Monday, December 2, 2013

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project was a book I had looked forward to for many months, and garnered a ton of great press prior to its publication date. I saw it everywhere-5 stars! 5 stars! I was surprised when it took me a while to get into the book, but once I became accustomed to the idea of a man approximating everyone's BMI prior to launching into their relevance, I enjoyed the book. Don Tillman is a professor who has Asperger's (although at a book club discussion there was some dispute regarding whether or not he had this form of Autism himself. I tend to think he has Asperger's). Don encounters Rosie, a psych student who is on the lookout for her biological father. The whole meeting was arranged by Don's philandering colleague, Gene. Rosie's mother was a doctor, and died before revealing the identity of Rosie's father. Don is a renowned genetic scientist, and agrees to help Rosie test "samples" of all possible fathers. I'd be lying to you if I told you I didn't truly loved Rosie. I wanted her to find her father, but was ultimately puzzled by her unwavering trust in Don. His character can be obnoxious at time, but that may be my interpretation. I found many of the things he did endearing, and his commitment to help Rosie won the affection of my heart. I have to say, I don't think I would be as understanding as she was about Don's quirkiness. This book is not lengthy, and it really is a great story which I will be shocked if it is not picked up as a movie. I was casting characters in my brain while reading it. A solid 4-star book!
Melody, teacher, approximate BMI 20. (hehe)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's Wednesday-What's in the Little Free Library?

Today, I'm starting a new feature where I drop a book into my Little Free Library for someone to snatch up, and share it here. That way, you can decide if it is worth the trip or not. The book I am putting in the L.F.L today was a true page-turner. It was featured on She Reads, and you'll want to get your hands on this one as soon as possible, and pass it on to your friends. Today's LFLW (Little Free Library Wednesday) selection is The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. Here's my take on the book:

This is the first book of Liane Moriarty's that I have read, and I'm a fan! Do you believe in the idea that everything is destiny? Do you believe that your fate can be decided in a moment's notice? I believed that before reading this book, and realize just how many moments in my life could have been changed by an instantaneous decision. Would I be able to resist the temptation to read a letter addressed to me, to read only upon my husband's death? That's exactly how The Husband's Secret begins. With a letter. A letter that Cecelia's husband does not want her to read until he is dead. When Cecelia decides to open the letter even though John-Paul is not dead, what unfolds is a story so complicated that you won't want to do anything else until you find out what happens! Rachel Crowley is a widower who has also lost her teenaged daughter. Janie Crowley was murdered, and Rachel is convinced she know just who the murderer is. She'll see to it that Janie's death is avenged if it is the last thing she does. Does Rachel have the right suspect? Tess O'Leary has been shattered by a revelation by her husband, and sends her running into another man's arms. Does Tess have the courage to reunite her family? Is she choosing what is best for her? Or, will she make a decision simply to appease her family life?  The lives of these families are woven together so precisely by the author that you are invested in the outcome. You can readily see yourself in their shoes, and dare to imagine the possibilities of their scenarios in your own life.  A superb read! 

E-mail me at for the address to my LFL! xo 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Report Cards-3 Do's and some Woes

It is that time of year, report card time. Ahhhh...the age-old report card. Our children are deemed worthy or unworthy based on that letter or numerical grade that you see while sitting in front of your exhausted teachers 3 times a year. I've written enough report cards to know that there is so much more to your children than a grade or a number, but yet we have never moved away from this system. Do I believe the system is flawed? Yes. Do I wish there was a universal way to express difficulties and strengths? Yes. However, here we are, still requiring teachers to submit grades. Here are some do's and woes of writing report cards.

1. Do-Be specific. Saying that Johnny is a "really nice boy" not only prevents the parents from intervening and helping, but it is essentially null and void to the teacher who ends up with Johnny in their class next year. Saying he is a "nice boy" won't help the teacher who tests Johnny the following year, and sees that he is 2 years below his grade-level, and has a D- in Reading from you the year before. Oh, Johnny is 3 grade-levels behind in reading? Well, being a "nice boy" should make up for that, right? NO!
If you are going to give a child a grade, be specific in your comments, so the parents and future teachers will have a clue as to how the child received that grade. It is a huge pain in the rear to be overly-specific, but it is a public service, really.
Here is an example:
Johnny is receiving a D- in reading.  Report card comments with some specificity benefit all stakeholders!
Johnny struggles with reading comprehension and fluency. His early assessments reflect that he is reading at a ______ reading level. Typically, students in our grade level read at a ____ to ____ reading level. He has performed poorly on tests, and in-class assignments, which resulted in a grade that does not meet grade-level proficiency. In the classroom, I alternate between reading whole-class, and in small groups. I have modified Johnny's reading by including the following interventions: (List any and all modifications). Johnny's reading proficiency would be greatly benefitted by being read to at home, as well as following along with an audio version of a text while reading. Please have Johnny read 20-30 minutes at home.
This gives the parent something they can specifically do, and also gives anyone else who views this report card a tangible idea of who this child really is, and what they struggle with.

2. Do-Start with a positive. I know it seems obvious, but it isn't. We as teachers loathe when your students use the word "nice" in writing, or "sweet", but teachers are the worst offenders! Try to find something redeeming to say, even if you have to search to the depths of your soul for that comment. Starting out with a "Peyton has always been there to lend a helping hand, and I truly appreciate that" goes a long way with parents. The parents who have a tyrant know it, and they know you're going to bring it up during the conference. Buy yourself some brownie points, and start out with a wonderful pat on the back. Then you can get down to the nitty-gritty.

3. Do-Be honest. I think it is important, as uncomfortable as it may make the conference, to be honest with parents. I want to go back to #1, where we talked about specifics, because I think it applies here. Saying that Michael "constantly disrupts class" is one thing, but saying "Michael disrupts class by throwing things, becoming physical with classmates, and defies authority" really allows parents the opportunity to understand what "disruption" is in your opinion. Allow the parents and future teachers to understand what is at hand. Elaborate on the reasons why the child is having difficulty at school, and why a "U" for behavior is justified. Saying Mark has difficulty "keeping things in order" is true, but telling the parents "despite repeated attempts to work with Mark on keeping his desk and notebook clean, and free of debris, we have been unsuccessful. I have used my time during lunch and recess to assist him in cleaning his desk, and folder out. Mark and I have discussed the urgency in keeping his desk and folder clean, and I encourage you to do the same with him. This has impeded his progress, and may account for the loss of points due to missing homework and classwork assignments."

Woe-The things you wish you could say are not listed on the report card.
There are no boxes to check for repeat offenses.
Messy Desk
Off task behaviors (a percentage may be helpful here 0%, 10%, 100% etc.)
Interrupts teacher (a percentage may be helpful here as well!)
Defies authority
Number of missing assignments______
Restroom usage per day (Parent: you may want to consider funding a classroom restroom for your child)
Number of notes parent has written to excuse assignments _____
Number of excuses heard for why something cannot be done this trimester ____

I love my job so very much! I wouldn't trade it for the world, and only now can I look back at my report cards (the terrible ones I wrote...hundreds!) and realize what parents should have been told, rather than what I really said. It is important at this time to laugh about some of the things that go on in our world as educators, and not allow it to break us. We are all learning together. It's what makes it a journey worth taking. That, and Thanksgiving break is just around the corner. 9 days to be exact. But who's counting?

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

This is the first book of Liane Moriarty's that I have read, and I'm a fan! Do you believe in the idea that everything is destiny? Do you believe that your fate can be decided in a moment's notice? I believed that before reading this book, and realize just how many moments in my life could have been changed by an instantaneous decision. Would I be able to resist the temptation to read a letter addressed to me, to read only upon my husband's death? That's exactly how The Husband's Secret begins. With a letter. A letter that Cecelia's husband does not want her to read until he is dead. When Cecelia decides to open the letter even though John-Paul is not dead, what unfolds is a story so complicated that you won't want to do anything else until you find out what happens! Rachel Crowley is a widower who has also lost her teenaged daughter. Janie Crowley was murdered, and Rachel is convinced she know just who the murderer is. She'll see to it that Janie's death is avenged if it is the last thing she does. Does Rachel have the right suspect? Tess O'Leary has been shattered by a revelation by her husband, and sends her running into another man's arms. Does Tess have the courage to reunite her family? Is she choosing what is best for her? Or, will she make a decision simply to appease her family life?  The lives of these families are woven together so precisely by the author that you are invested in the outcome. You can readily see yourself in their shoes, and dare to imagine the possibilities of their scenarios in your own life.  A superb read! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rude Bitches Make Me Tired

Ladies and gentlemen, if you are looking for answers to your etiquette questions, and you want someone to just give it to you straight, look no further than Rude Bitches Make Me Tired by Celia Rivenbark. I'll admit I did enjoy reading You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl, but some of her other books were just ho-hum for me. Her honesty is refreshing, but her humor can be crass. My advice is, "lighten up people!" Then you'll be able to enjoy this book for what it is, a book about the do's and don'ts in life. 

For example:
Chapter 5: Gym Etiquette or, "pardon me, but is this your ass sweat?"
What to do about the lurker? You know, the one who waits right next to your gym equipment waiting for you to be done with your machine? You know you always want to tell them to buzz off, but is it their fault you take so long in between sets? Celia says, switch it up. Move on, and quit thinking you have a stalker-you don't. 

I used to teach spinning at the gym, and if there are any classes where faux pas occur, it would be in this class. Talk about ass sweat. Yuck! It always annoyed the heck out of me when people would listen to their iPods during class, and completely do their own thing. I mean, why even come to the class, hog a spot someone else wanted, and then act like an ass by listening to your iPod? Rude! I also taught Pilates, which really equated to only flatulence being the problem. I never had cell phone chatters as described in the book. Thank goodness. There is always a silver lining. Always!   

Chapter 8: Husbands and Wives: He may not be much, but he's YOUR tube sock filled with gravy.
You should be your spouse's greatest champion. Quit telling him he is a slob, and nagging at him for every little thing. 

Duly noted. Will do. I'm a work-in-progress people. 

My overall thoughts on this book is that there is potential for a lot of laughs, and you just need to take it with a grain of salt. Just laugh, and enjoy life. It's great advice for all of us. We could all lighten up a bit. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman + a Giveaway!

This book was our October selected read for the Book Lover's Unite online book club. If you have not heard about Book Lover's Unite, follow my friends Tamara at Traveling with T and Jennifer Smeth at Bookalicious Mama for all of our posts and discussion questions. Our featured selection for November is Suzanne Redfearn's Hush Little Baby, which I read (and loved!). I am also giving away a signed copy on my blog until this Friday 10/25, which you can enter HERE. If you've always wanted to join a book club, but have the busiest schedule on Earth, or just prefer to come and go as you please, then Book Lover's Unite would be the perfect book club for you. I have met so many of my bookish friends online through our book club, and you guessed it, they are now part of my life list!

I completely digressed, but the point of me bringing up Book Lover's Unite was that it was how I came across this book. This book was such a delightful, heart-warming journey for me as the reader. The premise of the book is that Brett Bohlinger's mother has just died of cancer, and when the family all joins together to hear her last will and testament being read, Brett finds out she hasn't inherited part of her mother's fortune, but rather her old "Life List" she wrote while in high school. The list has several things crossed out, but the rest remain intact. Brett has one year to accomplish the goals on her life list, or she risks obtaining not a single dime of her possible fortune.

The problem lies in the fact that Brett has to change everything about her life to make these things on her list come to fruition. As she accomplishes a goal, Brett hears a letter written to her by her mother (read via a lawyer). The letters are a testament to her mother's belief in her abilities, and the necessity for Brett to change her life. The ending will leave you with some tears shed, but also a sense that there are things on our list we need to accomplish. A wonderful read, and one you must have on your shelf!

I have drafted a preliminary life list, and here it is:
1. Go visit Italy
2. Go to the top of the Seattle Space Needle
3. Eat a beignet in New Orleans
4. Meet Jodi Picoult, author extraordinaire!
5. Take my kids to Disney World
6. Swim with dolphins
7. Take Kenny to a NYY game
8. Attend BEA and meet my fave bookish friends
9. See Niagra Falls, and travel on one of those boats to feel the spray!
10. _______________________________?

If you'd like to be entered to win a copy of The Life List, tell me what would be on your life list? This contest is open to US/Canadian readers only, and only commenters leaving an e-mail address will be considered. The e-mail address is used strictly to notify the winner, and you can use AT and DOT to avoid the dreaded, horrible, evil spammers! Good luck to all! Contest will end this Friday (10/25) at 12:00 PST.

Hush Little Baby giveaway is HERE (remember, it is the Nov. pick for #bookloversunite)

Love to you all, my readers!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Refearn-Interview and Review plus a giveaway!

Hush Little Baby was a fantastic, page-turning saga that not only enthralls the reader, but sheds important light on the issue of domestic violence. Suzanne Redfearn has woven a story that holds the reader in rapture wanting to find out the fate of the characters in this story. Trust me when I tell you that you'll have a difficult time setting the book aside to go about your daily routine. I'll readily admit that domestic violence sits at the far recesses of my brain, and I don't think about it until it is thrust in front of me, on the pages of a book. With shades reminiscent of the movie Sleeping with the Enemy and Enough, you'll be wishing Gordon gets his ass kicked by his wife! 

Here's a synopsis: Jillian Kane is a successful architect, with a seemingly loving husband and father, Gordon. With his job as a police officer, Gordon exerts power and control over the suspects he comes across, but no one is suspicious of his actions behind closed doors. When Jillian realizes that nothing will change who Gordon really is, and that one day he was capable of killing her and taking the kids from her, she decides to make a run for it with both of her children, Drew and Addie. Does Jillian have what it takes to save herself and her children, or will Gordon ultimately triumph? "Hush Little Baby skillfully explores how desperation drives the darker impulses of human nature, even within the hearts of those who appear to have it all." 

I had the privilege of asking Suzanne to answer "5 Loves and a Bummer", and I know my wonderful blog readers will enjoy her answers as much as I did!

5 Loves
1. I love sitting on the couch watching my favorite shows with my family and my dog beside me.
2. I love going to an Angels game, sitting in the nose-bleed seats, and eating foot long hotdogs and Cracker Jacks.
3. I love surfing in the ocean and remembering how small I am and how miraculous the world is.
4. I love a day of no expectation then having something wonderful happen.
5. I love this journey, creating stories and characters and sharing them with the world, then hearing the amazing varied perspectives of the readers.

1. When my dog eats the package that the UPS man dropped on my porch because of a fierce canine notion he has that the brown-uniformed man and all that he delivers is evil.

To celebrate my love for you, dear reader, Suzanne has generously agreed to personally sign one copy for one lucky U.S. reader! Yay, you! Trust me, you do not want to miss out on this book! To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below, and be sure to include your e-mail address in the body of the comment. You can use AT and DOT for your e-mail address to avoid the spammers! Good luck, loves!

Thanks again to Suzanne, and my friend Suzy, for an ARC of Hush Little Baby. Follow Suzanne on Facebook, and Twitter

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

What can I say? I loved it! 
I'm not sure if many of you know this, but I met my husband online. I was in college, and my typical behavior of procrastinating until the last minute actually led to the best thing that ever happened to me. I was assigned a project for my theater class which required "internet research".  That may not sound like a big deal to those of you who have Wi-Fi, and a connection that doesn't use flippin' dial-up. Back in the day we used to have to plug our computers into a phone jack and dial up the internet. It was a process that took about 3 days. You needed to warn everyone in the house you were "going on the internet", you know, just in case they tried to make a phone call. Seriously, it took forever to connect to the internet, and if anyone decided they needed to call someone, well, then you had the pleasure of starting all over again. So, I decided to begin the internet research at 8:00 the night before this "internet research" project was due. At the time, I lived in the sorority house, and we had a computer that we could access for this type of thing. One problem- it was password protected. The student who possessed the password was not in the house, and wouldn't return for several hours. I thrust myself on my bed in despair, and my roommate Erika must have felt sorry for me, because she offered up her boyfriend Jeff's computer. We hopped in my car, and drove over to Jeff's apartment. He had already been online, so he allowed me to just jump right on the computer. When I asked if he wanted me to sign out of his user name (because a freakin' crapload of his buddies were interrupting my research to IM him), he replied, "no". Ummm, okay I thought. A little snafu in my plans of distraction-free research, but hey, this isn't my computer. He can tell me to stay signed in. Ding! Ding! Ding! Instant messages pinged for the hour I spent doing my research. I ignored them all. Exhausted, and ready to go back to the sorority house, I asked Jeff, "do you want to me to log off? A bunch of people were IM'ing you (total 90's lingo you young'uns)." Erika pulled up the first one, and here's how the rest of my life got started:
Nickyson: What's up bitch?
2100Teri: Excuse me?
Nickyson: This isn't Jeff, is it?
2100Teri: No, this is Melody
2100Teri: I'm Erika's roommate
Nickyson: Huh, never heard of you
2100Teri: Never heard of you either.

He and I typed until my fingers cramped, until Erika and Jeff were fast asleep, and until I couldn't wait to see his face. We typed all night long on AOL Instant Messenger, and I knew I needed to met him. To see this guy for myself. I had to love him. I do love him. Nickyson is now the father of my children, and my husband of 12 years. This guy that I met in almost the same way the fictional characters in Attachments met. So maybe that's why I loved it so much. You just need to read it. It's so, so good.
Here's to happy endings. For all of us.    

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison

I wasn't sure what to think of this book when the title was first introduced to me. To tell you the truth, I usually gravitate toward books with a lot of clout, and a ton of press behind them. That technique for finding books hasn't always been the best way of finding great books. I bought The Banks of Certain Rivers on a whim after an author I love and respect said she'd loved it. It was a deal on Kindle, so I thought "what the heck?" It did not disappoint. 
Neil Kazenzakis is a very popular high school teacher, and the beloved cross-country coach. When Neil's wife becomes profoundly disabled in a terrible accident that happens while he is at a teaching conference, he struggles to right his life. He's left a single father to his teenage son, and the son-in-law of a woman with Alzheimers. Carol, his mother-in-law, has moments of lucidity, but most days she spends in a cloud of forgetfulness. Although Carol's illness is troubling, it has led Neil to Lauren, Carol's caretaker, who is also Neil's new girlfriend. Things appear to be on the up and up when everything turns sideways with the release of a video. In this digital age, anything goes, and Neil finds this out as things start to spiral out of control. As the reader, you are left wondering if Neil did attack that student, or if it is simply a case of kids making a video to get their teacher in trouble. Goodness knows children are far more savvy on the internet than we are. Even Neil begins to wonder if things are really as they appear. Can he even trust himself? 
Not complicated enough for you? Well, the author's got you covered there! Lauren, Neil's new girlfriend (did you forget about the disabled wife?) is pregnant. Is it still too dull a story line for you? Neil's son goes missing after Neil reveals to him that Lauren is pregnant. Full of twists and turns, The Banks of Certain Rivers was an unlikely surprise. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Breaking Night by Liz Murray-Things a Book Taught Me

The Homeless to Harvard Story...

Breaking Night was a recommendation from my friend, Jennifer, and I am so glad that I decided to finally read this book! Late to the party? Yes. However, I'm so glad I finished it. I read this book at a time when the grind of teaching had started to seep in, and I was losing some of my steam with my more challenging students. As teachers, there is something to be said about returning from a vacation (or even a day) off of teaching. The break from students and your work gives you a much needed reprieve, and renews your resolve. The break reminds me I am doing good things. Somehow after a break, I remember this more resolutely.
Breaking Night is a memoir about Liz Murray's life. When I started out reading it, I was about 3/4 of the way through the book when I was wondering how in the world a kid like her ended up at Harvard! Her story was devastating. What sticks with me is the showers she was forced to take in her apartment she shared with her parents and sister. The sludge at the bottom of the shower was so thick, and the stench so permeating, she was forced to overturn a bucket, stand on top of the bucket, and hold her breath. The fact that she learned at such a young age of her parents' crippling addiction to drugs and alcohol. She is entered into the system, and ends up in a group home, but we all know how that works. It's horrible! It is never a substitute for parents who truly love and care about you. 
This whole book taught me so much. While it devastated me to read about her life, it also inspired me. As I read her tale, I realized more than ever how many of our students suffer every night, and we have no idea. We come to work often blithely unaware of any atrocities that may have occurred at home. Our singular focus is on achievement, and bringing our students up to proficiency. I understand the importance of that, but I also understand that they need love. They need acceptance, nurturing, coddling. Sometimes they just need food, or a haircut, or some new underwear.  Take a moment to pause. Think about what these students may need other than to learn their multiplication facts, or the three types of sentences. There are things bigger than them that they cannot control, and you can either be part of their solution or part of their problem. 
YOU.CAN.CHANGE.THEIR.LIFE. Do it. Dare yourself to pause a moment. Think of the child. Look them in the eyes. What do you see? 
If you look deep enough, you will see that they are a child out of sync with a controlled environment. They don't understand that. They know chaos, they live and breathe it. Be patient with their behavior that appears of of control, and let them know that at school we have rules to protect people, and you are here to protect them. It's a challenge I issued myself after reading Breaking Night. Make someone's day better. Every dang day-Just Do It. Like Nike. Every Dang Day.

Liz Murray may be in your class.
Be the inspiration. 

I love you all. Be blessed!

Monday, September 2, 2013

My "Fall Books" Wish List

Every season there are books that I put on my wish list, and if I had all the time in the world to read (why, Universe, why?) I would sit down, and read these books back-to-back, and cover-to-cover.

The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
In this kingdom, only one fairy tale can end with happily ever after.
In an enchanted forest, the maiden Rapunzel’s beautiful voice captivates a young prince hunting nearby. Overcome, he climbs her long golden hair to her tower and they spend an afternoon of passion together, but by nightfall the prince must return to his kingdom, and his betrothed.

Now king, he weds his intended and the kingdom rejoices when a daughter named Snow White is born. Beyond the castle walls, Rapunzel waits in her crumbling tower, gathering news of her beloved from those who come to her seeking wisdom. She tries to mend her broken heart but her love lingers, pulsing in the magic tendrils of her hair.

The king, too, is haunted by his memories, but after his queen’s mysterious death, he is finally able to follow his heart into the darkness of the forest. But can Rapunzel trade the shadows of the forest for the castle and be the innocent beauty he remembers?

Help for the Haunted by John Searles
John Searles’s Help for the Haunted is an unforgettable story of a most unusual family, their deep secrets, their harrowing tragedy, and ultimately, a daughter’s discovery of a dark and unexpected mystery.

Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter’s night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence.

A year later, Sylvie is living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened to their parents. Now, the inquisitive teenager pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night—and to the truth about her family’s past and the secrets that have haunted them for years.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King’s works with the compelling quirkiness of John Irving’s beloved novels, Help for the Haunted is that rare story that brings to life a richly imagined and wholly original world.

The Good Wife by Jane Porter
Is it possible to love someone too much?

Always considered the beauty of the family, the youngest Brennan sister, Sarah, remains deeply in love with her husband of ten years. Boone Walker, a professional baseball player, travels almost year-round while Sarah stays home and cares for their two children. Her love for her husband is bottomless—so much so that her sisters say it will end up hurting her.

Living apart most of the time makes life difficult, especially since Sarah often wonders whether Boone is sharing his bed with other women on the road, even though he swears he’s been true to her since his infidelity three years ago. While she wants to be happy and move forward in her life, Sarah constantly fears that Boone will break his promise. Now with Boone facing yet another career change, tension rises between the two, adding more stress to an already turbulent marriage. Emotionally exhausted, Sarah can’t cope with yet another storm. Now, she must either break free from the past and forgive Boone completely, or leave him behind and start anew . . .

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died. . .

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves. 

I'll let you know which of these I choose to read next. My TBR pile is out of control, but I am really looking forward to reading these. Are there any reads that you've read, and think should be on this list? Please share!

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thirty-Two Going on Spinster

Author Becky Monson is blazing a path into the book industry with her debut novel Thirty-Two Going on Spinster. The scoop on the book is this: Julia Dorning is a spinster in the making. She is marginally employed, and living in her parent's basement with her cat Charlie. When I think of Julia, I picture Kristin Wiig from Bridesmaids. A goofy, but lovable character. This isn't exactly the life Julia had hoped for. Julia is working at Spectraltech, bored out of her mind, and her job is so unfulfilling she has actually found a way to use company time to take naps. She discreetly sneaks into the conference room with files in hand. It is during one of these naps that the basement-dweller is oddly introduced to Jared Moody, the new office hottie. Granted, you wouldn't want your first introduction to the office hottie to be while you were hiding under a conference room table, rump-end up. Despite her reservations and from Spectraltech (I picture Office Space, the movie), she decides follow her passion for baking. Lo and behold, this is the perfect fit for her. Everything seems to be going right until you-know-who walks back through the bakery doors. When the truth of her firing is finally revealed, will Julia be able to understand why Jared acted the way he did? Can she ever give up her spinster ways, or can she truly change her life? Enough spoilers here, you will have to see for yourself!  

Read this preview...
I seriously can’t do this report right now. I’m not in the mood. I have time to procrastinate, so I might as well do just that. Perhaps a little cat-nap would lighten my mood. I am feeling pretty sleepy.
A little nap might be helpful for this mood I can’t seem to get out of. And yes, I do realize I’m at work. How could it be possible for me to take a nap? Oh, but it is possible. And no, Spectraltech does not offer break rooms with cots in them, even though I anonymously left an article on the president of the company’s desk about how napping during the day can bring up productivity and morale in a company. He obviously didn’t bother reading it.
No big deal because I am actually the queen of taking little snoozes at work. A self-titled queen, but a queen nonetheless. No one actually knows about it because it’s not something one should brag about. But it is quite a talent if I do say so myself.
It took me some time to perfect it, but I figured it out.  Basically, I just lean my head on my left hand while my right hand moves the mouse. It took practice to be able to sleep and move the mouse at the same time, but I mastered it. I’ve also made sure that my computer screen is placed strategically in front of me. That way, if anyone were to walk into my office, my face would be hidden from view. It’s genius, really.
Luckily for me, I don’t have to use this technique that often (it tends to put a bit of a kink in your neck) because I have a little secret: Upstairs on the sixth floor is a rarely used conference room. It’s mostly used for the Board of Directors quarterly meeting. Sometimes they will use it for presentations to investors or buyers, but this is rare.
Since Mr. Nguyen is the VP of accounting, he is always a part of the board meetings. Being the next person ranked under Mr. Nguyen and his assistant, I know his schedule and, therefore, know if the conference room is in use. Today, as in most days, it’s vacant. This means I can grab some files (my disguise) and head up to the sixth floor to catch a little nap.
It’s brilliant, right? Too bad I am the only one that gets to celebrate my napping-at-work discovery since it’s not something one would want to share with one’s coworkers.

Ordering and a Giveaway!
You can order the book for yourself here on Amazon, or you can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for an Amazon Gift Card at this link Enter to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card.

Author Bio
By day, Becky Monson is a mother to three young children, and a wife. By night, she escapes with reading books and writing. In her debut novel, Becky uses humor and true-life experiences to bring her characters to life. She loves all things chick-lit (movies, books, etc.), and wishes she had a British accent. She has recently given up Diet Coke for the fiftieth time and is hopeful this time will last... but it probably won't. 

Other Links (this is a bookclub I run on Facebook) 

I'd like to thank my girls at CLP Bog Tours for hooking me up with this read for Becky's blog tour! xo

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Becky Monson

Becky Monson's book Thirty-Two Going on Spinster will be featured on my blog on Thursday, but I wanted to give you a preview of her personality by featuring a "Ten Things You Didn't Know About Me" post. I truly enjoy learning about people, and if you were wondering whether or not you'd like Becky's writing, all you have to do is read some of her answers. I know you'll be as charmed with her as I was.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Becky Monson (in random order)

1. If I was stranded on a deserted island I would be happy for the rest of my life with cantaloupe and Hot Tamales (the candy).

2. I hate shredded coconut and I tell people I am allergic to it so I don’t have to eat it. (me, too!-MS)

3. Growing up my dad was a radio personality and because of that I got to meet many famous people that no one really cares about.

4. In the 6th grade I got my ears pierced and then pretended like they got infected so I could get attention.

5. I love math and wish I was better at it.

6. Throughout my life I have attempted to play the violin, the cello, the bass violin, the clarinet, the piano, the guitar, the ukulele, the drums, and the electric bass. I stuck with guitar the longest, but probably haven’t picked up my guitar in about 3 years (sad).

7. I have had way too many different kinds of jobs in my life – I get bored easily.

8. I love to sing and once sang back-up on an album for an up-and-coming rap artist in Boulder, Colorado. I have never heard of him since.

9. I consider myself a fairly sane person, but in the middle of the night when I’m woken up by my kids, I’m as crazy as they come.

10. I have always wanted to have magical powers – thus my love for Sabrina the Teenage Witch reruns and Harry Potter.

I'd like to thank Becky for agreeing to be interviewed for the blog! Don't forget to check back on Thursday for my review of Thirty-Two Going on Spinster.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Unbreakable Bonds by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

The absolutely hilarious Carolyn Aspenson has written a sequel to Unfinished Business, her first book. Her newest book, Unbreakable Bonds will be out VERY soon! To preview the book, click on this  
and here is the book trailer on YouTube.

Unbreakable Bonds
An Angela Panther Novel
Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

When Angela's best friend Mel thinks her husband is having an affair, she turns to Angela for help.   The two come up with the perfect plan to catch him in the act but to make it work, they'll need help from Angela's mother, Fran.
There's just one teeny, little problem.
Fran's dead.
And since Angela's psychic gift is currently out of service, connecting with Fran is a little complicated.
While Angela searches for a way to fix her psychic radar Fran and a multitude of other ghosts continue to try to make a connection. And it's driving Angela crazy.
But Fran won't let her daughter's problem stop her from helping someone she loves and she sets out to catch the cheater on her own, using a few tricks and tools from the afterlife to get it done.
Book two of the Angela Panther series will be available November, 2013 in e-book and paperback.

For more information
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Unfinished Business
An Angela Panther Novel

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Unfinished Business
   An Angela Panther Novel

Angela Panther is an ordinary stay at home mom with a satisfying, albeit slightly mundane life.

Things get a little crazy for Angela when her mother dies and comes back as a ghost.

 It seems Fran's got some unfinished business on earth and she's determined to get it done, no matter what.
 But Fran's not the only ghost with unfinished business and her return opens a portal between Angela and the afterlife. Now every Tom, Dick and Harry ghost around comes knockin' on Angela's psychic door, looking for help.
 And it's a pain in the butt.
 Having her mother around is a double-edged sword for Angela. On the one hand, she's glad to still have the connection but on the other, death has given Fran some annoying abilities and she's seriously trying Angela's patience.
 When Fran tells Angela her teenage daughter Emily is in trouble, Angela decides to let her mother use her ghostly skills to keep tabs on the girl. 
 Well, not all of her ghostly skills.
 But that doesn't stop Fran from causing a little trouble - just to protect her granddaughter, of course.
 Now Angela has to find a way to keep her old life in tact and help the dead with their unfinished business, all while trying to keep her mother out of trouble.
 And it's a lot for one woman to handle. 
Carolyn Ridder Aspenson 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back to School Picture Books that Rock!

Break out your wallets (or library cards) this week, and grab some of these books to start your school year out on the right foot. These books will serve as mentor texts for all of your back-to-school needs, and possible woes. Some of the books have writing or project ideas with them. Hope you like it!

David Goes to School by David Shannon
In this book by David Shannon, David (named after the author who was always being told "No") goes to school, and what do you know? He breaks all the rules! No, David! He chews gum, he cuts in line, he writes on his desk, he doesn't pay attention in class. David, is not the model student. At the end, he has to clean up a mess he made, and he realizes how good it feels to receive praise from the teacher. Yes, David.
David Goes to School Activity
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
In First Day Jitters, the narrator is encouraging someone to get out of bed. Isn't everyone nervous about starting a new school year? The person in bed does not want to come out, and shares all of their reasons for wanting to stay put in bed. Would you be surprised to find out the person in bed was the teacher? Students are always surprised to hear the ending. 
Make some Jitter Juice! Every student can take a sip of the Jitter Juice to relieve some of their anxiety. It''s really just fruit punch, but students will feel better knowing that they may have a special juice helping them feel better about starting a new school year. Even the teacher will take a sip! After each student takes a sip, make a tally chart. The link below will show you a pin from Pinterest that shows what my tally chart looked like. 
Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin 
One of my favorite things about going back to school is seeing all of the children with their new shoes on. Their white laces, the smell of the new rubber on the soles of their shoes. I love starting a new school year just so I can see all of the new shoes! Pete the Cat rocks in his school shoes all over the school. He takes those cool shoes everywhere because it's all good! He never stops signing his song. Take your students on a school tour after you read this little ditty.
I love this subtraction activity using Pete's buttons on his coat (from the original Pete the Cat book)
I also think this writing idea is great. Use the verbs has, does, and says to help students brainstorm writing ideas. Students tell you what Pete the Cat has, does, says, etc. while you record it on a poster with a Pete the Cat shown on it.
One by Kathryn Otoshi
To say that I adore this book is simply an understatement. This book is perfect for reading to your class over and over again. The idea of the book is that it only takes ONE person to stand up for what is right. This author brilliantly uses colors to represent people, and their feelings. Can you guess what color the bully is? It's red. The more Red pushes the other colors around, the bigger Red gets. This essentially means that the more a bully is allowed to be in charge, and push people around, the more powerful they become. One comes along and puts a stop to it, because it only takes ONE. If there is one book I'd say you should invest in, this is the one (no pun intended)!
Wonder by RJ Palacio
This book is a chapter book for older readers, but I can tell you honestly that when I read it, I cried. It was beautiful. The main character, August (Auggie) Pullman, has a facial deformity that has kept him out of school (he was home-schooled) until now. His mom finally gives him the green light to go to a private school, and he is both nervous and excited. Auggie soon learns that kids can be cruel. He knows all about people gawking at him, but he just wants to be a kid. This book is a perfect read aloud for your class (grades 3-6), and a great way to engage your students in conversations about bullying, and judging someone based on their looks. A powerful look at the way we, as humans, interact and falsely judge others by their outward appearance when it is truly the heart that matters. 

I chose my top 5 books to share with you. What are some of your top 5? I'd love to know!

Happy new beginnings.  


Friday, July 26, 2013

Tampa-To read, or not to read?

How much is too much? Authors push the envelope from time to time, and readers either love it or hate it. I read about 250 pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, and honestly, didn't care for the book. It was not the sexually explicit nature of the book, but the writing that had me casting the book aside. I just could not stick with it. Many of my friends told me, "it gets better!" For me, it never did, so I quit. 

Then, this book comes out. Tampa. Boy, is it raising some eyebrows! People are reacting to this book with the "I loved it!", or, "this is disgusting!" Read the excerpt from Goodreads:

"Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She's undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste's devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.

In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste's terms for a secret relationship—car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack's house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste's empty classroom between periods.

Ever mindful of the danger—the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack's father's own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind—the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.

With crackling, rampantly unadulterated prose, Tampa is a grand, uncompromising, seriocomic examination of want and a scorching literary debut."

So what do you think? Should I read it? Or is this going to be way too repulsive? I am a mother to a son who in no less than two years will be in junior high. The thought of a teacher seducing him has me seeing through murderous lenses. 

What do you think? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Lake House by Marci Nault

The Lake House by Marci Nault takes readers on a journey between two women's lives. Set in idyllic Lake Nagog (trust me, you'll want to live there) both Victoria and Heather are trying to fit the pieces of their complicated lives back together. Victoria Rose is looking to reclaim the life she once had on Lake Nagog. The complication occurs when Victoria's childhood friends all but desert her when she returns from California. Sweet Molly is the only friend who will associate with her. In a town as small as theirs, this makes Victoria's return all the more awkward. Victoria left Nagog for all the glitz and fame of Hollywood, but when tragedy strikes, it devastates her, and consequently isolates her from the friends who would have helped her through it. She moves back to Nagog to reclaim the life, and friendships that she holds dear.
Heather Bregman is the globetrotting columnist, writing about her escapades in different countries. She loves what she does, but her absence from her fiance has done nothing to improve their relationship. Eventually, her relationship fizzles, and she's abandoned by Charlie. Looking to start a new life, she purchases a house on Nagog, and she and Victoria become friends. The town's residents, a tight-knit group, don't take to Heather, and are doing everything to sabotage her getting comfortable in her new home. When Heather forms an unlikely bond with one of the only young, eligible, bachelors at the Lake, truths are revealed. Will Heather and Tommy forge a relationship that lasts? Will this idyllic community be the place where Heather will finally find what she's looking for? Can Victoria make peace with the past, and look forward to her the rest of her time on Nagog? What will happen to the broken friendships? Lifelong friends, now distant and cold. Read The Lake House to find out what happens to Victoria and Heather.
A kitschy story with likable, relatable characters. It felt like I was reading a movie. Honestly, the characters faces were vividly etched into my brain. It's like I could picture each one individually, and that made the story come alive for me.

To find out more about Marci click here
Follow her on Facebook here
Follow her on Twitter here

If this book sounds like something you'd love to be reading, enter to win one of three copies by entering a comment below. Please be sure to include your e-mail address within the comment.

Thank you to Kelley and Hall PR for a copy of this book, and for hosting the giveaway!

Thank you for reading, book friends!

*A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts here are mine, and mine alone. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid & A Giveaway

Every once in a while a book comes along and hits you right in the heart. The story is exquisite, and pulls at you. "Keep reading, keep reading", it says. It's a book so memorable, you dreamily recall the characters, the story line, and the outcome with fondness, and it may leave you a little melancholy that it ended. Forever, Interrupted is that book for me. It has even inspired a new book category on my blog. There's the borrow it, buy it, and now-Shut Up and Take My Money!! It's the book that I will be recommending to friends, and family, and even strangers (I'm talking to you dude at the Brand at Americana who works in concierge.  We are kindred book spirits. I'm coming to see you about this one!).

The scoop on the book is that Elsie and Ben are newlyweds, so in love with one another that their love is likened to a supernova. Brief, but brilliant. It lights up the sky. But its brilliance soon fades, and you're left with darkness. At the beginning of the book, Ben leaves their apartment one night to buy her fruity pebbles (I mean, it wasn't Cinnamon Toast Crunch-that should've been his first warning). She wanted Fruity Pebbles, so her devoted husband hops on his Schwinn to go down the street-when... bam! Tragedy strikes, and Ben is killed. Don't worry, that is not spoiling the story for you because, ummm....hello? It's called Forever, Interrupted!  I digress. Anyway, Ben's death understandably sends Elsie into a tailspin, which is further complicated by the arrival of Ben's mother. Ben's mother has no idea her son was even married, and planning for the funeral is Elsie's first meeting with her. Awkward? Yes. Devastating? You bet ya! Will Elsie be crushed under the weight of it all? Dear Lord, this is my prayer-please don't let this happen to me. I do not want my forever to be interrupted. I wouldn't be able to take it! I love that Elsie is a librarian, and trust me-it is the eventual highlight of the story for me. Read it-you'll see what I mean.

The story that unfolds in Forever, Interrupted is so wondrous, I'm certain you will feel the same way I did. You'll laugh, you'll cry. I was cheering for Elsie the whole book. I was rooting for her. This story will stay with you. I recommend stocking up on the Kleenex.

You've been warned about the impending book hangover.

I'm so charged up about this book, I am doing a giveaway. If you'd like to be entered into the giveaway, please leave a comment below and be sure to add your e-mail address. Please don't forget the e-mail address!

Click on the link(s) to order your VERY OWN copy of Forever, Interrupted (or shop Indie)

To contact the author, Taylor Jenkins Reid or find her on Twitter
To contact the Literary Agency PS Literary Agency

* I received a copy of this book as an Advanced Reader Copy from PS Literary Agency (THANK YOU!) and the thoughts reflected here are mine, and mine alone. I have not been compensated for this review.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck-Book Club Selection

This book was selected by my book club for June, and what a delightful read it was! The Wedding Dress takes you on a journey back in time, and into the present where two women (mainly two women, though others are part of the book) are linked together by a gorgeous wedding dress. Charlotte owns a dress shop, selling wedding gowns to Birmingham's most elite brides. One day she wanders to a mountain to pray, where she happens upon an auction. She inexplicably buys a chest for $1,000 that contains a wedding dress. Charlotte doesn't know it at the time, and this chest spurs the demise of her relationship with her fiance, Tim. Emily is a bride in 1912, in the South. Jim Crow laws abound, and Emily wants to throw caution to the wind, and have her dress sewn by a colored seamstress. In the South, at that time, this sort of thing was unheard of-and against the law! Emily was opinionated, and stubborn, so she wanted Taffy Hayes to sew her gown. Unfortunately for Emily, she is about to walk down the aisle with a complete louse, Phillip Saltonstall. She knows Phillip has his vices, but when she sees it first-hand, will she have the strength to trust her instincts and walk away? Complicating things further is Daniel, her ex- love. Daniel tries to convince Emily of Phillip's transgressions, but she dismisses him. You'll be rooting for the underdog in Daniel, that's for sure! Charlotte and Emily's lives are linked through this dress, which Charlotte finds when she opens the trunk. Even though you don't know where this story will take you, what happens in the end is just magical!  

Rachel Hauck has written an engaging, tender, love story in The Wedding Dress. Our book club collectively enjoyed this book. Our discussion was lively, and each of us had similar reactions to the plot lines in the book. I had not seen the connection between the man in the purple ascot, and Jesus, but after someone in book club pointed it out-it made perfect sense! There are religious themes in the book, so if that does not suit your fancy, this may not be the book for you. However, the Christianity is not overt or pushy, but adds nicely to the quality of the book. I highly recommend you  BUY IT!!

Happy Reading! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Blasphemy Box by Mandy Behbehani-Review and Q&A with the author!

Can we all agree that divorce is horrible? I think we can. When Maddy's husband leaves her for a woman half her age, she doesn't lie down in her own self-pity, she decides to embrace the situation-by creating a blog. Come on ladies, we've all seen The First Wives Club, have we not? I think the saying goes, "don't get mad, get even?" Well, Maddy decided that she wasn't going to take this lying down. She set out to begin anew, and that's just what she did! Is it tough to be a middle-aged divorcee? You bet it is! Divorce at 50 does not mean that life is over, it just means that you adjust to your situation in a way you never thought you would. A truly enjoyable read, that has you rooting for the main character, and her triumph over a set-back.

My Q&A with Mandy:

1. What's your best advice for a happy marriage? In other words, how can we avoid the same pitfalls of the MC?

I don't think there is much my heroine could have done to avoid having her husband leave her for some other, younger woman. But as a general note, I do believe the key to a happy marriage is to remember why you got married in the first place. Because if you forget that, you might as well forget everything.

2. How did you come up with the idea for the book? Any personal connections?

I know no one who went through a divorce like the one Maddy and Steven experience. Most of the people I know are still married or divorced amicably. I basically made everything up.  That’s why they call it fiction! The inspiration for the book, however, was to some degree a personal one.  I saw myself aging and didn’t like it one bit! I saw my options diminish, my choices become less palatable. The attention I once had attracted, I did no longer. And who’s going to hire a woman after she hits 50? I felt as if I had become invisible and believe me, every single woman I have talked to about this says the same thing.  But life doesn’t end when you hit 50, and I guess I wanted to write the story I wanted to read, a tale of a nice, educated woman’s midlife divorce and successful quest for love, to say, simply, that as we women age in this youth-mad culture, our husbands may leave us, and we might not get that job that once would have been ours, but that doesn’t mean our lives are over.  Just because bad things happen, it doesn’t mean good things won’t.

3. What inspired you to become a writer? 

I can’t answer that question. It’s like asking a seamstress why she became a seamstress or a painter why he became a painter. The intricacies of the human brain are so marvelous and so mystical I cannot track them, but I would have to say that I have loved words from the moment I began to read at age four and I haven’t stopped  reading since. Writing is the twin to reading, and somewhere along the way, I was drawn to it, and, thankfully, discovered I’m not too bad at it!

4. What were last two books you read that you loved? 

I just finished a novel about Mary Todd Lincoln which I thought was wonderful, and before that I read about six or seven non-fiction books about the Lincoln assassination, and the hunt for and trial of the conspirators. In England, where I grew up and was educated, we don’t study American history so all this was fascinating reading.

5. What is the hardest thing you've ever done? 

The hardest thing I have ever done is to not give up.

Author Bio
Mandy Behbehani grew up and was educated in England. Her first short story was published when she was twelve and she has been scribbling away ever since, as a journalist and now a novelist. She holds a degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and, over her career, served as West Coast correspondent for Women's Wear Daily and W magazine, as an on-air reporter at KTVU-TV and, for a decade, as the fashion editor and features writer for the Hearst San Francisco Examiner where she won awards for feature writing. Her work has been published in a variety of publications including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Town & County magazine, the San Jose Mercury News and Travel & Leisure magazine.
She lives in California, and, when she's not in front of her computer, she can be found reading a good book, and hiking the open space that surrounds her home with her yellow Lab, Lalou.

Connect With Mandy!
twitter handle: @mandyscribeista