Saturday, January 2, 2016

Graphic Novel Review of The Clouds Above by Jordan Crane

Synopsis: "The Clouds Above is a rip-roaring adventure about a kid named Simon, who skips school one day with his cat, Jack. They climb a magic staircase leading skyward, encounter a sad cloud named Perch and get mixed up in a conflict involving him, some nasty storm clouds and an irritable flock of birds. Will they make back home safely in time for school tomorrow?"

My Review: This was a spur of the moment purchase, and it was cute. It would be a great intro to graphic novels for someone who wants to read one that isn't about super heroes. I really enjoyed the pastel colors used, it really added to the element of imagination in the book. It was a fun adventure for Simon and Jack but in the end you are almost left wondering if it was all a daydream while in class or if he did go on this adventure in the clouds. With all that said though, it just didn't capture me like I had hoped it would.
My Rating: I don't know why but I just didn't click with this book, it was cute with pretty pastel artwork, a little boy, his cat and clouds but it just left me wanting something more out of it. I give it a rating of Two Paws and a Stump Wag.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Bedtime Story: Worms for Lunch by Leonid Gore

Synopsis: "In the vein of THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, Leonid Gore follows a curious worm through die-cut pages to discover what different animals like to eat for lunch.

"Who on earth would eat worms for lunch?" the curious little leaf-loving worm wants to know....
Not the mouse who likes cheese. Not the little girl, who loves spaghetti and ice cream! Not the cow, nor the bee, nor the monkey.... But when a fish reveals what he most desires for lunch--wiggly, wiggly worms--our little worm goes quickly on his way....
In this funny, lighthearted romp that celebrates indivudal taste, young readers will relish guessing what each different animal calls lunch. And they'll be hungry to read this one again!"

My Review: Munchkin received this book for Christmas and I had never seen it before. It was so much fun to read. It has simple sentences and fun shaped pages that are almost like flaps. While it is loads of fun to read it is also teaching little readers things that various animals eat. We have read this book countless times already and Munchkin loves it so much he has even taken it to his show and share at preschool.
My Rating: This book was so much fun to read for both myself and Munchkin. It will be one of those books we revisit often and share with as many people as we can! We can't help but give this book a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!

Early Reader Review of National Geographic Sea Otters by Laura F. Marsh

Synopsis: "In this level 1 reader, young readers will explore the fun-filled world of lovable otters. Follow these playful critters through their aquatic habitats, learn how otters raise their young, and discover their curious and social natures. Beautiful photos and carefully leveled text make this book perfect for reading aloud or for independent reading."

My Review: While this book has loads of wonderful facts about Sea Otters (which are near the top of my list of the cutest things on earth), it is really advanced for a level 1 reader. There are some difficult words and longer sentences, it does give definitions but a beginning reader will definitely need a lot of assistance (even one who can maybe read level 2 or 3 on their own).
My Rating: For being a Level 1 book it was rather advanced, and definitely too advanced for Munchkin. It did have a wealth of information about Sea Otters and plenty of adorable pictures to look at though. I give it a rating of Two Paws.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pen to Paper: Writing Resolutions

Wow! Welcome to the final day of 2015.  Over the past few days I have been posting about my goals and resolutions for 2016. I did post a little bit on my goals page about my letter writing but I wanted to expand on it a little bit here. Maybe you can share some of your resolutions with me as well!
Time to Write
In order to even begin thinking about writing to friends, family and pen pals I need to make the time for it in my life. I had started a while ago dedicating an hour every Thursday night. It worked out well for a while but things started invading as the year drew to an end. I think now that it is dark and cold it would be a great time to establish the writing time. If I can have an established time before the weather gets warm and schedules get busy I think it will be easier to stick with it.  I am going to set aside 1 hour on Tuesday and 1 hour on Thursday evenings, after Munchkin has gone to bed (so about 8:00pm -9:00pm) every week from now on.
I haven't always been great on getting responses out in a timely manner, sometimes going a month or more before sending a response out. It is always easier to respond within a short period of time before I forget what I originally wrote in my letter. So my goal is to make sure to respond within 2 weeks of receiving a letter.
Letters to Send
Now I hate to stipulate how many letters to send each month, it takes some of the fun out of letter writing. However I do have a stationery subscription that sends me 24 pages of stationery every month. I have a rather large amount of stationery building up in my supplies. My letters are usually between 2 and 4 pages long, so I would like to make sure I am sending out at least 5 letters a month.
At one point I had all my writing supplies so organized, I had a nice to go kit that fit in my purse, all my addresses and stamps together, but things have gotten a little scattered. It is time to get all my supplies back together, see what I need to replenish and get it all handy again so I can just sit and write like I enjoy doing.
So there are my goals for my letter writing in the new year. Most importantly though I hope to continue to connect with my current friends and hopefully start connecting with some new pen pals. Do you have any particular writing goals for the new year? Of course let me know if you would like to connect off line with some good old fashioned snail mail!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016 Goals and Resolutions

So yesterday I posted my reading challenges and goals for this next year. Now I wanted to post some of my own personal goals and some of the changes you can expect this coming year.
Personal Goals
Get Organized: I am a little tired of all the clutter in my house, things not having a home and having to scramble on days when things are due at school or some appointment, etc. So I plan to accomplish something each month to work towards a goal of being more organized (ie: update calendar with Birthdays, anniversaries, etc., update address book, clear out old clothes/toys/decorations, unsubscribe to junk emails & junk mail if possible, etc.).
Get Healthy: I have found in the years past that setting diets, exercise, weight or size goals just don't work for me. I decided I will just work towards getting healthier with little goals each month. I am a habitual soda drinker and I want to cut that back and drink more water. I want to get more active but not strictly an exercise routine. I also get fast food breakfast every morning on the way to work because my mornings are so busy getting both Munchkin and myself out the door, I want to cut this back as well.
Projects: I also want to work on some of these crafty projects I have the supplies for, some of them I have never even started. I would like to narrow down on the focus a little bit, decide if I am going to focus on paper art or beading, etc. I would also like to finish up the current works in progress and get my Etsy shop up and running again.
Letter Writing: I have had so much fun writing letters and finding new penpals this year. I want to really set aside time at least 2 days a week for my writing and establish a place to write. 
Nails: I have been really good up until the end of the year with painting my nails weekly. I want to continue doing this, it makes me feel pretty, especially since I don't wear makeup and I am not really all that fashionable.
Family Fun: I can't believe how many fun things we got to do this last year as a family and even just with Munchkin. As a result Munchkin is so curious and has a wide variety of interests now. I want to continue expanding his experiences when I can and plan to take him to another aquarium, a seaport, a butterfly garden, on a trip to MN to see my extended family (and go to see Paul Bunyan and the big ship port in Duluth), among many more things. He is also getting more self reliant so I want to encourage him to do things for himself (getting his own breakfast, helping to cook, etc.). He is also finally getting the tubes out of his ears & I want to get him into swim lessons. Hubby & I will also each be taking a weekend to ourselves and one with just us, we both need a break from the house and some alone time to follow our own interests that have been set aside in recent years.
Bucket List Items:
I know a lot of people use this for selfies, but instead I want to take a picture of something every day that makes me happy.  I tend to be a little pessimistic and want to try to look more toward the good things in my life, sometimes they are just little things like a new pen that writes beautifully, getting to sleep an extra 15 minutes in the morning, or a delicious cup of tea; sometimes the good things are bigger like a really big hug from Munchkin, a free day off from the boss, or a having a debt paid in full. So I have set up a Flickr account to post all of these daily blessings, if you would like to follow them here is my account: EasternSunset9
Believe it or not, come June Hubby & I will have been married for 9 years, and guess what, I still have not made our wedding scrapbook! Let alone start on one for Munchkin! So one of my goals this year will be to finish up that scrapbook.
I have always loved coloring, and in college I would use it as a bit of stress relief during finals. If anything my stress level is just as high if not higher anymore. So I want to get back into this simple form of stress relief for myself. I would like to either finish one of those adult coloring books or 2 children's coloring books.

There is something special about using your holiday to bring joy to someone who might not have had it otherwise. Growing up my family would volunteer at a soup kitchen, or wrap gifts for the food bank, or even deliver for the food bank. Someday I will do those things with Munchkin but I don't feel like he is quite old enough yet. So instead I am going to work throughout the year to make cards for Hospitalized Children. I also came across a program called Operation Christmas Child, while I would like to help kids in our own country, there was just something about seeing the video of kids in other countries who may have never received a gift before open that package. So Munchkin and I will try to fill a shoe box each month of the year (maybe 2 - one for a boy and one for a girl) to send to this program.

So Munchkin and I had some picnics in the front yard last summer, but this year I want to go on an actual picnic. Make a day of it, find a nice spot and laze about with the family, no phones allowed, and spend the whole day relaxing, chatting, resting and playing.
Boy that seems like a lot of goals for the year, but I think the main focus of this next year will be on having fun and looking to the brighter side of life with friends and family. Now that I have all those personal goals out there, I think it is time to let you all know about what to expect blog wise this year.
Blogging in 2016
Can you believe I have been blogging here for over 5 years?! In that time I have made some changes, adjusting to both my preferences and hopefully a little to all of your preferences (I always love to hear if you really like something I am doing or dislike something too). So this next year will be no different, I am going to expand on things that are enjoyed and try a few new things too.
I am going to continue Monday Reading List, Tasty Attempts, Pen to Paper, After Dark Reviews, Early Reader Reviews, Bedtime Stories, Graphic Novel Reviews, Fun with Munchkin and Crafty Times posts.  I will be adding to that list Magic Tree House Mondays, which will be a review of a Magic Tree House book each Monday Afternoon.  I will also be adding Tea Time Tuesdays, it will be every other Tuesday (opposite of Tasty Attempts) where I share my increasing love for tea, I may share a particular flavor I am loving at the time, a new tea goodie, a historical or other fact about tea I recently learned, etc. as I learn more about tea. I will also be adding Sunday Inspirational Snippets, where I will share a quote, a picture, etc. that inspired me to do something or make something and I will encourage you to join me too.

I will be only posting challenge updates every three months but will be updating my challenge page more frequently. I will also be giving up on Story Stacks for a little while to debate them as a regular post or just a special occasion post or not at all.
I will still be maintaining the focus of this blog on books and reviews, but I will be considering an additional blog about crafting.

Points System
So last year I instituted a points system for myself, I earn points for reading books on my shelves and in turn can use those points towards purchasing new books. I stuck to it pretty closely for the most part, occasionally I would still have impulse book buy that I would forget to subtract from the points. I want to continue with the points system and hopefully stick to it even better this year!

Reading values:
Children's Book & Early Reader = 1pt
Graphic Novels, Audio Books & Ebooks = 3pts
Print Books = 5pts

Bonus Points to Earn:
Completing a Series = 5pts
Completing a Challenge = 10pts
10,000 pages read = 10pts
24 hours listening = 10pts
Month with no book purchases = 15pts

How to Spend Points:
Children's Books & Early Readers = 5pts
Graphic Novels, Audio Books & Ebooks = 10pts
Print Books = 15pts

Exceptions to Spending Points:
Scholastic Book Orders - Must still be kept under $25 per order/month
Audible Monthly Download - 1 book per month
BookBub Freebies - 1 book per week
Special Collection books - I am working on filling out special collections/author signed books and these will not cost points as there was already space made for them on the shelves. (Dr. Seuss books, Serendipity books, Robin Cook, Vintage, Author Signed etc.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Reading Challenge List

Another year and many more reading challenges!! I can't believe how well last year went and I am looking forward to another great reading year, especially as Munchkin is starting to identify words and starting to read on his own with the LeapReader tool!
So here are the challenges I hope to complete in the year 2016, I will not be putting up individual sign up posts because I don't really keep up with updating anyway on the original host pages.
Children's Book Challenge
For nearly every year I have made a point to read children's books, and honestly the Bedtime Story posts have been some of my most viewed posts. So I will continue to read Children's books in an abundance. My goal is to read at least 60 but no more than 80 Children's books this year. *I already own all the books needed for this challenge.
Early Reader Challenge
I have started reading early reader (Step into Reading/ I Can Read etc) books of various levels in preparation for Munchkin reaching these reading levels, this year I will be expanding on this challenge as we are starting to break into these books. My goal for this year is to read 60 books. *5 more books needed for this challenge
Graphic Novel Challenge
Since a good friend of mine introduced me to the genre a few years ago I have fallen in love with this vast area of reading. I continue to test out different types and I will continue to do so this year. My goal is to read 26 this year. *Have all the books for this challenge except 1 to be released.
Audio Book Challenge
Over the past couple of years I have found a new love, audiobooks! I have been increasing the number of audiobooks I listen to each year. I almost never listen to music in the car anymore and I always have an audiobook going while doing crafts or painting my nails. This year will be no different. I intend to listen to 24 audiobooks this year. *I own 15 so far.

Series Challenge
I have a habit of waiting to read a series until I own all the books or at least a large number if the series is ongoing. I have several series in my TBR pile so I plan to read (and re-read the early books if I had started the series) 5 full series. For my own reference here are the series I plan to read (with * for the ones I already own)

1. Nine Kingdoms by Lynn Kurland - Book 1*, Book 2*, Book 3*, Book 4*, Book 5*, Book 6*, Book 7*, Book 8*, Book 9*

2. The Hound Saga by Mette Ivie Harrison - Book 1*(print), Book 2*(ebook), Book 3, Book 4, Book 5

3. Deadly Liasons by Leigh Wilder - Book 1*, Book 2*, Book 3*, Book 4*

4. The Selection by Kiera Cass - Book .1*(nook), Book .2* (nook), Book 1*(audio), Book 2* (audio), Book 2.1* (nook), Book 2.2*(nook), Book 3*(audio), Book 3.1, Book 4*(audio), Book 5

5. Heart Mates by Robin D. Owens - Book 1*(rr), Book 2*(rr), Book 3*(rr), Book 4*(rr), Book 5*(rr), Book 6*(rr), Book 7*(rr), Book 8*(rr), Book 9*(rr), Book 10*, Book 11*, Book 12*, Book 13*, Book 14*, Book 15*

6. Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot - Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, Book 5, Book 6, Book 7, Book 8, Book 9, Book 10, Book 11* (audio)

7. Compass Girls by Mari Carr - Book 1*, Book 2*, Book 3*, Book 4*

8. Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborn - Books 1-50 are owned (need 51-54)

Mount TBR
As always I have a mountain of books that need to be read at some point (especially before purchasing any more books). This year I thought I would split my TBR in half to make sure I read both print and ebooks. So my goal is to read at least 50 print books and 50 ebooks off my TBR pile. *obviously all the books for this challenge are owned.

Rhode Island Authors
Last year after attending a Rhode Island Authors Expo I had a month long feature in March. I plan to have this feature again and of course will be reading books written by my local authors, interviews with a few and of course giveaways. My goal is to have at least 15 books, 3 interviews & 1 giveaway (maybe more).

Requested Reviews:
I am having to start limiting the number of these books that I am taking on, even though I have loved so many wonderful books over the years.  I will still be reading several of these books and hope to continue posting about twice a month on Wednesdays. I will be accepting only 15-20 reviews sent by authors (please be sure to check my policy page before sending a request) and I will read/ request no more than 17 books on Netgalley.

Additional Challenges/ Reading Lists
I have been debating an After Dark challenge, I usually read plenty but I don't want to put pressure on myself to read more than I already have listed. So I may end up reading 20 or so of these but don't want to promise anything.

Additionally, I will continue to have my Advent Reads books, I will read 25 Christmas/holiday books for that December event. I do already own all 25 books that I will need but am open to other suggestions too.

Of course I have been doing the Goodreads Challenge for 5 years now and 2016 will be another year too. I will set my goal at 325 this year.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mini Reviews: The Dante Club, Magicians, Pegasus, Love & Leftovers and More

So with reading and reviewing so many books, I am running out of days in which to share them with you.  I am going to start posting Mini Reviews of books that I read through out the month but couldn't find the time to post on the last Sunday of each month.
This is my final mini review post of the year. I hope you have enjoyed all the reviews I have posted throughout the year and stay with me into next year!
A rather dull book for being a murder mystery with literary links. One Paw
Okay for filling up your time with a romance but not as much animal rights as you would expect. Two Paws and a Stump Wag.
A surprisingly enjoyable YA coming of age story written in verse. Three Paws and Stump Wag.