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to all the boys I've loved beforeI’m the mother of a teenager, but I also love reading YA just for me. I love remembering what it was like to be a teen.

In Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we meet Lara Jean. She’s going to be a junior, and she knows this year is going to be different. Her sister has just left for college — in Scotland! — breaking up with her boyfriend, literally the boy next door, before she leaves. Lara Jean, Kitty, and her father have accepted Josh as a part of the family, so this changes thing for their family. The absence of Margot is even more felt in this family because she’s sort of stood in as their mother since her death years ago.

Lara Jean has never really had a boyfriend, but she’s certainly had her share of crushes. But when she decides that she’s “over” the boy or that it’s time to be over him, she writes him a letter and puts it in her special hatbox. When Peter Kavinsky — the “it” boy of her school — comes up to her with the letter, she’s dumbfounded. How did he get it? And does that mean….?? She rushes home to find all of her letters are gone.

I don’t want to give anything away, but it leads to a funny comedy of errors and misunderstandings. Lara Jean is a sweet teen with that mix of insecurity and confidence that many teens have. This was my first Jenny Han novel, though I’ve been meaning to read them, but her characters reminded me of the equally lovable Maureen Johnson’s.

CONTENT NOTES (from a mom): This book is about a high school junior, so there is definitely some content that is more suitable for older teens, such as sexual activity, drinking, etc, however this is mostly just discussed in reference to someone’s character, but not described or glorified. The swearing is probably moderate — more than just a few mild swear words, but not as prevalent as some novels.

I’m glad to see that there’s another book coming out in 2015, P.S. I Love You.

Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer

Jennifer lives in Houston with her 2 kids, husband, and dog. In addition to reading, she enjoys travel, Bible study, food, and fun. She blogs about some of these things -- when her nose isn't in a book -- at Snapshot.

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5 Great Poetry Collections for Kids #NationalPoetryMonth

With April being National Poetry month, we had to share some of our favorite poetry collections. Most of these books were sent to us for review in the past, but they continue to stand out in our mind. I (Jennifer) am sharing 3 of my favorites first, and then I turn the list to Dawn, who shares two of her favorites.

The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry – This is the first book that always comes to my mind when I think of poetry collections. The combination of new and classic poems and great illustrations is a win-win.
Kenn Nesbitt’s The Tighty Whitey Spider- I love funny poetry, as does my son. This is one of mine and my son’s favorites.
I Didn’t

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Strong Motion by Jonathan Franzen

I like Jonathan Franzen. I’m not sure why, since it seems that one of his goals is to question and debunk principles that I hold dear, such as big business, family, purpose, goodness, and religion. But maybe that’s why. He addresses issues of our day, and the opinions he has and the characters he paints definitely reflect our society. His long-awaited novel Freedom captivated me (click through to read my review), so when Strong Motion came out in audiobook recently, I knew I wanted to try it out. It was first published in 1992, so it now reads like a bit of historical fiction, twenty years in the past. The 90′s setting was interesting, and yet the big business topic felt familiar and current.

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Resurrection: Books on Screen

Last year, I was awed, fascinated, and totally spooked by Jason Mott’s novel The Returned, a harrowing tale of mysterious reappearances of long-dead people. While these “returned” folks seemed just as they had been before they had died, the true fright of this story lay in the emotional toll experienced by the loved ones of the previously deceased.  While the novel briefly told of several people’s experiences returning from the dead, the main spotlight was on one family, whose eight-year-old son Jacob had returned… almost fifty years after he had drowned. Both Nancy and I were taken by this novel, and you can read our full accounts in the review we co-wrote back in September.
Even before the novel had published, it had been optioned

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Miles Adler-Hart is a curious 9-year-old who wants to know what his parents are planning for him. Typical enough, you’re thinking. But he goes to great lengths to find out. He hangs out on the roof to listen to conversations on the porch below. He rigs up a telephone extension so that he can listen in on conversations between his mother and her friends. He enlists his best friend, Hector, to help, and the two of them move on to reading emails and even phone tapping, with equipment purchased from Radio Shack.
Miles and Hector soon learn that their parents are separating–both sets. His mother, a very intelligent woman who is at one point called “beautiful for a mathematician” (a compliment that sends Miles into

