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Joanna M RSS Feed (CT, USA)

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Vinegar Girl: A Novel (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Vinegar Girl: A Novel (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Marrying for your father's research?, August 25, 2016
Having heard this was based on Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," I was initially a bit hesitant to give this a shot. But I love Anne Tyler and have read all her novels to date, so I decided this would be no exception.

The story, however, stands alone - its similarity to Shakespeare is VERY loose. Kate Battista, approaching thirty, still lives with her widowed father and teenage sister Bunny. She spends her days working as a preschool assistant and then caring for their small household, as her father is the literal absentminded scientist and vain Bunny is too preoccupied with boys to do anything else. In any event, Kate's pretty bored and unhappy with her life, but she's really not sure what she does want to do, either.

Suddenly her father begins to find ways of having Kate spend time with his research assistant Pyotr. She's initially baffled, though it's soon crystal clear - Pyotr's visa is about to expire, although Kate's father still desperately needs his help with research. So he's seized upon the great idea of the two marrying.

Naturally, Kate's appalled. Does her father really think so little of her that he'd treat her like a possession, a means to an end for his work? Even worse - although Kate would never admit it out loud - is the thought that her father doesn't think any man might fall in love with her for her own merits.

But gradually, despite her reluctance to anything Pyotr-related, Kate finds that she actually kinda/sorta likes the guy. Should she actually go through with a sham of a marriage for him and her father, though?

As usual, Tyler's skilled attention to detail brings characters right off the page, giving them the little nuances - both good and bad - that make up three-dimensional, true-to-life people.

Sparrow Road
Sparrow Road
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Mysteries are all around..., August 18, 2016
This review is from: Sparrow Road (Kindle Edition)
Twelve-year-old Raine O'Rourke is angry and confused when her mother suddenly takes a summer job far from their Milwaukee home. Not only is she leaving her beloved Grandpa Mac, but Raine quickly discovers just how weird it is at Sparrow Road, the summer retreat for artists. No one is allowed to speak until dinnertime each day, and the owner, Viktor, is nicknamed "Iceberg" by the residents.

Even stranger, Raine's mother is oddly comfortable with Viktor -- as though the two have known each other a long time, although her mother insists that isn't the case. When Raine's mother and Viktor head into the nearest town for groceries, Raine is forbidden to come. Why?

Raine is sure she won't last the entire eight weeks. But before long, she's taken under the wing of artists Diego, Josie and Lillian. Diego encourages her to explore her creativity and tackle a writing project, while the eccentric and outspoken Josie encourages her to be bold and make memories. Meanwhile, the sweet, elderly Lillian keeps confusing who Raine is; she's convinced Raine is the newest orphan, come to Sparrow Road during the days when the old sprawling estate housed children whose parents could not afford to care for them. Was Lillian an orphan there? Raine wonders if she might find out why the attic, filled with rows of dusty metal beds, is still full of children's drawings and toys -- as though they left abruptly without warning.

O'Connor blends likable and intriguing characters with great descriptions of summertime in the country, leaving readers eager to solve the mysteries.

The Seventh Mother
The Seventh Mother
by Sherri Wood Emmons
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.14
83 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing is the way it seems..., August 18, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Seventh Mother (Paperback)
For as long as 11-year-old Jenny Bohner can remember, it's been just her and her dad Brannon, traveling the country in their old trailer. Sure, Brannon always has a girlfriend, but whoever it is - Ami, Cara, Jackie, or ones not even in Jenny's memory - they're always gone before long.

During a summer job at an Idaho campground, the Bohners meet Emma, who works with the horses. Very quickly, Brannon convinces Emma to move in with them -- and then to leave behind everything in order to come cross-country with them to the next job.

Although Emma soon begins to see flashes of Brannon's irrational anger, as well as some pieces of his past that don't quite add up, she's eager to leave it alone. After all, Emma also has a dark history she finds it difficult to talk about. And besides, she loves Jenny like a mother.

Told in alternating chapters by Emma and Jenny, this story details the months immediately following the move to Kentucky. Ironically, the two POV support one another - Jenny, who has years' experience with Brannon, is still too young to fully understand everything about him and their life together, while Emma has the adult comprehension but lacks the personal knowledge. Together, however, the two begin to put the pieces together.

The only question, however, is whether it'll be too late for both when that happens...

Although the story becomes a bit predictable before long, there are still a few surprises along the way. Also, the characters are written believably and engagingly, so the reader becomes immersed in their unusual life and wants to keep learning more.

Skittles and Starburst Assorted Fun Size Candy Box, 130 piece box
Skittles and Starburst Assorted Fun Size Candy Box, 130 piece box
Price: $22.62

5.0 out of 5 stars Great mix of classic favorites!, August 18, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Super assortment for just about any group - trick-or-treaters, kid's birthday party or the office candy jar!

A Room of My Own (Legacy Editions) (Volume 2)
A Room of My Own (Legacy Editions) (Volume 2)
by Ann Tatlock
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.95
40 used & new from $7.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age during the Depression, August 15, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Even though the Great Depression is well underway, 13-year-old Virginia Eide is largely unaffected by it. Sure, she hears her doctor father and his assistant talk about the news at meals, and she and her classmates raised money for a local mission to feed the hungry. But Virginia and her three younger siblings have everything they need, as does everyone they know. Surely, Virginia believes, things can't be all that bad.

But then one day, a tattered man races to their door, anxious for Doctor Eide to come help a badly injured man. Virginia's father is led to a shantytown, dubbed Soo City in honor of the traintracks it's near. His eyes are opened to the true horrors being experienced by families who have lost jobs and homes. While Virginia's mother refuses to see, her father is determined to help Virginia begin to see a bit beyond their privileged existence.

Soon father and daughter are making regular visits to Soo City. Virginia meets people such as the Everhardts, with baby Caroline and her two brothers; old Lucky, with his dog T-Bone; Mrs. Hunt with 15-year-old Lela, a dreamy teen with the same hopes as Virginia and her best friend Charlotte. She quickly begins to look forward to visiting with her new friends, also looking for ways she might help make their lives a little better.

Then one day, Virginia happens to stumble upon some terrible information. If she decides to act one way, she may save the residents of Soo City; but if she acts another way, she may risk her father being injured or even killed. How can she ever decide what to do?

Meanwhile, Virginia's Uncle Jim has lost his job and consequently the family home, causing him, Aunt Sally and their two sons to move in with the Eides. Having eleven people under one roof certainly takes its toll on everyone, both physically and emotionally. But Virginia realizes she's blessed to have her family so close at hand when members are in danger.

Tatlock weaves a beautiful story, combining the usual coming of age with the specific details of life during the Depression. If nothing else, readers will come away with a greater understanding of the struggles and sacrifices made by ordinary people during their day to day lives.

The Scent of Lilacs (The Heart of Hollyhill, Book 1)
The Scent of Lilacs (The Heart of Hollyhill, Book 1)
Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Be careful what you wish for..., August 15, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Thirteen-year-old Jocie Brooke has prayed for two things for as long as she can remember. More than anything, Jocie wants a dog -- and for her older sister Tabitha, taken along when their mother left seven years ago, to come home.

This summer of 1964, Jocie is amazed to get both wishes. First, a stray dog she names Zeb attaches himself to her side. Then, shortly after, Jocie and her father David come home one evening to find Tabitha simply sitting on their porch.

While everyone is overjoyed, David - a newspaper editor and Baptist pastor - quickly deduces that something must be terribly wrong for Tabitha to suddenly appear after so long. The question, however, as to just what that is cannot be answered until Tabitha is ready to divulge her secrets.

Meanwhile, Jocie is also eager to pump her big sister for information about the mother she barely remembers. But the truth may not exactly be what Jocie expects or likes to hear.

Gabhart does an excellent job of depicting both the various members of the Brooke family as well as the tiny Southern town of Hollyhill in 1964.

