Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Review: Navigating Indieworld By Julie Gerber and Carole P Roman

A Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing Your Book

By: Julie Gerber and Carole P. Roman

Published: September 4, 2016

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


I have reviewed many of Carole P Roman's children's books over the years. She started writing later in life and has self-published all of her books as well as creating a business of marketing and self-publishing many books for other authors. In this book, she collaborates with her daughter to offer advice and steps to follow for those wanting to write a book and look at possibly self-publishing their book.

Even though I have no intention of ever writing a book, I found this book helpful as a way for me to understand the process that authors go through to "sell" their book and get it into the hands of readers. As a blogger and book reviewer, I get emails on a daily basis from authors and publishers asking me to read their book. I can't possibly read every single book that comes into my path, but I do read each and every email and respond when my interest is piqued. I found some of the advice regarding what to put in your synopsis, back cover, and the elevator pitch extremely interesting. I can think of many books that I felt gave too much info on the back cover and others that gave unnecessary information about the story. This can make or break it for a reader. I learned that there was a standard size range for books to fit on library shelves and you want to make sure your book fits those ranges.

After reading through this book, I can appreciate the time self-published authors spend on creating, selling, and marketing their book. All the hours spent writing, editing, and publishing and authors are still not done, My job of reviewing their book is just a small piece of that marketing puzzle.

Gerber and Roman do an excellent job of giving ideas and explaining each step of the process in a simple and easy to understand format. Each chapter is brief and to the point and authors can make a checklist of sorts to help them stay on task and work their way through the process of self-publishing.

Gerber and Roman also offer lists of websites that would be helpful to authors in their writing process as well as publishing and marketing. I must say, that I was thrilled to be one of the respected websites listed as providing quality reviews. I appreciated that the authors warned readers that bloggers and book reviewers have limited time to read books. They recommended using their correct name and respecting their time and not expecting a review in just a few weeks. I am grateful that Gerber and Roman shared this with authors and especially the point that just because you send a book out doesn't mean you will get a review. As a reviewer, I know how much time and money is spent getting books in the reviewer's hands and I do my best to review as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

I read the kindle version of this book which I purchased and unfortunately found several mistakes throughout this book in grammar and misused words. One of the focuses of the book was the importance of editing and I was surprised to find so many mistakes while reading. It's one of my pet peeves while reading a book. While I know not every mistake can be found all the time, I felt like this was a book that needed to make that a priority due to the subject matter.

I highly respect Gerber and Roman for all their work writing and promoting authors. They have been fabulous to work with over the years and I look forward to reading many more of Roman's books. If you are dreaming of writing a book, this is a must-read for you early in the writing process.

Julie Gerber
 Julie A. Gerber is the founder of Away We Go Media, a social media management and consulting firm for authors. She is also a blogger at All The Hits and Misses, Executive Vice President/Business Manager at TopShelf Magazine, Assistant Publisher/Director of Social Media at TopShelf Indie Authors & Books, and co-author of Navigating Indieworld: A Beginner's Guide To Self-Publishing and Marketing Your Book as well as the best-selling paranormal, Tortured Souls: The House On Wellfleet Bluffs. She can usually be found refereeing her sons or glued to her desktop as she works from home. She lives in Georgia with her husband, two kids, and her little sidekick, a doting Pekingese rescue named Abby. Check out her website, HERE.

Carole P. Roman
Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of the Captain No Beard series. Both Captain No Beard-An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life and Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis have received the Kirkus Star of Exceptional Merit. The first book in the series was named to Kirkus Reviews Best 2012. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis has just been named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2015. Each book in the series has won numerous awards including the NABE Pinnacle Award, ERIK Award for 2013, ForeWord Review Five Star and Finalist in the Book of the Year, and Reader's Views Children's Book of the Year 2013, Shelf Unbound Best Series, Back to School Resource Winner, IAN, National Indie Excellence Award, MoonBeam Award for If You Were Me and Lived in...Scotland. She is also the author of the award-winning non-fiction culture series If You Were Me and Lived in...exploring customs and culture around the world. She co-authored Navigating Indieworld: A Beginner's Guide To Self-Publishing and Marketing Your Book, which earned a 5 Star ForeWord Review Clarion Review. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children and grandchildren. Check out Carole's website, HERE

To purchase NAVIGATING INDIEWORLD, click the photo below:

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 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Perfect Valentine for Your Child - I See Me Books

As a child, I had a few personalized books that had my name and the names of my family in the story. I remember one was a farm story and it was my favorite. Since my name isn't spelled the "usual" way, anytime I had anything personalized with my name spelled correctly was exciting.

