Book Review #83: “The Stolen Sapphire: A Samantha Mystery”

I received this book through a fun gift exchange on Facebook. I’m part of several American Girl groups, and one of them started an Elfster gift exchange last year for Christmas. The group has done it three times since then. It’s been very popular!

I don’t remember ever reading this particular mystery, so I was thrilled to get it!

The book is a solid 171 pages, which is great for American Girl’s target audience of 8 years old and up. Being a mystery, it does have some frightening moments, but it’s also an easy ready, with shorter chapters and a good story.

Set two years after Samantha’s original books, she and Nellie set sail on the RMS Queen Caroline, headed for Europe. Now eleven years old, they want to have fun on the voyage, but are accompanied by a French tutor to help them keep up with their schoolwork while they miss school for two weeks. Along the way, they meet quite a cast of characters. When the legendary blue sapphire disappears, everyone on the ship is a suspect! And Nellie appears to be hiding something as well.

For years, Samantha’s character has been criticized as snobby, stuck-up, and privileged. Her original books are set in 1904, and it’s no secret that her family is wealthy and of high society. However, Samantha is kind, and reaches out to Nellie and her sisters, especially when they realize they have all been orphans due to their parents’ early demises.

This mystery was exciting. The first night reading it, I only made it through the first two chapters before going to sleep. However, the next night, the story was so engaging, I couldn’t put it down. Before I knew it, I had finished the book. I wanted to figure out who the thief was! For a book aimed at young girls, I loved how it was really hard to guess the real culprit. It was like I was playing detective with Samantha and Nellie, navigating the ins and outs of the ship, which was more modest than other ocean liners of the early 1900s.

I was pleased with this book. It has the right amount of character development, conflict, suspense, and mystery. I want to read the other Samantha mysteries now, and go back to re-read her original books, too.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Tag #91: “Cause I Love(r) Talking About Books – Taylor Swift’s Lover Book Tag”

Image Credit: Red Gal Musings

Here’s the link to Elizabeth’s post: Cause I Love(r) Talking About Books / Taylor Swift’s Lover Book Tag


alrighty, now to post the official rules for the tag. 

1. Link back to the original creator of the book tag

2. Thank the person that tagged you and link to their post. (who tagged me??? IDK! but i do know i saw Marie did this tag and that’s probably where i tagged myself)

3. TAG AS MANY SWIFTIES AS YOU WANT! (Or non-Swifties, maybe inspire them to listen to our Queen)


1. I FORGOT THAT YOU EXISTED: A BOOK THAT YOU WANT TO FORGET YOU EVER READ

Allegiant, Veronica Roth.

2. CRUEL SUMMER: A BOOK YOU TURN TO WHEN THINGS GETS ROUGH

Any of Nicholas Sparks’ earlier works.

3. LOVER : YOUR BOOK OTP

Katniss and Peeta.

4. THE MAN: YOUR FAVE KICK-ASS FEMALE PROTAGONIST

Tie between Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen.

5. THE ARCHER: A BOOK WITH GOOD MENTAL HEALTH REPRESENTATION

Mosquitoland, David Arnold. This is easily one of my favorite books of 2019.

6. I THINK HE KNOWS: YOUR FAVE FICTIONAL CRUSH

Michael Moscovitz.

7. MISS AMERICANA & THE HEARTBREAK PRINCE – FAVE ANGSTY ROMANCE

The Fault in Our Stars.

8. PAPER RINGS – BOOK WITH AN UGLY COVER THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY ADORED

Their Eyes Were Watching God. I was assigned to read it during my senior year of high school.

9. CORNELIA STREET – A BOOK OR SERIES YOU NEVER WANT(ED) TO END

Tie between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

10. DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS – A BOOK OR SERIES THAT DESERVED A BETTER ENDING

The Divergent trilogy.

11. LONDON BOY – YOUR FAVE BRITISH MALE PROTAGONIST

Karrion from Fallible Justice. I reviewed the book as an ARC, so I need to get my hands on a real copy at some point.

12. SOON YOU’LL GET BETTER – A BOOK THAT YOUR HEART WILL NEVER RECOVER FROM

The War That Saved My Life.

13. FALSE GOD – A CHARACTER YOU WOULD LEAP INTO THE BURNING PITS OF HELL TO SAVE

Alaska Young.

14. YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN – A BOOK WITH A POWERFUL MESSAGE

The Battle of Jericho.

15. AFTERGLOW – A BOOK YOU WANT TO GIVE A SECOND CHANCE

I eventually want to re-read Go Set A Watchman again.

16. ME! – BEST CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

Margo Roth Spiegelman.

17. IT’S NICE TO HAVE A FRIEND – FAVE FRIENDS-TO-LOVERS STORY

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

18. DAYLIGHT – IF YOU COULD ONLY READ ONE BOOK OR SERIES AGAIN AND AGAIN, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Harry Potter.


Tag – You’re It!

I’m tagging Kristian from Life Lessons Around The Dinner Table.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #82: “Janesville: An American Story”

This was one of the books I picked up through a generous Barnes and Noble gift card from my parents. I’ve always been interested in and fascinated by non-fiction and human-interest stories. Amy Goldstein was one writer I had not heard of that afternoon in August, but something called to me.

As I started reading, I felt an instant connection because of the setting – Wisconsin. Just the cover alone made me think of the snow-covered hills and woods at my cousin Ryan’s house in Hortonville when we visited in the late 1990s.

But this story is more than that. It’s about multiple families and their take on one thing, one monumental event – The GM plant closing in 2008. What follows is the next five years of how this town of industry claws its way back from the brink, and how so many people were affected by what is now known as the Great Recession.

I liked how Goldstein divided the book by year. It doesn’t always work out well this way, but the way she structured it was solid. Keeping up with the cast of characters was a bit challenging, but it was nice to have a list of them at the beginning, before you even start reading.

One of the biggest takeaways of this book is how large the ripple effect is. It not only affects the workers, it affects the unions, their marriages, their relationships, their families, their political focuses, and more. And still, by the end of the book, Janesville has reached 2013. Have things gotten better? It’s hard to say. Goldstein’s on-the-ground reporting, going deep into Janesville and its people, is amazing research. I could tell she really got to know the people in the book, as well as a sense of the whole community.

Goldstein also attempts to balance the light and dark, so to speak. She looks at the GM workers and those struggling with layoffs and disappearing industry. A few pages later, she ties in Mary, the well-to-do head of the local bank, who is fundraising and trying her best to help others, while she is at the top of the heap in terms of wealth. Goldstein also shines a light on Paul Ryan, other political candidates, and Governor Scott Walker.

As complex as this book is, I enjoyed it. I’m glad I read it. I felt a sense of understanding, but not empathy. In 2008, as the Great Recession was beginning, I was starting my sophomore year of college. I know I come from a family of privilege. My parents only had to worry a handful of times when the government shut down and my dad was furloughed.

That was certainly stressful, but not nearly as stressful, heartbreaking, and frustrating as watching your livelihood simply vanish. And trying to keep your house. Keeping your marriage and family together. Watching your teenage kids work one, two, three jobs to help out. Sometimes losing loved ones entirely, whether it was health issues brought on by stress, or not finding a way out other than wanting to end your life.

Website: amygoldsteinwriter.com

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #81: “More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)”

Image Credit: Amazon

I put this book on my Amazon wish list a few months ago, and then Al bought it for me for my birthday!

Little did I know how much I needed this book in my life when I started reading it.


I took my time with this book. Elaine is a good writer, but I found myself digesting one, maybe two chapters at a time.

This book is aimed at women of color, but it certainly applied to me. I’m glad I read it when I did. Having started my new job in September, I had a lot of anxiety and emotions, and more than one crisis of confidence. This book lifted me out of that negativity.


I hadn’t heard of Elaine when I started the book, but I felt like I knew her when I was done. She was so candid and honest about her early life, growing up as a biracial child, her dad’s struggles with alcohol, and wanting to work at Essence and Ebony.

Watching her navigate the painful eras of the recession and the move toward digital publishing was eye-opening, too. As someone who dreamed of living in New York and being a journalist for years, I felt like this book was put in my life for more than one reason. Elaine showed me how life in New York and working for some of the most famous magazines on this Earth really was – It’s certainly no picnic.

It’s not my favorite memoir, but I’m glad I took a chance on it. I appreciated the inspiring quotes at the end of every chapter as well. She’s a gifted writer, and there’s something in this book for everyone.

