Month: April 2020

Apr 30

Kid Lit with my Kidlet: Sammy’s Current Faves

Children's Books, Kidlit with my Kidlet 1

Howdy Bookworms,

I can’t tell you how much it thrills me that Sammers enjoys reading stories with me. I mean, sure, I’ve been reading to him at least nightly since infancy, but he’s reached an age where he can actively choose the books we read and interacts with the stories. It’s so stinking cute. If you need book recs for the kiddos in your life, read on, friends!

Yes, that is a Llama Llama Red Pajama shirt. Of course my kid has book swag.

We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems: We have a decent collection of Mo Willems on our shelves, but so far We Are in a Book! is the hands down favorite. This book makes Sammy laugh SO HARD. It’s probably at least partially because I’m overly animated in recreating Elephant and Piggie’s laughter, but I shall never apologize for my over-the-top read aloud style. Like most (if not all) Mo Willems books, this book is heavy on audience recognition and participation. The self awareness is taken to a new level when Gerald (the Elephant) and Piggie (the, uh, Piggie) realize that they are, in fact, in a book. This is such a fun read! Now, Sam will occasionally shout “Banana” out of context and start cracking up. That’s the sort of thing everyone could use more of, no?

A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade, Illustrated by Melanie Demmer- This book was a gift from my husband’s “Fairy Godmothers.” They still live in the small town my husband hails from, and among its claims to fame is that it’s the birthplace of the dude who discovered Pluto. The Pluto love is big in this little town, and they were responsible for many a letter-writing campaign trying to keep Pluto’s status as a planet once it was declassified. So, naturally, this excellent children’s book about the demotion of Pluto to “dwarf planet” landed in one of Sammy’s many book packages. The book is fantastic- very scientific with cute and clever illustrations. Frankly, it’s kind of a tricky one to read aloud because of the vocab- when you’re used to simple rhymes at story time, trying to get your brain and mouth around “asteroid” and “meteoroid” and “Kuiper Belt” can be a challenge. But Sammers loves the book, so I put my astronomer voice and read the same story over and over and over again. No lie, he made me read this 6 times in a row the other night. The recommended age range on the cover is 4-8 years, so if you have older-than-toddler kiddos with an interest in space, this would make a great addition to your bookshelves.

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola- A classic for good reason! Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot has been delighting children since the 1970s, and shows no signs of slowing. I read it to Sam one bedtime, and at the following nap time, he specifically requested “Big Anthony” (he thinks the unfortunate fellow’s tummy full of pasta is high comedy.) He’s since started calling the book by its actual title, but it remains a staple of bedtime and nap time reading. I purchased our copy from Book Outlet which is a GREAT resource for inexpensive kids books. They usually have a mark on them or might be a little scratch-n-dent-y, but when you’re buying for a toddler, it hardly matters. The poor things will get banged up anyway.

On a side note: if you’re interested in seeing regular Sam Spam (IE, lots and lots of pictures) you’re welcome to check out my Instagram. Yes, it’s set to private, but only because I was creeped out by a few random dudes who started following my feed which is 99% toddler pics. I’m happy to approve anyone who looks like a real person, is bookish, and/or I recognize from other social media. I’m always cheered up by cute kiddo pics, so if you’re in need of that kind of joy, welcome to my Instagram!

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links above direct to Amazon, but if you’re in a position to do so, please consider purchasing through a local, independent book store. Websites like IndieBound and make it easy to support your local book shop even when you can’t physically shop there. 


Apr 28

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Seventeeth

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Time Travel 3

How Now, Bookworms?

Here in Illinois, our stay-at-home order has been extended through the end of May… At least. The upside is that greenhouses and nurseries are going to be allowed to open, which means FLOWERS! One of my book club friends runs a seasonal flower/garden center with her Mom and I’m super stoked to support them with ALL MY FLOWER DOLLARS. I look forward to planting annuals every year and I’m so thrilled that it’s one thing I’ll still be able to do. I’m hoping Sam will be interested enough to join me this year. I mean, we’ll probably have to hose him off, but I think gardening is an excellent toddler activity. (Says the woman who has not yet attempted to garden with said toddler.) I never plant until after Mother’s Day, so we’ve got some time. But I can’t wait!

