Monday, November 12, 2018

The RAHM Report for 11/12/18

What I Finished Reading

  • Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This wasn't my favorite of the series, but it was interesting, and a quick read. I really enjoyed the interactions between Tempe's daughter and Ryan's daughter, and the change of pace introduced by the Hawaiian setting. 
  • Barking with the Big Dogs by Natalie Babbitt (ARC) ⭐⭐⭐
    I have a lot - both good and bad - to say about this book. I'm going to make reviewing it a priority this week. 
  • Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich, audiobook read by C.J. Critt ⭐⭐⭐
    I wanted a festive audiobook, and I'd never read any Evanovich. This was sometimes funny, but complete fluff.
  • All Alone by Clare Huchet Bishop ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This was our read-aloud this week. Except for the overly didactic last chapter, it's a wonderful book. 
  • The Spying Heart by Katherine Paterson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I loved every one of the essays in this collection. This, and the book that precedes it, Gates of Excellence should be required reading for anyone who loves good children's books. 
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I won't pretend I understood this book, but I'm impressed by its many layers and I know there is much more to it than I got on this first reading. I'm planning to look up some articles and videos about it later this week. 

What I'm Currently Reading

  • Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell
    This book is really engaging, and I've been zipping right through it. I didn't feel like I got to know Kay Scarpetta very well in book one, but that is changing in book two. 
  • Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr (ARC)
    I have been wary of this book because of the comparisons to Pippi Longstocking, but so far Astrid seems far less annoying than Pippi. 
  • Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
    I borrowed this from Hoopla as my book for the letter U in the Alphabet Soup challenge. I read the first paragraph, and I think I'll be able to get through the book in a couple of days. 
  • Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay, audiobook read by Karyn O'Bryant
    I've been wanting to read this book for a while, but none of my local libraries have the ebook, so I settled on the audiobook. So far, so good.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny
    I'm still making my way through my re-read of this book with the read-along group on Instagram. I'm several days behind because I had a proofreading set to finish this weekend but I'll catch up today and tomorrow.
As usual, I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Friday, November 9, 2018

The RAHK Report: New Books Edition, Fall 2018

My older two girls and I have been really enjoying the review copies we've received from publishers these past couple of months. Today, I finally want to share our thoughts on 10 of the books we were fortunate enough to find in our mailbox. (The 11th book, Sing a Song of Seasons is a lengthy poetry collection, so that one will get its own separate post.)

When I was getting ready to write this up, I corralled Little Miss Muffet (who will turn 5 this month) and Little Bo Peep (who just turned 3) into our home office and asked them to read the books with me and give them a rating of either one star (defined in simple preschool terms as "bad"), two stars ("just okay"), or three stars ("great," a pronouncement to which the girls just naturally added a thumbs up.) It was interesting to see where their ratings matched or differed from each other, and also how they corresponded with my Goodreads ratings.

There were five books to which both girls gave perfect marks of 3 out of 3 stars, so I'll start with those.

Heads and Tails by John Canty (10/23/18, Candlewick Press)
A series of illustrations and textual clues invites preschoolers to guess the names of animals based on their tails. This book is very straightforward and Little Miss Muffet guessed all the animals correctly on her first reading. Little Bo Peep had a bit of a harder time, which leads me to think that her age group is probably the best audience for the book. There are a couple of strange instances where the illustrator throws in a red herring tail and requires the reader to turn the page twice to find out which animal he really intends. Even on a third reading, these moments still felt awkward, so although I really loved the artwork, I gave the book 3 out 5 stars.

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein (9/11/18, Candlewick Press)
My husband has instilled in my children a deep love for elephants, and I think this must be what drives them to ask for this book again and again. They don't know the fairy tales referenced in the book yet, and they have never had homework so the surprise humor of elephants must be the main draw. In any case, for me, this book fell really flat. (I gave it 2 stars out of 5.)  In a previous post, I mentioned that the story felt like it only had one joke, and it beat that joke to death. But I don't mind keeping it around for now, since the girls have latched onto it so heavily. I would like them to read the first book, though, because I do think it's the better of the two.

Ten Horse Farm by Robert Sabuda (4/10/18, Candlewick Press)
My kids are not especially big horse lovers, but they loved this book, and I did too. It is amazing the images that can be created simply using paper cut-outs, and we enjoyed every page, and especially the final spread where the reader needs to find all ten horses hidden around the pop-up barn. (For a sneak peek at the illustrations, check out the book trailer!) I'm also happy to say this book has held up really well to repeated handling. I don't let the baby around it because I know no pop-up book is durable enough to withstand a one-year-old, but allowing my older two to touch the book has not resulted in disaster so far! (My rating: 5 out of 5.)

Sleep, My Bunny by Rosemary Wells (11/13/18, Candlewick Press)
I have read this gentle rhyming bedtime story to all three girls, and while I think it is probably most appealing to the one-year-old, it has definitely made an impression on Miss Muffet and Bo Peep as well. They both love the endpapers, and Bo Peep mentioned that she likes how it shows the bunny doing all the same things in his daily routine that she does in hers. I was a little surprised to see them both give this book the highest rating, but they have been reading it together a lot so I guess I should have guessed. My rating for this book is 4 out of 5 stars.

There's A Dinosaur on the 13th Floor by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (10/2/18, Candlewick Press)
This silly story is about a musician who just wants to go sleep, but can't find a room at the Sharemore Hotel that isn't already occupied by an animal. As he and the  bellhop climb higher and higher in the building searching for a suitable bed, the animal residents get more and more ridiculous until finally he meets the occupant of the 13th floor, a dinosaur. This book has held up surprisingly well to multiple re-readings. Both girls have run hot and cold about it for a few weeks, but we are currently in a high-demand phase where there is a lot fighting for a turn with this book.

On the other five books, the girls disagreed, and occasionally so did I.

Oskar Can... by Britta Teckentrup (10/23/18, Prestel Junior)
Little Bo Peep, who was my intended audience when I requested this book, ended up disliking it immensely (1 star!). She did not seem to connect with Oskar at all, and when I said we were going to read this one, she actually wanted to leave the room! Her sisters, on the other hand, have both really taken to the book. Little Jumping Joan, the one-year-old read it with me a couple of times and she was thrilled by the pictures, pointing at everything in sight. Little Miss Muffet also loved it (3 stars!) and she has read it to her baby doll several times. She tells me that her baby doll, Robin, loves the cover, while Miss Muffet herself loves the pictures and all the things Oskar is able to do. I gave it two stars because I was expecting more of a story, but I could see pairing it with something like Titch for a story time.

Builders and Breakers by Steve Light (10/9/18, Candlewick Press)
This book has a simple text about construction and demolition and how builders and breakers work together to bring a set of blueprints to life. I really liked the artwork, and gave the book 4 out of 5 stars for its strong appeal to kids who love construction, all the details in the illustrations that are not mentioned in the text, and the interesting spin on a popular topic. Miss Muffet is a bit old at this stage for picture books with such minimal words, so she just gave it 2 stars, but Bo Peep found it completely engaging and gave it a big thumbs up (an enthusiastic 3 stars). I posted a review on Instagram as well, and was thrilled that Steve Light shared it!

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9/4/18, Candlewick Press)
I had reviewed this previously but I wanted to see what the girls had to say about it. I was expecting Miss Muffet to be the one who connected most with this one since the artwork and subject matter are both pretty abstract. But she only gave it 2 stars while Bo Peep, enamored of the colors in the illustrations, gave it 3. I think this is a book they will only appreciate more as they get older, so it will be staying on our shelves for years to come. 

Night Job by Karen Hesse, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (9/11/18, Candlewick Press)
I also reviewed Night Job previously, but again wanted to see what the girls thought. Bo Peep has been really interested in this one from the start (and she gave it 3 stars), but Miss Muffet went from refusing to hear it at all to an "okay" 2-star rating. Miss Muffet did react strongly to the ending, which is a lovely dream sequence, but I think Bo Peep liked it for the same reason I would have as a kid: it shows the inner workings of an everyday place during its off hours.

City by Ingela P. Arrhenius (9/18/18, Candlewick Studio)
This is my favorite book in this post. It's enormous, filled with beautifully colorful illustrations of all aspects of a city. It reminds me of all the Richard Scarry word books, but with huge pictures instead of little ones. Even the endpapers are reminiscent of that format, as they identify each object and person who appears in the text with the correct label. Miss Muffet was just not that interested in this book, and she started out with a 1-star rating, then later asked me to increase it to 2. She said her baby doll didn't like the "unsafe things like the subway" but only because "she will never get to go there." Bo Peep didn't have much to say about why she did like it, but I think part of the reason for her 3-star rating is that there are so few words, she can enjoy the book independently without any interference from her parents or sister.

Finally, I just have to mention one more book that Little Miss Muffet has absolutely adored: My First Wild Activity Book, published by Silver Dolphin Press. It came out in the spring, but she didn't really look at it much until the week of our move in August when she needed to be kept busy for long stretches of time while we dealt with logistics. The book is organized really well, with sections for each of seven different habitats, and there are a variety of activities for exploring the animals that live in each one. I finally found where she has been keeping the book the other day, and I was so pleased to see it was almost complete and that she had done such a thorough job. There are still some activities left to do that require grown-up help, so it seems like we'll even get a bit more out of it yet. Miss Muffet is really big on activity books, and this one has been a favorite.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reading Through History: The Motoring Millers by Alberta Wilson Constant (1969)

In the second of three books about the Miller family of Gloriosa, Kansas, sisters Lou Emma and Maddie have automobiles on their minds. First, there is an automobile race coming to their town and one of the drivers will be staying with the girls, their professor father, and their stepmother, Miss Kate. Afterward, when their father is invited to a conference in Colorado, where his idol will also be in attendance, the girls find themselves whisked away on a family road trip in the family car, the Great Smith. The drive is anything but uneventful, as a variety of difficulties  thwart their path and bring to light at least one unexpected surprise.

The biggest surprise of this book was that I actually got to read a copy! None of the books in this trilogy (which also includes Those Miller Girls! (1965) and Does Anybody Care About Lou Emma Miller? (1979)) is particularly easy to find, and this one seems to be the least commonly available. Nevertheless, my academic librarian husband was able to track down a copy via inter-library loan and though I had to read them out of order, I have now completed the series.

While interesting to me as a fan of the series, however, The Motoring Millers, may be the weakest of the three books, at least in terms of plot. The first part of the story, involving the car race, starts off very slowly and isn't all that engaging. It gives the author an opportunity to insert some girl power into the book (one of the drivers in the race is a woman) and there is some exposition about the growing pains in the new stepfamily, but most of the interesting stuff happens in the second half of the book, during the roadtrip. The descriptions of what it was like to drive a car any distance in the early 1900s are fascinating, as are the details of how Kansas and Colorado looked in those days. Road trips are also always a great way for characters to work out issues in their relationships with others, and this storyline goes a long way toward bringing harmony to the Miller family.

Overall, this series is a worthwhile read with wholesome values, believable family dynamics and many wonderful details about day-to-day life 100 years ago. Though this second book had to go back to the library, I hope I'll be able to get it again when my daughters are old enough to relate to the Miller girls!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Best Backlist Middle Grade and YA Books I Originally Discovered Through Netgalley and Edelweiss

Today's Top Ten Tuesday theme is supposed to be Backlist Books I Want to Read, but I'm giving it a little twist. These are backlist middle grade and YA books that I have read, which were published between 2011 and 2017, and which I first read via NetGalley or Edelweiss back when they were new. If you missed them on the frontlist, now's the time to make up for lost time, especially since a lot of these are really affordable on Kindle. (Note: My Goodreads shelves show that I have read 281 Netgalley titles and 190 Edelweiss titles. If they make this list, they are beating out a lot of other books!)



  • Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas (2014)
    Set during a shift at a grocery store on Christmas Eve, this YA novel follows Chloe, a type I diabetic, as she reports to work and attempts to fulfill the resolutions she has set for herself regarding her coworkers and her crush, Tyson. Though the cover doesn't make it clear enough, this is a great holiday read! Read my review.
  • Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb (2014)
    Flor loves her home on Moonpenny Island, but she goes through a tough time when both her best friend and her mom leave the island simultaneously, forcing her to seek new connections. Tricia Springstubb's writing is so beautiful; I'll read anything she publishes! Read my review. 
  • Murder is Bad Manners (2014)
    This series from the UK is among my very favorites. This book, in which Hazel Wong and her best friend, Daisy Wells, discover their first body and solve their first murder case, introduces the 1930s boarding school that the girls attend as well as the dramatic tension in Hazel and Daisy's friendship that drives the series as a whole. Adult cozy mystery lovers can enjoy this book as well as kids. Read my review. (Note: In the UK, the title of this book is Murder Most Unladylike.)
  • Mission Mumbai: A Novel of Sacred Cows, Snakes, and Stolen Toilets by Mahtab Narsimhan (2016)
    When Dylan accompanies Rohit to visit family in Mumbai, he is glad to have a reason to be away from his parents and to pursue his photography hobby, but worried that Rohit's relatives will make good on their promise to move him to India permanently. This is a great buddy adventure, and a highly underrated novel. Read my review.
  • The Courage Test by James Preller (2016)
    In this funny father/son wilderness adventure, Will and his historian dad take a trip to retrace the steps of Lewis and Clark and explore a deeper relationship with one another. Read my review.



  • Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo (2012)
    Originally published in Australia as Good Oil, this is another YA novel set in a grocery store. Fifteen-year-old Amelia enjoys working side-by-side with her older crush, Chris, who is 21. What she does not realize, however, is everything else Chris has going on in his life away from their job. This is possibly the best YA book I have read in the last ten years. Read my review. 
  • The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky (2013)
    This book was also originally published in Australia. It's the story of an afternoon in the 1960s on which a group of Sydney schoolgirls follow their teacher Miss Renshaw on a walk to a nearby garden and return to school unaccompanied later on, as Miss Renshaw has gone missing. With echoes of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, this is a beautifully written - and chilling - story. Read my review.
  • A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar (2013)
    Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Bijou Doucet moves to Brooklyn to live with her aunt and uncle. Alex Schrader, a boy at a school neighboring hers, takes an interest in Bijou but must carefully navigate the rules dictated by Bijou's family and culture about her spending time with a boy. Read my review.
  • Steering Toward Normal by Rebecca Petruck (2014)
    This agricultural-themed family story stars Diggy Lawson who spends a year raising a steer and coming to terms with the discovery that his father has another son he never knew about. Read my review.
  • Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach (2016)
    Geoff Herbach writes YA novels that are both funny and heartbreaking. This tale of an immature young man named Taco who suddenly finds himself on the verge of parenthood is a positive take on a topic that is often treated as a tragedy. There is something endearing about Taco's excitement for his unborn child to enter the world. Read my review.
Have you read any of these? Which other backlist MG and YA titles would you recommend? 

Monday, November 5, 2018

The RAHM Report for 11/5/18

What I Finished Reading

  • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I gave this book five stars for the content because I think the advice is good, but for such a short book, it sure repeated itself a lot! 
  • Butchers Hill by Laura Lippmann ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I alternated between the ebook and audiobook and read this one in just a few days. Now that the main character has established herself as a private investigator, the series is getting much more interesting.
  • Deadly News by Jody Holford ⭐⭐⭐
    This is a solid first book in a new cozy mystery series involving a sleuth who works for a small-town newspaper. It was enjoyable, and I'll be curious to see where things go in the next book. 
  • Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I was searching for a book title that started with Z when I came across this one. I really enjoyed reading about the thought processes behind Bradbury's works, and I want to read more now! 
  • McMummy by Betsy Byars ⭐⭐⭐
    This was a quick spookyish read for Halloween, and reading it helped me finally reach my goal of reading 15 Betsy Byars books for the year.
  • Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett ⭐⭐⭐
    This was our Halloween read-aloud. It was okay, but not spectacular. 
  • From the Queen by Carolyn Hart  ⭐⭐
    I needed a book title with a Q in it for the Alphabet Soup challenge. This cozy mystery novella was available from the library through Hoopla, so I just read through it quickly, but it wasn't very memorable. 

