Friday, November 25, 2016

Children's Book Review: Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross, & Cool Animals By Charles Ghigna


By: Charles Ghigna

Published: October 11, 2016

Publisher: Animal Planet


Third graders were BEGGING me to read from this book last time I subbed in their classroom. This is a book every kid will be fascinated with.

Animal Planet has brought the strangest and most interesting animals to life in this book to show kids how vast the creatures of our planet really are. From Betic Midwife Toad to the Rhombic Egg Eater to the Christmas Frigatebird to the Hickory Horned Devil, I learned about all kinds of animals I never heard of nor do I want to ever see in person.

The photography, of course, is amazing and there is just enough information to teach kids about where they live and why they are either strange, unusual, gross or cool. With some creatures, it gives quite a bit of information and others, like the Jumping Spider below, just gives a little tidbit. Isn't this photo enough to give you the creeps?

The book is laid out in sections based on the title. When I subbed in third grade, I used reading from this book as a behavior incentive by giving them a few strange animals while waiting to go to lunch. The kids were fascinated and couldn't wait to have me read more. Later in the day after they had worked hard on their assignments, I chose a child to pick a category and then read a random creature from that section. It was a little bit of science and geography wrapped together talking about the creature and discussing where they lived. The kids loved seeing the photos most of all.

This is a great book for any child, but especially those who love science. I'm sure I could use this as an incentive in any elementary classroom. Our own high-school-aged kids even had fun looking through it.

Charles Ghigna - source

Charles Ghigna is an award-winning poet, children's author, speaker, and nationally syndicated feature writer. Many know him as Father Goose. He has authored more than 5,000 poems and 100 books. He lives in Alabama with his wife, Debra Ghigna, who is also a celebrated children's author. For more on Ghigna, check out his website, HERE.

To purchase a copy of STRANGE, UNUSUAL, GROSS & COOL ANIMALS, click the photo below:

I'll be linking up this review with Booking Mama and other bloggers to share children's and YA books in her regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. To see all the great posts, click HERE.

A post from today, 8 years ago - Review & Coupon: RIDEMAKERZ
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A post from today, 3 years ago - Review: Grammarly Website

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase this 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  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review and Author Interview: Vengeance By Eric Prochaska


By: Eric Prochaska

Published: August 26, 2016

Publisher: Endeavour Press


Imagine finding out your brother died in an accident. You have to return to the place you swore you’d never go back to. Then, when you muster up the strength to face your family at the visitation you find out the accident the police say happened doesn't seem to match up with the facts. Instead, it appears your brother was murdered and now you feel that it is your job to get revenge. Ethan hasn't looked back since he left Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and went to grad school in Arizona. There were a few phone calls home to his brother, Aiden, but mostly he left the horrible memories of his life there in the past. Returning home brings up all kinds of flashbacks and pain from Ethan's childhood and new revelations about the life Aiden was living.

Ethan's deep grief, shock, and remorse over the loss of his brother oozes off the page. He tries to grasp first that he died so young in an accident and then at the visitation is told that maybe this wasn't an accident at all. Prochaska expertly writes for a first-time novelist, the pain of seeing someone you love lying still in a casket. These paragraphs give readers a brutal look into the emotions of those left behind. Ethan's feelings of disbelief and guilt fill the reader with sadness and yet encourage us to move through the pages as we hope that Ethan can find a peace with his past. 

Some may think the novel starts slow without much fanfare as the novel begins with Ethan returning home. Instead, I think it sets the reader up for a deeper understanding of Ethan's need to face some hard truths about his past, his decisions, and the influence those choices had on the family he left behind.

Prochaska takes readers through the hum of the city. Whether you are driving through neighborhoods or down 1st Avenue, you can imagine yourself riding along in the car with Ethan. He methodically gives readers the lay of the land so there is no doubt about the type of place Ethan may find himself whether it is his father's home, a local bar, or the shady motel he is staying in. Cedar Rapids is given a part in this novel that is just as important as any other side character that he introduced. 

