2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Return to Longbourn (The Darcys of Pemberley #2) by Shannon Winslow

This was Mary’s story. I have never run across very many stories that focus on the middle sister, but I am finding more and more lately. I saw this one and it sounded quite interesting. It did not disappoint. I was actually surprised somewhat. There were modern concepts in the book, but you never lost the time period which was fantastic.

The story follows a few years after the events of Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett has died as the book opens, leaving the estate to the next male heir. As Mr. Collins has passed away already, the estate falls to his younger brother in America. This Mr. Collins comes as soon as he receives the letter. As he is traveling, Kitty and Mary evade attempts by Mama to establish the future mistress of the house. Mary, having become a governess for the Netherfield family, is out of the question, so of course Kitty must marry Mr. Collins. Kitty flees to visit Jane and Elizabeth in the north before Mr. Collins arrives.

After Mr. Collins arrives, Mary is quite taken with him. The story unfolds between her growing feelings for Mr. Collins and the affections and ties she has to the children at Netherfield Hall. It is a riveting story, following all the trials and tribulations a young governess faces as well as two sisters being drawn to the same man. It is a fascinating story with a couple of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all. The characters were genuine, the story line captivating, and you get drawn into the emotional turmoil the normally steadfast Mary is going through.

I applaud the author on her wonderful portrayal of Mary and all the Pride and Prejudice characters. I will be looking forward to more of her work in the future. Like I mentioned, there are a few things that are quite modern social ideas, but she does them in such a way as it doesn’t appear or seem to upset the flow of the time period or is very jarring. I rather thought it a quite original take on the stories. Well done!

My rating:

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Random Thoughts

What Type of Reader Are You?

Saw this post and thought it was really neat! Check it out!

Beginning to End

During one of my internet surfing sessions, I came across a quiz that asked “What type of reader are you?” and I was intrigued. I had never really thought about there being types of readers but, the more I started researching this, I found there were!

I came across quite a few websites that listed out different types of readers – here, here and here were my favorites – so I decided to take some of the best ones and summarize them into this handy chart. I personally fell into a few different categories. I hope you enjoy and that you check out my suggestions for each.

Let me know what type of reader YOU are!

Type of Reader Chart (1)

Type of Reader Chart-1

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Book Reviews

Melting Away the Ice (Ice Series #1) by Mary Smith

I wanted to continue with my hockey novella reading in honor of the NHL playoffs, so I downloaded this book. I was hoping it was a well-written and thought out as some of the other series I had read, but it wasn’t. That’s not to say it was bad, because it wasn’t. It had a good story line, something a little different but not too different at the same time.

The story follows Sara as she is working to get back to herself before a terrible domestic violence incident. She is drug by her friend Rachel to a hockey game where she meets Lucas Sharp by accident. Lucas is the captain of the Chicago Eagles. He doggedly pursues her until she relents and, with the help of Rachel, gives in and begins dating him. Sara keeps Lucas in the dark for most of the story about her past. The story mainly focuses on Sara and how she is dealing with dating and falling in love. You get some of what Lucas is experiencing, but it strikes me as mainly surface emotion, or a general emotion that one would assume he is feeling through the different events.

I would like to guess this is an early writing, someone new to being an author. A lot of my issues were with phrasing and tense. She wrote in present tense which is always a little jarring at first. Furthermore, she had the Chicago Eagles as the reining team in the league. For some reason that bothers me. I would think it would make for a stronger book if the team was placed somewhere in the middle of the field. Also, I thought the progression of the romance was a little too quick for a domestic violence case. The emotional struggle of recovering could easily have been fleshed out and been more in-depth. But like I said, it felt like the writer was new. So hopefully her books will improve as her skills grow.

