The Twilight Wife: Book Review

By: Ashley Whisonant

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I recently went on a weekend beach trip with my little guys and parents. I wanted to find a book I could fit in reading during nap times or quiet mornings drinking coffee. All moms know, a day at the beach with toddlers leaves NO time to read. My other book criteria was it must keep me on my toes! I didn’t want the typical romance or chick flick style book.

Finding the book The Twilight Wife was absolutely perfect! It had the right mix of mystery, suspense, and a hint of love!

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty, shall we?

The book opens up with our main character, Kyra, who is a Marine Biologist suffering from a diving accident leaving her memories lacking. The past four years are a complete blur. She is nurtured back to health by her devoted husband, Jacob. Since they are living on a remote island with few friends and no family, Jacob is the only key to her past memories. Kyra begins to have flashes of memories and starts to question everything Jacob has told her.

The end of the book made me gasp—such a shocking finale to Kyra’s story. Check this one out—it is a page turner!

Raising Readers

By: Crissie Kirby

Let’s face it . . . we ALL have one or two (or more) guilty pleasures in which we indulge.  Some of these might not be good for us (smoking, excessive alcohol intake, overeating, etc.), but some might not be terrible (working out, writing, crafting, etc.). For me, my number one guilty pleasure is reading . . . few things excite me as much as beginning a new book and delving in to the world created by the author. I don’t know when my obsession with books began, though I do vividly remember reading issue after issue of Reader’s Digest as a child and any other book that even remotely piqued my curiosity.  Reading isn’t a terrible habit to have, other than I could easily while away any number of hours in a land where dirty laundry and dirty dishes and messy floors don’t exist. I fully believe that being a voracious reader has allowed me to become a semi-decent writer.  When I had children, I just KNEW that I would have children who would LOVE books as much I did, so to ensure that, I bought a small library of children’s books. We had Goodnight Moon and Rainbow Fish and lots of Dr. Seuss and many other not so famous children’s books.  Then the unthinkable happened . . .

I had two very busy little boys.

Little boys who wouldn’t sit still for books.  Little boys who exhausted me to the point that I could often not finish a book we started before bedtime because I would, myself, fall asleep before they even blinked one tiny eyelid. I was failing as a reading parent.

As the boys got older, I would try to tempt them by buying books that I (again) just KNEW they would love. Captain Underpants and The Magic Treehouse and other not so famous short chapter books adorned the bookshelves above the aforementioned little kids books that were ever so subtly gathering dust from years of not being touched, much less read.

Unfortunately, most of these books, too, met with the same dust-encrusted fate as the earlier ones.

I was crushed. I was heartbroken. The one habit I had that I had literally waited years to share with my offspring was falling quickly by the wayside. In many ways, I resigned myself that my children were going to be like so many other boys who just didn’t like to read.

But, I kept on reading when I could. Vacations. Late nights. When I should have been folding laundry. I read. I read because it was my one little guilty pleasure that I couldn’t give up. Sometimes it would be with actual paper in my hands; other times it might be with my Kindle or on the Kindle app on my phone, but read I did. I continued encouraging the boys to read. I accompanied them to book fairs where I bought books that I silently prayed wouldn’t just become more dust magnets in our house.

Then, the tide began to shift. As surely as the sun rises slowly each morning, I would catch the boys reading books or magazines (mostly the Lego magazine, but, hey, whatever works, right?) when they weren’t required to by school. For my eldest, the reading bug sort of hit him after watching Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief and he began to read one of the Heroes of Olympus books. I was dumbfounded. I had tried buying the short little chapter books in an effort to ease them into reading and he picks up a 500+ page book and starts reading it willingly? His recreational reading has taken an even more dramatic turn in the last few weeks and he has been quickly devouring more than more than one book at a time. At bedtime, he reads. On the way to and from school, he reads.  The other night, I found him reading at 1 a.m. How could I fuss at him? As my mom replied when I relayed the story to her, it sounded like something I probably did as a child too. My previously devastated reading heart swells each time I look around and notice my son with a book in his hands sitting in the car or sprawled on the couch or nestled under his covers.

Study after study has shown that reading improves vocabulary and general knowledge and helps teach patience.  As with learning to walk and talk, developing a love of reading, it would appear, is just something that develops when the time and conditions are right.  And I’m so grateful to finally be sharing my guilty pleasure with my sons.

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

By: Ashley Whisonant

book recommendation_Every Woman Blog

Looking for a great book? I recently enjoyed reading “The Dry” by Jane Harper. Here’s a quick synopsis:

Aaron Falk has not returned to his hometown in Australia for over twenty years. After being run out of town as a teenager, Falk vowed to not return to the small farming community. Only after receiving a note in the mail did he find out that his childhood friend, Luke, was murdered.

Word spreads quickly through town of his arrival. From that moment on, incident after incident happens while he works to investigate who killed Luke, his wife, and young son. As you meet characters from all over town, it is hard to pin down exactly who killed the Hadler family. Could there be a connection to a death of young Ellie so many years ago? Ellie was part of a close group of friends that included both Luke and Aaron.

This page turner will keep you guessing! One second you think you have it figured out and then a curve ball gets thrown.

What are your favorite recent reads?

Fall Book Recommendations

By: Ashley Whisonant

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It’s getting chilly enough in South Carolina to begin thinking about hibernating. The thought of fuzzy socks, a warm fire, soup in the crockpot, and a great page turner make me ready for the cold. Here are two book recommendations to enjoy this Fall: 

 “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn

If you have read Gone Girl, this suspense novel follows a similarly twisted plot. The main character, Libby Day, is one of the only survivors after her mother and two sisters are murdered in their home. As a young girl, Libby is convinced that her brother committed the crimes. Many years later, Libby revisits that dark night to assure herself that her brother is the monster she believes him to be. With so many turns in the story, you question if you have the right killer named yourself. Once the truth is revealed at the end, even a close reader would be shocked.

“Results May Vary” by Bethany Chase

Caroline had the perfect life. An adoring husband and an amazing job as a museum curator – until she got a shocking revelation at an art show. After being together since their high school years, Caroline thought she knew every part of her husband. After his betrayal, she must come to terms with being an “I” instead of a “we.” Her sister, Ruby, and best friend, Jonathan, work to show Caroline that it is not too late to discover herself. Such a beautifully written debut novel for Bethany Chase. At the end we find out, is it too late for a happy ending?

What are are your favorite recent reads?

Reading Makes You Smarter

By: Shannon Shull

Reading makes you smarter. Yep, it does. It’s a proven fact that the more you read, the smarter you become. You open your mind, broaden your vocabulary, use your imagination…in a nutshell, you increase your “smarts” the more you read.

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And here’s the eye opener – most people equate “reading” with actually reading novels, so some people will respond, “I don’t read!” Nowadays every adult reads, whether a newspaper, a magazine, or articles on their phone. Just because you’re not reading an actual book of fiction or nonfiction, does not mean you’re not reading.

I dare you to keep a journal of each and every thing you have to actually read for one day. Most people will give up writing anything down after a while because the truth is, reading is a part of our daily lives. Think about it; whether it’s road signs, advertisements, documents, recipes, manuals, bills, emails, menus ….I could go on and on. Now think about your life if you could not read. If you could not process any of the words constantly placed in front of you, life would be incredibly difficult. One could only imagine how heartbreaking this could be for an individual.

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I recently had the pleasure of taking a graduate course titled, “Reaching Readers,” taught by a brilliant and beautiful woman, Ms. Kayce Cook MacLeod. Her enthusiasm and knowledge on the subject matter was proof that she not only cared, but has a true passion for education and teaching. It was such a pleasure to learn with her! Our required reading for the course was a book called, When Kids Can’t Read by Kylene Beers. This was a required graduate course that I had to take and I admit, at first I was dreading having to go to school after I’d just finished up teaching a full school year!

I was very pleasantly surprised to not only learn an enormous amount of valuable information, but also to be inspired. I admit, I was not looking forward to having to read what I thought would be a boring textbook for yet another required course. Boy was I surprised – and happily so! Dr. Beers is an incredible teacher who poured her heart into writing this book, sharing her experiences and helping to empower all who read her words. This book is a testament to years of realizations, applying strategies, reaching readers, and teaching a priceless tool required for a successful life. Reading is no simple task and each individual learns, reads, and comprehends differently. And that is ok! We all learn in our own unique ways. What might be a challenge for one individual may come easily for another, and vice versa. It’s a fascinating issue and so incredibly important.

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As good teachers, we must create opportunities for success and recognition. One of my acting mentors taught me that ‘Acting is Listening,’ always reminding me that in order to genuinely react and BE a character, you must listen. The same rule applies for teaching. We cannot help others without listening to them. We must listen so that we can truly discover our students’ learning needs. I could go on and on about this subject but the point I want to make with this blog entry of mine is the importance of reading. The more time we spend reading, the more words we learn, the more we broaden our imaginations and minds, and thus, the more we increase our intelligence. In a nutshell, reading is GOOD for us!

I had many favorite quotes from Dr. Beers’ book. I literally marked that book all up as I got inspired and her words touched me in some way. But two of my favorite quotes include,

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for one day; if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime!”

We need to help create generations of readers! And in order to do that we must model good reading behavior and show others how to do it.

That brings me to another of my favorite quotes from Dr. Beers’ book,

“Education is not like a Nike commercial! We must show students HOW to do it.”

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I’m so thankful that my own children love to read. I’m thankful that their father is an advocate for reading and has helped to instill in them a passion and appreciation for reading. I’m thankful that as parents, we both provide opportunities and inspiration that encourage our children to read, use their imaginations and actually develop a love for reading. I’m thankful that my fiancé loves to read and that we all just flat out enjoy the luxury of being advanced readers.

If you’re a teacher, I encourage you to add When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do to your must-read book list. I guarantee it will make you a better teacher on so many levels! And if you’re not in any capacity to teach someone, I’d like for you to take away the utter importance and value of reading. It is a priceless art, a tool, a necessity for success in life. And I challenge you to read more! Let your minds soak in words. Let text speak to you. Let those words broaden your mind and, in some beautiful cases, activate your imagination and inspire you!

Summer Reading

By: Leah Prescott

One of my most fervent hopes for my children is that they grow into enthusiastic readers. A couple years ago, when we were struggling through blending and painfully making our young readersway through the repetitive BOB books, I thought for a while it might never happen. But something finally clicked with each of the girls and soon they couldn’t be slowed down. One of my girls particularly races through books at a pace that challenges the library’s young reader section.

As we wrap up our homeschooling year in a couple weeks, I’m looking forward to reading more books with my girls. Even though they are strong independent readers, there is still something magical about reading aloud together. I look forward to introducing them to some of my favorites like “Pride & Prejudice” and “Anne of Green Gables” with an almost giddy anticipation. Revisiting your childhood’s joys with your own children has to be one of God’s sweetest gifts to parents. Right now, we are reading the Five Little Peppers and it’s bringing up some very helpful conversations about entitlement in our family.

If your children are reluctant readers, here are some things you can do to help draw them into the world of literature:

1. Visit the library weekly and check out an abundance of books. Don’t give up, even if your kids don’t show much interest. Don’t forget to show them that YOU read too (blogs and Facebook do not count).

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2. Do some research into your child’s favorite toy, movie, character or subject. Whether it’s Minecraft, cupcakes, kittens, or hula hooping, chances are, you will find a book or series that will spark their interest.

3. Keep books in the car. I sometimes regret that our minivan didn’t come equipped with a TV, but my children can get in a lot of reading in the car just from riding around town during our typical week.

4. Go media-free. Having a TV and video game free week, month or summer may be exactly what your child needs to finally embrace books. We have done this a couple times and it always helps us center our attitudes and hearts, as well as free up time for more productive hobbies like reading.

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5. Discover audio books. The library has a good collection of audio books for adults and kids, as well as downloadable content. There is also Amazon’s sister store, Audible.com, although I confess it intimidates me. Whether you choose classic literature or a Magic Treehouse book, audio books can help your children connect to the stories in a way that reading might not have.

6. Throw a book party. This might take a little more preparation, but why not plan a book-themed evening with food and games related to a story or series? This could be elaborate as a Cat in the Hat dinner party or as simple as a Tom Sawyer picnic.

As a kick-off to a delightful, book-filled summer, don’t miss Storyfest 2015! State Museum and Library will host this free event on Saturday, June 6th from 9-4. The event will include crafts, presentations, face painting and more. Find more information here. Happy Reading!