Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking Forward to 2016 @ Read Baby Read

Thank you, 2015, for being good to me. I had a wonderful year full of books, friends, and fitness. There were many things I accomplished that I am very proud of, and I was so much better about blogging this year than I was in 2014. I have a clear direction for my blog in 2016, and I wanted you all to be the first to know about great books! I read some great books this year, but I also ditched an equal number of books that just didn't do it for me. I've given myself permission to get rid of the things that don't use my precious time on this earth wisely. I am looking for the things (book, friendships, fitness) that sets my soul on fire in the New Year. I am thrilled with all of possibilities that await me in 2016 and I cannot wait to share some awesome books with you next year. I have to say my blog will be changing a little bit in 2016, and many of the books I share with you will be a "feature" versus full review formats. This is for a number of reasons, chiefly that I still maintain a full-time job and a part-time job teaching fitness. I am crazy-busy, but I love sharing my reading experiences and books I love from authors I adore. I think you will all be pleased, and I want to thank each and every one of you for the support all these years! Cheers to 2016!

Please be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter for book-related goodies! Find me @lilmommareader

Happy New Year!
All the best,

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mystery/Thriller Books are the New Black

The cyclical "I cannot find anything to read" blues has hit the Simons' household in a bad way. A few times a year I'll rifle though my stack of galley's, read about 25 pages, and run off to do housework. HOUSEWORK! (in all caps) It's not that the book is awful, it's just that it came into my life at the wrong time. I'll usually give them a second chance, but if I'm speaking honestly, I don't often post about them because they just weren't right for me. So, to spice up your winter reading list, I'm throwing out some incredible Mystery/Thriller books that will have you on the edge of your seat waiting to turn those pages. They contain graphic content, so if that is not your thing, then you will want to scroll on past, my friends. I promise you that after reading one of these titles, you will be snuggled up cozy, and tight for a warm winter's nap, and also hoping that people in the real world are nothing like the characters in these books! Happy Winter Reading!

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
in a dark, dark wood by Ruth Ware

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

Image result for pretty girls book
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rousey My Fight/Your Fight

My Fight/Your Fight by Ronda Rousey

"Marked by her signature charm, barbed wit, and undeniable power, Rousey’s account of the toughest fights of her life—in and outside the Octagon—reveals the painful loss of her father when she was eight years old, the intensity of her judo training, her battles with love, her meteoric rise to fame, the secret behind her undefeated UFC record, and what it takes to become the toughest woman on Earth. Rousey shares hard-won lessons on how to be the best at what you do, including how to find fulfillment in the sacrifices, how to turn limitations into opportunities, and how to be the best on your worst day.

Packed with raw emotion, drama, and wisdom this is an unforgettable book by one of the most remarkable women in the world. "

Ronda Rousey is arguably the most powerful fighter in history, and yes, I am consciously saying history. This girl is unparalleled in her determination and drive. She has really inspired me, and countless others. She is a Bantamweight World Champion, but reading her story it is clear that she was cut from a different cloth from the outset. Her father's death rocked her family to the core, and though her mother was never the warm and cuddly kind, Ronda knew that she was loved and that her mother only wanted the best for her. In that way, I was reminded of my dad because even though it was not always what I wanted to hear, my dad was honest. He always knew what was best for us. If you were hooking up with some shclep, Dad was not quiet about it. He'd ask what the hell you were doing with that loser. When you become a parent, you realize so much more what your parents go through, and how their decisions are derived from wanting the best for you.

Most of us are weakened by simple aches and pains that we feel in our back, head, and toes. Ronda Rousey laughs at our perceived weaknesses; she'd dislocate a shoulder and still fight someone. I think the truth is that so much of what we endure makes us stronger, and the reason we hit rock bottom is because there is something there we need to find. Something about ourselves and our true strength can be found at the bottom of the barrel. That's the truth.

This book was read for book club, and I have a new-found respect for this woman. It didn't start out that way, but her story was an interesting one.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fit Reads Pick November/December

Fit Reads Book Club
November/December Book Choice

Ta-da! Two months is how long you will have to read Peter Swanson's The Kind Worth Killing, but I wish you luck if you think you will last that long with this book in your hands. Read this synopsis, grab a friend, and join in the fun! Fit Reads is the best way to combine your love of reading with a healthy lifestyle. 

A devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder. Fans of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train will love this modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train from the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart—which the Washington Post said “should be a contender for crime fiction’s best first novel of 2014.”

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.

But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda's demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.

Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.
via amazon.com

I hope you will join me these next two months with Peter Swanson's The Kind Worth Killing and I will post some exercises you can do in your home or with a friend, as well as the reading schedule. 

Happy Reading! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Inspirational Books You Shouldn't Live Without

I always feel a bit of a slump when October hits. Everything in my life seems to slow down and even my internal speedometer starts dipping below full pace. Is that just me, or do we all experience this kind of life-slump? Let's operate on the "it's only me" assumption, and let's just say that you were in the audience last Saturday hearing Elizabeth Gilbert speak about "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear." What you would have walked away with was the feeling that fear is a terrible passeneger in your life. The worst part about it is that no matter how hard you try, fear will always be in the car. You just have to get in the drivers seat every day and tell fear "I am driving today, so get in the motherf*%$#@ng back seat." I have sat in the passenger seat while fear drove my car around. Of course I didn't realize I was doing that, no one willingly lets fear drive their car around, but I was. I was awestruck listening to Elizabeth (yes, we are on a first-name basis...get over it) because I was hit with a "Yep. My God, yes. She knows me. She is boring holes into my skull with this fear stuff." I am going to be brave in spite of myself, and stubborn in my gladness. If you haven't already had a chance to pick up a copy of Big Magic, I recommend it.

In the arena of life, it isn't about how many times you get knocked down, bruised and battered as it may be...but that you keep getting up and going in to the arena knowing exactly what it is that you are about to face. I mean holy sh*$! Your area can be big, your arena may be small, but get your as in there and fight. Nothing in this world that was ever worth anything came to you easily. We have all had to fight for what we knew, somewhere deep in the depths of our souls that we deserved. We all deserve contentedness, and some of us have to fight a lot harder than others for it. Keep the fight going my friends. We will rise...though it may from ashes like Phoenix, we shall rise!

I hope this post has helped inspire you. You are brave. You are strong. You are worthy. You are enough.
Happy Reading!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Come Away With Me by Karma Brown

Cue Norah Jones' song, because this book will have you up reading into the wee morning hours. This was a selection for Fit Reads, our reading/fitness book club, and I am the worst leader, because I couldn't wait to finish it! There was a twist at the end that I didn't see coming, and I did shed a few tears. Read the following synopsis and think about joining our Fit Reads Book Club for discussion of Karma's book!

An unexpected journey leads one woman to discover that life after loss is possible, if only you can find the courage to let go… 

One minute, Tegan Lawson has everything she could hope for: an adoring husband, Gabe, and a baby on the way. The next, a patch of black ice causes a devastating accident that will change her life in ways she never could have imagined. 

Tegan is consumed by grief—not to mention her anger toward Gabe, who was driving on the night of the crash. But just when she thinks she's hit rock bottom, Gabe reminds her of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and so begins an adventure of a lifetime. 

From the bustling markets of Thailand to the flavors of Italy to the ocean waves in Hawaii, Tegan and Gabe embark on a journey to escape the tragedy and search for forgiveness. But they soon learn that grief follows you no matter how far away you run, and that acceptance comes when you least expect it. Heartbreaking, hopeful and utterly transporting, Come Away with Me is an unforgettable debut and a luminous celebration of the strength of the human spirit.

Thank you, Karma for a book that was totally worth sharing and working out with!
Fit Reads meets once a week, to discuss the book that has been chosen and to get a little work out in! It's kind of perfect. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Great Americans in Sports: Mia Hamm

This entry in a brand new line of sports biographies from Matt Christopher takes readers onto the field with a soccer legend
Mia Hamm's speed, aggressive play, and ability to "read the field" helped her become the best women's soccer player in the world. Her stellar performance as a college, World Cup, and Olympic champion made her a sports hero, and her story will inspire a new generation of young athletes. This comprehensive biography - with bonus photos and infographics - gives readers an up-close look at one of America's greatest soccer stars.

Pioneer of Women’s Soccer
Biography of Mia Hamm
Born March 17, 1972 in Selma, Alabama, Mariel Margaret "Mia" Hamm-Garciaparra is one of the best athletes to ever grace the US soccer fields. From the time she was born, her family knew and recognized her talents and abilities. Originally her mother, a ballerina herself thought her daughter would be a dancer. They soon realized that Mia was more like one of the boys. Mia came from a military family and it was during their time in Italy that Mia fell in love with futbol (as they say in Europe). She had a knack for being a smart player, and coaches began to see that this girl was something special. Mia Hamm was born in an era when soccer in the United States was not a widely publicized or viewed sport. There were no television channels that you could turn to and watch your favorite player enter the stadium and score goals for your team. It took decades, but that would all change, and in time an unparalleled soccer player would enter the US Women’s National Team and lead in to one of the most exciting televised sports event in history. She played for 17 years and won Olympic gold during her tenure as a US soccer player, and is respected as one of the best players that ever played. To inspire other athletes like Mia, this audio provides a glimpse into the life of an athlete, what it takes and how grit, determination, sweat and tears can make you resilient and the best at your sport!

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” 

  • Audiobook
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • Imprint: Little, Brown Young Readers

  • Thursday, October 15, 2015

    Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman

    Today's feature is Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman. It's a bit of a throwback Thursday post since this is nearly a month after the release of the paperback, but just as Audrey is timeless, so is a great YA read. From the outset, readers are invited into a world where Manhattan's social elite party it up, clinking champagne glasses, and enjoying luxuries that the lower-middle class serves for them. The trays handing out those expensive beverage glasses are held by the hand of employees working three jobs to stay afloat. Would they trade places? Hmmm...this is the essential question.

    When you have Audrey Hepburn's Breakfast at Tiffany's dress and gloves sitting in a box in front of you, the $923,187 price tag doesn't deter you when your best friend agrees to let you try on THE Audrey Hepburn LBD. The line "Ok.Try it on. But just for a minute" hooks readers into what is a whimsical tale of what happens on the other side. So the tale of Lisbeth Dulac unfolds and the problems of every day life take the back seat to becoming one of the most iconic characters to grace the silver screen. When you are from the land of too much...hair, make-up, and behavior, being a class act is what you desire. Lisbeth, inspired by Audrey finds out just who she really wants to be, but not before immersing herself in another world. If you are looking for an escape this New YA book will satisfy your thirst for a great read. Being Audrey Hepburn is now available in trade paperback from St. Martin's Press.

    Book Trailer

    Book Information
    Being Audrey Hepburn

    Thursday, October 8, 2015

    Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

    Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
    St. Martin's Press

    A master of fiction, Diane Chamberlain writes from her background as a therapist in this newest novel about a 14 year-old girl who learns about something taking shape in her family that threatens her father's life. I loved finding out about Diane's background because it helped me to understand her process for writing this novel. Molly is a keeper of secrets, and keeping secrets becomes difficult when you are trying to adopt a baby. Background checks, endless interview questions, it is tough trying to keep everything straight. Especially if you're trying to cover up secrets that have their origins in your childhood. It has been twenty years, and Molly's childhood in North Carolina that she has kept at bay comes screaming back in to the wheelhouse. It could not only destroy her marriage, but her chances for a successful adoption.As Molly struggles to come to grips, she must come to accept and work through her painful childhood without unraveling at the seams. Diane Chamberlain is the master of storytelling. Read the synopsis to see if this book may be something you'll want to add to your October reading bag!

    Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She and her husband live in San Diego, where they hope to soon adopt a baby. But the process terrifies her.

    As the questions and background checks come one after another, Molly worries that the truth she's kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. She ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved: Her mother, the woman who raised her and who Molly says is dead but is very much alive. Her birth mother, whose mysterious presence raised so many issues. The father she adored, whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison Ridge.

    Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a future filled with promise, she discovers that even she doesn't know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.

    Told with Diane Chamberlain's compelling prose and gift for deft exploration of the human heart, Pretending to Dance is an exploration of family, lies, and the complexities of both.

    Happy reading!

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015

    Rising Strong

    Rising Strong by Brene Brown
    Penguin Random House Audio

    This audio has been one of the best books I have listened to in a very long time. I know it may have made me seem crazy to the people driving or walking near me, but I found myself nodding over and over again at the words spoken by the author. In just the title, the word rumble jumps out at me. Of late, rumbles have been my M.O. One thing I can hang my hat on is that I have always gotten up from the rumble and continued to fight. In this newest book, Brene revisits vulnerability and what it means in our lives. When you dare to be vulnerable, you are, on a daily basis, volunteering to get your butt kicked by people. The truth is, if vulnerability is part of your life, you will inevitably get knocked down. Life cannot always be sunshine and stars. 

    But, it is not so much about getting knocked down, but in showing up every day to be in the arena. Large or small, the arena is the test of strength. In theory, we show up to the "arena" every day. I feel like being vulnerable has allowed me to walk away the victor in the arena. I have been taking steps to put myself out there, and to be honest and open and to share some of what I have with others. Has that always made me feel accepted? Hell no! I feel like I have been virtually hit...hard. I would be lying if I said I did not feel bedraggled by life, and all of the troubles I have recently faced. But you know what? I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was. The appropriate timing of this audio has provided a perfect ointment for the bumps and bruises of my life. Many thanks for the audio. I highly encourage you to get it for yourself. 

    Happy listening!

    Wednesday, September 30, 2015

    Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg

    Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg
    She Writes Press

    There are not many things that go straight to my heart like a story of a mother that struggles with health issues, and the thought of losing her children due to an unexpected death. Beautiful Affliction is that story. It is a memoir, but reads like you were sitting across the table from Lene. If you are a fan of memoirs, add this one to your TBR. It is not going to give you any comedic relief, and it is an open, raw, honest look at what happens when confronted with what could be the end.

    Lene Fogelberg is dying―she is sure of it―but no doctor in Sweden, her home country, believes her. Love stories enfold her, with her husband, her two precious daughters, her enchanting surroundings, but the question she has carried in her heart since childhood―Will I die young?―is threatening all she holds dear, even her sanity. When her young family moves to the US, an answer, a diagnosis, is finally found: she is in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease. But is it too late?
    Unflinchingly honest and often harrowing, Beautiful Affliction is an inspiring account of growing up and living on the verge of death―and of the beauty, harshness, loneliness, and, ultimately, unbending love that can be found there.

    Happy Reading!

    Tuesday, September 29, 2015

    Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

    Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter 
     Harper Collins/William Morrow
    Hello my name is Melody, and I am a recent convert to the suspense genre. I am addicted, and I cannot tell you how much I am loving these new books. In what seemed like a long stretch of books that left me wanting more, this has been a breath of fresh air! I'll admit that at the beginning the simultaneous story lines forced me to focus, and it definitely was not my typical story, but overall this story was a great one. Once the two sister's story lines converged and you found their connection, you knew you must find the answers. How were the deaths connected? A true page-turning read. Darkly wonderful, but frightening. I was in!

    More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

    The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

    Happy reading!

    Sunday, September 27, 2015

    FitReads Book Club

    It has been a while since I met with my book club, and I was craving that interaction and discussion around books. The camaraderie that is attained through book clubs is not easily duplicated with any other group I have been a part of. With our busy lives, it becomes incredibly difficult to set times/dates for book club, and to coordinate among many people a time and place that works for everyone. I needed to meet with my bookish folks without the crazy coordination of schedules.

    One thing I do a lot of is work out. I suddenly had a moment where I thought: why not combine my love of books with my passion for working out? I know what you are thinking...I like sitting curled up on my couch with my cup of coffee/tea and read by book. You also may be thinking that you don't like working out. Maybe you were waiting for something just like this to get you back on the exercise track, and how perfect that it coordinates with your love of books. Now is the time, and I think you will love FitReads!

    Here are the details:

    1. We will read one book a month
    2. We will meet every Monday at 6:00 pm a designated location (6:00-7:00)
    3. We will walk 1 mile as the warm-up (Cardio)
    4. 20 minutes will be devoted to a particular muscle group every week (arms, legs, etc.) and will utilize weights or resistance bands ( you will be notified by me as to what you should bring)
    5. Total time will be 60 minutes!
    During your FitReads time, we can chat about the book we are reading, or any others that you are reading. If you are interested, please send me an email to (mellsimons at gmail dot com) to request the location information. 
    Our First Read 
    Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

    Happy Reading!

    Saturday, September 26, 2015

    Treasure Island by Jennifer Adams

    It's BabyLit book time again! I adore these little books, and if you have a baby, toddler, or young reader, these books are perfect to fit in their tiny little hands! Treasure Island, a Little Master Louis Stevenson book, is a shapes primer. Long John Silver's eye patch is an oval, and the pirate flags are rectangles, and the crosses show the pirates where the treasure may be located! It is simply wonderful to incorporate classic literature in to a board book with a purpose.

    Ahoy, me hearties! Join Jim Hawkins as he sails the open seas searching for treasure and learning shapes along the way in Treasure Island: A BabyLit Shapes Primer. Spy the OVAL of Long John Silver’s eye patch, the TRIANGLES in the sails of The Hispaniola, and the CROSS that marks the spot of lots o’treasure! But watch your back because dead men tell no tales.

    JENNIFER ADAMS is the author of a dozen books including Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen and the popular Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent ABC Book for Grown-Ups. Jennifer works as a writer and editor in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    ALISON OLIVER runs Sugar design studio. Alison's design portfolio includes everything from logos to packaging and product design for clients such as Chronicle Books, Citibabes, and Aerie, as well as Gibbs Smith. She lives in New York.

    BabyLit is a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature. For more information, or for ordering, visit http://babylit.com.

    Happy Reading!

    Saturday, September 19, 2015

    Emma by Jennifer Adams

    It's BabyLit book time again! I adore these little books, and if you have a baby, toddler, or young reader, these books are perfect to fit in their tiny little hands! Emma, a Little Miss Austen book, is an emotions primer. Young children can have a very difficult time expressing their emotions, but paired with the picture of the character's expressions, children can see what "excited" looks like. Each emotion in the book has a character from Emma portrayed. It is simply adorable!

    This book would also pair well with another BabyLit classic from the Little Miss Austen line, a little book you may have heard about called Pride and Prejudice.

    BabyLit is a fashionable was to introduce your child to the world of classic literature. Both books are available for purchase on http://babylit.com, or other book retailers. 

    Happy Reading!

    Thursday, September 17, 2015

    Amazing Audio Titles: September Edition

    As my anniversary of my audio listening birth quickly approaches, I wanted to share with you some wonderful titles available in audio format for your listening enjoyment. I was a print book devotee for many, many years before transitioning to e-book formats. As I began to receive more books than I could possibly keep up with, I knew a sure way to double down on my book consumption was to listen to audiobooks. I am in love! I am finishing books at a very quick pace, and I feel free to embrace books I normally would not have tried. The narrators make a huge difference! Without further ado, here I some titles I think you will enjoy...

    Historical Fiction

    Written by Jami Attenberg
    • Narrated byTavia Gilbert
    • This novel was wonderfully narrated by Talia Gilbert, who breathes life in to a beautifully written novel about Maizie Phillips. Reading back through her diary, readers are transported back to a time when Maizie was young, wild, and free. The story is truly a remarkable one, and to reiterate, the narrator does a superb job bringing Maizie's story to life. 
    • Synopsis:
    Meet Mazie Phillips: big hearted and bawdy, she's the truth-telling proprietress of The Venice, the famed New York City movie theater. It's the Jazz Age, with romance and booze aplenty - even when Prohibition kicks in - and Mazie never turns down a night on the town. But her high spirits mask a childhood rooted in poverty, and her diary, always close at hand, holds her dearest secrets.
    When the Great Depression hits, Mazie's life is on the brink of transformation. Addicts and bums roam the Bowery; homelessness is rampant. If Mazie won't help them, then who? When she opens the doors of The Venice to those in need, this ticket-taking, fun-time girl becomes the beating heart of the Lower East Side and, in defining one neighborhood, helps define the city.
    Then, more than 90 years after Mazie began her diary, it's discovered by a documentarian in search of a good story. Who was Mazie Phillips really? A chorus of voices from the past and present fill in some of the mysterious blanks of her adventurous life.
    Inspired by the life of a woman who was profiled in Joseph Mitchell's classic Up in the Old Hotel, Saint Mazie is infused with Jami Attenberg's signature wit, bravery, and heart. Mazie's rise to "sainthood" - and her irrepressible spirit - is unforgettable.
    ©2015 Jami Attenberg (P)2015 Hachette Audio

    Young Adult

    Written by Virginia Boecker
    Narrated by Nicola Barber
    Although this book is Virginia Boecker's debut, she does not disappoint. The book is a fabulous listen, and when it comes to YA, I can be quite fickle! Infusing some bits of historical fiction into this novel provides engagement for the listener, and a story that you will enjoy, and won't mind walking the dogs while finishing. 
    Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight but what you fear.
    Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.
    Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: He will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.
    But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past - if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
    Virgnia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice that will leave listeners wanting more.
    ©2015 Virginia Boecker (P)2015 Hachette Audio

    Personal Growth
    Written by John C. Maxwell
    Narrated by Chris Sorenson
    At just three hours, this audio will provide listeners with advice and practical tips to help start you off in the right direction. Listeners can engage every day with succinct lessons, stimulating questions, and inspiring quotes. If you are looking to begin with a committed plan to help your life become more inspired, this audio will suit you. I walked away with some easy-to-implement tips for my life. 
    ©2015 John C. Maxwell (P)2015 Hachette Audio

    Happy Listening!

    Sunday, September 13, 2015

    Technology and the Future of Everything

    Last week I facilitated some teacher professional development, and I was thinking of how far we have come with technology, and of course, how quickly we need to catch up to what's "new" and wonderful to improve learning outcomes for our students. Many schools are all Google classrooms, they collaborate digitally, e-mail their teachers and peers, and process or write their papers and turn them in on the "cloud". There are definitely a lot of pros to this kind of classroom, but it also has me contemplating what will be obsolete in 10 years. In ten years, will there be  need for paper and pencil? How quickly will textbook adoptions include tablets and e-books versus the paper kind? If you are incredulous over the thought of that, I encourage you to do some research on your local schools. Ask them what kind of technology they use. I'll venture to guess you would be surprised at how many tech tools they have! If you think low income students do not have access to technology, you would be mistaken. They have access at school, which means that teaching practices must be altered to take this fact in to consideration. Take this quote about homework by researcher Alfie Kohn in to consideration:
    "There is no evidence of any academic benefit from homework in elementary school.  Even if you were untroubled by the methodological concerns I’ve been describing, the fact is that after decades of research on the topic, there is no overall positive correlation between homework and achievement (by any measure) for students before middle school – or, in many cases, before high school.  More precisely, there’s virtually no research at all on the impact of homework in the primary grades – and therefore no data to support its use with young children – whereas research has been done with students in the upper elementary grades and it generally fails to find any benefit." 

    So how do we begin to change our instructional practice to make it more up-to-date? The truth is that children today are much different than children ten years ago. That's right, 10 years ago. Technology, like it or not, shapes the way we think, interact, and the way our brains work. It is both advantageous and detrimental. We, as digital natives, must give students the capacity to use the tools at their fingertips responsibly and safely. Technology makes lessons more engaging, interactive, and can improve our efficiency. Its advantages far outweigh the negatives.

    "There is also little doubt that all of the new technologies, led by the Internet, are shaping the way we think in ways obvious and subtle, deliberate and unintentional, and advantageous and detrimental. The uncertain reality is that, with this new technological frontier in its infancy and developments emerging at a rapid pace, we have neither the benefit of historical hindsight nor the time to ponder or examine the value and cost of these advancements in terms of how it influences our children’s ability to think."

    What sticks with me is the line "we have neither the benefit of historical hindsight nor the time to ponder or examine the value and cost of these advancements in terms of how it influences our children’s ability to think." We don't have time to think about how technology is changing student's brains because it is moving too fast!

    To teach the future we need to change. It's as simple and as complicated as that.

    Friday, September 4, 2015

    Anchored by Brigitte Quinn

    Anchored by Brigitte Quinn
    Curtis Brown Unlimited

    Any female fledgling reporter had aspirations to become the next Barbara Walters. She was the epitome of poise in the news, and Barbara King, the star of this broadcast is not any different than anyone else-she wants to be Barbara Walters. For newscasters waiting to move from one rung of the ladder to the next, in search of the coveted prime time line-up, it is run of the mill news stories: car chases, and interviews that lack luster and appeal to the wider audience.

    When Jack Stone is behind the lens, Barbara cannot help but swoon. He is, after all, sexy and unwielding in his dynamic news delivery style. Barbara could even describe the initial encounters with Jack as aloof and stand offish. It isn't long before the two find themselves in sync, and finishing one another's sentences. Pretty soon it becomes obvious to everyone that Jack and Barbara have some chemistry, and in that kind of environment, it is all anyone can talk about. The inter-office gossip is abundant. One's limits are tested with a co-worker like Jack, and Barbara soon finds herself, and the bonds of her marriage tested. Is it worth everything to obtain stardom? Find out what happens in Anchored, a new novel by Brigitte Quinn.

    About the Author
    Brigitte Quinn is the morning anchor at 1010WINS radio in New York City and a former television news anchor at Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and NBC. "Anchored" is her first novel.

    Happy Reading!

    Wednesday, September 2, 2015

    Satisfaction by Andee Reilly

    Told in alternating points-of-view, and with an honesty about what happens when you have to find yourself, but you and your life's circumstances are a mess, author Andee Reilly draws out the stories of Bree and Ginny. When they meet each other in a diner, Ginny gives Bree the lost opportunity to be a mother figure, and Bree finds the nurturing side of herself that she thought she'd long since given up. These two women are drawn together by separate circumstances, but they learn what friendship means, how to forge a path to happiness, and what it means to find out who you really are. The truth is, sometimes you have to lose yourself to be found.

    When 22-year-old Ginny Martin discovers her husband has been cheating on her, she strikes back by purchasing tickets to every concert on the Rolling Stones North American tour with their shared credit card, packing up the car, and taking to the road. As she follows the Rolling Stones from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, Ginny experiences freedom for the first time—and begins to deal with the insecurities and limiting beliefs that have kept her suburban life far too small.

    Bree Cooper is a nomad, a free-spirited drifter, and a mother who abandoned responsibility—and her young daughter. When Ginny meets Bree at a roadside diner, they impulsively make the decision to throw their lot in together. In each other, they find a friendship that they have both longed for: Bree gives Ginny a chance to have a mother figure who inspires independence and encourages confidence, while Ginny gives Bree a chance to get parenting right on the second try. Together, they find the courage to break free of the past—and to blaze new paths to happiness.

    About the Author
    Andee Reilly was born and raised in Los Angeles. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside and teaches literature and writing at California State University Channel Islands. As a teenager, she fell in love with the Rolling Stones, and their music has long served as an inspiration to her writing. She currently divides her time between Los Angeles and Maui. To learn more, visit www.andeereilly.com

    Happy Reading!

    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    Star Craving Mad

    Star Craving Mad by Elise A. Miller
    Sparks Press 

    As a former private school teacher, author Elise Miller knows all too well the drive of private school parents, and the elite status they tout around like a badge of honor. In Star Craving Mad (a delicious play on words I might add), Ms. Miller sets her novel in an uber elite private school. Anyone who has visited New York's Greenwich Village knows that it is unique, and charming, and that it carries its own special breed of parent and child. New York is not unlike Los Angeles, home to numerous A-list celebs clamoring to get their children into the best schools.

    Maddy Braverman is a 30 year-old teacher in a hip downtown school that is known for its unique style, and its privileged students. teaching in a school like this is not easy, and dealing with her fellow staff members can be just as difficult as dealing with her spoiled students. Though first grade is a wonderful grade level, and she's been at this teaching gig for 6 years, Maddy is single, and looking for love. When she finds herself building a bond with a new student Lola, a last minute addition to her class, she finds out that Lola is none other then the daughter of Nic and Shelby Seabolt. Nic and Shelby are A-list celeberities who are, unfortunately, not immune from tragedy. Maddy finds herself in a different role as the story unfolds in Nic's Tribeca apartment, and what you think you may want turns out to be the opposite of what you get.

    Being a teacher is a tough job, and Maddy learns that the line between personal and professional, when crossed, can cost you dearly. Can Maddy save herself from becoming Star Craving Mad?

    Maddy Braverman, thirty and single, has taught first grade at an uber-elite private school in Greenwich Village for the past six years, a hip downtown school lauded as much for its progressive pedagogy as its priveleged progeny̵and its multitude of sex-crazed staff̵including the headmaster, AKA the Head Molester. Angry at herself for not moving on, Maddy gets distracted from her pity party with a new student̵Lola Magdalena, daughter of A-list celebrities Nic and Shelby Seabolt̵a last-minute addition to her class roster. 
    When tragedy strikes Lola, Maddy has the chance to meet with Nic in his TriBeCa apartment. Maddy’s sexy celebrity fantasies turn to reality, leaving her breathless and spellbound. But from her front-row vantage point, Maddy learns the hard way that celebrity is not all it seems, and gets dealt a devastating blow that could leave her jobless, loveless and alone. If she could just see things clearly she could save herself from going Star Craving Mad.  

    Happy Reading!

    Saturday, August 29, 2015

    Sunny Side Up with Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

    If you enjoyed these graphic novels...

    Then you will love...

    This graphic novel was fantastic! From a teacher, parent, and avid reader stand point, this book hits the target on all three groups. I knew I was going to love this book from the outset. First, when sSunny tries the Dorothy Hamill hair cut, and then when Sunny's grandfather has an ashtray full of cigarette butts in his car. Children growing up in modern times will most likely not understand the struggle of being in a smoker's car, but I think most kids understand the struggle of having to stay with a grandparent, and being surrounded by a bunch of old people. No child wants to spend the summer without kids their own age. When Sunny is sent to stay with her grandfather in Florida for the summer, she imagines Disney World, and all kinds of other exciting adventures.

    She thinks her summer is doomed, when along comes Buzz-a boy obsessed with comic books and who agrees to adventures with Sunny. Alligators who eat golf balls, runaway cats, and neighbors who disappear; it is all part of the Sunny and Buzz adventure duo! The larger, more looming question is why is Sunny staying in Florida? Why was she sent to live with Grandpa in the first place?  It is only a matter of time before Sunny finds out the family secret. This book is written by the same authors from the Babymouse graphic novel series, which my daughter devoured and loved! I really enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it to teachers and parents.

    Happy reading!

    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    Bad Girls by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple

    Bad Girls by Jane Yolen

    Bad Girl Power! This book is full of fun, engaging stories about powerful women in history, many of whom were labeled as "bad girls". Catherine the Great, labeled the "Queen of Coups" had two sons who were not (gasp) from the tsar of Russia! When her husband leaves, a palace coup occurs, and guess who is granted the charge of the kingdom? You guessed it! Catherine. She was pretty ruthless in ensuring she was the queen on the throne. There are so many other stories of women who were "bad", and though this book and its content sin my opinion is written for students 13 and older, I am certain that teachers will enjoy reading stories about "bad" girls who paved the way in history. The short illustrations at the end of each story provide a little vignette and insight in to the lives of Jane and Heidi. 

    From Jezebel to Catherine the Great, from Cleopatra to Mae West, from Mata Hari to Bonnie Parker, strong women have been a problem for historians, storytellers, and readers. Strong females smack of the unfeminine. They have been called wicked, wanton, and willful. Sometimes that is a just designation, but just as often it is not. "Well-behaved women seldom make history," is the frequently quoted statement by historian and feminist Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. But what makes these misbehaving women "bad"? Are we idolizing the wicked or salvaging the strong?

    Happy reading!

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    What to Read Wednesday featuring Janice Kaplan

    This week's book is one for self-improvement. Desiring to make yourself a better person is a journey most will not undertake because of its difficult nature. Seeing life from a different lens, one of gratitude puts life into a completely different focus. When author Janice Kaplan decided to do this very thing herself, it was not a moment of instant epiphany, but rather a road filled with bumps. The important and over-arching idea is that gratitude has the power to transform and change every thing about your life. From marriage to children, and your work place, gratitude changes your life. The author is living proof that we can work to cultivate the kind of life others envy, simply because you are happy to be living it. There is a saying that goes something like "happy people don't have everything, but they make the best of what they have." An attitude of gratitude is an incredible gift, but a challenging puzzle that you must work with every day and every night. With wisdom from psychologists, philosophers, academics and doctors, you will anecdotes and advice on how to change your own attitude, and improve your life. 

    I recommend you read

    How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Transformed My Life
    by Janice Kaplan

    If you get a copy of this book, let me know how you liked it! Happy reading!

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015

    Friends for Life by Andrew Norris

    If you liked this book...

    Then upgrade to a more mature version of a story you are sure to appreciate and enjoy. A new release by Andrew Norris titled Friends for Life. 

    *Just a caveat before you buy/read, and that is parents and teachers will have to use their judgement on whether or not they feel this book is appropriate for their child/student. This book deals with bullying and suicide, and for you this may not be appropriate. I strongly encourage you to read it first, and make the determination yourself. *

    That being said, I would like to share that I thought this book was well done. Francis is a loner, and chooses to stay far from the other kids at school. He loves fashion and dressing up dolls, and for this reason stays far from the harassment of his peers.  One day while sitting at a bench, Jessica appears to him. The odd thing is not just the way Jessica is dressed in the February frost, but that she is a ghost, and Francis can not only see her, but talk to her as well. Once the pieces of the puzzle are revealed, you find out just what kind of damage bullying can wreak in the lives of those it effects. I thought it was thought-provoking and well done!
    A timeless and uplifting book about friendship, filled with humor and heart.
    When Jessica sits next to Francis on a bench during recess, he's surprised to learn that she isn't actually alive--she's a ghost. And she's surprised, too, because Francis is the first person who has been able to see her since she died.
    Before long, Francis and Jessica are best friends, enjoying life more than they ever have. When they meet two more friends who can also see Jessica, the question arises: What is it that they have in common? And does it have something to do with Jessica being a ghost?

    Happy reading to you!

    Saturday, August 22, 2015

    My First Day by Leilani Sparrow

    My First Day by Leilani Sparrow
    My First Day
    On Sale: July 7, 2015
    Leilani Sparrow
    Illustrated by Dan Taylor
    Hardcover Picture
    Ages 3-5
    32 pp, Perfect Bound

    We all know how nervous children are before they begin their first day of school! In My First Day, you will follow one little boy's journey as he experiences the myriad of emotions the first day of school brings. Locating things in the classroom, making new friends to play with, snack and recess time and writing your first letter. This book will provide your child with the back-to-school comfort they crave. When you read this book, you assure your child, or even your students, that it is normal to feel nervous and even anxious, but that in the end they will have a great day!

    A perfect first day read!