This week I finished reading yet another Talia Hibbert gem, Untouchable. How are all her books so charming? Hibbert clearly has “a type.” Her heroes are all big, muscled, and tattooed. Often bearded. Perhaps not my “type” IRL, but it makes for a swoony romance novel hero. Especially when they’ve got a big, soft heart underneath all those muscles. Nate Davis is one of those big, muscled, tattooed gents. He’s a widower who has returned to his hometown to help care for cancer stricken mother. Given his unpredictable schedule and the two kiddos, he finds himself in need of a nanny, pronto. Hannah Kabbah (you’ll remember her as Ruth’s sister from A Girl Like Her which I told you all about already) is a phenomenal early childhood caregiver, but has been unable to work in the field since that unfortunate incident with a horrible man, a cricket bat, and a car. Nate hires her on without hesitation and sparks fly. The best part of this whole romance is that he’s super aware of just how icky it can be when employers take advantage of their employees when it comes to dating. He does everything in his power to make that a non-issue and to be as un-creepy as possible. Of course it helps that Hannah is totally into him because, um, hot-muscled-tattooed guy with a soft heart? How could she possibly resist?

What’s this? Did I finish binge reading the Ravenswood Series already? Why, yes, yes I did. That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert was yet another delicious morsel of a book. This time it follows Zach, a swoony blacksmith with all the muscles. (Yes, a second swoony blacksmith in the series. What? He’s the buddy Evan kept cooking for in the first book. Keep up, people!) He’s got a reputation as a ladies man, but that was mostly for show. When mysterious newcomer Rae appears in town, she and Zach strike up a friendship. She’s a fantasy writer, he’s a secret nerd. She has a truly excellent dog and just happens to walk him near where Zach takes his work breaks to cool off from that hot, sweaty forge. When Rae is in need of a fake boyfriend (gosh I love this trope) to accompany her to a conference her awful ex husband will be attending, she turns to Zach for help. Spoiler Alert: There’s only one bed! Romance tropes FOREVER!

I finally finished Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore while scrubbing down a bathroom that sorely needed it. It took me much longer to finish this book than I’d have liked, but it’s because I chose to listen to it as an audio book instead of reading with my eyeballs. Sigh, Quarantine troubles have limited my audio book capacity to nap times and my kid has gotten extremely proficient at avoiding his naps. Oof. Anyway, this book was great. Oona Lockhart is celebrating her birthday/New Year, but just as the clock strikes midnight to turn 1982 into 1983, something weird happens in the space-time continuum and she’s jumped forward in time. It turns out that every year at the stroke of midnight, Oona emerges into a different year in her life and lives, as the title suggests, out of order. This book was an incredibly clever take on time travel, and it just earned a place as one of my favorites. Watching Oona navigate her own life without much context is a fascinating and emotional journey. I love, love, loved it.

Whew! What a whirlwind reading week! I’ve also been reading books to Sam by the truckload, so I’m hoping to put together a list of some of HIS current favorites this week too. We have such a phenomenal children’s library at our disposal (since our family members are overly generous and really, really good at choosing books) it seems a shame to keep it to ourselves. As for what I’m diving into, I decided to wrap up the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan, so I’m reading The Suffragette Scandal with my eyeballs. And, even though it will probably take forever to get through, I decided to start Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai on audio. It’s a continuation of the series that started with The Right Swipe which I absolutely adored. Just give me all the romance. Maybe I’ll read something else one day. Maybe I won’t. But as for right now? GIVE ME ALL THE HAPPILY EVER AFTERS.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links above direct to Amazon, but if you’re able and interested in making a purchase through a local independent bookstore, please consider using the links below:

That Kind of Guy
A Girl Like Her
Oona Out of Order
The Suffragette Scandal
Girl Gone Viral
The Right Swipe


Apr 21

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Sixteenth

Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up 7

Greetings, Bookworms!

It’s been a good week for me and romance novels, I tell you what. I finished TWO WHOLE BOOKS and am rapidly closing in on a third. All of them romances, because that is all I currently want to read. But, to mix it up, they’re all contemporary romances, not historicals. It’s a genre with endless variety, why not change things up? So, where should we start?

