Book Review: The Only and Only Ruby

The One and Only Ruby is the sequel to the One and Only Ivan – which was recently made into a fun movie! As well as a sequel to The One and Only Bob.  I used to read Katherine Applegate’s teen books when I was a  teen, I guess I am regressing as this one is more geared towards the younger crowd, but since I enjoyed Ivan I had to see what ended up happening with Ruby…

Ruby is a young elephant with a secret.  She has started being called “Tusky” by her family because her tusks are coming in – but she hates her tusks.  Ruby is no longer living at the mall, but she is still with her Uncle Ivan at the Zoo.  She ends up telling the story of when she was born and growing up in Africa.

This was a really sweet story about how you can’t stop yourself from growing up, but it’s ok to think about the past and the loved ones you’ve lost along the way as well, as they helped you to get there.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

From beloved powerhouse author Katherine Applegate comes The One and Only Ruby, starring the adorable baby elephant from the Newbery Medal-winning modern classic The One and Only Ivan and its bestselling sequel, The One and Only Bob.

Ruby’s story picks up a few months after the events of The One and Only Bob. Now living in a wildlife sanctuary, Ruby’s caretaker from the elephant orphanage in Africa where she grew up is visiting. Seeing him again brings back a flood of memories both happy and sad of her life before the circus, and she recounts the time she spent in the African savannah to Ivan and Bob.

In the timeless way that only Katherine Applegate could craft, this highly anticipated novel in verse is the perfect mix of heartfelt and humorous, poignant and sweet. Artist Patricia Castelao returns to the world of Ivan and his friends with gorgeous black-and-white interior illustrations to complete the story.

The One and Only Ruby features first-person narrative; author’s use of literary devices (personification, imagery); and story elements (plot, character development, perspective).

This highly anticipated middle grade novel is an excellent choice for tween readers in grades 5 to 8, for independent reading, homeschooling, and sharing in the classroom.

Don’t miss the film adaptation of The One and Only Ivan, now streaming on Disney+!

Book Review: The Future of Rock and Roll

The Future of Rock & Roll talks about the evolution of radio station 97X WOXY – which at its inception was the sixth modern rock station in the United States, based in Ohio.  The station tried to buck the trends and be independent – which at first meant avoiding repetition and playing new and more things unlike other stations (it seems like not much has changed since late 80s!).  It was very interesting to read how the media changed and how this station changed with it – even having a streaming option for their broadcasts in the early ’00s when that was relatively unheard of.  Unfortunately, the changes ended up being too much for WOXY to keep up with and they are no longer.

But definitely made me think what independence is and what it means to me.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.


About the Book

In 1983, an Ohio radio station called WOXY launched a sonic disruption to both corporate rock and to its conservative home region, programming an omnivorous range of genres and artists while being staunchly committed to local independent art and media. In the 1990s, as alternative rock went mainstream and radio grew increasingly homogeneous, WOXY gained international renown as one of Rolling Stone‘s “Last Great Independent Radio” stations. The station projected a philosophy that prioritized such independence—the idea that truly progressive, transgressive, futuristic disruptions of the status quo were possible only when practiced with and for other people.

In The Future of Rock and Roll, philosopher Robin James uses WOXY’s story to argue against a corporate vision of independence—in which everyone fends for themselves—and in favor of an alternative way of thinking and relating to one another that disrupts norms but is nevertheless supported by communities. Against the standard retelling of the history of “modern rock,” James looks to the local scenes that made true independence possible by freeing individual artists from the whims of the boardroom. This philosophy of community-rooted independence offers both a counternarrative to the orthodox history of indie rock and an alternative worldview to that of the current corporate mainstream.

Robin James is a writer, editor, and philosopher. She is author of four books including Resilience & Melancholy and The Sonic Episteme.

Book Review: We Love to Entertain

If you enjoy HGTV renovations and mysteries – then this book is for you.  I didn’t want to stop reading and almost gave up my entire weekends plans to try and finish this book.  Robert Barron – known also by “The Robber Barron” thinks he’s scored big when he gets a Vermont cabin for a steal at a tax sale because they previous owner hadn’t paid owed taxes. He ends up teaming up with social media influencer Holly to renovate the cabin and submit it for an HGTV show “To the Manor Build”.  They become one of the finalists, fall in love and end up getting married – only to have Robert ask to borrow his assistant’s car to take Holly on an impromptu honeymoon at the last second – just DAYS before they’d need to have all the final clips filmed for the show! When they don’t return… the crew ends up filing missing persons reports for both of them.