My rating:

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2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, Book Reviews

Poetry for Young People: William Butler Yeats

I read this book for National Poetry Month. It is a collection of poems by William Butler Yeats designed for young adult readers. The librarian at my school recommended this series of collections when I told her that I wanted to read poetry but was usually not a big fan of it. I am sad to say the book did not change my opinion of that – I am still not a fan of reading poetry. However, I did find myself enjoying a couple of his poems. My favorites were The Lake Isle of Innisfree  and To A Child Dancing In The Wind. I think The Lake Isle of Innisfree won hands down. It was the only one I really remember from the collection (there were 25 poems total).


There was a brief introduction in the front of the book that I found particularly helpful. It gave a wonderful explanation and biography of Yeats and why the majority of his poems revolve around Ireland and the mystic beings of Irish folklore. Furthermore, each poem has a brief introduction that gives an overview of the poem and the meaning the author was attempting to convey. Also, there are footnotes for difficult words in the poem, well words that are considered difficult for young adult readers. I found both of these aspects helpful and enlightening when reading the poems. I myself do not like searching for the deep underlining meaning of the poems. I like ones that I can easily relate to and are not metaphors for more abstract concepts. As for Yeats, he hit this idea about half the time, so it wasn’t too hard for me to finish the collection.

My favorite part of the book by far were the illustrations and artwork done by Glenn Harrington for the book. They are impressionist, which is my favorite are style and beautifully represent every poem. I would have continued in the book just for those.

I would recommend this book, or rather the entire Poetry for Young People series to anyone starting to get into poetry for the first time. They do a wonderful job of opening up the world of poetry to people unfamiliar with it. I am giving it a 3 cheese rating for attempts to help understand poems and the artwork.

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Dropping Gloves (Portland Storm #10) by Catherine Gayle

Catherine Gayle’s ability to pull out strong emotion was again displayed brilliantly in this latest installment of the Portland Storms series. I had actually skipped a few books to read this one. I have only read 1-4, and 6 before this book, but since it was between Katie and Babs, I couldn’t wait to read it.

You meet Katie and Jamie “Babs” Babcock in the first books of the series and follow their budding, yet non-existent romance, through the different books. You are always hoping they will get together, but they never have. This book picks up as Katie returns from Los Angeles after her show, The Cool Kids, has been canceled and she is questioning her desire to go back to Hollywood. Jamie is finally trying to put Katie behind him, telling her that he can’t see her anymore if she is going to keep leaving. I won’t be giving away too much when I tell you that Katie decides to stay in Portland, especially after her cancer returns. The story follows Katie and Jamie as they begin to navigate a relationship and her cancer relapse.  It also follows Katie as she figures out what she wants to do now with her life, and Jamie as he adjusts and grows into being the captain of the Portland Storm team.

I liked the book as I had hoped to read the story for these two characters for a while. The book is not as emotionally intense as some of the previous books, but it is still very strong and emotionally authentic. You feel for both characters, feeling the struggles and heartaches they go through.It was a more common story line than I expected from the author, not quite as interesting as I expected, but she did it beautifully. Anyone who knows someone with cancer or who has cancer will appreciate the emotional struggles in the book. Anyone not linked to cancer will get a glimpse into the world that cancer patients and their families have to go through. Overall, a good book. I liked the first book more, but I can relate more easily to abuse survivors as opposed to cancer survivors.

My rating:

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Random Thoughts

Getting children to read

I personally think it is very important to have children love to read. I loved to read as a child and I think it helped me an immense amount through my school and educational career. I wanted to take a little time to share some ideas and resources that help to aid teaching children to read. Anybody can do these with kids, but it’s mainly for parents. I thought they were simple and a great way to encourage children to read with out rewarding them with gifts for reading or nagging them, but to help them find fun in reading.

  1. Read to them early on in their life, and keep reading to them
  2. Set aside time to read with them, aloud or just together, during the week
  3. Fill their rooms with books, leaving reading materials laying around for them to find (especially in the bathroom! LOL)
  4. Get them a library card and take them to visit the library regularly, even just to walk around and browse
  5. Let them see you reading
  6. Let them read ANYTHING – comic books, magazines, cartoons, etc.
  7. Show them the usefulness of reading – recipes, directions, road signs, instructions, etc.
  8. Ask them about what they are reading and share your thoughts on what you are reading
  9. Let them read as long as they want
  10. Play reading-related or word games for fun
  11. Find books that match their interests
  12. Encourage them finding new books
  13. Find fun books to read in between the more serious reads – joke books, comics, riddles, or a funny story or newspaper article

Here are some links that review these ideas and offer other topics of interest you may want to look into:

If you don’t have children or want to help other children around the world, here are a few charities I found that help getting books to children.


