Monday, November 13, 2017

Fish in a Tree gets 4.5 Stars {middle grade fiction, contemporary}

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt gets 4.5 out of 5 stars for this fantastic must read middle grade fiction.  Inspiring. Emotional. Confidence. Dyslexia. Overcoming challenges and struggles. Inspiring teachers. Great read aloud. 4th grade and up. Powerful classroom or parent/child read aloud. Alohamoraopenabook Alohamora Open a Book http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com/


"Be careful with eggs and words b/c neither can be fixed." 

"Great minds don't think alike." 

"Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid." 

Friendship. Bullying. Families. Inspiring teacher. Overcoming challenges. Reading difficulties. Dyslexia. 

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is full of inspiring quotes and so many deep and powerful topics; it is a great read.  Personally, I think this would be a great book for a classroom read aloud in the upper elementary or middle school classroom.  It would also make for a wonderful parent/child read.  

I absolutely enjoyed this middle grade fiction, and I definitely think readers of all ages could vastly benefit from this book.  I was inspired and educated, and for all of those reasons Fish in a Tree earned 4.5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the character development and the growth Ally portrayed.   She struggled with her confidence and self-esteem at the beginning, and I loved that at the end she said, "I'm having trouble is not the same as I can't."  I feel that statement alone shows a lot of growth.  

All in all, fabulous book that is predictable (hence the slight rating decrease), but it was relatable and powerful as well.  

Fish in a Tree is a fabulous.  Definitely check this book out.  If you liked the book Wonder, which I loved, then I think you will enjoy this read as well.  It'd make a great Book Club book as well.  

Happy Powerful and Inspiring Middle Grade Fiction Reading!


Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Best For: 9 years old and up, 4th grade and up. 

Clean Read: Yes
Worth a Check Out: Yes.
Buy It or Not: Yes.
Read Aloud: Yes.
Lesson Ideas: Friendship. Bullying. Differences. Challenges. Confidence. Dyslexia. Reading. Kindness. Family. Metaphors. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stalking Jack the Ripper gets 4.5 Stars {mystery, historical fiction, ya lit, teen}

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco gets 4.5 out of 5 stars in this historical fiction/mystery ya lit, young adult, teen read.  This book is fun, a fast read, and surprises you at the end.  There is some language, and the story about murders may be gruesome for some.  Alohamoraopenabook Alohamora Open a Book Great book. fast read. Fun book. Romance. Strong female character. first book in series, new book.  http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com

Murder. Surprise. Suspense. Unpredictable. Historical fiction. Mystery. Romance. Girl Power. Family drama. Fast read.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is the first book in a new series that seems perfect for this time of year.  Though, honestly it'd be a fun read anytime of year.  Definitely check this one out.   You may be grabbing for the second (Hunting Prince Dracula) book sooner than you realized.

This new teen/young adult read was so very close to a perfect rating.  Though, 4.5 out of 5 stars is pretty darn impressive, and is definitely worth a read or listen (audiobook) to. Maniscalco truly wrote a unique and fun story that keeps you guessing until the very end.  I loved the story line, and I loved that a historical fiction type story to be inspiring.  I love seeing strong female characters, and Stalking Jack the Ripper is about a girl that is smart, pushes herself to learn and grow, and not afraid to go after what she wants.

This book is fantastic.  It has some language and deals with murder, but overall it's a really fun read.  The only reason Stalking Jack the Ripper didn't get the perfect 5 stars is because of the romance.  At times the love story was cheesy and a bit over the top in my opinion, but otherwise this book is fantastic.

Definitely check this book and enjoy your reading time.


Happy Bone Chilling Fun and Fascinating Mystery/Historical Fiction Reading!

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Best For: 14 years old and up, 9th grade and up. 

Clean Read: Language
Worth a Check Out: Yes.
Buy It or Not: Buy it if you have a young adult or find this time period fascinating.
Read Aloud: No.
Book Club Discussion Topics: The beginnings of forensic science. If you were in Anna's situation with her family, what would you have done? Jack the Ripper, what do you know about him?



