GIVEAWAY

GIVEAWAY
Celebrate my 5th blogiversary! Click here to enter to win books and Amazon gift cards.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week in Review

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Good morning. It's a great day today! It's my 5th Blogiversary! I can't believe I've been reviewing books here at My Book Retreat for five years already. Time has flown by. When I started, my son had just started kindergarten and my daughter was only 2 years old! Now my son is finishing up at the elementary school and will be moving on to middle school next year. That's crazy!

I've reviewed over 300 books since I started on October 20, 2009. That's an average of 60 books a year. Not too shabby! I'm hosting a BIG GIVEAWAY for my blogiversary, so if you want a chance to win books or an Amazon gift card, enter the giveaway today!

Reviews and Blog Posts
Last week, I only wrote one review, but I had a couple other posts as well:
Review: Divided by David Cay Johnston (for Blog Action Day)
Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon starting line
5th Blogiversary Giveaway

Reading
I finished reading Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality edited by David Cay Johnston, and posted my review for Blog Action Day. I enjoyed taking part in this annual event once again. It was enlightening to read through some of the other blogs that were written about inequality that day.

I am now participating in the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon. I started reading The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M.L. Stedman. Then I realized I had a review due this week, so I put that aside and started on To The Breaking Pointe (First Force Book 2) by Cindy McDonald. I'm already 45% through that one according to the Kindle app, so I'm sure I'll be moving back to the Stedman book soon. Also note: The first book in that series, Into the Crossfire (First Force Book 1) , is only 99 cents right now!

Kids Reading
C read a few more of the How to Train Your Dragon books by Cressida Cowell. He's really enjoying the series. M and I are reading Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo for the Lit Circle we're doing at school.

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

5th Blogiversary Giveaway


Five years ago today, I started My Book Retreat as a place to write about the books I was reading. More than 300 reviews later, I'm still here! I may be writing less frequently, but I've managed to keep this blog updated fairly regularly along the way. I hope you've enjoyed reading my reviews over the years! I've certainly enjoyed getting to know many of my readers through their comments and blogs.

To celebrate this big event, I'm offering 5 GIVEAWAY PRIZES ~ one for each year I've been here. Three of the giveaways are books that are open to U.S. addresses only. I'm also giving away a $10 Amazon gift card and a $5 Amazon gift card; those are open to all of my readers. 

To enter, fill out a Rafflecopter below. You must choose at least one of the options within the Rafflecopter to win.

Enter the U.S. giveaway here. There will be three winners. The first winner will get an ARC of Natchez Burning. The second winner will get a copy of The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope. The third winner will get a copy of The Whole Golden World. Thank you to TLC Book Tours for donating these books for this giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter the international giveaway here. There will be two winners. The first winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card. The second winner will get a $5 Amazon gift card.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

In both giveaways, winners will be notified by contact method provided in the Rafflecopter. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, a new winner may be chosen.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wonderfully Wicked Readathon



I'm joining in the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon this week. It started on Friday, but I've only had a bit of time to read this weekend. So I'm hoping to catch up more during the week. Here's what I'm hoping to read this week:

1. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman ~ started reading
2. To the Breaking Pointe by Cindy McDonald ~ about halfway done
3. This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (if I have time)

I'll keep this page updated with my progress. Follow along with the readathon at #WWReadathon on Twitter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Divided by David Cay Johnston for Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day, and I am joining with other bloggers from more than 100 different countries around the world to talk about inequality. Inequality is a theme that is at the heart of many of the previous Blog Action Day themes. In the past we have talked about water, food, human rights, and other topics that should be equal to all, but certainly are not.


Since this is a book blog, I decided to review a book about inequality. There were many to choose from. In the end, I went with a book that is a collection of excerpts from other books, speeches and articles: Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality edited by David Cay Johnston. He brings together writings of leading scholars, activists and journalists to provide a deeper look into inequality in the United States.

