The Sunlight Series

9780545577854_p0_v1_s260x420Recently, I shared a list that my local library had published on fun things to do at the library that you didn’t know you could do.  On that list was preschool classes, and there are a variety of classes offered.  My daughter has been taking preschool science, which is part of the library’s new STEAM program that works along with the city’s public schools.  Another part of that program is computer classes, which are offered to students as young as 3 – and ranges to coding classes offered to high school students.  One of the best part of these classes is  that they are free.  She didn’t love the computer classes quite as much as she loves the science class.  I enrolled her in hopes that she’d love science more than I do – it was always one of my least favorite subjects!

9780439489614_p0_v1_s260x420One thing the librarian who teaches the science class does is to offer books on the same subjects the kids learned about that day.  After a recent class that focused on Earth Day, my daughter picked up Buried Sunlight, which is part of The Sunlight Series.  The series focuses on science, writing on topics that will interest young readers. Buried Sunlight  teaches about energy, and fossil fuels and their uses and environmental impact.   It sounds like heavy material for young readers, but they’re really great books.  And I haven’t found too many books that my daughter won’t listen to.

Explaining the power of the sun, energy, and exactly what fossil fuels are and where they come from. What I also love about the book is the part in the back (probably for adults), so if kids have more questions about the topic, parents can read through the “notes”, and hopefully answer those questions.  And aren’t there always questions??

Also in the series is My Light, Living Sunlight, and Ocean Sunlight. These books are perfect for young learners who are interested in science, and perfect for an Earth Day lesson!


New Fiction Friday: Shotgun Lovesongs

IMG_0523I was so amazed by this book – it’s the best one I’ve read in a while.  I loved this it – the characters, Little Wing Wisconsin, and the story of their interconnected lives.  Something about the book seemed so familiar. I’ve been to Wisconsin, and to Red Wing, Minnesota, and I loved them both. It’s so peaceful, and green, and beautiful. Of course, I visited during the summer when it was green, and warm, and the nights just a bit chilly – it was beautiful, peaceful, and seemed perfect. I have never been there during the winter – nor do I think I’d ever want to. One of the pivotal parts of this story happens in the dead of winter, when things were buried in snow. Literally buried under inches and inches of it!

9781250039828_p0_v3_s260x420I loved these characters – and felt a part of their lives, their drama. Four friends, having grown up together, experience love, marriage, and hearbreak. I was drawn in, and could not put the book down. Kip, Lee, Hank, and Ronny grew up together, inseparable, yet their adult lives could not be any different. Kip, “the smart one”, went away to Chicago and made a small fortune as a trader.  Lee was a Grammy-winning musician, and had toured around the world. Hank was the one who stayed, taking over his family’s dairy farm. Ronny, a rodeo star, fell off the bull too many times, and too many concussions had left him almost incapable of taking care of himself.

Beth is at the center of the story. The girl next door, the one they loved, still love, object of their affection.  I wanted to be her – I envied her and the admiration she had of all four of these men. She seemed beautiful, loving, loved, and radiant.  Butler, although this is his first novel, seems to have a knack for creating complex and beautiful characters.

Beth and Hank were once high school sweethearts. They broke up briefly after college. During this hiatus, Beth and Lee get together – and it’s this experience that inspired him to write the songs from his most popular album.  Lee has carried a torch for her all these years later, and it’s later in the book that the title of the book is explained.

As a Midwesterner myself (having grown up in Missouri), I love these characters, and what they represent, they are honest, straightforward, and hard working. These are my people, and I loved this book.  Seriously could not put it down, and when I did at the end, I wanted more!

Valeri Bertinelli: Losing It

9781416569688_p0_v2_s260x420So, up next up on my healthy living/weight loss memoirs book list were Valerie Bertinelli’s books: Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time and Finding It: And Satisfying My Hunger for Life Without Opening the Fridge.  Again like Al Roker’s book I had seen these on the shelf at my local library but never picked them up.

I’m going to take a short side step from this review to complain about the use of the term memoir here, as a com arts teacher I taught my students that memoirs were generally about one event not  multiples.  As most of these books are about whole lives I’d classify them as autobiographies rather than memoir, small detail really that may not bother other readers but annoys me for some reason.  A chapter from the book might be a memoir but as a whole this is an autobiography.  Ok side step over.

