Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Family Time: Little Mercies

Last month, on June 24th, Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf hit bookstore shelves.  It's one of those books that gets one thinking about motherhood, family and how precious family time is, especially during these summer months.  

I have a friend who has a countdown of the number of summer weekends she has left with her kids before they go to college.  It is fewer than I would like to think, and looking at our own family calendar, already chuck-full of camps, baseball games, soccer tournaments, vacations with friends, graduation parties, and birthday celebrations, I am trying to slow down and take one summer at a time. 

My boys are 9 years old and almost 12 years old, and time is flying by, but we feel it's our job as parents to slow down, block out the craziness, and make the little moments count.  Those quiet, special connections we make with our children are what we will remember and what will (I hope) sustain us through the trying teenage years. 

This year (I probably say this every year) is my favorite age.  They are funny individuals, strong and smart.  They are athletic and love to come hiking and kayaking; they are tall enough for the fastest roller coasters; they are curious and patient for museum and history tours; and they are just the right amount of lazy for a rainy day spent reading on the porch.  (Yes, I gave birth to readers!!!)

I feel like in the age of technology, especially, there are too many distractions from family time. Our family has no problem shutting the phones and iPads off, especially when it's just the four of us.  I am so afraid that while one of us is looking down to see what is happening somewhere else via Facebook or Twitter, we are missing what might be happening right in front of us, where it's most important.  

Last weekend, my husband and I scoffed at the weather forecast and took the boys in the kayaks out on the reservoir.  Luckily, we live in the part of New Jersey that still remembers why it's called the Garden State.  It's beautiful.  Quiet.  Clean.  Untouched.  The four of us paddled out, saw our church in the distance, talked and laughed, and quietly took in the gorgeous surroundings.  I breathed in that moment, took it deep into my soul.  I am so grateful that it's only the beginning of July and I have the whole summer ahead of us to capture more special time with my family.

As life gets busier, and technology gets louder, we will continue to take these moments, make these memories, and look forward to more. 


If you're interested in the book that inspired my Summer Family Time thoughts, Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf, please see more below, click on the links, and check out the book at your local bookstore!

by Heather Gudenkauf
In stores June 24, 2014

·         Visit Heather Gudenkauf’s Official Site
·         Follow Heather Gudenkauf on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest
·         Visit Little Mercies page on Goodreads


Photo credit Morgan Hawthorne
Heather Gudenkauf is an Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Heather lives in Iowa with her husband and children. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and running.

In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences…

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

In this riveting prequel novella to her novel Little Mercies, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf explores how even the smallest lies can have far-reaching consequences.

When the body of a woman is discovered in a local park―with her bewildered four-year-old son sitting beside her―veteran social worker Ellen Moore is called in to assist in the police investigation. Positioned beneath a statue of Leto, the goddess of motherhood, the crime is weighted with meaning and, Ellen discovers, remarkably similar to one from a decade past.

Ellen's professional duty is to protect the child, but she's not equipped to contend with a killer. As she races to connect the dots, she knows her time is running out. And the stakes are high: if she fails, another mother is sure to make the ultimate sacrifice.


*This post is sponsored by Harlequin

Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Sorcery and swords...strength and wits.

Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend . . . if she can survive.

This book will be a beautifully designed package with illustrated endpapers, a map of the Tearling, and a ribbon marker.

Kelsea, the young princess who must claim her throne, is a flawed heroine, whom we see grow from a precocious child who loves history and books, to a 19 year old woman, and the next Queen of the Tearling.  She becomes a strong and independent woman who is determined not to be as weak or as vain as her mother.  She has the backing of an army, and the magic of a jewel, but unsure of who to trust her entire kingdom is on the brink of collapse.

I have heard words like epic, terrifying, and intriguing associated with The Queen of the Tearling, and I mostly agree with these descriptions.

Erika Johansen wrote a compelling novel, and I read all 448 pages in 24 hours.  The writing is engaging and her characters interesting.  The world-building was beautiful, as the descriptions were in vivid detail.  There were certain elements and characters introduced in the book that I certainly look forward to reading more about in the next two books.

Unfortunately, there were details in the book that I couldn't overlook, and took my focus away from the main storyline.  I don't want to give too much of the book away, but in order to give an example, I can say that I would have been better able to overlook some of the novel's backstory if the author had used a fictitious history and created her own continents and lands.  Maybe humans are destined to repeat all of our past mistakes, and I am wrong!

Flaws aside, The Queen of The Tearling is full of adventure and mystery, crafted with vivid writing and intriguing characters.