I finished reading The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams. Pro baseball player Gavin Scott’s marriage is falling apart when he’s unexpectedly drafted into a book club, of sorts. The movers and shakers of Nashville pro sports have banded together and started reading romance novels in an effort to better understand how they’re screwing up their relationships. The concept is delightful- I mean, romance novels are written primarily by women, for women. Guys in heterosexual relationships (and, honestly, probably homosexual relationships too) could learn a lot from romance novels. Heck, women can learn a lot from romance novels. They’re WAY more fun to read than self-help books, at least from where I’m sitting, and a lot of them provide excellent relationship guidance. Then again, some are complete trash and glorify unhealthy and abusive relationships. Look, let’s not dive too deeply into that rabbit hole, okay? Anyway. Gavin joins this book club and sets out to win his wife back. But it’s not just romantic grand gestures- they both have to do some emotional heavy lifting to figure out where things went wrong and how to fix them.

Remember that Talia Hibbert book I told you about last week? A Girl Like Her? It was the start of a series! And yes, I’m going to binge read the whole thing because I love Talia Hibbert so very much. I devoured the followup novel, Damaged Goods. It follows the wife of that one terrible dude from the first book. And you know what? Once she breaks away from the terrible dude, good things happen. Because that’s how life works. Cut out the abusive scum bags, everyone! I know, it’s not that easy. There’s so much gas lighting that goes into an abusive relationship that it can be difficult to figure out you’re in one, let alone figuring out how to break free. But it makes me super happy when I see fictional characters doing just that. BYE HORRIBLE ABUSIVE SCUMBAG. HELLO, HOTTIE McHOTSTUFF WHO COOKS IN BEACH TOWN. Sigh. I do so love a happily ever after. Speaking of escaping abusive scumbags in search of happily ever after, Sammy has decided that Tangled is among his favorite films. It’s pretty cute that he asks for “Tangled and Gene” all the time, but if you’re wondering if you’re in an abusive relationship? Check out how Mother Gothel treats Rapunzel. YIKES. (I do love the movie, though. It’s one of the best Disney Princess movies. Rapunzel is a joy and Flynn Rider AKA Eugene Fitzherbert is one rakish love interest.)

As for what I’m currently reading, no surprise on the eyeball reads: I’m reading Untouchable by the wonderful Talia Hibbert. So freaking charming. And in my ears? Well, I’m still working on Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore. I’m enjoying the book, digging the whole The Time Traveler’s Wife vibe, but I haven’t gotten a lot in the way of cooperative naps lately. I’m about halfway through it, so I’ll get there eventually. What have you been reading, Bookworms?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the text above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and able, please consider making a purchase through a local, independent book store by using the links below:

Oona Out of Order
The Bromance Book Club
Damaged Goods
The Time Traveler’s Wife


Apr 17

Kid Lit with my Kidlet: Penguin Problems and Reading with Voices

Kidlit with my Kidlet 0

Hiya Bookworms,

This pandemic is wild. It’s so awful on so many levels, and even though we’re faring better than I might have expected in our household, I still have the occasional breakdown. I mean, I’m human. I also have a strong-willed toddler. It’s all A LOT. But I’m trying really hard to document the good things, because there have been many good things, mostly surrounding all the extra time we’ve been spending as a family.

This year, Easter was different, seeing as we’re in quarantine and all. Luckily, thanks to my husband’s clearance shopping after Christmas, my own impulse purchases, and some souvenirs we picked up from our trip to Disney World, we had enough stuff in the “Sam Stash” that didn’t need to worry about what we’d be using to fill Sammy’s Easter basket.

One of my impulse purchases had been a book and a stuffed animal from the Kohl’s Cares for Kids collection. They publish nice editions of popular children’s books and coordinating stuffed toys for $5 a pop, the proceeds of which go to a charitable foundation. Over the years I’ve purchased oodles of the things. Sam’s got a whole slew of the books and stuffed characters, which is great, because unless your child’s favorite book ends up being made into a TV show or movie, it can be pretty hard to track down merchandise. My love of Salina Yoon’s Penguin books can be traced back to a purchase I made for my “niece” a few years ago- I loved the books so much that I bought myself copies waaaaay before Sammers was in the picture. Kohl’s isn’t giving me anything for saying nice things about these books and toys, I just happen to adore them. All of this is to say that on a trip to Kohl’s after the holidays to exchange something, I picked up a copy of Penguin Problems by Jory John (illustrated by Lane Smith) along with the corresponding plush because they were adorable.

Fast forward a few months and one pandemic later, and the book and penguin appeared in Sammy’s Easter basket. He LOVES them. It’s one of those books that once we finish it, he immediately demands that we read it again. And, in a fun twist, he’s actually named the stuffed penguin “Mortimer.” The name is mentioned in the book, but isn’t the main character or anything, but he now insists on taking Mortimer with him on our daily wagon rides. Mortimer wears a seat belt, like a responsible penguin.

What’s really funny about the book, though, is apparently the way I read it. The whole story is a penguin whining about their problems. Cold beaks, being chased by predators, you name it. Penguin life can be tough. (It’s got a Mo Willems pigeon vibe going on.) As I was reading it to Sam, my husband pointed out that I sounded “like the Lottery Dream Home guy.” He meant David Bromstad, of HGTV fame, and once it was mentioned, I couldn’t unhear it. For some reason, my complaining penguin voice shares uncanny similarities in cadence and tone with the upbeat TV host/designer. It’s weird. But it gets weirder. Further into the book, a walrus appears to drop some wisdom on our penguin friend. My walrus voice? It sounds just like Mr. Sheffield from The Nanny. Why do I sound like two completely different dudes on TV while reading children’s books to my son? I haven’t the slightest. But I can’t stop… And I wouldn’t want to, because it’s fun. And right now, we all need extra fun.

I’d make a video of my read aloud, but I’m pretty sure that would be copyright infringement. Plus, I wouldn’t be making the video in any sort of educational capacity, as I’m not a librarian or teacher or daycare provider or anything. I’m just an overly theatrical read aloud parent. You’ll have to take my word for it, though- it’s ridiculous.

That all for now, Bookworms. I hope you’re finding joy in unexpected places. And, if you do happen to have kiddos in your lives, I sincerely hope you read aloud to them… With voices, of course.

You can totally still purchase Penguin Problems and plush from Kohl’s! The book selection changes seasonally, but as of today, the penguins are still out there. I believe Kohl’s is doing curbside pickup in a lot of places, but you can always order it to be delivered. I won’t make a commission, but who cares? *Technically if you click on the photo above it’ll take you to Amazon which would get me a commission, but that would cost you more and donate nothing to charity. It was just the easiest way I had to get a nice picture of the book into the post.*




Apr 07

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Fourteenth

Contemporary Fiction, Weekly Wrap-Up 4

How you holding up, Bookworms?

As we head into our fourth week of working from home, I’ve noticed some things. First, Sam has averaged one day per week where he does not take a nap. Second, I have averaged one day per week where I have a crying jag simply because it’s all too much. Often these are the same day, though sometimes not. I’m tired and I’m frightened and I’m angry. But none of that is new. I’m still finding solace in reading, and this week, I FINALLY finished Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. My slow-poke-iness wasn’t necessarily the fault of the narrative, simply that I find myself with much less time for audio books than I used to have (because commute, quiet office, etc.) Anyway.

In a small town in Virginia, a Korean immigrant family open a hyperbaric oxygen tank treatment center. They attract an assortment of clients, from those seeking treatment for autistic children, cerebral palsy, and even infertility. Then, one night, the chamber explodes, killing two people and severely injuring several more. As the dust settles, it becomes clear that the explosion wasn’t an accident. A courtroom driven mystery unfolds as the reader slowly discovers that nearly all the characters are harboring troubling secrets.

This book was… A lot. It was emotionally complex and I’m still processing my feelings. On one hand, I related to the mothers of the special needs kids seeking treatment. Sammers is not special needs, but being a parent is can be emotionally and physically draining under the best of circumstances. The worries and added pressures with finding appropriate treatments, and knowing when to step back has got to be super rough. Not to mention, depending on the level of disability, much of everyday life would be that much harder.

On the other hand, particularly right now, I’m disgusted at the way society treats the disabled. I’ve seen so many Twitter threads by disabled people having to explain that they’re not disposable. Because, really, before COVID-19 really got rolling, the general impression was that it was only going to hit older people and those with complicated health situations. So many people dismissed the virus as not that big a deal because it wouldn’t affect them, just the broken people, and who cares about protecting them? It was REAL gross. Not a good look, humanity. Reading this book while watching all of this unfold made me feel kind of gross for identifying with the mothers at all.

Like I said- COMPLEX EMOTIONS. If you enjoy that sort of thing, definitely read Miracle Creek. If you need to give your brain a break from the actual horror we’re living through, put this one on the shelf with the pandemic books. We can all revisit it in 10 years when this is less raw and horrifying.

As for what I’m reading this week, I’m still enjoying Roshani Chokshi’s A Crown of Wishes. Pure fantasy is such a delicious escape from the here and now. No matter how awful things here get, I’m not being threatened by poisonous mystical beings, so I’ve got that going for me. I keep eyeing the new Christina Lauren book The Honey-Don’t List on Scribd’s audio offerings, but I don’t know when I’m going to be able to start another audio book. A certain small boy is currently fighting his nap in a big way, and no nap means no audio book time. Siiiigh. I even emailed his daycare teacher for help- apparently he takes naps completely unassisted when he’s at school. BECAUSE OF COURSE.

So, Bookworms. What are you reading this week? And does anyone have any magical tips for getting a stubborn 2.5 year old to take the naps they desperately need?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the above text direct to Amazon, but if you are able, please consider making a purchase through a local, independent book store by using the links below. And don’t forget to check out your local library’s digital offerings!

Miracle Creek
A Crown of Wishes
The Honey-Don’t List 


Apr 01

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Thirteenth

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Weekly Wrap-Up 6

Howdy Bookworms,

The thirteenth weekly wrap up sounds a bit ominous doesn’t it? Want to know what’s scarier than living through a plague? Having a friggin TORNADO touch down less than a block from your house during a global pandemic. YEAH. Thank heaven it ended up being a weak (EF0-EF1) tornado. We lost some beautiful old trees on the neighboring golf course, but nobody’s home suffered major damage. One house had half a tree on its roof, but the roof wasn’t leaking, at least, so damage? Yes. Major? Well, certainly not catastrophic. We didn’t even realize how close a call we’d had until the next day, it was just one of those “oh heck, better hustle to the basement” moments. Sam was extremely excited to watch the weather maps and to get his bedtime extended. Suffice it to say my nerves are FRAYED. Calm the heck DOWN, Mother Nature, we GET IT.

This is the tornado’s path according to our local news. I added an arrow to point to our approximate location. NOT COOL.

Let’s get past the terror of what could have been for a moment, shall we? I FINISHED A BOOK!!! Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey was so good! Like, once I really got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up past my bedtime to finish it AND forgot for a few minutes after emerging what was actually going on in the real world. It was everything I needed from a book. A non-magical private investigator is tasked with solving a murder at a magical school. The book immediately starts with a Harry Potter reference, so it’s delightfully self aware and just a little bit cheeky. Ivy Gamble has been largely estranged from her twin sister for years- a rift coinciding with the beginning of Tabitha’s magical education and compounded by their mother’s death. It’s a feelings minefield between these two! It’s also an exceptionally good murder mystery, which, admittedly, is not usually my jam. Very twisty, very smart, very magical. I highly recommend it!

So, what am I reading now? I’m still working my way through my audio book of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim and, naps willing, should finish it up soon. I also started A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi- it’s the second in the The Star-Touched Queen series. Admittedly, it’s been quite a long time since I read The Star-Touched Queen, so I was worried I’d be a little lost, but it’s all coming back quite nicely. Roshani Chokshi writes the most delightful demons.

How are things going for you, Bookworms? Stay safe and healthy- the world needs you.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the above text direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to shop through a local, independent bookstore, please consider using the links below. And, as always, be sure to look into the digital offerings from your public library. 
Magic for Liars
Miracle Creek
The Star-Touched Queen
A Crown of Wishes