REVIEW: The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville

The Cottage in the Woods Book Cover The Cottage in the Woods
Katherine Coville
Middle Grade, Fairy Tale
February 10, 2015
11 Year Old Daughter's Bookshelf
December 2, 2022 - January 28, 2023

For fans of Shannon Hale, Adam Gidwitz, and Michael Buckley comes a luminous new twist on a tale readers only thought they knew. . .

Once upon a time, there was a girl with golden locks. But that’s just the beginning of this tale. The real story begins with a bear.

Ursula is a young she-bear who has come to work as a governess at the Vaughn estate. Although she is eager to instruct her young charge, Teddy, she is also frightened, especially when inexplicable things happen in the huge house after dark. Ursula is sure she has heard footsteps in the hallways at night, and that something is following her during her walks in the Enchanted Forest. Then there is Mr. Bentley, a young bear also employed by Mr. Vaughn, whose superior disposition is enough to drive Ursula to tears . . . and yet why does he also make her heart race? As Ursula works to unravel the mysteries of the Vaughn manor, she will have to be very, very careful. After all, true love, justice, and a girl with golden locks are at stake. And in the Enchanted Forest, not every fairy tale is destined for a happily ever after.

My Review

Personal rating: 2 Stars
Given rating: 3 stars (read on to find out why!)

Adorable cover. Adorable concept. Great start! And then…. it dragged. But the ending was good!

Before I go on, I have to preface this review with the following: I am not the target demographic. My daughter loved this book, I struggled. This is not a BAD book, it just wasn’t for me personally.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming… 

My 11-year old daughter picked this book out at the bookstore, brought it home, and devoured it. I had read the back cover and asked if I could read it next, and she of course said, “Yes!” 

So I started reading it. And it took almost 2 months to get through it.

Like I said above, the beginning of this book was great. The introduction of “baby bear” (Teddy’s) new governess, Ms. Brown, was a unique take on the Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale. But then it got depressing. Nobody was nice to Ms. Brown! Nurse was down right MEAN, right up until the bitter end! Papa Bear jumped to conclusions and never let Ms. Brown defend herself! But I kept reading, and thinking to myself, how did my daughter get joy from these miserable characters? 

The middle of the book dragged. For me, it was one of those books that I’d think about quitting but push on, then something interesting/redeeming happened, only to drag again. And repeat. 

The story is told in a very old writing style, and it was at times reminiscent of when I struggled through reading Pride & Prejudice and swore off books written before my own youth.

There are plenty of good things about this book.
1. It’s a unique spin on the classic tale. This wasn’t a tiny, rickety, old cottage, it was more of a grand manor belonging to very well-off bears in the Enchanted Forest.
2. There’s a strong message for tolerance and againstracism/prejudice. The parallels between our world and this fictional one are obvious, but done in a way for children to truly understand and be interested in.
3. Even the worst character was allowed some redemption, the author was able to develop them enough so that I still hated them, but I was able to understand where they were coming from.
4. The book is very well written!

Ultimately, this was not a book for me. It is however, a great book for the target audience (young readers) and truly does belong in elementary school libraries.

REVIEW: Lexie Maxwell & One Spooky House by Heather Balog with Tara Balog

Look at me on a roll with another book review!
I actually have a number of reviews written up, waiting for me to find the time to post.
Additionally, I finished two more books last night, so those will soon be added to the queue.
Why are there only 24 hours in a day people!

In other news, I started training at my new job this evening. I’m leaving retail (woohoo!) and moving onto hospitality, working the front desk at a hotel. Just call me Lorelei Gilmore. (But with less power. And less coffee running through my veins.)

Without further ado, below is my review of a fun young readers novella that my 9 year old daughter really enjoyed reading with me.

Lexie Maxwell & One Spooky House by Heather Balog with Tara Balog

Series: The Lexie Maxwell Diaries #1

Read: July 11 – August 10, 2016

Format: Print Book (Goodreads Win)

My Book Rating: 4 Stars

Genre: Children’s Books (9-12 years)


I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.


I win a lot of books from Goodreads and some excite me more than others. This was one I was pretty excited about because my oldest daughter is the perfect age to read it. I ended up reading this book aloud to both of my daughters at bedtime and they were both engaged in the story (my 9 year old more than my 4 year old). When we finished reading each night I’d get some whines accompanied by “Just ONE more chapter?”

Lexie Maxwell is spending her last summer before starting middle school trying to write a story for a contest but she keeps getting interrupted. Her mother is always demanding her attention for one thing or another. Her older sister is so annoying. Her brothers are loud and obnoxious. And was that a ghost and and her best friends saw in the empty house across the street???

Part of this story is actually the story Lexie is writing for her contest. It’s a really cute detective story about a missing dog. I especially enjoyed reading these sections aloud because I got to use the over dramatic mystery voice over. The kids enjoyed this part too because it was a mystery surrounding a missing dog.

The rest of the story takes place in the real world with Lexie and her friends trying to solve the mystery of the ghost. The mystery is solved in the end, but it was a little anticlimactic. Still, there was closure.

The only negative I can really say is that there were enough editing errors for me to take notice. Nothing a good proof reading couldn’t fix. Despite that, I would still recommend this book. In fact, as soon as we finished reading tonight, my older daughter snatched the book from my hand and said, “I want to read it again!” followed by, “I want to read ALL the books in this series!” So, you’ve got a new fan Heather and Tara Balog!


Buy the book:

Free on Kindle Unlimited or only 99 cents!


~ Add to Goodreads ~


You can also snag book two, Lexie Maxwell & Two New Kids now as well!


~ Add to Goodreads ~


REVIEW: Athena The Brain (Goddess Girls #1)

Athena The Brain by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Series: Goddess Girls #1

Read: March 23 – 24, 2016

Format: ARC Ebook (Kindle)

My Book Rating: 5 Stars

Genre: Juvenile Fiction


I actually checked this book out from the library for my daughter who is almost 9. I didn’t know if she’d like it or not, but I wanted her to like it. This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved to have read at her age. If there were books like this. At her age I was devouring the Sweet Valley Kids books.

Anyway, this book is so cute. It’s the story of the Greek Goddess Athena. She’s twelve years old and just learned she’s actually the daughter of Zeus, king of the gods, and she’s been invited to Mount Olympus Academy to learn to be a goddess with all the other godboys and goddessgirls.

This book takes on a lot of different themes that are relevant to kids and puts a magical spin on them, all the while introducing kids to the stories in Greek Mythology.

We get to know Athena (the new girl), Aphrodite (the popular girl), Medusa (the mean girl), Poseidon (the dreamy boy every girl is in love with), and more. Athena deals with leaving the home she’s grown up in and going to a new school and making new friends. She has to prove that even though she’s a girl, she’s just as good as the boys. After catching the eye of Poseidon, she’s also made her first enemy and has to handle the resident Mean Girl. But first, she has to learn the new rules of Olympus.

I highly recommend this series and I look forward to reading more of them in the future.

Tidy Up Tuesday – Vol. 5 + REVIEW: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Today I won’t be talking about the Spark Joy/KonMari tidying up. Today I’m talking time management tidying up. (And also sharing a review of a great kids book!)

Who else is dreadful with time management? I know I am. I need firm deadlines. If I don’t have a deadline, it’s possible it won’t get done. That goes for all aspects of my life, including housework.

To help in my tidying up goal, I made myself a little chore calendar. It’s a rotating 4 week schedule. On the back I have a few monthly tasks with room to add more as I think them up. I started yesterday, and though I didn’t complete all of the tasks, I feel really good about the progress I’ve made. As my house gets cleaner and it becomes more maintenance than deep cleaning, I’m hoping this comes easier to me. I’ve never been so excited and optimistic about cleaning! And my kids were even eager to help!


I “laminated” my list by placing it in a plastic sleeve and I’ve got a dry erase marker to check off the list as I finish. Each day I erase the daily list checkmarks and I start anew the next day.

Soon I hope to make similar schedules for my work life. (And personal. Forcing myself to exercise needs to be a priority!)


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Read: March 18, 2016
Format: ARC Ebook (EPUB)
My Book Rating: 5 Stars
Genre: Children’s Picture Book

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is one of the BEST children’s books I’ve read in a while. My four year old daughter loved it so much, we read it twice, back to back.

This is the story of a little girl who likes to make things. She comes up with an idea for the most MAGNIFICENT thing EVER. She gathers materials and begins working, but nothing she creates is as wonderful as the idea in her head. She starts to get really frustrated and mad. Her “assistant” (her dog) “suggests” they take a walk. And after walking away from the situation that is frustrating her, she gains a new perspective and realizes that all of her not-perfect things can be dismantled to become her most MAGNIFICENT thing. And in the end, even though she realizes her MAGNIFICENT thing isn’t quite right, she’s very happy with the results and I’m pretty sure, after the story ends, she’s going to keep tinkering until it’s perfect.

I love this story for a few different reasons.

1. This little girl is an engineer! My daughter loved that this girl could make these things and now she wants to be an engineer! (Yay! Girls and science!) This book would work with a boy or a girl, but I love that it’s a girl because the STEM fields need more girls and this book shows little girls that it’s okay to want to be something other than a princess. (Confession, I’m 31 and I still want to be a princess…. but I also want to be an archaeologist.)

2. There’s a good life lesson in this story. Try, try again! And then keep trying! Step back, take a break, and look at things in a new way. And even when you reach your goal, think about more ways to make it even better.

3. The pictures are very cute, and the story is told in a fun, easy to read way. The language is clear, concise, and expressive, making it great for reading aloud.

4. The MAGNIFICENT thing the girl makes is very clever and practical, seeing the finished product was my daughters favorite part of the story.

I would love to see this book in classrooms and I plan on reading it with my almost nine-year old daughter this weekend. She’s already very interested in making things, so I think she’ll really enjoy this story.

This is a must read for boys and girls, and entertaining for parents as well. There are no flaws in my opinion and this may just end up under the Christmas tree from Santa, or on a birthday wish list!

REVIEW: ‘The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair’ by Kate Bernheimer

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer
Read: January 2016
Format: Hardcover
My Book Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Children’s Books

My 4 year old saw this at Half Price Books and wanted it. As a reward for her good behavior while out shopping, I bought it for her.

This is a cute story about a little girl with long beautiful hair, which she refuses to brush. (Hmm…. sounds like both my daughters!)

What happens when the girl won’t brush her hair? Well, little mice move in of course. The girl, not being afraid of mice lets them stay and before you know it, she’s got a whole colony of mice! The mice however, do not like the water. They demand that the girl not bathe, and since the girl likes her mice friends, she stops bathing. Before long, nobody wants to be around the girl (not even her baby doll!) She has to make a tough choice: let the mice stay and be stinky and dirty, or send the mice packing and clean up.

I love the artwork in this book. It’s a CG style, very much in line with current cartoons like Tangled, about another girl with long beautiful hair. The pictures are bright and vibrant, the mice are adorable. Both my girls (4 and almost 9) enjoyed the story and looking at the pictures.

I had high hopes that this book might encourage my girls to let us brush their hair, alas, those dreams were crushed. They both still cry when it’s time to brush their hair, but at least they don’t have mice living on their heads!

Mina picked this book out at Half Price Books as a reward for good behavior while running errands.

Mina picked this book out at Half Price Books as a reward for good behavior while running errands.