Monday, November 16, 2015

Queen of Mystery Returns

I have written a number of reviews for books written by the Queen of Mystery, Mary Higgins Clark (5/5/2011 - I'll Walk Alone, 6/3/2014 - I've Got You Under My Skin, 11/5/2014 - The Cradle Will Fall) because she remains one of my favorite authors. I always know when I find one of her books I will fall into a great read. I was excited to find All Dressed in White, the latest addition to the "Under Suspicion" series featuring television producer Lauren Moran, when perusing the NetGalley website recently.

All Dressed in White
by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

In the third episode of the television series Under Suspicion, Laurie Moran focuses her attention and cameras on the "Runaway Bride", Amanda Pierce, who disappeared five years ago the day before her wedding to her college sweetheart. Bringing the wedding party together at a lavish Long Beach resort, Laurie and Alex are quickly launched into production. Will they be able to uncover the circumstances of the bride's disappearance? Will there be white in Laurie's future? You'll have to read Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke's All Dressed in White to find out. 

Like I've said before, Mary Higgins Clark does not disappoint. she always provides a wonderful story line and an intriguing twist in her mysteries. I love this series and the possibilities that are available for additional "episodes" of Under Suspicion. I am reminded of J. A. Jance's Ali Reynolds series, which is another of my favorites, and I hope to see more in the future. All Dressed in White is now available in stores and online.

*To comply with new guidelines introduce by the Federal Trade Commission, Simon & Schuster has provided a complimentary electronic edition of All Dressed in White for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Will's Words

During the summer my son took me to New York City specifically to see as many Broadway shows as possible. I had been to NYC one other time, but my trip (planned for over a year) coincided with the first Stagehands Strike in the union's 121-year history! To say I was devastated is an understatement, but I have always been told things work out the way they are supposed to. I guess this trip proves the point because I had the most fantastic time I could have ever dreamed of having with my son.

While planning the trip he asked me what I wanted to see when we got to New York. I told him the only show I really wanted to see was Something Rotten! and he could choose the rest of the shows. I had only seen a short preview of the show while watching The 69th Annual Tony Awards earlier in the summer, but I was completely taken with the story line, music, and actors from the moment the curtains were raised.

If you don't know about Something Rotten!, and you love musical theater you should check it out. As soon as we left the theater (after staying around long enough to take pictures and get autographs from all of the leads, of course) I downloaded the soundtrack and listened to it all night.

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare
Changed the Way You Talk
by Jane Sutcliffe
illustrated by John Shelley

I bring up this musical because while reading Jane Sutcliffe's Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk my mind kept going back to the theater and the staging of the show. John Shelley's beautiful illustrations provide a wonderful example of the layout of London and remind me fondly of the stage set for Something Rotten! Painstaking detail can be found on each two-page spread.  Jane Sutcliffe's creative text tells the story of London and the popularity of the theater while carefully including the phrases Shakespeare originally penned and we now all use routinely. Words and phrases are bold within the text of the story (printed within a colorfully framed box) and then "Will's Words" are defined and cited showing the work in which the words originally appeared. A time line of events from 1564 (the year Shakespeare was christened) to 1997 (the year the modern Globe opened in London) appears at the end of the book along with a Bibliography.

Here are a few of the phrases used within the text:

  • "for goodness' sake"
  • "what's done is done"
  • "wild-goose chase"
  • "fashionable"
  • "money's worth"
  • "heart's content"
  • "well behaved"
  • "laughed themselves into stitches"
Not only is this a fascinating look at the influence William Shakespeare has had on the spoken word, it is also a very interesting history of his works and the legacy this master left for us all. I would highly recommend this book for all levels of school libraries, but I think it would have the most impact on high school students as far as understanding the works they are generally required to read during their final years of public school. I believe this could start an interest in Shakespeare's work for younger students if they were to read this book and see how the words and phrases we say and hear have been around for hundreds of years. Wills Words would also be a great gift to any fan of The Bard.

This book will be released on March 22, 2016.

* To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Charlesbridge has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Coloring to Calm

Meditations Through Coloring
By River Grove Books

I am a coloring book addict. I have been coloring for more years than I can remember.  I get very excited when I see a new coloring book and when I buy it I can hardly wait to start filling in the colors I see for the designs.

Coloring relaxes me and helps me to unwind from the days hectic schedule. At times during the day I find myself daydreaming about the pictures I will color when I get home.

I received a preview copy of Meditations Through Coloring from River Grove Books yesterday. I have to say this book grabbed me instantly. I could see the colors that needed to be added the moment I looked at the first page. The problem, the review copy I have is electronic. The images are amazing! Some are large with large spaces for color, others are extremely detailed and will require patience and time to complete. 

Based on what I see in this electronic file, it looks like the images are front and back. If this is the case that could be the one downfall I see to this book. I appreciate the 96 pages of images to color, but when I use my colored pencils, I don't like to have to place a blank sheet of paper between each of my already colored pages so the colors don't cross to other pages. Another problem with seeing only the images is not being able to feel the paper on which the book is printed. When I look for a coloring book, I feel the paper and usually select only those with higher quality paper. If the paper is too cheap (like an old fashioned coloring book, printed on newsprint like paper) I will not buy the book. I want my coloring to be display quality. If I spend the time to color the images, I want them to be beautiful and appreciated, even if I don't have the time to hang all of my pictures up in my home.  I don't have enough wall space to hang all of my coloring pages up on my walls. 

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Greanleaf Book Group has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Meditations Through Coloring for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Feelings in Prose

written by Felicia Law
illustrated by Paula Knight

I love connecting children with books, especially when they have rhythm and rhyme. Felicia Law's new book Feelings does exactly this with her latest addition to the Patchwork series. This series "is a whimsical collection of books that integrate poetry to reinforce primary concepts among emergent readers".

Young children are introduced to feelings such as self-confidence, surprise,  jealousy, naughty, and fright in short poems. Each double page spread (illustration on one side and the poem on the other) depicts diverse children with facial expressions representing the various feelings. At the end of the book a list of words from the poems help parents to focus on key words for their emergent readers listening and speaking vocabulary.

I would recommend this title for parents of children from birth up to preschool. The Patchwork books are a great way to introduce young children to poetry while working on a simple concept with each title.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Norwood House Press has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Feelings for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Home Alone the Storybook

It is hard to believe it has been 25 years since we were first introduced to Kevin McCallister (wonderfully portrayed by Macaulay Culkin) in the hilarious Christmas movie, Home Alone. Like A Christmas Story, this movie has become a must-watch each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sometimes more than once because of the laughter generated by the antics.
Home Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook
by John Hughes, illustrated by Kim Smith

Now Kevin's ingenuity is brought to a whole new generation in the form of a picture book illustrated by Kim Smith. Readers are in for a treat whether you are familiar with the classic movie written by the extremely talented John Hughes, or this is the first you have ever heard of this hysterical movie. The picture book does not disappoint. It surprisingly follows the movie very well, especially in a picture book format. I have to give props to Kim Smith for a great adaptation. I was concerned when I initially saw the title, but my fears were quickly pushed.

Home Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook will be released in October 2015, perfect timing for a holiday purchase. Paired with the classic movie, you've got an instant winner of a Christmas gift for all ages.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Quirk Books, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Home Alone: the Classic Illustrated Storybook for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans
by Julia Heaberlin

I have been reading Julia Heaberlin's books since I was first introduced to her writing in 2013 during the Texas Library Association's annual conference when Playing Dead was the book for One Book, One Conference. I was thrilled when I saw Lie Still was available through NetGalley a few weeks later. I was equally excited when I discovered her latest book, Black-Eyed Susans on NetGalley as well.

The main character is Tessa. As a teenager she was found buried in an abandoned field with bones and the body of another young girl. The book is told in different voices - Tessa and Lydia (her best friend), and moves from 1995 to the present. The years are presented in flashbacks, therapy sessions, diary entries, and trial questioning.

The time is quickly approaching when the man charged with and convicted for the deaths of the Black-Eyed Susans (named because of the flowers spread over their bodies) will be executed. Because of a variety of events, Tessa no longer believes this man (Terrell) is guilty of the crimes for which he has been convicted, and has started working with an attorney and forensic scientist to overturn his conviction.

Ms. Heaberlin is from the Fort Worth area, so fans of the great city will enjoy reading about local attractions and facilities. Like all of her previous books, this psychological thriller will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves a great suspenseful tale.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Random House Publishing has provided an electronic copy of Black-Eyed Susans for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the publishing company.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Teddy Tries a Veggie

Teddy Tries a Veggie
by Jennifer Glockner, RDN

In a time where so many meals are grabbed on the go and there is a lack of nutritional meals in the home, Teddy Tries a Veggie presents a wonderful message for young children about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and how they work together to fight germs. I was a bit concerned when the story started with the main character, Theodora Rose - Teddy for short, states, “veggies are NOT my thing.” The story quickly redeems itself when Teddy helps her dad in the family garden. The fruits and vegetables are labeled in the garden and easily identifiable. While in the garden, Teddy’s dad began to explain how fruits and vegetables are like musicians playing different instruments in a band. “Each one is good on its own. But, together, they rock!”

I loved the simile used by Teddy’s dad, but I’m not sure I like how the story moves forward from with the fruits and vegetables in the garden coming alive for the “Annual Garden Fair”. Each band, Ruby & the Seeds and Hartley & the Leaves, takes the stage where they sound horrible. When the Germ Squad appears to take over the garden, Teddy begins to understand what her dad was talking about with his comparison. Eaten in isolation the body does not get all of the nutrients needed, but together they help fight off disease and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Once the Germ Squad is run out of the garden, Teddy is called in for dinner where her mother is preparing a Broccoli Orange Crunch (recipe included). In my mind her family was eating Citra Orange who played the Kazoo and Rockley Broccoli who played the Ukele in the band. Maybe I could not suspend disbelief because I am an adult, but this just seemed really weird to me. I believe young children will enjoy the story and will be able to over look the ending where the family eats the band members. I would recommend this title for libraries serving young children (schools and public) as well as for families, especially when there is a picky eater in the home.

The illustrations are brightly colored and cartoonish. I like how each character is introduced with a bit of information, their likes, dislikes, and what brought them fame. It allows the reader to know more about each character (including the vegetables) without having to include too much background information in the story.

Author, Jennifer Glockner is a registered dietitian nutritionist. According to the information “About the Author” she is “passionate about empowering kids to become smart eaters who use food as a lifelong tool to prevent disease and promote wellness.

*To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Smith Publicity has provided a copy of Teddy Tries a Veggie in eBook format for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the publishing company.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Taken with Took: A Ghost Story

Took: A Ghost Story
by Mary Downing Hahn

Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn is a cross between a ghost story and a fairy tale for upper elementary and middle school students. The story revolves around a young family (dad, mom, Daniel and Erica) who has recently moved from their Connecticut home to a run down farm house in Brewster's Hill, Massachussetts. Daniel and Erica learn the history of their new home while riding home on the school bus after their frist day of school.

Their house had once been the family home of a little girl named Selene. It is rumored that she was "took" fifty years ago by Old Auntie - a witch - who lives with her son Bloody Bones. The book is written from Daniel's point of view for the majority of the story. However a few chapters are narrated by Old Auntie. This builds the suspense and tension.

This is a wonderful book for young readers who enjoy spooky tales. The book will be released September 15th which will be perfect for the fall and the approaching Halloween festivities. I would highly recommend this book for elementary and middle school libraries.

*To complay with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Clarion Books has provided a copy of Took in ebook format for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the publishing company.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Inspiration through Graphic Zen

Zen Pencils Volume Two: Dream the Impossible Dream (publication date: 10/13/15) is wonderful book filled with inspirational quotes from an interesting group of people (Maya Angelou, Issac Asimov, Chris Hardwick, Jim Henson, Amy Poehler, and William Shakespeare). Each is presented in a graphic format (like a comic or cartoon for those unfamiliar with this genre). The manner in which Gavin Aung Than represents each of the writer's words forces the reader to alter their personal perception of some of the most memorable lines of inspiration (Kahlil Gibran's "Work is love made visible." and Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players.").

I can see this book being used in a high school English class in order to help student's to visualize required reading assignments. I'm not a believer in requiring students to read certain books (I am all about free choice when it comes to reading), however I know it happens every year. I believe if students were given the task of representing a quote or portion of a reading in a creative manner, it might make the assignment more meaningful and more learning will occur.

Zen Pencils Volume Two:
Dream the Impossible Dream
by Gavin Aung Than

*To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Andrews McMeel Publishing has provide a copy of Zen Pencils Volume Two: Dream the Impossible Dream in eBook format for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the publishing company.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Friends Share Scottoline's Books

I have loved every Lisa Scottoline book I have ever read, and for full disclosure, Lisa and I are not friends. Well, actually on Facebook we are, but not in "real" life. However, after reading her latest book Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat: True Stories and Confessions, I truly believe we could be friends, maybe even the best of friends!
Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?: True Stories and Confessions
by LIsa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella

Lisa (I'll call her by her first name since I think we could be such great friends) writes as if she was sitting across from you having a conversation. She holds nothing back. I guess I feel like I know her so well because I know her dogs Kit, Peach, Pip, Ruby, and Tony - and dare I forget her granddog - Pip and grandcat Mimi! I have seen her beautiful garden, laughed as her horse made a snow angel, been green with envy seeing all of the people she has invited into her home for her Book Club Party, and cried when I heard of the passing of her dear Mother Mary.

I, like Lisa, am a task master. I guess so much so, that I haven't put up a Christmas tree in over three years, but if I did put up a tree a lot of the ornaments would be handmade and would also display the names of much loved and long gone fur babies. I'm not into the The Bachelor like Francesca, but I LOVE playing Fantasy Football. I would like to go to the beach with Lisa and Francesca to eat a spaghetti sandwich. I will be in New York City next week, just FYI.

She and daughter Francesca have a wonderful way of pulling you into their life through their writing. If you need a perfect book to take to the beach or to have in your purse for the quick chapter between chauffeuring your children around this summer, pick up a copy of the latest collection of stories by this fabulous mother / daughter duo.

*To comply with new guidelines set for by the Federal Trade Commission, St. Martin's Press, provided a complimentary copy of this title in eBook format for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the authors, the author's publicist, or the publishing company.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My Relaxation

I usually post about books I have read, but today is going to be a bit different. Today I am posting about a book I have discovered that helps me to relax while listening to books.

I have been a colorer for MANY years. Back when I taught Kindergarten (1993-1999) I colored all of the time. I colored with my students, but I also colored for my students - file folder games. Coloring provided me a means of relaxation while creating a great resource for my students. I LOVED the Carson Dellosa file folder games. They had wonderful pictures and were great games for my students.

Now that I am no longer in the classroom, there is little need for me to make file folder games, so I had to find another outlet for my coloring. I purchased traditional coloring books for awhile, but I can't stand the cheap paper used for children's coloring books. I remember Dover coloring books from my childhood, but I was never really one for coloring the very detailed clothing and landscapes.

When I discovered Mandalas, Paisleys, and Mosaic coloring books I felt like I had found the perfect relaxation tool for me. Like I said, I have been coloring for years. It has only been in the last few years the publishing industry has discovered what I have known all this time - adults like to color too! Now, my Amazon account is filled with tons of coloring books for adults. I have all of the coloring books people write posts about on Facebook - Secret Garden, Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns, Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book, Color Me Calm: 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation, Color Counts (Landscapes, Travel the World, Tropical, Travel the USA, etc.) and Flower Designs by Jenean Morrison - but I have recently discovered my favorite by far - Querkles by Thomas Pavitte.

I'm sure Amazon targeted me for this new "Puzzling Colour by Numbers Book" based on my previous purchases, and I have to say how happy this makes me! All I want to do is sit and color in this fascinating book. You can watch a short video clip of how the Querkles works here. I have to admit, at first glance these pages can look VERY intimidating!

Here is what one of the pictures looks like when you first open the book.

I'm not going to ruin the surprise on this one as to what the final image will be when it is colored. It is NOT one of the ones I have already colored. Here is one in progress (purple), as well as three I have already completed. To know exactly how much I LOVE this book I have only had this book four days and have already finished three of the pictures and started working on the fourth. I am completely addicted to coloring these pictures. 

I have not found another coloring book that has provided me with this much joy in a very long time. I love being able to work on these beautiful works of art while listening to an audio book. It is a wonderful combination of relaxation and creativity rolled into one.

Be sure to check out the second book which will be released in October, Querkles: Icons

Thomas Pavitte is the creator of these 20 great works of art. He is also the author of the 1000 Dot-to-Dot series of books. I hope he continues to create more Querkles! I have already ordered a second copy of Querkles: Masterpieces. I'll get to choose different colors to use for them the next time I color the same pictures.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Size: A First Poem Book About Size by Felicia Law

by Felicia Law
Size, part of the Patchwork series, is a poetry book that focuses on the concept of somethings dimension or area for which an object occupies in space. The illustrations are bright and very appealing and go well with each of the poems. In fact, for some of the poems the illustration is almost vital for understanding.

The poems include the following:
  • Huge Elephant
  • All Sorts
  • Big, Small
  • Socks
  • Tall Flower
  • Little Bug
  • Big Sister
  • Growing In and Out
  • My Two Cats
  • Growing Together 
Each poem relates to size in a different manner. Young children may not relate the concept of size to each of the poems on initial reading. However with subsequent readings, reflections and comparisons can be made in order to better understand size. I would not use this book to simply teach the concept of size. I believe the poems are an excellent way to extend the children's learning and increase their vocabulary. For older children the poems can be used as an example prior to the creation of their own concept poetry or creative writing.

The book ends with a two page list of concept words included in the book. Upon my initial reading of the list of words, I was a bit confused as to why cat, elephant, and ladybug were listed among the "concept words". After researching the word, I learned it can be a general idea of something conceived in the mind. I have always thought of concepts as more abstracts - shapes, colors, numbers, etc.

Not only did I discover a great new title that combines mathematics and poetry, but I walked away learning something new. My perception of the word concept has now been forever changed because of a children's picture book about size. Interesting turn of events, but I will take learning whenever and wherever I can get it.

I would recommend this book for the non-fiction collection of a children's library, especially for schools serving students in Prekindergarten and above.

*To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Norwood House Press has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Size for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publisher and is strictly my opinion.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dealing with D-I-V-O-R-C-E

Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children
by Dr. Azmaira H. Maker

Dr. Azmaira H. Maker, a clinical psychologist with twenty years of experience in child development, presents a fantasized tale of young Zoey Bunny who must deal with the divorce of her parents.

A "Note to Adults" starts the book providing information to parents, or other care givers (teachers, therapists, grandparents,etc.) about sharing this book with young children (ages 4-8 is the recommendation). The book ends with a list of questions to discuss with the child / children following the reader. Although the questions are presented as follow ups to the reading, they would be best used as a discussion starting point. I would recommend reading through the questions prior to sitting down with the child to read the book so you are familiar with them. Don't go through the questions immediately after reading. Use them as a springboard for conversation and not a quiz to see how well the child listened to the story.

Although a variety of emotions (sadness, anxiety, loss, confusion, and anger) are mentioned in the initial note, I didn't clearly see all of these emotions represented in the story. This is not a criticism, just an observation. It is very important to realize children of divorce have no control of their situation. They need to understand their feelings and emotions are valid and should be acknowledged accordingly.

When Zoey questions Mama Bunny about the words separation and divorce, she is presented with a very open and honest age appropriate definition of the two words. I am a bit concerned the words are used interchangeably. It might have been best, since this book seems to focus on the initial stages of the separation, to simply use the word separated. As the story progresses divorce could have been brought into the conversation as a means of explaining the permanence of the situation.

I reviewed the electronic version of the book. The illustrations I saw in the electronic version were bright, colorful, and would be very appealing to young children. They seemed sporadic in the format I read.  I feel full page illustrations across from the text on each two page spread would make the book more appealing to young children, especially because of the difficult topic.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Aspiring Families Press has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Families Change: Explaining Divorce to Children for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bug in a Vacuum by Melanie Watt

Bug in a Vacuum
by Melanie Watt
Bug in a Vacuum is not the typical Watt book. In her latest book, which will be released August 25, 2015, a bug flies past the family dog and into the house. As it flies in the house it passes an aerosol can of Dandelion Repellent. This is the first time the observant reader notices the book does not take place in the present. The vacuum inside the door reminds me of my maternal grandmother’s old Electrolux.  
As the bug continues to fly around the house, through the bathroom, the kitchen, bedroom, and finally the living room glimpses of retro furniture (TV dinner on the Formica tabletop) and décor (hula lamp and globe) help to determine the setting as the mid 1960s.

It is in the living room everything changes for the bug and for the careful observer, the family dog. As the dog sits on the sofa the vacuum sucks up his favorite toy. Moments later the bug , which has landed on the globe, disappears into the inner bowels of the vacuum.  Both creatures then begin their grieving.

From here, the book is divided into small chapters focusing on each of the five stages of grief. The first, denial is represented by the can we first saw as the bug flew into the house – denial. The dog’s denial is portrayed through thought bubbles, while the bug is verbal trying to communicate with the other items eaten by the giant vacuum. Each subsequent stage: bargaining, anger, despair, and acceptance is presented in a similar manner. The story ends with the vacuum being thrown out and picked up by the waste service. As the little dog runs after the truck he meets a new friend and seems to move on with his life. When the truck arrives at the land fill, the vacuum crashes to the ground where the back of the unit falls open allowing the bug to escape. I love the final image of the two dogs looking at each other as the sun goes down, while in the foreground a mother bird watches over her eggs which are slightly hidden by the favorite toy.

Bug in a Vacuum has been described as “a funny, suspenseful and poignant look at the travails of a bug trapped in a vacuum,” but I think it is SO much more. Yes, portions of the book are humorous, but the underlying message in the book is that no matter what trials and tribulations we must face in life with patience, perseverance, and belief in oneself we will be able to overcome and move on.

Melanie Watt (best known to my library friends as the mother of Scaredy Squirrel, Leon the Chameleon, and Chester the Cat) presents a 96-page picture book which takes the reader through the five stages of grief, also known as the Kὕbler-Ross model. A brief mention of the Kὕbler-Ross model is explained at the end of the book as “a series of emotions commonly experienced when facing a life-changing event.” The model was first introduced in 1969 by the Swiss     psychiatrist in her book On Death and Dying. The five stages can occur in any order, and may not be experienced by all facing life-altering events.

Watt has found a unique way in which to present these stages to young children without preaching. If this book is needed for bibliotherapy  then wonderful discussions and comparisons can be made throughout, if not the story can be enjoyed simply for the wonderful presentation created by this incredibly talented author / illustrator.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tundra Books has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Bug in a Vacuum for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dexter is back!

Dexter is Dead
by Jeff Lindsay
From Jeff Lindsay's Dexter website...

"After seven national bestsellers and eight seasons as one of the most successful shows on television, New York Times bestselling author Jeff Lindsay bids a thrilling farewell to his uniquely twisted and beloved serial killer, Dexter Morgan. Dexter is Dead is the definitive conclusion of the character who has become a global icon."

"Dexter Morgan has burned the candle at both ends for many years. Blood spatter analyst...husband...father...serial killer. And now, for the first time, his world has truly collapsed. Dexter is arrested on charges of murder. He has lost everything-including his wife, his kids, and the loyalty of his sister. Now completely alone, Dexter faces a murder charge (for a crime...ironically...he did not actually commit). His only chance for freedom lies with his brother, Brian, who has a dark plan to prove Dexter's innocence. But the stakes are deadly, and the epic showdown that lies in Dexter's path may lead, once and for all, to his demise.

Jeff Lindsay's trademark devilish wit and cutting satire have never been sharper. Dexter is Dead marks the end of a beloved series, but is also Dexter's most satisfying and suspenseful outing yet."

Almost two years ago I posted a review of Dexter's Final Cutat the time I believed it was the demise of Dexter. I was thrilled when I discovered Dexter was back, even if for only a short time (as the title suggests), in Dexter is Dead. Full disclosure, I have not yet finished reading the book. I don't want to inadvertently present any spoilers. What I can say is Mr. Lindsay does not disappoint. The next installment (and according to Lindsay's website, quoted above, the conclusion of the series) of Dexter (still in my head as Michael C. Hall from the Showtime series) picks up right where it left off in the seventh book. For fans of Dexter, Dexter is Dead will be available July 7 from your favorite book sellers. For those who have yet to be introduced to the Robin Hood of serial killers, I would suggest starting from the beginning of the series with Darkly Dreaming Dexter

I know ethically Dexter is wrong. However I love how he always took care of ridding the world of the bad guy, the one everyone believes should get his comeuppance. If this truly is the end of Dexter I must take this opportunity to say thank you to Mr. Lindsay. Dexter Morgan will go in my book as one of my favorite literary characters. I will miss him, but I know life goes on and there are so many more great characters you will share with us in the future.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Doubleday has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Dexter is Dead for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Debut Novel by Steven Rappaport

If Jack Had
by Steven Rappaport

About If Jack Had:
"What's the difference between a serial killer and an assassin? A pay check."

Jack is a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist with a secret second job. Since he was a smart-ass grad student slinking around New York’s Upper West Side and Brighton Beach, he’s been working as an assassin for the Russian mob.

Beginning at the end – that is, with an aged, incontinent, and at last truly alone Jack, his mind made up that tomorrow will be the first day he kills someone he loves: himself – If Jack Had [Black Rose Writing, June 4 2015] tells his story in rear view, providing an all-access-pass into the enviable, high-flying life he clear-cut for himself against all odds…and the (literal) trail of dead he left along the way.

The debut novel from sixty-eight-year-old Manhattan author Steve Rappaport, If Jack Had is, much like its protagonist, more than meets the eye. A caper comedy featuring sex and drugs, blasphemy and blood, far-flung exotic locales and all the other stuff that makes for good, not-so-clean fun, If Jack Had also happens to have a big, beating heart. Beneath the surface, it’s a meditation on family, fatherhood, the indignities of aging, the inevitability of loneliness, and the preciousness of life itself.

My Thoughts on the book:

I was contacted by Mr. Rappaport's publicist at the end of April asking if I would be interested in participating in a blog tour for the release of his debut novel. After reading the press release and publicity information I was intrigued by the story and I agreed to read the book and provide an honest review.

Mysteries. Thrillers. Time Travel. Those are my go to genres. I believe If Jack Had would fall into the first two categories easily. There was mystery. It was a bit of a thriller knowing Jack's secret throughout the book, but this book just did not keep my attention. In all honesty, I think I began to get lost very early in the book because of the timeline. The book starts at the end, however we are never clearly told the time period. Based on the description, the reader is lead to believe the book is taking place in the present time. However, little pieces of information dropped along the way make you believe the story begins after 2055. 

Let me explain my reasoning here because I'm sure some will say I've lost my mind. Hints are dropped along the way about the horrible upbringing Jack has with his parents because, "...they were kids themselves and screwed up ones. They were barely 18 when I was born. I had stolen the Sixties from them." So, here we learn Jack is born in the 1960s. It is not for another 75 pages we learn that Jack was born around 1965 as his stepmother reminisces about the first time she met the lonely little boy.

So, going back to the beginning of the book (which is really the end) I learn that Jack marries his high school sweetheart, Sara Beth. [I believe this is the correct spelling of Jack's wife's name. I recall at least one instance where her name was combined as Sarabeth. Reading from an advanced readers copy, this could easily be a typo that was later corrected.] Not long into the book we learn that Sara Beth dies at the age of 90. Herein lies my conclusion of the time frame for the story. If Jack is born in 1965 (his mother was in high school in 1964 and she was 18 when Jack was born) and his high school sweetheart wife "died a few years ago at 90", one would assume he is at least close to her age at the end, I mean beginning of the book, making him about 93, or older.

The movement of time in the book is not linear. That is definitely not a problem for me because I LOVE time travel books. However, with no definitive time frame mentioned with each chapter, I found the story confusing. I needed chapter headings or some other tool to track the time so I didn't have to guess.

To be fair, I am a very critical reader. I read every single word. I don't skip words, sentences, or paragraphs. I feel if the author felt the need to write the word, it needs to be read. For Mr. Rappaport's debut novel challenged my tendencies. In fact, I contacted his publicity asking a very specific timeline question concerning the book because I was confused while reading. The response I got really did not help me as I attempted to finish the book. I say attempted because after many tries I simply could not finish.

About the Author:

Steven Rappaport, age 68, has been a stock trader, pot dealer, itinerant hippie peddler, cab driver, retailer, and is currently a successful commercial real estate salesperson in Manhattan. He offers a simple rationale for his first novel: “My eldest son, Jack, died at forty from a progressively debilitating, unknown neurological disorder. This brilliant boy, a Vassar grad, never got to live the life he deserved. I’ve infused him with one.”

I know Mr. Rappaport wrote this book in order to give his son a legacy, but I truly believe he might have been better off by sharing this novel with Jack's family and friends. I have to think there are a number of inside jokes or familiar stories woven within this novel which we, as outsiders, simply cannot understand. I applaud Mr. Rappaport the courage to put himself out there by writing this novel. I'm sure it had to be heartbreaking to lose a son, but also want so desperately to create a "What If" novel for his child.

This book was not for me. It might be a great novel for someone else, but to be fair to my readers I have to provide an honest and truthful review.

If Jack Had [Black Rose Writing] is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in brick-and-mortar bookstores nationwide as of June 4, 2015.

Find If Jack Had on Goodreads and at

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Smith Publicity, Inc. has provided a complimentary copy of If Jack Had for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author, publicist, or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Meltzer Delivers

The President's Shadow
by Brad Meltzer
"A severed arm, found buried in the White House Rose Garden. A lethal message with terrible consequecnes for the Presidency. And a hidden secret in one family's past that will have repercussions for the entire nation."

If you are a history buff and have not read Brad Meltzer here is your chance to read a master of the historical conspiracy thriller. The Culper Ring Series: The Inner Circle (2011), The Fifth Assassin (2013), and now The President's Shadow (2015) further establishes Meltzer as an incredible storyteller. His abilty to capture history and make you question all you have learned is masterful.

Beecher White works as an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. His job is to protect some of our countries most important and valuable documents. He is also a member of the Culper Ring, a secret society established by President George Washington over 200 years ago in order to protect the Presidency. There are secrets in our country's history, but once we uncover those secrets, they can never be hidden again.

In the third installment of the Culper Ring Series, Brad Meltzer delivers the thrills and excitement his fans have come to love. I highly recommend the series and especially this exciting thrill ride of a tale.

The President's Shadow is currently available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It will be released tomorrow, June 16th. Meltzer is also currently on a book tour across the country. Check out his site to see if he is going to be at a location near you.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Grand Central Publishing has provided a complimentary electronic copy of The President's Shadow for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

In April 2012, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Lisa Scottoline at the Texas Library Association Conference. I was a fan before hearing her speak, but became a superfan following her presentation when I got to meet her. My mother and I attended the luncheon together. I got in line to have our books autographed I asked Ms. Scottoline if I could take a picture of her. She was very kind and allowed me to snap this picture.

Lisa Scottoline
April 2012 - Houston, Texas

When I told her I was there with my mother she asked where she was. I told her she was waiting over to the side - she was using a scooter to get around during the conference. Ms. Scottoline got up from the table, walked over to my mother, gave her a hug and took a picture with her. 

Lisa Scottoline and my Mother Marge
April 2012 - Houston, Texas
Ms. Scottoline took the time to greet my mother means the world to me. If I remember correctly this was Ms. Scottoline's book tour had to be cut short because Mother Mary became ill the day after her appearance at the conference.

Like I said, I have been a superfan for a number of years. I have been frantically reading and writing reviews for pre-publication books (some of which I post here, not all however are allowed), but I had to take the time to read something I wanted to read recently. It was not at all difficult to choose the book I wanted to read - Keep Quiet (2014). 
Keep Quiet
by Lisa Scottoline (2014)

What an amazing read. I was captured from the start of this book. I could relate to the characters and felt great empathy for their turmoil. Keep Quiet is the kind of book you cannot put down, even when I could no longer keep my eyes open. It is also the kind of book you cannot keep quiet about. I talked to everyone about this book. I think some people were at the point of walking away from me just to see if I would stop talking. No, I did not. The tension in the story builds from the first chapter and doesn't release you from its grasp until the final one. 

Every book I read by Scottoline is gripping. I don't review many of her books because she is SO fabulous she really needs no help from me. I just wanted to pass along my praise and appreciation to her. I look forward to reading her Sunday posts and seeing the adorable pictures of her four- and two-legged family members (the furry, the feathered, and the daughter). I know she is a bestselling author, but she seems more like a friend and as a fan, I truly want to thank her for showing us all that she is a very down to earth kind of person. Thank you, Ms. Scottoline.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

More Sh!t No One Tells You

This morning as I was perusing my most recent notifications on Facebook I stumbled across the posts "On This Day". I was very surprised to see that on this day two years ago I posted a review of Dawn Dais's first Sh!t book. I felt it only appropriate to finish the latest title in the series and post my review!

It is hard for me to believe it has been almost twenty years since my son was born. I am no longer dealing with the issues outlined in Dais's new book Sh!t No One Tells You About Toddlers: A Guide to Surviving the Toddler Years (release date September 8, 2015), but it doesn't mean I didn't feel their pain. It only means that I am at the stage in my life that I can look back on those days to smile and laugh. My days are no longer filled with a rambunctious toddler. Now when I look at small children and babies all I can think about are the grandchildren I hope to have one day. My son's girlfriend LOVES babies and I truly hope she is the mother of my grandchildren some day. I know she will make a wonderful mother.

Like her previous book The Sh!t No One Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Babies First Year (2013) Dais presents her own struggles with her toddlers as well as her MOFL (Moms on the Front Lines). This time she also brings two professionals , Katie Hurley and Gail Maire Poverman-Kave, both Licensed Clinical Social Workers.

I was laughing before I even got to the first chapter. The chapter titles, listed in the table of contents are spot on for anyone who has ever parented a toddler. Here are some of the very best chapter titles (and believe me, it was not easy narrowing down to just three).

  • Walking is Hard. Bruising is considerably less difficult.
  • Remember When You Judged Other Parents?  Prepare to eat your words with a side of karma's a bitch.
  • Pictures are Deceiving. "Smile for the camera! We are happy, dammit!"
I highly recommend this book for those who are in these "precious" years with their child, on the cusp of these years, or maybe as a means of birth control for others. Readers will fall into two categories - Rolling on the floor laughing at the stories and remembering their own experiences or crying at the joys they have in their future. Either way all will enjoy this wonderful new book by Dais and her band of Merry Mothers.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Seal Press has provided a complimentary electronic copy of The Sh!t No One Tells You About Toddlers: A Guide to Surviving the Toddler Years for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sneak Preview: Spelled by Betsy Schow

by Betsy Schow
By Betsy Schow
Sourcebooks Fire
June 2, 2015
Advance Praise for Spelled
“A cute adventure with romance set in a world full of fairy-tale mash-ups. Readers will love Dorthea’s evolution from spoiled princess to strong, confident heroine… For Oz fans, this work is a great clean-read alternative to Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die.” -School Library Journal
“This wickedly funnyfast-paced adventure has it all: brains, courage, and heart. (Plus a kickin’ pair of heels.) .” --Jen Calonita, author of The Secrets of My Hollywood Life and Fairy Tale Reform School series
“Fairy tale survival rule #1, do NOT read this book late at night. You will wake up your entire family with loud laughter. Fairy tale survival rule #2, if you love the Wizard of Oz, clever fairy tale mash-ups, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what will happen until the very end, you MUST read Spelled.” --J Scott Savage, award winning author of FarworldCase File 13, and the Mysteries of Cove series.
A hilarious and snarky reimagining of the world of Oz, along with many other fairy tales injected throughout, "Spelled" is one fabulous read…Kick off those silver slippers and tuck in with this wonderful tale!” —Senator Sipes, Lil Book Bug (Palmdale, CA)
Book Info:
Talk about unhappily ever after. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the not-so-charming prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving Dorthea with hair made up of emerald flames and the kingdom in chaos. Her parents and everyone she loves are stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed-off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

Amazon | B&N | BAM | Indigo | IndieBound | Kindle |  Nook

Betsy Schow:
Betsy Schow is the author of the memoir Finished Being Fat, and has been featured on The Today Show and inThe Wall Street Journal. She lives in Utah, but travels the country with Color Me Rad 5k, and partners with nonprofits to teach kids creative thinking and how to reach their goals.
Excerpt from Spelled:

Most of the crowd had dispersed. The final few stragglers looked at me with the all­too-common look of fear mixed with trepidation. Pix ’em. They were just servants. It wasn’t like their opinion mattered.
Only one remained, watching me with open curiosity. He looked to be in his late teens or was magically enhanced to appear so. He could have been a hundred for all I knew. I’d never seen him before in my life. He was handsome enough, for a commoner, even in his worn leather pants and cracked work boots. A foreigner, his hair was unruly and dark auburn, which complemented his tanned but dirt-smudged complexion, though the tall, dark stranger vibe was ruined by his piercing pale blue eyes.
Well, I’d had enough of being a sideshow for the day. “If you’re the new gardener, the hedges are overgrown and in need of a trim.” I pointed in the direction of my father. “While you’re there, you can help the king with the wisps.”
The young man’s expression clouded over, but he didn’t move.
I stamped my foot and pointed more forcefully. “Off with you. Courtyard’s that way. Be sure to clean those awful boots before coming back in.”
“Someone told me I’d find a princess of great worth here. One with the strength to be the hero this realm needs.” He stared at me with those unsettling blue eyes. They were cold, like ice water—made me shiver from head to toe. Then his gaze seemed to search even deeper. Finally, he looked through me, like I was nothing.
In brisk steps, he strode across the marble to the courtyard. But before crossing the threshold, he turned back to glare at me with his lip curled ever so slightly. “It seems she was mistaken.”
Just like that, I had been sifted, weighed, and found wanting.
I felt my own lip curl in response. How rude! Who the Grimm was this peasant to judge me? I was wearing a Glenda original. Original! Not some fairy-godmother knockoff worn by those servant girls turned royal. I was a crown princess, for the love of fairy, and no one dismissed me.
Before I could put the boy in his place—down in the dirt, where he belonged—a clatter came from behind, making me nearly jump out of my shoes. I checked and was relieved that Sterling had simply dropped his sword. By the time I looked back, the gardener was gone.
After stowing his blade, Sterling held up his shield, not in defense of the entrance but so he could look at his reflection. “Clearly he’s blind and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
I didn’t ask for Sterling’s opinion, but it made me feel better.
Until he opened his mouth again.
“Worth, pffft. I mean, look around at all the jewels. Your palace has everything you could ever want. Honestly, I don’t know what you’re fussing about. Why would anyone want to leave?”
Because a cage is still a cage, no matter how big or glittering the bars are.
And I would find a way free, no matter the cost.

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