Thursday, January 28, 2016

Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson

Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson
Harper Collins Publishers

A look into the world of the New York City ballet, its mounting pressures and ideals set by the industry that forces the dancers on a quest for perfection. Many times, the perfection is unattainable, and readers will be immersed into the culture that is utterly enthralling. Set in 1977, it is a throwback novel, but also completely relevant and contemporary. A young girl seeks solace from her parent's divorce through ballet, which offers her the power and control she lacks in her home life. This leads her in to dark places, and a compromising of morality. Fast-forward to Kate's world, where not much in the industry has changed and girls experience the same pitfalls in this dark world. Please read the following publisher's excerpt on Girl Through Glass.

"An enthralling literary debut that tells the story of a young girl’s coming of age in the cutthroat world of New York City ballet—a story of obsession and the quest for perfection, trust and betrayal, beauty and lost innocence.
In the roiling summer of 1977, eleven-year-old Mira is an aspiring ballerina in the romantic, highly competitive world of New York City ballet. Enduring the mess of her parent’s divorce, she finds escape in dance—the rigorous hours of practice, the exquisite beauty, the precision of movement, the obsessive perfectionism. Ballet offers her control, power, and the promise of glory. It also introduces her to forty-seven-year-old Maurice DuPont, a reclusive, charismatic balletomane who becomes her mentor.
Over the course of three years, Mira is accepted into the prestigious School of American Ballet run by the legendary George Balanchine, and eventually becomes one of “Mr. B’s girls”—a dancer of rare talent chosen for greatness. As she ascends higher in the ballet world, her relationship with Maurice intensifies, touching dark places within herself and sparking unexpected desires that will upend both their lives.
In the present day, Kate, a professor of dance at a Midwestern college, embarks on a risky affair with a student that threatens to obliterate her career and capsizes the new life she has painstakingly created for her reinvented self. When she receives a letter from a man she’s long thought dead, Kate is hurled back into the dramas of a past she thought she had left behind.
Told in interweaving narratives that move between past and present, Girl Through Glass illuminates the costs of ambition, secrets, and the desire for beauty, and reveals how the sacrifices we make for an ideal can destroy—or save—us."
Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Suzanne is a middle-school student rife with the typical trouble that a young girl faces when the unthinkable happens. As a young girl, a lot seems unthinkable, but this particular event is truly a life-changer for Suzanne. The very foundation of her world is shaken. The story that follows the tragedy tracks the aftermath of a broken friendship, and a broken heart. While the story is of Franny and Suzanne's friendship, there are many other characters which add so much depth to the book. There are a *few* adult themes in this book, so if you are cautious as a parent with that sort of thing, I would encourage you to preview this book for yourself before letting your young reader grab a copy. This book offers not only a peek into middle school life and troubles, but also a fascinating glimpse into facts about jellyfish. I blew through this book in a single day, and thought it was really well done. 

"This stunning debut novel about grief and wonder was an instant New York Times bestseller and captured widespread critical acclaim, including selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist!

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting-things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door."

Happy Reading, young (or older) ones!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Winter is Booked! #mywinterisbooked

Join the Book Sparks Winter Reading Challenge!
These are the books everyone will be reading this winter. The list includes TARGET RECOMMENDED READS, an INDIE NEXT PICK and a GLOBE AND MAIL BESTSELLER. And you can read them first — only with BookSparks! 

Target Recommended Read

Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop

When thirty-year-old Brooke Thompson unexpectedly runs into a man from her past, she’s plunged headlong into memories she’s long tried to forget about the year she spent in France following a disastrous affair with a professor.

As a newly arrived exchange student in the picturesque city of Nantes, young Brooke develops a deep and complicated friendship with Sophie, a fellow American and stunning blonde, whose golden girl façade hides a precarious emotional fragility. Sophie and Brooke soon become inseparable and find themselves intoxicated by their new surroundings—and each other.

But their lives are forever changed when they meet a sly, stylish French student, Veronique, and her impossibly sexy older cousin, Alex. The cousins draw Sophie and Brooke into an irresistible world of art, money, decadence, and ultimately, a disastrous love triangle that consumes them both. And of the two of them, only one will make it home.

Target Recommended Read (2)

The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

For fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Meg Wolitzer, Claire Messud, and Emma Straub, a gorgeous and absorbing novel of a trio of confused souls struggling to find themselves and the way forward in their lives, set against the spectacular backdrop of contemporary New York City.

Set in the most magical parts of Manhattan—the Upper West Side, Central Park, Greenwich Village—The Ramblers explores the lives of three lost souls, bound together by friendship and family. During the course of one fateful Thanksgiving week, a time when emotions run high and being with family can be a mixed blessing, Rowley’s sharply defined characters explore the moments when decisions are deliberately made, choices accepted, and pasts reconciled.

Target Recommended Read (3)

Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany 

What happens when two sisters who were torn apart when their young mother abandoned them—and grew up in tragically different circumstances—reunite thirty-five years later to find her?

Natalie Clark knew never to ask her sensitive adoptive mother questions about her past. She doesn’t even know her birth mother’s name—only that the young woman signed parental rights over to the state when Natalie was a baby. Now Natalie’s own daughter must complete a family tree project for school, and Natalie is determined to unearth the truth about her roots. Brooke Walker doesn’t have a family. At least, that’s what she tells herself after being separated from her mother and her little sister at age four. Having grown up in a state facility and countless foster homes, Brooke survives the only way she knows how, by relying on herself. So when she discovers she’s pregnant, Brooke faces a heart-wrenching decision: give up her baby or raise the child completely on her own. Scared and confused, she feels lost until a surprise encounter gives her hope for the future.

Target Recommended Read (6)
Come Away With Me by Karma Brown

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.

Who's in? 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Podcasts You Need in Your Life

It goes without saying that many readers have an aversion to audio books-I know I did for a very long time. It's not that I had an aversion to it per se, I was ill-equipped with an attention span that was better suited to a single task, like driving to my destination. For example, I just couldn't remember anything I had just listened to, and ended up having to either quit the audio altogether, or continue returning to the same spot in the audio where I lost touch (where was that again?). I am talking about audio books you popped in the C.D. player of your car! I have some fantastic recommendations for podcasts which I think are fabulous, and will even hold the attention of people like me. The best thing is (drumroll) podcasts are FREE! Just subscribe to the channel, and all the episodes will stream to your phone or device. There's also a request I have that many of you will tell me about podcasts that you love in the comments section below.

For Book Lovers
All About the Books (Book Riot)
If you are looking for the latest and greatest in reading topics, and you love hearing about books-start listening to All the Books! hosted by Book Riot. You'll create lists of books to add to your TBR, as well as feel like you are in a room surrounded by a group of fellow book lovers.   

Books on the Nightstand (Anne Kingman and Michael Kindness)
This podcast is my personal favorite, but no mother actually says that, right? What I love most about this podcast is that they also offer readers audiobook selections in addition to their "paper" book choices. They talk about recently published books, and topics of discussion range from "Re-Reading reconsidered" to "Air B and Bookstore." This podcast is now a Tuesday night ritual for me.

For the Mystery Lover in You

Serial (This American Life)
My friend Nancy got me hooked on Serial last year when it was the story of Adnan, a young man currently serving jail time for murder. Lets just put it this way-I hid in the bathroom at work to finish episodes of this podcast. It is one that leaves you wondering week after week what will happen next. I am currently in the second season of this podcast, and the person they are profiling the story if is none other than Bowe Bergdahl. It is utterly fascinating, and I cannot get enough of Serial. 

If You're Looking for Inspiration

School of Greatness (Lewis Howes)
I recently learned of School of Greatness, and I have to say I am very impressed. I appreciate his insight and wisdom, and the people he features on his show are equally amazing. I only wish I listened to them outside of my car so I could write down the many wonderful quotes that inspire me daily. Definitely worth every second you listen to!

