Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Reviews and Author Interview of Coach Ryan Sloth


By: Coach Sloth

Illustrated by: Adam Schartup

Published: February 7, 2017

Publisher: Mascot Books


After seeing a book on Ohio State, Ryan Sloth contacted the publisher to see if they had any similar books about Iowa State. When they said no, he agreed to write one. Sloth’s IOWA STATE CYCLONES FOOTBALL A TO Z took him two and a half years to write, mostly because it took a while to get all the logos approved. It was quite the ordeal, but now that he has gone through it once, he is more knowledgeable on the process.

Sloth uses every letter of the alphabet to share part of the Iowa State Football excitement. As a former player and coach he used his own experiences to fill the pages with football knowledge. Whether he is telling readers about the mascot, Cy, for the letter “C” or telling Hawkeye jokes on the “R” for Rivalry page, children and adult fans will really enjoy looking through the pages. Each page offers realistic illustrations and kids can enjoy looking for Cy hiding on every page.  Side boxes on each page including history of Cyclone football, facts on the game, or stats on well-known players will keep adults interested and maybe even reminiscing on their favorite seasons.

This hardcover book would make a great gift for your favorite Cyclone Fan, young or old. 


By: Coach Sloth

Published: January 6, 2015

Publisher: Tate Publishing


Sammy Sloth makes a wish for his birthday that the Iowa State Cyclones win their football game against their archrivals this week. Every week Sammy and his dad attend the Cyclones's game starting with tailgating outside of the stadium to watching the team warm-up on the field. This week is the big game against their biggest in-state rivalry and Sammy is super excited. Will the Cyclones win?

Coach Sloth's SAMMY SLOTH series shows kids how to be positive role models, have confidence in themselves, and to find a way to be active. But, this book shares Sammy's love of Iowa State Cyclone football by sharing a day at a Cyclone football game. Football fans and Cyclone fans will be thrilled with the play-by-play of the game and all the characters that will remind them of their favorite players.

Ryan Sloth
Former Iowa State Cyclone football player, Ryan Sloth, is living the dream as a children’s author. He grew up near Belmond, Iowa and has always been a Cyclone fan. Sloth started as a freshman walk-on at Iowa State in the late 1990’s. By his senior year, he was a starting defensive back and was part of the team that led Iowa State to win their first bowl game. He majored in sports management and also received a Master’s in high education. After college, he spent some time playing and coaching in arena football, including playing and coaching for the Iowa Barnstormers.

About ten years ago, while reading a football story to his son Tucker, he realized the author knew nothing about football and the story was so awful that he threw it away. It reminded him of a story he had written in high school as part of an English assignment with the character he created called, Sammy Sloth, a play on his last name. He called his mom and luckily, she still had the story he had written and illustrated. After making a few revisions and adding some new characters, including his family, he sent it out to a few publishers. About a month later, a publisher called and Sammy Sloth was a reality.

Sammy Sloth loves sports but because he is so slow, he has a hard time playing basketball and baseball. Sammy keeps searching and doesn’t give up finding the right sport for him. Eventually he finds golf and when he is told to take a “nice slow back swing” he knows it’s the sport for him. Sloth states, “Sammy makes the team and finds out golf is his sport.” Sloth creates each Sammy book to teach a lesson such as never giving up, believing in yourself, or having patience. He even co-authored one of his books with his son and one with his daughter.

Since Sloth’s time was flexible during the off-season, he began taking his books into the classrooms. Reading has always been important to him. Sloth states, “Growing up on a farm near in the 80’s, we had story time every night because there was nothing else to do. Mom would read a few chapters a night from The Little House on the Prairie books. As I got older, I wasn’t a huge reader, and then mom introduced me to the Matt Christopher series of sports themed books. I had no idea they made books about football and that got me interested in reading again.” It’s important for him to share the importance of literacy, showing kids that reading can be fun and there is a book out there for everyone.

Sloth has plenty of other exciting things on the horizon. Due to his connections with the arena football league, he has been able to appear in several movies with football related scenes including “We are Marshall” and “Leatherheads” as well as “The Dark Knight Rises”. After publishing eight books, his ninth is nearly published. Right now Sloth is spending his time reading chapter books with his son for research on writing his own chapter book for young readers. He is also writing a novel based on the real story of one of his fellow arena football teammates dying on the field. He wants to tell the story of his team and coaches and how they overcame the tragedy. Sloth states, “It’s a ‘We are Marshall’ type of story that I hope will eventually be made into a movie.”  

In the meantime, Sloth continues to tour elementary classrooms all over the state. He wants to share the message that literacy is important, finding books that you like make reading fun, and that reading can take you anywhere. For more on Coach Sloth or to schedule a visit at your school, you can check out his website, If you purchase books from there, he will autograph them before sending them out. 

