Time to Preorder: 22 Books to Look Forward to in October 2020

Do I have a big list for you today!?! I love to know what’s coming down the pike to read for next month so I’ve created a HUGE list of choices just for you.

22 Books to Love in October 2020

Including Middle Grade, YA, fiction, non-fiction, novellas and essays and a wide variety of authors…this is a list you don’t want to miss. Click on over to Bookshop.org and preorder one or more of these great titles, then head to your library website to reserve the rest! This list will keep you in fantastic reading choices for quite some time and there’s something for everyone!

11 Books I Read and Loved in 2019!

2019 was a great reading year for me and I can’t overlook the opportunity to introduce you to all the great books I read.

Books I Read and Loved in 2019

They span the gamut from sweet Middle Grade novels to gritty, Southern adult fiction but every book I mention here was fantastic and memorable! There were so many great reas that I couldn’t even keep the list to ten! What kind of reading year did you have in 2019? Tell me more…

The Books I Can’t Wait to Read in August/September 2020!

So many great books come out with ‘Back to School’ and there are a ton that I’ve been waiting to read. Today, I thought I’d share that list with you so that you can order them or reserve them at your local library!

August and September 2020 Books That I’m Excited About

I’ve started 3 of these and the remainder are at the top of my TBR pile. Let me know if you’ve already acquired/started/finished any of them and what you thought! I’ll keep you posted on my opinions as I complete them!

My Favorite Books of 2020 So Far!

Here’s my list of the best books I’ve read in 2020 to date.

There are some really great reads here and I can’t wait to hear what you thought of them. What else have you read this year that I should take on to round out my year? Literary fiction, memoir, essays, middle grade, and women’s fiction are all represented on my list…what genres have you explored this year? Let me know in the comments!

What to Read with Your Middle Grade Reader!

I’ve created my first list on Bookshop.org and I’m so excited to share it with you today! Head over to What to Read With Your Middle Grade Reader to check out a list of books that I read with my 12-year-old son that we really enjoyed!

You know I’m famous for loving Middle Grade fiction and for regularly reading with my newly minted middle schooler! You won’t want to miss this list of titles (appropriate for boys and girls!) that brought joy to both of us!

As I mentioned previously, I am an affiliate for Bookshop.org so, if you decide to purchase any of these books from my list, I do get a small commission. Don’t forget…your local independent bookstore gets a cut too!

I can’t wait to hear what you think about these lists and my ability to make great recommendations with book discounts, fabulous cover photos and book info right at the link! Enjoy the books and let me know how you feel about these and what else you’ve been reading in this category!

Bookshop.org – A Way to Support Local Bookstores While Finding the Books You Will Love!

So many of you have been asking me what I’ve been reading and/or what I recommend that I thought it would be a great idea for me to start putting together some lists of great books! To that end, I’ve partnered with Bookshop.org to compile those lists and bring them straight to you. The great thing about Bookshop.org is that it’s mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. While you can still find and purchase books online and buy them at a discount, Bookshop.org saves a percentage of those sales and divvies it up between its affiliated bookstores each year! To date, Bookshop.org has raised over $6.5 million dollars for local bookstores.

For you, it’s just as easy as shopping at that BIG website that you are currently using for books but you get the gift of supporting indy bookstores overall or giving your business to a specific indy bookstore! I’ll be creating lists of books you should check out…all you have to do is click on the book that interests you within that list! Prices are competitive and shipping is completed through Ingram.

Bookshop.org offers hardback, paperback, large print, e-book and audiobook versions of most titles…so you can get the book you want in the format that works best for you! E-books are delivered through partnership with Hummingbird but their interface is easy to access and use on your mobile device!

Full disclosure, I’m an affiliate for Bookshop.org, so I get a small commission anytime you buy a book from one of my links too. But I wouldn’t support a platform like this if I didn’t really believe it and enjoy it! I love being able to find the books I want while knowing that I’m keeping my local independent bookstore alive and thriving!