Divided is split into seven sections: Overview, Income Inequality, Education, Health Care Inequality, Debt and Poverty, Policy and Family. The first two sections take up almost half of the book, which makes sense since income inequality is related to inequality in all of the other areas discussed later in the book. The writers talk about the history of inequality in the United States, and the fact that the divide between the rich and the middle class and poor has grown substantially in the past few decades. Many statistics stand out, including one highlighted in the book's jacket: "Shockingly, from 2009 to 2011, the top 1 percent got 121 percent of the income gains while the bottom 99 percent saw their income fall."

Inequality affects many aspects of our lives. President Barack Obama notes that inequality gives a stronger voice to those who can afford to pay lobbyists and fund political campaigns. Sean F. Reardon discusses the fact that high-income families are able to spend more resources on educational experiences for their children, such as high-priced preschool programs, specialized camps and many other opportunities that widen the academic achievement gap between rich and poor. Stephen Bezruchka talks about the fact that inequality is at the heart of the relatively poor health in the United States; "over thirty nations have better health by many measures than the United States." (p190-191)

One of the big changes is that it is not the gap between the poor and the middle class that is widening today; it is the gap between the richest of the rich, the 1 percent, and the rest of the country. It's the middle class that is suffering now. As Elizabeth Warren states:
America was once a world of three economic groups that shaded each into the other--a bottom, a middle, and a top--and economic security was the birthright of the latter two. Today the lines dividing Americans are changing. No longer is the division on economic security between the poor and everyone else. The division is between those who are prospering and those who are struggling, and much of the middle class is now on the struggling side. (p28-29)
Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Economy is a great collection of thoughts on the issue of inequality in America. It definitely leans toward the left in terms of political views, but it is a real eye-opener in terms of understanding inequality, education, economic policy and other aspects of our country that are affecting each and every one of us today.

Be sure to check out other blogs about Inequality by visiting the Blog Action Day website or check out #BAD2014 or #inequality on Twitter.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week in Review

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Good morning. I hope you had a nice week. Mine was pretty good. I started a literature circle with a group in M's 2nd grade class. We're reading Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. The kids seem to like it so far.

Reviews and Blog Posts
Last week, I wrote two reviews:
Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin
A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan

Both were quite good so be sure to check out my reviews!

Reading
I read Palmetto Moon last week, and then started reading Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality edited by David Cay Johnston. I'm reading this one in preparation for Blog Action Day, which is this Thursday, October 16th. On that day, bloggers from over 100 countries around the world will all be blogging about the same topic: inequality. I'll be reviewing Divided, and sharing my thoughts on inequality. If you feel strongly about inequality of any kind, consider signing up to blog with us!

Kids Reading
Last weekend, we watched the movie How to Train Your Dragon. C then discovered that there is a series of books related to the movie, so we bought the first one, How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, and we've requested the next couple from the library. When we were at the book store, M bought Thea Stilton Special Edition: The Secret of the Snow: A Geronimo Stilton Adventure by Thea Stilton, which she is enjoying.

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Book Review: A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan


Literary agent Jo Donovan is in charge of a highly successful agency representing some great talent. Widow of a talented and well-regarded author, Hugo Donovan, Jo has made a name for herself and is much sought after. But when a would-be author begins stalking her, insisting she must read his manuscript and take him on as a client, things start to go wrong. Soon, her clients are attacked, and Jo is reunited with an old flame who is now a police detective in charge of her case.

A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan is a mystery that encompasses the world of publishing. Rogan brings us into the everyday happenings of a literary agency, the roles people play in choosing and promoting books and authors, and the dangers that arise when authors are rejected. The mystery was well-done, keeping me turning pages from beginning to end, and not giving away the truth until it was finally revealed.

As much as this is a page-turner, I found it a bit of a slow read ~ for a good reason. The writing style was wonderful. I found I wanted to linger over every word and sentence, rather than reading quickly as I tend to do with mysteries. Here's an example from the preface:
He smiled as one does at an oft-heard joke. I looked at him properly for the first time. The boyishness was gone, but the lines around his eyes and mouth suited him, lending gravitas to his face. His eyes were green, but a darker, warier shade than I remembered, rain forest instead of meadow. I wondered if he'd ever married. His ring finger was bare, which meant nothing. Hugo and I exchanged rings when we married, but Hugo never wore his. It chafed him when he wrote, he'd said.
The characters in A Dangerous Fiction are well-drawn, although we definitely get to know Jo more than others. I still felt the other characters with whom she works and interacts were quite realistic. And it was fun to get a glimpse into a literary agency. While there is some violence ~ it's a murder mystery, after all ~ this is more of a cozy mystery than the more harsh thrillers I sometimes read. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries, especially those interested in publishing.

My rating: 4/5

Visit the author's website
Read an excerpt of A Dangerous Fiction

This review was written based on a copy of A Dangerous Fiction that I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review: Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin


Living in a wealthy family in Charleston, SC, in 1947, Vada Hadley doesn't have a lot of control over her own life. On the eve of her marriage to a man she doesn't love, she finally breaks free and runs away to a small, rural town called Round O, where a teaching job awaits her. Here, she finds love and friendship, but also heartache as she tries to hide from her past, and prays that her father and fiance never find her.

Palmetto Moon: A Lowcountry Novel by Kim Boykin is a historical novel about Vada growing up and finding out what really matters to her. Living in a boarding house, waiting for the school year to start, Vada quickly falls in love with Frank, the owner of the town's diner. But their love is strained when Vada gets a message about a friend in trouble. Frank wants to help her find her friend, but he also wants to protect her more than she would like.

Vada also finds friendship in this town in the form of Claire, a young widow living at the boarding house with her three little boys, still dealing with the loss of her husband in the war. Vada wants to find happiness for herself, but is also determined to help Claire find happiness as well.

The story is told mostly from Vada's first person point of view, but there are many other perspectives as well. This gives the reader the opportunity to get to know some of the other characters a little better. It's definitely a character-driven novel, and I grew to care about each one.

Overall, this is a heartfelt story that gives us a glimpse into what it was like for women in the 1940s. It's a story of courtship and love, friendship and independence. If you enjoy Southern women's fiction and historical fiction, you should check it out.

My Rating: 4/5

Visit the author's website
Read an excerpt of Palmetto Moon

This review was written based on a copy of Palmetto Moon that I received from Pump Up Your Book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week in Review & FrightFall Readathon Recap

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Good evening. I am writing this pretty late in the day because I had it all written up earlier, and then hit some button and it all disappeared!! I have a new computer now and am still getting used to the keyboard. Hopefully this time I'll get through the whole post without deleting it!

Reviews and Blog Posts
Last week, I participated in a readathon, so I never got around to writing any reviews. I now have two books ready to review, so I just have to find time to write the reviews.

Reading
I participated in the FrightFall Readathon last week. It was hosted by Michelle at Seasons of Reading. I finished reading A Dangerous Fiction: A Mystery by Barbara Rogan. Then I read The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood. That was a great choice for the readathon, which required at least one scary read. Although, it was more gory than scary.

Now I'm going to start reading Palmetto Moon: A Lowcountry Novel by Kim Boykin, which I'm reading for a book tour on Friday.

Kids Reading
The kids spent a lot of time reading Poetry Speaks to Children, which has a great variety of poems that appeal to kids. It includes everything from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe to poems about teddy bears and mommies.

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekly Reading Recap & FrightFall Readathon

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Good morning. I hope you had a great week. I had fun celebrating Banned Books Week last week. I posted several reviews of banned books throughout the week. On the weekend, I went to a local corn maze with my family. We had a great time going through their two mazes and finding all the stations hidden in the corn stalks! It's definitely starting to feel like fall!

Reviews and Blog Posts
Banned Books Week Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Review: Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers
Banned Books Week Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Banned Books Week Review: The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Banned Books Week Review: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reading
I finished reading Accidents of Marriage: A Novel by Randy Susan Meyers, a contemporary family drama. Now I'm about halfway through A Dangerous Fiction: A Mystery by Barbara Rogan.

I'm participating in the FrightFall Readathon this week. It's hosted by Michelle at Seasons of Reading. I plan to finish A Dangerous Fiction and then start another thriller ~ either This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash or The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood. I'm thinking the latter sounds like the best choice for a scary read since Stephen King called it "Scary as hell."

Kids Reading
C read Guys Read: Other Worlds last week. He really enjoyed it and it introduced him to several new authors. He also read Turn Left at the Cow by Lisa Bullard. He really liked that one too, which is good since it was a random pick from the library! M is still reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney, and she's been reading lots of picture books for her reading homework.

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Banned Books Week Featured Review: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Each year during Banned Books Week, I review a book that has been challenged frequently. In 2011, I chose to read and review And Tango Makes Three, written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. This picture book has been at the top of the list of most challenged books four times because of objections to the book's homosexual theme. Following is my review from September 24, 2011. Enjoy!
And Tango Makes Three, written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, is based on a true story of two penguins living in the Central Park Zoo, who fall in love and form a family. The reason the book has been challenged so much is that the penguins are both boys.

The authors start the story by describing Central Park and the zoo that is located there. They talk about the people visiting the zoo ~ all types of families. Then they explain that the animals in the zoo are families too. When they arrive at the penguin house, Richardson and Parnell tell readers that each year, the girl penguins and the boy penguins start noticing each other and become couples. But one pair of penguins was different. Silo and Roy were both boys, but they did everything together. They even built a nest together.

Their keeper watches the penguins as they mimic the other penguin couples and try to hatch a rock. He decides to give Roy and Silo an egg that needs to be cared for instead. The penguins spend much time sitting on the egg and keeping it warm until the day it cracks open, and little Tango comes out. The zookeeper calls her Tango because "It takes two to make a Tango."

This story was very sweet and full of love. I read it to both of my kids and they enjoyed it as well. M loved the part where the egg cracks open, and C thought it was cool that the book is based on a true story. Neither made a single comment about the fact that Tango has two daddies.

I would highly recommend And Tango Makes Three to families with two dads, two moms or those with adopted children, as I think children in those types of families would be able to relate well to the character of Tango. I also recommend it to anyone who wants to show their children that families come in all different forms ~ as well as to anyone who likes penguins, of course!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Banned Books Week Featured Review: The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

Each year during Banned Books Week, I review a book that has been challenged frequently. In 2010, I chose to read and review The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. This children's book has been at the top of the list of most challenged books for the past two years. It is challenged because of offensive language, unsuitability for age group and violence. I first read the book with my son C when he was 6 years old. He has since read the entire series and loved it. Following is my review from September 27, 2010. Enjoy!

I originally figured I'd wait until C asked to read the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey before checking it out, but when I saw it on the Most Frequently Challenged Books, I thought it would be a great way to support Banned Books Week. We picked out the first book in the series, The Adventures of Captain Underpants. I opened it up and was ready for lots of bad behavior and potty mouth dialog. What I got was a big surprise.

This book wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected. As a matter of fact, I thought it was pretty funny. And C did too. The story is about two 4th grade boys, George and Harold, who are always getting into trouble at school. The principal can't stand them or the comic books they write. When he finally gets the evidence he needs to take the boys down, they resort to desperate measures to save themselves, and in the process turn their principal into their comic book superhero Captain Underpants!

Do the boys misbehave? Of course. Might C learn a trick or two from them about how to misbehave? Yes, I suppose he might. But the story wasn't damaging or disturbing. It was funny, which is exactly what it was meant to be. It certainly shouldn't be banned.

Four years later, I can tell you that my son has not turned into a juvenile delinquent after reading this series!! I also want to share this new video that Dav Pilkey released this week. It's about banning books. Take a look!