I’m not sure I actually liked ANY of the characters in this book, especially as more and more secrets were revealed, but I just had to know what was going to happen and who was behind it!  But I liked how it was based on a TV show and how they even incorporated online social media – specifically a subreddit with fans of the show and amateur sleuths who thought they knew what was going on.  I never really did quite figure out “whodunit” but there were so many twist and turns on every page it was hard to really pin anything down.  Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

From the bestselling author of Do I Know You? comes a fast-paced, riveting psychological thriller that skewers our modern obsession with home renovation and fixer-uppers.

Holly and Robert Barron are attractive young real-estate investors and contestants in a competition run by To the Manor Build, the nation’s most popular home renovation app. With millions in product endorsements and online followers at stake, they’re rehabbing a Vermont home they scored at a bargain price into a chic hilltop estate ideal for entertaining.

It’s all camera-ready laughs and debates over herringbone tile until Holly and Robert go missing hours after their picture-perfect wedding—leaving behind a bloody trail.

Suspicion falls quickly on Erika Turnbull, the Barrons’ twenty-something assistant—eager, efficient, and secretly in love with Robert. Did Erika let her misguided passion turn her into a murderer? So claim the townsfolk of Snowden, Vermont, who still haven’t forgiven her for a tragic accident back in high school.

But Erika’s mother, Kim, is not about to let small-town gossip and a cop with an axe to grind destroy her daughter—again. With time running out and their own lives at risk, the mother-daughter duo set out to find what really happened to the Barrons. First, though, they’ll have to confront the vengeful former owner of Holly and Robert’s estate, ruthless reality-show producers, and a secret that might bring their own house down.

Fast-paced, full of humor, and undeniably twisty, We Love to Entertain is another winner from Sarah Strohmeyer.

Book Review: Touch Matters

As someone who doesn’t want to be touched (physical touch is often close to if not the bottom of my results on love language quizzes) I was curious to see how much “Touch Matters” and what I might have been missing out on by trying to avoid it.  I think a bit of it might be because I wasn’t much for being given “pleasant touch” as a reward growing up. In fact, quite the opposite.  I’m also in no way a fan of social touch.

While this book has shown me that a lot of these touches can be beneficial to me (especially hugging), I am not sure I am going to change how I feel about being touched any time soon! I guess I’ll just continue to be extra stressed. It is all I’ve ever known, after all.

The book will give you a quiz to find out your “Touch Persona” by having you answer a series of questions on a range from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. Turns out I am more agreeable towards intimate touch and less so with unfamiliar touch, affective touch behaviors and friends and family.  The outcome of this quiz was really not all that surprising to me.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

An exploration of the new science behind our most underappreciated sense and why we need to harness the power of touch for our health and wellbeing.

Every day, we use our sense of touch to navigate the world. A handshake, a pat on the shoulder, a hug-all essential daily touches that make up our daily lives. In Title TK, Professor Michael Banissy brings together diverse scientific insights from the world’s largest study on touch with takeaways on how to enhance your levels of touch for a happier, healthier life. The book explains why touch is essential to our wellbeing, the role it plays in our relationships, friendships, in the bedroom, workplace, in team activities such as sports, and much more.

Banissy’s latest research explores:

  • Our “touch personalities”
  • Touch starvation
  • How touch defines our relationships and self-esteem
  • The impact of touch on our physical and mental health

This is a fascinating window into one of our most important and basic senses and how to harness its power.

Book Review: Backstreet Boys 30th Anniversary Celebration

This is a book about the creation and last 30 years of the Backstreet Boys career.  As a member of Team *NSYNC I was disappointed to see there was a call out about *NSYNC being on hiatus 3 paragraphs in.  While this book is written by 2 fans, you’d think we’d be grown up and professional enough now to let the 2 bands stand on their own.  Apparently not.  This was a major turn off.  A lot of the info in the book I had already known by being a “fan” for the last 20 whatever years or hearing the guys on various podcasts and interviews.

There were however a lot of photos included and some fan bios which were neat.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Backstreet Boys with the ultimate tribute book—filled with amazing tour photography, band-member profiles, fan memories, and more.

Since breaking into the scene in 1993, the Backstreet Boys have sold over 100 million records around the globe making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists, and giving them the title of best-selling boy band of all time. They are the only boy band to have their first ten albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200, and the first group since Led Zeppelin to do so. Celebrating their 30th anniversary as a band in April 2023, members AJ McLeanBrian LittrellNick CarterKevin Richardson, and Howie Dorough are still going strong and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Featuring a powerhouse foreword by singer-songwriter, DJ, author, activist, and one fifth of the megastar girl group the Spice Girls Melanie Chisholm (aka Melanie C or Sporty Spice), this loving homage to the Boys is written by super fans and owners Karah-Leigh Hancock and Emilia Filogamo and explores the band’s journey from relative unknowns to superstardom, including:

  • Personal backstories and journeys for all five members, including a tribute to Nick’s brother Aaron
  • An exploration of every chart-topping single, best-selling album, and sold-out tour
  • Fan stories and memories
  • Quotes and testimonials from industry professionals
  • Amazing tour photography
  • Fan memorabilia
  • And more!

