Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Guest Blogger: Brittany Geragotelis

It's Halloween night and the perfect time for this guest post from Brittany Geragotelis, author of WHAT THE SPELL?, the first book in the young adult Life's a Witch series. Since Ms. Geragotelis writes about a teenage witch, she obviously knows a thing or two about the paranormal. She also happens to have some great ideas for costumes of famous literary characters!

The Best Literary Costumes for Halloween

I love Halloween. Seriously, it's one of my favorite holidays. Not just because it’s a day that’s all about people going up to strangers and asking for (and getting) candy. It’s not even because—being the horror buff that I am—I enjoy the creepiness of it all. And I do (Hello?!?! It’s the only time of year when things that goes bump in the night aren’t just explained away with logical excuses!). But the threat of paranormal/supernatural/mystical/psychopathic danger isn’t even the main reason I love this holiday.

No, the real reason I'm such a sucker for Halloween is: I’m given a free pass—nay, I’m expected—to be someone else for the night.

And for someone whose mind is a constant imagination station, this is beyond exciting. One of the things I love about writing books, is the fact that I can create any character I want. By writing his or her story, I'm giving them life. And I get to control what they look like, how they act and even what they wear. In a way, I sort of get to be them. And sometimes, that can be incredibly freeing. And fun. 

This is why Halloween is so special. You get the chance to embody a different character, good or bad, sweet or sassy, supernatural or all natural. And what better place to look, then your local bookstore or library for inspiration? Whether it’s emulating a superhero or getting your tall, dark and creepy on, books can be a hotbed for costume ideas. Here are some of my faves this Halloween.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The film, The Hunger Games, became one of the most successful book to movies of all time this year, and rightfully so. Not only is the story equal parts horrifying and entertaining, but the outfits the characters wear in it are a futuristic fashionista’s dream.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Another successful franchise which began with a book. The thing that makes Bella such a hot Halloween costume choice this year is because in the upcoming movie, we’re finally introduced to Vampire Bella! And vamp Bella is a dangerous mamma bear, with some wicked red eyes and an animalistic energy. It’s about time this character came out from behind her male co-stars and took center stage!
Get Vampire Bella’s look: Brown wig or hair; jeans and a T-shirt; red contacts 

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith
This classic got a horror remix when Seth Grahame-Smith decided to bring the undead to the party to meet Mr. Darcy. Between the pretty dresses and the oozing wounds, you get the best of both worlds with this classic horror costume.
Get Elizabeth Bennet’s look: Classic white dress; fake blood; rotten face makeup 
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Housewives everywhere (and yes, even single ladies) are sneaking this popular read for its steamy scenes between the beautiful Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. Given the popularity of dressing sexy for Halloween (you can sexify any costume—apparently even Big Bird can be hot), taking on this book’s dominating couple won’t be painful at all.
Get the Fifty Shades look: 


Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
This reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood paints a completely different picture of the cloak-wearing girl who goes to visit her grandmother. In this book, we’ve got two sisters who, after their grandmother is savagely killed by a werewolf, go on a lifelong quest to wipe out the creatures that tore their family apart. The elder sister, Scarlett, wields a hatchet, an eye patch and crazy scars, given to her by her grandmother’s killer. If you’re looking for a new twist on an old character, Scarlett’s your girl.
Get Scarlett’s look: Little Red Riding Hood costume or red cape; scar makeup; Tutorial onscar makeup; hatchet; eye patch

Nowhere But Up: The Story of Justin Bieber’s Mom by Pattie Mallette
I know this book is non-fiction and deals with a lot of serious subjects, but let’s be honest here: this costume is all about Bieber fever! You know you got choked up when you watched Never Say Never, you’re obsessed with Belena, and Justin’s changing hairstyles are nearly as famous as he is. So why not take a page from Pattie’s book and create a star this Halloween. 