9781439141649_p0_v1_s260x420Losing It, the first book is the story of Valerie’s life from birth to present day, present day being when she wrote it.  I was excited to read it as I remember watching One Day at a Time when I was young and loved her character Barbara.  Valerie is another person who has struggled with her weight off and on her whole life but like me personally more since she’s become and adult, gotten married, and had a child.  She also like so many teenage girls thought she was fat when she really wasn’t and she’s very candid about that.

Not only do you get a lot of background about Valerie’s life, but as she was married to Eddie Van Halen there is lots of background about him and the band.  As a fan of Van Halen I loved that!  I learned so much I didn’t know before about the fighting between David Lee Roth and Eddie, between Sammie Hagar and Eddie, between Eddie and the next lead singer.  Are we sensing a theme here because I did.

As with most autobiographies/memoirs it strays into the occasional TMI category, and there were certainly  moments where my jaw dropped at some of the things she did as a teen/young twenty something.  She always seemed like such a good Hollywood young actress role model, guess she was just good at hiding things.  She’s open and honest though so you understand she regrets a lot of what happened.  The book takes you up and through her journey with Jenny Craig.  Well worth a read.

Book 2: Finding It is the continuation of her story, the next two years or so of her life, including the battle to get ready for that bikini ad.  Again this is not really an instructional manual on how to lose weight but simply one person’s story.  I appreciate that.  I’d rather read about someone else’s accomplishments and see how they did it than be preached to.  Everyone’s story is different other than the basic “Eat Less Move More” concept and it’s comforting to be reminded that what works for some won’t work for others.

A set of books totally worth checking out.  Even with the subject matter they would make great kick back beach/pool reads.


10 Things To Do at the Library (that you didn’t know you could do)

unnamedJust a few days ago my local library, here in Virginia Beach, posted an article with a list of things most people didn’t know they could do at their libraries.  I have always been a fan of the library, and now that I’m raising a fellow book lover, my daughter loves the library too.  This list highlights some of the best features of the library.  And although you might not live in Virginia Beach (and if you do – hi neighbor!), your library probably offers similar services.

In honor of National Library Week, April 12 to 18, here are 10 things you can do for free at the library:

1. See a 3-D printing demonstration. VBPL has two 3-D printers that are used in a variety of programs and demos.

2. Attend free classes and programs. There are a variety of class and programs offered to all ages through the library.

3. Check out a video game.
4. Download e-books, audiobooks, magazines, music, movies and TV shows. You can do so here.
5. Help your child prepare for kindergarten by participating in VBPL’s curriculum-based preschool storytime series.  We’ve been doing this since my daughter was a baby.  There are a variety of free classes our library offers, from story time, to computer classes, to STEM classes – that are offered to all school-aged children.  (All through age-appropriate classes).
6. Meet one-on-one with a job coach and get help with resume-writing.
7. Meet one-on-one with a technology guru and learn to use your new mobile device.  This also includes help in downloading apps and books onto e-readers.
8. Find free tax preparation assistance, January to April, through AARP tax aides.
9. Learn new skills using VBPL’s online resources like Rosetta Stone (foreign languages), (business, software, technology) and more.
10. Attend a genealogy class at Central Library and trace your roots.  While still in graduate school, I spent quite a bit of time in special collections and was amazed at the amount of information our local library had!
If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the library – to celebrate national library week, stop in!  You might just be amazed!

Never Goin Back

9780451414946_p0_v2_s260x420Starting after Christmas last year I decided it was time to get back to healthier living, to that end I’ve been more careful about what I eat and drink, I’ve been more active – gotta get that pedometer to 10,000 steps a day, and I’ve been reading about weight loss and healthy living.  The first book I picked up was Al Roker’s Never Goin’ Back: Winning the Weight Loss Battle for Good.

I had seen Al’s book on the shelf at my library before and was curious especially as I remembered watching the change in him on the Today show but I just never picked it up.  Making the decision to change my own life and weight his was the first book I checked out.  I prefer weight loss memoirs to those weight loss self help books.  I want to know how someone who actually succeeded in losing weight did so not just what some “expert” says you should do.

