Friday, May 29, 2015

Children's Book Review: Sparky and Tidbit By Kathryn O Galbraith


By: Kathryn O. Galbraith

Illustrated by: Gerald Kelley

Published: February 3, 2015

Publisher: Simon Spotlight


Is your child ready to start reading chapter books? These Ready-to-Read books are the perfect starting point. Four different levels are offered to get your child used to more words and longer stories from Pre-Level One all the way to Level Three.  SPARKY AND TIDBIT is a Level Three in the Ready-to-Read books and is perfect for children in grades 1st - 3rd. The pages have plenty of words but also delightful illustrations to help tell the story and not overwhelm kids who are still hesitant to take on regular chapter books.

Sparky received his K9 cap, badge and collar for his birthday and is ready to start some real hero work.  As he walks around his neighborhood, he tries to find something heroic to do, but sadly, isn't able to find any buried treasure or stop any bone robbers. Then he comes along his friend Tidbit, whimpering under a bush. Tidbit is sad because he can't read. Sparky decides to spend an afternoon listening to Tidbit read one page of his book.  But, Sparky has hero work to do and can't spend anymore time listening to Tidbit. Will Tidbit convince Sparky to keep listening or will Sparky find more important work to do?

This is a wonderful story that uses dogs to teach a lesson on helping others, patience, and the importance of reading. All the characters in the story are dogs and they do silly things which will make the child giggle and want to keep reading. Sparky and Tidbit are lovable dogs and I could easily see this becoming a series where Sparky continues to help out other dogs in his school and neighborhood.  This book would make a great addition to your school or child's library.

Kathryn O. Galbraith - Photo by Mark Holloway
To learn about Kathryn O Galbraith and her writing, visit her website at

I will be linking up on Saturday with Booking Mama's Kid Konnection. Click HERE to see other great children's and YA book related posts. 

To purchase a copy of SPARKY AND TIDBIT, click the photo below:

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: Out from the Underworld By Heather Siegel


By: Heather Siegel

Published: April 30, 2015

Publisher: Greenpoint Press


I'm participating with a book review of OUT FROM THE UNDERWORLD in the iRead Book Tours.  To visit other stops on the tour and enter to win a copy of OUT FROM THE UNDERWORLD, click HERE.

Heather takes us into her childhood inside a dark, musty, and moldy basement where she lives with her sister, brother, and father. Her mother left them and then died. Her father can't seem to function without her and escapes to work at the funeral home or on his dates with women he met from personal ads. Her grandparents prefer to ignore the fact that they all live in their basement.  When her father can't seem to get things under control, the siblings are sent to live in various foster homes, Eventually, Heather and her siblings finish their childhood years with their father in a basement with no windows.

Heather shares bits of memories of her mother, ways that she and her siblings survive, and her dreams for their future. Traveling through the pages, Heather grows from a five-year-old to an adult, going to college and working two jobs to pay for it.  Through all the hardships, Heather always found a way to appear happy, normal, and sane. With both of her parents suffering from mental illness, it is a wonder she and her siblings survived at all.

OUT FROM THE UNDERWORLD is one of those stories that shows how people can rise from the ashes and prove society wrong. If you have a dream, intelligence, resourcefulness, and a sense of humor, you can accomplish anything. Heather Siegel and her siblings survived harsh conditions, horrible memories, and tragic childhoods and came out ahead. Her story proves that people can rise above their fate and overcome. She doesn't spend time in the book whining about her sad life, her father's poor choices, or lack of family to support them. She instead shares how she and her siblings stuck together and focuses on the few angels who supported them and made them feel special. Heather also is thankful for the many books she disappeared into during her childhood. She is another example of how reading can set you free. Kudos to Heather and her siblings for finding the silver lining in life and making the best of the situation at hand.

Heather Siegel earned her MFA in nonfiction from The New School and has been published at as well as various trade magazines. A multi-faceted creative, she is the founder of two Long Island coffeehouses which foster arts and music, as well as a juice and beauty bar. Heather currently writes in a house full of light, where she lives with her husband and daughter. For more on Heather, visit her website, HERE. You can also find her on Facebook, HERE and Twitter, HERE

To purchase a copy of OUT FROM THE UNDERWORLD, click the photo below:

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: Inside the O'Briens By Lisa Genova


By: Lisa Genova

Published: April 7, 2015

Publisher: Gallery Books


Bestselling author, Lisa Genova, has written a book that raises awareness of Huntington's Disease the way her book STILL ALICE brought attention to Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. With comprehensive and meticulous research, Genova tells the story of a Boston family dealing with the shock of Huntington's Disease (HD) affecting their family.