Get Justin’s look: Wig; hoodie; all-access pass 

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Since the prelude to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, comes out in theaters in just a little over a month, I had to include this series in our round-up. Whether you’re into Tolkien’s hobbits, princesses or ghouls—there are plenty of mythological characters to choose from.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
I had to include a book from one of my favorite authors—and given its popularity, The Princess Diaries was an obvious choice. What girl doesn’t like dressing up like a Princess? The good news is, Princess Mia is anything but perfect, so you won’t have to worry if your tiara ends up a little askew. Pick this theme and give yourself the royal treatment this Halloween.

Get Princess Mia’s look: Ball gown; Tiara; Fat Louie 

What the Spell? by Brittany Geragotelis
Okay, I know the book’s not out yet—but that just means that no one will steal your costume idea! There are a ton of different, over-the-top characters in my new book What the Spell? that would be perfect to dress up as for Halloween. The book is about Brooklyn, a teen witch who wants to be popular and find love. After giving herself a magical makeover, she earns the attention of the popular group of kids—called The Elite—as well as the affection of the super-hot Asher. But it’s not long before she learns that you have to be careful what you witch for.

Or go as a group: The Elite

Get Eliza’s Look: Bright skirt; sexy,look-at-me top;  hair band 

Get Wheatley’s Look: Tight muscle tee; Jeans; baseball cap; menacing look

Get Rhodes’ Look: Smart-lookingsweater or cardigan; Slacks 

Get Camden’s Look: Clean-cut shirt; jeans 
Get Gigi’s Look: Dress; collar 

Summary of What the Spell?: Brooklyn Sparks is invisible. Because she’s not a popular kid or an ubernerd, Brooklyn is stuck somewhere in the middle of the high school food chain. But all of that is about to change.
     On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Brooklyn comes of age as a witch. Her strict parents finally unbind her powers, and along with giving herself an instant makeover, Brooklyn discovers her true gift: She was born into a line of magical matchmakers.
     After spending so long being overlooked, Brooklyn’s getting exactly what she wants, including entrée into the elite crowd and her crush’s undivided attention. But there’s a price to pay. The use of her powers puts Brooklyn in the same dangerous position as her Salem ancestors—if anyone finds out who she really is and what she can do, her life is over. Now that she has everything she’s ever wanted, Brooklyn has everything to lose.
About the Author: A former Olympic-bound gymnast and magazine editor, Brittany Geragotelis is a self-professed pop culture junkie turned author. Her paranormal action book, Life’s a Witch, received 19 million reads on the writing site Wattpad before being picked up by publisher Simon & Schuster. What the Spell? is her first published book in the Life’s a Witch series. Brittany currently lives in New York City with her beau, Matt, and two cats, Murray and Cohen. Visit her online:

Review: Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler

Summary: In 1938 Trudi Kanter, stunningly beautiful, chic and charismatic, was a hat designer for the best-dressed women in Vienna. She frequented the most elegant cafés. She had suitors. She flew to Paris to see the latest fashions. And she fell deeply in love with Walter Ehrlich, a charming and romantic businessman. But as Hitler’s tanks rolled into Austria, the world this young Jewish couple knew collapsed, leaving them desperate to escape.

In prose that cuts straight to the bone, Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler tells the true story of Trudi’s astonishing journey from Vienna to Prague to blitzed London seeking safety for her and Walter amid the horror engulfing Europe. It was her courage, resourcefulness and perseverance that kept both her and her beloved safe during the Nazi invasion and that make this an indelible memoir of love and survival.

Sifting through a secondhand bookshop in London, an English editor stumbled upon this extraordinary book, and now, though she died in 1992, the world has a second chance to discover Trudi Kanter’s enchanting story. In these pages she is alive—vivid, tenacious and absolutely unforgettable. -- Scribner

I am always interested in reading about events surrounding World War II, so when I heard about SOME GIRLS, SOME HATS AND HITLER: A TRUE LOVE STORY REDISCOVERED by Trudi Kanter, I definitely wanted to read it. This story about one woman's perseverance to save both herself and her husband is fascinating in its own right; however, the story behind the publication of this book is interesting too. In 2011, an English editor found a secondhand copy of this book which as originally published in 1984 to a small audience; and now the book is being re-released even though the author passed away in 1992.