Never Goin’ Back is most definitely easy to read.  Al takes you through his life from a little boy to a high school, college, and beyond.  He takes you through his weight ups and downs sometimes in vivid detail.  You feel for him as he goes along.  I identified with things he said and did.

His story is an inspirational one and real life.  He tells you he’s not offering advice just explaining what finally worked for him.  Resources are listed in the book if you want to try what he tried.  Even though he doesn’t make recommendations I have to admit I have taken some of his ideas and used them.  While I don’t have a treadmill desk (man I wish I did) I have adjusted the height of my monitor and keyboard so I can stand more.  I’m standing while I type this now as a matter of fact.

There are spots in the book where I gasped a bit and thought TMI or even WTMI but I think that happens in almost all memoirs.  Whether or not you’re interested in losing weight or living a healthier life this is a great story, especially if you’re a Roker fan like I am. 🙂


New Fiction Friday: One Wish


I recently introduced you to Thunder Point and fortunately for me Ms Carr has just begun releasing her newest trilogy in that series.  The first book is One Wish.  In the last book we met Iris’s best friend Grace and Iris’s other suitor Troy.  They’re back. 

Ok first I have to say I was taken out of the book for a bit when I realized that Troy is Denny’s friend, Denny from Virgin River.  Troy’s full time job is high school teacher, but he works part time at Cooper’s bar.  

9780778317722_p0_v2_s260x420Um ok wait a minute.  I know Ms. Carr likes to connect her books and I like that but this felt a little too much of a push to me a bit contrived.  Cooper and Troy never met during the Virgin River series but both stopped in and yet they both end up in the same small town in Oregon?  Really?  Just a bit too much “it’s a small world” for me.  Denny even visits during this book and stops into to Coop’s place to say hi.  Fortunately this is a very small part of the book and one I was able to get past fairly quickly.

Grace has been hiding something from her new friends in Thunder Point, something she really doesn’t want anyone to know.  Grace is a former world class, gold medal champion figure skater who wanted out of the spotlight.  She was miserable in that life and has reinvented herself.  Her flower shop is exactly what she wants and while life isn’t as fun as maybe she’d like Troy is determined to help her with that. 

I really enjoyed this new visit to Thunder Point.  I loved watching Troy realize he’s falling in love with Grace, that this isn’t just fun anymore it’s so much more.  Watching him be strong for her is a great thing.  Grace discovering she can be all parts of herself and be accepted by her friends is easier for her to understand than learning how to accept all parts of her herself.  Another great book, can’t wait for the next one A New Hope in July, dare I hope there is at least one Star Wars reference in the book due to the title, nah 😉  Rest assured no matter what I’ll read it and be writing a review come summer.

Are you well-read?

unnamedLast week I saw this article on, about being well-read.   As an avid reader, I read everything.  I would consider myself relatively well-read, yet I know there are things that I should be reading, and some “must-reads” I haven’t gotten to yet.  The article not only has a list of books that are must-reads, there are also categories.  So in order to be well-read, there are books to be read and new genres to explore.

The categories include Western Classics, Dystopia, Great American Novels, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Literary Heavy Hitters, Popular Fiction, Immigrant Experience, Non-Western Classics, and Satire.  I admit that I’m not a huge fan of science fiction or fantasy.  Also included in their list are The Lord of the Rings books, which I have tried a few times to get through and just can’t.  I know Kel is a big fan, and has read the through the series several times.

So many of the books are required reading for students.  I first read The Odyssey in high school, and I remember loving Anna Karenina in college.  I have assigned The Grapes of Wrath to my students, and believe this is the best book in American literature.  The Great Gatsby is also on the list – another book that most students are forced to read.

I love that The Hunger Games trilogy is on the list, as they have become modern classics.  I’m still wondering why the 50 Shades of Grey series is on here.  Yes, they are popular, yes almost every woman I know as read them.  I admit to reading them too, though I’m still wondering why…

With this list, I have more books to my to be read list.  I’ve always wanted to read A Tale of Two Cities, and I’d really like to read How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, which was on the list in the immigrant experience category.  This of course, is not the definitive list of great books, or must-read books.  I would definitely have added something by Toni Morrison to the list.  There are some I think are left off here, and some (ahem…, 50 Shades) that I think should not be on there.

What do you think of the list?  What books have you read and loved, and what books would you add to the list?