What’s Ashley Reading?: Mother May I

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

Summary: Bree Cabbat has the perfect life; a loving husband, beautiful children and a nice home. But one night she sees a witch at her window and the following day her baby son is stolen from her car with a mysterious message containing instructions on how to get her little boy back. As she follows “the mother’s” instructions she finds that there is more to this diabolical plan than she first thought. Racing against the clock Bree tries to find the secrets that could lead them to her son and “the mother”.

My Thoughts: This is my first book my Joshilyn Jackson. I really enjoyed it. It started off with a bang and continued to have the same high drama throughout which can be hard to maintain. As the story progressed I didn’t know how the author was going to continue because the end seemed so imminent but then whole new mystery appeared. As more layers were added the suspense got even higher until the last chapter. I will finally read her other thriller, Never Have I Ever, which I have checked out numerous times but never read yet.

Listening to the audio book I was a little annoyed at the readers voice. It was rather whiny but that could be because of the playback on the app. I liked the reader’s interpretation of “the mother’s” voice. It was witchy and creepy. And you need to stay focused while listening or you may miss something.

FYI: Great thriller!

Monica’s Musings: I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To

I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To by Loni Love

“There’s a saying a lot of people live by: ‘Fake it till you make it.’ For me, it’s always been ‘fake it, and then have the whole thing blow up in your face.’” -Loni Love, I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To: True Life Lessons

Loni Love is one of my favorite comedians and talk show hosts. I have watched her talk show The Real for almost two years. I am always interested in what Loni is going to say because she is honest and funny. When I saw her book sitting on the shelf, I immediately knew I had to read it. It is safe to say I was not disappointed.

This book goes through the author’s life growing up in Detroit and her struggles of making it in Hollywood. Her life was not easy, and despite her comfortable life now, she has not forgotten her roots. She touches on subjects from fake friends, homelessness, to racism that she has experienced. Her life story is not typical, which made this such an interesting read. She is able to use comedy to make her story light, but she does not skirt around the tough details.

I ate this book up from cover to cover. Not only because I am a fan of Loni, but because her life story was so different than anything I have ever had to deal with in my life. Love’s perspective is so optimistic despite some of the cards she has been handed. I admire someone who is able to take their rough situation and use it as motivation to change their life. This book made me feel even more grateful for everything I have, and it also motivated me to be kind and keep working hard for what I want out of life.

Mom and Me Reviews: Wonder Walkers

A brother and sister go on a “wonder walk”. A Wonder Walk is what it sounds like, a walk where you voice the things you wonder about as you walk.

First Line: “Wonder Walk? Sure.”

Summary: A brother and sister go on a “wonder walk”. A Wonder Walk is what it sounds like, a walk where you voice the things you wonder about as you walk.


                Maggie: Five Stars

                Conor: One Sigh

                Mama Lala: Three stars

Their Thoughts: Conor wasn’t very interested in this story. He sat still for the reading, but nothing gripped his attention.

Maggie did not appear to pay attention, but at the end of the reading I was proven wrong about that assumption. It seems she was listening intently, but not looking at the illustrations.

She said she thought it was as good book, especially for preschool and elementary aged kids. Then said it was a good bed time or relaxing book. “It’s a good book to let you get away from the world for a little bit.”

My Thoughts: This is not an exciting book. It is a beautiful concept, though. I wish it were more memorable. I do not have words for what would take it from this level to the next. Do not mistake me, its a good book… it’s just also, unfortunately, forgettable.

The book DID provide for a wonderful discussion between my kids and me. We, like the main characters, played “I wonder”. We wondered if the leaves were the tree’s clothes, and if humans felt like tics or fleas to the world.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Hunger

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

First line: Everyone agreed it had been a bad winter, one of the worst in recollection.

Summary: A wagon train of settlers head out from Independence, Missouri, who would later be known as the Donner Party. They are bound for the bountiful lands of California. Among them is Tamsen Donner, who some believe to be a witch. And when strange things start to occur along the trail many look towards her for someone to blame. As they cover the long miles over prairie, desert and mountains, members of the party begin to change. Will the group be able to make it to the promised land of California or die trying to take the shortcut?

My Thoughts: Practically everyone has heard of the ill-fated Donner Party. They spent a long winter in the mountains on their way to California. After several of the party are rescued there has been rumors and debate about if the survivors resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. The story is such a dark piece of history which I think is what makes it so fascinating to so many people.

This book was recommended to me and I used it as part of my Traveler’s Reading Challenge. I had really high hopes of a spooky story mixed with cannibals. But I felt that there was a lot of build up to an ending that wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I expected to spend a lot more time in the mountains and the cold months. But this only was a small portion at the very end. It was a fun read for someone interested in a twist on history.

FYI: The author’s next book is The Deep which gives a twist to the story of the Titanic.

Terese’s Thoughts: What is the What

What is the What by Dave Eggers

First line: “I have no reason not to answer the door so I answer the door.”

As a kid, I had a book of science experiments and interesting facts about the world. One page contained a pie chart with a spinner. You had the same odds of landing that spinner in a tiny, designated sliver of the whole pie as you did being born in the United States. At the time, this was a new concept to me. I would spin it over and over again, wondering how life might be different had I been born somewhere else.


The title page calls the book both the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng and a novel by Dave Eggers. As Achak Deng writes in the preface, “this book is a soulful account of my life.” Eggers spent years interviewing Achak Deng in order to tell his story using as authentic a voice as possible.

Although the story begins with Valentino as an adult living in the United States, we are quickly transported back to his happy childhood in a southern Sudanese village. Through Valentino’s six-year-old eyes, we watch as his village is overtaken by militiamen. Homes are set ablaze and people attempting to flee are murdered. Valentino manages to escape but does not know the fate of his parents. He spends the next several years of his life on the run, evading armed forces (and occasionally wild beasts), battling disease, and struggling to find enough food and water to survive in the African desert. His journey begins alone, but he soon meets up with a group of newly orphaned boys like himself, the so-called “Lost Boys” of Sudan. As they make their way toward a refugee camp in Kenya, the boys encounter unspeakable horrors, but there are also moments of laughter and the teasing typical of young boys.

Once Valentino reaches the refugee camp in Kenya, his troubles are far from over. While learning to navigate the politics of the camp, Valentino is also going to school and improving his English. Eventually, Valentino is chosen as one of the Lost Boys who will be given a chance at a life in the United States.

Now a grown man and full of optimism, Valentino flies to Atlanta to start his new life. Although he has the support of a generous and caring host family, Valentino faces a whole new set of obstacles, including discrimination, isolation, loneliness, racism, and the sense of defeat that comes with toiling day after day to still just barely get by. A deeply religious man, Valentino’s faith is shaken by the sheer amount of loss and misfortune he has endured. Despite this, he never loses his belief in the power of education and the good of humanity.

My thoughts

The story is compelling, but it’s also Valentino’s rare introspective voice that kept me from putting the book down. Through it all, he never loses his wry sense of humor and quick wit. Reading his story felt like growing up with him–seeing what he sees, his thoughts running through my head. I came to feel very close to Valentino; I wept and raised my fist to the sky with each new tragedy he suffered. It is a special soul who can cross this sea of violence, loss, and indifference to human life and come out on the other side with his faith in people intact.

This book is absolutely heartbreaking. It is also eye-opening and inspirational. It is a reminder to me the power of positivity and endurance. Reading Valentino’s story has helped me put my own life and struggles in perspective and keeps me from taking for granted some of the privileges afforded to me simply by being born where I was.

F.Y.I.: This book contains descriptions of graphic violence.

Mom and Me Reviews: Where the World Ends

First Line: “It was a sunny and sleepy afternoon.”

Summary: One day three friends ponder where the clouds go when they cannot see them anymore. Flip suggests the clouds go to where the world ends, and the friends decide to go on an adventure to find that place.


                Maggie: Two and a half stars

                Conor: Zero smiles, but a general keeping up with the pages being turned

                Mama Lala: Two stars.

Their Thoughts: Maggie had trouble coming up with anything to say about this story. She did suggest that it would be more relatable for her if the main characters were kids instead of animals. She said, as it is, she kind of felt “meh” about this story… which is why she gave it a rating exactly half way between zero and five. Conor didn’t seem very interested in this book, and rarely interacted with it. The illustrations did catch his attention occasionally, but rarely held it.

My Thoughts: I like the focus of friendship and adventure. The story felt incomplete, though. It’s alluded to that they find the end of the world, but the illustrations do not show it. The story didn’t really conclude at all. The title also suggests there are multiple adventures amongst these characters, but I could not find any others on goodreads… and if this is the first book in a series they did a poor job of introducing the characters. I have no idea which character is which. Hopefully their next adventure will land a little better with my two readers.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

What’s Ashley Reading?: Later

Later by Stephen King

First line: I don’t like to start with an apology – there’s probably even a rule against it, like never ending a sentence with a preposition – but after reading over the thirty pages I’ve written so far, I feel like I have to.

