Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo


A system to help you tackle clutter in your life. In simplest terms, you go through every item in your home and discard or donate anything that doesn’t give you joy. If you are keeping something out of guilt or a sense of obligation, stop.

Once you have purged your belongings, you put away the things you keep so every item has a home. The idea is to make your storage system super easy on the “putting away” side of usage so you don’t leave things in random places. Those random places lead to clutter.



I love this idea of keeping only what brings you joy. I have many things I have kept because

  • I paid money for it and don’t feel I’ve used it enough
  • Someone gave it to me
  • I liked it at one time but now I don’t anymore, and I feel guilty
  • It reminds me of something or someone.

I was energized by the book’s possibilities – the thought of open space and less stuff in my house. I couldn’t wait to give it a try!

I didn’t care for the sort of “spiritual” bits about thanking your possessions for their work. But I do agree that I could be a lot more grateful for my home and my possessions, which is another theme in the book. For me, I took the parts that I thought would be helpful, and set aside the parts that weren’t a good fit for me.

I have applied her system to my clothes already. Before I started, I had clothes in half a closet, several dresser drawers and three large tubs in our laundry room.  I had to break into the tubs any time the weather started to change. For the “tidying up” system, I pulled all of the clothes out by type. If I didn’t love something, I set it aside. I reassessed how I stored my clothes so I could see what I had and make things accessible. When I was done, I had more room in each of my drawers, and all of my clothes fit in the closet and drawers in the bedroom. Our local homeless shelter happily took the three tubs of cast offs!

I used the system on my books, too, which was a big deal. I kept more than she recommends in the book, but books are my life! I weeded by reading the description on each one. If the description didn’t make me want to sit down and read instead of doing something else, I didn’t keep the book. Yes, it was hard to part with things that I spent good money on at one point in time. Ms. Kondo would say that the purchase served its purpose – it made me happy when I made it. But hanging onto it now was not serving me well, and it was okay to let it go.

I haven’t finished applying the system to the whole house, but I love what I have done so far. I feel free because there is less clutter. I walk into the rooms that are done, or look at my closet, and I just feel happy. If you are looking for some inspiration before you start a major decluttering project of your own, I recommend reading this.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥


Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: The Water Princess by Susan Verde


A clean water story based on the life of model Georgie Badiel. The “water princess” is an African girl who walks miles each day with her mother to get water for her family. The day is consumed with transporting water – dirty water. If only there was a better way….



First of all, this book is gorgeous. Peter H. Reynolds always does phenomenal work and The Water Princess is no exception. The colors are rich. I love the facial expressions he gives Gie Gie! The story is also so well done. The writing is tight, gently communicating Gie Gie’s frustration and longing. There are end notes  with photos of the quest for water in places like Burkina Faso, Africa. In addition, there are also websites cited where readers can go for information on Georgie Badiel’s foundation and a clean water charity called Ryan’s Well. I checked out both sites, and the work being done is inspiring.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

This would be a great book for families to read and talk about charity and service to help others. The two foundations are a great way for families to turn that conversation into action.

This book could do the same thing in classrooms and schools. The Water Princess could be a rallying cry for children to band together and make a tangible difference for children in another part of the world. Ryan’s Well Foundation started with the dream of a six-year-old boy. How inspiring is that!?

Unicorn of Many Hats

BOOK NEWS: November 29, 2016

It’s Monday; tomorrow is release day! Another small list of new releases as we see November wrap up.  I’m not even going to break things into sections again this week. We’ll keep things simple!

Here are the books releasing on November 29, 2016 that you might be interested in:

big-bear-small-mouse whatever-after-sugar-and-spicecharming-life-of-izzy-malone princess-leia-royal-rebelodds-of-loving-grover-cleveland

first-degree-muddershades-of-wrathhaunting-of-barry-allen star-trek-prey-hall-of-heroes talking-as-fast-as-i-can getaway-with-god-27th