SOME GIRLS, SOME HATS AND HITLER is Trudi Kanter's story that begins in 1938 as Hitler entered Austria. Prior to this, Ms. Kantor had a pretty amazing life. She lived in Vienna near her family and was a successful hat designer. She also had her fair share of friends as well as dates; and she even traveled around Europe for her hat business. While she was  in the process of amicably splitting with her first husband, she fell in love with the debonair business man Walter Ehrlich; and she was extremely happy.

That is, until Hitler entered the picture and took over Austria. Ms. Kanter believed that, as Jews, she and Walter were at risk; and she was determined to save both of their lives... no matter the cost. It was because of Ms. Kanter's intelligence and perseverance that she was able to save both of them; and her story is a true testament to her love of Walter.

I really enjoyed SOME GIRLS, SOME HATS AND HITLER (and I admit that I was a bit worried that I wouldn't after reading Kathy/Bermudaonion's review.) I'm happy to say that I didn't have any issues with the story; and in fact, I read the entire book in just an afternoon because I was so caught up in Ms. Kanter's story. I was pretty sure that I knew how the story would end, so I can't say that I felt as much tension as I would have in a fictional account of World War II. However, I was intrigued by Ms. Kanter's astuteness into the potential threat that Hitler would become, and I was even inspired by her actions.

I'm not usually a big fan of romantic stories, but I will say that SOME GIRLS, SOME HATS AND HITLER was a very sweet love story. Ms. Kanter accomplished some pretty remarkable feats (and certainly made her fair share of luck), but I believe it was her love of Walter that gave her the strength to carry on again and again. I was most definitely touched by the power of their love.

In addition, I was impressed by Ms. Kanter's account of what was happening all over Europe. She gave an incredibly insightful view into the conditions in Europe, and she didn't mince words. I found it fascinating to read not only what was occurring, but also what she thought might occur. There is no doubt that it was because of Ms. Kanter's intelligence that she acted early enough to save both Walter's and her own life.

SOME GIRLS, SOME HATS AND HITLER would make a very interesting book club pick. There is a   reading guide available with fifteen thought-provoking questions as well as some suggestions for enhancing your meeting. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include love, marriage, divorce, obligations, war, jealousy, foresight, taking action, fears, new beginnings, feeling like an outsider, and resilience.

Overall, I recommend SOME GIRLS, SOME HATS AND HITLER to fans of memoirs as well as to those who are interested in the events that took place prior to and during World War II.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this memoir.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society

Summary: Eighty-year-old Dora, the narrator of a story that began a half century earlier, is bonding with an unlikely set of friends, including Jackie Hart, a restless middle-aged wife and mother from Boston, who gets into all sorts of trouble when her family moves to a small, sleepy town in Collier County, Florida, circa 1962.

With humor and insight the novel chronicles the awkward North-South cultural divide as Jackie, this hapless but charming “Yankee,” looks for some excitement in her life by accepting an opportunity to host a local radio show where she creates a mysterious, late-night persona, “Miss Dreamsville,” and by launching a reading group—the Collier County Women’s Literary Society—thus sending the conservative and racially segregated town into uproar. The only townspeople who venture to join are regarded as outsiders at best—a young gay man, a divorced woman, a poet, and a young black woman who dreams of going to college.

This brilliant fiction debut by Amy Hill Hearth, a New York Times bestselling author, brings to life unforgettable characters who found the one thing that eluded them as individuals:a place in the world. Inspired by a real person, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society will touch the heart of anyone and everyone who has ever felt like an outsider longing to fit in. -- Atria

You might remember how excited I was after attending the 2012 BEA. Not only do I like catching up with my blogger and publisher friends, but I also learned about all of the upcoming fall releases that everyone was talking about. It was at a a special panel hosted by Carol Fitzgerald of where I first heard about MISS DREAMSVILLE AND THE COLLIER COUNTY WOMEN'S LITERARY SOCIETY by Amy Hill Hearth; and I immediately knew I wanted to read it.