Joe O'Brien is a quintessential Boston police officer. He values his faith, his family, his heritage, and most of all, his brotherhood with the Boston police force. His work ethic shows that you give it your all, like standing outside Fenway Park for hours dealing with the drunks after the game when you really wanted to be inside watching it. He works extra hours to make sure his reports are detailed and precise enough to hold up in court. He is the ultimate husband to Rosie and father to his four children, all adults now, and living the kind of life he has ingrained in them.

HD begins slowly: difficulty remembering certain details, clumsily tripping over his own feet, and angry outbursts.  Rumors begin that Joe O'Brien is a drunk. Fellow cops start to talk. His mom was a drunk and died a drunk in an institution when he was a child...or did she? Rosie finally convinces Joe to see a doctor and the diagnosis is nothing that they would have imagined. Now Joe has to tell his children, knowing that each of them has a 50% chance of also having the disease inside them.

Genova takes us through a year of Joe and his family living with the beginnings of HD. Through Joe and his family, the reader learns to live life to the fullest, even while going through the "cruelest disease known to man". The characters aren't perfect and screw up which makes them relatable and honest. As Joe's children battle with the decision of whether to be tested for the gene or not, the reader wonders, "Would I want to know?". The majority of the story focuses on Joe and his daughter Katie, a yoga instructor. Katie is struggling with being tested and finding out her fate while knowing the fate of two out of her three siblings. She struggles with guilt, anger, and making choices about her future, while watching her father deteriorate and succumb to the horrible disease.

My only disappointment in this novel was the ending. When you come to the last word in the book without realizing it is the last word and you are left hanging, it can be a bit frustrating. Hope is a central theme in this novel as well as awareness. Even without all the answers, you can hope that Joe has taught all of us how to live in the moment and with dignity. Fans of Genova will find her newest novel to be memorable, inspiring, and informative. Genova also encourages readers to make a donation to the HD Human Biology Project, hoping that someday a cure will be found.

Lisa Genova - source
Lisa Genova graduated valedictorian, summa cum laude from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels STILL ALICELEFT NEGLECTED, and LOVE ANTHONY. For more on Genova, visit her website, You can also find her on Facebook, HERE, an Twitter, HERE 

If you would like to purchase INSIDE THE O'BRIENS, click the photo below:

Thanks to the publisher for sending an eBook for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Winners of 100 Days of Summertime from ListPlanIt

I have chosen the two winners of the

Congrats to Amie and Angie! Thanks to all of you who entered!

If you didn't win, you can still purchase the 100 DAYS OF SUMMERTIME eBook. You can get started on celebrating 100 Days of Summertime this weekend!

Just click on the photo below:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May is National BBQ Month

Did you know May is National BBQ Month? Everyone is anxious to get their grills and firepits out of hibernation and start grilling again. We do a bit of grilling through the winter, but it isn't any fun for my husband to stand out in the cold and grill. So, I was very anxious to have some burgers and brats fresh off the grill this month.

If we are having friends over to grill and sit on our porch, there are some essentials that we must have.

Meat -

We love meat from our local lockers or Fareway.  Also, locally we have a grass-fed, organic farm Wallace Farms that sells meat and delivers to locations once/month. Find out more HERE.

Sides -

No BBQ is complete without Potato Salad. It's my husband's favorite, especially his mom's potato salad. I can't replicate exactly how she made it, but it's close.

Here in Iowa we love our sweet corn. So, if you can find some (usually late July - August), be sure to serve it up with lots of butter, salt and pepper!

Dessert -

My favorite dessert to go along with a BBQ is Jello Cake. Also, Rhubarb is in season during May and a warm Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp topped with vanilla ice cream is the perfect finish to a BBQ. You can get my recipe for Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp, HERE.

Beverages -

I love the Simply Lemonade line of drinks. Our favorite is the Raspberry Lemonade. Mix it with a sparkling soda like ginger ale, sprite or La Croix to give it an extra pop!



For a more grown up beverage, I like margaritas or the different Ritas from Budweiser like
Straw-ber-rita, Mang-o-rita, and Raz-ber-rita.  I also like the canned Margaitas by Cayman Jack.

No BBQ is complete without music. We use our bluetooth speaker ALL. THE. TIME. We can play a variety of music through the Slacker App and we don't have to keep our phone attached to the speaker.