Big Bear, Small Mouse (The Bear Books) – The Bear series has moved to non-fiction books with common vocabulary for young children (colors, numbers, opposites, etc.). The illustrations for this series are gorgeous and I love them! This would be a great book for parents or grandparents of small children as well as for Kindergarten and Preschool classrooms.
Sugar and Spice (Whatever After 10) – Terrific fractured fairy tale series about a girl and her brother who travel through a magic mirror into common fairy tales where something goes wrong and they have to fix the story so the characters get their happily ever after. This story tackles the tale of Hansel and Gretel.
The Charming Life of Izzy Malone – I’ve already ordered this one because I can’t wait to read about Izzy, a girl who doesn’t fit in and has to complete an at-home charm school course because of all the trouble she gets in.
Princess Leia: Royal Rebel (Backstories) – I fell in love with this Scholastic series when I read the Batman and Wonder Woman backstories. There’s also Superman, Supergirl and Harley Quinn. They will be adding Batgirl and Darth Vader in  early 2017. Each book dives deep into the character’s backstory. I can’t wait to read this one!
The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland – This YA story about four teens at a camp for at-risk kids sounds fantastic. (Amazon is offering it on Kindle for only $4.99 which is amazing for a brand new book.) It releases this Thursday, December 1.
First Degree Mudder (A Pacific Northwest Mystery) – Book 4 in the Pacific Northwest mystery series starring a writer for an extreme sports magazine
Shades of Wrath (A Caprice De Luca Mystery) – Book 6 in the Caprice de Luca mystery series about a home stager. I just recently read the first book in this series, and I liked it. Caprice was a great character.
Flash: The Haunting of Barry Allen – My family of super-hero lovers really enjoys the DC Comics TV series like Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and The Flash. This book is an original story about Barry Allen, the Flash, from the TV show. The story will continue with Arrow: A Generation of Vipers in spring 2017.
Prey: Book Three: The Hall of Heroes (Star Trek 3) – The final book in the Prey series from Star Trek about the Klingon Empire
Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) – I never watched The Gilmore Girls, but I  know they are HUGELY popular, especially right now. Fans of the series might enjoy this memoir.
Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat – This sounds like a terrific resource for women longing for time away with the Lord, whether it’s just for an afternoon or for a longer time of retreat and refreshing.

Happy Reading!

If you missed it, I posted a PDF of book suggestions for your holiday shopping needs. You can find the Neverending TBR 2016 Holiday Hint List here.




Unicorn of Many Hats

Book Shopping Suggestions – The 2016 Holiday Hint List

Book shopping suggestions for the holidays!

It’s the holiday gift giving season. Our family celebrates Christmas, and we focus our gift-giving on four categories: Want, Need, Wear and Read.

I love trying to find a perfect book for the readers in my life! And I’d love to help you find some awesome books for your families and friends. So I put together a list with five target age groups – younger kids/read alongs, early readers, middle grade, teen/young adult and adult.

For the most part, these are books that I have read and loved. I also tried to focus on books that would have a wide range of appeal. If you are looking for something in particular for a reader in your life, message me and I’ll see if I can  come up with some suggestions for you.

I hope you enjoy my 2016 Holiday Shopping Hint List:  the-neverending-tbr-holiday-shopping-hint-list

I am thankful for all of my readers! Happy Thanksgiving!

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


This is book two in the Fixer series. The Fixer was my favorite book of 2015. The Long Game is shaping up to be my favorite book of 2016!

Tess Kendrick is back, ready to stick up for the little guy. Still trying to figure out her place in her family. Wondering who to trust in Washington – and even at her own school.

I’d love to tell you more but this story is so twisty, it’s hard to share but not spoil. Just trust me. This was amazing. Mystery. Suspense.  All kinds of awesome.



I adore Tess Kendrick. Her dry humor and snark are fun. I love her commitment to take up for the underdog, even if it puts her against very powerful people. I love her friends, especially Asher who is a delight. He is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. So sarcastic and funny!

When I started this book, I loved it because it was some of my favorite characters doing things I loved to read about. It was fun. It was comfortable in the best possible way. A smooth transition from book one to book two.

Then BAM! Everything – action, betrayal, danger – amps up to 11. Suddenly I found myself reading a very different sort of story. It was tense. It was unbelieveable. And it was awesome! I am hoping to have time to read it again over Thanksgiving or Christmas break. I can’t wait to sink into that story again!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of my go-to authors. If you’ve never read her stuff, start with The Fixer and then The Long Game. Then, if you love her work like I do, try her series, The Naturals. The final book in that series came out earlier this month, so you can read them all, back to back, without waiting.


Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase by Wendy Mass


Logan, Miles, Daisy and Philip, stars of The Candymakers are back for Candymakers #2. The factory is ready to start making the harmonicandy – the winning entry from the contest in book one. But Logan realizes there’s a problem with the recipe. In an effort to fix things, the kids head out on an epic road trip to hunt down a 50 year old secret and try to make their harmonicandy dreams come true.



I have been recommending The Candymakers to students and parents for years! It is constructed in a unique and clever way. Each character takes a turn telling his/her part of section one of the story. Then section two is told all at once. It’s a great example of perspective and “voice” as it highlights each character  and his/her part of the story as a whole. The story gets new depth as each character adds his/her part of the story. It’s brilliant!

Each of the main four characters gets to tell his/her story again this time, going deeper into their family stories and into how their lives changed because of the things that happened in the first book. About half of the book is told by all of the kids together. That’s when the road trip kicks off. I don’t want to give anything away but that road trip is not just about candy. It’s also about the past, the future and family.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

I can’t recommend these two books  highly enough! Please read them in order so you can really get all of the nuances in the relationships between the kids.

Unicorn of Many Hats

BOOK NEWS: November 22, 2016

It’s Monday; tomorrow is release day! There aren’t many new books coming out this week that caught my attention.  I’m not even going to break things into sections again this week. We’ll keep things simple!

Here are the books releasing on November 22, 2016 that you might be interested in:


The Great Big Paw Print (The Adventures of Sophie Mouse) – Book 9 in this sweet series for young readers ready for longer illustrated stories
Rush Revere and the Presidency – Book five in this historic fiction series for middle grade readers
Gap Life –  This YA story of a kid who knows the path his family wants him to take after high school but also knows he wants something more sounds fantastic!!
Trouble Makes a Comeback – I loved the first book (Trouble Is a Friend of Mine) and I can’t wait to read this sequel. Part romance, part mystery, all fun!
Fate of Flames (The Effigies) – The description of this new fantasy series is too involved to summarize in one sentence. If you like YA fantasy, click the link and read the full description. I have already requested this one from my local library!!


Later this week I will have a PDF for readers with some  recommendations of books you might want to put on your holiday shopping list. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out!

Unicorn of Many Hats


When I launched my blog this fall, I create the Saturday Smorgasbord as a “a variety show of posts – list posts, links to articles I found related to books, etc.”

In order to have time to do these posts well, I’ve decided to post them just on the first Saturday of the month. I feel like that will keep them fresh.


If you have missed some the past Saturday posts, you can find them all here. My favorite so far is probably my Top 10 Favorite Illustrators. You can also find posts about Christmas books coming out this season, favorite teachers in literature, and more.

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 3rd where I’ll be posting about my favorite sports books for kids!

Be sure to swing by over Thanksgiving weekend and pick up my PDF of recommended books for holiday gift-giving, too!

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: Star Wars: Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston


Ahsoka Tano was the padawan to Anakin Skywalker. but she walked away from the Jedi when she was betrayed by another Jedi. She escaped Order 66 and the aftermath, but she can’t avoid the Empire forever. Ahsoka knows she will have better luck if she doesn’t use her powers and if she can found an out of the way place to hide. Unfortunately, the Empire decides her “out of the way” moon is just what they need. Can Ahsoka protect her new friends AND hide who she really is?

Star Wars: Ahsoka


Ahsoka is an excellent character from the animated series, Star Wars The Clone Wars. In fact, this book made me want to go back and watch the whole series again. The writers have brought her back for the new series, Star Wars Rebels. This book fills in some of the gap between the two TV series.

I liked reading about Ahsoka’s growth as she ventured out on her own. She has no master to guide her. No clone troops to lead. No Yoda to advise her. So Ahsoka has to develop her own code, her own system for deciding where to help and where to lay low. It’s great to watch that unfold.

Familiar names from movies and more from the TV shows make this fun for Star Wars fans. The context of both help fill in the back story, but the story at face value works on its own. Readers with no Star Wars context might need to check an online source to help them with any questions they  might have.

Rating:  ♥♥♥♥


Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson


A new culinary mystery series. Amy wants so much more for her life than waitressing at Lou’s Joint. She has culinary training. She has ideas about decorations, ambiance, and food far above what she serves at Lou’s. Amy offers to buy out the restaurant so she can build her dream. But Lou Lou, the owner, won’t have it. Unfortunately when Amy later finds Lou Lou dead, she is suspect number one!

Calamity Cafe


This is the first book in the series, and I really enjoyed it. Amy’s community is well-defined and likable. I’d be happy to enjoy more stories with this crew.  Amy’s sleuthing evolves naturally from her fear of being arrested, even though law enforcement says they are following other leads. The solution is logical and I predicted the killer, although there were a couple other possibilities that seemed legit.

For me, if the solution to the mystery is sound, I’m satisfied with the book. But if the characters are enjoyable, too, I become a fan and will keep following the series. I am a fan of the Down South Cafe series! I can’t wait for book 2!!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Book two, Silence of the Jams, is expected to release on April 4, 2017. (Release days subject to change)

Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent who also writes the Embroidery Mysteries under the name Amanda Lee. I’m looking forward to reading her other books after seeing how great this book was.