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 πŸ™‚


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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚


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 πŸ™‚

Book Review #49: “Prints in the Sand: My Journey with Nanea”


Image Credit: American Girl

If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading the other two Book Reviews I’ve written about Nanea’s books:

The BeForever Journey Books are starting to grow on me. Choosing your own adventure is so much fun!

Our modern girl is in Hawaii, on the beach with her twin brothers and their babysitter, whom she calls Auntie Oli. Her father is “overseas” in Iraq. She’s struggling with him being gone, along with other things.

A traditional puka shell necklace, much like the one Nanea is given, transports her to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in 1942!

Along the way, our modern girl meets Nanea, Lily, the Honolulu Helpers, and climbs the Punchbowl volcano crater! She even gets to solve a mystery or two, like Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes!

I was impressed how the book focused on the war effort, and how women became more involved with the military.

The one major criticism was one of the paths / routes was so heavily embedded in the book, that I had a lot of trouble finding it. I wanted to read it, but it took me a long time to find it, and I got frustrated. I’m sure it was a simple oversight, but I didn’t like picking through the pages, trying to find the one route I hadn’t read yet.

I loved learning even more about Hawaii and the early war effort in this book.

4 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #48: “Hula for the Home Front: A Nanea Classic 2”


Image Credit: American Girl

If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading the review of the first Nanea volume before checking out this one:

At the end of Classic 1, Nanea and her friends were preparing to return to school, nearly two months after the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor.

To Nanea’s dismay, there’s a new girl in her class. Her name is Dixie Moreno, and Nanea immediately struggles to be nice to her. Donna has left for the mainland, and Nanea is still sour about that. However, Nanea tries hard to not “borrow trouble” and show kindness to Dixie. Along the way, they help each other out, and start to become friends.

Meanwhile, hula is a central theme in this volume. Nanea finds joy in her lessons, and she learns that her dog, Mele, is a talented dancer!

As Nanea prepares to celebrate her tenth birthday, things begin to relax a bit on the island. Her family and friends come together to pull off an excellent birthday surprise! She’s excited to celebrate, but she remains observant and guarded. Her brother, David, constantly talks about Lieutenant Gregory and how much he wants to enlist. He turns 18 in a few months’ time. Nanea is scared, and angry. How will she express her feelings?

Nanea learns several important lessons – Patience, understanding, a hint of wisdom, and how to make her own contributions to the war effort. Through hula, War Stamps, and a few other things, she learns that even kids can make a difference!

Like the first volume, I received an excellent education about Hawaii and its involvement in the early stages of the U.S. entering World War II. I was impressed at how much detail was included. I can only imagine how much research was done! The books also discussed the challenges that many Japanese-Americans faced in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, and it was well-written.

I’m looking forward to reading her Journey Book! Look for that review soon!

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