Monday, December 16, 2013

A Gift for Little Readers

I work in a library and I sell Barefoot Books on the side but I am always a sucker for more books!  Several months ago, we decided to subscribe to BOBBLEDY BOOKS, a small press publisher of children's books. We are loving it!!!

The husband and wife team of Bobbledy Books create this wonderful, whimsical stories that are mailed directly to your child.  Each year-long membership gets three books, a music CD, an interactive book for your child to complete, a funky multi-sided crayon and a birthday card.  $60 seems like a lot for a membership but each book retails for $12, the CD retails for $10 and you have to factor in shipping.

The books are so clever and definitely have our whimsical sense of humor.  So far, we have gotten:

We also got a book called  THE SNOWMEN BELOW which gave you a few prompts but encouraged children to make their own story.  We mailed our finished copy of THE SNOWMEN BELOW back to Bobbledy Books and one child will have their book published! Fun!

We also enjoy reading their blog which offers lots of writing and drawing prompts for inspiration.

I highly recommend Bobbledy Book as a great subscription club for your little reader.  Who doesn't love receiving books in the mail?!

They are currently offering $5 off with coupon code HOLIDAY.

(All images borrowed from and owned by Bobbledy Books.  I received NO compensation in any form for this post.  I just love the service!)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December Read: IT'S OK NOT TO SHARE by Heather Shumaker

The last book for this year will be IT'S OK NOT TO SHARE by Heather Shumaker. This will also be the readalong for 2014 for one of my favorite blogs, NOT JUST CUTE.

I am still playing catchup with a few of the books but I hope to post a recap of our reading adventure in January!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

LBC Wish List of Upcoming Titles

Here are some upcoming titles that are DEFINITELY on my radar for 2014:

1. CHAPLIN AND COMPANY by Mave Fellowes


2. FROG MUSIC by Emma Donoghue

3. PERFECT by Rachel Joyce

4. WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT by Elizabeth Blackwell

5. INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd

Friday, November 01, 2013


Our November read seems appropriate as we move into the holiday season:

I already love Jane Nelson from her Positive Discipline books so I am looking forward to this one!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

LOST LAKE by Sarah Addison Allen

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Kate Pheris spent the last year in a daze after the death of her husband.  She wakes up to find that she has basically turned over control of her life and care of her daughter to her mother-in-law.  Unable to cope with doing anything else, Kate starts sorting through items in the attic in preparation for moving into her mother-in-law's house. While in the attic, Kate comes across a postcard from her Great-Aunt Eby.  Eby and her husband owned a lakeside resort called Lost Lake in Southern Georgia and Kate remembers spending her last happy Summer there.  On impulse, Kate decides to take her daughter to Lost Lake for one last happy Summer.

Eby Pim has finally decided to sell Lost Lake to a developer. Her resort is falling apart and she can't afford the upkeep.  Visitors have dropped off over the last few years and Eby has decided it is time to go out into the world again.  Once word gets out that Eby has decided to sell, longtime visitors and locals begin to show up for one last party and to let Eby know how much Lost Lake has meant to them.

In these last days at Lost Lake, Eby and Kate will find out a lot about themselves and about the many people who have been touched by this magical place.

I will admit that I am already a fan of Sarah Addison Allen. I have read all of her books. I have to say this is my favorite so far.  There is a melancholy to this book that wasn't present in Allen's other works. She still includes a touch of magical realism which I always enjoy.  Although I don't consider Allen's work to be great literature, they are perfect cozy feel-good reads. The stories are lovely and offer a nice dash of escapism. Allen also has a gift for creating compelling characters.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. This is probably Allen's best work to date.  Curl up next to the fire with this cozy read that will almost assuredly make you feel good.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MRS. POE by Lynn Cullen

Like so many others, I am a long-time fan of Poe's work. However, I know next to nothing about his personal life.  Edgar Allen Poe has been back in the public eye again thanks to tv shows like THE FOLLOWING.  So, I was intrigued when I received a copy of MRS. POE by Lynn Cullen. 

Poet and children's author Frances Sargent Osgood has been abandoned once again by her errant artist husband.  She and her children manage to find sanctuary with her friends, the Bartletts.  (of BARTLETT'S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS fame)  Osgood struggles to make a living with her poetry but all anyone wants to read are macabre stories and poems like the ones by new sensation Edgar Allen Poe.  On a visit to a literary salon one evening, Osgood finally meets the great man in person.  Along with his young wife, Virginia.  After this initial meeting, Osgood continues to run into Poe and befriends Virginia who seems to be sickly and isolated.  The more time that Osgood spends with the Poes, the more she finds herself drawing closer to Edgar.  As their relationship deepens, Osgood starts to believe that not only does Virginia know what is going on but also they she may be trying to kill Frances. 

Based on the true story of this infamous love triangle, Cullen gives us a glimpse into the private lives of Osgood and Mr. and Mrs. Poe and speculates on the nature of the relationships between the three people. A variety of famous people show up in the story such as Samuel Morse and Herman Melville which offers a bit of fan. Overall, however, the story is dark and tragic.  I was so intrigued by this love triangle that I went and did a little more digging into their story. Once you know what really happened to everyone, the story becomes even more tragic.

I felt the story was a little slow at times and the threat of Virginia felt a little forced sometimes.  However, the relationships were really intriguing and I liked the intimate look into the private life of Poe.  It definitely got me interested in knowing more both about Poe and his wife and also about Osgood. 

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  Although it can be a bit slow at times and the suspense seems a little contrived, I think readers will enjoy this look into Poe's private life as well as the recognizable cast of characters that fill the background.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


I'm a little behind with my reading because I had trouble getting some of the books at the library.  So, this month, we'll have something that isn't a straight read but more of a reference guide. I'm always looking for ways to encourage a love of learning in my son. I'm hoping this book could help with that.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Barefoot Books Review: LITTLE RED HEN written by Mary Finch

I have been anxiously awaiting the new Barefoot Books release of THE LITTLE RED HEN. I have always loved this story although my son has always been troubled by the ending of the traditional tale.  He would prefer that everyone become friends in the end.  In this new version of the classic tale, the animals come together in the spirit of cooperation and the naughty rooster and mice have the opportunity to mend their ways.  With gorgeous illustrations made from collage elements strung with wire, this little book is a feast for the eyes.  Kate Slater, a papercut artists, did a beautiful job!


The books also offers a little nod to the Farm-to-Table movement which is particularly big where I live in Northern California.  It even includes a recipe for baking your own loaf of bread! And to top it all off, the hardcover and paperback versions both come with a story CD read by Debra Messing!  The CD has two versions: one with page-turn chimes and one without.  My son loves books with CDs. He has a whole collection and will often go in his room, pick a book and put a CD on his CD player for his quiet time.  Although this book is geared to ages 3 to 7, I think it's great for any age.  The hardcover version is $16.99 and the paperback version is $9.99. You can also get the paperback without a CD for $7.99.  I'm ordering several of them for Christmas presents!

To find out more about THE LITTLE RED HEN, go here.

 (I am a Barefoot Books Ambassador but all opinions are my own.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

When I first started reading, I remember loving the Cam Jansen series because I always love a good mystery and it was fun to find a series with a plucky girl detective.  I was happy to hear that the author of the Cam Jansen series, David Adler, is back with new new series for young readers.

Fourth-grader Danny Cohen's new friend is a little eccentric.  Calvin Waffle is curious about everything and likes to try unusual experiments. Including challenging the teacher's list of rules. He even asks Danny to fill his pockets with jellybeans but NOT eat them.When Calvin figures out a way to predict the opposing pitcher's throw at Danny's baseball game, Danny thinks he has a secret weapon. The only problem is that Calvin doesn't like baseball.  Danny and his friends must convince Calvin to change his mind so that they can win the big game.

This fun story is told through both words and drawings so it makes a nice transition from picture books to chapter books. The characters are fun and kids will really enjoy Adler's doodles throughout the book.


I have a copy of this book to give away!  If you'd like to get a child started on this fun new series, leave a comment at the end of the post.  For extra entries, follow me on Facebook and Twitter and leave a post saying that you did.  (For United States residents only.  This contest ends on Monday, September 30 at 4:00pm PST)

Monday, September 16, 2013

THE OTHER ROOM by Kim Triedman

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Three years ago, Claudia MacInnes and her husband, Josef Coleman, lost their one-year-old daughter Lily.  Since then, their marriage has begun to unravel as the two of them deal with their grief in different ways.  Josef longs for a physical connection that his wife is unable to provide so he turns to a young surgical nurse for comfort.  Claudia looks for an emotional connection that her husband seems unable to provide and uses her therapy sessions to fill that void.  As their lives continue to fall apart, we see the roles that others played in the tragedy and the secrets of the past are slowly revealed as well as the details of Lily's death.

This book was both heartbreaking and beautiful. As a parent, I can think of nothing worse than losing a child. I'm always amazed that anyone can get through such a loss.  Triedman does a wonderful job revealing the effects of such a tragedy on one particular family.  Much of the story is told through Claudia's journal entries and we see that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.  However, since the reader doesn't really know the details of Lily's death until the later part of the book, the journey can be harrowing.  No one is innocent. Everyone is struggling to deal with pain and loss in  his or her way and it is so painful to see how it rips this family apart.

I was so impressed with this book.  The subject matter could have skewed maudlin and over-the-top but Triedman does a masterful job dealing with the intricacies of the loss of a child.  My heart ached for ALL of the characters.  Triedman does an excellent job of fleshing each of them out so that they are all multi-dimensional.  It is a very affecting work.

BOTTOM LINE:  Highly recommended.  A beautiful and haunting look at the collapse of a family after the death of a child.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Barefoot Books Review: BAREFOOT BOOK OF JEWISH TALES by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand

In honor of Yom Kippur, I thought I would share with you one of the latest additions to the Barefoot Books canon.  The brand new BAREFOOT BOOK OF JEWISH TALES is absolutely beautiful.  Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand shares eight tales from the Jewish tradition and the book comes with a CD narrated by Debra Messing.  The stories range from biblical times to 19th century Poland and make for a wonderful readaloud for children ages 6 and up.

In the "Wall Street Journal" review of this book on August 23, 2013, it states that "All the stories have an uplifting quality. "The Prince Who Thought He Was a Rooster" introduces us to an addled fellow who eventually gives up his fowl ways after a heavenly messenger named Ezra teaches him that "God gives human beings the ability to make choices" and that "no matter how we feel on the inside, we can choose to behave better than we feel." The tale of "Clever Rachel" gives us a brave, intelligent heroine whose parents understand that "what really matters in life is not how clever you are, but how kind," as they raise a daughter who will ultimate wed—and outwit—a king. Amanda Hall's inviting illustrations of rabbis, palaces, fruits and challah loaves have such soft edges and delicious colors that they might be made of marzipan."

 I feel so lucky to get to sell such wonderful books as a Barefoot Books Ambassador.  I decided to work for Barefoot Books because of the high quality of their books and their multicultural emphasis.

To purchase the BAREFOOT BOOK OF JEWISH TALES, go here.

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Cath and her twin sister Wren have been fans of the Simon Snow books for years. (think "Harry Potter")  The two sisters are now heading off to college and Wren is ready to reinvent herself while Cath is petrified of all the new social obstacles ahead.  When Wren decides to room with someone other than her twin, Cath must learn to deal with a complete stranger as her roommate.  Finding college to be especially difficult for an almost phobic introvert, Cath often find herself retreating in her world of Simon Snow fanfiction where her stories about a gay romance between Simon Snow and his nemesis Baz (think "Harry Potter" and "Draco Malfoy") have gathered a huge fan following over the years. While quite a few people try to draw Cath out including her roommate, a fellow writing class student and even her writing professor, Cath prefers to retreat in the fantasy fanfic world of Simon Snow.  But when things start falling apart at home and Cath meets a real-life guy who may be the match of the fictional Simon Snow in her life, all bets are off.

This is a really sweet young adult offering that captures what college can be like for those who aren't as socially-inclined.  I think Cath is a wonderful character and  you can't help but root for her as she learns to navigate not only the challenges of college but also the changing relationships that she has with her high school boyfriend, her sister and her father. I thought it was a really charming book although I felt that it ended too abruptly.  It seemed like there should have been more.

I hope that Rainbow Rowell will revisit these characters in a sequel. I'd love to hear more about Cath and all the people in her world (both fictional and real).

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. Charming young adult offering that will appeal to adults as well.

PARENTAL ADVISORY with spoilers:

Cath deals with complex issues arising from entering college and becoming an adult. Her father struggles with mental illness and her sister becomes an alcoholic who nearly dies of alcohol poisoning.  Cath also struggles with her own feelings of desire and fear of physical intimacy when she gets involved in a relationship.  While there is nothing explicit in terms of sex, it IS mentioned along with college underage drinking.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


September already?!!! Sorry I'm a bit late with this post. I'm still trying to finish up FREE TO LEARN and THE BIG DISCONNECT but I'm getting a lot out of all these books!

This month, I thought we could try a classic that I have always heard great things about:

GRAVITY OF BIRDS by Tracy Guzeman

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

THE GRAVITY OF BIRDS combines some of my favorite themes: art and family secrets. Famous artist Thomas Bayber calls on his friend, art historian Dennis Fincher, to help sell a painting he has kept hidden for years. The two men ask authenticator Stephen Jameson to help them.  The possibility of a heretofore unknown Bayber work is an exciting prospect for Fincher and Jameson as well as for the auction house but Bayber's painting comes with strings attached.  The two men must track down the pair of sisters depicted in the painting before Bayber will allow it to go to auction.  As Fincher and Jameson attempt to track down the whereabouts of Alice and Natalie Kessler, Guzeman takes the reader back and forth through time as the backstory of the relationship between Bayber and the two women is revealed.

There was something really beautiful about this story. I loved how a painting could express so much and could become a tangible record of the history of a tangled group of relationships.  There is a lot of sadness within the story but it ends on a note of hope and possibility. It's difficult to say more without giving away too much.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. A lovely tale of art and secrets and family.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

HAVISHAM by Ronald Frame

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

The literary world is often split on its opinions about authors using the worlds and characters of other authors to write their own novels.  I happen to like it.  I think it is the best kind of fanfiction when an author imagines a backstory for a famous character or speculates on "what happened after."  In his new novel, Ronald Frame explains to readers why Miss Havisham of GREAT EXPECTATIONS fame became the vengeful madwoman in the wedding dress.

Catherine Havisham is the only child of a wealthy brewer who has high hopes for his daughter. In order to make sure that his daughter learns to mix with the highest in society, Catherine's father sends her to live with a down-on-its-luck noble family.  While there, Catherine meets the man who will change her life forever.

For the most part, I really enjoyed Frame's novel. I think his portrayal of Catherine in the early years was pretty spot-on.  I didn't particularly care for the fact that Frame switches from scene to scene so abruptly. It can make it hard to follow the narrative.  His backstory for Catherine Havisham is completely believable, though.  Until the wedding. The book fell apart for me when Frame's story meets up with Dickens' story.  It just felt so much weaker than the rest of the book and I found myself losing interest. Catherine's descent from promising young woman into the Miss Havisham of Dickens fame feel a bit forced and too quick.  Still, I thought Frame was very creative and I enjoyed the book overall.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended with reservations. Some readers may find Frame's style of writing a little frustrating but his backstory for Catherine Havisham is creative and interesting.  The ending may be a disappointment to some.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I really enjoyed Jamie Ford's last book, HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET. I thought it was a very sweet story and reminded me of a fairly shameful period in American history.  I was interested to see how he would follow up on the success of that novel.  I was very pleasantly surprised after reading his latest work, SONGS OF WILLOW FROST.

12-yr-old William Eng is living in an orphanage in 1930's Seattle.  He is the only Chinese boy at the orphanage and he has waited for his mother to come back and claim him after seven years.  It is the Depression and many of the children in the orphanage have parents who cannot take of them and abandoned them to the system.  William's last memory of his mother is finding her unsconcious in a bathtub and watching as she is taken away to the hospital. He hasn't seen her since.  On his birthday, William sees a movie starring a woman named Willow Frost that he is convinced is his mother.  Spurred on by his blind friend Charlotte, William decides to try and find his mother and learn the truth about his abandonment once and for all.

I really loved this book.  I though Ford had interesting things to say not only about that particular time period in history and the evolution of movies but also gives us insight into the world of the Chinese population living in Seattle at that time with the complexity of customs and social mores.  I also loved the focus on the relationship between mothers and sons.  The story is both sad and beautiful and I found it quite moving.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A very sweet tale of one boy's courage in trying to find the truth about his past and that of his mother.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

August Read: THE BIG DISCONNECT by Catherine Steiner-Adair and Teresa H. Barker

Although I am not anti-technology, I would like to see a lot less of it in our lives. I believe that computers at school belong in a lab and not in a classroom. At this time, our 5-yr-old son does not use a computer or tablet and only gets to use educational apps on my smartphone on very rare occasions.  I care much more about him engaging with the world and in creative play.  Technology is fairly intuitive and I'm not worried about him being "left behind."  This book is brand new and I have really been looking forward to reading it.  I hope it offers lots of topics for discussion.

Barefoot Books

I am starting a new adventure today as a Barefoot Books Ambassador.  Many of you know that I am passionate about books.  I have worked in libraries for over 12 years and I love sharing my passion for reading with children. When my son was 2, his godmother gave him a Barefoot Books book.

He made me read it over and over and he insisted that I SING the entire book.  I was so grateful that it came with a CD for those times when my voice wouldn't cooperate.  Since we got ANIMAL BOOGIE, we have been adding to our collection.  I love the colorful books, the multicultural emphasis and the high quality of the products.  As I was browsing the online store recently, I saw that they offered opportunities to sell these wonderful books. I have been looking for additional ways to earn money and loved the idea of combining extra work with my passion for books and literacy. So, I am going to try my hand at being a Barefoot Book Ambassador.

I hope you will take a moment to browse all the wonderful products that are available.  Even if you don't live nearby, I can be your Ambassador and I'm happy to answer any questions about the products.  I hope you will enjoy Barefoot Books as much as I do!!!  I will periodically do a special book review on a Barefoot Books title to keep you up to date on the lastest that the company has to offer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl

I received an advance copy of this book through the Amazon Vine Program.

When I first picked up NIGHT FILM, the tone and layout reminded me a little bit of HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Danielewski.  The book opens with journalist Scott McGrath heading out for a run.  McGrath attempted an expose on mysterious underground horror filmmaker Stanislaus Cordova but the whole thing blew up in his face. McGrath's career was devastated by slander charges and he is working to rebuild his life.  When McGrath returns from his run, he discovers that Cordova's daughter, Ashley, has been found dead in an apparent suicide.  Despite his best efforts, McGrath finds himself getting drawn into Cordova's world once again as he attempts to discover what really happened to Ashley.  As he gets deeper into his investigation, McGrath is joined by a young coatcheck girl who was one of the last people to see Ashley alive and a mysterious young man who has a hidden connection to Ashley.  The three of them work to retrace Ashley's steps in her final days and find out what drove the girl to suicide.

One of the things that made this book so compelling were the photos of evidence throughout the book.  You see the same articles, websites and other pieces of evidence that the McGrath and his team are seeing. The reader feels as if they are going through the investigation with Scott and slowly piecing together what happened to Ashley and the truth about Cordova. The book constantly keeps you guessing about the truth and Pessl manages to maintain a high level of suspense throughout the book without it feeling gratuitous.  I found the book hard to put down because I was so anxious to found out the truth about Ashley and Cordova.  The ending was a little bit disappointing but, overall, I really enjoyed the book.  It worked really well as a mystery/suspense story.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A highly suspenseful book that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you attempt to solve the mystery of Ashley and her father along with McGrath.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

When I first heard about this book, I thought it would be reminiscent of Deborah Harnkess' All Souls Trilogy.  Beside the fact that it deals with magic, it isn't.  Others have compared this book to JANE EYRE.  I can see why they would say that but I wouldn't make a comparison there either.  The writing style (not the content) reminded me most of Diana Gabaldon. 

Nora Fischer has hit a rut in her life.  Her academic career and dissertation have stalled and her longtime boyfriend has dumped her.  Attempting to get her mind off her recent troubles, Nora attends a wedding with some friends only to discover that her trouble has followed her.  In an attempt to get away for a little while, Nora goes on a hike only to stumble through a portal to another world. The fantasy world she discovers is almost too good to be true.  Nora becomes involved with a mysterious handsome man and her world falls apart yet again soon after.  Realizing she is now stuck in this other world, Nora begins to study magic with the magician Aruendiel in the hope of both making a life for herself and possibly finding the way back home.

This book is highly detailed and well-written.  Barker has really thought out the alternate world and gives a wonderful amount of detail. The reader can often become bogged down in the detail, however.  The book moves at a glacial pace.  It took a couple hundred pages for me to really get into the story.  Even then, the pace was very very slow.  The action doesn't pick up until the very end and then the book end abruptly. I have a feeling there will be a sequel. Too many loose ends and unanswered questions.  There is a lot of good in this book but it is missing something that I can't quite put my finger on.  In some ways, it lacks fun.  It needs a little more humor and playfulness.  I loved all the details about the magic and magical history but it all felt a bit dry.  I'm hoping Barker will be able to flesh everything out in a sequel.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations.  There are a lot of interesting details in this book but it is very dry and slow.  If Barker can add the missing ingredients in a sequel, she could have a winner.

Monday, July 08, 2013

THE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

A lot of reviewers are drawing comparisons between THE SILENT WIFE and GONE GIRL.  While the structure of the book is similar, I was reminded more of THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD by Rebecca Coleman.  Within the first two pages, the reader is introduced to psychotherapist Jodi Brett and knows that she has done something very wrong.  Jodi and her partner, Todd Gilbert, have been together for twenty years.  Jodi has created a perfect life for them and acts as a wife in every way but in an official capacity. She has never wanted to get married. She is the most patient and forgiving of women even though Todd is a prolific philanderer. THE SILENT WIFE chronicles the disintegration of their marriage and is told from both Jodi's and Todd's points of view. 

I didn't find Todd to be a particularly interesting character.  He seems like your run-of-the-mill charismatic cheater. Jodi, however, is fascinating.  She is clearly an intelligent, beautiful, and capable woman. As a psychotherapist, she should have a pretty good sense of self and understanding of what drives human beings.  But her perfection makes her seem more of a cartoon character than a real person. This point of view changes, however, as the book progresses. The reader gets to know Jodi much better and sees what makes her tick. As their "marriage" falls apart in an irreperable way, we see the true Jodi start to come out.

This book was a very quick read because I had to know what was going to happen and why. The ending felt a little anti-climactic to me but I absolutely loved Jodi's character. She is really fascinating.  Harrison does a great job in slowly revealing Jodi's true self.  The sections of the book with Todd were boring in comparison. While the book is suspenseful in many ways, I wouldn't classify it as a "suspense" novel. It is much more a fascinating look at a relationship built on lies that has finally fallen apart and the consequences that come of that dissolution.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A really interesting and quick read that follows the disintegration of a marriage and its horrific fallout.

Monday, July 01, 2013


I finally got a copy of SIMPLICITY PARENTING and I'm reading it right now. So far, I am really really liking it. But I'm still behind!!! For those of you ready for a new read, our July title will be FREE TO LEARN: WHY UNLEASHING THE INSTINCT TO PLAY WILL MAKE OUR CHILDREN HAPPIER, MORE SELF-RELIANT, AND BETTER STUDENT FOR LIFE by Peter Gray.

This book focuses on the importance of play and "unschooling." I'm very curious to see what Gray has to say.  Do you have a favorite book from our Challenge yet?

Monday, June 24, 2013

GOLEM AND THE JINNI by Helene Wecker

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Two magical creatures roam turn-of-the-century New York City.  Chava is a golem.  She was commissioned by a man looking for a wife who took his request to an Old World rabbi dabbling in dark magic.  When her master dies on the ocean voyage to America, Chava is left on her own to navigate the strange new world.  Ahmad is a jinni.  He was captured many years ago in the Syrian desert and trapped in an old copper flask.  A metalworker in New York City accidentally releases him from his prison and takes him on as an apprentice.  The book moves back and forth between Chava's and Ahmad's stories until they meet by chance and form an unlikely friendship.

I really loved this book.  I thought the story was beautifully written. I loved reading about both characters and their lives.  I loved how each story thread came out of a different tradition, one Yiddish and one Middle Eastern.  Wecker did a marvelous job fleshing out the characters.  Both of them were so compelling and interesting. Both Chava and Ahmad are prisoners in their own way but they find freedom and comfort in each other's company. This is not just a story of two magical creatures and how they can to be, it is also the story of dark magic and its consequences.  There is even a bit of mystery to the book.  For such a chunkster, I read it surprisingly fast.  I had a hard time putting it down.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.  A beautiful tale of the origins of two magical beings, their lives in New York City and how their friendship changed them both. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Galley Bonanza

I am getting such quality books in the mail! Hard to know where to begin!!!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

INDISCRETION by Charles Dubow

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

About a year ago, I read THE FORGOTTEN WALTZ by Anne Enright which went on to win many awards. It was billed as a new kind of novel on adultery.  I did not enjoy it and I didn't really feel it had anything new to say on the subject. That is why I was a bit wary when I started to hear similar buzz about INDISCRETION.

Claire is a young, beautiful Manhattanite on the rise.  When a guy she has been casually dating invites her to the Hamptons for the weekend, she jumps at the chance. Even though her relationship with the man fizzles quickly, the weekend away proves life-changing as Claire meets the Winslows that weekend. Harry and Madeleine Winslow are the perfect couple. Harry is an award-winning author and Madeleine is a much-celebrated hostess.  When Claire attends a party at their East Hampton home, she is powerfully drawn to the charismatic couple and is drawn into their orbit.  Claire becomes a fixture at their home. But as Claire's affection and admiration turns into something deeper, the Summer will have far-reaching repercussions for everyone involved. 

The story is narrated by Madeleine's longtime friend Walter. Comparisons have been drawn between Walter and Fitzgerald's Nick Carraway and I see the resemblance.  Walter watches the events of that Summer unfold and, eventually, plays his own part in what inevitably follows.  His view of the events is very compelling and offers a more intriguing view of events than if they had been told by one of the main characters.  Ultimately, the story is heartbreaking.  INDISCRETION is a more effective cautionary tale against infidelity than "Fatal Attraction" ever could be.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  An incredibly compelling story about how infidelity can occur and the consequences that it can have.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

ELDERS by Ryan McIlvain

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up a copy of ELDERS. I know very little about the Mormon faith and I assumed this novel would be a more tongue-in-cheek look at Mormons on their mission. I was so surprised to discover what a thoughtful and sensitive portrayal of young Mormon men the book provided.

Elder McLeod is nearing the end of his mission in Brazil. During his time there, he has struggled with his faith and his purpose. He isn't sure if he believes in either the faith of his fathers or in his mission. However, he is afraid of disappointing his family back home. His new partner, Elder Passos, is a Brazilian convert who looks at his mission and faith as an opportunity to change his fortunes. He takes his work very seriously and has difficulty with the flippant and sometimes irresponsible nature of his partner. When the two Elders finally find a woman willing to convert, their work with her and her husband brings up issues of their own faith and doubts and challenges their tenuous partnership.

I thought the struggles that these two young men faced were deeply moving. Framing the common struggles of many young people within a Mormon mission in a foreign land only makes it that much more powerful. The book is both sad and thoughtful. I was so surprised by how serious it was and how much it made me think about issues of faith and doubt. I really enjoyed it.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  This is a sad and quiet book about the struggles young people can face when their faith is challenged.

Monday, June 03, 2013

June Read: Catch-up Month

I FINALLY got a copy of SIMPLICITY PARENTING from the library so I am behind.  Are you?  Let's give ourselves a month to catch up.  I am working on picking a title for July but I already have one for August.  It's a new book that comes out on August 13 called THE BIG DISCONNECT: PROTECTING CHILDHOOD AND FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS IN THE DIGITAL AGE.  I can't wait to read it.

So, let's use June as a catch-up month for now. Check back later for July's title.  I will also work on catching up with all the reviews I am behind on!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

THE BOOKMAN'S TALE by Charlie Lovett and ****GIVEAWAY****

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I just devoured Charlie Lovett's new book, THE BOOKMAN'S TALE.  I am always drawn to literary mysteries. Especially when they involve books. These types of tales aren't always successful, though.  In this case, I was pleasantly surprised.

Peter Bylerly, an antiquarian bookseller, is still reeling from the sudden death of his wife Amanda.  He escapes to the English countryside to try and work through his grief while re-establishing his career. As Peter browses through some titles at a local bookstore, a Victorian watercolor portrait falls out of a book about Shakespeare forgeries. The portait looks just like Amanda. Peter becomes obsessed with finding the origins of the mysterious portrait.  As he does so, he becomes caught up in a game of forgery and the potential discovery of a lifetime regarding William Shakespeare.

I loved how Lovett not only gave us a wonderful portrait of a grieving widower trying to lose himself in his old interests but also interweaves the tale of the various owners of what may or may not be the Holy Grail of Shakespeare scholarship.  We follow the book's progress through various owners over time as, in the present day, Peter works to uncover its origins and to decide whether or not the book is a fake. In some ways, this novel reminded me of PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks.  It made me want to run out and take a few courses on bookbinding and book restoration.  The pacing of the book was really well done and the story was entertaining. While the climax was slightly cheesy, it didn't deter from my enjoyment at all.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A great read for bibliophiles.  Perfect for Summer vacation.

I get to give away a copy of this great book!!!

Entry #1:  Leave me a comment telling me why you are interested in this book.

Entry #2:  Follow me on Facebook.

Entry #3: Follow me on Twitter.

Please leave a comment for each entry along with a way for me to contact you.  This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and closes on May 31, 2013 at 4:30pm PST.

And the random number generator selected comment #2.  Congrats to Genevieve!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WHEN A DAD SAYS "I LOVE YOU" by Douglas Wood

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I was so pleased to have the opportunity to review this sweet book just in time for Father's Day.  Sometimes, people express their love in ways other than using words. This book offers a variety of ways that dads say "I love you" that are out of the ordinary.  The illustrations are charming:

Each page features a different animal pair and represents both sons and daughters doing all sorts of activities with Dads.  We have dads making pancakes, dads playing chase, dads tickling, dads singing, dads doing magic and much more.  The book ends with a dad saying "I love you" in the traditional way at bedtime. It is so sweet!

This would make a great Father's Day gift and I love the fact that it would encourage dads and kids to read together.  It's the perfect bedtime story. I absolutely loved it!

BOTTOM LINE:  Highly recommended. A sweet cozy read full of the many ways that dads can say "I love you."

Friday, May 03, 2013


I am still working on LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS and I am really enjoying it. At this time of year, it is an excellent reminder about the importance of getting outdoors and into nature.

For May, I thought we'd try a book I have been wanting to read for awhile now:

Can't wait to see what you think!!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TOM'S TREE: A Book for Arbor Day

National Arbor Day is this Friday, April 26.  I happened to find a delightful book in a bargain bin that I plan on giving my little boy for Arbor Day:

TOM'S TREE by Gillian Shields and Gemma Raynor is an incredibly sweet book about a little boy who plants a tree and makes big plans about all the things he will do when the tree gets big.  But trees take a long time to grow and the boy grows up before the tree does.  At the end of the book, the returns as a man and brings his own son who gets to have all the adventures with the tree that his father always dreamed of.  While the book has a lot to say about patience, it is also a wonderful reminder of the beauty and joy of nature in general and trees in particular.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! It definitely brought a tear or two to my eyes.