Category Archives: Friday Funday

First Chapter Friday

First Chapter Friday!!! I love this weekly post-I get to read the first chapter of various books, and give you my thoughts. I’ve found two great books that your kids “OTTER” be reading!!  Inspirational books for kids and even a West Virginia connection-that’s a bonus!!

Philip and the Thief by John Paulits

Philip has been around for a while-this is the 6th book in a series of 12!  Philip is sort of an ‘everykid’ that has family, friends and school going on with the usual interactions and dramas.  The plot of this book is that Philip uses his skills as Philip the Greatness to become a detective and solve mysteries around the house and neighborhood.  When money comes up missing at school, and a classmate is thrown, Philip solves the case and saves the day.  

Paulits really knows his craft!  He writes very well and the characters speak & act very naturally. This series isn’t promoted as being Christian, but this one is ‘clean’ and reads as a very inspirational book-use your skills, help others and love your family.  I enjoyed the first chapter and will be encouraging my boys to read the entire series.




The Adventures of Shy Spy Time Traveler by Deborah L. Gladwell


I was so excited to find out the author of this book, Deborah L. Gladwell, lives in my home state of West Virginia!  I’m in Missouri now but I still LOVE to promote West Virginians doing all the wonderful things they do.  I have to say that Deborah really embodies the spirit of a Mountaineer with excellent writing and a positive Christian message for kids.

Shy the dog accidentally stows away on a time machine and goes back to the time of Moses!!  You can’t resist that kind of awesomeness!!  Gladwell has a very well written, well plotted book that surprised me.

I wasn’t expecting a Christian book for kids to be such a good story.  The book reminds me of the Magic Treehouse books because of the total immersion into a historical subject.  The Christian message and scriptures enhance the book and take Shy to a whole ‘nother level.  I was so engaged in the plot and what was going to happen next, I couldn’t believe I had to stop at one chapter!

Most definitely pick up these “good, clean” books for your kiddos.  There is enough negative out there-let’s do some positive for a change!!  Have a great reading weekend-Cozy Mystery Monday will be here before you know it!!


First Chapter Friday

Need some ideas for books for your 8-12 year old? You’re in the right place as I’ve read the first chapter in three YA/middle-grade books this week:


The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

My first book up for First Chapter Friday is The Iron Trial. It was just released on the 9th and I am already hearing so many good things about this book. You know these authors: Holly Black is The Spiderwick Chronicles and the super creepy Doll Bones and Cassandra Clare is of course The Mortal Instruments books. You just know any book they collaborate on will be excellent. The plot starts out like every other magic/fantasy/YA book out there: kids must pass the Iron Trial to be admitted to the Magisterium to study magic. Ho hum so far, right? WRONGO, me hearty (sorry, Talk Like a Pirate Day just got me!) The twist to this book is that Callum Hunt wants to FAIL the Iron Trial, so of course he passes and must enter the Magisterium.  Despite some comparisons to Harry Potter in the reviews, I thought the first chapter was pretty good and different enough to rate a full book read.

Spirit Animals #4 Fire and Ice by Shannon Hale

The Spirit Animals series has been on my radar for a while since Brandon Mull and Garth Nix wrote books in the series.  This is book 4 of the series and in this one, the four kids (Greencloaks) travel to the far, frozen North to try to stop “The Conquerors” using their “spirit animal” powers.

I didn’t finish the first chapter-VERY bloody/violent killing in the first two pages. Definitely NOT for the age 8-12 range that is the target market. NO NO NO. I’m not sure what Shannon Hale was trying to accomplish in using this to set up the plot but it is an epic fail for me.  I’ve read the reviews and I’m seeing lots of comments about the humor and character interaction later in the book but I just can’t get past chapter one–this series goes to our do NOT read pile.


Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

OH!! You know how you get that tingly feeling when you read a really good book and you don’t want to put it down? Nightmares is THAT book!! Now this is a book for the 8-12 crowd-funny, scary and you will want to be Charlie’s friend as he tries to figure out what is going on in his new home.

His father has married a woman Charlie is sure is a real witch and they have moved to her purple mansion that may or may not be haunted. There is a touch of sadness when you read that Charlie can see his old house from his new bedroom window 😦 What a great plot point, that one sentence gives the reader more about Charlie than you could tell in 20 paragraphs. Authors Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller have done a fantastic job with the writing. Top of the to be read pile for this one.

One clunker this week but two your kids definitely “Otter” be reading!!

Throwback Thursday

The elementary school book sale flyer!  I remember we got them on Friday so we could take all weekend to look them over and pester our parents to let us place a HUGE order.  Oh, maybe that was just me?

The ones my kids get are from Scholastic but it seems to me like there was another company back in the day.  No matter who the flyer has come a long way since I was in school:  now it’s eight pages and there are at least 2 different ones for each grade level.  There is a key for reading level for the various scoring systems and teachers can even set it up for their class to use online ordering.  The best part is the more orders, the more free books are earned for the classroom.  Nice system!

The system is so convenient, there is NO excuse not to let your child order something.  Well, that’s the argument my kid used on me today!  What is on the must-buy list of a ten year old boy for this flyer?

Well, let’s take a look at what he says he “really, truly, Mom” “Otter” be reading!!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Book 9)Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Can you believe this is #9 in the Wimpy Kid books?  This is a great series and in this outing, the Heffley’s are going on a ROAD TRIP!!!   The Long Haul will release on November 4th but ordering from the Scholastic flyer gets you some extras:  a “sneak peek” booklet and 4 postcards that will arrive with the classroom book order.  Then, the actual book will be sent to your school to be delivered to you on the release day-kind of cool if you’re in 5th grade!   This one goes to the top of the order form for us.


The Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 (I Survived, #10)The Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79


Lauren Tarshis is one of my son’s favorite authors, he devours everything she writes.  She does exhaustive research on her subjects and the books give kids an accurate look at history with a huge resource list at the end of every book.  I like that they don’t flinch from the tough parts of history.  If your kids are history buffs and you don’t mind answering questions or looking at tons of websites to get a fuller understanding, then definitely start your kids on books by Lauren Tarshis.

This was just released 8/26 and tells the story of Pompeii and the destruction of the volcano.  I have it from a very well-informed source that since the Doctor (Doctor Who / Peter Capaldi) also appeared in a Pompeii-themed episode of that BBC series, that this book must be on our shelves immediately!


Minecraft: Redstone HandbookMinecraft: Redstone Handbook
This is the only picture I could find but the actual Scholastic order will be for a 3 volume set of Minecraft titles:  Redstone Handbook, Combat Handbook and Essential Handbook.  I’ll admit I was late to the “minecraft party”.  I couldn’t figure out what the heck the kids were doing with all those little blocks. Then, I tried it and WOWZERS, what a cool game!  The graphics are minimal and everything is square but it is so much fun-mostly I build little railroads and watch my trains go around my cow pasture, so I guess it’s sort of a Zen thing-yeah, let’s go with that instead of old broad playing video games instead of doing housework 😉

The kids LOVE this game and use something called texture packs and mods to build amazing things. They can play alone or with friends so there is actually a redeeming value to a video game.  These handbooks are official Mojang books and have tips and advice for players.  This was actually on an early Christmas list I saw (I know, already-it’s August!!) so we’ll be ordering these, too.

This is why I have no money-BOOKS!  Don’t miss the post I’ll have up tomorrow for Funday Friday with REVIEWS of a few books you “Otter” be reading this weekend!!