#1 Can You Say Catastrophe? (The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair)
#1 Can You Say Catastrophe? (The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair)
Price: $4.61

4.0 out of 5 stars April is the voice of being thirteen, August 15, 2016
Friedman captures the 13-year-old mindset perfectly via April Sinclair, a girl who's convinced nearly every day that she's just experienced the biggest humiliation of her life.

From having her little sister announce April's crush to a new neighbor, to suddenly feeling awkward around longtime best friend Billy, April chronicles her daily struggles in her journal. Thankfully, she, Billy and their other BFF Brynn will be heading to Camp Silver Shores as soon as school's out. There April will be able to just have a great time, without the hassles of school or her annoying family.

Then April's parents make their big announcement. Instead of camp, the whole family will travel in an RV for two weeks in Florida. April is positive this will be the biggest catastrophe of all! How will she ever survive?

Through April's voice, Friedman perfectly replicates the many daily highs and lows of newly becoming a teenager.

Wellness CORE Pure Rewards Natural Grain Free Dog Treats, Soft Chicken & Lamb Jerky Bites, 4-Ounce Bag
Wellness CORE Pure Rewards Natural Grain Free Dog Treats, Soft Chicken & Lamb Jerky Bites, 4-Ounce Bag
Offered by AnimalWorldNetwork
Price: $9.99
2 used & new from $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A real crowd-pleaser!!, August 15, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Our two dogs - a 20-lb bichon frise and a 9-lb mini poodle - are pretty familiar with numerous Wellness treats. They've been enthusiastic about them all, and this was no exception.

We tried the chicken & lamb variety; they are incredibly stinky, but as any dog owner knows, the stinkier the better in the canine mind.

For those concerned about where their pet's treats are made, these are made in the USA. They are 100% free of grain, soy, corn, wheat and artificial colors or flavors..

Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
249 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars D.J. takes care of everyone...except herself, August 11, 2016
This review is from: Dairy Queen (Paperback)
15-year-old D.J. Schwenk is exhausted. Ever since her father has been recovering from surgery, she's had to run the family dairy farm single-handedly. During much of the year, that's been *on top* of being in school all day!

Even worse, D.J. feels as though her father is never happy with the work she does. Meanwhile, her mother is never home, preferring to spend her time at the elementary school where she is principal; her two older brothers are off at college; and her younger brother is off being a baseball star. It's up to D.J. to do the milking at dawn and dusk, as well as the haying, keeping the barns clean, and a hundred other tasks that are crucial for a dairy farm to keep running.

Now Brian Nelson, the rival town's football star, has been sent to help out. D.J. is resentful, not only because he's their rival, but because Brian is an only child, wealthy and popular -- everything D.J. is not.

But as the summer progresses, D.J. begins to see there is more to Brian than the surface. With his help, D.J. also begins to realize she has to make her own happiness, even fight for it if necessary.

D.J. is a believable and likable character, faced with many of the same coming-of-age issues as countless other teens. But her life is unique in that it centers largely upon two things -- football and farming. Murdock goes into great detail about both subjects, presumably to help readers better understand D.J.'s world. But if readers are not really into either or both, they will likely find themselves skipping past entire paragraphs at times.

Little House in Brookfield (The Caroline Years, Bk 1)
Little House in Brookfield (The Caroline Years, Bk 1)
by Maria D. Wilkes
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.99
63 used & new from $1.47

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting glimpse at 19th century life, August 11, 2016
Six-year-old Caroline Quiner - who will one day become the mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder - lives with her mother, grandmother and five siblings in the thriving little town of Brookfield, Wisconsin. Her beloved father was lost at sea a year earlier, and the family is still struggling to cope, both emotionally and physically. As the book details, life in 1845 involved a lot of hard work! Members of the Quiner family, from young to old, all had to pitch in with things like caring for the livestock, chopping wood, hauling water, canning vegetables for the winter and sewing clothing.

The book is interesting because it provides 21st-century readers a glimpse into a lifestyle that is not familiar to them. But in and of itself, the story isn't particularly interesting plotwise; the Quiner family has little highs and little lows, but there are really no "twists" or even humor in this book. Be advised that not all young readers will be engaged, though Caroline and her siblings are certainly likable children.

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