VENGEANCE is less about finding out who killed Ethan's brother and more about Ethan finding himself. Prochaska draws you in with the emotions in the beginning and takes you for a thrill ride through the middle as revenge takes over. The novel ends with the reader reflecting on their own relationships and the choices that were made in our own lives. 

Eric Prochaska - source
Award-winning author Eric Prochaska has published short stories in dozens of magazines. His debut novel VENGEANCE combines literary and populist elements into a unique noir-esque tale. Raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he now lives in and explores the American West. Check out all of Prochaska's books, click HERE.

To purchase a copy of VENGEANCE, click the photo below:

My interview with author, Eric Prochaska:

Eric Prochaska was a homebody, but on the weekends he spent most of his free time as a kid at the comic shop. He dreamed of being a comic book artist until Mrs. Bach, a teacher at McKinley Middle School, assigned her class to write a short story instead of a report. Mrs. Bach and another teacher gave him feedback and encouraged him in his writing. Mrs. Bach moved over to Washington when the Cedar Rapids School District restructured the grade levels and she continued to encourage Prochaska in his writing. He continued to write short stories and that, as they say, is history. Prochaska has written several short stories that have been published and has finally had his first novel published, VENGEANCE.

VENGEANCE is loosely based on his life growing up in Cedar Rapids. In the novel, the main character, Ethan, loses his brother. Over twenty years ago, Prochaska’s brother, Eddie, died. Even though this event and some of the circumstances inspired the book, Prochaska states, “I filled in the blanks and created the world of the book by following the adage of writing what you know.” He says close friends may find similarities between him and Ethan, but he mostly had fun writing some of the side characters and exploring their specific dynamics. Prochaska does admit that surprisingly, writing the book was healing in unexpected ways. “To have a chance to say goodbye vicariously through Ethan in this novel released something I wasn’t even aware I was still carrying.” Said Prochaska.
Prochaska states, “The writing process for this book was different from writing short stories, mostly in the planning process and checking for continuity. I didn’t write from beginning to end, so when it came time to write the scenes in between what I had, it was often difficult to dovetail scenes together.” In all, the writing process took Prochaska 30 months, but that included some time where the story sat idle for a bit. Most of the story was in his mind, but he did make a few trips back to Cedar Rapids to walk and drive around the city to remind himself of the feel and smell of the place. He worried that readers who didn’t personally know Cedar Rapids wouldn’t get the context of it. He tried to portray it in a way that people familiar with the city would understand as well as those who could relate to it.

Prochaska’s goal in writing this book was to “tell a story that I had been carrying around”. “VENGEANCE is more about asking tough questions and facing hard truths…telling a story that is more real than just exciting.” Prochaska is currently plotting a sequel to VENGEANCE because he really wants to explore more of the characters. The early success of his novel has surprised Prochaska with VENGEANCE reaching “Top Five” in its category on Amazon already in the first month of it being published. He is thrilled stating, “I’ve poured so much time and passion into something to finally see people getting their hands on it and enjoying it.” 

A post from today, 6 years ago - Blessing #21 
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A post from today, 4 years ago - So Thankful - Days 19, 20, and 21
A post from today, 1 year ago - Book Review: Save My Place By Olivia deBelle Byrd

Thanks to the author for sending a copy of this novel for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase this novel through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Children's Book Review: Pee Wee the Christmas Tree By George Wells


By: George Wells

Illustrated by: Denis Proulx

Published: July 5, 2016

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


 I'm participating in the blog tour for PEE WEE THE CHRISTMAS TREE with several other bloggers through Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for reviews and posts about PEE WEE THE CHRISTMAS TREE.

George Wells has been a songwriter for many years and recently came across some sheet music for a song he wrote long ago. It reminded him of the sweet and simple song he wrote for Christmas and decided to make it into a children's story.

Pee Wee has lived in the forest for years and each time the Christmas tree season rolls around, he hopes to be chosen as one of the trees to be cut and taken to the store. Sadly, year after year, he is overlooked because of his size. He is just too small to be an adequate Christmas tree. Until, finally, he is chosen and taken to a store, where again he sits and waits and is overlooked by those who want the biggest and the best trees.