Funday Friday

The first back to school week is over!  My kids need to chill out and enjoy the weekend and I’ll bet yours do as well.  How about something for the kiddos to read while they are sitting around dreading Monday:

 Galaxy’s Most Wanted by John Kloepfer

Aliens invade and it’s up to the science camp nerds to save the world!  This book just came out in July  and is by the author of the hilarious Zombie Chasers series.  Looks like tons of fun for the 8-12 age range; not just boys, Kloepfer gives the girls a reason to read with a super smart, multi talented female character!

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is always a favorite around here.  Great characters, interesting stories with tons of historical details.  Greek Gods was just released last week and is already getting lots of attention from the kiddos.  This one is more of a history than a stand alone story as the character of Percy Jackson tells the stories of the Greek Gods.  Lots of humor as Poseidon’s son gives his take on how it all began.  I can see this one being purchased in hardcover just for the illustrations!  Lovely book.

A Kid’s Guide to Awesome Duct Tape Projects from

AWESOME, indeed!  Duct tape can fix anything and a kid with a supply of duct tape and a rainy weekend will no doubt be able to take over the world!  This is a hardcover must-have book that is entertaining for the whole family.  Released on August 5th, so your kids can be the first to show off these cool projects!

Grab a book and enjoy the weekend!!  Remember to join us next week for Mystery Monday and more great books you “Otter” be reading!!




Is there anything better than a good cozy mystery?  Especially a funny one with goofy people and lots of animals?

I just finished Pall in the Family by Dawn Eastman, the first in the new Family Fortune series.  This book is a cute cozy about an ex-cop who returns to her hometown (under a cloud, of course) and finds murder all around her!  Her family tree is full of nuts, psychics, tarot readers and her dad is so droll he is the funniest one of all.

Clyde (Clytemnestra!) prefers to ignore her own psychic gifts to the consternation of her mother & aunt.  They want her in the family fortune-telling business but Clyde doesn’t know what she wants so she passes the time working as a dog walker.  When a local psychic is killed, her Shih Tzu is the only witness.  Clyde steps in to investigate, her family helps, and the usual cozy mystery ‘things’ happen:  misdirection, eavesdropping, lots and lots of dogs & cats and an ex-boyfriend that is the actual ‘real’ detective investigating the case.

Some slow spots as Eastman takes us through the back story on these characters but a really good little mystery that has me wanting more.  The next book:  Be Careful What You Witch For just came out in July and the third book: A Fright To The Death is due out next April.  Thanks for stopping by for a fun Friday read!


Are you ready for a fun reading weekend?  I sure am; it’s been a long week so I want a good book to take me away with an engaging plot, great characters and lots of fun.

YAY!!  Top Secret Twenty-One is on my pick up list at the library.  I was 332th in line when I first reserved it so I’m super happy that it finally got here.  I’m taking the weekend off to curl up and read read read-hope you are able to do the same.  Thanks for stopping by the blog-see you Monday!!

Friday Funday-Lets Get Ready To READ All Weekend

Friday Funday means:  I’m taking the weekend off from reading books I agreed to review; I’m hiding out from the July heat with books I just want to read for me.  My plan is to read Help For the Haunted by John Searles and The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison.

Help For the Haunted has been on my TBR list for a while and it just came through at the library so, Yay!  It looks so creepy I can’t wait to get started.  It is the story of Sylvie Mason and what happens after her parents disappear…parents who helped ‘haunted souls’ find peace.  Brrr, I shivered when I read the blurb so I have high hopes for leaving the lights on all night with this one!!

I’m less sure about The Outlaw Demon Wails.  I’ve read a couple in this series and thought, ‘meh’ but I keep hearing from other readers about this entry.  It supposedly wraps up loose ends in the series and is much better than a few that came before it.   So maybe yes/maybe no, I will give it a try and see how it goes.  If nothing else it was free at the library!

Life will no doubt intrude but I’m hopeful I will get through at least most of them by Monday (ugh, only 2 days away!)

Have a wonderful weekend and read something, please!!

Vanessa Fernandez Fitness

mom of four / fitness coach / business mentor

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