First Book – http://www.firstbook.org/

First Book is determined to see that all children, regardless of their economic conditions, can achieve more in school and in life through access to an ongoing supply of new books. With the help of our partners, donors and dedicated volunteers we have provided more than 125 million new books to schools and programs serving children in need. Yet millions of children are still waiting for our help. Together we can make a difference in children’s lives. Together we can provide new books and critical resources that elevate the quality of education for children in low-income families. – See more at: http://www.firstbook.org/get-involved#sthash.wzr5FJ1X.dpuf


Books for Kids – http://www.booksforkids.org/

The mission of the Books for Kids Foundation is to promote literacy among all children with a special emphasis on low-income and at-risk preschool-aged children. Books for Kids creates libraries, donates books, and implements literacy programs to develop the critical early foundation and skills which young children need to be successful in life.

Books for Kids was created in 1986 by a group of New Yorkers who recognized that children who do not have adequate access to books must surmount enormous disadvantages when entering school.

What began as an informal project to collect and distribute 1,000 books to needy children for the holidays quickly took on much greater dimensions when we gave away 2,000 books in the first year and 9,000 in the next. It was clear to our founders that an organization providing access to age-appropriate books for low-income children with little or no resources was desperately needed.


Pajama Program – http://www.pajamaprogram.org/

Pajama Program provides new pajamas and new books to children in need nationwide, many of whom are waiting to be adopted. These children live in group homes, shelters and temporary housing facilities and are shuffled often from one place to another. Many of them have been abandoned, abused or neglected. Most of these children have never enjoyed the simple comfort of having a parent tuck them in at bedtime with warm, clean pajamas and a bedtime story. Some of the children are living with their families below the poverty level, in desperate need of food, clothing and shelter. These two simple gifts of pajamas and books let the children know that someone cares – sometimes these are the only new things they have ever received.

Book Reviews

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

I came across this book in my BookBub feed on sale a few weeks ago. I like ghost stories, and the premise sounded interesting so I bought it. I read it in a few days, so it was nice and long. It was also really easy to follow, which is sometimes hard with ghost stories.

The book is set in the early 1920s in England, right after the end of World War I. The story follows Sarah Piper as she is hired by Alistair Gellis to help her on a ghost hunting expedition. The ghost hated men and he therefore needed a female assistant to help him find evidence to support the existence of the spirit. She had no idea how her world would change. Through multiple encounters with the spirit of Maddy and interviews with her surrogate family, you learn the story of Maddy. A story about a traumatized teenage girl who takes her own life and finds herself still stuck in the world. As the book develops, you are drawn into wanting to help Sarah. Along the way, you meet Matthew, Alistair’s usual assistant, and many members of the nearby town. The details of Maddy’s arrival at the Clare house and her subsequent shuddered life begin to unravel and it is a race against time to find an answer to Maddy’s questions and demands.

I was blown away by this book. Usually, books with ghosts are a pretty standard story line and romance component, but this one stood head and shoulders above the others. I will definitely read it again. I loved the intricacies of the characters and the unwinding of the details of the story. There was a love story component in it, but it was not the focus of the story, which was nice since the book was not filled with sex scenes. The whole book fascinated me and kept me engaged in the story. I can’t wait to read another the author’s works. I hope they are just as good as this one was!

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

I ran across this book at work. Our ninth grade honors English teacher had his students reading it and it seemed interesting to me (not so much to the students LOL). I decided to download the audiobook and am glad I did.