With Father's Day coming up, you want to make sure you have all the necessities ready for grilling that weekend. Whether you use a charcoal grill or a gas grill, make sure you have plenty of gas or charcoal needed.  There are fun wood chips that are flavored to give your grilled meat that perfect smoked flavor.

If you are looking for gift ideas for that hard-to-buy-for Father, check out There you will find crates filled with all kinds of gifts for every personality including the gamer, the golfer, the weightlifter, and the griller to name a few.  The wooden crates come with everything you need, even a crow bar to open the crate.  These gifts for men are unique and will bring a smile to the face of every man in your life. 
Make sure you are celebrating all summer has to offer by joining up with family and friends to grill, eat, and enjoy the great outdoors!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Product Review and Giveaway: 100 Days of Summertime 2015 eBook from ListPlanIt

I'm a list maker. I constantly make lists of things to do, things to pack, things to buy, things to remember, etc. I can't remember anything unless I write it on paper or in the notes app on my phone. If you are like me, you will love Jennifer Tankersley and her website, ListPlanIt.

One of her best products is her 100 Days of Summertime eBook.

The 100 Days of Summertime 2015 is available as a PDF that can immediately be downloaded to your computer. You can print out all 37 pages our just the totally awesome worksheets that are included in the eBook.  Those worksheet printables are worth the $8 this fabulous eBook costs. The printables can be used over and over again and are critical to planning out a fun, well-organized, and productive summer.

Some of my favorite sections of the 100 Day of Summertime 2015 eBook include:

  • End of school/Beginning of summer party
  • Planning for your summer vacation
  • National Strawberry Shortcake Day
  • Not every day can be sunny and warm, so a list of rainy day activities
  • Quench Your Thirst with lots of fun summertime drink recipes

This book fits the needs for families of all sizes and ages. There is truly advice and planning ideas for everyone with ideas that I had never thought about. Some of the planning pages available to print off include:

  • Cookout Planner
  • Summer Chore Charts
  • Monthly Planning Calendars
  • Travel Itinerary
  • Budgets sheets
  • So much more

The 100 Days of Summertime 2015 eBook is designed for daily inspiration and guidance, taking you from Memorial Day to Labor day. Each page lists the date and a motivational task, activity, or event. Most days also include links to a Pinterest board, website, or other resources to help you fulfill the activity.

Whether you have a family reunion, a wedding, a vacation or summer camps to get ready for ListPlanIt can help you organize all of it.  Even if you have no summer plans, Jennifer has loads of ideas to help you find the fun in every day this summer.  If you didn't know, June 13 is National Strawberry Shortcake Day, so she has a recipe to make sure you celebrate that day in the best way possible.

This giveaway is no longer available.
 Thanks to all who entered!

I am offering a giveaway for two, yes TWO copies of the 100 Days of Summertime 2015 eBook, but you must enter quickly as the giveaway will end Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 11:59 PM. That way the winner will have time to download it and start with Day 1 of the 100 Days of Summertime.

I can't recommend Jennifer's website enough. She has planners and lists for EVERY. SINGLE. NEED. She has done all the work, you just need to print them off and follow the plan! To see all her planners and lists, click HERE.

Thanks to Jennifer for sending a copy of her eBook to me for the purpose of this review as well as offering copies for a giveaway. I was not compensated in any way for this review, but if you choose to purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: Troika By Adam Pelzman


By: Adam Pelzman

Published: April 7, 2015

Publisher: Berkley


When I was first approached by the publicist to read this book, my first reaction was to say no. This is not my typical type of read. But, then I noticed some of the reviews: "brilliant, astonishing modern love story", "fascinating" and "unforgettable". I was instantly intrigued and decided to give it a try.

TROIKA removed all my preconceived perceptions about romance novels by telling this modern love story involving three people who come together so unexpectedly. Just because I was enthralled with the story doesn't mean I agree with the conventions of it, but instead, found it to share a love between the characters that many people will never experience.

Julian was once a Russian orphan and is now a self-made millionaire in New York City. His wife, Sophie, suffers from a tragic accident. She and Julian must create a new path for their future. The third character in this troika is Perla, a Cuban living in Miami and working as a stripper in Fort Lauderdale. Pelzman draws us in by sharing each of their stories and how they ended up in their current situation through alternating chapters. Once their lives converge, you will wonder how they ever lived without each other. Fans of the movie "Pretty Woman" will find some similar scenarios, but this story is a bit more unexpected.

