Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I am a long-time fan of Fannie Flagg. She is such a gifted storyteller and her books just make you feel good. Last week, I was down with a really bad cold. I had Flagg's newest book in my library bag and that was my companion while I was ill. It was the perfect read not only for a sick bed but also for someone who has been feeling down about the world in general lately.

THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING tells the story of the town of Elmwood Springs in Missouri from its founding by Swedish dairy farmer Lordor Nordstorm in the 1800s to its disintegration around the year 2020. The story begins with Lordor's founding of the town and his search for the perfect mail-order bride. We learn about the founding families of the town and how they came together to do everything from plan the very first cemetery in town (Still Meadows) to the creation of a real downtown business district and on to the future. Readers follow the stories of these intrepid Swedes and their descendents as they live and love and experience a variety of calamities. At first, the title appears to be about the good-natured gossip that occurs around a small town. But then, readers learn that Still Meadows may be anything but "still."

This book is absolutely charming. It is so easy to get caught up in the stories of these characters as we follow them through establishing a town and various wars and economic booms and hardships. There is sadness along the way but it is mitigated in a very special way. As the book ends around the year 2020, it feels bittersweet but ends on an ultimate note of hope that leaves you feeling good.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. A great read for when you need a little hope in your life. An excellent "feel good" read.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Winter Stories

Each year, my son and I get out FIRESIDE STORIES from Barefoot Books right before Halloween. This is a collection of stories for special occasions throughout the Winter months.

The first tale is meant to be read on Halloween. We were a few days late this year. It is called "The Lonely Boatman" from Scotland and is more mysterious than spooky. Even though we don't get where we live in California, my son insisted reading the next tale which is meant to be read on the first snowfall.

We'll read the next tale on Christmas Eve.

My son ALWAYS insists we have a fire going when we read from the book. I am so happy that Barefoot Books FINALLY reissued this out of print title. Now, you can get it too!

I love reading out loud to my son by the fire but sometimes my voice gets tired, That is where Sparkle Stories comes into play!

A few years ago, Sparkle Stories released an audio Advent calendar. For the 25 days leading up to Christmas, the whole family sat down and listened to a 10-25 minute story each evening. It was a wonderful way to spend time together. The original audio Advent calendar is still available but they will be releasing a new version this holiday season from "Junkyard Tales." My son is so excited because that is his very favorite story series from Sparkle Stories.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

LET THEM PLAY by Jerry Lynch

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher.)

Last year, my family entered the world of competitive sports with soccer and basketball. I was not an athletic child but my son loves sports. This is all new to me. As a parent, you hear stories about sporting events and the bad behavior of other parents. So far, I haven't witnessed any of this. However, if we continue with sports, I know this issue will come up. Even at a very low, fairly non-competitive level, I often find myself getting overly involved with the game from the sidelines. I call my son's name and shout at him what I think he should be doing. After reading this book, I think I may have to change my behavior.

In his book, Lynch ties together elements of psychology and spiritual principles to give parents and coaches a game plan for giving children positive experiences in organized sports. Lynch points out that, "the magic of sport can influence a significant portion of a child's physical and emotional development for years to come. These include learning how to fail, how to succeed, how to overcome self-doubt, how to get stronger mentally and emotionally, and how to develop selflessness." Sounds good, right? But what happens when parents and coaches intervene in this process in negative ways? Lynch provides a bunch of "food for thought" as well as offering concrete ways to give children positive experiences utilizing tools such as meditation, compassion, visualization, and more. He ends the book with a Code of Conduct for adults so that our kids can truly enjoy organized sports without negative influence.

As a parent, I found this book very useful and easy to read. Especially as my son enters competitive basketball season!  I will be passing it on to my son's soccer coach and hope to share it with other parents as well. These simple reminders can help our kids get all of the good stuff out of organized sports and avoid the dreaded "parental interference" from the sidelines.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. A great tool for parents and coaches.

Monday, October 03, 2016

FILL THE SKY by Katherine Sherbrooke

(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

I think that sometimes a book will find you at just the right moment in your life. Sometimes, we have to be in a particular frame of mind in order to be open to a story. I think FILL THE SKY came at just the right moment for me.

FILL THE SKY follows three forty-something friends who have been friends since they were college roommates. Tess is an independent biotech entrepreneur who has a hard time letting people in. Joline is a life coach who deeply believes in new age methods of healing. Ellie is a wife and mother who is dying of lung cancer. The three friends head to Ecuador on a quest to visit traditional healers who may be able to help heal Ellie. Each of the women comes to Ecuador with an important life choice to make.

I loved the fact that this book focused on forty-something women. It can be hard to find books like that these days. Each of the women was strong and powerful in her own way and brought unique gifts to the journey. I loved seeing how each woman struggled with her own problems while on this quest for healing. Sherbrooke shared the healing ceremonies in a way that made them seem beautiful instead of hokey. While each woman had to confront some painful truths while on the journey, I loved how the book had an underlying sense of hope. I found the ending to be tremendously satisfying.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. This is a lovely story of friendship and healing. All of the characters were sympathetic and interesting and the setting was so appealing that it made me want to jump on a plane to Ecuador. Save this one for fireside or vacation reading.

Friday, September 16, 2016


(I received a copy of this book from the publisher.)

I absolutely adore EVEN SUPERHEROES HAVE BAD DAYS by Shelly Becker and illustrated by Eda Kaban. First of all, everyone loves superheroes. And this book has superheroes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. In this story, we see that superheroes sometimes have bad days and moments where they aren't their best selves. The illustrations are wonderful. I was charmed by the very first page where a very cranky superhero kicks over a fire hydrant. In the following pages, we seeing different superheroes throwing all sorts of tantrums as they deal with everyday stressors. The story reminds us, however, that superheroes have CHOICES about how they react. It gives examples about other more positive choices that could be made in dealing with bad days such as exercise and helping other people. Or even just engaging in some centering meditation:

The book also reminds us that it is okay for us to have bad days and yucky feelings. We can always recover and go back to saving the world.

While this picture book is aimed at younger children, I felt it was very timely for my 8-year-old. Going back to school and dealing with new routines and social interactions can be stressful and there are often cranky days after school. But I love how the book validates those feelings while giving concrete examples of how to deal with them in a very funny way.

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I absolutely loved this book. Wonderful concept and illustrations. A great book to have in one's "parental toolbox."

Monday, July 25, 2016


(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

Faced with the prospect of having her newborn daughter taken from her and put into a home, unwed Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her aunt and uncle's house on night and leaves her baby under a pear tree in the hope that the people who steal the pears every year will find her. She stays hidden until she sees another woman carry her daughter away and then leaves to attempt to move forward from her shameful secret. Beatrice comes from a wealthy Jewish family and hopes to move on and become a pianist. Ten years later, Beatrice returns to her ailing uncle's Cape Ann home to take care of him. A local Irish woman named Emma Murphy comes to help care for Beatrice's uncle. Emma is the woman who rescued the infant below the pear tree ten years before.

Set in the 1920s, Solomon captures a moment in time when women were on the verge of getting the vote and becoming more independent but still faced the shame of extramarital sex and unwed pregnancy. The story focuses on Beatrice and Emma and Lucy Pear, the daughter Beatrice left behind. Solomon does a wonderful job portraying Beatrice's conflict about the abandonment of her child and that conflict led to mental illness. I also appreciated the complex feelings that Emma goes through when coming to terms with meeting the mother of her adopted daughter. Lucy Pear herself is a fascinating character who is wise beyond her years. Solomon does a great job showing how families come in different shapes and sizes and the dangers of not being true to oneself.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. I really enjoyed this one. I thought the characters were interesting and I loved the inclusion of lots of different issues during the 1920s including racism, birth control, union issues, politics, and the social ramifications of a young woman giving birth outside of marriage at that time. A very interesting read!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

CAN YOU CANOE? by the Okee Dokee Brothers

(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

CAN YOU CANOE? is another charming book/music CD combo from Sterling.  I have always been a big fan of books that come with CDs. There is something special about reading along with the spoken word or hearing music as you look at illustrations. Especially for young children. When I heard about the subject matter of this latest release, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it!

My son is a Cub Scout and we have been trying to do more camping and exploring. In CAN YOU CANOE?, the Okee Dokee Brothers explore the great outdoors throughout the United States with toe-tapping songs and music. Brandon Reese's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the music and lyrics and are filled with lots of fun details.

We had a hard time deciding which songs were our favorites. I enjoyed "Black Bear Mama" because it reminds me of what a Mama Bear I can be. Plus, it is super fun to sing and includes a nod to one of our favorite folk songs "Jenny Jenkins."  My husband got a good laugh out of "Campin' Tent."  My son enjoyed "Jamboree" with its rollicking rhythms.

We are hoping to share some of these songs with our camping buddies this Summer. I loved all the different types of folk music represented in the book and I also enjoyed how the authors included a map at the back of the book that showed where the inspiration for each song came from. I have a feeling this will be one of our soundtracks of Summer!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Review Catch Up!

I have been ill and had one calamity after another but I have manged to read a lot of great books!  I will be catching up with reviews over the next two weeks.

Check back soon for reviews of the following books:

THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri

SLEEPING GIANTS by Sylvain Neuvel

ELIGIBLE by Curtis Sittenfeld


THE GOOD LIAR by Nicholas Searle

I may even have AVENUE OF MYSTERIES by John Irving finished soon!

So many great books to read right now! I can't wait to share my thoughts with you.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

PERFECT DAYS by Raphael Montes

(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

Teo Avelar is a young medical student who lives with his paraplegic mother. As the book begins, he is exploring the newfound emotions he is feeling about a woman in life. This seems natural enough until the reader discovers that the woman is the corpse he works on in his anatomy class. At a party, Teo is distracted from his corpse when he meets vivacious Clarice. Clarice is an aspiring screenwriter working on a screenplay called "Perfect Days." Teo becomes obssessed with Clarice and begins to stalk her. When he discovers that she is getting ready to leave town to work on her screenplay at a remote resort, he takes drastic measures. Convinced that he can persuade Clarice to love him, Teo takes more and more extreme measures to maintain control and try to win her love.

This book was creepy and disturbing in the way that King's "Misery" made us fear obssession. Teo is such a damaged and sick person. His complete lack of true emotion and empathy are chilling.  The story definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wait to find out how Teo will manage to continue to control and hide Clarice. I think the marketing department over at Penguin were absolutely geniuses when they put a sticker on the cover of the galley encouraging readers to let them know on social media when they arrived at a certain page. As I got closer to that page, I got more and more excited. And it was definitely chilling!  It reminded me of a certain movie but I can't tell you the title without giving away a major plot point.  (Scroll down to the bottom of the review for a spoiler)

While I found the premise fascinating and the story was definitely creepy, I wouldn't say it was enjoyable. Teo is definitely a very creepy character and I think the ending will be disturbing and/or unsatisfying for some readers. However, this would make a great vacation read. Especially if you are headed someplace tropical. Or, since much of the action in this creepy book takes place on beaches, perhaps it would be better to read in a snowbound cabin.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended for fans of suspense and psychological thrillers. The content may be difficult for some people. There are many hair-raising moments within the book and I often find stories of obsession to be particularly frightening. Teo is definitely a frightening character and this could make a very interesting movie.

See a book trailer for PERFECT DAYS here.


(This book reminded me of "Misery" meets "Boxing Helena."  That's all I am going to say.)