Book Extras:
The Queen of the Tearling Wiki
Author Events
Article on Book Deal

About the Book:
Series: Queen of the Tearling, The (Book 1)
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Harper (July 8, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062290363
ISBN-13: 978-0062290366

About the Author:
Erika Johansen grew up and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to Swarthmore College, earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and eventually became an attorney, but she never stopped writing.

*An advanced review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Good things happen to good people.

Jess is a single mother down on her luck and down to the last pence in her pocket.  She is taking care of her daughter, Tanzie, who is a math genius and has an opportunity to attend an elite private school on 90% scholarship.  Jess also cares for her stepson, Nicky, who smokes weed, wears mascara, and is bullied mercilessly by the neighborhood thugs.

Ed is a nerdy software developer who became a millionaire at a young age by taking his company public. Unfortunately, Ed is a bit too naive and makes a mistake that could leave him in financial ruin.

Somehow the four of them, Jess, Ed, Nicky, and Tanzie, along with a big lovable dog, end up on a road trip.  Each person is looking for an escape from their troubled reality, but they end up facing their demons.

The road trip changes their lives.

Bestselling author, Jojo Moyes, once again pulls readers into a character-driven, entertaining novel full of heart.  It is agony seeing what Jess goes through with her kids, but she is a force to be reckoned with.  She will not give up hope.  She believes in the goodness of people, and she believes that goodness will be rewarded with good things. Just when I thought my heart wouldn't break, something would go hilariously wrong, and I would find myself chuckling over one of the kids or their silly old dog.

This is the kind of book you will want to read cover to cover in one sitting, so grab a drink and get comfortable!

Book Extras:
On Goodreads
Author Website, Facebook, Twitter

About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (July 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525426582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525426585

About the Author: (from Author site)
Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30, she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992, she won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University.

Jojo worked as a journalist for ten years, including a year at South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and nine at The Independent where she worked variously as News Reporter, Assistant News Editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.

Jojo has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. Since then she has written a further eleven novels, all of which have been widely critically acclaimed.

Jojo has won the Romantic Novelist’s Award twice, and Me Before You has been nominated for Book of the Year at the UK Galaxy Book Awards. Me Before You has since gone on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide.

For more information about all of Jojo’s novels, please visit the books page here.

Jojo lives (and writes!) on a farm in Essex, England with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kids' Feature: Loot by Jude Watson

Let's keep the kids reading this summer!  

Hijinks, heists, and high-octane action in Jude Watson's new middle-grade blockbuster! 

On a foggy night in Amsterdam, a man falls from a rooftop to the wet pavement below. It's Archibald McQuinn, the notorious cat burglar, and he's dying. As sirens wail in the distance, Archie manages to get out two last words to his young son, March: "Find jewels."

But March learns that his father is not talking about hidden loot. He's talking about Jules, the twin sister March never knew he had. No sooner than the two find each other, they're picked up by the police and sent to the world's worst orphanage. It's not hard time, but it feels like it.

March and Jules have no intention of staying put. They know their father's business inside and out, and they're tired of being pushed around. Just one good heist, and they'll live the life of riches and freedom that most kids only dream about....

Hold on to your pearls, because this summer, the world's youngest criminal masterminds are coming for you.

Jude Watson is the author of four 39 Clues books, BEYOND THE GRAVE, IN TOO DEEP, VESPERS RISING, and A KING'S RANSOM, along with the bestselling Star Wars: Last of the Jedi and Jedi Quest series. As Judy Blundell, she wrote WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, the 2008 winner of The National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She lives in Katonah, New York, with her husband and daughter.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (June 24, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545468027
ISBN-13: 978-0545468022

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Feature: MOUSEHEART by Lisa Fiedler, Ill by Vivienne To

by Lisa Fiedler, Illustrated by Vivienne To
In stores May 20, 2014

When I was offered the chance to review Mouseheart, a middle grade novel, I wasn't sure I would be able to get to it with all the new spring releases, and when I showed it to my 11 year old, he said the cover looked too scary.  After taking a peek at the inside pages, I have to say, we missed a great opportunity! This book looks exciting, fast-paced, and full of gorgeous illustrations by Vivienne To.  My boys are avid graphic novel readers, and sometimes I wish they would read something for fun that had a little more text and fewer illustrations.  I think MOUSEHEART has the perfect balance of the two.  

Pick it up, let me know what you think!

You can also enter to win a prize pack including Mouseheart over at Beth Fish Reads!

·         Visit the official website
·         Follow Simon Kids on Twitter and Facebook  

Hopper is just an ordinary pet-shop mouse—until he escapes. Soon he finds himself below the bustling streets of Brooklyn, deep within the untamed tangles of transit tunnels, and in Atlantia, a glorious utopian rat civilization.

