I have only agreed to exchange addresses with one person. It does have some great search features to help you find the right pen pal, so if you are still searching for the right person I would definitely suggest this site, there are plenty of people actively searching for pen pals.
I also mentioned this site in my previous post, I still have not written to a lot of the people I was given through this site, but have found one pen pal that I really enjoy exchanging letters with.  We are both at a similar point in our lives so sometimes the letters become infrequent but we pick up where we left off each time.  This is a pricey site but it does give you a nice list of people who are actively searching for pen pals, there isn't a lot of information given though so the people you are matched up with may not always have the same interests and the pen pal relationship may not work between the two of you.
On that note I give you the Geek Girl Pen Pals, this is a website that has a lot going on, forums and games and blogs etc. But the thing that really drew me in was the monthly pen pal partners.  You do have to be a member to join in the monthly match up but it is free to join.  What I like about this site is that you get to choose the things you are most passionate about and they partner you up based on those interests. I have received my first partner, while we haven't exchanged letters yet (well she has sent a letter but it has quite some distance to travel) but we have gotten to know each other a little via email. So it is nice to have a chance to get to know one another before writing letters.
Believe it or not I have found pen pals on Instagram, one of them I am very close with after months of exchanging letters.  There are several ways to find pen pals on Instagram, you can search for #penpalswanted there are also several accounts set up that post pen pal want ads, they take some time to wade through to find exactly what you are looking for (many of them are young teens and I prefer to write to people that are a little more at a similar point in life). You can also browse through all the accounts that post pictures of outgoing mail. Then if you find someone you would like to write to, private message them and get to know one another.
While I haven't found a pen pal per-se on this site, it is great for exchanging mail. It would be a good way to test out if you are really into snail mail before diving into a full blown pen pal relationship. It is interesting the people you send postcards to and receive from. I have learned about different customs, traditions and folk tales from countries I had never even heard of before joining. I have to say though my favorite part is when I am contacted by a teacher whose class is collecting postcards from different states or parts of the world, I love sending those out (so keep me in mind if you have a child or family member that needs a postcard or even a letter with a small information package)!
Believe it or not one of the friends I write to most often I met right through these posts! She came across my Pen to Paper posts and emailed me about exchanging letters, we have really gotten to know each other and write letters nearly every two weeks, even with the long international travel time.  So there are a wealth of places to find new pen pals.  My advice is again please use caution with giving out personal information on the internet. I have a post office box that I use exclusively for pen pal letters and postcrossing.  I also suggest starting out small, try one or two pen pals to see if you really have the time or energy to dedicate to the relationship, because it is a friendship that needs as much dedication as any other friendship.  I have slowly added pen pals so that I can be sure to get to know them each individually and to make sure I have the time to write quality letters to each of them in a timely manner.  I now have 10 pen pals that I write with regularly and have been building wonderful friendships with each one. This is a journey I am very happy I started on and look forward to continuing!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review of Let It Out: A Journey through Journal by Katie Dalebout

Read for: Requested/ Netgalley
Synopsis: "You want change. Maybe your career isn’t what you thought it would be . . . or your relationships aren’t what you had hoped. Perhaps you have a grand vision for your life but not the smallest clue on the steps to get there. Whether you’ve read the entire self-help section of the bookstore in vain or feel completely stuck on where to begin, you wish you had someone to hold your hand and guide you.

You do. And it’s only a blank page away.

In Let It Out, millennial blogger, speaker, and podcast host Katie Dalebout shares the transformative practice that will rocket your life to the next level—journaling. Discovering in her darkest hours that a journal is the greatest tool in finding your purpose, healing yourself, and creating the life you most desire, Katie has assembled the remarkable tools and insights that will elevate your life and get you “unstuck”—for good.

And don’t worry—you don’t need to be a writer! Journaling is simply a method of coaching yourself through your “stuff” and letting it out on the page, unclogging your mind from years of destructive thoughts. In doing so, you step into a position of unsurpassed clarity.

Packed with journaling exercises, prompts, and techniques that can be done anywhere and in any order, this interactive guidebook offers you a new way to navigate your daily life, cope with stress, and create exciting, permanent change. Divided into seven sections covering everything from clearing clutter to finding presence to cultivating abundance to moving beyond fear, this book will be your new best friend and coach anytime you seek clarity or crave solace.

Simply grab a pen, open your journal, and prepare to let it out."

My Review:  This was not the book I thought it was going to be. I have been thinking about getting into journaling, either art journaling or regular journaling, so I thought this would be a great book to break the ice for me. What I found in this book was more of a therapy technique instead of pure and simple journaling. There are definitely some great tools throughout this book, and ones that can be used outside of therapy or trying to bring better things about in your life. I particularly liked the Get Organized part, which works nicely with my planner and scheduled life. There are also some great tips to keep you motivated and excited about not only journaling but also getting up and facing the day. This book like many of the other self-help books I have come across, you just have to pick and choose what works for you and leave the rest, it isn't a book that you have to follow step by step. While I did take a few things from this book, most of it I had to leave behind because it just didn't apply to my life at this time, but like Dalebout says in the intro, this is a book that you can continuously revisit as your life changes.
My Rating: This wasn't quite the book I was expecting and it didn't really work entirely for me but it may work for someone else. I give it a rating of One Paw and Stump Wag.
I received Let It Out via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
You can find out more about Katie Dalebout on her Website
Let it Out was just recently published in April, you can obtain your own copy in Print or Digital format from Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tea Time Tuesday: Bubble Tea

This is a new series of blog posts to share my love of tea and some discoveries I am making as I dive more into that love. (And honestly, what goes better with books than a nice cup of tea?)
So while I have been doing some research on new ways to enjoy tea and some iced tea recipes, I kept coming across something called Bubble Tea. It was intriguing and something I had never seen before and wanted to try it.  I searched and searched for someplace around me that had it to no avail. But through my research I did find out how to make it on my own.  This youtube video was so helpful in learning to make it since the boba/bubble package was not in English.

So anyway, I tried it several months ago using a lavender earl grey tea and it wasn't so great but I did some more research and came up with the traditional way of making it was with milk tea. So I decided to give it another shot and order some milk tea.
It takes nearly an hour to prepare the boba (or bubbles).

The boba that I used and the instant Royal Milk Tea and the end result!

I totally get it now! It was so sweet and a wonderful treat for the summer.  The boba (bubbles) are slightly chewy but not overly so, added a weird but enjoyable texture. Like I said it did take an hour to make the boba, and I tried to have them again the next morning and they were definitely more chewy (not crunchy but not as pleasant as the night before) so you really need to make them fresh for each time you drink it.
Now over an hour seems like a lot of work for one drink so I also found online that people were using Bursting Boba for their bubble tea. I have had these at ice cream and frozen yogurt shops as a topping and love their flavor and sweetness. So I ordered some of them too and from what I have read they can last in the fridge up to a month and work great for a  quick bubble tea. 
So I used some iced tea I had already made from Tea Pigs Super Fruit Herbal tea and some Strawberry flavored Bursting Boba.  This had a much different texture and taste, the boba/bubbles are not chewy at all, they are just a thin casing around a burst of sweet juice. I also tried to put milk in the tea and didn't like that much, but the sweetness of the fruit tea was great with the boba. 
So while the traditional milk tea bubble tea is rather time consuming to make, it is a delicious treat and one I will indulge in once in a while. The Bursting Boba bubble tea is also a tasty treat for when you don't want to wait so long to make the boba, but it might get overly sweet if you drink too many!

Audiobook Review of The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

Read for: Mount TBR & Audio Book Challenge
Synopsis: "Here are the beloved adventures of the mischievous hero Robin Hood and his brave and merry band of outlaws, who forged a chivalrous code to protect the oppressed and despoil the oppressors. Follow along as Robin makes his breathtaking escapes from his archenemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham, while classic characters like Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, and Little John create one hilarious escapade after another. Pageantry, knights, and beautiful maidens of old abound in the episodes comprising this favorite story."