I love Southern fiction and the book's description made it sound a bit like a Fannie Flagg novel -- and I loved Ms. Flagg's books! I was hoping that MISS DREAMSVILLE AND THE COLLIER COUNTY WOMEN'S LITERARY SOCIETY (from now on to be known as MDATCCWLS) would be like a big old dish of mac 'n cheese -- pure comfort food for the soul. And for the most part, it was a very entertaining read!

At its heart, MDATCCWLS is story about a misfit group of friends that takes place in 1962 in Collier County, Florida. When Jackie Hart, a bored mother and wife, moves to this small town from Boston, she definitely stirs up some trouble in this conservative Southern town. She secretly begins hosting a local radio show as "Miss Dreamsville" that has everyone talking; and she also starts a reading group which attracts a few outsiders including a gay man, a divorced woman, an ex-prisoner, and a young black woman. Through this unlikely friendship, all the members of the "literary society" finally find a place where they feel as if they belong.

You can probably tell from my brief description that MDATCCWLS is a heartwarming novel about the real meaning of friendship and acceptance. The story and the characters were very entertaining, and at times absolutely hilarious; and while parts of the book were a little predictable, I enjoyed it a great deal. I don't know that I'd go so far as to say I loved it, and I do think the story might make a better movie than a book (which I almost never say!) In fact, I thought the entire book kind of read like a movie to me -- if that makes any sense.

In a novel like MDATCCWLS, I think the characters have to be crucial element of the story; and Ms. Hearth most definitely created a unique cast of characters. Each member of the Collier County Women's Literary Society were outsiders, albeit in very different ways, in this typical 1960s Southern town; and they were all extremely likable to my as a reader. I loved how much each person blossomed once they found a group of friends who were willing to accept them, and it was wonderful to see how they all had something unique to offer the group. Needless to say, the messages in this novel were extremely touching.

The story is told by Dora, an eighty year old woman who was once a member of the reading group; and I loved her insight into the events that took place about fifty years ago. While I was definitely intrigued by Jackie and her ability to stir up things in this small town, I think Dora was the perfect narrator for the story. I admit that there were times when I wanted to hear from Jackie directly; however, by the end of the novel, I abandoned those thoughts. Dora was a wonderful storyteller and I loved her voice and her sense of humor.

One of the main reasons that I enjoyed MDATCCWLS as much as I did was that it had loads of literary references. I loved hearing what books the group decided to read, and I thought it was interesting to see their various reactions to some of the more controversial picks like THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE. On a broader level, I also enjoyed seeing what books were popular in 1962.

It's probably not a surprise that the publisher thinks MDATCCWLS is perfect for book clubs; and I agree that this charming story will provide a lot of food for thought. There is a reading guide available with fifteen questions as well as a few ideas for enhancing your book club discussion. Some of the themes that you might want to discuss include friendship, prejudice/discrimination, racism, honesty, the differences between the North and the South, freedom, acceptance, and dreams.

Overall, I think MDATCCWLS was a delightful read and sure to be a favorite with book clubs!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: A Marked Man

Summary: Abigail Adams, wife of attorney John Adams-who is deeply involved with the Sons of Liberty-is shocked when one of the Sons is accused of murder. Did the crime arise from the romantic competition for the daughter of a prominent Royalist-or was it politically motivated? Abigail and John believe the accused is innocent, though the evidence against him is strong.

While John works to clear his client's name, Abigail begins her own investigation, and soon learns several unpleasant facts about the dead man, things that greatly increase the number of possible suspects. But as she pursues the truth, the killer pursues her- threatening not only Abigail but her vulnerable family. -- Berkley Prime Crime

In the past few years, I've "sampled" quite a few cozy mystery series, but when I read the description for A MARKED MAN: AN ABIGAIL ADAMS MYSTERY by Barbara Hamilton, I immediately knew that this one sounded different from every other mystery. A MARKED MAN takes place in Boston in 1774; and Abigail Adams, John Adams' wife, is the amateur sleuth. Is that an original premise with a fantastic main character or what?