Summary: Jamie Conklin was born with a gift. But not a gift he wants. He can see and talk to dead people. Only his mom and he know of this gift until she tells her friend, an NYPD detective, who then uses this information to help find a killer. Through his involvement in the case, he gets more than he expected.

My Thoughts: I loved this book! Think The Sixth Sense meets crime drama with a Stephen King twist. It is King at his best. He can fit such a great story into 250 pages. I was a little nervous starting this since I loved so many of this older books that it’s scary to start a new one, hoping that it lives up to its predecessors. Starting out I wasn’t sure where the story was going to take us. And that was perfect. I did not find it predictable or cliché. I enjoyed all the characters especially the professor who is like a father figure to Jamie.

I liked how King laid out his story. It starts with Jamie as a young boy, then as he grows up but he flashes farther forward and back to help explain events in Jaime’s life. Plus the layout also gives the reader the meaning behind the title. I knew that there was going to be a big showdown at the end which was just as great as the rest of the book. But King threw in one final twist that I did predict even though it seemed a little farfetched when I guessed it. But as I read it, I yelled out, “I knew it!” All around a fun, quick and spooky little book to read over the weekend.

FYI: Language, death, ghosts, murder and drug use.

Kristy’s Reviews: The Deal of a Lifetime

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

First Line: Hi. It’s your dad. You’ll be waking up soon, it’s Christmas Eve morning in Helsingborg, and I’ve killed a person.

Summary: A father and a son are seeing each other for the first time in years. The father has a story to share before it’s too late. He tells his son about a courageous little girl lying in a hospital bed a few miles away. She’s a smart kid—smart enough to know that she won’t beat cancer by drawing with crayons all day, but it seems to make the adults happy, so she keeps doing it. (www.amazon.com)

My Thoughts:   Intriguing quick light read. What would you do? What would anyone do when you have cancer and know you’re gonna die? What would you do? For one man that lived a decent life, the end was an easy choice. Looking thru the windows at the hospital said it all. He knew from the first moment he saw this little girl what he would do in the end. And for him it was an easy choice to save the life of a little girl he barely knew. So he traded his life for hers with the help of the lady in the grey sweater and clipboard.

Mom and Me Reviews: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

This family is going on a bear hunt. They’re going to catch a BIG one, and they are NOT afraid! The adventure takes them through lots of different types of terrain though.

First Line: “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!”

Summary: This family is going on a bear hunt. They’re going to catch a BIG one, and they are NOT afraid! The adventure takes them through lots of different types of terrain though.


                Maggie: 5 stars for preschoolers. It’s not for “my age” (3rd graders), though, mom.

                Conor: Constant smiles, and one excited “fake run”

                Mama Lala: 4 stars.

Their Thoughts: “That was a lot of fun!”

My Thoughts: This truly was an adventure!

FYI: For extra fun, read it like a song. My kiddos loved that part. There are also movements you can do for each different type of terrain.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Nature of Fragile Things

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

First line: Interview with Mrs. Sophie Hocking conducted by Ambrose Logan, U.S. Marshal

Summary: When Sophie Whalen, a young Irish immigrant, answers a personal ad for a wife and mother to an man in San Francisco she sees this as an opportunity for a better life. She leaves her life in tenements of New York City for a man she has never met. Upon arrival she finds her new husband to be distant but she immediately falls in love with her step-daughter, Kat.

However, on a fateful evening a woman shows up on her doorstep with a story that throws her world into chaos. As these women decide what to do with their new information, tragedy strikes in the form of the largest natural disasters in California history. They must survive the earthquake, its aftermath and the secret that they now hold.

My Thoughts: Susan Meissner is a wonderful writer. She brings to life stories of remarkable women. I can always tell she does lots of research and builds intricate lives for her characters. I enjoyed the story, the history and the ending. It was a wonderful twisting plot with little surprises.

I was not too familiar with the events of the San Francisco earthquake. This was one of the main reasons I picked to read this book. It gave me a little bit more insight into what it must have been like. Having now experienced minor earthquakes here in Kansas, I cannot imagine having to live through one such as this.

And as always there is a little twist at the end which just makes the book that much better.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Marie Benedict.