Pelzman tells the story quickly and with precision. You breeze through the short chapters and keep reading to get to the next character's story. He challenges you with the passion for which the characters make decisions, giving them powerful scenarios to cope with. Unfortunately, some scenes were never finished and the reader was left to wonder how a situation righted itself. Some of the secondary characters were highly involved in one scene and then not mentioned in another which didn't seem realistic. This is especially true at the end of the novel when you are left wonder what Perla's best friend, co-workers, and mother think about her new life.

This is not your typical romance novel, but one with depth and passion. It will force you to rethink your idea of true love. Each of the three characters suffers from a painful past, but it is how they overcome those tragedies that will leave you full of hope and compassion for their choice in life. Their stories are not for innocent eyes as I would give this an "R" rating. But for those looking for a deeper, more intensely personal novel, this is one that will stay with you long after it's done.

Adam Pelzman - source
Adam Pelzman studied Russian literature at the University of Pennsylvania and received a law degree from UCLA. Born in Seattle and raised in northern New Jersey, he has spent most of his life in New York City, where he now lives with his son. For more information, visit his website at You can also find him on Facebook, HERE and Twitter, HERE.  

To purchase TROIKA, click the photo below:

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Spotlight: The Shell Seekers By Rosamunde Pilcher


By: Rosamunde Pilcher

Published: Originally in 1987
Trade Paperback: May 12, 2015

Published: St. Martin's Griffin


THE SHELL SEEKERS has been around for nearly 30 years and is being republished in trade paperback. I have never read it,but have heard of it many times over the years. I'll be sharing my review of it soon. If you also missed THE SHELL SEEKERS the first time around, be sure to check it out now.  Pilcher's best-selling novel, SEPTEMBER, will also be republished in Trade Paperback, appropriately, in September 2015.

An instant bestseller when it was first published in 1987, THE SHELL SEEKERS is an enduring classic which has touched the hearts of millions of readers worldwide.  A novel of connection, it is the story of one family, and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. It is filled with real people--mothers and daughters, husband and lovers--and inspired with real values.  Now for the first time in trade paperback, this magical novel—the kind of reading experience that comes along only once in a long while—is the perfect summer read, whether you are returning to it again, or opening the cover for the first time.

At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling's prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father, and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn their grandfather's work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer...and it lies in her heart.

Author Info: Rosamunde Pilcher has had a long and distinguished career as a novelist and short-story writer, but it was her phenomenally successful novel THE SHELL SEEKERS that captured the hearts of all who read it and won her international recognition as one of the most-loved storytellers of our time.  THE SHELL SEEKERS was followed by SEPTEMBER and then by COMING HOME and WINTER SOLSTICE, which also became worldwide bestsellers.  She lives in Perthshire, Scotland.

To purchase a copy of THE SHELL SEEKERS in Trade Paperback, click the photo below:

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Little Monday Inspiration - A Mother's Legacy

Yesterday was a wonderfully luxurious day at home with my whole family. I didn't sleep as late as I had hoped, but did lazily lay in bed later than normal.

Pat and Reagan made a huge breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and waffles. The rest of the day including the required laundry, catching one of my favorite movies on TV (Up Close and Personal), finishing a book, Pat grilling our supper, the whole family playing Michigan Rummy, and ending the day painting my toenails.

We rarely get a day at home like this so it was wonderful. Even if the boys spent part of their day downstairs playing video games, we were all in the house at the same time.

On Saturday, I was able to spend time with my mom and dad since they came to Patrick's soccer game. We went out to eat together and caught up on life.

My mom is an amazing woman and my best qualities come from her. She is so giving and caring and is always making cookies or pie for some group, club, or fundraiser. She picks up her friend a few times a week and they go to Curves together. She is always sewing a quilt or mending some clothes (I did NOT inherit this skill from her). My mom has the most beautiful gardens and knows about every flower and shrub that can be grown in our area. When I saw this poem, I knew this described my mom perfectly:

I am truly blessed with two loving and supportive parents and a family that I can continue to share my legacy, planting seeds of kindness, generosity, and love into the hearts of our children.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Children's Book Review: Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City By AnneSawyer-Aitch


By: Anne Sawyer-Aitch

Published: December 15, 2014

Publisher: Magic Lantern Press


I'm participating in the PUMP UP YOUR BOOK Book Tour for NALAH GOES TO MAD MOUSE CITY. To see more information and visit other stops on the Book Tour, click HERE.

I reviewed NALAH AND THE PINK TIGER back in June of 2013, (see my review, HERE) the first book for Anne Sawyer-Aitch. I was impressed with it's imagination and vivid illustrations and this one is just as impressive.

Nalah loves to pretend and she's good at it. She creates magical worlds and has fun with the characters she creates. In this story, Nalah gets mad because she seems to be in the way while her family is preparing for a party. So, instead she disappears into her secret cave and end up traveling down a tunnel in her sock drawer to Mad Mouse City where they like to eat her socks and consider her the Sock Queen.(Maybe that's where all our missing socks go!) After she returns from Mad Mouse City, things get pretty crazy when all her cousins get involved in the fun Nalah creates.

The illustrations are vivid and bright and add lots of personality to the story. The pages will make your child laugh and want to spend time looking at all the details in the illustrations. The author is also the talented illustrator using a special illuminated illustation that layers the colors, creating a batik-like design. They truly are unique and grab your attention.

If you like finding unique books for your child full of imagination, creativity, and wonderful illustrations, I highly recommend the books by Anne Sawyer-Aitch.

Anne Sawyer-Aitch

Anne Sawyer-Aitch (pronounced like the letter “H”) is a puppeteer and stilt-walker. When she decided to create her first book, NALAH AND THE PINK TIGER, she began experimenting with different styles of illustration, and finally discovered a technique that uses her skills as a maker of color shadow puppets. She calls it “Illuminated Illustration”, and it involves cut-away designs, layering, and backlighting. In her capacity as a puppeteer, Anne creates puppet pieces of all kinds: parade floats, giant stilt puppets, and intricate color shadow shows. She is a MN State Arts Board Roster Artist, teaching puppetry all over the state, and has been touring around with her first book for the last two years. NALAH GOES TO MAD MOUSE CITY is her second book. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more on her books or to purchase a copy, visit her website, HERE. You can also find her on Facebook, HERE and HERE

To purchase a copy of NALAH GOES TO MAD MOUSE CITY, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this post with other bloggers as part of Booking Mama's Kid Konnection link up on Saturday morning. To see other great YA and kids' books, click HERE

Thanks to PUMP UP YOUR BOOK for sending me a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting

Product Review: The Confident Mom Summer Survival Calendar

It's time for THE CONFIDENT MOM'S SUMMER SURVIVAL CALENDAR! This is your one-stop guide to keep boredom at bay and make time for fun with your kids. Susan at THE CONFIDENT MOM has done all the leg work for you. All you have to do is get the supplies and get ready to have a fun summer!

If you have young children, this is your ticket to a happy, memorable summer.  Can't afford a family vacation this year, do a stay-cation full of fun activities right in your own community. Susan has given you four months worth of recipes, games, and activities to do with your kids along with the list of supplies you need to carry out all the fun! It really doesn't get any easier folks!

The Summer Survival Calendar is a calendar like no other—it includes over 120 fun-filled activities and supply list in a PDF document for only $7! This is such a great deal, I felt compelled to share it with you! The 10 Strategies for Your Best Summer Ever action guide bundle includes the 2015 calendar and supply list for only $9. Or for $12, you can get all this plus the previous 2010-2014 Summer Survival Calendars for endless activity ideas!

To learn more about The Confident Mom’s 2015 Summer Survival Calendar, click HERE. Then choose the category eBooks and Printables. With everything from making rainbow ice box cookies, crayon canvas art, knot tying, and homemade quicksand to spaghetti slime, blooming dirt cups, magic milk, and making a terrarium, you won’t be disappointed! Even though I have tweens and teens, there are still plenty of ideas that we can use to make our summer memorable.

Even if you have a baby-sitter for your kids during the summer, you can use this calendar. What better gift for her than to pass on this Summer Survival Calendar full of ideas for her/him to do with your kids. She doesn't want to hear "I'm bored" any more than you do. Keep your kids busy, happy and engaged with this awesome calendar full of ideas!

By downloading this PDF, you will have everything you need to print off for your summer. Calendars also have clickable links directly to recipes and videos needed to carry out the activity. I plan to let our daughter go through and select things that she would like to do. With a summer full of baseball games, she tends to get left out. So by letting her choose the activities, she gets to be part of the planning as well. Don't miss this opportunity to make time for fun with your kids! 

Thanks to Susan at The Confident Mom for sending a copy of this calendar. This is my honest opinion and I was not compensated for this review. If you choose to purchase the calendar through these links, I may receive a small commission without you paying anymore for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews.