Book Review #56: “Chances and Changes: My Journey with Molly”

Chances and Changes

Image Credit: Amazon

If you haven’t already, I recommend reading the Book Reviews on the first two volumes of Molly’s BeForever collection:

I really like the Journey Books that American Girl is producing. They offer readers the chance to connect with the historical characters via a modern girl character, and everyone learns something valuable along the way.

I mentioned my love of Camp Gowonagin in my previous Book Review, so I was thrilled when I first learned Molly’s Journey Book would be primarily set at camp. It had me dreaming of my own summer camp experiences, but those were in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This was 1945 – Very different!

I won’t give away a lot of detail, but I appreciated the lessons about friendship, teamwork, cooperation, courage, bravery, and helping others. I also learned a different series of facts about World War II – Something I never knew existed in the United States during this time. I really liked that American Girl took this and worked hard to educate readers about it. Kudos!

Reading this book made me wish there was a time portal in the book. Although summer camp back then was very much structured like the military, I think I would have loved it!

I’ve heard of “adult summer camps” in different states – Maybe it’s time that I sign up for one.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂


Book Review #55: “Stars, Stripes, and Surprises: A Molly Classic 2”

Stars Stripes and Surprises

Image Credit: Amazon

If you haven’t already, I recommend first reading my Book Review of Molly’s Classic Volume 1:

Volume 2 covers the other three books in Molly’s original Classic Series:

  • Happy Birthday, Molly!
  • Molly Saves The Day
  • Changes for Molly

This volume starts in the spring of 1944. Molly is excited to celebrate her birthday. Her family also receives some exciting news – A girl, Emily, is coming all the way from London, England, to live with her aunt. When Emily’s aunt falls ill, Mrs. McIntire offers to help out. Molly is happy – A girl her own age! After a few stumbles and culture shock, Molly and Emily become friends and celebrate their birthdays together. There’s also a few birthday surprises!

As school lets out, Molly, Linda, and Susan head to Camp Gowonagin for two weeks! I remember loving this story in particular as a kid, and made up countless stories about summer camps!

Along the way, the girls learn many things, including the camp’s hallmark event of Color War. They end up on different teams, so who will win?

The final chapters breeze through the fall, winter, and find Molly in the spring of 1945. The war is coming to an end, and everyone in town is putting on the “Hurray for the U.S.A.!” show. Molly’s family receives an exciting telegram from Dad – He’s being reassigned to the local Veterans Hospital and coming home for good! Yay! Molly really wants to be Miss Victory, the tap dancer with the big solo in the show. But, she wants to transform her stick-straight hair into big, beautiful curls before the show. Her sister, Jill, is happy to help. Will everything work out the way Molly hopes it will? And, will Dad arrive in time to see the show?

Like Volume 1, I miss the original illustrations. But, the writing is so vivid, I feel like I’m beside Molly the whole time!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #54: “A Winning Spirit: A Molly Classic 1”

A Winning Spirit

Image Credit: Amazon

Finally! The new BeForever books for Molly were released last week!

Some of you may know that I fell in love with Molly’s character as a kid. I read and re-read her six-book Classic Series over and over. I loved everything that was featured in the catalogs. In 2013, I finally realized one of my biggest childhood dreams by buying the Molly doll from American Girl, shortly before she was archived.

Now, on to the review!

Like the other BeForever series, this first volume covers Molly’s original three books:

  • Meet Molly
  • Molly Learns A Lesson
  • Molly’s Surprise

We first meet Molly around Halloween, with her friends, Linda and Susan. They live in Jefferson, Illinois. They are planning their Halloween costumes in the fall of 1943, as World War II continues. Molly’s father, James McIntire, is an Army doctor, currently stationed in England helping sick and wounded soldiers. Molly misses him dearly, but has a full house at home, with her mom, the housekeeper, Mrs. Gilford, and her three siblings – Older sister, Jill; older brother, Ricky; and younger brother, Brad.

After multiple tricks and treats at Halloween, Molly learns several lessons about lending a hand, cooperation, jealousy, and speaking up when it counts the most.

Christmas is challenging with Dad still away and the war, but the Merry McIntires make the most of it. Molly works together with her sister to pull off one great surprise, and someone in the family has a surprise of their own to share!

I certainly miss the beautiful illustrations from the Classic Series, but Valerie Tripp’s writing, as always, carried me back in time, right alongside Molly, her family, and her friends.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂


Book Review #53: “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America”


Image Credit: Amazon

This was the second book that Al gave me for Christmas. He’s heard me talk about Barbara Ehrenreich before. I read her book Nickel and Dimed (2001) for one of my early college classes, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Right out of the gate, Ehrenreich writes about her own battle with breast cancer, and how “fighting cancer with a positive attitude” has permeated our culture. Although this book was published in 2009, nearly 10 years ago, the same sentiments appear to be holding strong. I have my own opinions about breast cancer charities and the amount of money that is spent on research (Susan G. Komen in particular), but let’s just say that Ehrenreich’s words and research fell in line with my thoughts.

Ehrenreich continues with chapters about the economy, life coaches, how “coaching” entered into corporate culture, and so on. One review compared positivity and positive thinking to a fake orgasm. “Fake it ’til you make it” is referenced a lot, and not always in a good way. But, Ehrenreich says, that’s okay. It’s actually healthier to not be positive all the time. Her main point is to not get brainwashed, and make sure you remain in control of your emotions.

While I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of the Pixar movie Inside Out (2016), where the viewers are inside the head of 11-year-old Riley and seeing her emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) interact. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. And I wondered if Ehrenreich had seen it, and what she thought about it. A lot of her writing in this book, years before the movie was released, was spot on with the messages Pixar was sending to moviegoers. We all have Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger among us and in us for a reason and a purpose.

I’m glad that I put this book on my Amazon wish list. I had been thinking about Ehrenreich and Nickel and Dimed a lot last year, and I found myself searching for more books written by her. I was not disappointed. I plan to read several more of her works in the future:

Despite this compelling read, I still have a positive attitude. I’ve always been an optimist – One nonfiction book isn’t going to turn me into a pessimist. However, I’m definitely going to pay closer attention to my surroundings, try not to get caught up in hype, and stay in control of my emotions.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #52: “The Woman in Cabin 10”

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Amazon

Image Credit: Amazon

This is one of three books that my wonderful husband gave to me for Christmas!

I first learned about this book, and the author, in September 2017 thanks to a book review from Thrice Read. Don’t worry, the ladies have spoiler-free reviews, and this is one of them. I immediately added this book to my Amazon wish list!

Once I started reading, I could hardly put this book down. Ever since I read The Girl On The Train, I wanted to find and read more thrillers. Ware’s writing is amazing, and spellbinding. I did not want to put this book down. She seamlessly takes you from London, to Scandinavia, and back again.

I will say that I’m glad I didn’t read this book on a boat or on a cruise, and I recommend that you don’t either. Ware is so talented at making you feel like you’re a fly on the wall, watching main character Laura’s (Lo’s) every single move on the luxury yacht.

And once you think you’ve figured it all out, there’s a twist. And another. And another. I felt for Lo, I caught myself holding my breath several times! It’s very much like a murder mystery, with psychological horror thrown in.

I’m amazed I didn’t have nightmares, since I typically read before going to bed. Ware is such a good storyteller!

I look forward to reading In a Dark, Dark Wood very soon! I hope she continues writing, because Ruth Ware is quickly rising toward the top of my favorite authors list.

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #51: “Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond”

Grace and Grit - Amazon

Image Credit: Amazon

I first heard about this book from my church bulletin, almost a year ago. One of the women’s circles were reading it and planning a discussion. I was intrigued, and remember purchasing it through Amazon shortly thereafter.

It took me a long while to start reading it, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. Lilly’s story pulled me in. I plowed through the first five chapters in one night!

This was the perfect book to pull me out of my reading slump. I’ve always enjoyed memoirs and true stories, but this one really spoke to me.

Lilly was born in Alabama, and quickly learned that the best-paying jobs was at the nearby Goodyear plant. She was one of the first women to be a manager at the plant. Nearly 20 years later, she was anonymously notified that her salary was thousands less than the male managers.

She decided to fight, and took her battle all the way to the Supreme Court. Eventually, her name was put on President Obama’s first official piece of legislation. Throughout the years, Lilly’s dedication to this cause inspired many.

Lilly’s story covers her upbringing, her marriage, raising children, working different jobs, and learning the complicated ins and outs of the American legal system. Her never-quit attitude, in spite of so much adversity, losses, and harassment, was incredibly inspiring, and motivating.

This is one of those books that I plan to share with my future children. The future generations need to know about the fight for equal pay. We still have a long way to go, but reading Lilly’s story was encouraging in so many ways.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth

Book Review #50: “The Great Gatsby”

The Great Gatsby - Complex

Image Credit: Complex

I may have mentioned before that I re-read The Great Gatsby at least once every year. This Book Review attempts to express my deep love and appreciation for this novel, first published in 1925.

I was first introduced to this thrilling work of fiction in Mr. Degnan’s English class in high school. At the time, I knew bits and pieces of the eras known as “The Jazz Age” and “The Roaring Twenties,” but I hadn’t willingly picked up a work written by F. Scott Fitzgerald until this particular assignment.

Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.

Told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, a man in his late twenties, the book catapults you head-first into the crazy world of New York City and Long Island during the summer of 1922. Nick is surrounded by a literal cast of characters, including Jay Gatsby, the owner of an extravagant, opulent mansion. Nick rents the modest bungalow next door, and is immediately awestruck by Gatsby, the incredible parties he hosts, the rumors that swirl, and the air of mystery. What follows in the coming days and months is a violent whirlwind of many parties, little work, lots of dancing, plenty of food and drink, and a time of celebration following The Great War’s end.

Nick reconnects with his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan. She is married to one of Nick’s college acquaintances, Tom. Jordan Baker, a beautiful amateur golfer, soon enters Nick’s life and his heart. Along the way, Nick learns that Tom has one main mistress, Myrtle Wilson, and rents an apartment in the city for other affairs.

An invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties thrusts Nick into another world. He learns the man is borderline obsessed with Daisy. Five years have passed since their chance encounter. However, Nick can see that Gatsby desperately wants to reconnect with her. Over time, he uses Nick surreptitiously to accomplish his goal.

Throughout the novel, affairs run rampant and can easily make the reader’s head spin. The dancing, music, and illegal alcohol will do that, too.

The characters’ personalities are heightened, and sometimes incredibly violent and unsettling. The fights and shouting feel real, and the hot summer day that serves as the novel’s climax makes me sweat every time.

Several of the characters suffer quite tragic consequences, and by the very end, many are bitter and disillusioned, to say the least. There’s a sense of an incredible downward spiral.

The novel is long enough to take readers on an incredible adventure set in a span of just a few months, but short enough to be thrilling, breathtaking, and entertaining without getting stale. Reading Gatsby for the first time inspired me to dive into Fitzgerald’s world and read more of his work. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Finishing the book leaves me in a slightly depressive mood, but in the end, it’s worth it. It gives me a sense of what those years were like for those who experienced it, in the cities, in modest houses, and in the ashes.

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