This story follows a group of people through the return of King Richard the Lionheart to England. There are several main characters: Cedric, Wamba, Gurth, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Rowena, Rebecca, Isaac the Jew of York, the Black Knight of the Fetterlock, Prince John, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Locksley, and the clerk of Clopmanhurst. There are many other characters that are followed as well, but these are the main people. With the title of Ivanhoe I thought the book would primarily follow Wilfred of Ivanhoe, but it mostly follows the Black Knight. The story is pretty much divided evenly amongst the main characters, but he receives a little more attention, probably because he helps the story move between characters.

You begin with Cedric and Brian de Bois-Guilbert. At Cedric’s castle, you also meet Rowena, Isaac the Jew, Wamba, and Gurth (who are actually the first characters you meet, but it is only in passing). You follow these characters to a tournament at Ashby where Bois-Guilbert and several other nights are meeting challengers in a tournament. At the tournament, you are introduced to the rest of the characters. After the tournament, some of the characters are kidnapped. The rest of the story is how Ivanhoe, Locksley, and the Black Knight save the captives. Not all survive, like any of the old classics. The book ends with Richard returning to England and restoring order to the attempted coup being set up by his brother John.

I am very glad I listened to the book because I struggle with French names and this book is full of them. The audiobook lets you not get distracted by the odd spellings and long names. The language in the book is just short of old English in my opinion. They have long interesting words and the unique phrasing that was common to the period it is written for. I love the old language style, but even I had a tiny bit of trouble in parts following the unfamiliar words and style. Most of the time it was easy enough to follow if you paid attention. It is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding read. It gives you the basis for all of the Robin Hood stories and some of the more modern stories of the return of Richard. It was nice to have a more detailed background of what times were like.

The book also gives a great historical perspective as well that is often lost in the more romanticized versions of Robin Hood and King Richard. The book brazenly demonstrates the persecution of the Jews in England, which I myself had not been aware of. Furthermore, the prejudices between the Saxon English and the Norman French is discussed in depth, particularly since Cedric is Saxon and Brian de Bois-Guilbert is Norman. The dissension between the crown and the Knights Templar also begins to surface near the end of the book. It also points out that at the time of King Richard, the English empire actually stretched across the sea and had possession of parts of France, particularly Normandy. People often forget that the empire was not confined to just the British island at the time. I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is very in to classical reading. Also, anyone interested in Robin Hood or King Richard would enjoy the book. It would also interest anyone who enjoys medieval history with a slightly romanticized story line. I enjoyed the book, but I probably won’t be picking it up again for a few years. The story line is memorable and interesting, but it will take a while for me to want to focus on the story long enough to take pleasure in the language and phrasing.

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Portland Storm: The First Period (Books 1-4) by Catherine Gayle

I found this series on sale in the Amazon Kindle store and thought I’d give it a shot. It turned out to be a fantastic little series so far. The third book was quite short, more like a set of deleted scenes, but it helped to bridge the gap between books 2 and 4. My favorite was the first book, Breakaway. I can’t wait to find more books in the series. The novellas were actually quite long, but I was still able to finish each under 4 hours.

You do need at least rudimentary knowledge of hockey to read the books. There are a lot of sections where it focuses on the male lead and what he is doing in the game, so the reader needs to understand a little of the game to be able to follow.

One thing I did really like was the fact the novellas only had a couple sex scenes in each. They are not overrun with them. Mostly it focuses on the emotional development and hardships of the couple instead of the sex, which is fantastic in my opinion. The author does a phenomenal job portraying the inner turmoil and true emotions of her characters in a way I rarely see. The strong emotions she digs into fascinate me.


Breakaway – Book 1

I absolutely loved this book. It follows the story of Dana and Eric. Dana and Eric grew up together, and both played hockey. Eric left with Dana’s brother, Brenden, to go to college and Dana went to a different college. Dana was a star hockey player on her college team until she was gang raped after a game by a group of rival fans. She decided after seven years of counseling, she needed someone she trusted to help her learn how to deal with intimacy again and aid her in conquering her panic attacks. Eric is not at all happy with the idea but has been in love with her for years, so he gives in and agrees to help her.

