Monday, March 12, 2018

The Other Side of the Bridge

About 6 months ago, my book club did The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright. The Orphan Keeper tells the fascinating story of a man who was abducted as a child in India and sold to a couple in Utah who believe they are adopting an orphan. Once the couple (who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like me and my book club friends) find out that the boy was not adopted, they make efforts to find his family, but all traces are lost in the scam, until years later. It's a true story that has been fictionalized for convenience, and I wished it was just the true story, but it made for a great book club discussion.

So, I was interested when I heard that author Camron Wright was coming out with The Other Side of the Bridge, a new, completely fictional story. I wanted to know if the book was any good, but I was still bound up with some Cybils work. So I asked Sarah, who chose and hosted our book club on The Orphan Keeper if she'd like to read it. And she said yes!

Sarah read the book, and I asked her lots of questions about it. We had a good discussion about The Other Side of the Bridge, and here's what we wrote together: 

I was really excited to read The Other Side of the Bridge but came away disappointed. The book follows the story of two seemingly unrelated characters. Katie is a young woman living in San Francisco, struggling with her father’s death and what she wants out of life, and writing a history of the Golden Gate bridge. Dave is a middle-aged man, living in New Jersey whose world turns upside down when his family is tragically killed. I felt like the book started off really well, but didn't finish strong.

My husband, Todd, decided to read it after I finished it and he really related to Dave, since they're the same age and each have a wife and three kids. But as the book went along, it became harder to relate to Dave. Todd thought that the whole book should have been about Dave's journey across the country. Instead, the trip was summarized and we didn't see into what Dave was thinking as he made this physical and emotional journey. As a result, the end felt rushed, and confusing.

As for me, I couldn't relate to either Katie or Dave very well. And the little bit of romance that happens in the book was so cheesy.

I liked that the eventual interaction between Dave and Katie was realistic though. Katie has been looking for Dave during her research, and though they meet once in person, when they later talk on the phone they don't realize that they've met before. That seemed true to life. 

I loved The Rent Collector; it really gave me a new perspective on how people in other countries live. I like stories about people thriving in adverse situations, and overcoming difficult circumstances. I loved The Orphan Keeper, too. Ultimately, I felt like The Other Side of the Bridge had all the ingredients to be breathtaking, but it in the end it was just “meh”. I felt like the book was reaching for something, but it didn't go deep enough. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Birthday Presents for a Five Year Old

How is it that I have had two five-year-old boys, but when my daughter (who is about to turn five) is invited to a friend's birthday party, I can't think of what gift we should bring?

Last night I looked back in my journal at what the boys got for their fifth birthdays - Benjamin got an Iron Man mask and disc shooter, which helped me remember that literally anything character branded is a big hit at this age. I don't think Benjamin knew a thing about Iron Man at the time, but man, he loved that gift.

Benjamin at 5: Whatever it is, I'm into it!
When Levi was five he got a gift card to the craft store (I wish I could remember what he ended up buying with it!) and a very silly book: Mameshiba. We knew that we'd end up reading this book to him, because he wasn't reading independently at the time, but we liked the Mameshiba books, too. They make our whole family laugh.

What Jubilee gets for her fifth birthday remains to be seen, but I confess that when I was offered PAW Patrol: Rescue Time I jumped at the chance to try it out. This is the kind of book I would usually let my children linger over at the book fair, but not purchase. What better way to be the coolest mom ever than to whip out a new book that comes with it's own mini-projector on a regular night?

And the book went over very well with her. When I asked her what she liked about it she said, "pretty much everything." The book has two stories, typical Paw Patrol episode adaptations from my perspective. It comes with a mini projector that is set up as a wristwatch for the child to wear. This watch/projector is the most exciting thing for a kid, but I think it would've been better without the wristband. It takes some doing to hold your arm steady, focus the projector, advance the slide, etc. We had fun with it though, and she's been playing with it since. I did like how having the projector added more pictures to the story.

Levi at 5: The everyday hero
When we went to pick out a gift for her friend today, we kept it to things that could be used up: Play-doh, a notepad, some puffy stickers to decorate it with, and a little treat.

So, here are the sorts of things I recommend giving to a five-year-old:
  • books (of course!)
  • dress-ups (we've had fun with chefs, superheroes, princesses, ninjas, and more)
  • art/craft supplies (something just a little out of the ordinary, like these Slick Stix)
  • treats (a whole package of cookies is, like, AMAZING to them)
  • experiences (playdates and outings and themed days)
  • money (this turns into an experience gift, because they love going to pick something out)
What gifts have you found go over well with this age? I'd love to hear what you think I should get for Jubilee next month!

Monday, February 26, 2018

My Cousin Wrote a Book!

Hey, look! My cousin wrote a book!

Baker's Dozen by Amey Ziegler is billed as a "cozy romantic suspense." I admit I had no idea what that meant. So here's what I found out.

Baker's Dozen is about Andy Baker, a small-town reporter. She often works undercover and exposes bad guys, but this time she gets pulled into a bigger case and who happens to be involved? Our handsome love interest, Hugh, of course!

According to Cozy Romance v. Romance Romance, "Cozies often revolve around themes or small towns or both." This one definitely revolves around a theme and a town, and the suspense and mystery, just as much as the romance. So I guess that's what makes it "cozy"!

I had fun reading Baker's Dozen, even though I don't typically read romances, because I could see my cousin and her family in it. As I was reading I would think "Oh, that is SO Amey." And when we came into Andy Baker's costume room -- one of the most fun scenes in the book -- I thought of Amey's older sister Merilee. When the descriptions of guns came up I thought of Uncle Milo, and there were some great desert survival tips that probably come from Amey's time living in Arizona.

But you probably don't know my cousins! Will you like the book anyway?

The book doesn't have a lot of bad language (I can't remember any at the moment) or detailed descriptions of intimate relations. It does have some vivid violence, though. And here's something I found distracting -- the copy editing in the book needed help. Authors have no control over that, it's all up to the publishing house, and in my opinion they let too many typos slip in.
I'd say if you like romances, you'll like it. My book club has done a couple of romances, namely Garden Spells and The Magic of Ordinary Days. If you liked those, Baker's Dozen is along the same lines, but with more of an action movie feel. (That's the suspense coming in.)

If you mixed Miss Congeniality humor with Bourne Identity suspense, you'd have Baker's Dozen by Amey Ziegler.

Monday, February 19, 2018

My favorite mascara

Only because my sister, Clare, asked me to find her the link.

It is Clinique Lash Power Mascara Long-Wearing Formula Black Onyx for Women, 0.21 Ounce

This mascara is magically amazing. I heard about it from Mara (her blog is also not a makeup blog) but I can't find her original post about it.

It doesn't smudge, it doesn't flake. The application brush isn't gigantic or tiny. It doesn't make your eyelashes look like something they're not. It just paints them black. It's juuuuust right. (I'm starting to feel like Goldilocks, here).

My favorite thing about it is that it comes off with warm water. All the way off. No other removal product needed, truly.

My least favorite thing about it is the price. I usually get it at the Macy's makeup counter and it's like $18. (My penny pinching heart is squeezed just typing that). You know what though? I was going to go pick some up the other day, but I stopped at Target for something else. Here is my internal conversation:
"Oh man! This other mascara is SO much cheaper!
"But I know it won't come off as well...
"But I could buy this mascara and the recommended remover for half the price of the good stuff!"

*4 or 5 minutes of internal debate
*Bought the inferior mascara
*Went home and put it on
*Regretted it immediately.
*Regretted it when I took it off that night
*Didn't wear mascara for like 2+ weeks (except to church) because I was so filled with regret and annoyance.
*Still regretting it, but have accepted the fact that I won't convince my penny-pinching heart to buy mascara again until I use what I have.

Never again.

So, here's the link for you Clare! And anybody else who needs the best mascara link. Including me. Though it looks like my local mall is my cheapest option.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Love: The Dinosaur—Book Review by Caleb (age 14)

Do you have a personal dinosaur expert in your life?

I do. If there is anyone I would call in a dinosaur-fact emergency, it's Caleb.