Check out the lists I’ll be putting together in the very near future to find GREAT books that I’ve loved. Give Bookshop.org a try and see how supporting local really feels!

Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley – An Upper Grade Read-Along for Worthington Hills Elementary

Recently, it was brought to my attention that many of the publishers have changed their ‘read-along’ rules to allow educators to read aloud online from their books during ‘shelter in place’ as long as the videos are posted as unlisted on YouTube. My son’s school has been doing an amazing job providing lots of content (morning announcements, read-alongs, creativity challenges) presented by staff and students for the school population to watch while they can’t be in school. Most of the read-alongs have been picture books for younger kids so I decided to contribute by embarking on a read-along of a chapter book for older students. Spencer and I are currently reading Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley and loving it so I decided to head back to the beginning and record a one chapter read-along every day to share with the school. Our school principal is posting my read-alongs to the school’s Facebook page every day at 2 pm but I’ve heard that some folks are having trouble finding the ‘episodes’ in order. For that reason, I decided to create a page here, on my blog, where you can see all of the episodes, chronologically, as they are published! If you or your children are interested in hearing Tumble and Blue (and really…it’s a GREAT read!) please start with Chapter 1 below and join us! I’ll try to keep this page updated daily with the new links!

April 9th, 2020: Introduction

April 10th, 2020: Chapter 1 – Blue

April 11th, 2020: Chapter 2 – More Trouble

April 12th, 2020: Chapter 3 – Ma Myrtle

April 13th, 2020: Chapter 4 – Welcome to the Attic

April 14th, 2020 Chapter 5 – Boxes

April 15th, 2020 Chapter 6 – Tumble

April 16th, 2020 Chapter 7 – How to Hero Every Day

April 17th, 2020 Chapter 8 – Twelve X’s

April 18th, 2020 Chapter 9 – Starter Names

April 20th, 2020 Chapter 10 – Normal People

April 21st, 2020 Chapter 11 – Friends in High Places

April 22nd, 2020 Chapter 12 – A Heroic Plan of Action

April 23rd, 2020 Chapter 13 – A Wink and a Nod

April 24th, 2020 Chapter 14 – A Tarnished Cent

April 25th, 2020 Chapter 15 – Reckless

April 26th, 2020 Chapter 16 – The Race

April 27th, 2020 Chapter 17 – Beast

April 28th, 2020 Chapter 18 – The RV King

April 29th, 2020 Chapter 19 – The Flats

April 30th, 2020 Chapter 20 – The Other Half

May 1st, 2020 Interlude and Chapter 21 – Fate Free

May 2nd, 2020 Chapter 22 – Opposites

May 3rd, 2020 Chapter 23 – Flat as a Flitter

May 4th, 2020 Chapter 24 – The Grand Revue

May 5th, 2020 Chapter 25 – Waiting

May 6th, 2020 Chapter 26 – A Knack for Trouble

May 7th, 2020 Chapter 27 – Munchgomery

May 8th, 2020 Chapter 28 – The Only Difference

May 10th, 2020 Chapter 29 – Just One Gerbil at at Time

May 11th, 2020 Chapter 30 – The Stapler

May 12th, 2020 Chapter 31 – The Ultimatum

May 13th, 2020 Chapter 32 – No Place for Winners

May 14th, 2020 Chapter 33 – The Damsel

May 15th, 2020 Chapter 34 – Gardening

May 16th, 2020 Chapter 35 – A Real Hero

May 17th, 2020 Chapter 36 – Trying is the Trick

May 18th, 2020 Chapter 37 – Starlets

May 21st, 2020 Chapter 38 – Maximal Star

May 22nd, 2020 Chapter 29 – Happy Ending

May 23rd, 2020 Interlude and Chapter 40 – Impossible Moon

May 24th, 2020 Chapter 41 – Thieves

May 25th, 2020 Chapter 42 – Splash

May 26th, 2020 Chapter 43 – Survival Priorities

May 27th, 2020 Chapter 44 – Upside Down

May 28th, 2020 Chapter 45 – Underwater

May 29th, 2020 Chapter 46 – Meeting

June 14th, 2020 Chapter 47 – Munch

June 15th, 2020 Interlude and Chapter 48 – Choice

June 16th, 2020 Postscript 1

June 17th, 2020 Postscript 2

To get your copy of Tumble and Blue so you can read along, please click below:

Book Review: Don’t Overthink It! (And my weekend adventure to Louisville, KY as a launch team member!)

It’s been quite awhile since I fired up the old blog but it’s been on my mind lately and the release of Anne Bogel’s newest book, Don’t Overthink It, seems like just the push I needed! I’m still reading as much as I ever have and we still, of course, deal with PANDAS in our life regularly.  But, starting this past July, I began teaching English to Chinese students online through VIPKid and (while I love it) it’s consumed a huge chunk of my blog-writing time!  I’ll be sure to do a post soon about online English teaching but, for now, I’d like to begin reinvigorating the blog with a post about what I’ve been reading and doing most recently!

As many of you know, I’ve been a Modern Mrs. Darcy/What Should I Read Next/Anne Bogel fan for years!  I love Anne’s blog, her previous books and her podcast!  In fact, you might remember, I was given the privilege of being a guest on her podcast in November, 2017 where we talked about Middle Grade titles and she recommended books for my son and I to read together!  Time has done nothing to dull my enthusiasm for Anne’s work so, when given the opportunity to participate in the launch team for her newest book, I jumped at the chance!

What’s a launch team, you ask? Well…it’s a group of people who get early access to a book in exchange for reading it and promoting it among their social circles (IRL or online!) We were provided with an early digital copy of the book to read and, if we also pre-ordered the book (a big metric for authors who are trying to get their books printed and available in as many locations as possible!) we were able to access the companion course and audiobook version for free as well. Finally, as a last minute surprise, we were all invited to come to Anne’s home this past weekend for a nominal fee to celebrate the book launch with her! As someone who loves to read, and would definitely have read and promoted the book anyway, I thought it was all great fun!

I have to be honest though…I went into reading the book with a strong bias toward it ‘not being for me.’ I’m a very decisive (some say spontaneous…others say reckless!) person and I considered ‘overthinking’ to be the curse of the ambivalent and equivocal. I was really only reading the book because Anne wrote it!

Well…let me just say: I was wrong. No, I’m not secretly a waffler but I definitely had a very limited impression of what overthinking encompasses and the impact that it can have on my productivity, peace of mind and joy! I don’t want to give away the good stuff…because the book is definitely worth reading for yourself…but let it suffice to say that Anne’s book made me aware of how much control the auto-loop that constantly runs in the back of my mind has on my day-to-day serenity! And my perfectionism…it’s just overthinking in disguise! Bonus points…the book provided great insight into both topics (and more) and helped me better understand the changes I can make to improve my thoughts and my quality of life.

Anne is a very kind, thoughtful and well-spoken woman and her book comes off in very much the same way. Apparently, she is what’s known in the publishing industry as a ‘relatable expert’ and that makes a lot of sense to me. When reading Don’t Overthink It, I felt like I was talking to a friend who has struggled with her own thoughts and was sharing with me what worked for her. I didn’t have to wade through a lot of brain science and big words to be able to identify myself in many of Anne’s stories. And, I didn’t feel like I was reading a college textbook when I learned about what worked for Anne in addressing the issue!

The book is broken down into three sections: Section 1 focuses on laying the foundation for success while Section 2 highlights how to stop the negative patterns that are causing you trouble. Section 3 wraps up by discussing the positive habits that you can employ to use your thoughts to your greatest advantage. Each section contains great anecdotes that helped me relate the topics to my own experience as well as solid advice. Each chapter is followed by a short list of questions that helped me figure out how to best take action on the advice that that chapter provided.

Don’t Overthink It is an easy read that packs a major punch. I found myself highlighting, underlining and writing questions in the margins of the book. Having finished it a couple of weeks back, it’s one of those books that I’ve thought about regularly since reading the last page.