Giving your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or neighbor a book personalized with their name and the names of their loved ones is a special and unique way to mark a holiday or special occasion. If you are looking for that special gift,  i See Me! is the perfect place to check out all the great ideas for every occasion.

I chose the Valentine Book that i See Me! offers for my great-niece who is three for the purpose of this review. She loves books and since she has a name that isn't extremely popular, I'm thinking she will love having this book read to her and hearing her name.

This Valentine Book is just one of the MANY gifts offered on their website. They also offer personalized books for birthdays and every day reading as well as ones perfect for giving at baptisms. Other personalized products include lunchboxes, puzzles, coloring books, placemats, stickers, and growth charts. These would also make the perfect gifts to fill a child's Easter baskets with. A personalized book would also make an original new baby gift or a memorable first birthday gift.

I really love this Valentine book because like the other personalized books, I can choose the people I want to include in the story, I can list multiple people in one sentence so I can fit more loved ones into the story. It shares the message of love with the child. It's repetitive which children like hearing read to them and the repetition helps with their ability to start recognizing words and the rhythm of words in a sentence. I also love that you can include a photo of the child at the beginning of the book which will get them even more excited to read a book about them!

I had so much fun creating this book for my niece, Isla, and wish I could be there to see her read it for the first time. I hope it is a book she will keep forever and enjoy reading time and again.  What greater gift is there to tell a child over and over again how much they are loved? I don't think there is anything better than that!

Stickers are also included with the book. This is a nice touch and the stickers are very high quality. She can use them to decorate papers or make a collage to hang in her room.

I have reviewed these i See Me! books before and I am still extremely happy with these products. Their website is easy to use and offers the ability to really make these books as personalized as you would like. From the dedication page to the ending, you can really make it as specific as you want including a personal message to the child. I received this book pretty quickly and expect that would be the same for you. It arrived in less than the two weeks expected for delivery, but with specific holidays I would try to make sure you have plenty of time to receive the item. The process was extremely simple and the book arrived well packaged with no bumps or rips in the pages or stickers.

Celebrate Valentine's Day, Easter, or maybe just brighten up these dreary winter days with a fun, personalized gift from the i See Me! line of products. For more on all their products, be sure to follow them on the various social media accounts and see all the great ways customers are using and giving their products:


I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama's regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. This is a place for bloggers to share posts related to children's and YA books. You will find spotlights, reviews, and sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to i See Me! books for providing this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Review: Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold By Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency #1

By: Iain Reading

Published: December 3, 2012

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


If you have an independent, spunky tween that is looking for a new series to read, this Kitty Hawk series might just be for them. Kitty Hawk is an adventurous young adult who knows how to fly and decides to spend her summer in Alaska researching humpback whales. She is Canadian and after getting sponsorship from her favorite clothing company and a place to stay with friends, she is off on her adventure.

Kitty Hawk is not the average teenager. She has been flying planes with her father for quite awhile, she has an idea and runs with it, and is completely independent. Kitty Hawk has quite the summer in Juneau, Alaska meeting new people, having a little summer romance, and solving a mystery. The reader can learn while journeying with Kitty Hawk as the locations she mentions and real places and the historical stories are fact-based. History buffs and mystery lovers will enjoy this series.

At times, I did feel like the details were a bit heavy and slowed down the reading process, but maybe that is because I am an adult and this is meant for younger readers. Even though Kitty Hawk is an adult, I felt conflicted at times feeling like she was childish in some of her conversations (especially with herself) and other times remembering she is an adult on this adventure. I think the author's motives for getting kids excited about adventures and being independent are worthy and I could see kids wanting to look up the places that are talked about in the book (I did), but I did get a little bored with the story at times.

Kitty Hawk's curiosity gets her in a bit of danger and the suspense will keep readers interested. There are also a few surprises along the way that will keep the reader guessing about what will come next and how everything will turn out in the end. The end of the book offers specific ideas for what the reader might want to look up and learn more about.

Overall, I think this is a great series for tweens, teens, and even adults who like adventures based on historical facts and places. There are currently four other books in the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series:  Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway's Ghost, Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue, and Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the RMS Titanic, and Kitty Hawk and the Mystery of the Masterpieces. Each book can be read as a standalone. For more information, check out the Kitty Hawk website, HERE.

Iain Reading - source
Iain Reading is passionate about Root Beer, music, and writing. He is Canadian, but he currently resides in the Netherlands working for the United Nations.

Iain is the author of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series, The Wizards of Waterfire Series, and the dragon of the month club. To see all his books, check them out HERE.

Connect with Iain on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

To purchase a copy of KITTY HAWK AND THE CURSE OF THE YUKON GOLD, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama's regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. This is a place for bloggers to share posts related to children's and YA books. You will find spotlights, reviews, and even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to Book Publicity Services for sending a copy 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 links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: Traveling Light By Lynne Branard


By: Lynne Branard

Published: January 10, 2017

Publisher: Berkley Books


Have you ever wanted to just take off on an adventure? That is exactly what Alissa Wells, a 30-something single gal from Clayton, North Carolina does. After winning an abandoned storage shed in an auction Alissa finds a box of ashes inside. She decides it's time to take some of those vacation days and she is going to drive to New Mexico to deliver Roger Hart's ashes to their rightful resting place.

Al, as she prefers to be called, has never left her hometown or her home for that matter. When her mom died young, Al took over caring for her dad and her sister. When it was time to find a job, she naturally went to work for her dad at the local newspaper and she has been there ever since. This road trip is just the diversion that Al needs in her life. The paper can manage without her for awhile and she is in no hurry to return. Al loads up her dog, Casserole and they are off on what will be a life-changing adventure for Al.

During one of her restaurant stops, Al's waitress Blossom decides to hitch a ride with her as far as Texas. Blossom, a 17-year-old former hippie, has decided to go back and live with her dad in Texas and Al's road trip is the perfect opportunity to get there. Then, few stops later, Blossom's ex-boyfriend is also tagging along for a ride to Texas. These three characters who would have never crossed paths are now lifelines to each other as their lives intersect.

Al's journey, both figuratively and literally, gets her to stop and assess her life. Since the story is told in the first person, the reader feels like they are riding right along with Al across the country. Stops in Nashville, Memphis, and Oklahoma City give the reader glimpses into the attractions and why Al and her entourage have decided to stop and visit. The characters are quirky, naive, and lovable. When each of them come to a crossroads and has to make a decision, the reader is cheering them on, hoping that the decision is the right one.

Lynne Branard, who also writes as Lynne Hinton, has a talent for writing about friendships, unforgettable characters, and heart-warming stories. Much like her previous novel, THE ART OF ARRANGING FLOWERS, readers will enjoy the quick chapters and real-life situations full of funny mishaps and surprises along the way. Her witty metaphors and priceless wisdom fill the pages and will make the reader pause and reflect. Branard dedicated this novel to her many hospice patients she met as a chaplain. The title, TRAVELING LIGHT reminds all of us to let go of our burdens and to learn when to linger in life and when to move on. Maybe reading this book will inspire you to start your own life-changing adventure.

Favorite quotes:

"We do not let go of the details of those who shape our lives."

"What I'm saying is that we don't always get the happy endings we want;
but that shouldn't change what we try to make right."

I previously read, THE ART OF ARRANGING FLOWERS. You can see my review, HERE.

Lynne Branard - source photo by Robert Branard
Lynne Branard, also writes as Lynne Hinton. She was born and raised in North Carolina. She is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and has served as a hospice chaplain and as a senior pastor. Lynne is the author of nineteen books and has received numerous awards for her writing. Lynne and her husband live in Guilford County, North Carolina where Lynne serves as Co-Pastor of Mount Hope UCC. For more on Lynne, check out her website, HERE.

To purchase a copy of TRAVELING LIGHT, click the photo below:

Thanks to the publisher for sending an ecopy of this novel 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, January 16, 2017

Book Review: The Two-Family House By Lynda Cohen Loigman


By: Lynda Cohen Loigman

Published: March 8, 2016

Publisher: St. Martin's Press


Abe and Mort are brothers who live in a two-family brownstone in Brooklyn with their wives. Abe and Helen live upstairs with their four sons and Mort and Rose live downstairs with their three daughters. Abe and Mort own the family business, Box Brothers, making boxes for companies. We meet them in 1947, while Helen and Rose are struggling to maintain their sanity, spending days at home with their young children. The two are best friends and chat about their struggles raising the children, their marriages, and their responsibilities to their Jewish faith and extended families. You feel like the house is an idyllic setting with cousins living almost like siblings having two sets of parents within reach at any time. But, then you start to see the cracks. Even as the families seem to be intertwined, Rose tends to be a bit more resentful of Helen than Helen realizes. Mort is not the most appreciative husband and has been quite difficult to live with over the years. Helen is maybe a bit too perfect and overbearing. Can Abe really be that happy all the time?

One morning over coffee, the two women find out that both of them are pregnant and due at the same time. Even with all their pregnancies, they've never been pregnant together. Both women are shocked but hope, for different reasons, that this child will be the answer to their prayers.  As a terrible blizzard hits the East Coast, the two women go into labor with their husbands away and make a decision that will fracture the relationship between the two women and their families forever.

This novel is the author's first but doesn't read as one. The story is character driven with each chapter told from that character's point of view. In the beginning, we hear from the brothers and their wives as they tell the stories from their perspective. Depending on the character, you will feel the anger, resentment, love, loss, bitterness, and forgiveness seep off the pages. There will be characters you will love and others you will want to hate. As we travel through the years, we get to hear from the children as they grow up and your perspective on the parents begin to change. You almost feel like you are sitting at the dinner table as the stories unfurl in front of you.

It's definitely a page-turner, especially if you like family dramas that take you through the generations. Every decision we make has consequences, good or bad. Reading this novel gives you a voyeuristic view of the ripple effect of one decision and whether telling the truth is worth the repercussions. As the novel ends, after spending twenty-three years with the family, you will be left satisfied, yet feeling the loss of a family you will miss spending time with, even if the ending is a bit too neat and tidy.

Favorite quotes:

"She pursed her lips tighter in an effort to stop it,
for if she couldn't she knew,
the truth would burn its way out of her
 and escape from her mouth in one inexhaustible scream."

"Love is always forgiving."

Lynda Cohen Loigman - source

Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. She is now a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives with her husband and two children in New York. She is a failure at enforcing reasonable bedtimes. THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE is her first novel. Check out her website, HERE.

To purchase a copy of THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE, click the photo below:

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  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Children's Book Review: Science Encyclopedia from National Geographic

Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More!

Published: October 11, 2016

Publisher: National Geographic


Everything you ever wanted to know about Science is in this book. Nothing was left out and the photography is absolutely amazing. This is National Geographic at its best....taking a subject and sharing everything possible in an easy-to-understand format for kids....and adults! The pictures will grab your attention and the tidbits of information on each page will make you want to learn more.

The book is broken up into two parts of science, Physical Science and Life Science. Physical Science includes sections on Matter, Forces and Machines, Energy, and Electronics. Life Science includes The Universe,  Life on Earth, The Human Body, and Planet Earth. There is also a huge glossary of terms and an index of places to get more information including websites, books, and movies.

I was especially interested in the Flowering Plants section. Did you know the sunflower is made up of thousands of tiny flowers? I had no idea. The world's biggest flower is found in Indonesia and measures about three feet across but shockingly it smells like rotten meat! I think I will pass on growing that flower!

I was also extremely fascinated with the section on ancient medicine and how Leonardo's sketches of the human organs were amazingly accurate. Also, the use of everyday materials, like honey, can truly heal and something that many of us today are choosing to use rather than chemicals.

Throughout the book, there are also several experiments for the kids to try, for example, using a magnet with cereal fortified with iron or making your own magnifier.

This is a book that has everything you need for that science-loving child. There is much to learn in this book and one that can be referred to throughout upper elementary or middle school years. I'll be gifting this to our daughter's sixth-grade science teacher as I am sure it will get a lot of use there.

To purchase a copy of SCIENCE ENCYCLOPEDIA, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama's regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. This is a place for bloggers to share posts related to children's and YA books. You will find spotlights, reviews, and even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

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 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Review: Better Together By Kimberly Stuart

A Heidi Elliott Novel: Book #3

By: Kimberly Stuart

Published: October 31, 2016

Publisher: Blom Books

Fiction/Christian Fiction/Contemporary Romance

I first learned about Kimberly Stuart several years ago from another blogger talking about Stuart's blog and how funny and relatable she was. Stuart, who lives in Des Moines, wrote about motherhood and life in a way that I could relate to. While reading, I noticed she was also an author. Over time, I grabbed a couple of her books when they were on a Kindle deal. But, since I don't always have time to read books that aren't on my to-review stack, they got buried in my ever-growing ebook list. Then a month ago, I found out my sister-in-law was going to be on a panel with other Christian women in Des Moines and I noticed that one of the women was Kimberly Stuart. I recognized the name and checked out her blog again. A couple days later I surprisingly received an email asking me to review her latest book and I was thrilled to finally get a chance to read one of her books. Stuart also has another new book, coming out in February titled, SUGAR.

Stuart writes from a real-life perspective and weaves her faith throughout...not in an overpowering way, but in a way that many of us converse with others. BETTER TOGETHER is the third in a series about her character Heidi Elliott, but having not read the previous two books in the series, I can confidently say, this book stands alone. I may have missed out on some back stories or history, but I was able to enjoy this book without feeling like I was missing anything.

Heidi Elliott is a wife to Jake and a mom to Nora. We meet them as Nora is starting Kindergarten. Heidi is feeling lost and wondering how to spend her days while Nora is at school. Jake and Heidi have suffered multiple miscarriages since Nora was born and all Heidi wants to do is lose herself in a project at home to forget about that fact that she can't seem to carry another baby. She paints furniture, organizes and cleans the cabinets, and even tries volunteering in her daughter's classroom (which was a disaster) but none of it will take away her pain and grief over the loss of the babies.

Heidi's best friend, Willow, has been a constant for her, offering support and laughter when she needed it most but now Willow's new boyfriend seems to be taking all of her time and Heidi thinks there is something fishy about him. She makes finding out his secrets her new project and it may just cost her everything.

Stuart's witty prose and real-life heartbreak combine for a relatable story that all mothers and women will enjoy. It isn't easy to write about the pain of losing a child, but reality shows us that life has to move on. Heidi's struggles are painful to read about yet hopeful as she relies on her faith, her daughter's daily prayers, and a hope that there is a baby in their future. Jake and Heidi's relationship and their commitment to family is a bright spot in a world of dreary winter days and sad news stories. You can't help but smile through the sadness in the story because you know that no matter what happens Heidi, Jake, and Nora will have each other's back.

Favorite quote:

"I felt my heart warm up and become pliable
 in a way that I hadn't felt in far too long,
 and I knew in that moment that the thaw had happened
 because I was finally surrendering." 

Kimberly Stuart - source
Kimberly Stuart, in an effort to condone the time and money spent, would like you to know she holds degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Iowa.  She learned lots of interesting things at these fine institutions, none of which prepared her for the lethal cocktail of parenthood and writing. Stuart is the author of five published novels, including the Heidi Elliott series, Act TwoStretch MarksOperation Bonnet and a sixth, Sugar, set to release February 2017. She is a frequent public speaker and is passionate about helping others live great stories. To see all of Kimberly Stuart's books, click HERE. You can also check out her website, HERE.  

To purchase a copy of BETTER TOGETHER, click the photo below:

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 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Celebrating iRead Book Tours 3 Year Anniversary and a Giveaway


I've been part of iRead Book Tours for at least the last two years. I've been a part of several book promotion companies and iRead is at the top of my list. Everything is handled extremely professionally and I'm given all the materials needed in a timely and organized manner. Laura and iRead are so great to work with. I know I'll continue to help promote great books with these book tours. To see some of the books I've promoted with iRead, click HERE. Congrats to iRead and Laura on three successful years of book promotion! I'm looking forward to more years of working together!

About iRead Book Tours:
At iRead, we give special attention to every book that tours with us. We are passionate about books and we customize all our tours because no two authors are alike.

We don't just market books. We help our authors get the best exposure with traditional tours consisting mainly of reviews. We work closely with our authors and pride ourselves on our highly individualized customer service.

All of our staff are book bloggers and authors, so we understand the process and the hard work involved. We've built a solid relationship with our database of reliable book bloggers who are eager to read your books.

Welcome to the iRead experience!

If you are a blogger or book reviewer and you are interested in helping to promote books, Laura offers awesome incentives to book bloggers for helping to spread the word about great books. Click HERE to sign up or get more info. If you are an author, I highly recommend you contact Laura and get info about how she can help you promote your book, by clicking HERE.

In 2008, Laura began blogging about books shortly after she published her first book. She started Library of Clean Reads, a book review blog, and discovered the joy of reviewing a variety of genres. Her children have joined her in this venture and they spend many happy hours reading books together. A Special Care Counselor by profession, Laura has co-led and developed programs for seniors with dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease. She has a passion for the topic of neuroscience and wellness.

Throughout the years she has met and worked with wonderful publishers, both traditional and indie, as well as publicists and authors. Best of all, she discovered the world of book bloggers--a community of special people who spend their precious time sharing their love of books and all things related to books.

Taking part in book tours has always made Laura feel more connected to authors and the publishing field. She organized her own virtual tour when her book was published and she learned several things. As an author, it exposed her to actual reader views and social media. As a book blogger and book tour organizer, it taught her the amount of work it entailed. And she loves it!

You can find Laura blogging at Library of Clean Reads and Essentially Italian. She is the owner of iRead Book Tours,  Italy Book Tours, and Je Lis Blog Tours.

Now for the Giveaway:

You can win $50 cash or a Basic Virtual Book Tour Package (2 winners, open to international readers). This giveaway is sponsored by iRead Book Tours and I am not responsible in any way for getting the prize to the reader. I'm just sharing this awesome giveaway with you. This giveaway ends February 4, 2017. To enter to win, just follow the instructions below:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Children's Book Review: How Things Work By T. J. Resler

Discover Secrets and Science Behind Bounce Houses, Hovercraft, Robotics, and Everything in Between. 

By: T.J. Resler

Published: October 25, 2016

Publisher: National Geographic Kids


Does your child love to take things apart to see how they work? Do they constantly ask why or how something is made or created? Do you think they could create the next big invention? Then this book is for them!

Ask any teacher and STEM is what everyone is talking about in the education world. These are where the jobs are going to be when our kids graduate and how educators are focusing their lessons. STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Math...four areas educators are focusing on for both boys AND girls in the classroom. I personally like STEAM, adding Arts into the teaching as well as I believe they are just as important to the mind and body.

National Geographic and Resler feed every kid's question with the answers they've been looking for. How do refrigerators work? Find a pretty cool explanation in this book. Is your child wanting to be a roboticist? Meet Helen Greiner, an engineer, computer scientist, and roboticist in this book. Need to explain the importance of flushing the toilet to your boys (I STILL have issues in my house), then show your kids how a toilet and plumbing works with this book. There are even "Try This" experiments you can do at home with everyday household objects to guessed something works.

The pages are full of easy to understand flowcharts and quick facts about a variety of topics. Some of my favorites to learn about were how a robot vacuum works (I've been wanting one) and how various instruments make music. There are even sections on roller coasters, surfing, and tightrope walking.

This book explains it all. So, if you have a child that asks a lot of Why? and How? questions, get them this book!

To find out more about T.J. Resler, check out his website, HERE.

To purchase a copy of HOW THINGS WORK, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama's regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. This is a place for bloggers to share posts related to children's and YA books. You will find spotlights, reviews, and even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

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 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Reading Challenges for 2017

If you are looking for ways to read more books in 2017 or to change up your reading a bit, a reading challenge is often a good place to start. A reading challenge usually gives you 12 topics (maybe more) and challenges you to find a book that fits that category.

Since I am hoping to read more books as well as read more books off my own shelf in 2017, I am hoping these two challenges will motivate me.

The first challenge is one that our small town library is sponsoring. Our library board, of which I am a member, created this list of 12 categories for a reading challenge. We are hoping to entice our small community of readers to read more books and step out of their usual reading a bit and maybe even find a new author or new genre they really like. Maybe we could even learn something new. If you would like a copy of this Reading Challenge bookmark and to join me in this challenge, I'd be happy to send you a copy. Just email me at StacieLe AT netins DOT net.

Van Horne Library Reading Challenge
Read a book....
1. With a color in the title 
2. That has a war as a setting
3. A biography or autobiography
4. That is a classic or National Book Award winner
5. That was written by an Iowan
6. You haven't read since you were in school
7. Set somewhere you'd like to visit
8. Under 150 pages
9.That was made into a movie
10. About a culture you are unfamiliar with
11. Published in 2017
12. About books

I'll also be doing Modern Mrs. Darcy's Reading for Fun Reading Challenge. To receive her printable list, click HERE.

Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge
Reading for Fun
1. a book you chose for the cover
2. a book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able
3. a book set somewhere you've never been but would like to visit 
4. a book you've already read
5. a juicy memoir
6. a book about books or reading
7. a book in a genre you usually avoid
8. a book you don't want to admit you're dying to read
9. a book in the backlist of a new favorite author
10. a book recommended by someone with great taste
11. a book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven't read yet
12. a book about a topic or subject you already love

I have some ideas for some of the categories, but we will also see how the year falls. At least I know some of my must reads for 2017. I will update you as the year goes on to see which books I've read that fit either one of these lists. There may be some cross-over between the lists, but I'm hoping that this will add 24 new books to my "read" list.

Some books I'm planning to read for these challenges include: LILAC GIRLS, THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY, WOMEN HEROES OF WORLD WAR I and WORLD WAR II, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, READY PLAYER ONE, GROWING UP COUNTRY, THE YEAR OF LIVING DANISHLY, THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER.  I think that is a good start and I'm anxious to see what other books come my way that fit these categories.

What do you do to read more books? How do you choose what to read next? Let me know if you are joining a reading challenge for 2017.

If you choose to purchase a book through the above links, I may receive small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your puchase. Thanks for supporting 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Favorite Books of 2016

I read 92 total books last year. That number blows me away. But, I also know that over half of them were children's books. Still, taking the time to read children's and YA books and reviewing them adds a lot to my schedule as well.

I read 48 Children's Books ranging from children's to YA. There were non-fiction and fiction books, books on animals and sports, funny and inspirational books, and numerous life lesson stories. I really loved all the children's books I read. Thanks to Booking Mama's Kid Konnection weekly link up, I've made children's book a regular feature on the blog every Friday.

I read 44 adult fiction and non-fiction books in 2016. Not as many as I would have liked, but with 3 kids who are very active in school events and working quite often as a substitute teacher, I don't always have the reading time that I want to have. I also had a few reading slumps where nothing could entice me to read. I am hoping to do better this year about regularly scheduled reading and always having a few books going at once so I can read whatever I'm in the mood for. Just like the teachers at school tell my kids, reading just 20 minutes a day can make a huge difference.

Since I write for the Gazette, they asked me for my Top 5 Books of 2016. It was tough to narrow it down to only 5. For this space, I like to make it a few more across various genres. So, I'll share my Top 5 Books for the Gazette as well as some others I really loved.

I chose these as my Top 5 because it was a good mix of the types of books I like to read. Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors and her books never disappoint. I love historical fiction and feel-good fiction/non-fiction. I've read so many children's books this year that I couldn't leave them out. This list also only includes books published in 2016.

Top 5 Books of 2016

By: Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Three best-selling authors come together to write the story of one historic location in New York City and the three women who are connected by generations of love and loss. Told in alternating time periods, this is historical fiction at its best.

I loved it because I liked how they bridged three generations of women together and how one woman’s choice can have repercussions for many years. It reminded me to listen to my heart and follow my dreams. See my full review, HERE

By: Rachael Herron

Abby and Fern are different as two women can be but are connected by one man. The friendship that blooms through the pages of this book is messy, frustrating, and awkward, but will remind you of what it truly means to be a family.

This unlikely friendship warmed my heart and I went through several Kleenex while reading. Family is really a title for those who matter to you the most. One man’s selfish mistake changed the lives of these two women forever and yet they wouldn’t have it any other way.  See my full review, HERE

By: Jodi Picoult

This timely novel is quite possibly Picoult’s finest work yet. Reading this will be uncomfortable, thought-provoking, and will make you want to talk about it with everyone you know.

My own prejudices were called to the forefront while reading this novel. It was a reality check and an honest look at how far we have yet to go in a world laced with judgment and hatred. This novel scared me and yet gave me hope that there will be a change towards love and acceptance of everyone. See my full review, HERE

By: Tony Cointreau

In a world full of judgment and criticism, Cointreau’s stories of love, patience, forgiveness, and friendship while working in Mother’s Teresa’s Hospice will remind you that there is still goodness in the world.

I learned many years ago that there is no greater privilege than spending time with someone in their final days on this Earth. No matter what has happened in the past, the greatest gift we can give someone is love. See my full review, HERE.

By: Lola M Schaefer and Adam Schaefer

Introduce your child to the beauty of nature and the life-cycle of an acorn. Through die-cut pages and gorgeous illustrations, children will learn how each of us has a role in the growth of a forest.

This story made me want to run out to the woods and gather acorns. The illustrations sold me and I couldn’t wait to send this off to my great-niece. See my full review, HERE.

Now for some of my other favorites from my year of reading. Here are 12 more favorites from my reading in 2016.

Favorite Thriller/Suspense Books

This is a new genre for me and I read several from this category this year. I never liked these types of books before, but even though they stress me out, I keep going back for more. These listed below kept me turning the pages as fast as I could!

By: B.A. Paris

This was creeped me out, but I couldn't stop reading it. I had to know how it was all going to work out. I thought about this one for days after reading it. See my full review, HERE.

By: Eric Prochaska

This was written by an Iowa native and was set in Cedar Rapids. Having a familiar setting made the story a fun read, but the story of two brothers kept me reading. See my full review, HERE.

Favorite Non-Fiction Books

I love non-fiction books. I usually have at least one going at all times. This year I read books that inspired me, ones that taught me about life, and ones that offered me new ways to cook.

By: Judy Melinek, MD and T. J. Mitchell

I was fascinated by this memoir of a medical examiner. My favorite section was her time during 9/11. See my full review, HERE.

By: Atul Gawande

I have told nearly everyone I know to read this book. If you have aging parents, if you want to be sure your family knows your wishes if something medically wrong happens to you, if you want to have a conversation with your spouse about your future, please read this book. See my full review, HERE.

By: Jacqueline Woodson

This memoir written in prose was absolutely wonderful. Don't let the prose/poem part scare you. It makes it so much better. It's a middle-grade/YA read and I just loved it. My daughter read it right after me and also loved it. See my full review, HERE.

Favorite Fiction Books

Because I didn't only read books published in 2016, I have some other favorite fiction books that I read this year.

By: Kristin Hannah

I wanted to read this one in 2015, but just didn't get to it. Then I kicked myself for waiting so long. It is one of those books that you won't be able to forget. Loved it! I didn't review this one because I didn't think I had anything new to add to the hundreds of other reviews. All I can say is...Read. This. Book. It's being made into a movie as well!

By; Jo Jo Moyes

Another one I didn't get read until this year. Then I watched the movie. Loved both of them. See my review, HERE.

By: Kelly Harms

Another Iowa native that I had the pleasure of interviewing and reading. Really talented writer and one I can't wait to read more from. See my full review, HERE.

Favorite Children's Books

Since I've been reading more children's books lately, I had to share my favorites. I'll share both fiction and non-fiction books.

By: John and Jennifer Churchman

This is the second in the Sweet Pea & Friends series and I adored it. The story of a sweet little lamb struggling to survive and growing up over a year on the farm reminded me of all the sweet baby lambs we raised when I was growing up. The photography on each page is amazing. I want to frame the book cover it is so adorable. See my full review, HERE.

By: National Geographic Kids and Hannah Bonner

If you have a dinosaur fan in your house, get this book! It's hilarious and your child won't even realize they are learning something on every page because it is so well done. A really great science book for kids! See my full review, HERE.

By: Rick DeDonato

The first PIPSIE NATURE DETECTIVE book made my favorites list last year and this one is just as wonderful. A sweet story and your child will learn about nature at the same time. See my full review, HERE.

By: Katy Steinmetz

Everything about our great country all wrapped up in one book. A great book to read with your kids and maybe find ideas for your next family road trip! See my full review, HERE.

If you choose to purchase any of the books through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting