Book Review: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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my book thoughts

It has been awhile since I’ve read a Middle Grade/Children’s book.  I was drawn to this book because of the synopsis, which you can read by clicking on the book cover.  The book is told through the point of view of Naomi (who is called by her nickname “Chirp).  Chirp is obsessed with birds and loves reading about them, studying them, and locating them by her house.

Chirp is the typical 11 year old girl, who develops a friendship with one of the boys down her street, which she handles delicately because he is known as the school bully.  Her mom, a beautiful dancer, that she strives to please is diagnosed with a disease that in the 70’s wasn’t as treatable as it is today.  Chirp, her sister (the rebellious teenager), and her father (the psychiatrist).

At first, I didn’t feel the book had enough detail about the mom’s emotional and physical issues and how it truly impacted the marriage and parent/child relationship.  Why? Well, because I am so used to reading YA and Women’s fiction.  Then, I remembered this is for young children, middle school readers, and even high schoolers.  Although, I have a feeling anyone will love this book because Esther truly captures the youthful spirit and hopes/desires of a young little girl, who shows us how she makes sense of what is happening to her family.  Chirp is so innocent, so precious, that you just want to hold her and never let her go.

Young readers will relate to Chirp, love the relationship between her and her sister, understand how she feels about her mom’s diagnosis, and enjoy the friendship she develops with Joey.

Older readers will love the innocence Chirp brings, love the nods to the 70’s and vinyl records, and have a better appreciation for the way Chirp understands and experiences the family challenges and shifts in the family dynamics.  Most importantly, it will open a window into the eyes of a child and hopefully have families talk more, share more, and learn more from one another.

This is a book of hope, in the midst of tragedy, and is a beautifully written story!


excellent cupcake 5  *This book was provided through NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  No forms of compensation were given.

Review & Autographed Giveaway: Tuke: The Specialist Turtle by Jim Ritterhoff & Tory Novikova

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Synopsis (from Goodreads):

 Tuke the Specialist Turtle is the story of a young turtle struggling to find his place in one of the most extraordinary places on earth. Ridiculed by his fellow marine creatures for being too small for his shell, an adolescent green sea turtle named Tuke leaves his coral reef home in the waters off Little Cayman in search of a world he hopes will appreciate him. But it isn’t until he’s befriended by a group of researchers from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) that Tuke begins to understand how important he is to his home – and vice versa. Created by Chowder, Inc. for young readers, Tuke the Specialist Turtle is a story about growth, responsibility and protecting those special places that need our help.

A portion of the proceeds from this sale will go to support the Coral Reef Conservancy and the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), Little Cayman Research Centre.

My Review:

Move over, Squirt!  There’s a new turtle in the ocean!!  The animation and vivid colors on each page are gorgeous!  I have a 4 year old daughter, and she loved all the pictures, as we talked about the different animals on each page.  The book size is perfect for a classroom teacher to read (since the pages are large), perfect for little and big people, and is quite educational, too.  Aside from the education of showing how animals are tracked so that scientists can learn their travel pattern, etc., it has an excellent moral lesson in the story, too!

Tuke is a small turtle with a large shell.  His water friends make fun of him because of his large shell, which makes him feel like he doesn’t fit them.  It isn’t until he is “tagged” that he learns he has an important job, and that he is special despite his differences.  I loved the overall message in the book: everyone-no matter how small or large-has a purpose and it doesn’t matter what you look like because you are special.

This book is perfect for the young child that loves water, loves animals (especially turtles), teachers/educators, and make a perfect gift!  I love books that contribute to charities and this one does!! Proceeds go to the Coral Reef Conservatory!

I also love the idea of buying this book as a gift with a turtle stuffed animal or tickets to Moody Gardens to see the Aquarium.  This book just makes a perfect gift for any occasion, and it’s one that every library should carry and child should have!  It’s an excellent, easy to read story, which will keep readers engaged in the story!

If you are a Houstonian or love the Houston Rockets, you will enjoy knowing that Rudy Tomjanovich’s daughter, Melissa, is a co-author!!  So, Texas readers, you will definitely want to support this book and its efforts…as we Texans love supporting our local authors!

So, while I wouldn’t change anything with the storyline or artwork, I do hope the authors and publisher will consider making Tuke the Specialist Turtle merchandise, and possibly make a short film!  I could definitely see these books being sold at Kemah Boardwalk in Galveston, Moody Gardens, and basically anywhere books are sold!

I really can’t rave enough about this book.  Tuke is a really cute little turtle and he reminded me a bit of Nemo (from Finding Nemo) and Mumble (from Happy Feet).  Each of them have a special purpose, and while they are seen as a “misfit”, there is something different from the rest of their group that makes them important.

Book will be available July 1, 2013!!

*This book was provided by Chowder, Inc., in exchange for an honest review.  A special thank you to Corinne Casagrande.

Giveaway Details:

The authors were kind enough to offer an autographed book as a giveaway!!

Simply enter you email address in the comment form and answer who you would want to give this book to, and why.

1 winner will randomly be selected.

Giveaway ends July 14, 2013.

Extra Links:

Review: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

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Synopsis from LibraryThing:

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as
a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal
that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her
father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing
his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the
accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young
assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is
deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her
father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak,
and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is
killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity,
Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her
jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she
discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “The
Madman’s Daughter” is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets
we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

My Review:

This is a very haunting tale, that had me so engrossed in the story and ended with me wanting to know more.  Imagine my surprise and happiness to learn that this is the first book in a trilogy set.  Typically, I don’t read series/trilogy books, unless the whole set is available.  Why? Because I hate waiting!! And, now I will have to wait!

The story is based on an older version of The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells.  It was eerie and while I had some ideas as to where the story was going to go, I still loved reading the story and trying to figure out what would happen to Montgomery, Edward, and Juliet, in the end.

There were times I was reminded of the movie, Jurassic Park, with all the animal manipulations and research a crazy mad scientist was inventing.  While it was different on some levels, the premise was the same: inventor designs creation, creation performs to inventor’s expectations, inventor gets greedy, creations rebel against inventor.  Sound easy enough, right?  Wrong!!!  While that is the basic premise, don’t let that sway you from reading this book! It’s a fascinating sci-fi thriller and Megan leaves the reader wanting to read more!!  So, I’m with the rest of those readers, who loved the book….waiting to get a hold of the 2nd book!!

*This book was provided by my local library, through!! I love and that I can download local library books directly onto my reader!

Review: Reinventing Rachel by Alison Strobel

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God let Rachel Westing down. For twenty-six years she’s done everything by the book; she figures He should have her back. But then she learns her fiancé is cheating on her. Her parents are getting a divorce. And her Christian mentor has a pill addiction. Where is God in all this? Nowhere, as far as Rachel can see. Wounded, bitter, and with a shattered faith, she quits her job and moves across the country to live with Daphne—her childhood best friend whose soul Rachel once thought she was meant to save.

Confident, successful, fun-loving Daphne sets about helping Rachel reinvent herself, and for a while it’s exciting. But when another tragedy shakes Rachel to the core, what little bit of self-possession she has left begins to unravel. A true-to-life story that will draw you in and keep you biting your nails until the end.

My Review:

This is a Christian fiction book, definitely geared towards a YA audience.  However, as someone a smidge beyond young adult, I also enjoyed the storyline.  There are quite a few issues Rachel faces and it’s through her eyes, we read her struggles and her anger towards God.  I thought this book could definitely help those facing similar issues and how inspite of ourselves, God does not abandon us.  While I would have liked a little more storyline after Daphne’s hospitalization and aftermath, the author did a nice wrap up and bring closure to issues Rachel was still faced with.  I highly recommend this book to those who love a great Christian fiction read with some real life issues many people face today.

Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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Product Details

  • Print Length: 355 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0399254129
  • Publisher: Speak; 1 edition (March 22, 2011)
  • Sold by: Penguin Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004H4XCTQ
  • Genre:  Young Adult, Historical


Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.

In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina’s father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive.

It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.

My Review:

I remember being in 8th grade and going to my school library.  I was immediately drawn to the book, “The Diary of Anne Frank” because I thought it was fascinating how a diary could be  made into a book.  Yes, I knew absolutely nothing about the book nor Anne Frank and was immediately drawn into the life and struggles of Anne’s life.  This book, “Between Shades of Gray” is this generations “The Diary of Anne Frank”.

One word.  Unforgettable.  This is a story that I read in 2 days.  Some of the scenes are forever etched in my heart and mind.  Seriously.  There are very few books that leave that huge of an impact on my life and “Shade of Gray” is one of them.  While this is a YA book, as an adult I could appreciate the details and really connected with Lina, a brave and beautiful soul that draws what she sees and feels.  Trying to stay strong for her mother and brother, her sole focus is to reunite with her father, who is at a concentration camp away from their work camp.

As the Soviet’s NKVD came into homes to take away families and separate families, kill them, resume their identities and homes, the world was transfixed on the evil Hitler was doing.  Under Stalin’s regime, mass genocide was happening to the Baltic people.  Ruta brings the issues and shares the horror these families faced.  I was absolutely captivated and there were many moments I just had to put the book down and grieve.  I cried, I laughed, and my heart ached for Lina and the others who meet Lina along the way.