That being said, I can’t complete a post about Don’t Overthink It without also talking about my trip to Louisville this weekend. 3.5 hours from my house, I drove down Saturday afternoon and spent a couple of nights in a local AirBnB in order to be available to visit with Anne and her like-minded readers on Sunday.

I’ve always relished my alone time and loved to travel so two nights away from home to just read, knit and visit with folks like me was a dream come true. Saturday, I visited Anne’s local independent bookstore, Carmichael’s, took myself out for dinner and generally just relaxed and enjoyed some peace and quiet! Sunday, I headed out for brunch, took a nap, did some reading and knitting and then headed to Anne’s home.

While there, I met some wonderful women who, like me, love reading and really admire Anne’s work! We ate, chatted, listened to Anne give us some insight into the book’s history and process and took tons of selfies and pictures in Anne’s amazing home library!

The book is great…so helpful! Anne is wonderful and her readers are an incredible group of women that I am lucky to have met. The launch team experience is something I would do again in a heartbeat! And, my trip was relaxing and fortifying in all the right ways! It was just the right adventure for practicing the art of Not Overthinking It!

To get your copy of Anne Bogel’s latest book, Don’t Overthink It, click below:

Join us TONIGHT at 8pm EDT! Mama Panda’s Virtual Book Club to discuss All Of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil!

Use the Google Calendar link below to sign up for the discussion and add it to your calendar! We will meet via Google Hangouts.

We will have special input from Michelle Ruiz Keil, the author! Meeting shoud last about 1 hour!

Click here to register: Registration

To enter the Hangout when the meeting begins, please click on the Google calendar entry on your calendar and then click ‘Join Hangouts.’

Can’t wait to see you there!

Two Book Reviews! The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – 4.5 stars!

Let me start off by saying that my experience has been that it’s fairly rare to find a book and its sequel that are equally well written and compelling. However, I’m happy to say that The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley are solid exceptions to the rule!

This is another set of books that my 11 year-old son and I read together…though he was 9 when we started. We finished Saved My Life in 2017 before the sequel was released and then got caught up in all the other books we wanted to read and didn’t get to Finally Won until earlier this year (although it was published in late 2017.) I was interested to see that the two books have almost exactly the same star rating (about 4.5) on Goodreads as that is pretty much exactly how we found them: both very good and worthy of an equally high rating!

Both books revolve around the life of Ada and her brother Jamie. Ada is definitely the protagonist and when we are first introduced to her we find her suffering the effects of a clubfoot and being mistreated and locked in a one-room flat (and sometimes even locked in the cupboard in that flat) by her mother. Ada’s only view of the world is what she can see from the her one window to the street…she has never been outside and has no friends or companions aside from her brother. She is repeatedly beaten, told that she is dumb and made to feel that she is defective due to her disability.

As circumstances would have it, when bombing begins in London, she and Jamie have the opportunity to be sent to the English countryside as evacuees. Under some duress, Ada’s mother allows them both to go and, although Ada struggles to make the trip, she succeeds in doing so and is taken in by a local woman named Susan Smith.

Susan has recently dealt with some tragedy in her own life and is living alone in a big house with plenty of room and resources for the children. While her recent loss and the ensuing depression make Susan reticent to take in the children, she does so at the encouragement of the local Woment’s Volunteer Association. Although Ada is deeply scarred by her life experiences to date and makes it difficult to get close to her, Susan comes to love Ada and Jamie and begins to teach them what a ‘normal’ life could look like for them. While the events of the war seem to have improved Ada’s lot in life considerably (getting her away from her mother and allowing her to experience Susan’s care and the world around her) it seems inevitable that, as the war progresses, she will be forced to return to the circumstances from whence she came. Having witnessed Ada’s development as she tastes some love and freedom, it’s hard for the reader to imagine how she might cope with returning to her flat and her mother’s mistreatment.