Friday, October 13, 2017

Clean Pineapple Dole Whip {dessert, healthy, gluten free, dairy free}

Clean aka Healthy Pineapple Dole Whip make this healthy dessert, with no processed sugar, in 5 minutes and remind yourself of Disneyland or Disney World.  Delicious. Yummy. Healthy eats. Gluten Free. Dairy Free. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook www.alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com

We're going to Disney World next week.  Yay!  Since I'll be able to enjoy Disney World yumminess all week long I might as well hook you up with a Disney copy-cat.  Don't worry, it's a healthy version b/c that's who I am.  

No processed sugar in this Pineapple Dole Whip, but it has all of the deliciousness.  Seriously, such a yummy clean eats treat.  

Enjoy!


Oh, and b/c I'm going to be living it up with the family on vacay I will not posting all next week.  Though, I have some great recipes, book reviews, and booklists coming up.  You are more than welcome to follow me on Instagram, @alohamoraopenabook, for fun pictures. 

Clean Pineapple Dole Whip
Recipe: Alohamora adapted DashingDish
Active Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Time: 0 or chill time
Servings: 2

Ingredients: 
1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
2 c. frozen pineapple (fresh or a 20oz can diced and drained)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lime juice
2 Tbsp honey or sweetener of choice

Directions: 

  1. Place the ingredients in the order listed in a powerful blender or food processor.  We have a Blendtec and it's been treating us well. 
  2. Blend until smooth.  Sometimes people need to add a little water to help the blender. 
  3. Serve and enjoy! 
  4. This is a great treat to freeze in a mason jar and save some for later. 
  5. Enjoy
  6. Store leftovers in a mason jar with a lid in the freezer. 

Happy Clean and Healthy Pineapple Dole Whip!


    

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

From Dark to Light gets 2 Stars {picture book, student author}

From Dark to Light by Isabella Murphy picture book published by a student author.  Book review. Planting, watering, and picking pumpkins for a jack-o-lantern. Personification. kidlit 2 out of 5 stars. Alohamoraopenabook Alohamora Open a Book http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com/


In 5th grade I was wearing hot pink shorts, with pockets b/c why not, for my elementary school basketball team.  I loved those shorts my mom made!  I remember free-throws were not a strength of mine, okay they still aren't, but in 5th grade my glasses broke.  I had to play my basketball game with very blurry vision.  I was not looking forward to my very blurry basketball game. 

Yet, during that vision impaired game I scored the most points I ever scored in a game in elementary school.  I scored a whopping 15 points.  It was a big game.  I'm not sure why my lack of vision increased my score 10 times from normal, but it probably means I'm not a great basketball player.

From Dark to Light by Isabella Murphy picture book published by a student author.  Book review. Planting, watering, and picking pumpkins for a jack-o-lantern. Personification. kidlit 2 out of 5 stars. Alohamoraopenabook Alohamora Open a Book http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com/

I tell you that above story b/c what I was doing in 5th grade, and what a lot of people are doing at 10-11 years old is not what Isabella Murphy was doing.  Isabella Murphy wrote and published a book.  #wow

Isabella Murphy is a 5th grade student author who wrote From Dark to Light.  This book, with personification aka an inanimate object gave human like qualities, is about a pumpkin who wants to feel loved.  This pumpkin gets planted, grows, and becomes picked by a family.  It's a cute story, but definitely text heavy.  

From Dark to Light by Isabella Murphy picture book published by a student author.  Book review. Planting, watering, and picking pumpkins for a jack-o-lantern. Personification. kidlit 2 out of 5 stars. Alohamoraopenabook Alohamora Open a Book http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com/

From Dark to Light gets 2 out of 5 stars.  The illustrations are cute, the story given from the perspective of a seed is fun, and the fact that a 5th grader wrote it is cool.  I also love that a story from the perspective of a pumpkin includes the carving of the pumpkins; I personally thought carving would be scary for the pumpkins, but for these pumpkins it is just fun.  There are some great parts to the story.  

Though, I try to be honest, fair, consistent, and critical in my reviews.  This story is obviously an indie book.  The story doesn't quite flow smoothly, and the text could've definitely been condensed. There are many parts of the story that don't add anything to the overall story line and should've been taken out.  I realize this book is written by a child, but I still hope a published book would have better character development.  The character development was too quick; one minute Pumpker is being laughed at and treated cruelly by his sisters and then the next moment they are giggling with him. 


Overall, the story is good, but it isn't great.  I'd purchase this book if I was a 4th, 5th, or 6th grade teacher to show my students they can be an author.  However, the text heaviness and the unrefined writing make this book I wouldn't read aloud in the library. 

From Dark to Light by Isabella Murphy picture book published by a student author.  Book review. Planting, watering, and picking pumpkins for a jack-o-lantern. Personification. kidlit 2 out of 5 stars. Alohamoraopenabook Alohamora Open a Book http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com/
    
What were you doing in 5th grade? 

Happy Pumpkin Personification Picture Book Reading!


From Dark to Light by Isabella Murphy
Rating: 2/5 stars
Best For: 6 years old and up, 1st to 3rd grade. 

Clean Read: Yes
Worth a Check Out: Yes.
Buy It or Not: No.
Read Aloud: No.
Lesson Ideas: Personification. Pumpkins. Seed to plant. Family. Student Authors.


I received this book from Pink Umbrella Books in exchange for my review and honest opinion.  All of my thoughts, opinions, and words are my own.

Monday, October 9, 2017

One for Sorrow gets 3 Stars {middle grade fiction, ghost/horror}


It's October.  That means ghosts stories are in order.  A lot of the time people will think a good ghost story when they hear the author, Mary Downing Hahn.  Hahn is well known for her ghost stories, and this new one is no exception. 

One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn is her latest ghost story published just this year.  It's set in a small town in America during WWI when the Spanish Influenza was spreading.  This book has some interesting parts and a lot of frustrating parts as well.  

One for Sorrow gets 3 out of 5 stars in my book review.  This book was probably one of my least favorite Hahn ghost stories.  I think a ghost story is a fun read, but this one was less ghost and more evil and mean.  I liked the information on the influenza, and the feelings people had about WWI.  I found it fascinating to know that Hahn was inspired by her mother's experience of visiting homes with her friends of those that died, and then they actually came to a home of a classmate that had, unknown to them, died. 

The major issue I had with this book is the fact that I didn't like any of the characters.  Not one.  There were a lot of mean girls, girls with low self-esteem, and bullying.  The bullying wasn't resolved in a good manner, and the girls only changed after a mean ghost bothered them extensively.  The ghost was as likable as a ghost as she was in real life; which that is not saying much.  Honestly, One for Sorrow felt more like an evil mean girl book than a ghost story.  I was bothered that Annie couldn't talk to her parents, but she couldn't stand up for herself either.  I had wished for more character development in that area.  

Overall, it's not a bad ghost story, but Wait Til Helen Comes is probably my favorite Mary Downing Hahn book.  Here are some other fun ghost story chapter books if you only plan to read 1 Halloween-ish like book, and want some more options.  I'm also sharing Halloween books on my Instagram account as well. 

What is your favorite middle grade ghost story? 

If you do pick up this book, or any Hahn ghost stories...Happy Middle Grade Fiction Ghost Story reading!


One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn
Rating: 3/5 stars
Best For: 10 - 13 year olds, 5th through 8th grade

Clean Read: Yes
Worth a Check Out: Yes, if you like ghost stories
Buy It or Not: No
Read Aloud: No
Lesson Ideas: Spanish influenza. Bullying. Life in America during WWI.



Friday, October 6, 2017

Skinny Mini Pumpkin Blender Muffins {recipe, gluten free, dairy free}

Skinny Mini Pumpkin Blender Muffins. Super easy to make in your blender. Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, processed sugar free, and oh so delicious.  Mini Muffins are fun for breakfast, snack, kid friendly and healthy. Homemade. From Scratch. Simple. Easy Baking recipe. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com/

I'm one that waits until October to start going full force pumpkin flavors.  It's hard to wait, but I feel apples and September need their glory moments too.  However, to be completely honest, I like to wait so I don't OD (overdose) on pumpkin before Thanksgiving.  Honestly, I'm not the only one who ODs on flavors or foods, right?   