I’m grateful to Al for buying this for me!

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #80: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” *Re-Read*

Here’s my review of the first book:

I wasn’t anticipating it would be more than four months in between reviews, but hey, life happens. And I realized I didn’t want to burn myself out with reading the series back-to-back. 

Harry narrowly makes it back to Hogwarts for his second year. There are more adventures, and multiple misadventures, and it’s a thrill ride basically the entire time.

There’s more danger and conflict in this book. Originally, I declared this book as my favorite of the series the first time around. Re-reading it now, I can see why I thought that way. I love so many things about this one – The mystery of the Chamber throughout the book, the introduction of new characters, and not exactly knowing what’s going to happen next.

One of my favorite characters in this book specifically is Ginny Weasley. I won’t spoil anything for those who may not have read the book, but I adore her.

I’m looking forward to reading Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban soon!

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #186: Twelfth TBR Recap

Welcome back!


Here’s what I’ve read since my last TBR update:

  1. Arnold, David, Mosquitoland
  2. Hillenbrand, Laura, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
  3. Sanchez, Alex, Rainbow Boys
  4. Scattergood, Augusta, Glory Be
  5. Yep, Laurence, Mia
  6. Yep, Laurence, Bravo, Mia!
  7. Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets *Re-Read* (In Progress) 

Removing from Laura Beth’s TBR

  1. Anderson, Laurie Halse, Shout
  2. Duncan, Lois, Who Killed My Daughter?: The True Story of a Mother’s Search for Her Daughter’s Murderer
  3. Kubica, Mary, Good Girl
  4. Martin, Kristen, The Alpha Drive
  5. Spinney, Caroll, The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers
  6. Vaughan, Brian K., Paper Girls Volume 1

Removal Rate: 6/11 = 55%


Keep & Re-Classify – Laura Beth’s Updated TBR

  1. Conley, Garrard, Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family
  2. Goldstein, Amy, Janesville: An American Story
  3. King, Stephen, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft *Re-Read*
  4. Oviatt, Didi, Search for Maylee
  5. Ware, Ruth, In A Dark, Dark Wood

Keep Rate: 5/11 = 45%


Adding to the TBR

  1. Brunt, Carol Rifka, Tell The Wolves I’m Home
  2. Hupfield, Stanley F., Political Malpractice: How the Politicians Made a Mess of Health Reform
  3. MacNeal, Elizabeth, The Doll Factory
  4. Polacco, Patricia, Thank You, Mr. Falker
  5. Reid, Taylor Jenkins, Daisy Jones & The Six
  6. Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban *Re-Read*
  7. Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire *Re-Read*
  8. Sanchez, Alex, Rainbow High
  9. Welteroth, Elaine, More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)

So, my current TBR is 14 books.

Do you have a TBR?

What book are you looking forward to reading next?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #79: “Rainbow Boys”

Rainbow Boys

Image Credit: Amazon

I remember devouring Alex Sanchez’s books from Russell Memorial Library toward the end of high school, beginning of college. I was able to pick up the whole trilogy, plus some other books by him, at 2nd and Charles back in August.

It took me a while to read it, but I’m glad I took my time. This is a good one, for many people to read. Through the fictional world set in New York, Sanchez creates three unique characters – Jason, Kyle, and Nelson. They all have something in common – Coming of age, and trying to figure out their own ways with being gay.

I think my favorite character was Kyle. I kept thinking he would be a friend of mine in high school, and college. Jason and Nelson are good in their own way, and I appreciated how Sanchez makes them different. I liked how he broke up the chapters by character.

I had to remind myself multiple times that this book was published in 2003. I marveled at how far our country, and the world, has come with acceptance and strides with the LGBTQ+ community. It’s been 16 years since this book was published. While the community is still fighting for certain rights, it’s a very different world between 2003 and 2019.

I appreciated Sanchez making this book as “real” as possible. It has its flaws – It feels over-dramatic in several places. But, then again, it’s a high school setting. High school always has drama!

I give him props for introducing other serious situations into the book other than the characters finding their true identities. A lot of the feelings I felt when I first read this resurfaced – Happiness, sadness, and anger.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy! Look for those reviews soon.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