Through Lina’s bravery and perseverance, she documents what she witnesses and experiences as a testament to what they experienced.  While Lina and those around her struggle to survive, this book shows that the heart and spirit of someone cannot be imprisoned.

As a parent, there are many wonderful teaching opportunities for our children.  It is a book that adults and children alike can read and learn about war, stereotypes/discrimination, socialism, and the human spirit.  Above all, it is a book that needs to be read as a reminder of what can happen and to give voice to the millions who died during Stalin’s regime.

I highly recommend this book and is a personal favorite of mine!  Everyone should read this book…that is how great it is written and the message is something we all need to hear and learn from.

Memorable Quotes:

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

“We’d been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean.  I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we’d get a little closer.”

“Mother told me to feel sorry for the person, that they had been pushed over the edge of their identity.”

“I scanned the group. Faces spoke to their future. I saw courage, anger, fear, and confusion. Others were hopeless. They had already given up. Which was I?”

*These are just a few…there are so many!! I just don’t want to give too much away and take from your reading experience.  I just hope with reading some of these quotes that it will stir your heart to read this book.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Michigan, Ruta Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. The nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia disappeared from maps in 1941 and did not reappear until 1990. As this is a story seldom told, Ruta wanted to give a voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives during Stalin’s cleansing of the Baltic region. Ruta lives with her family in Tennessee. Between Shades of Gray is her first novel.

Visit the Author:




                        Read An Excerpt of “Shades of Gray”


**Confusing one book for another, something quite wonderful has happened!!  People are buying this book and learning and loving “Between Shades of Gray”!  Click here for the article.

Review: I Love You More…Than Chocolate by Melanie Milburn

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: InstantPublisher; First edition (December 6, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1604587202
  • Genre:  Children’s Fiction


This book was originally a song, and inside the back cover, you have a CD of Melanie singing the song. When Melanie would tuck her children into bed at night, she made sure they knew how much they were loved. She told them she loved them more than anything even chocolate! Her children knew she was a chocoholic, so they had no doubt, they knew they were loved! Every child wants to know they are loved, and this book conveys what parents want their children to know in a way that speaks clearly and impressively to the child’s mind and heart.

My Review:

I absolutely  love this book!  It starts with a little girl wanting to know how much her mom loves her.  As her mom puts her daughter to sleep, she starts listing all the ways in which she loves her daughter.  I loved that the mother/daughter’s illustration could easily be considered Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and other ethnicity’s that help any child relate to the character in the book.  I also love the ease of the words and the repetition used so that a child can learn the words and after a while recognize them to say join along.  The pictures were very lively, clear to point out, and help the child engage with the story more.  It is a very easy book to read, one that will be enjoyed for many years and easily become a child’s favorite story!  As an added bonus, a CD is attached to the book that includes the exact story being sung with music by the author.

P.S. This review was approved by my year old daughter, who not only loves the story, but also likes dancing to the song!

*This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  No money or other forms of compensation were given.

Review: Stomp Out the Bullying by Angel McGowan

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 30 pages
  • Publisher: Outskirts Press (September 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143277994X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1432779948
  • Price:  $14.95


Mikey lies awake in bed at night because he is worried about what is going to happen in school the next day. Mikey’s frustration grows and he almost makes a wrong decision, because he listens to a friend. Finally, Mikey learns that his teacher, Mr. Jones, can do more than teach math.

About the Author:

Angel McGowan is a fifteen-year old junior at JL Mann High School in Greenville, South Carolina. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club and basketball team. She is also a two-time USAIGC National Gymnastic Champion. Angel enjoys writing, playing basketball and spending time with her family and friends. Ultimately, Angel plans on becoming a pediatrician. The Illustrator, Matthew Linn is a fifteen-year old sophomore at JL Mann High School in Greenville, South Carolina. He is an avid soccer player. He plans to pursue a career in art after college.

My Review:

I love that the author is a teenager and she wrote this book for young children.  The pictures are more like sketches and some are a little awkward, but overall, a good picture book.  This is a book that teachers can read to their students to let them know that they have a support system with teachers. There wasn’t information about Mikey’s family, so I wasn’t clear if he lived at home with his parents, one parent, grandparents, etc and that would have been nice to have known to understand his background a little more and perhaps give an opportunity for readers to connect with him on a more personal level.  There aren’t too many suggestions offered in the story or after the story in a follow-up page to teach students what they can do besides tell a teacher that he/she is being bullied.  While I would have liked that, I can understand the concept was more about a teacher helping a student.  Overall, it was a good book and I have high hopes for Angel as an upcoming author.

*The author provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.