Book Review #94: “Courtney: Friendship Superhero”

I wasn’t surprised at all when I powered through Courtney’s second book on Monday night before bed.

This book opens in the last few days of school of the 1985-1986 school year. The Hands Across America event is held, raising money for hunger and homelessness.

Courtney goes to the arcade, and continuing to work on her Crystal Starshooter character and levels of her video game. She meets a new friend, Isaac. He’s an even better video game player. Courtney eventually learns he’s also a talented artist.

As she navigates the waters of family and friendship, Courtney learns that Issac has an illness called HIV. Requests for privacy turn into anger about keeping secrets. Courtney feels like her friendship with Sarah, her best friend, is falling apart.

This book expertly navigated the fears of HIV and AIDS in 1986. I immediately drew parallels between Isaac and Ryan White, a teenager in Indiana who contracted HIV in 1984 through contaminated clotting factor that he received for hemophilia.

Courtney learns several lessons about true friendship along the way, even though she gets entrenched in the fight over Isaac and the local residents wanting to keep him out of school. How awful that these families and children faced such horrible discrimination, just like Ryan White and his family did.

The fun part of the story is when Courtney discovers the first Pleasant Company catalog, and falls in love with Molly McIntire!

I’m not sure if there will be more Courtney books, because American Girl revamped their book line several years ago. They changed the original six-book format to two longer books. This one covers the summer, fall, and winter of 1986.

However, I’m inspired to re-read Ryan White’s autobiography, Ryan White: My Own Story, and learn more about the 1980s. I was born in 1988, so I’ve always been intrigued by events that happened around the time I was born, and things that happened before I started forming core memories.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #93: “Courtney Changes The Game”

I don’t normally order items from American Girl directly, but they were offering a pretty sweet deal for the Valentine’s Day / President’s Day weekend – 3X the rewards points!

The newest historical character is Courtney Moore, who lives in Orange Valley, California in 1986. I’ve always been fascinated with 20th century history, so I knew I wanted to get her books! Courtney’s character was released in September 2020.

I ended getting the doll practically brand-new from the amazing American Girl Obsessed BST group on Facebook, and I also bought a few outfits and accessories with this purchase!


The AG historical books are typically shorter, as they are designed for readers 8+. Courtney Changes The Game rounds out at 120 pages. I was not surprised that I powered through the entire book on Saturday night before bed.

Courtney loves video games, especially PAC-MAN. She’s also adjusting to being part of a blended family – Her mom remarried Mike, and Tina is her 13-year-old stepsister. They also share a younger half-brother, two-year-old Rafi. Her dad just took a new job, and is moving several hours away. There’s a lot of personal upheaval in Courtney’s life, especially because Tina has quite the on/off switch. Sometimes, she’s happy and dances with Courtney to MTV, and other times, she’s really angry and sad.

The other big news is that her mom has decided to run for mayor!

As Courtney ponders her school project, creating her own video game, her class and school are all abuzz because of the upcoming launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and the first-ever Teacher in Space, Christa McAuliffe!

This was a great opening book. It had me hooked the whole time – I couldn’t put it down, even when I started feeling tired during Chapter 5.

Up next, her second book – Courtney: Friendship Superhero. If this book is nearly as good as the first, expect that Book Review to be here on the blog by the end of the week!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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 🙂

Book Review #76: “Bravo, Mia!”

Bravo Mia - American Girl

Image Credit: Amazon

Here’s the link to the first Mia book:


The first book illustrated several themes. Mia is trying to find her own way among her hockey-loving brothers. She’s dealing with a tough new coach, and snotty Vanessa. Now, she has to triumph over tragedy. Will she make it to Regionals?

Along the way, she discovers several things about her family, friends, and, most importantly, herself. She’s growing up, and trying to do what she loves. However, she also clearly understands the meaning of sacrifice, much better than many of her peers. And even Vanessa changes her tune a bit.

I appreciated the story flowing pretty seamlessly from the first book to the second. And the punches keep coming. For a child audience, these two books are a hard look at a big family who is trying to get by, but they still work together and have fun, and I think that’s a good thing.

Through the local rink and the chance to perform at Regionals, Mia gets a taste of what figure skating could look like for her in middle school, high school, and beyond.

I think both books are still relevant to today, in 2019. It teaches about following your dreams, and working hard to achieve them.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #75: “Mia”

Mia - American Girl

Image Credit: Amazon

I have a whole shelf of my bookcase dedicated to American Girl books. It will always be this way, period, end of story.

I remember reading Mia several years ago. I was fascinated with the doll when she was the Girl of the Year in 2008. But, at that time, I was in college, and I wasn’t about to breathe a word of liking American Girl dolls and books at school.

Now, 11 years later, I’m loud and proud. And I own Mia the doll as well.

I wrote stories about ice skaters and figure skaters when I was a kid. I did a report on Michelle Kwan in fourth grade. I wasn’t a good ice skater myself, but I was always taken by the figure skaters on TV, and especially during the Olympics.

Reading Mia’s story brought back that nostalgia, but it also reflected the mid- to late-2000s appropriately. I really appreciated the partial story line about the U.S. economy and what became the Great Recession, where Mia’s parents are working multiple jobs and barely making ends meet for their four kids. It made it relevant to readers when it was published, no matter how sad.

I’ve always liked how American Girl pays attention to details. In addition, these books are good for many ages to read! Although clearly written for younger girls, I enjoyed reading it as an adult. And the illustrations are beautiful, too.

Come back tomorrow for the review of the “sequel,” Bravo, Mia!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Portsmouth, VA Edition (The Visit From The Vacationing Doll)

American Girl Dolls Sandcastle

Image Credit: Flickr – Julia Monroe

As most of you probably know by now, I love American Girl.

I’m also a part of a huge Facebook group called Obsessed BST (Buy/Sell/Trade), which has well over 14,000 members.

At the beginning of May, a woman named Kammi proposed an intriguing idea: Doing a traveling doll, kind of like a Flat Stanley idea. I immediately wanted to sign up!


Kammi lives in Ohio, and was great at keeping in contact with me!

The doll, Emily, belongs to Kammi’s 7-year-old daughter. Emma is one of nine children! Amazing!

Emily came to Al and I on Tuesday, May 29th. Kammi included a journal, and asked everyone to write in the journal, add pictures, and write a short bio of the family who has her. I was so excited, and Al got in on the fun, too.

Emily is now on her way to the next destination – North Carolina! – so I wanted to share my photos of The Visit From The Vacationing Doll!


Tuesday, May 29th

Emily was so excited to get out of her box and get the packing peanuts out of her hair. She made seven new friends almost immediately. Here she is spending time with my dolls.

Emily meets Autumn, Chrissa, and Z. The photo got cut off – I was so excited!

Emily meets Stephanie, Molly, mini Molly, and Kit!

They apparently had a nice slumber party. I thought I could hear them trying to be quiet!


Wednesday, May 30th

Emily spent most of the day with my dolls, when we were at work.

Once I got home, Emily joined us on the couch while we ate dinner and watched TV. We’ve been re-watching Chuck on Amazon Video.

For dessert, we made s’mores in the microwave! We had the traditional Hershey’s chocolate, but I also had one with a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Yummy!

“Oooh, yum!”

Yummy!

Emily wanted my extra candy!

As much as Emily wanted a taste, I didn’t want her to get messy! S’mores are really sticky!


Thursday, May 31st

Today was my Friday, since I was off work on June 1st for my P.E.O. Virginia State Convention! Al proposed the idea of going out to dinner, like we normally do on Friday nights, and showing Emily downtown Portsmouth.

This is the historic Commodore Theatre. The Art Deco-style movie theater was originally built in 1945, and was fully restored in 1989. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

This is just one of several murals in the downtown area, honoring local musicians and other celebrities.

We stopped by the Portsmouth Courthouse. Built in 1846, it’s now home to the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center. The fence was beautifully decorated for the recent Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Naturally, we had to stop by the Children’s Museum of Virginia, also on High Street. I think Emily was sad that it was already closed for the day. It’s been open since December 1980, but it’s been at this location since 1998. From 2009 to 2011, the entire building was gutted, expanded, and revamped to offer more interactive and spacious exhibits.

I think Emily really loved our mini-adventure!


Friday, June 1st – Sunday, June 3rd

I was in Blacksburg, Virginia, all weekend. I thought about taking Emily with me on the road trip, but was afraid something would happen to her. So, she happily stayed home with Molly and all her new friends. Al tells me they had slumber parties every night!


Monday, June 4th

Emily had to say farewell to her friends today. But, everyone was very excited for her next leg of the journey. I even wanted to send her along in a new outfit!

Before. I kept the pretty handmade dress, but the pink shoes were specifically requested to come back to Ohio. They’re in a secure baggie in the box, I promise!

After. She’s ready to go!

The School Stripes Dress was introduced in 2014. Emily is headed to her next destination in style!


We loved having a visit from the vacationing doll this past week!

Have you done anything like Flat Stanley?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #60: “A Girl Named Hillary: The True Story of Hillary Clinton”

A Girl Named Hillary

Image Credit: Amazon

Like A Girl Named Rosa, this book was a fast read.

I appreciated that Hillary was considered for this series, given her recent presidential campaign.

Like Rosa’s book, I learned several new things about Hillary. Since her childhood, she’s always stood up for herself and tried to help others.

I literally grew up watching Hillary as First Lady from 1993-2001. So, in a way, she has always been inspiring to me. I think this book can be just as inspiring to other girls, now, and in future generations.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #59: “A Girl Named Rosa: The True Story of Rosa Parks”

A Girl Named Rosa

Image Credit: Amazon

American Girl just started releasing their “A Girl Named” series, and I definitely wanted to get my hands on them!

When A Girl Named Rosa arrived, I was a little dismayed. It was a very short book! I then realized that this series is clearly designed for much younger readers. However, I still wanted to read it!

The book is beautifully illustrated, and is packed with facts and a good story. It’s like a mini-biography. I even learned a few new things!

While initially disappointed, I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and I imagined parents reading these books to their children at night before bed. Also, it’s a great history resource.

It’s designed to be inspiring to young girls, which I can certainly appreciate.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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 🙂