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Space Saver & Alfie’s Great Escape

Space Saver: Ben has, as usual, come to Mission Control after school. Both his parents work there, and it’s usually a great place to hang out. But today, something is wrong. Everyone is shouting and upset, and there aren’t even any biscuits for his tea.  That morning, a wheel fell off the Moon Buggy with the new spy camera mounted on it, and the astronauts weren’t able to work with the tiny screws to fix it. They have flown away and left the buggy with the spy camera just lying there on the moon, where anyone could get at them.  Even the Prime Minister calls to yell about it, and Ben answers the phone. “I expect you to sort this problem out straight away,” shouts

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Until You’re Mine

There’s nothing like a good psychological thriller. With the smashing success of Gone Girl (linked to my review), I have a feeling we’ll continue seeing even more books in this genre.
Until You’re Mine: A Novel is the kind of novel where you are never quite sure what to believe. Just when you think you have one character’s motives figured out, something happens that turns that on end.
Claudia is the stepmother to preschool twin boys who lost their mother when they were infants. Their dad/her husband is a naval man who is gone on assignment for months at a time. So when Claudia finally gets pregnant — something we sense has been difficult for her — and he’s going to be away for the

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We’ll Always Have Paris #Giveaway

I would LOVE to be able to travel the world with my kids. I’m not sure that’s going to happen in this lifetime, so reading Jennifer Coburn’s memoir of the 4 trips she took over 8 years with her daughter Katie might have to do for now.
I know I won’t be spending a month in Spain, but I do hope to plan a mother-daughter trip of my own sometime.
Check out my full review of We’ll Always Have Paris at 5 Minutes for Mom and enter to win one of two copies.

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Always Emily #MMGM

I have been a fan of Michaela MacColl for a while. I loved her first novel. Scroll all the way to the bottom to see links in the recommended posts to two of her other books I enjoyed.
Earlier this year, I decided to reread Wuthering Heights. It was interesting, but I stalled a bit. Reading Always Emily about the life of Emily and Charlotte Bronte in their teen years revived my interest.
Michaela MacColl writes historical fiction that will appeal to fans of the genre. I read it at times, but it’s not my favorite genre, but I always enjoy her books. They are written for an older middle grade through young adult audience (probably 5th to 8th grade), but are so enjoyable for

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Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

Frances Mayes is best known for her memoir Under the Tuscan Sun. In her latest work, she returns to her childhood, spent in the small town of Fitzgerald, Georgia, in a time when the family was still served by a black maid and Southern women were expected to behave in certain specific ways.
Under Magnolia: a Southern Memoir opens when Mayes makes a stop in Mississippi in the middle of a book tour. Her housing arrangements have fallen through and she ends up staying in a bed and breakfast. Entering the bedroom, she says “a thousand memories suddenly free-fall through me.” (xvi) This is the story of a journey home, a way to make peace with a childhood that often wasn’t peaceful. She likens it

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The title and the cover art of M.J. Rose’s novel Seduction may give the impression of a sexually natured theme, but this novel is more about a seduction of spirit, an emotional temptation. Combining a suspense novel with historical fiction, Rose takes readers on a journey through time, inspired by beloved author Victor Hugo’s real-life experiences with loss and his pursuit of connecting with the “other side.”
I enjoy novels that have alternating plot lines, and the tie-in with Victor Hugo was the initial draw for me when I first heard of this book. While I have loved Les Misérables for many years, so much of Hugo’s personal history was unknown to me. Though this novel fictionalizes the specifics of his storyline, the author constructed

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5 Books That Hooked My Non-Reader {Friday’s Five}

To call my 10 year old son a non-reader is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.  Like many parents, especially those who love to read, I’ve read to both of my boys since birth. Board books, picture books, early readers, we’ve read them all.  Bedtime has always been our time to read, and that has continued for Alex, who has been reading independently for a few years now and moved from our family reading time in the loft to his bean bag in his room.  During the school year he has required reading that’s part of his homework, sometimes it’s a book they’re reading in class, but often he just has to read.  If he had his way, he would read graphic novels,

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