But all is not as it seems. Hopper misses Pinkie and Pup, the siblings he lost in the escape attempt. Atlantia is constantly threatened by roving rebels who wish to bring the city to its knees. And there are cats everywhere, cats who would normally eat a rodent in a second, but leave the rats unharmed . . . and no one can seem to answer why.

Soon Hopper is caught in the crosshairs of an epic battle, one that spans generations and species. As the clashes rage, Hopper learns terrible, extraordinary secrets. Deadly secrets about Atlantia. Painful secrets about his friends.

And one powerful secret about himself.

Lisa Fiedler is the author of several novels for children and young adults. She divides her time between Connecticut and the Rhode Island seashore, where she lives happily with her very patient husband, her brilliant and beloved daughter, and their two incredibly spoiled golden retrievers.


Vivienne To has illustrated several books, including The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins and the Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective series by Octavia Spencer. As a child, she had two pet mice escape. She currently lives in Sydney, Australia, with her partner and her ginger cat. Visit her at VivienneTo.com.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Giveaway: The Fault In Our Stars Movie!

I am a huge fan of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green, so you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to post a giveaway celebrating the theatrical release of The Fault In Our Stars MOVIE!!

One (1) winner will receive:
Copy of the book (movie tie-in book cover)
The Fault in our Stars Tote Bag

To Enter:
Fill Out the Simple Form Below:
(Entries open until June 6th - the day of release!)

Check out these posters!

Trailer (Grab your tissues!)

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

 Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Mike Birbiglia, and Emily Peachey

Directed by 
Josh Boone

Screenplay by
 Scott Neustadter, based on the book by John Green

Produced by
 Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey

Official websites - #TFIOS
Visit the official website
Like TFIOS on Facebook
Follow @TheFaultMovie on Twitter
Follow on Google+ & Instagram

Oh, Gus and Hazel Grace!!!!!!!  OKAY??  OKAY.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt,Ill by Oliver Jeffers

My niece's new favorite!

This book is clever, eye-catching and oh so funny!  Duncan's crayons have decided they are fed up and going on strike.  They are all sick and tired of being used for only one thing...except for Red, who is just plain tired.  Each crayon has written a letter to Duncan spelling out its grievances, with Green acting as Duncan's only ally and liaison, happy with his job of coloring everything from dinosaurs to trees.  Duncan now must try to settle disputes between crayons, address each crayon's concern, and bring harmony back to the crayon box using hit wit and imagination.

Aside from the chuckles it will generate from your child, especially the part when peach feels naked, this book may inspire children to look at their crayon box, and their own colorful creations, differently. Maybe they will not consider pink a "girls' color" and maybe they will mix together yellow and orange the next time they draw the sun, so as not to make one feel bad. Most of all, it is a delightful book that parents will enjoy as much as their children!

A great jumping off book to different activities activities as well, including creative writing exercises.  Maybe your child can choose a crayon not included in the book, and have it write its own letter to Duncan!

A winner!  If my niece loved it, that's the only endorsement I would ever need!

Book Extras:
Illustrator Website

About the Book:
Age Range: 3 - 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 2
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Philomel; 1st edition (June 27, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399255370
ISBN-13: 978-0399255373

About the Author:
Drew Daywalt is best known as a horror director/screenwriter, even though he got his BA degree in creative writing.  He lives in Southern California.

About the Illustrator:
Oliver Jeffers (www.oliverjeffersworld.com) makes art and tells stories. His books include How to Catch a Star; Lost and Found, which was the recipient of the prestigious Nestle Children’s Book Prize Gold Award in the U.K. and was later adapted into an award-winning animated film; The Way Back Home; The Incredible Book Eating Boy; The Great Paper Caper; The Heart and the Bottle, which was made into a highly acclaimed iPad application narrated by Helena Bonham Carter; Up and Down, the New York Times bestselling Stuck; The Hueys in the New Sweater, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year; and This Moose Belongs to Me, a New York Times bestseller. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Oliver now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Week 1: SYNC's Free Audiobooks

SYNC offers 2 FREE audiobooks each week May 15 - Aug 20, 2014. Sign up for email or text alerts that invite you to download the new titles as they become available.

Welcome to Week 1!
This week it’s intrigue across the ages as we enter the world of time travel with H.G. Wells in the SYNC Classic spot and the FBI’s WARP (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program) leading the action in the SYNC YA title.
This Week’s Audiobooks:
Download FREE pair here.  Available May 15 – May 21.


By Eoin Colfer
Read by Maxwell Caulfield
Published by Listening Library
[Available in U.S. and Canada only.]


By H.G. Wells
Read by Derek Jacobi
Published by Listening Library
Some FAQs:
What is SYNC?
SYNC is a program that gives away two complete audiobook downloads–a current Young Adult title paired thematically with a Classic or Required Summer Reading title–each week to listeners ages 13+ while SYNC is in session each summer.
Titles are delivered through the OverDrive Media Console.  You can prepare for the program by downloading the software to your desktop and whichever device you anticipate listening on.
SYNC is dedicated to introducing the listening experience to the young adult audience and demonstrates that Required Reading can be completed by listening.
SYNC gives away 2 FREE audiobook downloads every week each summer. In 2014, 26 titles will be given away over 13 weeks starting May 15th.
SYNC audiobook titles are given away in thematic pairs. Young Adult focused titles are partnered with classics, required reading titles and other thematically appropriate Young Adult tiles to encourage literacy and listening in young people across the country.
SYNC is sponsored by AudioFile Magazine and titles are delivered through OverDrive Media Console.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Children's Choice Book Awards Winners

The Children's Book Council Announced the Children's Choice Book Awards.  

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)

Bugs in My Hair! by David Shannon (Blue Sky Press / Scholastic Inc)

National Geographic Kids Myths Busted! by Emily Krieger, illustrated by Tom Nick Cocotos (National Geographic Children’s Books)

Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Rush LimbaughRush Revere and The Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans (Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster)

Grace LeeSofia the First: The Floating Palace (Disney Press, an imprint of Disney Book Group)


LeVar Burton, former host of the Peabody-Award winning PBS show Reading Rainbow and co-founder of RRKidz

About the Children’s Choice Book Awards (CCBA)
Launched in 2008 by the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader, the CCBA program was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to help develop a reading list that will motivate children to read more and cultivate a love of reading. More atccbookawards.com/about.php.

 About Children’s Book Week (CBW)
Established in 1919, CBW is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Each year, official events – which give kids the opportunity to connect with their favorite authors and illustrators in person – are held from coast to coast.In 2014, official events will be held in all 50 states for the first time in the initiative’s history. Learn more atbookweekonline.com.

About Every Child a Reader (ECAR)
Every Child a Reader is a 501(c)(3) literacy organization dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children. Every Child a Reader creates and supports programs that strive to make the reading and enjoyment of children’s books an essential part of America’s educational and social aims; enhance public perception of the importance of reading. ECAR’s programs include Children’s Book Week, a nationwide celebration of books and reading, and the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country; The Children’s Choice Book Awards, the only national book awards program where the winning titles are selected by kids and teens of all ages; and The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Program, the country’s “Children’s Literature Laureate”. Please visitwww.ecarfoundation.org for more information.

About the Children’s Book Council (CBC)
The Children’s Book Council is the national nonprofit trade association for children’s book publishers. The CBC offers children’s publishers the opportunity to work together on issues of importance to the industry at large, including educational programming, literacy advocacy, and collaborations with other national organizations. Our members span the spectrum from large international houses to smaller independent presses. Membership in the CBC is open to U.S. publishers of children’s trade books, as well as in some cases to industry-affiliated companies. The CBC is proud to partner with other national organizations on co-sponsored reading lists, educational programming, and literacy initiatives. Please visit www.cbcbooks.org for more information.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Celebrate Children's Book Week!

Children's Book Week is the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading.
Established in 1919, Children's Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes -- wherever young readers and books connect! 
Children's Book Week is administered by Every Child A Reader, a 501(c)(3) literacy organization dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children. The Children's Book Council, the national non-profit trade association for children's book publishers, is an anchor sponsor.
Children's Book Week Highlights!
Children's Book Week is a truly national celebration, with events taking place from coast to coast.
  • In 2013, Official Events were hosted in a record-breaking 58 cities, along with innumerable Local Events.
  • Each year, the Children's Book Council enlists beloved children's literature illustrators to design the commemorative Children's Book Week Poster and Bookmark. Download the 2013 Book Week bookmark by Grace Lin and order your free 2013 Poster by Brian Selznick!
  • Children's Choice Book Awards Gala! Launched by the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader in 2008, the Children's Choice Book Awards Program was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to develop a reading list that will motivate children to read more and cultivate a life-long love of reading. Winners are announced live during Children's Book Week at the Children's Choice Book Awards Gala, the Academy Awards of children's literature. This year, voting will be open at bookweekonline.com from March 25 -- May 12.

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