Pee Wee is sad, but doesn't lose hope. You'll have to read to find out if Pee Wee's Christmas wish comes true! Will a family realize he is the perfect size and allow him to bring them joy on Christmas morning?

This is a very sweet story and a reminder that big or small, there is a job and a place for everyone. Pee Wee encourages the reader to never give up and to remain hopeful.

It's a quick read with large print and colorful illustrations. It definitely put me in the mood for the Christmas season. I like that it has a positive message that works for anytime of year as well.

George Wells has been a songwriter for over fifty years with over 100 of his songs having been recorded. He has worked with artists including Charlie Walker, Neil Bonnett and Patsy Trigg and has had a song featured in the 1969 film, "From Nashville With Music", as well as numerous television and radio programs over the course of his career. Wells currently resides in Huntsville, Alabama with his wife of 58 years. 

Denis Proulx is an illustrator of many children's books. Too see more of his work, check out his website, HERE

To purchase a copy of PEE WEE THE CHRISTMAS TREE, click the photo below:

I'll be linking up this review with Booking Mama and other bloggers on her regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. To see posts related to children's and YA books, click HERE

A post from today, 8 years ago - Christmas Carols
A post from today, 7 years ago - Saying Grace 
A post from today, 6 years ago - Blessing #19
A post from today, 4 years ago - A Little Monday Inspiration
A post from today, 2 years ago - Too Many Things - eerily similar to my life right now.

Thanks to the author for sending a copy of his book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase this 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 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

An Aha! Moment for My Reading Life

After my post a few weeks ago where I was being real about my reading life (see HERE), I received emails from some of you offering support and nods of agreement. I even received some advice about how to plan out time to read and make it a priority which I really appreciated.

Then yesterday while driving, I was listening to a podcast, What Should I Read Next, and heard a quote that I have since been playing over and over in my head....

I schedule my reading time, but not the books I read.

This was part of a conversation that Anne Bogel was having with her guest, Sarah Mackenzie. Check out their chat, HERE

I found this to be such an "Aha! Moment". I think that is where I am struggling. I feel bound by deadlines and schedules and it no longer makes reading fun, which is exactly what Sarah Mackenzie talked about. Reading should be fun and not feel like homework. Yes, it is kind of like a job for me and I will have some books that I must schedule out for my paid gig. But, I really want to release the pressure of other people dictating what I am going to read next. I just want to read what feels right at the moment. I know publishers and marketing agents want you to post reviews when a book comes out. But isn't it great to have some reviews sprinkled out? It's kind of spreads the love out over the course of a few months rather than a bunch of reviews all at once, right? 

I frankly have hardly read at all since I finished two really great books, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and SMALL GREAT THINGS. After reading a great book, I have good book let-down and worry the next one won't match up. Nothing sounds good to me and when I try one and don't get sucked in by the first chapter I give up. 

But, I've also been swamped in my regular life. Being a mom, a substitute teacher, a post-prom chair, volunteer, and wife doesn't leave much free time for reading.  

On November 1, I started Whole30. This also takes a lot of my time planning out meals and preparing them. But, this was important to me for my health and well-being and I've made it a priority this month. Day 18 today and I'm feeling awesome!

So, I'll be thinking over this "Aha! Moment" from yesterday and the advice I received from some people I admire. I'll be posting a lot less from here til the end of the year. Basketball season begins next week with two nights a week spent at the basketball court, plus usually at least one concert a week during this holiday season. Throw in some shopping, decorating, and spending time with family in there as well and I'm about maxed out. I'm just not going to stress myself out and only do what I feel I can get done. 

I have a couple year-end posts planned and will have some great children's books to share with you over the next few weeks. Otherwise, we'll see what I get around to related to book reviews. 

Thanks for understanding and hanging around here. I appreciate you and hope your Thanksgiving reminds you of everything you have to be grateful for. I'm grateful for you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors By B.A. Paris


By: B.A. Paris

Published: August 9, 2016

Publisher: St. Martin's Press


If you like books that make your skin crawl and give you the creeps, then this is the book for you. Jack and Grace Angel look like the perfect couple on the outside. He is a lawyer that champions abused women and hasn't lost a case yet, making sure their abusers are behind bars for a long time. Their friends envy their beautiful home and Grace's seemingly easy lifestyle and lavishly prepared dinners. But, a friend begins to wonder why Grace doesn't have a mobile. Grace is never alone and always has an excuse for not showing up to a girls luncheon. Why is their home surrounded by gates and fences?

Grace, who worked hard for everything she had and helps support her sister with downs syndrome can't believe her luck in meeting Jack. He seems beyond perfect and their whirlwind romance is better than she ever dreamed. On their wedding night, something happens that makes Grace begin to question Jack and then when they leave for their honeymoon in Thailand, every dream she ever had is shattered into a million pieces.

Debut author, Paris has expertly written just the right level of suspense to force the reader to fly through this book all at once because you can't bear to wait a minute longer to find out what happens. We meet Grace and Jack in the past in one chapter and then we are jumped to the present during their marriage in the next chapter, finding out the horror Grace is living in. By flipping between the past and the present in each chapter, Paris eventually brings the two time periods together in a shocking conclusion that will satisfy even the most regular mystery readers.

Paris paints Jack Angel as the perfect husband with the most wonderful manners and then in a flash, he is sadistic, evil, and absolutely astounds the reader with the games he plays. I must warn readers that some may find the material in this novel disturbing and sensitive. It is difficult to read at times, but hoping for a positive conclusion keeps the reader cheering for Grace at each and every phase.

 A former teacher, Paris wrote this novel after being concerned about a friend's marriage and letting her imagination run wild. If her imagination can create this kind of thrill ride, I have no doubt future novels will be just as successful.

B.A. Paris - source
B.A. Paris grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is her first novel.

To purchase a copy of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, click the photo below:

A post from today, 7 years ago - Mondays Matter - Week 45 
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A post from today, 5 years ago - I've Been Given  A Liebster
A post from today, 5 years ago - Counting My Blessings in November
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A post from today, 3 years ago - Children's Book Review: An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night By Joanne McGonagle

Thanks to the publisher for sending an ecopy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. 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 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Children's Book Review: My First Book of Hockey By Sports Illustrated Kids

Mostly Everything Explained About the Game

By: Sports Illustrated Kids

Published: September 20, 2016

Publisher: Time Inc, Books


My cousin's son and daughter live in Northern Minnesota where hockey is as big a deal as football is in our area. Families devote thousands of dollars to their sons and daughters playing in leagues that travel all across their state and even farther. Between rink fees, the uniform, and all the gear you need, it is quite an expensive sport. Even in our area, a number of families are involved in hockey because we have a semi-pro team that plays in a nearby city.

I have never really understood hockey beyond the purpose of getting the puck into the net. I had no problem cheering along but knowing what the rules are, the reason for the penalty box, or all the fighting baffled me. But, I will say that every hockey game I have been to is exciting....even if it is a little cold to watch!

Sports Illustrated Kids does an impressive job of explaining the game for even the youngest player to understand. Their conversation bubbles are hilarious and will make kids and parents giggle while reading the thoughts of the players on the page. There is even a page dedicated to the ever-popular Zamboni, the machine that smooths the ice.

I feel much more knowledgeable after reading this book. I might be able to call a player offsides and I know what a hat trick is now.  

The number of kids playing hockey is rising each year and this book is here to help parents, kids, grandparents, and fans understand the rules of the game. With fun, action photography and simple explanations of the game, kids and parents will enjoy learning about the game of hockey.

I'll be linking up this review with Booking Mama and other bloggers on her regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. Click HERE, to see all the posts related to children's and YA book reviews.

A post from today, 6 years ago - November Blessings #4
A post from today, 6 years ago - Tell the Truth Thursday - Anniversaries
A post from today, 5 years ago - Counting My Blessings in November 
A post from today, 5 years ago - Review: Call Me When You Land By Michael Schiavone
A post from today, 4 years ago - So Thankful - Day 2
A post from today, 4 years ago - So Thankful - Day 3
A post from today, 3 years ago - A Little Monday Inspiration - Move-ember

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 this 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 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Books that Came My Way in October 2016

I recently wrote about my reading struggles (HERE). I've been in a bit of a slump and haven't been that excited about reading. But, it's a new month and I'm planning to actually schedule reading into my day to see if that helps me work in more reading.

I read 8 books last month, 4 of them being children's books. I listened to my first audiobook and am hoping to do more of that. One book was written by a Cedar Rapids native for The Gazette and I am excited to share that book with you this month. 

I'm still being very careful about the books I chose to accept. I'm in the gift giving season and have bought some books to give as Christmas gifts. I'm hoping to buy more! Books make the best gifts!

I'm only going to read books that I am interested in. If it isn't working for me, I'm going to put it aside and move on to something else. I can't read every book that comes my way, but I can at least share them with you here and I hope to review them just as soon as I can.

If you would like to purchase any of these books, 
clicking on the photo of the book will take you directly to Amazon.  
If you choose to purchase, I will receive a small commission 
without you having to pay any more for your purchase.  
I appreciate your support of reviews. 

I'll be linking up with The Deliberate Reader 
to share our stacks of books for October
To see her Stack of Books 
as well as other bloggers' Book Stacks, click HERE.

Books for Review

A Step-by-Step Guide
By: Fauzia Burke
Published: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Format: Paperback

I've have been a regular reviewer for FSB Associates for awhile now. So, I am excited to share their founder and president's book with you. I don't even intend to be an author, but my sister-in-law does, so I hope to share some of the insights from this book with her and of course, with you!

If You Want People to Read Your Book, 
Writing It Is Only the Beginning 
There has truly never been a better time to be an author. For the first time, authors have direct access to the public via the Internet and can create a community eagerly awaiting their book. But where do new authors start? How do they sort through the dizzying range of online options? Where should they spend their time online and what should they be doing? 
Enter Fauzia Burke, a digital book marketing pioneer and friend of overwhelmed writers everywhere. She takes authors step-by-step through the process of identifying their unique personal brand, defining their audience, clarifying their aspirations and goals, and setting priorities. She offers advice on designing a successful website, building a mailing list of superfans, blogging, creating an engagement strategy for social media, and more. By following Burke's expert advice, authors can conquer the Internet and still get their next manuscript in on time. 

One Shortcut Recipe Transformed into Five Easy Dishes
By: Ryan Scott
Published: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Oxmoor House
Format: Paperback

I love this concept of taking one food item and making 5 different recipes with it. For example Pillsbury biscuit dough, that comes in the tube. Scott gives you 5 different ways to use that dough for a meal or side. He starts with everything from eggs to broccoli to pork shoulder to a cake mix and gives you 5 different recipes. The recipes are simple and use ingredients you probably already have in your fridge, pantry, or freezer. I can't wait to try a few of these out. 

If you can't prep it, cook it, and sit down to eat it in less than an hour, chef and television personality Ryan Scott doesn't want to do it. It's just that simple.

ONE TO FIVE is cooking for real life: master one basic recipe and learn to spin it into five quick, affordable, and crowd-pleasing dishes. Discover how Ryan's killer marinade, a simple rotisserie chicken, or an easy slow-cooker roast can turn into soul-satisfying meals like carnitas, stuffed egg rolls, sliders, a Vietnamese salad, and a hearty stew.

From taco night to breakfast as dinner, this book is all about flexibility as Ryan invites home cooks to think creatively about cooking while using supermarket staples. He offers ingenious strategies, tricks, and guidance on stocking the freezer and pantry so that great-tasting meals are always ready at the drop of a hat.

ONE TO FIVE makes cooking so simple that readers can eat a delicious home-cooked meal without the hassle - and have fun while making it.