To purchase a copy of IOWA STATE CYCLONES FOOTBALL A TO Z, 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 sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to Coach Sloth for taking the time to chat with me and for sending copies of his books. If you choose to purchase a 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, March 30, 2017

Book Review: Women Heroes of World War I By Kathryn J. Atwood

16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

By: Kathryn J. Atwood

Published: June 1, 2014

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Non-Fiction/Historical Non-Fiction

As Women's History Month comes to a close, I have been thrilled to have the opportunity to read about women who did great things to leave a mark on history. Last week, I shared about MOTOR GIRLS and today, I'm sharing about women who contributed in many ways during WWI.

Most of the time when I read about war, I tend to read fictional accounts of WWII. But, sadly, war is war and no matter what timeframe you are reading about there will be horrific details and stories of heroic people who risked their lives to help others. Atwood's research shows that women were definitely prominent in saving the lives of numerous people during war-time and not just in a hospital or in the home. Numerous women took on the role of spies and resisters helping to hide soldiers or to move information across enemy lines to leak details of plans like to blow up the British tunnel. I think most people would be quite surprised at the level of danger many of these women put themselves in, much like their husbands, brothers, and fathers.

Atwood covers each woman in a chapter consisting of just a few pages, telling the story of how she got involved in the war, her heroic deeds, and what happened to her after the war. Sadly, many of the women were arrested and sentenced to life in prison or to death. In fact, due to one of the women featured in the book, Edith Cavell, death sentences for women were no longer ordered. Her execution was remembered as one of inspiration for women because Cavell took her duties seriously and faced death with a "calm dignity". Stories like this were tragic but also proved that women, much like men, were willing to fight for their freedoms.

This book sat on my shelf too long and I am so glad that I finally read it. It is definitely an inspiring look at history and the role women played in unexpected areas. Many of them could be an inspiration for a fictional novel based on the war. Since each chapter stands alone, it is a great book to keep in the car and read while waiting in the pick-up line at school or at the doctor's office.

This book like her others about women heroes are written for middle school readers on up. Even though they are considered a young adult series, adults will appreciate the history and facts as well. You can see all of Atwood's books, HERE.

Kathryn Atwood - source
Kathryn J. Atwood is the author of three young adult collective biographies of women and war as well as the editor of Code Name Pauline, the memoirs of WWII SOE agent Pearl Witherington. She has contributed to The Historian and War, Literature, and the Arts, and has been featured on America: Facts vs. Fiction and BBC America.  For more information on her books, visit her online at

To purchase a copy of WOMEN HEROES OF WWI, 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. 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, March 27, 2017

Navigating Indieworld Spring Book Festival Begins Today

Are you looking for a way to be introduced to new or independent authors?

Are you wanting to try a new genre that you've never read before?

Would you like to find a new author that you can add to your favorites list?

All these things can happen if you check out the Navigating Indieworld's Spring Book Festival March 27-29. By visiting their website, HERE, you can click on specific genres where you are offered a wide variety of books.

This festival offers a great opportunity to be introduced to new-to-you authors and give them a little love by purchasing and/or reading their books. Every kind of book genre is available including children's books, historical fiction, Christian fiction and nonfiction, memoir, romance, mystery, and poetry just to name a few.

Navigating Indieworld is a non-profit site developed to help indies promote their books to the general public. Put together on a whim by a group of dedicated authors, the site was created for indies by indies motivated by the lack of options available for advertising on a limited budget.

To enter to win $150 worth of prizes as part of this Spring Book Festival, click HERE.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Children's Book Review: Motor Girls By Sue Macy

How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly into the Twentieth Century

By: Sue Macy

Published: February 7, 2017

Publisher: National Geographic Society


In the late 1800's, what began as horseless carriages or motor cars that held a driver and maybe one passenger with them exposed to the elements has led to over 130 years later having various types of vehicles on the road. Many of those early motor car inventors and salesmen would be shocked today to see the millions of women behind the wheel cars, trucks, and even semis. Motor cars began as steam or gas powered engines, but quickly also added electric cars. But, as people wanted to make longer trips, electric cars became more and more impractical. As things sometimes do, the electric cars have made a comeback and are a viable option for car owners today.

In MOTOR GIRLS, your child will be fascinated by the styles of cars, lack of laws for drivers, the bias in advertising against women, and how there were even manners of etiquette related to drivers and passengers of cars. I found so much of the information in this book to be new to me and became quite interested in it. I think about it often when I am driving now, how far women and the car industry have come in these last 100 plus years. During the same time women were trying to get the right to vote, they were also told they were incapable, too weak, or it wasn't ladylike for a woman to drive a car. Thank goodness for the women who got behind the wheel anyway and drove across the country, came up with the original idea of what we know as windshield wipers today, or proved they could race cars just as good as men.

This book includes profiles of women integral to the history of automobiles, numerous photos of cars from many generations, and fascinating articles teaching the progression of cars and driving through the years. The author makes this history lesson full of twists and turns and fun antidotes to keep kids and adults learning something new on every page.

Danica Patrick, a race car driver, offers the foreword, and her contribution to women and cars is also quite interesting. What a powerful message for young girls to show they can have an impact on the world whether it is behind the scenes or in the trenches. Finish up Women's History Month by reading this book with your daughter!

Sue Macy - source
This is Sue Macy's sixth book for National Geographic. She is a graduate of Princeton University. Macy lives in New Jersey. This book continues her story from the book WHEELS OF CHANGE: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom which was a finalist for the YALSA's 2012 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award. For more on Macy, visit her website, HERE.

To purchase a copy of MOTOR GIRLS, 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 sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to the publisher for providing 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 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up By Marie Kondo

The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

By: Marie Kondo

Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller

Published: October 14, 2014

Publisher: Ten Speed Press and Tandor Audio for Audiobook

I would be shocked to hear if you haven't heard of this book or the term "kondoing" in the last few years. I am quite sure when the author, Marie Kondo, began her career of decluttering, she never would have imagined her last name used as a verb. But, by googling the term, you are given a wide array of tidying up ideas.

Marie Kondo loved organizing, even as a young child. She would stay in for recess because she preferred organizing the bookshelves over going outside. She has made a career of decluttering in Japan and her methods have spread all over the world.

I listened to her book on audio after getting it in an Audible Daily Deal. I had been curious about her methods and wanted to check it out for myself. I will admit that listening was enjoyable. The narrator is also Japanese but with very little accent which made her very easy to listen to. I found 1.25x speed was the perfect speed for this book which made it a short 9+ hours in length.

Listening to her methods and various case stories, I found myself wanting to rush home and declutter an area. She states that her methods must follow a specific order and there is a reason behind the order, saving the most sentimental items for last. She also expects you to hold each item and ascertain if it brings you joy. If not, then thank it for the purpose or need it fulfilled and let it go. Kondo expects you to acknowledge your home when you come in the door, greeting it and thanking it for providing you shelter and safety. She also encourages you to empty your purse each day because it has worked hard carrying your items all day and needs a rest. Now, I find all this a bit silly and haven't added this to my daily routine. But, I did find her tips on decluttering helpful and have folded some of my clothes with her specific method noticing I have much more space in my drawers.

I expect to continue decluttering other areas of our home, especially our kids' rooms as they continue to grow out of clothes and toys. Even though some of her ideas were too radical for me, the reasons for letting go of all the stuff can inspire all of us to let things go.

Marie Kondo was just interviewed this Sunday on the CBS Sunday Morning Show. Check out that interview HERE.

Marie Kondo - source

Marie Kondo (近藤 麻理恵) is a Japanese organizing consultant and author. Kondo's method of organizing is known as the KonMari Method, and one of the main principles is keeping only possessions which "spark joy."

Kondo's best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has been published in more than 30 countries.

She was listed as one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2015.

Personal website:
Book website:
App website:

To purchase a copy of THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, click the photo below:

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Children's Book Review: Duck and Hippo in a Rainstorm


By: Johnathan London

Illustrated by: Andrew Joyner

Published: March 1, 2017

Publisher: Two Lions


We loved the Froggy series when our kids were little. The author, Johnathan London, is back with a new series including adorable characters that are the best of friends. Duck and Hippo are friends even though their size differences sometimes get in the way. When Duck shows up at Hippo's house to ask him to go for a walk in the rain, Hippo realizes it isn't easy for both of them to fit under Duck's umbrella. But, he finds ways to make it work because they are friends.

Children will love the silly antics of both Duck and Hippo. They will love the illustrations and expressions of their faces. They will learn about problem-solving and finding adjustments to make something work. I just love the color scheme of the illustrations and how adorable Joyner has created the characters. This is a new series with the next book in the series, DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND coming out in August 2017.

Duck and Hippo are true friends despite their differences. This new series about friendship will create a whole new group of fans of the author, Jonathan London. For more fun, check out the activity sheets for DUCK AND HIPPO, HERE.

Johnathan London - source
Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children's books, including the bestselling Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Many of his books explore nature, among them Flamingo Sunset, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica, illustrated by Julie Olson. He is currently writing a middle-grade series, which started with Desolation Canyon, illustrated by his son Sean London. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more online at

Andrew Joyner - source
Andrew Joyner is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist based in South Australia. He has illustrated a number of picture books, and he wrote and illustrated a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. He has also illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street JournalReader's Digest, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others. Learn more online at

To purchase a copy of DUCK AND HIPPO IN THE RAINSTORM, click the photo below:

To preorder a copy of DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND, 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 sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this books 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 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review: 365 Thank Yous By John Kralik

The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life

By: John Kralik

Published: December 28, 2010

Publisher: Hachette Books


I was perusing the Audible app looking for my next audiobook. I noticed this book as the Audible Daily Deal and decided it sounded good enough to give it a shot. In December 2007, Kralik was at the lowest point in his life. He was going through his second divorce. He had a limited relationship with his two adult children and was afraid of losing more time with his young daughter. His girlfriend had also just broken up with him. His law practice was failing and he wasn't sure he was going to be able to meet payroll let alone pay his own bills. He was afraid his ultimate dream of becoming a judge was something he would never achieve.  

After receiving a lovely thank you from his ex-girlfriend for a Christmas gift, Kralik wondered if happiness could be achieved by being grateful. He began to imagine himself writing thank you notes as a way to remember to be grateful for the people in his life and the kindnesses he had received. He devised an idea to write 365 thank-you notes. As he began to write notes for gifts received or simple acts of kindness from a barista, or from a fellow lawyer, or to his own family, he noticed a difference in his attitude and the attitude of the people that received his thank you note.

Kralik began to notice some unexpected results in areas including finances, friendships, family relationships, and his health. But, also, during this time the economy collapsed and banks failed. Even though not everything was going well for him, he believed he reacted differently because of his thank you project. His message that resounds throughout the whole book is that handwriting a thank you note is special and forces the writer to concentrate more on the task rather than sending an email. It doesn't take much more time to handwrite a note than it does to write an email. The card doesn't have to be fancy or large. A simple note card is perfect for getting a brief message of thanks and gratitude across to someone. Receiving a handwritten card in the mail has a much different effect on the person than opening an email does.

This book is a little dreary for the first several chapters. Kralik has a lot of negative events happening in his life and the reader is given a lot of detail related to the demise of his marriages and business dealings. It made the book a bit difficult to get into. I listened to this book on audio with Kralik as the narrator which made it personal, but he does have a rather monotone voice and during the early chapters, I found the voice and theme of the book extremely dreary and less interesting. As he began the thank you project, the pace picked up.

Really, this book shouldn't be such a shock to most of us. We know that it feels good to be appreciated and told that our efforts made a difference. Yet, it seems to be hard to express that to the people who offer us a kindness. The message of this book offers a reminder that sharing our appreciation for others and their relationship with us is worth us taking the time to write a note of thanks. As Kralik comes to the end of his project, after just fifteen months he is a completely new person and has many positive things to show for it.

John Kralik - source
John Kralik was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended the University of Michigan for college and law school. He practiced law for thirty years and was a partner in the law firms of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, Miller Tokuyama Kralik & Sur, and Kralik & Jacobs. In 2009, he was appointed a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. He lives in the Los Angeles area. His book 365 THANK YOUS is also titled as A SIMPLE ACT OF GRATITUDE. For more information, check out his website, HERE

To purchase a copy of 365 THANK YOUS, click the photo below:

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 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Children's Book Review: Mapping My Day By Julie Dillemuth


By: Julie Dillemuth

Illustrated by: Laura Wood

Published: March 13, 2017

Publisher: Magination Press


As a child, I loved looking at maps and atlases. We would often go on Sunday drives and trips to visit family and I would love following along on the map, seeing which town would be coming up next and how many more miles we had to go. I think physical maps are rare now and the majority of children haven't ever really looked at a map. Now that our phone tells us exactly where to turn and how many more miles we have to go, we don't really have to look at the map.

Flora loves creating maps and she shares the various maps she uses throughout the book. She also teaches directions and uses the terms for reading maps including legend, scale, and landmarks. The maps Flora shares include of her home, the location of a treasure in her yard, her route to school, the playground, and her grandma's backyard obstacle course. The book takes us through Flora's day using the maps she creates but really doesn't tell much of a story. It is just more of a diary about her day. This book is a great way to introduce your child to maps and to share all the different types of maps with them in a simple format. There is a glossary at the end of the book for parents as well as puzzles and a place for kids to draw their own map.

The illustrations are really cute sketches and offer lots of detail. The maps give the appearance that a child created them and are easy for kids to read and understand.

I really like the concept of teaching kids about maps and all the different kinds of maps that they could create or use. This offers a simple way to teach kids in the lower elementary level about maps and how to use them.

Julie Dillemuth
Julie Dillemuth was mystified by maps until she figured out how to read them and make them, and it was a particularly difficult map that inspired her to become a spatial cognition geographer. She lives with her family and writes children's books in Santa Barbara, California, where the west coast faces south. Visit her at her website: You can also download activity pages that go with the book, HERE.  

Laura Wood is an independent illustrator currently living in the wonderful city of Bristol, UK. Her work can be found in picture books, educational publications, and digital apps as well as editorial publications. By day, she spends her time in her studio bringing stories to life. By night, she likes to put on her dancing shoes and swing dance under the stars. She is proudly represented by the lovely people at Good Illustration Agency.

To purchase a copy of MAPPING MY DAY, 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 sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this books 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, March 9, 2017

Book Review: The Nearness of You By Amanda Eyre Ward


By: Amanda Eyre Ward

Published: February 14, 2017

Publisher: Ballantine Books


Amanda Eyre Ward’s book THE SAME SKY was my favorite book of 2015. Its themes of immigration and poverty gave the reader plenty to think about regarding their views and judgments. In her newest, THE NEARNESS OF YOU, readers try to understand a pediatric heart surgeon who didn't really want to have children and definitely doesn’t want to become pregnant. Suzette ultimately agrees to surrogacy when her husband, Hyland, nearing forty, decides that he desperately wants a child. They’ve chosen Dorrie, a young woman looking for a chance to get away from her own mother, go to college, and start a new life. Then, on the date of her sonogram appointment, Dorrie disappears leaving an apology note. Suzette must wrestle with the fact that maybe she really did want the baby, how to comfort her husband who is devastated, and stay focused to complete some of the most meticulous surgeries.

Hyland and Suzette are two professionals who have a comfortable marriage and rely on routine. Everything was fine until Hyland upset the apple cart and decided he really did want to be a father. Suzette goes along with the idea even though it gives her a lot of anxiety during the process of choosing a surrogate. The author takes each chapter and gives us the perspective of individual characters, taking us inside their minds and revealing what they are really thinking. Even though I was drawn into the story, I didn't particularly like any of the characters which made it hard to feel connected to their struggles. Some of the chapters felt like whining to me and Suzette's story seemed to focus more on the details of her surgeries rather than her relationship with her husband. Dorrie's character had potential, but I found most of her decisions to be unrealistic and frustrating.

When there is a twist and the storyline takes a new direction, I found I had a bit more interest in the story. Suzette is no longer able to control her and Hyland's monotonous life and she has to start showing some emotions. She begins to have trouble concentrating during her surgeries and life has complications that she can't seem to handle. As each of the characters is forced to make a decision, the reader realizes that one choice can impact the course of your whole life. For these three main characters and the child they bring into this world, life will never be the same.

Even though this story wasn't as emotionally heartbreaking as her previous novel, Eyre Ward still showcases her character-driven writing and talents for giving the characters their own voice. From the disgusting motel that Dorrie lives in. to the stark operating room that Suzette thrives in, readers can visualize the scenes and feel part of the story. But, there may be a disappointment in the predictability of the plot. While nearing the end of the book, I realized that it was going to have to be a rushed ending to fit it all in and it was. On its own, it's a fine story, but when comparing it to the author's others, it falls a little flat.

Favorite Quotes:

"You meet kind people, and you return their kindness.
That's what friendship is. You take care of someone and they become yours."

"You never know when you will be forced 
to make the decision that will define your days."

Amanda Eyre Ward - source

Amanda Eyre Ward is the author of six novels as well as a collection of short stories. She was born in New York City in 1972. Her family moved to Rye, New York when she was four. Amanda attended Kent School in Kent, CT, where she wrote for the Kent News.

Amanda majored in English and American Studies at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She studied fiction writing with Jim Shepard and spent her junior fall in coastal Kenya. She worked part-time at the Williamstown Public Library. After graduation, Amanda taught at Athens College in Greece for a year and then moved to Missoula, Montana.

Amanda studied fiction writing at the University of Montana with Bill Kittredge, Dierdre McNamer, Debra Earling, and Kevin Canty, receiving her MFA. After traveling to Egypt, she took a job at the University of Montana Mansfield Library, working in Inter-Library Loan. Amanda currently writes every morning and spends afternoons with her children. She lives in Austin, Texas with her family. For more, visit her website, HERE

To purchase a copy of THE NEARNESS OF YOU, click the photo below:

Thanks to the publisher for sending an ebook 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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Books in February 2017

Every month I share a post about all the new books that came my way during the past month. You can be sure to see these posts at the beginning of every month.

I read nine books in February including three adult fiction, five children's non-fiction, and a children's fiction book. I am currently reading three books that I've been reading for a couple months. All three are non-fiction and I just read a chapter or two when I have a few minutes. One of them is on audio book so I listen when I am cleaning the house or driving. Since I just finished a fiction novel, as soon as I write the review then I can start a new fiction. To always see what I am currently reading, check out my Goodreads sidebar to the right.

Currently Listening: 365 THANK YOUS

I'm so ready for Spring. We had a week of unseasonably warm weather and I think everyone in town was outside walking and the parks were full of kids. It was wonderful, but I know that we have a bit more cold weather to get through before Spring is officially here to stay. We even had thunderstorms and tornado warnings. We haven't had a snow day off from school all winter. I don't know if that has ever happened. 

I am super anxious to read several books in my stack and I've done pretty well at reading lately. But, since we are now in the 30ish days til Prom, my schedule is going to get messy. I'm excited to pull everything together for the prom-goers, but I am so ready for all this to be done! 

We are doing our first college visits with Patrick this month. YIKES! It's hard to even say those words. I am not ready to send him off. I'm cherishing each of these 400+ days until graduation. 

On that note, happy reading. If you would like to purchase any of the books below, clicking the photo of the book will take you directly to Amazon. If you choose to purchase the book I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting me.

By: Susan Meissner
Published: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Format: Paperback

I would choose this for the cover alone. It's so gorgeous. But, the author is also drawing me in. Her book, A FALL OF MARIGOLDS was a favorite of mine from 2014. 

February 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

By Clare Mackintosh
Published: February 21, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Format: Paperback

I really liked Mackintosh's debut novel I LET YOU GO. She is extremely talented at keeping you guessing and I'm anxious to see if her sophomore novel is just as shocking. 

You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you're going.

You're not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a website, a grainy image, and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make?

By: James William Brown
Published: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Format: Paperback

I've read numerous stories about WWII, but never one about a Greek woman. 

A poignant and evocative novel of one Greek woman's story of her own and her nation's epic struggle in the aftermath of World War II.

Aliki is one of the last of her kind, a lamenter who mourns and celebrates the passing of life. She is part of an evolving Greece, one moving steadily away from its rural traditions. To capture the fading folk art of lamenting, an American researcher asks Aliki to record her laments, but in response, Aliki sings her own story...

It begins in a village in northeast Greece, where Aliki witnesses the occupying Nazi soldiers execute her father for stealing squash. Taken in by her friend Takis's mother, Aliki is joined by a Jewish refugee and her son, Stelios. When the village is torched and its people massacred, Aliki, Takis and Stelios are able to escape just as the war is ending.

Fleeing across the chaotic landscape of a post-war Greece, the three become a makeshift family. They are bound by friendship and grief but torn apart by betrayal, madness, and heartbreak.

Through Aliki's powerful voice, an unforgettable one that blends light and dark with wry humor, My Last Lament delivers a fitting eulogy to a way of life and provides a vivid portrait of a timeless Greek woman, whose story of love and loss is an eternal one.

A Novel
By: Stephanie Wilbur Ash
Published: October 11, 2016
Publisher: The Unnamed Press
Format: Paperback

This came in my Quarterly Literary Box. I've never heard of the author or the book. Reading it makes me wonder if I will like it. Sounds a little too twisted to me. 

Tall, trusted Tandy Caide, CPA, is a long-time patron of the arts in her town, which is why you will find her sitting in the front row of the high school’s annual musical production. This year is an Annie year—and it would be no different than other years were it not for the high school’s hiring of a new vocational agriculture (Vo-Ag) teacher. With his beguiling ponytail and decorative beaded belt, Kenny catches Tandy’s eye immediately. Ignoring the fact of her slovenly husband—who takes most of his meals in their hot tub—Tandy decides to entertain Kenny’s advances.

Trusted community pillar that she is, Tandy’s affair has instant repercussions. People are talking and her husband’s subsequent breakdown and check-in to a mental institution don't help. At her regular meeting with the Order of the Pessimists—comprised of her deceased father’s disgruntled and drunken best friends—she is asked to step down as treasurer. Not only that, but her old lover is keeping a secret somehow connected to the Vo-Ag teacher. And meth labs—fueled by the abundance of fertilizer present in the region—keep blowing up. Somehow, it is all connected to Tandy’s ex-best friend's daughter—the star of this year’s Annie. As Tandy pieces together the puzzle that has become her life, it becomes clear she must embark on a journey of self-discovery that might even include leaving town for good.

By: Maggie Nelson
Published: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Format: Paperback

This came in my Quarterly Literary Box. I've never heard of this one either even those Amazon considers it a best-seller. The synopsis tells me it is not something I usually read and may just pass on this one.

Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of "autotheory" offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author's relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelson's account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, offers a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.

Writing in the spirit of public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson binds her personal experience to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. Nelson's insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry of this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.

By: Kayla Rae Whitaker
Published: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Random House
Format: Hardcover

This came in my Quarterly Literary Box. I have heard of this one and was curious about it. So far it has received good reviews.

She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever. 

At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel's childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

By: Abbi Waxman
Published: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Format: eBook

I don't remember where I first heard about this one, but maybe THE FRONT PORCH PODCAST. Anyway, I immediately looked it up and asked for a copy. It doesn't publish for a bit yet, but I'm anxious to read it. Isn't the cover eye-catching?

Not since Good Grief has a book about a young widow been so poignant, funny, original, and utterly believable. A compelling debut novel about loss.

Give grief a chance . . .

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.

At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.

After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not.

A Novel
By: Carol Cassella
Published: June 9, 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: eBook

This was part of a Kindle deal and since it compared it to Jodi Picoult and Atul Gawande, I had to get it. 

With the compassion of Jodi Picoult and the medical realism of Atul Gawande, Oxygen is a riveting new novel by a real-life anesthesiologist, an intimate story of relationships and family that collides with a high-stakes medical drama. 

Dr. Marie Heaton is an anesthesiologist at the height of her profession. She has worked, lived and breathed her career since medical school, and she now practices at a top Seattle hospital. Marie has carefully constructed and constricted her life according to empirical truths, to the science and art of medicine. But when her tried-and-true formula suddenly deserts her during a routine surgery, she must explain the nightmarish operating room disaster and face the resulting malpractice suit. 

Marie's best friend, colleague, and former lover, Dr. Joe Hillary, becomes her closest confidante as she twists through depositions, accusations and a remorseful preoccupation with the mother of the patient in question. As she struggles to salvage her career and reputation, Marie must face hard truths about the path she's chosen, the bridges she's burned and the colleagues and superiors she's mistaken for friends.

A quieter crisis is simultaneously unfolding within Marie's family. Her aging father is losing his sight and approaching an awkward dependency on Marie and her sister, Lori. But Lori has taken a more traditional path than Marie and is busy raising a family. Although Marie has been estranged from her Texas roots for decades, the ultimate responsibility for their father's care is falling on her.

As her carefully structured life begins to collapse, Marie confronts questions of love and betrayal, family bonds and the price of her own choices. Set against the natural splendor of Seattle, and inside the closed vaults of hospital operating rooms, Oxygen climaxes in a final twist that is as heartrending as it is redeeming.

A Novel
By: Amor Towles
Published: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Format: eBook

This has been on my radar for a long time. Since it was part of a Kindle deal, I snagged it.

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast--rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. 

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne'er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is ahead of her time, and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets.

By: Marie Kondo
Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
Published: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Format: Audiobook

This was an Audible deal and I've been wanting to check it out. I'm sure that some of her tactics will be over-the-top for me, but I want to give it a listen.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).
With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't), this international best seller featuring Tokyo's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home - and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire. 

The Amazing Adventures of Ellie the Elephant
By: Marci Fair and Elle Fair
Published: August 1, 2016
Publisher: Pacochel Press
Format: Paperback

This is the newest in the series and I've already reviewed it. You can see my thoughts, HERE.

Ellie the Elephant and Pudgy the Penguin have captivated readers in five previous books. The newest addition to the Amazing Adventures of Ellie the Elephant series follows the friends as they go camping and explore nature.

Ellie and Pudgy have fun planning their camping trip in the mountains and solving problems once they get there. They set up a tent, go for a hike, play games, make s'mores, and look at the stars. During their trip, Ellie and Pudgy talk about the importance of having new experiences and being mindful of their surroundings.

Marci and Elle Fair have written a charming story for every child with a cherished stuffed animal. Thirteen-year-old Elle knows what children like to read in a story and has helped create an unforgettable new journey for Ellie and Pudgy.

Included in the back of the book is a guide to help parents teach their young readers about the importance of appreciating and conserving the environment. Eco-conscious families will appreciate gentle suggestions about reducing their environmental impact and enjoying nature.

Animal Planet Adventures #1
By: Catherine Nichols
Published: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Animal Planet
Format: Hardcover

Just flipping through these two new Animal Planet books I can tell they are going to be a great new series for elementary readers. Fiction mixed with Fact is always a hit with me.

Siblings Maddie and Atticus love living by the sea. Their dad traps lobsters off the coast of Maine. They love helping with the family business and volunteering at the local aquarium. The summer is shaping up to be a super one, for sure. Then one day they spy a pod of dolphins in the cove looking distressed. How will the kids use their knowledge of animals and their awesome problem-solving skills to help the dolphin family get safely back to sea? Perfect for reluctant, challenged, and newly fluent readers, the Animal Planet Adventures chapter book series combines fun animal mysteries with cool nonfiction sidebars that relate directly to the stories, bringing the best of the animal world to young readers. 

Animal Planet Adventures #2
By: Gail Herman
Published: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Animal Planet
Format: Hardcover

During summer vacations, cousins Luke and Sarah help out at their grandparents' petting zoo. But what happens when the animals get loose overnight? Can Luke and Sarah use their knowledge of animals and their awesome problem-solving skills to get the animals back to safety?Perfect for reluctant, challenged, and newly fluent readers, the Animal Planet Adventures chapter book series combines fun animal mysteries with cool nonfiction sidebars that relate directly to the stories, bringing the best of the animal world to young readers. With full-color illustrations and photographs throughout.

By: Carole P. Roman
Illustrated by: Mateya Arkova
Published: December 13, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Format: Paperback

You know I love Roman's books. Looking at this one, I'm guaranteed to learn something as I know nothing about the Mali Empire.

Join Carole P. Roman as she travels back in time to visit the exciting Ancient Empire of Mali in Africa during the 1300s. Learn about the varied customs and cultures. Travel to the past to discover what you would eat and do for fun. See the land and its rich history through the eyes of a youngster like you. Don't forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair time traveler.

By: Carole P. Roman
Illustrated by: Mateya Arkova
Published: January 9, 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Format: Paperback

Join Carole P. Roman when she blasts off to colonize the planet Mars, in the newest book of her informative series. Learn about how life would be living on the Red Planet. Travel to Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system. Look into the sky and watch Phobos and Deimos, Mars' two moons. Discover what you would wear, and how the seasons change. See Mars through the eyes of an adventurous youngster like you and understand what life is like on a trip of a lifetime. Don't forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair traveler. 

How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly into the Twentieth Century
By: Sue Macy
Published: February 7, 2017
Publisher: National Geographic 
Format: Hardcover

I had no idea women had such a pivotal role in the early car business. I can't wait to find out more and share this book with all of you.

Come along for a joy ride in this enthralling tribute to the daring women - Motor Girls, as they were called at the turn of the century - who got behind the wheel of the first cars and paved the way for change. The automobile has always symbolized freedom, and in this book, we meet the first generation of female motorists who drove cars for fun, profit, and to make a statement about the evolving role of women. From the advent of the auto in the 1890s to the 1920s when the breaking down of barriers for women was in full swing, readers will be delighted to see historical photos, art, and artifacts and to discover the many ways these progressive females influenced fashion, the economy, politics, and the world around them.

By: Jonathan London
Illustrated by: Andrew Joyner
Published: March 1, 2017
Publisher: Two Lions
Format: Hardcover

Our kids (and me too) loved the Froggy books and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to check out this new series. I love the colors and illustrations. The second in the series is already scheduled to come out in August. I'll be sharing about this one soon!

Duck and Hippo may be completely different, but they are best friends. When playful Duck invites careful Hippo to go for a walk in the rain, they have trouble sharing Duck’s umbrella. But Duck and Hippo won’t let that stop them. Soon they are puddle-jumping and sailing down the river! Until…WHOOOSH! A terrible wind sends the umbrella flying up, up, up into the air, with one friend holding on. What will Duck and Hippo do now? Jonathan London’s charming text and Andrew Joyner’s delightful art bring to life two lovable friends in this fun new series.

By: Cathryn Wellner
Published: April 8, 2016
Publisher: Espoir Press
Format: Paperback

I'm a sucker for farm books and this author loaded me up with her series. Can't wait to check them out.

Millie the Mille Fleur hen can't have chicks of her own, but she is a loving foster mother. She accepts any orphaned baby chicken.

Then one day Farmer Cate rescues a turkey poult (baby turkey) who’s being pecked by the other turkeys. With no turkey foster mothers around, Farmer Cate has no choice but to try Millie. Will she accept such a different baby?

She puts the two of them together, holds her breath, and watches as Millie makes up her mind.

Based on a true story, Millie’s tale is for any child who has ever felt lonely or uncertain and wished for people to love them best of all. 

Millie's Farm Family Book 2
By: Cathryn Wellner
Published: June 30, 2016
Publisher: Espoir Press
Format: Paperback

Millie the little hen and her big foster chick, Turkey Baby, are back. This time they are in big trouble. A hungry hawk nearly puts an end to their happy foster family. That's when Turkey Baby discovers she has far more courage than she knew. Her big-hearted love saves the day.

Based on a true story, the sequel to Millie's Feathered Foster Family is a celebration of family, belonging and the power of love to overcome obstacles.

Millie's Farm Family Book 3
By: Cathryn Wellner
Published: November 13, 2016
Publisher: Espoir Press
Format: Paperback

Turkey Baby still feels small and weak, but she cannot resist seeking adventure beyond the farm. She faces a cat, a rooster, and a dog. Children surround her and frighten her. But she discovers her Magic, the kind that comes from within and casts a shield of courage.

This is Book 3 in Millie's Farm Family, a series about foster families, courage, and love - and, of course, chickens and turkeys. In Millie's Feathered Foster Family, Millie, a bantam hen, adopts a turkey chick. In Turkey Baby and the Hungry Hawk, Millie and her foster turkey, Turkey Baby, face down a hawk determined to turn them into dinner.

All three books focus on accepting The Other. They encourage reaching out with love and finding the courage to reach beyond comfort zones. Families are not all alike. This series offers a starting point for discussions with young children.

Here's wishing you warm Spring weather and great books with plenty of reading time. Be sure to let me know if you choose any of these to read!

I'm linking up with THE DELIBERATE READER for her monthly feature NEW ON THE STACK. To see other bloggers new books, click HERE.