Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Save Me by Kristyn Kusek Lewis

From Kristyn Kusek Lewis, author of How Lucky You Are, comes Save Me, a new novel about love, truth – and forgiveness.

In Save Me,  Daphne Mitchell faces a terrible dilemma: her husband Owen comes home one day and tells her he’s in love with another woman. Daphne's life hangs in limbo - unable to hate him, but also incapable of moving forward. 

When Daphne becomes a pillar of support for Owen after his girlfriend sustains near-fatal injuries in a car accident, she realizes she may have a chance to reconcile her marriage. But she must decide whether forgiveness is possible and which path is the right one for her.

Kristyn was kind enough to answer a few questions. I always love getting insight into an author's life, and catch a few glimpses of their inspiration for the book.

Kristyn Kusek Lewis Q & A
1. How did the idea for this book come to you? What made you want to write about infidelity?
I wish I could say that I’m someone who outlines and has the whole story worked out before I start writing—it seems like it would be easier that way—but for me it always starts with the characters. I lived in New York City throughout my twenties, and my roommate and I would often walk along the Hudson River after work and invent identities for the people we passed. I do the same thing in airports and restaurants, and when I write, I feel like I start in much the same way.
            Daphne came to me as a very particular woman. She is laser-focused, unwavering, and she has tightly controlled everything in her life. When I started writing about her, I wasn’t so much interested in infidelity, though that’s part of her story. I was interested in seeing how she’d fare if her carefully designed life unraveled, and in the course of writing about that, it really became a story about forgiveness. What does it take to forgive someone who’s hurt you and what does it take to reconcile your pain with your love for that person? I believe that in any relationship, whether it’s a marriage, a friendship, a family relationship, etc., you have to forgive each other over and over again, in ways big and small, to make it work. And you have to learn how to forgive yourself, too. That, to me, is what the story is really about.

2. Your protagonist and her husband are both doctors. Why did you choose this profession for them, and how does it reflect on their respective characters?
There are several reasons. Daphne is someone who thrives on specifics and formulas. She’s a fixer, but she also has a huge heart, and to me, that made her work as an internist a natural choice. Because she’s so ambitious, I thought it would be interesting to see how her relationship would fare if there was just a little bit of career competition between her and her husband, which is why I made Owen a doctor, too. And then when I decided to set the story in Durham, NC, it became a no-brainer. Durham is known as “the city of medicine” because of Duke Hospital. UNC is just a few miles away and also has a renowned medical center. I lived there for over a decade, and half the people I knew worked in medicine. At one point, I lived in a cul-de-sac with seven doctors for neighbors. Finally, I spent the first several years of my career working as a health reporter and was raised by a woman who read medical books for fun, so it’s a field that always appealed to me. I couldn’t have written about it otherwise and I called on several medical friends for advice about everything from how they take notes after seeing a patient to plausible ailments for my characters.  

3. In your first book, HOW LUCKY YOU ARE, you wrote about the friendship between three women and how complicated it can be. In this novel, Daphne¹s sister Lucy is a pillar of support in some ways, though Daphne doesn¹t always agree with her. How is it different to write about sisters versus adult female friends?
I think that there are a lot of similarities. Female relationships are endlessly fascinating to me, in large part because my friendships with other women are such a big part of my life. In both books, the women make a lot of assumptions about each other based on the fact that they’ve made very different life choices—about their careers, their thoughts on marriage, etc. I think that the three women in HOW LUCKY were more apt to let each other’s poor behavior slide out of politeness, whereas Lucy and Daphne will call each other out because they have their family history. Also, in both cases, there’s a bit of posturing and putting a happy face on things, though I think that both books show in the end how essential it is to be wholly yourself with the people in your life. Authenticity is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days but to me, it’s the foundation of any good relationship. And for the women in these books, realizing that the unconditional love that they have for each other won’t fade when they reveal themselves is a big part of their stories.

4. So many people have wanted to know what happens to Daphne after Italy and the book¹s end. Do you have an idea of this you can share with readers, or are you saving her next steps for a sequel?
It has been so much fun to hear from readers about what they think happens to Daphne after the book. I’m going to hold my cards close to my chest on this in the event that I do write a sequel, but I will say that I think she settles back in Durham. I won’t reveal with whom.

5. You have two young children. When do you find the time to write, and what is your process like?
I’ve been self-employed for over fifteen years, long before I had kids, so that certainly gave me an edge once I became a mother in terms of having a flexible schedule and being used to holding myself accountable for getting my work done. There are lots and lots of things that I don’t do well, but I’m a really diligent person and I stick to a firm work schedule just like if I worked in a traditional office. If you’re going to write for a living, you need to approach it as seriously as you would any other job. There’s no waiting for inspiration to strike—you get yourself to your desk every day and do the work. It’s as simple as that. And when stuff comes up, as it inevitably does, I make up for it with early mornings, late nights, and weekends.
            Becoming a novelist is a leap of faith because you typically spend years writing before you ever know whether you’ll even get a book contract. I remember sitting at my desk, writing my first book with my first daughter in a Baby Bjorn, and having lots of insecure moments when I’d wonder whether I’d ever be successful. But everyone starts the same way. I know novelists who write before they go to their traditional jobs at software companies and doctors’ offices. I know novelists who were stay-at-home parents and wrote when their kids were at school and swim team practice. I wish I could reveal that there’s more romance involved, or that I once had an epiphany that has since made the work a breeze, but at the end of the day, it really just comes down to putting the time in.

Raves for Save Me:

“Lewis gets it just right in her examination of how tiny cracks can shatter a marriage that gets ‘cemented in the fable’ of what being together is supposed to be” 
– Publisher’s Weekly

“Lewis’ newest novel is an emotional roller coaster of a read, but in a good way. As fans follow the protagonist’s story and journey through one of the hardest moments of her life, they will find themselves feeling every emotion with her along the way – hope, anguish, rage, sadness and love all emerge. It’s a testament to Lewis’ great writing and is an absolutely fantastic read.”
 – RT Book Reviews

I have the BEST giveaway for you, my dear readers! 10 copies of Save Me are up for grabs. Simply comment to enter. I wish you all luck, and thanks for reading! 
A huge thank you to Hachette Book Group for the generous giveaway, and a review copy. 


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Maybe In Another Life Cover Reveal

Maybe In Another Life will not be for sale until July 7, 2015 (which is way too long!), but you can get a sneak peek of the gorgeous cover for her novel, as well as pre-order your copy! While all of us impatiently wait for the release of Taylor Jenkins Reid's newest novel, let us relish in this synopsis:

"At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating from college, but on the heels of a disastrous breakup, she has finally returned to her hometown of Los Angeles. To celebrate her first night back, her best friend, Gabby, takes Hannah out to a bar-where she meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

It's just past midnight when Gabby asks Hannah if she's ready to go. Ethan quickly offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay.

Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parrallel universes develop into surprisingly different stories with far-reaching consequences for Hannah and the people around her, raising questions like: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she's found him."

Maybe In Another Life   by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.
Maybe In Another Life
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Atria Books/Washington Square Press Paperback | 352 pages | ISBN: 9781476776880 | July 7, 2015 | $16.00
eBook: Atria Books/Washington Square Press | 352 pages | ISBN: 9781476776897 | July 7, 2015 | $11.99

Friday, February 13, 2015

Audio Mania!

It is no lie when I tell you that for most of my life I was unable to focus on listening to an audio book for longer than a minute. The energy it required to have me complete two tasks at once (driving and listening) was too much for me. I love reading so much, and once I started driving, I thought it would be a fantastic way to continue "reading" when I couldn't physically hold the book. I tried and tried. Book after book was rented from the public library, only to be returned a week later. I would hand over my failure while the media clerk sifted through to make sure I didn't hold on to one of the CD's. She didn't need to do that. They were all there. I never made it past CD #1. I was pretty frustrated with myself that I couldn't remember what I had just read, and drifted off into Never, Never Land every time a narrator's voice would blare out over the speakers. I gave up trying after a while and thought it best to listen to music in the car. Short attention span was how I justified it.

Years passed by with maybe a check out or two a year. I never truly gave up. I always thought the next year would change my brain. Make me somehow competent enough to listen and remember. Every year I repeated the same sequence of events. Check out audio book. Return a week later. Wait for clerk to count CD's. Wash, rinse, repeat. Again, I cursed the short attention span.

On a spree of reading a series of self-help books, I read in one of them that you could make anything happen that you truly set your mind to. Your determination and fortitude could generate the results you desired. With that in mind, I purchased an audio book payment plan, and loaded my phone up with a few titles. I also checked out an audio book from the library. I trained myself to listen every single day, and to repeat the events as they happened, as an exercise in active listening. 1 hour turned into two, into three, and soon all I was doing was listening to audio books. In lines, in the car, during my lunch break, walking through the store. I bought an auxiliary cable for my car, so I could listen non-stop whenever I wanted.  Pretty soon, I was adding a book a week. I did it! I accomplished the very goal I thought to be impossible. I used to think that self-help stuff was a bunch of horse shit, but it worked!

So here I am, preaching to all my fellow book readers who have short attention spans. It can be done. You say audio books aren't for you? Well, I will give you a list of some of the best ones to add right now. This, from the biggest critic. If it is even slightly boring-it's out! Now I don't loathe my commute far to work, or driving everywhere taking my kids to their practices, and myself to teach Spinning and Pilates classes. Happy Valentine's Day!

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Accidents of Marriage | Randy Susan Meyers

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian | Andy Weir

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings: A Novel | Sue Monk Kidd

Any you could add to the list?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Here's Hank: Fake Snakes and Weird Wizards

Here's Hank: Fake Snakes and Weird Wizards
by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Synopsis: From the authors of the bestselling Hank Zipzer series comes a new book for younger readers, featuring a our beloved Hank, only years younger. This fourth book in the Here's Hank series delights readers with a sibling tale that many of the young readers of this series can relate to. In this book,  Hank, in an effort to please his younger sister Emily, is attempting to put on a Reptile Show for her birthday party. In order to surprise Emily and her friends, Hank cooks up a scheme to dress up as a wizard. Hank will dress up as "The Westside Wizard" and delight his audience by pulling a snake out of thin air! What could go wrong? If Hank's true identity is revealed during his performance, his good deed will turn into a gigantic disaster.Hank has struggled to learn new things, and he wonders, as does the reader, if he will be successful in pulling off his magic. Can Hank make Emily's 7th birthday her best birthday ever?

Building Background: You may best know author Henry Winkler from his work acting and producing in Hollywood. I know him best from his work on a show called "Happy Days" I used to watch during my childhood. The Hank Zipzer series was inspired by Mr. Winkler's own challenges with a learning disability. His diagnosis of Dyslexia did not come until Henry was 30 years old. That is a long time to endure having a learning disability without assistance or recognition of what challenges you. Now Mr. Winkler and Lin Oliver travel all over talking to kids about their challenges, and giving the advice "No matter how you learn, it has nothing to do with your brilliance. You have greatness inside of you." This book was printed in an easy-to-read font, so that readers with Dyslexia could easily navigate and read the text.

I am a huge proponent of reading with your children, and having them understand what they are reading on a deeper, more personal level. The love of literature for information or entertainment begins in the lap of a parent. For students, being in school can be a continuation of that love of reading. Having the right books makes all the difference! Students in school are being asked to examine literature closely, and delve deeper into the author's purpose. While Here's Hank is intended to entertain the reader, there are avenues you can explore that would engage a young reader, and help them step into Hank's world. 

Extending the Book: If your children, like mine, were not sure what Dyslexia exactly is, and needed to understand this learning disability, this website explains it well. It is far more common than we think.

What could be more fun than becoming a wizard just like Hank? This link provides instructions, and a video clip on a hat trick using milk. So much fun!

Finding the right book for your young reader can be a challenge. With the right book, your child can learn to love reading, even if reading is difficult for them. This is a great series for young readers, especially struggling readers. The vocabulary is easy to understand, and the text laid out in a way that is approachable. If your child continues to struggle with print versions, you may want to try adding an audio companion to the books your child reads, which I offered as an option to parents while I was working as a Reading Specialist. I highly recommend this series for children ages 6 and up.

Follow me on Twitter @lilmommareader

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts are mine, and mine alone. I did not receive any compensation for this review. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Waiting for Unicorns

Waiting for Unicorns by Beth Hautala

Ages 10 & up

"From debut author Beth Hautala comes a brilliant middle grade novel, Waiting for Unicorns. It's a beautifuk exploration in nature of one girl's ability to open up: to new people, to second chances, and to moving forward with life. Talia McQuinn's world is shattered after losing her mother to cancer. To make matters worse, her whale researching father uproots them for the summer to the arctic, an unfamiliar place for a twelve-year old girl. Talia's father leaves on an expedition shortly after their arrival, leaving her in the care of Sura, and Inuit woman who has spent her entire life in the frozen landscape. Although this new lifestyle is absolutely foreign to Talia, one element strikes a chord in her broken heart: traditional storytelling. A tale about Narwahls, or the unicorns of the sea unlocks something in Talia that has been buried since her mother's death: her ability to hope. "      

Author Q & A
Thank you for agreeing to sit down with me, Beth. Your debut novel Waiting For Unicorns really touched a chord with both me and my daughter. What was the inspiration for Waiting For Unicorns?

Thanks for taking the time to read unicorns and to ask about it! I am so thrilled you enjoyed it and so excited to tell you more about the book and the writing process. The physical inspiration for Unicorns came from an oceanic‐museum trip I took with my Dad when I was very small. My memories are rather vague. I remember small aquariums filled with various local sea creatures, maps and diagrams of our costal region, and something about seafaring vessels. But I distinctly recall wrapping my hands around a Narwhal tusk at the instruction of our tour guide during one point in the tour, and hearing him tell my Dad and I about the Unicorn of the Sea. The feel of that tusk and the idea of a “real” unicorn existing in one form or another captured my imagination and has never let go!
Author Q & A with Jennifer Smeth 
The emotional inspiration came from a very different place—my first daughter was two weeks old when I started drafting UNICORNS, and there was suddenly this new and impossible question: “What would become of her if something happened to me? And also, as a daughter myself, “What will happen to me if something should happen to my mom?” I know this is a universal question. We all wonder. What do we do with our lives when terrible things happen and leave us crumbling in the wake? UNICORNS was, in some small way, my attempt to answer that question for myself. There is grief, of course. The kind you never completely get over. But also, there is never just grief. Because life is too big, too beautiful, too full of possible and impossible things. So we plunge, yes. But then we rise.

Before publishing your first novel, you were an associate editor for a magazine, editorial director and co‐owner of an advertising agency. What prompted you to write a novel? And why did you decide to write your first book for the middle grade audience?
I think I have always been in the process of writing a novel . . . from the moment I learned to read I knew I wanted to tell stories that move readers to think and feel real things. To learn things they might not otherwise have learned. To love in ways they might not have otherwise loved. But while I was learning to write books I still had to work. So I chose words as my profession. I worked with them and in them until I learned to write them more proficiently myself. Middle grade literature has always been my favorite. Partly becuase it is free (for the most part) of some of the overly-heavy adult themes that YA and Adult lit have more freedom to delve into. Sex, drugs, etc. But more than that, middle-grade kids are developmentally at a point in life where the child and the youth meet. They are still young enough to believe in wonder and magic and impossibility while being old enough to grasp difficult and abstract ideas.

How many different titles did you experiment with before deciding on Waiting For Unicorns?
Honestly, the title was always going to be WAITING FOR UNICORNS. It was firmly cemented in my mind even before the book was fully alive. Fortunately I was never asked to change it. As the story grew, it grew around the title and both my agent and editor like it. So it got to stay.

What say did you have, if any, in choosing the cover for the book?
None. It was really a complete and most‐delightful surprise. I feel very blessed as a new author to have received the kind of grace I did when it came to the cover of this book. I knew my editor and the team that was working on my book had my best interest at heart, and I trusted them completely. But I was so overjoyed when they revealed the cover.
“What do you think?” Was the question. “Are you okay with this? Can we go with this?” “IT IS BEYOND PERFECT,” was my instant response. I knew they would do great, but I didn’t realize how exactly they would understand what I was trying to say. It’s just magic. Couldn’t be happier.

Which novels have had the most impact on you as a writer? Is there a particular book that made you want to write?
I read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech my junior year in college—not as an assignment, but just because it sounded interesting to me. I credit that book as being a monumental force in my writing life. It moved me. Deeply. When I set it down I couldn’t think about anything else for weeks. The character development is fantastic. I told myself that if I ever wanted to do my job as a writer I would have to do it like that. I pray I can get there someday. I hope UNICORNS is a start in the right direction. Sharron Creech, Kate Dicamillo and Jerry Spinelli have probably been the most influential contemporary middle grade authors in my life, but books in general have been like food to me. I have tried to read widely and deeply.

What is your writing process like? How do you keep yourself organized? And is there one writing habit you have that would make us go “huh?!”
My writing process generally begins with a poignant scene. It’s crystal clear and the story builds around it. After that, the process is a little sketchy due to the chaos of life. I have four kids ages eight and under, so my writing time is basically snatched from the ether. I write in my car in thegrocery store parking lot, I write while waiting for doctor appointments, I write while the baby naps in her car seat, and I when I am disciplined, I write in the very wee hours of the morning. I also do a lot of “head writing.” —I play and replay the story in my mind as I am driving, washing dishes, folding laundry, etc., until scenes come alive enough to set them on paper. It makes the drafting process slow and tedious, but when I finally get the story out, I know it. It feels alive and this makes revising it so much easier. I wish I were more organized. I wish I could use an outline. I’m trying that method a little bit, but too much structure in the initial drafting process tends to stifle me. Weird writing habits . . . hmm. I type too fast. Is that weird? Sometimes have to force myself to slow down so the thoughts can roll around a little better before falling out. So I use a pen and paper to draft. I also carry a notebook (a little one) with me at all times. It is full of what I refer to as ‘launch points.’ Random parts of scenes, phrases I hear the characters saying, events I know will occur at some point in the story, character names, etc. Basically that notebook is the story in miniature form, totally out of order, and completely incomplete. Someone else wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it, but if I ever lost that little notebook, I’d lose half my story‐in‐process. I need to photograph the pages or something and save myself from that disaster!

What book is currently on your nightstand?
“The Great Unexpected,” by Sharon Creech

As the “Best of 2014” lists are coming out, I have to ask what books would be on your list?
I have to be honest here and say that this year has been a terrible reading year for me. *sad face* I had my fourth baby this spring, finished revisions on Unicorns, I run an ad agency with my husband, and between my desire to sleep and my desire to read, sleeping often won out. I can tell you a few of the books on my TBR list from 2014 though! In no particular order:
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson, I'll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson, East of the Sun and West of the Moon by Margi Preus.

As a debut author has your life changed at all?
Yes and no. It has changed in the sense that I’ve seen a life‐long dream come true! Something I have worked incredibly hard to achieve has finally come to pass. So I am more deeply thankful—for people, for experiences, for time, for health, for the encouragement I’ve received, and yes, even for the rejection! It made me a better, stronger writer.Also, life has changed in the sense that I’m a little more knowledgeable. I was so na├»ve when this process began. And I am still a literary baby, but I feel so much better equipped to do this again, and also to encourage others along their own writing journeys. But other than that, life has not really changed that much. Right now I am just doing what I love—working at writing, being wife and a mom, and trying to keep the chaos to a minimum!

I know that you are busy promoting Waiting For Unicorns but what are you working on next?
I’m working on a story about a brother and sister duo. There is an ostrich involved, Aspergers, a displaced zoo, old cars, and old vinyl records, Peter Pan, and a finding‐lost‐things superpower. But I don’t want to say too much more than that. I’m having a blast writing it!

Thank you, Beth for the Q & A, and for the opportunity to showcase your novel Waiting for Unicorns here! 

You can find Beth on  Twitter at @BethHautala
Order the book here

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

This audiobook was so far from what I normally choose it may has well have been on Mars rather than on Earth, a click away. I knew this particular book was being made into a movie, and my audiobook selections this year are going to be all of the books I am interested in reading that are being made into movies.

In The Martian, Mark Watney (who will be played by Matt Damon) and his crew are on a NASA mission on Mars when something goes terribly wrong. While completing an exercise on the Red Planet, Mark is struck with an antennae which punctures his suit. His crew, thinking he is dead, leaves the planet after an exhaustive effort to save Watney. Turns out Watney is far from dead. This botanist is made of the tougher stuff, and manages to survive for much longer than anyone else could have. The question that remains for the reader is whether or not Watney will be saved. He has NASA, JPL, and the American people rallying for his safe return to Earth. Will Watney be able to survive the number of Sols required to survive life on Mars? If you are into Science Fiction, I doubt you'll find a story more engaging. I continued listening to the book, even though the first half hour was a little dry for my taste. The one drawback for me would be all the Science lingo, even if it was fictional. This book definitely earned 5 stars from me! Incredible narration on the audiobook.  

See who would be playing your favorite character in the movie version of The Martian.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Importance of Darkness

Most associations our brains have with darkness are with emotions such as sadness, depression, and loneliness to name a few. It is the essence of every emotion we try to run from. We constantly hear the message "change your thoughts, change your life." While we understand that at a fundamental level, it is more difficult to remain hidden from the darkness that will inevitably pop up in our lives, and sometimes threaten to consume us. Darkness is an essential ingredient in our life. No matter how hard we try, we can never escape the darkness. If you have lived a full, and beautiful life, you understand that "life is both beautiful and brutal. They are woven together, and you cannot have one without the other." That quote was from Glennon Doyle Melton, who runs the amazing blog Momastery. I'm currently obsessed with everything she does, and writes. Recently, I came across a post where Glennon shared, on Instagram, a picture of a quote by Mary Oliver. The quote spoke to me, and had me reflecting upon all of the times that I let darkness threaten to consume me. I'll share the quote with you, and then we will get to the goods. The books that offer both a taste of darkess, and the light.

  1. Memoir
Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whitson-Donaldson

This books is utterly devastating, and beautifully written. It is both sweet and sorrow all wrapped into one beautiful package. While every parent avoids thinking of the worst case scenario, Anna Whitson-Donaldson offers a grace and poise that each one of us can only hope to possess when that time of sorrow arrives in our own lives. While this book is not for the faint of heart, read it and embrace the message. It's a masterpiece. 

"On the other side of heartbreak, a story of hope rises.

On an ordinary September day, twelve-year-old Jack is swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and younger sister are left to wrestle with the awful questions: How could God let this happen? And, Can we ever be happy again? They each fall into the abyss of grief in different ways. And in the days and months to come, they each find their faltering way toward peace.
In Rare Bird, Anna Whiston-Donaldson unfolds a mother’s story of loss that leads, in time, to enduring hope. “Anna’s storytelling,” says Glennon Doyle Melton, “is raw and real and intense and funny.”
With this unforgettable account of a family’s love and longing, Anna will draw you deeper into a divine goodness that keeps us—beyond all earthly circumstances—safe.

This is a book about facing impossible circumstances and wanting to turn back the clock. It is about the flicker of hope in realizing that in times of heartbreak, God is closer than your own skin. It is about discovering that you’re braver than you think."

2. Fiction

The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson

Can I tell you how much I loved this book? It tackles a tough subject matter that no mother wants to face. Another woman trying to take the reigns in raising your children. I don't think so! Right? Goodness knows we have all had dark days after the birth of our children, but no one talks about it. I just devoured this book, and in the end I actually felt a sort of softening for one of the characters. You must read it to find out if you agree with me.

Today, looking at my kids, I thought of how fragile life is. I started smelling their hair, and kissing their faces. Of course, they responded with, "MOOOOM!" I replied, "What? I just love you sooooo much." I do. No one can love them like I do, which is true. Nevertheless, (omg, I just made a funny-read the book) other people can love them a lot. They can love my children in their own way, just not MY way.

They are growing up so fast. I feel inadequate, like I wasted so many moments when they were babies. I am being too harsh on myself. This book, I hope, will have you seeing your family differently. We are all only composed of our parts. Sometimes you put the pieces of the puzzle down wrong, and you have to pick it up, and try to fit it into the right spot. Once you do that, you can see the beautiful picture.

"To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the Northern California river town of Elbow, California, with her husband Joe and his two young children. But one summer day Joe drowns, leaving Ella alone with Annie and Zach—until his ex-wife, Paige, shows up at the funeral. For three years, Ella believed that Paige had selfishly abandoned her family. Yet—as the custody fight between mother and stepmother ensues—Ella realizes there may be more to the story than Joe ever revealed.

The Underside of Joy is not a fairy-tale version of step-motherhood, pitting good against evil, but a captivating story of two women who both claim to be the mother of the same two children."

The Underside of Joy

Because I love these books, and want to share the love, I'm giving away a copy of EACH book to two lucky readers. Enter your name in the comments section if you really want a copy of one of these great reads. Please specify your preference on either book, so you'll be entered into that drawing! Good luck. xoxo 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Saving Grace by Jane Green

Welcome back! Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back! Oh my goodness, it feels great to be behind the keyboard again bringing you the best books out there! Today's review features the lovely Jane Green. I just finished reading Jane's newest book, Saving Grace, and trust me-you will not want to miss this one! As a bonus, I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader. Yay for comebacks and great books!

Here's the Scoop  

Grace Chapman has lived a charmed life, or so it appears from the outside looking in. Her marriage is seemingly perfect, and her appearance is always put-together, giving her friends and family the impression that she has everything in order.  They live in a quiet little community where Grace works at Harmont House, a shelter where she cooks her delicious meals for the residents. What boils below the surface is her tumultuous marriage to writer Ted Chapman whose star has been falling for a while now. The tiny fractures in their life threaten to crack open and expose their real truth-the scared, often desperate feeling she has to please Ted, and how that manages to be impossible lately.

It is just at this time that Beth, a frumpy, dowdy young girl happens to be at their table at a literary event. Grace is charmed by Beth, and everything she seems to have to offer in the way of assisting Ted. Beth enters their lives, and Grace finds the peace and serenity she has so desperately been seeking.  The funny thing about fractures is that they start out small, but if you continue to put it under pressure, it eventually breaks. The feeling you cannot shake, the impression you get that everything is imploding around you-what if you are the only one who sees it?

With Grace at the throne of a life unintended, her family, friends, even her own daughter question her. Is Grace unraveling? Is she doomed to follow in her mother’s footsteps? The once poised, radiant Grace Chapman seems to be only a shadow of her former self. The thing about shadows is that they always follow you, carrying with them the darkness that can be cast over the light if given the perfect position. Saving Grace will lead readers on a suspenseful journey, and it’ll be one you will not soon forget.  This book also contains recipes at the close of some chapters, the very same recipes Grace prepares or mentions in the book. I whole-heartedly recommend the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe found on page 295. 

If that synopsis piqued your interest in Jane's newest book, Saving Grace, please comment to enter. The winner will be chosen next Thursday, January 15th. If free books really aren't your thing (I mean, really?) then follow one of the links to purchase!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The incredible Jojo Moyes does it again with her newest release, One Plus One. In this book, Jess has had a hard life. She cleans houses, and works at a bar for a living. By far, not jobs we consider glamorous. Further complicating her life is the disappearance of her sick husband, Marty. She busts her hump working every day only to hardly make ends meet. One night, while working at the bar, she meets Ed Nicolls. Ed is a pompous, rich, hedge fund manager, who is in a little trouble himself. When their paths cross, Jess cannot stand him. He is arrogant and smug; he's everything you picture in your head when thinking about a man with a ton of money and privilege. A short time later, a chance meeting with Mr. Nicolls turns into desperation when Jess suddenly needs him to help her, and her family travel to Scotland for a Math Olympiad. Her daughter Tanzie, and her son (not biologically) Nicky, and the trusty dog Norman add the human element to this story that you will not soon forget. When reading this book, you become completely engrossed in the story, the intricacies of their relationships with one another. Your desire to find out if they make it work is so much greater than your desire for sleep or sustenance. A fantastic story you will not soon forget.

Verdict-Buy it!

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I'll never forget being 10 years old, sitting in the kitchen of my friend's house playing "restaurant." I remember thinking that it was so amazing that her mom bought actual restaurant checks for us to write on. We would run around her sprawling kitchen grabbing items that we had "ordered" from each other. We served each other drinks, and plates full of "food", which was usually cookies or crackers. I thought to myself, "wow, she is an awesome mom!" She let us get messy, and do whatever we wanted. Little did I know that while we were busily playing in the kitchen, her mom was in the middle of the fight of her life. A fight that she would eventually lose. My friend's mother had breast cancer, and wanted the days she had left with her children to be filled with memories that would truly have to last them a lifetime. It didn't make sense then, because I was a child, and when you are a child you cannot grasp the things a mother will do when she knows she may never get to witness that moment; that snapshot of life again.

I recently read about one of my favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand, being diagnosed with breast cancer (Read the Huff Post story), and I suppose it got me thinking about my own susceptibility to cancer. What would I do with my children? What would I say? Well, I would say "Hey Universe, keep the C- word the hell away from me. Because I am a mom, and I NEED TO BE THERE FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER!" I don't want any of this "art imitating life" nonsense. Now that I got that off my chest, I feel I am emboldened to write an open letter to my children.

Dear K and M,

I don't know if there is any way in the world to tell you how much I love you. Words are so feeble when a mother is attempting to tell her children how expansive her love is for them. As feeble as my words may be, I am going to try, one by one, to tell you what I wish for you.
K- I wouldn't be your mother if I didn't tell you to read. Reading will make you smarter, and you know how much I love you-so I only want the best for you. It'll help you get into the best colleges around. On that note-I hope you go to a college (a big one!) and major in whatever you want (maybe Film or music?). Just graduate, and move into a job that makes you happy. Dream big! I always thought it was a little hokey when people said "If you can dream it, then you can do it", but it's true! You can do anything you dream! Buy your dad that stinking Porsche he has always dreamed of. I promise you will end up with someone who loves and cares about you as much as I love you. You are charming, witty, and caring. You will be a gift to someone. I know you were one of my greatest gifts. I love you so much.
M-My precious girl. You were my second born, but my only girl. There is so much I wish for you. The first, is to always love yourself. Love your curves, your imperfections, the left dimple when you smile. I want you to go to college as well, but make sure you go to classes. Just trust me on that one. When people think of poise, grace, talent, beauty and brains-I know yours will be the face they see. You have so much to give the world. Don't be your harshest critic. The world will do enough of that, they won't need your help. Express yourself freely, and stand up for what is right-even when it is difficult. You have been one of God's greatest gifts to me. The best part about having you as a gift, is that I get to open up the present every day, and there is always something there that makes me smile.
To both my children, be blessed, always. I love you to the moon and back.
Love, Mom

Because books have been one of the great loves of my life, I'm donating one copy of Elin's book The Matchmaker to a local battered women's charity, and giving away one copy to a reader. Comment below to win a copy, and share this post to spread the love. I hope you'll consider donating one yourself.