When I got the latest book in the award-winning Love series by Frederic Brremaud and‎ Federico Bertolucci, I knew I had to pass it to him and get his thoughts. This series focuses on animals in the wild and each one takes the reader on a wordless journey through that animal's eyes. Kind of like a nature documentary, without the cheesy voice-over. Kind of like "a day in the life" but not necessarily just one day. The series so far has four volumes: Tiger, Fox, Lion and now Dinosaur.

Each book starts with a quote, I'll share part of it here. "In the animal kingdom, animals neither love nor hate each other."

Here's what Caleb had to say about Love Volume 4: The Dinosaur

So I’m going to just go through what I think the book did right, and the things that I think the book did wrong, followed just by my personal opinion. It was a great read, and I love graphic novels, so it was awesome, thanks for loaning it to me!


The art style works great for what the book wants to be. From my understanding the book follows the viewpoints of three characters, a Bambiraptor, A Tyrannosaurus Rex, and an Isisaurus. Only one of these, the T-Rex is a very common dinosaur, which is really cool. The art style is very vibrant, and makes the change when the first shards of meteors and debris start falling even more drastic. The story told is also amazing. The dinosaurs in the beginning which seem to bully the Bambiraptor, seem to me to actually just be other members of it’s species. They just seem to be more mature, exemplified by the colors. This is why the Bambiraptor follows around the other two dinosaurs. Because he doesn’t have the protection of a packs, so he finds protection in other ways. Many of the other dinosaurs, flying reptiles, and marine reptiles are also realistic. I also love the fight scenes. The classic T-Rex versus Triceratops, and Rex versus sauropod. It also easily captures the dog-eat-dog and "strongest survive" atmosphere normally used when talking about nature and apex predators.


While the dinosaurs and marine reptiles are almost entirely perfect based on modern reconstructions, some of them are not. The plesiosaurs (long necked underwater reptiles with long flippers and compact bodies), are portrayed in an evil and scary light. However the fish they are chasing (Xiphactinus, 15 feet) would most likely hunt THEM. But they do only show up in one panel, so this Is not a huge deal. A bigger deal is a part which is designed to show the arrogance of the T-Rex right before the huge show of power as meteors begin to crash into the earth, A dinosaur which looks like a bird with teeth, a long neck, and bat wings is struck by lightning. To my understanding this is an Archaeopteryx, an early bird once believed to be the missing link between between birds and dinosaurs. Just the fact that it has bat wings makes It COMPLETELY unrealistic. However this is also for a short part, and isn’t too important.

Overall, I really like this story! It seems to get it’s point across pretty well. The pictures at the back are really cool, it’s an awesome idea. This seems really cool, and I love the realism of the world that Frederic and Federico painted.

Thanks, Caleb! I'm glad to hear the book meets with your approval.


I have a copy of Love Volume 4: The Dinosaur to send to a lucky dinosaur lover. Enter to win before Feb 26, 2018.

Do you know of any other great dinosaur books for the older reader? I'd love to hear about them! Please comment, below or on the entry form. My personal favorite is Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bookroo Unboxing, Update and Coupon

Hi guys!

Recently Jane Tanner over at Bookroo reached out to me and said they had loved working with me and would I like to review another Bookroo box for them?

Yes! I would! I loved working with Bookroo, too.

I asked which kind of box they'd be sending, because now they send three kinds and I have kids that would be interested in all of them:

1. Board Book Box (3 per month)
2. Picture Book Box (2 per month)
3. Junior Box (2 chapter books every two months, still in beta testing)

They sent picture books! Woohoo! Right answer! (There really wasn't a wrong answer.)

So, when I got my Bookroo box this time I did something SUPER FANCY and turned on my phone camera for an unboxing! Hahaha. Oh, you guys. I do have aspirations to actually be super fancy, but right now we're just workin' with what we've got.

Here's the video:

We had fun making this video, and we've had fun with the books, since then. The books they sent were Rock-a-Bye Room by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Amy Bates, and Land Shark by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Ben Mantle.

Land Shark is about a boy who wants a pet shark for his birthday. It really got all of us laughing, ages 4, 7, 9 and adult. And Rock-a-Bye Room is a super sweet bedtime poem. The illustrations are beautiful and imaginative, and I've enjoyed reading it many times to Jubilee at night. After I started my Creativebug class, I noticed all the gingham that was painted in this book and I was like, "Wow. I respect that so much more now."

But. I feel like a book subscription box has to be about MORE than just sending me good books. I have to be getting good books at a good price.

So. It's time to find out if this Bookroo box passes the "cheaper than Amazon" test. (I'm hopeful, because the last one I checked did.)

Here's the link to Rock-a-Bye Room on Amazon. At the moment, it costs $16.88 in hardcover.

Here's the link to Land Shark. At the moment, it costs 11.48 in hardcover.

Add it together and this box would cost $28.36 + shipping from Amazon.
From Bookroo, you'd get it for $17.99 + shipping. And the price only gets cheaper if you subscribe for multiple months! And it comes with the cutest gift wrapping and awesome extension ideas.

Gah! No wonder Bookroo loves working with me! I get started talking about them and I gush! There's more:

I recently went through all of our books and got rid of ... probably 100 or 150 of them? I don't know you guys. Two diaper boxes full, plus a big reusable grocery bag, ok? I just was running out of room on my walls and walls of bookshelves. And these were good books, so I donated them to our local book bank (which gives them to kids for free). Did I donate either of these two? No. Did I donate either of the last two? No! These guys pick gooood books! "hidden gems" is how they advertise it, and they're right. 

Ok, I've got to stop talking about Bookroo now. The baby needs a dry diaper for the third time during the writing of this post.


Oh shoot I almost forgot to give you the coupon code! Ok here it is for 15% off. code:BOOKS2LOVE

Have a lovely day! And if you know anyone who edits videos in exchange for books, let me know. ;-)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Creativebug class


So I'm taking a class over at Creativebug, and I've been posting some of my work on my instagram. My friend Erin just saw my work and was like "hey, send me the link on that class!" So this one's for you, Erin.

I'm taking Daily Painting Challenge: 31 Patterns to Paint taught by Lisa Congdon.

Here's the day we painted a scallop pattern.
Two years ago I took the daily drawing challenge with her.

This was the day we drew spice jars.

And I've taken a bunch of other cool classes on Creativebug, too. I've watched classes on how to make my own envelopes, how to make gem paperweights, how to use resist with watercolor, basic watercoloring and sketchbook and crochet classes, a class on creating color palettes (one of my favorites!) and a class on screen printing (which made me realize I do not actually want to do screen printing). Jubilee and I watched the daily class last month about gift wrapping and had a great time. Those four minutes in the morning kept her interest while I styled her hair and gave us both good ideas for Christmas wrapping.

These are meant to be gift toppers, but I couldn't resist making a forest scene out of them.

Creativebug is kind of like the Netflix of arts and crafts tutorials...but better. Here are my 3 reasons:

1. At $5/month it's cheaper than Netflix.

2. You get to keep some of the videos. Each month you subscribe you get to save one class in your library. You then still have access to that class if you ever stop subscribing to Creativebug.

3. You're gaining practical knowledge. Though I suppose Once Upon A Time gave me the practical knowledge that I would need in order to use a magic tree to get to Storybrook.

So I've been an off-and-on subscriber for a couple of years. I became an affiliate for them a while back, too, so if you subscribe through one of my links I'll get credit for it.

They're always running some kind of promotion or sale for signing up. Right now it's one month free and a free 30% off coupon at JoAnn's.

If you end up taking classes, I would LOVE to hear about it. And if someone made me one of the gorgeous quilts they teach, I would die of the love.

Here are a couple other blog posts I've written about Creativebug.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Cybils shortlists are announced!

Here's all the categories!

Here are the finalists for Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Here are the finalists for Young Adult Graphic Novels

I'm totally patting myself on the back. This was my first year as the category chair for Graphic Novels, and though it was dicey at times, I think I did everything I was supposed to do! Even though my baby was born on the morning that I was supposed to confirm my judges! Haha.

I ended up needing to be a judge on Round 1, so that there would be an odd number of judges, to prevent ties in voting. I was worried about whether or not I'd be able to read enough nominees, but I read a respectable 72 of the 153 nominated titles.

Can I just say that again? I read 72 books in the last 3 months, which were also the first 3 months of my son's life! Oh yeah, oh yeah!

AND I love the lists my panel agreed on this year. All the books that made the cut are top-notch. Check them out!

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