Whether occupying a place of honor on your coffee table or gifted as the supreme fan treasure, relive the ’90s through the amazing journey of the Backstreet Boys, one that is truly larger than life.

Backstreet’s back, all right!

Book Review: David Hockney

Little People Big Dreams is back this time with a book about David Hockney.  I was not familiar with David at all before reading this book. Turns out, David is a gay artist who would sometimes fail his tests at school so everyone would think he was only good at art! It was interesting to learn so much more about an artist who knew who he was and what he wanted from a young age – went for it – and was incredibly successful with it!  These Little People Big Dreams books have great illustrations and a lot of great easy to read stories about famous figures.

I received a free e-copy of this book from Net Galley in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

In this book from the critically acclaimed, multimillion-copy bestselling Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the incredible life of David Hockney, the inspirational British artist.  

Little David loved to draw and looked at the world in his own unique way. He always knew what his path in life would be… he would be an artist!

He went to art school and worked day and night to hone his drawing skills. He sold his first painting as a student, and in just five years he had a sell-out solo show of his work. When he moved from the UK to sunny California, he became known for creating bright, bold paintings.

From the Grand Canyon to the Yorkshire hills of home, David painted fantastic landscapes, including one made of 50 canvases all stitched together. An artist who delights in constantly reinventing himself, to this day David is eager to share his colourful work, and himself, with the whole world.

This inspiring book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the incredible young poet and activist’s life so far.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a bestselling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

This empowering series offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardback versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. Boxed gift sets allow you to collect a selection of the books by theme. Paper dolls, learning cards, matching games and other fun learning tools provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children.

Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS! 

Book Review: King Charles

The Little People, Big Dreams books are at it again, this time with a book about King Charles. (It’s still kind of weird to be typing that!)  I hadn’t realized that he was the first royal to earn a degree after spending some time in boarding school.  He also started defending the environment before global warming was a well known issue.  In fact, the items I knew the most about him (married to Diana, father to William and Harry) were just glossed over on a page or two.  It focused a lot more in information I didn’t really know about him, which was great! I also love the illustrations in this book and how they’re written as easy reads and geared towards children.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

From the critically acclaimed, multimillion-copy best-selling Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the life of King Charles.

Little Charles always knew that, one day, he would have a big job to do. As the son of Queen Elizabeth II, he was a prince, and in the future, he was to inherit the throne of the United Kingdom.

As a young man, he developed a passion for one cause: the environment. Charles recognized that plastics and pollutants were causing harm to Earth, and as the Prince of Wales, he spent all his efforts championing climate justice and sustainability.

As a member of the Royal Family, Charles used his power to build important organizations such as The Prince’s Trust, a charity that works to improve the lives of young people across the UK.

And in 2022, when he became King, he pledged that he would spend the rest of his life serving his people with loyalty, respect, and love.

This inspiring book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the royal’s life, from little prince to grown-up king.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling biography series for kids that explores the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

This empowering series of books offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardcover and paperback versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. With rewritten text for older children, the treasuries each bring together a multitude of dreamers in a single volume. You can also collect a selection of the books by theme in boxed gift setsActivity books and a journal provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children​​.

Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

Book Review: Stuffed

Stuffed is a book containing 65 mix & match recipes for sandwich cookies! Whoopie pies, macarons, ice cream sandwiches and more! The book breaks down these delicious sandwiches into 6 categories: 1. Oldies but Goodies, 2. For the Love of Chocolate, 3. The Cool Cookies, 4. Tart & Tangy, 5. Cookies with a Kick, 6. Cocktail Cookies and then the book is rounded out with chapter 7 – the fillings!

In addition to the recipes, there’s a lot of tips and tricks to make sure your kitchen and pantry are ready to go to make whatever type of cookie sandwich your heart desires.  What supplies you will need for baking, what ingredients to have on hand and tips on how to know your kitchen! Don’t want to be burning anything because you’re not familiar with your oven!

One tip for reading this book – make sure you’ve eaten before you start!  I had just finished lunch but still would like to eat every single one of these cookies in the Oldies but Goodies section. (My favorite pick is probably the Funfetti Cookies with Cake Batter Buttercream though! Homemade milanos are probably a close second)

All the cookies are photographed as well and I am sure that any attempt I make for any of these will not come out looking anywhere near as gorgeous… but if it tastes good, I guess we can call that a win!

Other favorites throughout the book include: Hot Fudge Sundae Macarons, Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches and Sugar Cookie Confetti Ice Cream Sandwiches!

I was also surprised to see some savory options in the mix!  Definitely a lot of options to choose from!

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

Double the cookie, double the fun.