By: Nadezhda Belenkaya
Published: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Format: eBook

I believe this was a Kindle First choice, but I'm not quite sure. It intrigued me and is one I will definitely want to read over the winter.

Nina’s graduate program at Moscow University isn’t exactly cheap. So when she is offered work translating for Spanish families looking to adopt orphans from the provincial town of Rogozhin, she quickly agrees. Besides the much-needed money it brings, the job is a great opportunity for Nina to use her education to help people in hardship.

But soon she finds that nothing is as it seems. By the time Nina realizes that all too often the business of international adoption is not a humanitarian enterprise, she’s in too deep. Will she be able to navigate a world of exploitation and political corruption in order to help the children? Or should she return to the much simpler world of academia and leave the orphans behind?

WAKE IN WINTER is a captivating story of one woman’s choice in the face of a shattering discovery.

By: Disney
Published: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Time Inc
Format: Paperback

I've already reviewed this book, HERE. I gave this book to a little boy who had a 6th birthday and loves Star Wars. I think it would make a great Christmas gift for a Star Wars fan on your list.

The creatures, ships, and droids of Star Wars are some of the most beloved and collected "characters" of the Skywalker Saga. Wookiees and Tusken Raiders; the Death Star and the Millennium Falcon; R2-D2 and B1 Battle Droids-all the fan favorites are represented in this new collection of posters featuring memorable quotes and moments, character galleries, fun facts, and much more from the first six Star Wars films. Every page is a poster in this full-color collection, plus fans get six additional supersized, fold-out posters, and one special color-in poster they can make all their own. The Poster-A-Page series offers kids the opportunity to bring their favorite friends and stories into their homes and onto their walls, and to become part of their world.

Books I Purchased

GROWING UP COUNTRY: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl
By: Carol Bodensteiner
Published: October 1, 2010
Publisher: Rising Sun Press
Format: eBook

This book came up as a daily Kindle deal and I had to snag it as an Iowa farm girl. My dad grew up on a dairy farm in NE Iowa and I'm sure he will be able to relate to a lot of the stories she shares.

GROWING UP COUNTRY: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl delivers a treat as delicious as oatmeal cookies hot out of the oven - a memoir of a happy childhood. In charming and memorable vignettes, Carol Bodensteiner captures rural life in middle America, in the middle of the 20th Century. Bodensteiner grew up on a family-owned dairy farm in the 1950s, a time when a family could make a good living on 180 acres. In these pages you can step back and relish a time simple but not easy, a time innocent yet challenging. If you grew up in rural America, these stories will trigger your memories and your senses, releasing a wealth of stories of your own. If the rural Midwest is foreign territory to you, Carol's stories will invite you into a fascinating and disappearing world. 

By: Kelly Harms
Published: July 1, 2014 (reprint)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Format: Hardcover

After getting to know Kelly Harms and reading her newest book, THE MATCHMAKERS OF MINNOW BAY, I wanted to read her debut novel. On a recent trip to Half-Price, I used some book credit and birthday coupon to get this book. To see my interview with Kelly and read my review of her newest book, click HERE

This year's lucky winner of a brand-new dream home: Janine Brown of Cedar Falls, Iowa.

For heartbroken Janine "Janey" Brown, this announcement has the hallmarks of one of her Aunt Midge's harebrained plans to lure her from her tiny kitchen, where she's been submerging her grief in the pursuit of the perfect pot-au-feu. Meanwhile, across town, Janine "Nean" Brown couldn't be more thrilled. She just knows that this house is her destiny, the chance to escape the latest in her revolving door of crappy jobs and drunken boyfriends.

When both Janine Browns descend on Christmas Cove, Maine, to claim the prize they both think is theirs, however, they discover that more than just a dream home awaits them at the water's edge. Filled with wit and charm, THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE is Kelly Harms's enchanting and heartfelt debut--a testament to the many ways love finds us, the power of a home-cooked meal, and just what it means to be lucky.

By: Debbie Macomber
Published: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Format: Hardcover

I purchased this book for my Secret Pal at church. Who doesn't love a good Debbie Macomber Christmas story?!?!

Friendly and bubbly, Julia Padden likes nearly everyone, but her standoffish neighbor, Cain Maddox, presents a particular challenge. No matter how hard she’s tried to be nice, Cain rudely rebuffs her at every turn, preferring to keep to himself. But when Julia catches Cain stealing her newspaper from the lobby of their apartment building, that’s the last straw. She’s going to break through Cain’s Scrooge-like exterior the only way she knows how: by killing him with kindness.

To track her progress, Julia starts a blog called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Her first attempts to humanize Cain are far from successful. Julia brings him homemade Christmas treats and the disagreeable grinch won’t even accept them. Meanwhile, Julie’s blog becomes an online sensation, as an astonishing number of people start following her adventures. Julia continues to find ways to express kindness and, little by little, chips away at Cain’s gruff fa├žade to reveal the caring man underneath. Unbelievably, Julia feels herself falling for Cain—and she suspects that he may be falling for her as well. But as the popularity of her blog continues to grow, Julia must decide if telling Cain the truth about having chronicled their relationship to the rest of the world is worth risking their chance at love.

By: Chip and Joanna Gaines
Published: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: Hardcover

We are huge fans of Chip and Joanna at our house and was interested in reading their story.

Are you ready to see your fixer upper?
These famous words are now synonymous with the dynamic husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. As this question fills the airwaves with anticipation, their legions of fans continue to multiply and ask a different series of questions, like—Who are these people?What’s the secret to their success? And is Chip actually that funny in real life? By renovating homes in Waco, Texas, and changing lives in such a winsome and engaging way, Chip and Joanna have become more than just the stars of Fixer Upper, they have become America’s new best friends.

THE MAGNOLIA STORY is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.

By: Paige McKenzie
Published: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Weinstein Books
Format: Paperback

Our daughter read the first book in this series, THE HAUNTING OF SUNSHINE GIRL and declared it the "best book ever". So, I purchased the sequel and she started reading it right away and has already finished it, with this one now being "the best book I ever read". I couldn't have read these types of books at her age or I would have had nightmares, but she seems to like them. 

Sunshine Griffith can communicate with ghosts. Even more amazing, she recently discovered—with the help of her would-be boyfriend, Nolan—that she’s a luiseach, one of an ancient race of creatures who have lived among humans for centuries, protecting them from dark spirits and helping them move on to the afterlife. Now, Sunshine’s powers are awakening and she feels spirits everywhere—intense and sometimes overwhelming.

Eager to get her supernatural abilities under control, Sunshine agrees to begin training with her mentor, her estranged father Aidan. He takes her to an abandoned compound deep in the Mexican jungle. But what she learns there about her powers and her family history, turns out to be more terrifying than Sunshine could have imagined. Can anything—Aidan’s experiments, her friendship with another luiseach named Lucio, even Nolan’s research—prepare Sunshine to face the frightening woman who haunts her dreams, and to finally learn the truth about the rift that threatens the future of the luiseach and all of the humankind?

The stakes grow ever higher in this sequel to The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, revealing that Sunshine has to protect more than her own friends and family—she may be the key to saving the entire human race.

Brave Little Fin
By: John and Jennifer Churchman
Published: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover

I shared the first book from the Churchman's last month, HERE. So, I had to get their next book with the adorable lamb on the cover. I'll be giving this to my niece for Christmas.

Meet the adorable and resilient baby lamb Finn in this true story about friendship and courage -- a follow-up to the bestselling picture book phenomenon THE SHEEPOVER!

Newborn lamb Finn, raised inside the farmhouse, isn't as big and strong as the other animals on the farm. He can't help but be frightened as he ventures outside and encounters unfamiliar sights, sounds, and creatures. With the help of Farmer John and his animal friends, Little Finn learns to be brave and mighty.

This charming story by John and Jennifer Churchman, featuring real animals on their bustling Vermont farm (including Sweet Pea from THE SHEEPOVER!), celebrates the magic of friendship and finding the courage within.