Now that it's October I have already enjoyed the delicious Pumpkin Steamer at Starbucks (aka steamed milk with pumpkin), and made multiple batches of these Skinny Mini Pumpkin Blender Muffins. Mmmmm both are oh so delicious!  

These muffins are so yummy, gluten free, and has no processed sugars.  Add the fact that all you have to do is push a button on your blender to combine everything.  As my first grader and kindergartner would say, "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy." 
  
Skinny Mini Pumpkin Blender Muffins. Super easy to make in your blender. Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, processed sugar free, and oh so delicious.  Mini Muffins are fun for breakfast, snack, kid friendly and healthy. Homemade. From Scratch. Simple. Easy Baking recipe. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com/


Skinny Mini Pumpkin Blender Muffins
Recipe: Alohamora adapted from instantloss.com
Active Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 dozen mini muffins with liners, 16 w/o liners. 

Ingredients: 
2 eggs, large
1/4 c.  maple syrup, grade A
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. oats (regular, quick, or steel cut)
1/3 c. canned pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (add up to 1/2 tsp more if you love it)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line the mini-muffin tin. 
  2. Add all of the ingredients, in the order listed, to your blender. 
  3. Blend all of the ingredients until smooth. 
  4. Fill each muffin approximately 2/3 full.  
  5. Bake for 8-10 muffins or until a toothpick comes out clean. 
  6. Store muffins in the refrigerator in an airtight container. 
  7. Enjoy!

Happy Healthy Mini Pumpkin Muffin eating! 


Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Beauty of Darkness gets 3.5 Stars {ya lit, fantasy, series: remnant chronicles #3}

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson is Book 3 in the Remnant Chronicles series. Fun fantasy series with a strong girl/fermale character. Book 3 in the series.  Family. Romance. Clean read. Action. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook http://alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.com/

With  Kiss of Deception and Heart of Betrayal read I, of course, had to finish off the Remnant Chronicles by reading The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

This third book in the series gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It's a good story, though it does drag a bit more than the others.  The writing of the many action parts of the story felt choppy.  Overall, the writing was good, but it wasn't Pearson's best writing for the series.  Books one and two were far more engrossing with their writing even with the incredibly predictable and sort of annoying love triangle.  

In regards to characters, I felt Lia was a different person in this last book; she was too hardcore and cruel so the change/development wasn't for the better. I was frustrated that in 3 books Lia and Rafe still couldn't communicate and express their true feelings and thoughts.  I thought Kaden made a quick jump to team Lia and it would've been nice to see more struggle.  All in all, the characters were weaker and less developed in this last book.  
There are things I liked about the book.  I liked that it was a clean read.  I  liked that the main character is a strong girl.  I liked her brother's unwavering trust in Lia.  I liked the happy ending the minor characters received, but I was frustrated by the abruptness of the ending for Lia and Rafe.  


I really did like The Beauty of Darkness, but I don't think I would've been disappointed had I not read it.  I may have enjoyed the series more if hadn't b/c the ending left me with a bitter taste in my mouth for the series.  

Did you read the series?  What were your feelings of the last book? What would you rate the entire series?  I  think I'd give the series 4 stars, but that third book may have to lower that score. 

If you do pick up this book, and the Remnant of Chronicles series, Happy Fun Young Adult Fantasy reading!


The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Best For: 14 and up, 8th grade and up.
Worth a Check Out: Yes.
Buy It or Not: No, unless you really need complete series in your life and you bought Kiss of Deception and Heart of Betrayal
Read Aloud: No.
Book Club Discussion Topics: Lia ran from her fate of an arranged marriage, but did she stay true to herself when it came to her fate with the Book of Venda? Did you like or dislike Kaden's ending?  Lia and Rafe, good or bad ending?