Ice cream sandwiches, whoopie pies, macarons, homemade Oreos—this irresistible baking book has recipes for all these delicious sandwich cookies and plenty more. From Browned Butter Blondie blog creator Heather Mubarak, Stuffed features 65 mix-and-match cookie sandwiches for every occasion and craving, including both sweet and savory bakes that range from childhood classics with a twist (Nutter Butters! Chipwiches!) to sophisticated, party-ready treats (Strawberry Shortcake Macarons, Parmesan Polenta Crackers with Chive Cream Cheese). A whole chapter dedicated to swirly buttercreams, smooth ganache, fruity jams, and more lets you experiment with different cookie-filling pairings to your heart’s content. Or leave out the filling altogether for a super simple bake—the possibilities are endless! Home bakers of all levels will appreciate the flexible, choose-your-own-adventure format, while fans of Snacking Cakes, Dessert Person, and 100 Cookies will delight in a new trove of crave-worthy recipes. In a chunky package with a puffy case and a photo of every cookie sandwich, this book is stuffed with all the cookie recipes you’ll ever need.

Book Review: Pop Rock Icons

Pop Rock Icons is a photographic book that shows a ton of Pop Rock Icons from the 60s and 70s.  I definitely wish I was alive at this time and am tempted to make myself a playlist from a lot of the acts featured in the book – The Beatles and Rolling Stones of course, but also Cat Stevens, Marianne Faithfull, Queen – and more.  It seems like there was just such an amazing and booming music scene during this era and I am sad to have missed out on it!

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

Pop Rock Icons takes us into the extraordinary world of London, England at the time of the greatest countercultural upheaval that the country has known.

A real musical revolution began at the beginning of the 1960s, led by the Beatles, further ignited by the Rolling Stones and many others. The incredible rise of rock music continued until the end of the 1970s, when Punk arrived and launched a new wave of DIY rebellion.

“Today, we are more popular than Jesus Christ.”

– John Lennon

In photographs which capture the spirit of the times, [re]discover the optimism of the Beatles; the Stones’ dark rhythm‘n’blues; the energy of The Who; the innovation of prog rock with Pink Floyd and Genesis, as well as the explosive heavy metal of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. The 70s gave us the glam rock of T Rex and the gritty pub rock of Dr Feelgood, without forgetting the rock giants: Led Zeppelin, Queen, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and the unclassifiable David Bowie.

Book Review: Solving The Price is Right

Solving The Price Is Right caught my eye, but I guess I should have read and comprehended the subtitle of it a little better before I dove in to read it.  “How Mathematics Can Improve Your Decisions on and off the Set of America’s Celebrated Game Show.”  I’m a software engineer – I’ve dealt with a LOOOOOT of Math in my life.  I don’t really need to be seeing graphs and percentages when I’m trying to read a book about a game show.  So unfortunately this book became my first DNF of the year.

However. If you’re looking for statistics and an in depth analysis of The Price is Right and how to make your wagers should you ever find yourself on the show – and you’re ready, sooo soo ready for tons and tons of math – GO FOR IT and read this book.  It just wasn’t the right match for me but I am sure there are more statistically minded people out there who would absolutely love this one.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

The Price is Right is television’s longest-running game show. Since its inception in 1956, contestants have won cars, tropical vacations, diamond jewelry, even a live horse, and the hosts’ excited catchphrase “come on down!” has become part of our everyday vernacular. Part of the program’s enduring appeal is the apparent ease of the game, guessing the cash value of certain prizes. But, if that’s the case, then why do so many contestants come away from the show empty-handed?

Solving The Price is Right is an in-depth exploration of the underlying probability theory of the popular television program that explores how biases and behavioral pitfalls limit our ability to successfully apply logic and math both on and off the show. With rigorous data and analysis compiled from Seasons 47 and 48 (356 total episodes), investor and math practitioner Justin L. Bergner draws strategic and mathematical insights from all facets of the show, from Contestant’s Row bidding to the Showcase Showdown, and all 77 Pricing Games, using a combination of game theory, probability theory, statistics, and pattern recognition. In each section, Bergner summarizes contestant performance, highlights the biases leading to sub-par outcomes, and shows how outcomes can be improved by executing the right strategies while avoiding cognitive biases.

Throughout, Bergner applies the lessons learned to the fields of business, finance, and our real lives, shedding light on themes of reverse psychology, strategic patience, and the importance of establishing what is sufficient for success in our pursuits. The result is a truly unique and meticulously researched book that uses Solving The Price is Right as a lens to examine our own choices – and how to make better ones.

Justin L. Bergner graduated cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics and Mathematics with a specific focus on Game Theory and Probability Theory. Since receiving an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he has served as an Equity Investment Analyst and Portfolio Manager. He maintains the popular mathematics blog

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