By: Kenny Loggins
Published: October 11, 2016
Publisher: MoonDance Press
Format: Hardcover

If you grew up in the 80's like I did, then there is no doubt you were a fan of Kevin Bacon in "Footloose". It is still one of my favorite movies today. So, when I saw there was a book for kids, I had to get it. I haven't decided if I'll keep it for myself or pass it on as a gift, but it is awesome. It would make a great storytime book for a preschool class!

Have a rockin' time introducing children to Footloose, rewritten for children by the one and only Kenny Loggins himself. Features a bonus CD with the new children's "Footloose," performed by Kenny Loggins.

Time to cut loose! Have a rockin' time introducing children to the fun of Footloose, rewritten for children by the one and only Kenny Loggins. As a zookeeper named Jack joins the zoo animals in an all-night dance party, this new original story from Loggins is sure to get your feet moving. Little ones will love the cast of characters, including the rockin' chimp Louise ("Geez, Louise"), Mister DJ Elephant, the lemur Marie ("Oo Wee, Marie"), Milo the wombat, Luke the funkiest cat in the zoo, and so many more rocking, bopping, boogying, tangoing, shaking, rattling and rolling animals!

To add to the fun, the book includes a CD with new recordings by Kenny Loggins. Kids and parents can sing along to the classic hit with new lyrics, as well as a three-song medley families will love.

By: Norman Bridwell
Published: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Inc
Format: Hardcover

We loved reading Clifford books when the kids were little. They were big fans of the show and even met him once at a library storytime. Kohls Cares for Kids offers books for $5 and this is one of their selections. I snagged it to send off to my niece when she starts kindergarten.

Emily Elizabeth is starting Kindergarten and she's a little nervous. Good thing that the teacher sent a note home that says each child can bring something from home to make the transition a little easier. But the teacher didn't bet on a child bringing something--or someone--as big as Clifford!

Publisher: QEB Publishing
Format: Hardcover

This book is only available at Kohls. But for just $5 it is totally worth making the trip there to get a copy. I purchased two for Christmas gifts. 

Heart-warming messages make this Kohl's Cares Big Book of Bedtime Stories the perfect choice for helping your little one fall asleep.
  • "The Otter Who Loved to Hold Hands" story
  • "Squirrel's Busy Day" story
  • "Digger and Lew" story
  • "My Friend the Weather Monster" story
  • "Little Bear and the Butterflies" story
  • "Blast Off!" story
  • "I'm the Happiest" story
Goodies from the Literary Box by Quarterly

By: Brit Bennett
Format: Hardcover

This book has been getting high praise since it's debut and I was thrilled to get it in my Literary Box. I had almost purchased it at Half-Price books but chose the Kelly Harms book above. I'm anxious to read it.

A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, THE MOTHERS is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Anchor
Format: Paperback

This book also came in the Literary Box from Quarterly.  It's quite short and even though it isn't something I typically read, I'll give it a look before I pass it on.

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful to women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

SULA: A Novel
By: Toni Morrison
Published: June 8, 2004
Publisher: Vintage
Format: Paperback

This book also came in the Literary Box from Quarterly. I have never read a Toni Morrison book, but have heard amazing things about them.

This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.

Nel Wright has chosen to stay in the place where she was born, to marry, raise a family, and become a pillar of the black community. Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has embraced, escaping to college, and submerging herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel and a wanton seductress. Eventually, both women must face the consequences of their choices. Together, they create an unforgettable portrait of what it means and costs to be a black woman in America.

Books Given to Me

By: Larry Dykstra
Published: 2016
Publisher: Inspire on Purpose Publishing
Format: Paperback

This book was given to me by my neighbor. Her brother, Larry Dykstra wrote this book about their father's time in WWII. I previously reviewed Dykstra's book MUSICAL HUGS, HERE. This book isn't available through Amazon, but I still wanted to share it with you. I love reading this time period and knowing that the stories are true will make it even more interesting.

As always, if you read any of these books, be sure to let me know your thoughts. Happy Reading!

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