My Review: I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book, I am the first to admit, I am not familiar with Robin Hood beyond the animated Disney movie. I was rather surprised to find this written in an odd English style (not quite Old English or even really a translated English) and at times in what sounded like verse but not consistently (thank goodness I was listening to the audio book). It took me quite a while to get into this book, especially because I was only spending 15 minutes at a time listening but eventually some of the characters became familiar and bits and pieces of some of the stories as well. I do find Robin Hood and his whole band to be rather cunning con-men. Though I found myself missing the whole take from the rich to give to the poor fable, I didn't see a whole lot of give to the poor throughout this book, it was more of take from the rich to give the band a comfortable lazy life. Also this book was from Audible kids, and it is clearly not anything I can imagine a kid enjoying (at least under the age of 15). Anyway for me it was really an eh book, I am curious as to the original story though and if it would be any better.
My Rating: I must say that the narrator, Christopher Cazenove, did a really good job with all the voices.  Other than that and a couple of good chapters, this one was just one to get through for me. I give it a rating of Two Paws.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Magic Tree House Monday: Book 19 - Tigers at Twilight

Welcome to Magic Tree House Monday!

Each Monday (other than when special events are planned) I will review one book of the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne.
In Book 19 Jack and Annie travel to the jungles of India and encounter many new animals, including the endangered tiger. They must face many dangers and fears to do the right thing and be given the third gift to save the dog who has been put under a spell.
My Review Another exciting adventure in the series. I am finding that Jack and Annie are spending longer and longer on their adventures. This one definitely gets the heart pounding but hopefully won't trigger any nightmares for the young fans. It was also a great way to bring awareness to threatened and endangered animals.
My Rating: It didn't seem like they referred to their research book as much in this one but the information was a lot better.  I think the books are advancing at a nice subtle pace, challenging young readers as they continue the series.  I give it a rating of Four Paws.

Monday Reading List

Its Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at Book Journey. Share what books you have finished in the last week, are currently reading and what might be coming up next!

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review

Buffalo before Breakfast by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House)
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood - 3pts
Prep - 3pts
Tigers at Twilight - 5pts
Curious George Takes a Train - 1pt
Only, Always and Forever - 3pts
Let it Out - 3pts
Best Dad in the Sea - 1pt

Currently Reading:

Tale of Birle by Cynthia Voigt - PB - on page 98 of 416

 Books to be Read Soon:


Total Points Earned
 210 points + 19 points earned = 229 points

Total Points Earned this Year: 673
Total Points Spent this Year: 444

Pages Read/ Time Listened
115:47 Hours Listened (10:30 listened this week)
22,641 Pages Read (876 this week)

Books Added to Shelves

Interesting Tidbits on the Web:



So first things first, I must apologize for the complete lack of posts last week. I went from normal after vacation busy to totally loose your mind, never sleep insane. The office absolutely exploded and that is where I do all of my blogging, so obviously work takes precedence over all personal hobbies. I totally dropped the ball at home too, I had zero motivation for house work. By the time I would get home each night I was barely up for preparing dinner for Munchkin and getting him to bed before I wanted to curl up in bed with a book for an hour before crashing.  We also had a little set back with Munchkin, the last 6 months have been amazing, we have finally worked through most of his sleeping issues and have been either sleeping through the night or only getting up once or twice. I don't know if transitioning to Pre-K and a new class, or vacation and then returning to home is setting him off but we are once again back to waking up anywhere from 6 to 10 times a night. So, we are all a little over tired and cranky around here.  Oh how I wish he had inherited my sleeping habits of conking out and not moving again until the alarm goes off in the morning!!

So anyway, I hope that we have a better week this week and I will do my best to get ahead with the scheduling again so there isn't another black out of posting.

Hope you have a great week!