That is all, dear readers! Please add podcasts you love to listen to.
Happy listening.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Spotlight Feature: All in Her Head by Sunny Mera

All in Her Head by Sunny Mera
Pub Date: November 10,  2015
If you have been searching for a book that will challenge everything you normally read, then I think this book fits the bill. The story line, the characters, and the way this story unfurls like curling ribbon is an oddity that is difficult to put in to words. Though this book is not for everyone (especially the parts including orgasmic labor), it is a quick read. Part of the Book Sparks Fall Reading Challenge, All in Her Head takes readers on a psychological journey, and this cover is a stunner! Read the following synopsis to decide if this book is one you would add to your TBR list:
 "As a young girl growing up in the Midwest, Sunny experiences the shame and stigma of scandal when her father is banned from their church for having an affair with the pastor’s best friend’s wife. As Sunny grows older, she begins to build the life she’s always wanted: she marries, buys a house, enrolls in graduate school, and soon has a baby on the way. But when she experiences the psychological phenomena of orgasmic labor, it triggers a chain of bizarre events, and she gradually descends into a world of delusion and paranoia. As Sunny struggles to separate the real from the unreal, she relies upon friends and family to ground her in truth and love―and keep her from going over the edge into madness."

Thursday, January 14, 2016

January-New Year, New Titles

New year, new TBR being set here at the Simons' household. This morning as I was getting ready to go to work, I saw my daughter holding a book as she was walking around getting ready. Be still my heart! That's how I feel when I start a new year on my Goodreads profile-I just want to read as many as I can. That being said, here are some exciting titles that I can't wait to read that are available this month:

The Longest Night by Andria Williams
Release Date: January 12, 2016 
In this absorbing and suspenseful debut novel—reminiscent of Revolutionary Road and inspired by a little-known piece of history—a young couple must fight to save both their marriage and the town they live in.

In 1959, Nat Collier moves with her husband, Paul, and their two young daughters to Idaho Falls, a remote military town. An Army Specialist, Paul is stationed there to help oversee one of the country's first nuclear reactors—an assignment that seems full of opportunity.

Then, on his rounds, Paul discovers that the reactor is compromised, placing his family and the entire community in danger. Worse, his superiors set out to cover up the problem rather than fix it. Paul can't bring himself to tell Nat the truth, but his lies only widen a growing gulf between them.

Lonely and restless, Nat is having trouble adjusting to their new life. She struggles to fit into her role as a housewife and longs for a real friend. When she meets a rancher, Esrom, she finds herself drawn to him, comforted by his kindness and company. But as rumors spread, the secrets between Nat and Paul build and threaten to reach a breaking point. 

Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, The Longest Night is a deeply moving novel that explores the intricate makeup of a marriage, the shifting nature of trust, and the ways we try to protect the ones we love.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Release Date: January 12, 2016 
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

These are the books at the top of the stack begging to be read! What does your TBR stack look like? 
Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Super Soul Sunday: Audiobook Edition

Audiobook Spotlight: Intentional Living
This audiobook spoke to my heart, because I have been in a period of odd transition. I am in the limbo of my job, and I feel a little like a buoy out in the middle of the ocean. I am holding my place in the world, but I do feel a little like I am floating along, without a greater purpose. I will start this year with a grateful heart, but more than that-in 2016-I will start. I will live my life with intention and be more focused on what it is that sets my heart ablaze with love, excitement and enjoyment. I am creating a "happiness habit" (see work by Sean Achor) that helps me to see, on a daily basis, the love and abundance I am surrounded by every day, every minute, every hour. John C. Maxwell is a master at his craft, and this audiobook is a great way to turn your life in a new direction. Absolutely a game-changer!
"We all have a longing to be significant. We want to make a contribution, to be a part of something noble and purposeful. But many people wrongly believe significance is unattainable. They worry that it's too big for them to achieve. That they have to have an amazing idea, be a certain age, have a lot of money, or be powerful or famous to make a real difference.

The good news is that none of those things is necessary for you to achieve significance and create a lasting legacy. The only thing you need to achieve significance is to be intentional. And to do that, all you need to do is start. You can't make an impact sitting still and doing nothing. Every major accomplishment that's ever been achieved started with a first step. Sometimes it's hard; other times it's easy, but no matter what, you have to do it if you want to get anywhere in life.

In INTENTIONAL LIVING, John Maxwell will help you take that first step, and the ones that follow, on your personal path through a life that matters."

Happy Listening!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Saturday Kid Reads: Audiobook Edition

Saturday Kid Reads: Babe Ruth
Baseball's best slugger, Babe Ruth is the star of this audiobook, read by Nick Sullivan and written by author Matt Christopher. For those looking to satisfy the new non-fiction Common Core standards, this audiobook will satisfy this need. If your theme is teaching students to overcome obstacles, then listen to Babe's story. George Herman "Babe" Ruth helped his teams win more than ten pennants and seven world championships, but winning requires hard work, grit and perseverance. This audiobook is also available in print format to assist students who may need a printed companion to this book. If you are looking for a similar story of overcoming obstacles, check out this inspirational story out of Apricot Farms. It's Chris's story and it is so amazing!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

By Jamie Kain
St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: December 8, 2015
Hardcover: 9781250047861 / $18.99 USD
eBook: 9781250047854 / $9.99 USD

 In the past year I had somewhat drifted away from Young Adult books in my reading for pleasure. I had read many YA books, which is quite rare for me, between 2010 and 2014. After reading books such as The Fault in our Stars, The Hunger Games, and Divergent series, I was hooked on the genre. I was honestly blown away at the quality of the writing and the story lines from John Green, Veronica Roth and Suzanne Collins (among others) and the stories hooked me from the beginning. It is always tough to come down off a book that you LOVE, which is why I strayed from YA for a while.  I have jumped back into reading YA by picking up Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain. This book is a contemporary YA that teens would enjoy. While it is not a "literary" read, it satisfies the teen with a story of survival, and attraction in a tale that combines wilderness survival (but it is much more than that), family angst and decisions that we must make under pressure. "What do you do when the apocalypse happens from the inside? When it is your family and not civilization that falls apart?"

"He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man-except for the one that struck. When Nicole Reed's father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it's too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole's father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow's disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today? Jamie Kain's Instructions for the End of the World is a gripping, young adult novel that explores family, friendship, and love in the midst of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances."
I found this quote while reading, and I loved it so much I felt compelled to share it with you here:
"I understand the balance nature seeks-the need for the hawk to eat the hare-but I have never felt at peace with its harshness.I don't begin to understand why life, so excruciatingly fragile, so breathtaking in its delicate beauty, can be destroyed with such ease. Mahesh would say that no life is truly destroyed, that it just returns to the Great Mother Earth to live again, but tell that to the hare trying to keep her babies alive."
My takeaway is that life is truly a delicate balance of nature. Sometimes loss is followed by something you gain and that pain and happiness are often intertwined in a delicate line. Lots of beautiful gems in this book. Well done, Jamie. 
While this book will not hold most adults' attention like the previous books mentioned, it is a worthy contender for great reads in modern YA fiction.

Thank you to Griffin Teen for a copy of Instructions for the End of the World, which was given to me in exchange for a fair, honest review.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Super Soul Sunday: Audiobook Edition

Audiobook Spotlight: The Power of I Am
This Super Soul Sunday (all credit due to Oprah for coming up with the title) is brought to you by The Power of I Am by Joel Osteen. As I sit and watch the show, and all of its wonderful spiritual leaders speaking words of truth that my heart and my brain begin to understand the world more acutely-I find myself grateful for my journey and the possibilities that 2016 holds.
Whatever follows the words "I am" will always come looking for you.

So, when you go through the day saying:
"I am blessed"...blessings pursue you.
"I am talented"...talent follows you.
"I am healthy" heads your way.
"I am strong"...strength tracks you down.

Joel Osteen reveals how THE POWER OF I AM can help you discover your unique abilities and advantages to lead a more productive and happier life. His insights and encouragement are illustrated with many amazing stories of people who turned their lives around by focusing on the positive power of this principle. You can choose to rise to a new level and invite God's goodness by focusing on these two words: I AM!

I have heard much criticism of Joel recently by church-going people who believe his opulent lifestyle makes him hypocritical. While I have pieces of that argument that I whole-heartedly agree with, I also think that most of us, given the money he earns would live similarly. I know that he has started from small roots, and has spread enormous wings in the world, and his influence is far-reaching. You cannot argue with the word spoken on this audiobook. It was uplifting and encouraging, and I felt rejuvenated and encouraged listening to it every day to and from work and other events that I had going on. I would highly recommend this audio to those who are looking for a new focus in 2016.

Thank you to Hachette Audio for this audio title which was given to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Happy Listening!