What I'm Currently Reading

  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
    I was looking for a book with a title that started with V when I remembered that I have never read this. I read a few pages just to whet my appetite, and I think I'm going to like it. 
  • Barking with the Big Dogs by Natalie Babbitt
    This is an ARC of a collection of essays about children's books by the late Natalie Babbitt. So far, her arguments feel a little obvious, but I'm not that far along in the book at all yet. 
  • Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs
    I'm getting back into this series again in the hopes of reducing my pile of unread paperbacks. So far, it's good but not great.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny
    I'm re-reading this for an Instagram read-along. It's even better the second time! 
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Autumn People by Ruth Arthur (1973)

Romilly Williams is the second person in her family tree with her name. The first, Romilly's great-grandmother, was known as Millie, and she vacationed on the island of Karasay just once as a young woman and never returned, owing to a strange and painful experience that cost her the love of her life and possibly a piece of her soul as well. The second Romilly has grown up hearing stories about Karasay from Millie's daughter, her Gran, who herself has always wondered about the reasons her mother never joined the family for their island vacations. When Gran and Romilly finally have the chance to visit Karasay, neither realizes the role Romilly will play in finally setting right the wrongs of Millie's past.

This novel is told in a very straightforward way, relating first Millie's point of view in the summer of 1901 and then Romilly's "present-day" (early 1970's) experiences. Though the storytelling is quite linear and ordinary, however, the events of the story are unusual and unsettling. What happens between Millie and a distant relative, Roger, incorporates elements of the supernatural, as does Romilly's journey of discovery toward what happened to Roger and how it affected her great-grandmother. Like When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson (1967)The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope (1958), and Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder (2014), this novel shows how the past impacts the future, but also how the future might reach back through time and remedy the past. 

Though The Autumn People is not a Halloween story per se, the title and the involvement of ghosts in some segments of the plot make it an appropriate read for getting into the spirit of the holiday. There is probably not enough actual haunting in this book to please true fans of ghost stories, but for readers like me, who typically don't like to be scared too much, this novel is plenty troubling at points even if it is pretty clear from the outset that there will be a happy resolution.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The RAHM Report for 10/29/18

What I Finished Reading

  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I enjoyed this YA mystery novel which alternates between past and present happenings at a boarding school for gifted students that was the site of a murder many years ago. I have mixed feelings about the ending, but it does set us up nicely for the forthcoming sequel. 
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I picked this up on a whim and could not believe how much I loved it. My review is on Goodreads.
  • The Good Friends by Margery Bianco ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This was my most recent read-aloud with my big girls. I'll say more about it when I make my next Read-at-Home Kids Report post.
  • The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Compared with the first book, this one really wasn't scary. I liked it, though. Lewis, the main character, is as endearing as ever.
  • The Heavenly Tenants by William Maxwell, illustrated by Ilonka Karasz  ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Somehow I had never heard of this 1947 Newbery Honor book until yesterday, but even though she story was weird, it was absolutely worth reading for the gorgeous illustrations! (The book is available free online - click to read.

  • Nighty-Nightmare by James Howe ⭐⭐⭐
    This was a quick and mostly enjoyable read. I'm probably done with this series for now because it gets old after a while, but reading this helped me finish the A to Z challenge! 
  • The X'ed-Out X-ray by Ron Roy ⭐⭐
    I got tired of hunting for an interesting book whose title started with X, and finally decided to just read this one. It was fine, but I could have lived without reading it too. 
  • The Traveling Bird by Robert Burch, illustrated by Susanne Suba ⭐⭐⭐
    This book has a really depressing ending, but I needed a book published in 1959 for the Family Tree challenge, and my kindergartner just read it, so I just picked it up and read it quickly too. It wasn't my favorite, but my daughter liked it. 
  • Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
     I intended to read one chapter of this book and ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. Katherine Paterson's writing just really resonates with me. 

What I'm Currently Reading


I'm hoping to do NaNoWriMo this next month along with a couple of buddy reads on Instagram, so I'm trying to wrap up my reading and start November with a completely clean slate. These are the books I hope to finish by the end of Wednesday: 

  • Butcher's Hill by Laura Lippman
    I'm listening to this third Tess Monaghan book on audio and reading the ebook in between listening sessions. I think it's the best one of the series so far.
  • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
    This is my Catholic book club's pick for November. It's really short, but takes a bit of concentration to follow. I'm enjoying it and highlighting a lot of quotes I think will be good to discuss.
  • Deadly News by Jody Holford
    I wanted to finish this ARC over the weekend, but didn't quite make it. It's a pretty run-of-the-mill and straightforward cozy mystery so far, but I'm enjoying getting to know some new characters.

I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?