Anyone who suffers from panic attacks, or survived rape or abuse will be able to relate very strongly with Dana. Her portrayal is amazingly realistic to what panic attacks are like and how hard it is to heal from sexual violence. As an abuse survivor, I was able to relate to her extremely well and found the book to be a great example of what a loving, healing relationship can do. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance or is struggling to recover from sexual violence.

My rating:

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On the Fly – Book 2

After the first book, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the second book as emotionally strong and tangled. You follow the story of Brenden and Rachel. Brenden is Dana’s brother and has just been called up from the minor league. He is struggling with trying to prove he deserves to be in the major league and also with the relationship that has developed between Eric and Dana. Rachel is running from her husband who she found out and successfully convicted of abusing her daughter. Throughout the book she struggles a lot with trust, overprotectiveness, and insecurity over her growing feelings for Brenden. An added obstacle is her learning the ropes of her new job – secretary for the Portland Storm General Manager, taking over for the retiring Martha.

It was endearing to see these two people slowly cross the obstacles in front of them and find each other, in particular how they became a family with Rachel’s two children. You also get to learn more about the other team members and begin to really get a feel for the different personalities. The only thing I didn’t particularly like was how abruptly it ended. But that is really my only complaint. Other than that, I thought it was a brilliantlyl written work.

My rating:

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Taking a Shot – Book 3

This is actually considered an in-between novella. It is just a short snippet, very quick, that helps segue between On the Fly and Light the Lamp. It is the story of Jamie “Babs” Babcock taking Katie to her prom. I don’t want to give away something that happens in On the Fly, but I will say it is important that she is able to go. I thought it was a great way to portray a small development between these two characters, as their love story has been woven through each book so far. However, it was very quick and I hoped for more. It makes sense to read it, but I cannot wait for their actual full-length novella to come out next week.

My rating:

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Light the Lamp – Book 4

This is another book I greatly enjoyed. The book follows Liam and Noelle. Liam is a widower who is still grieving for his wife who was hit by a drunk driver while she was trying to change a tire. He finds Noelle on the highway, trying to fix her car, and insisted on taking her somewhere safe until the car cooled down. He later finds out she is homeless and jobless and insists she go home with him. The story unfolds as the fall in love and struggle to become emotionally close. You also learn about Liam’s Light the Lamp foundation that helps addicts begin to put their life back together.

It is a very emotionally charged book. I found I was very able to relate to Liam. His struggles to deal with the death of his wife and the love he is developing for a new woman are strong and realistic. I had a harder time relating to Noelle, but she is so sweet and genuine you have to like her. Her emotions do come through very strongly as well, especially with her fighting to maintain her independence and need to make the world a better place.

My rating:

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Random Thoughts

Reading Classics

I have only started reading the classics in the last year or so. For me, I discovered that listening to them as audiobooks helps me read them quite easily. I love the stories, the love and adventure, and the glimpse into a time long past. However, I know reading classics is not to some people’s taste. I did, however, stumble across a blog post that reflected some great points about why people don’t read the classics and why they actually should.

The articles are originally posted on the Confessions of a Bookaholic by Emily.

She states people don’t read classics because:

  1. Size
  2. Judging it by the cover
  3. They’re hard to relate to
  4. They use difficult language
  5. They are forced to read it
  6. Familiar story lines
  7. They don’t like the characters
  8. They don’t want to find the inner meaning
  9. They’ve seen the movie

Here are the reasons she says you should read the classics:

  1. It’s satisfying to read such a big book
  2. The simplicity of the covers
  3. The old book smell
  4. Discovering old notations
  5. Expanding your vocabulary
  6. Learning history
  7. Discovering the deeper meanings
  8. Discovering the origins of today’s stories
  10. You can gloat about what you read

Be sure to check out the full articles. Emily runs an excellent blog with interesting discussions. I just really liked these in particular and wanted to share them here because I agree with her. So stop over and see her blog and pick up a classic!