I won’t spoil the events leading up to the books outcome for you, but suffice it to say that, somehow, Ada and Jamie are permitted to remain with Susan. As the book’s title implies, while World War II rages around them in England and takes countless lives from amongst the English and others, it is that same war that ultimately saves Ada’s life and frees her from her mother’s control.

This story is a delight to read: the characters that Brubaker Bradley draws in Saved My Life are rich and nuanced. She clearly depicts Ada as the survivor of abuse and allows the reader to see the damage that such treatment has caused to Ada’s psyche and confidence. Her gentle treatment of Ada’s (and Susan’s) struggles with PTSD and depression are admirable and touching…you can watch compassionately as both women struggle to overcome battles in their own minds.

There are other minor story threads that flow through the book as well. We are introduced to the wealthy neighbors, Lord and Lady Thornton and their children Maggie and Johnathan and get to experience how the war impacted those of greater means. There’s also the story of how Susan came to be living alone in her big house with no family…it’s a nuanced topic that some young readers may not pick up on but, I must admit, to my surprise, my 9 year old son ‘got it’ immediately. I was impressed with Brubaker Bradley’s willingness to take on a topic that would have been incredibly controversial at the time (still is, in some ways) and weave it into the story in a sensitive and natural way.

Ok…if you’ve only read Saved My Life and don’t want to know anything about Finally Won before you pick it up…stop reading now! You can get your copy knowing that it’s just as satisfying a read as Saved My Life and come back here to read my thoughts when you’ve finished!

So my thoughts on the second book: equally rich, equally compelling. The War I Finally Won takes up Ada’s story from the time when she came to live permanently with Susan. Ada, Susan and Jamie have changed residences (for reasons that will become apparent when you read Saved My Life) and are now living with Lady Thornton (and Maggie when she is home from boarding school.) Susan has paid for foot surgery for Ada and the family is dealing with the war that is raging on their doorstep. Food rations, potato picking, fire watches and the like are all part of their daily lives as they try to survive in a world that is being torn apart by World War II.

Three major developments take place in this book: 1) A young German refugee named Ruth comes to live with Ada, Susan, Jamie and Lady Thornton, 2) A tragedy befalls the family as part of the war and 3) Susan becomes very ill and requires hospitalization. Throughout the book, the reader sees these three events folded together to bring the book to its eventual close…how they deal with Ruth, face their tragedy and learn about the depth of their love for one another in the face of Susan’s illness are the major themes that frame the second book overall.

Readers get to spend more time with Lady Thornton and her family members in this sequel and will get to know Ruth (and see the impact of the war on Germans who did not follow Hitler.) We also learn about suffering and strength and what it can do to people’s characters. Finally, we get to see Ada come to terms with her history and understand that she is lovable and that her mother’s assertions about her defectiveness were nothing more than the ravings of a women who was inherently ‘broken’ herself.

Jamie continues to provide comic relief in this second book and Ada continues to establish herself as a fighter…she faces adversity and her own fear with courage and aplomb. Perhaps most heartwarming within this second book is Susan’s story: we finally learn more about her past and come to understand her depression, her strength and her willingness and ability to love Ada and Jamie through their struggles. The combination of Ada’s and Susan’s characters, is, to my mind, one of the best pairings I have encountered in a book in a long time. They will tear at your heartstrings, have you in tears and leave you with warm laughter.

I can’t recommend these two books enough…they read like older books of the same style (think Anne of Green Gables or Little Women) but are somewhat more modern and forward thinking. There’s lots to learn about World War II and the state of affairs of that time in Europe but neither book reads as ‘educational’ (a curse to the 11 year old, I assure you!) There’s a lot to uncover in each book and I’m sure you could read each one repeatedly and find new and different topics to consider and discuss. Brubaker Bradley does an amazing job drawing this ‘family’ together and making the reader truly care about what happens as they build their story together! Read them in order, for sure…but definitely take the opportunity to read them. You won’t regret it!

To get your copy of either book, please click the links below: