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

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, 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

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!