Book Review ~ Thief of Happy Endings

📓 I didn’t know I needed a contemporary, young adult love story set on a horse ranch until Thief of Happy Endings.  📚 😌

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Title: Thief of Happy Endings

Author: Kristen Chandler

Genre: Teen YA

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group/Viking Books for Young Readers

Date published: June 19th, 2018

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synopsis

Ever since her father moved out, Cassidy feels like her life has been falling apart. So a summer of riding horses at a ranch camp in Wyoming sounds like just what she needs–never mind the fact that she has a paralyzing fear of horses. She’s determined to move past her fear, even if that means taking lessons from the insufferable (yet irresistible) junior wrangler Justin and embarrassing herself in front of the other campers. What follows is a summer of rodeos, complicated friendships, and a wild mustang thief on the loose.

My Review

Thief of Happy Endings calls attention to many important themes such as resilience, friendship, racism, prejudice, bullying, divorce, parenting, mental health, physical abuse, and animal cruelty. After her father moves out, Cassidy is struggling with depression and anxiety. Her parents send her to a horse camp in Wyoming to hopefully help Cassidy overcome her fear of horses.

Cassidy’s character feels credible. Her love interest, Justin, is intriguing, layered, complicated. Cassidy’s roommate, Alice, is probably my favourite character. An amazing friend from the beginning to the end, Alice is reliable, smart, and experiences an enormous amount of personal growth by the end of this story.

The characters are unique with distinctive voices. The story taught me a lot about horses, and in particular the mustang population in western USA. THIS IS NOT AN INSTA-LOVE! Chandler takes the time to let us get to know the characters before introducing a romantic interaction. Drawn into Thief of Happy Endings from page one, I couldn’t put it down, and I can’t think of any dislikes.

Wild, honest, charming, and entertaining. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟!

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

 

About the author.jpg

“Kristen Chandler is the author of the award-winning Girls Don’t Fly and Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me.”

Kristen Chandler Goodreads Author Page

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New Middle Grade Book: Tournament Trouble (Cross Ups Book 1) #BookReview #SpoilerFree #CrossUps #Netgalley

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

Tournament Trouble

 

Title: Tournament Trouble

Author: Sylv Chiang

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Teen,

Publisher: Annick Press

Date published: March 13, 2018

Page Count: 200

 

 

synopsis

“An exciting new middle reader series from a debut author. All twelve-year-old Jaden wants to do is be the best at Cross Ups, the video game he and his friends can’t stop playing. He knows he could be—if only he didn’t have to hide his gaming from his mom, who’s convinced it will make him violent. After an epic match leads to an invitation to play in a top tournament, Jaden and his friends Devesh and Hugh hatch a plan to get him there. But Jaden’s strict parents and annoying siblings, not to mention a couple of bullies and his confusing feelings for his next-door neighbor Cali, keep getting in the way! Tournament Trouble marks the first book in a planned series by Sylv Chiang, a captivating new voice in middle reader fiction. With sharp dialogue and relatable characters, it chronicles the ups and downs of middle school with a relevant, contemporary twist. Accompanied by Connie Choi’s lively illustrations, Tournament Trouble invites readers into Jaden’s world, and will leave them eagerly awaiting his next adventure. Look for Book 2, coming in Fall 2018”.

My Review

According to the publisher, Tournament Trouble is the first book of a series expected to have 3-4 books total. The next book, Anyone’s Game, is expected to be published in Fall 2018.

Jaden is a likeable character who learns a practical lesson while gaining self-confidence. The characters have different races and backgrounds, Jaden, his family, and next door neighbor are Chinese, and Jaden’s friend Dev is Indian. This will enable children to see themselves represented in the narrative.

 

 

A fun, quick read for the whole family. Perfect for young hesitant readers who like video games.

One of the best books I’ve read this year – The Astonishing Color of After #BookReview

I feel incredibly grateful to have received an advanced copy of The Astonishing Color of After in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review. This is one of my most favorite books ever. I can’t wait to buy my own copy!

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Title: The Astonishing Color of After

Author: Emily X.R. Pan

Genre: Teen/YA Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Little Brown Books

Date published: Expected March 20, 2018

Page Count: 480

 

 

synopsis

“Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.”

My Review

The Astonishing Color of After is a freeing, haunting, quirky, contemporary romance novel about depression, suicide, grief, family secrets, forgiveness, and love. This story takes place in America and Taiwan. Told with luxuriant writing, I wish I could share some of my favorite passages, however because this is an advance copy I’m not allowed. The writing quality is exquisite.

Leigh, the main character, is a girl who thinks of every life event as a color, yet only sketches in black and white. Leigh’s best friend is a guy named Axel, who creates pictures using colors and shapes to match the song in his head, then he makes the music to match the image. He calls it opera electronica. And yes, he is as cool as he sounds. Though Leigh has a secret crush on Axel, this is not an insta-love situation. Her other close friend, Caro, is a lesbian with a super quirky, loving family. Caro’s grandparents are absolutely adorable, and definitely a couple of my favorite characters.

When Leigh travels to Taiwan we get to meet her grandparents. As Leigh travels around Taiwan, visiting her mother’s favorite places, we get to learn a lot about the food and places. Feng is a close family friend who accompanies Leigh during her travels, teaching her more about the traditions and language. In her room at her grandparents place, Leigh finds some very dark sticks of incense. Burning each incense stick transports Leigh to a world of “Smoke & Memories” where she gets to relive moments of the past from her loved ones perspective. Flashbacks can sometimes be annoying, however these “Smoke & Memories” chapters are absolutely fantastic. Leigh’s mother always wore a cicada necklace, and I was curious about what the symbolism was for this. I learned that the cicada is a symbol of immortality or rebirth, which fits perfectly.

I appreciate how much time and careful consideration it must have taken to create a narrative centered on suicide in such an authentic and gracious manner. I smiled, I laughed, I cried tears of sadness and joy. I even got goosebumps many times reading the last 15% of this magical tale. I can’t recommend this one enough – 5 STARS!

 

About the author.jpg

Emily X.R. Pan lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA from NYU, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She is a co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology, and a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi. She logs the books she reads in an Excel spreadsheet and a secret other Goodreads account.Goodreads

Emily Pan’s Website

Pre-Order “The Astonishing Color of After”

The Joy of Doing Nothing

the joy of doing nothing.jpgThe Joy of Doing Nothing: A Real-Life Guide to Stepping Back, Slowing Down, and Creating a Simpler, Joy-Filled Life

160 pages
Expected Publication: December 5, 2017
Average Rating on Netgalley 4/5 stars
Average Rating on Goodreads 3/5 stars

Book Blurb

Fight back against busyness and celebrate the pleasure of doing nothing in this new guide that helps relieve stress and increase happiness in your life.

In The Joy of Doing Nothing you’ll discover how to step away from everything you think you have to do and learn to live a minimalist life. Rachel Jonat shares simple strategies to help you stop over scheduling, find time for yourself, and create moments of calm every day. You’ll learn how to focus more on the important aspects of life, such as family and friends, and scale back your schedule to create more time in the day to care for yourself.“

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

My Thoughts

Burn out is OPTIONAL. If you feel like your schedule of activities is dictating your life and you have no control over your time, then it’s time to take a step back and have a good, hard look at your calendar. Take back the power of setting boundaries. The philosophy of doing nothing is about self-care, finding clarity, restoring yourself, feeling more content, being more productive, reducing stress, and so much more. Jonat shares thoughtful advice on how to take control of your time by saying “no”, and disconnecting from tech. There is a difference between doing nothing and procrastination. Procrastination is simply putting things off, while taking the time to do nothing is actually taking mindful breaks.

Teaching yourself and your children the art of stillness will benefit all of you physically and mentally. There are many studies which show how slowing down improves health, and even helps to fight disease. Jonat includes a great how-to guide on teaching children how to do nothing and I’m really excited to see the results for my own kids.

The Joy of Doing Nothing has some fantastic tips on how to take control of your time in order to find some peace. I was once addicted to my phone and social media. I was checking my messages, emails, and social media notifications constantly and I felt ridden with anxiety. A couple of years ago I decided to spend less time on my phone, and more time in the present with my family and friends, writing, reading, knitting, or just plain relaxing. I have to admit, it was HARD. The phone was an addiction for me. I was caught up in the idea that being busy meant I was important. I often hear people almost bragging, or competing about just how busy they are and whoever is the busiest wins. One day something clicked and I realized that is not right and it was contributing to my anxiety big time. I used to suffer from SEVERE anxiety. I used to worry for my entire day. Since reducing my phone time/social media time I almost immediately felt more peaceful. My brain started  to slow down.

In January 2017 I made the decision to spend less time watching TV, and more time reading. I bring a book with me almost every where I go, so if I have a little bit of free time I read a few pages instead of looking at my phone. I also started going to bed earlier so I can read 30 minutes before sleep. I used to wake up a million times a night and felt exhausted every day, but now I sleep through the night at least 7 hours and I feel AMAZING.

I have also made changes to our family schedules so we have more time to just BE. I like that the weekends are usually a time for my kids to relax and play with toys, read, write, and colour, instead of rushing around to sports and other activities. My youngest has had less outbursts at home and at school. My oldest has actually said that many classmates have complained to her about their busy schedules and she’s happy that we have lots of relax time in our calendar.

Even though I’ve already been unplugging and making changes to our schedules I still found a lot of value in this short book. There were some great tips on how to use my time, especially “fringe time”, to my advantage in order to find more peace and enjoy life.

I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE. This would make a great Christmas gift to someone you love, especially to yourself! ♥ ♥ ♥

Talking With Your Child About Their Autism Diagnosis: A Guide For Parents {Spoiler-Free Book Review}

Talking with your child about their autism diagnosisTalking with Your Child about Their Autism Diagnosis: A Guide for Parents

NonFiction
Expected Publication: November 21, 2017

GoodReads Blurb

As a mother of two children on the spectrum, with over ten years’ experience as a psychologist specialising in childhood autism, Raelene Dundon has all the tips you’ll need. In this concise book, she sets out case studies, examples and resources that will equip you to make your own informed choices and help your whole family to live well with autism. Part One provides ways to tell children of different ages and development levels about their diagnosis, including photocopiable and downloadable worksheets designed to help diagnosed children understand autism, and gives advice on what to do if they react in a negative or unexpected way to the news. Part Two explores the pros and cons of sharing the diagnosis with others, including family, friends, school staff and your child’s classmates, and guides you through what to do if others don’t understand or accept the diagnosis.”

My Thoughts

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and Edelweiss, for allowing me to review.

Talking With Your Child About Their Autism Diagnosis is an informational book that highlights why, how, when, and what to tell your child about their Autism diagnosis. Dundon shares common parental reactions to a diagnosis (and how to deal with feelings), what to do if a child uses Autism as an excuse, and also what to tell family, friends, and teachers about their child’s diagnosis. She includes an abundance of resources, such as downloadable worksheets and a list of helpful books, videos, and websites.

I highly recommend this short book to EVERYONE, not just parents of children who have been diagnosed with Autism. I believe that the more we all know about it, the better we can share facts and provide support to children we know.

About The Author

Raelene Dundon.jpgRaelene Dundon

“Raelene is the Director of Okey Dokey Childhood Psychology in Melbourne, Australia. She is a registered Psychologist and holds a Masters Degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology. Raelene has extensive experience working with children with developmental disabilities and their families, as well as typically developing children, providing educational, social/emotional and behavioural support.

Raelene has worked extensively in early childhood intervention settings, schools and private practice, and works with preschools and schools to provide individual student and staff support, as well as running social skills groups for students. She regularly presents workshops for parents and professionals on topics related to supporting children with special needs in the classroom and in other settings, and has recently presented at an International Autism Conference in Edinburgh, as well as conferences in Brisbane, Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne.

Raelene is also the mother of three children, two of whom are on the Autism Spectrum, and draws on both her personal and professional experience to provide support and guidance to families and carers.”

Spoiler-Free Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – MUST READ

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It’s been a long time since I read a book that impacted me as much as Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE 14 years old +. I teared up while reading every single chapter. I had two good cries in the tub after a few chapters. This story will affect you no matter what age or what race you are.

In case you’ve never heard of Jodi Picoult before, she is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of twenty-five novels.

Here is a little bit of the book blurb on cover: “Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case…”

The story is separated into five parts:
1. Stage One, Early Labor: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin

2. Stage One, Active Labor: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin

3. Stage One, Transition: “The piano keys are black and white but they sound like a million colors in your mind.” Maria Cristina Mena

4. Stage Two, Pushing: “She wanted to get at the hate of them all, to pry at it and work at it until she found a little chink, and then pull out a pebble or a stone or a brick and then part of the wall, and, once started, the whole edifice might roar down and be done away with.” Ray Bradbury

5. Stage Three, Afterbirth (six years later): “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” Nelson Mandela

The story begins from Ruth’s perspective as a child, spending a snow day with her mom at her job as a cleaning lady for a rich white family, the Hallowells. Ruth witnesses her mother helping Ms. Mina give birth to her baby early, at home, and Ruth grows up to become a labor and delivery nurse.

“On the day before classes were supposed to start, Mama took me out to dinner. “You’re destined to do small great things,” she told me. “Just like Dr. King said.” She was referring to one of her favorite quotes: If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

We also get to hear the story from Turk’s perspective, the white supremacist father of baby Davis who dies. I have to admit, I hated Turk from the get-go, but as the story went on, I got to learn more about his past, his mindset, his motivations, and wondered…if he could learn to hate, could he learn to love?

The public defender assigned to Ruth’s case, Kennedy McQuarrie was the perspective of the white person who thinks they aren’t racist, but find out the small things they do and say are actually racist. She may not be a jerk like Turk (I found it funny that his name rhymed with jerk), but she, like myself and many other white people, tend to ignore instances where an African American is treated unfairly. If we do not stand up, if we are not outraged, we are making it more acceptable and we are part of the problem.

One of my favorite quotes in Small Great Things is, “Pride is an evil dragon; it sleeps underneath your heart and then roars when you need silence.”

This story helped me let go of my pride so that I could better understand my own ignorance. It has opened my eyes to realize I must do a better job standing up for everyone’s rights, no matter what color we are.

READ THIS BOOK. Absolutely a 5 star read for me. I feel like this book belongs in every high school library, and part of the curriculum. SUCH an important read – make time for this one!

 

 

Jaw-dropping! Review: Truly Madly Guilty

WOW. Just wow. Seriously. I will be honest – the first hundred and fifty pages were sluggish, but once the story kicked in, I was committed. I stayed up way past my bedtime last night reading Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. The reason I requested it from the local library is because it was chosen as best fiction for Goodreads Choice Awards 2016. I’m definitely interested in reading her other books, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, What Alice Forgot, The Husband’s Secret, and Big Little Lies.

truly-madly-guilty

Truly Madly Guilty, set in Sydney, Australia, was published in 2016 by Flatiron Books.Here’s the cover blurb:

“Six Responsible Adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong? Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit busy, life: they have two little girls; Sam has just started a new dream job; and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika have been friends since they were little. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last-minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany’s and Vid’s larger-than-life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how too often we don’t appreciate how extraordinary our ordinary lives are until it’s too late.”

The quote at the beginning of the story is perfect: “Music is the silence between the notes” – Claude Debussy

While reading you will ask yourself, “What happened at the barbecue? what happened? Just TELL ME what happened!” At first I was annoyed. I just wanted to know what the hell happened at the barbecue. Gradually, I became consumed by each character’s life before the barbecue, almost forgetting about “the day of the barbecue”, then WHAM! In your face emotion. I cried. I cried quite a few times throughout this story. I cried tears of happiness, frustration, anger, and sadness. This book has it all my friend.

We hear this story from many different perspectives: Erika, Clementine (Erika’s best friend), Sam (Clementine’s husband), Tiffany (Erika’s neighbour), Oliver (Erika’s husband), Dakota (Tiffany’s daughter), Vid (Tiffany’s husband), Harry (Erika’s neighbour), and Pam (Clementine’s mom). Each and every character has their own strengths and flaws, which created a natural love/hate relationship with each one for me. I’m not sure I can choose a favourite character, I could see pieces of myself in each one (well except perhaps Vid, sorry Vid, we don’t have much common ground buddy, but you seem like someone who I can have a good laugh with at a party).

Page 233. Jolt. Shock. Surprise. Whammy. Yup all those kinds of words.

The chapters flip back and forth in time – before the barbecue, after the barbecue, the day of the barbecue, making “the day of the barbecue” the focal point, however I felt that it was slightly disorientating at times.

Truly Madly Guilty dug up lots of powerful emotions and themes, such as desolation. Desolation: ruin, dreariness, sorrow, grief. I love that word, desolation.

What can happen in one moment? Just one moment can change your entire life. One, small, little moment can create guilt – guilt which could truly make you go mad. 😉

Have you read this book yet? I’d love to hear what you think!

For more info about Liane Moriarty visit www.lianemoriarty.com

Book Review: Moms Who Drink and Swear: True Tales of Loving my Kids While Losing My Mind

WARNING: This post is for ADULT EYES ONLY.

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If you think Moms Who Drink And Swear: True Tales Of Loving My Kids While Losing My Mind was written by some crazy, unintelligent mother, then you couldn’t be more wrong. The author, Nicole Knepper, has a master’s degree in professional counseling psychology and a master’s degree in gerontology. The inspiration for this book come from her popular blog http://www.chicagonow.com/moms-who-drink-and-swear/

I laughed so much reading this book, and recommend it to ALL mothers. I also recommend this book to men, it will help you to better understand women – especially moms.

Here’s the back blurb:

“If you feel like your kids are killing you, you’ve come to the right place.

Attention all potty-mouthed, cheap-wine-drinking mothers: Prepare to meet your match. Any bad thought you’ve had about your kids. Nicole Knepper has had worse. Much worse. It’s not that she doesn’t love her kids. It’s that she understands what a mind-f*?% it can be to try to civilize those wild little beasts.”

To give you a better picture of the book, here are the names of some of the chapters:

Girlfriends, Genitals and Growing Up
Kitty’s Got PMS – this chapter includes the “hat trick” of free info for men
The Vagina Dialogues
Fuck You Dinner, Make Yourself
Dinner is Like Herpes
Caring for Children without Crushing Their Souls
Suck it, Santa Claus

Quotes from the book:

“…Sometimes I am just overwhelmed by how much I’m needed” page 56. I have had this exact same thought at least once a day for the past ten years.

“The girl can film and edit a stop-motion Littlest Pet Shop video on her iPad, but she can’t pour herself a glass of orange juice because it’s too hard?”  HAHAHAHA! My son can also make stop-motion videos, and yet will not get himself a glass of milk! Oh please, give me the patience.

The relationship Nicole had with her father reminded me of the relationship I had with my late step father, Roger. He was my step dad from when I was about eight years old until he died when I was twenty-one. Nicole writes: “And I really miss fighting with him: our competitive and never-ending attempts to prove each other wrong and push each other’s buttons were truly vital to our relationship. It was through all these battles, disagreements and fiery , intense conversations that our mutual love and respect for each other grew into an important relationship.” page 133

Nicole gave me, as a mom, the ability to accept my mistakes and realize no one is perfect. We are not alone. Being a mom is hard, we all have our own way of dealing with challenges – and as long as we aren’t hurting anyone or ourselves, then we need to stop judging each other for every single parenting decision.

You can also check out the Facebook Page Moms Who Drink and Swear