A MARKED MAN begins just ten weeks after the Boston Tea Party when John Adams is an attorney by day and an active member of the Sons of Liberty at night. (The Sons of Liberty is a secret organization headed by Sam Adams which opposes the Crown.) When a member of the Sons is accused of murdering a royal representative to the colonial court, Abigail and John don't believe that he's guilty of the crime. Naturally, John works to help his client gain his freedom; but at the same time, Abigail begins her own investigation into the crime. As she starts to uncover some startling clues, she finds herself and her family in danger.

I liked A MARKED MAN, but I wouldn't say that I loved it. I can't put my finger on why, but I had a hard time following the story. In all fairness, I did have some things going on in my personal life which cut into my reading time; and as a result, I wasn't able to read this book in one or two sittings like I normally do with cozies. So each time I picked up the book, I had to figure out where I was in the story. That was definitely not the fault of the book or author!

Despite having some issues with the story, I did enjoy this book and I found much to appreciate. First of all, I loved how the author blended fact with fiction. While I'm far from a history buff (especially about Colonial times), I thought it was so interesting to read about the Boston Tea Party and the after effects of the citizens of Boston. In addition, I was fascinated by the information about the Sons of Liberty as well as the tensions between the Royalists and Patriots.

However, it was the character of Abigail Adams that I loved the most. I have always appreciated Ms. Adams for her role in the development of our country. I admire her relationship with her husband and her children, but I also appreciate how much she supported John in his endeavors... and she wasn't afraid to offer him a bit of her mind. There is no doubt that she was an extremely intelligent and strong woman, and I think the author did a wonderful job of portraying her in this manner. I even loved how she gave Ms. Adams such a smart sense of humor!

I admit that I was a little surprised by how well written A MARKED MAN was. I think I was deceived a bit by the cover... and by that I mean the cat! The mystery was most intriguing and very complex, and I loved how Ms. Adams acquired the clues in a very methodical manner. I honestly had no idea who the murderer was, and I was pretty surprised with the revelation. In addition, I was extremely impressed with the amount of historical information that was included in the story. I even found myself googling some events to see if they were real or invented for the purpose of the story.

Overall, I'm not sure that A MARKED MAN will go down as one of my favorite mysteries, but there was a lot that I appreciated from this novel; and I wouldn't hesitate to read another one from this series. Definitely recommended for fans of mysteries and historical fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Guest Review: The Lincoln Conspiracy

Summary: A nation shattered by its president’s murder
Two diaries that reveal the true scope of an American conspiracy

A detective determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs him

From award-winning journalist Timothy L. O’Brien comes a gripping historical thriller that poses a provocative question: What if the plot to assassinate President Lincoln was wider and more sinister than we ever imagined?

In late spring of 1865, as America mourns the death of its leader, Washington, D.C., police detective Temple McFadden makes a startling discovery. Strapped to the body of a dead man at the B&O Railroad station are two diaries, two documents that together reveal the true depth of the Lincoln conspiracy. Securing the diaries will put Temple’s life in jeopardy—and will endanger the fragile peace of a nation still torn by war.

Temple’s quest to bring the conspirators to justice takes him on a perilous journey through the gaslit streets of the Civil War–era capital, into bawdy houses and back alleys where ruthless enemies await him in every shadowed corner. Aided by an underground network of friends—and by his wife, Fiona, a nurse who possesses a formidable arsenal of medicinal potions—Temple must stay one step ahead of Lafayette Baker, head of the Union Army’s spy service. Along the way, he’ll run from or rely on Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s fearsome secretary of war; the legendary Scottish spymaster Allan Pinkerton; abolitionist Sojourner Truth; the photographer Alexander Gardner; and many others.

Bristling with twists and building to a climax that will leave readers gasping, The Lincoln Conspiracy offers a riveting new account of what truly motivated the assassination of one of America’s most beloved presidents—and who participated in the plot to derail the train of liberty that Lincoln set in motion. -- Ballantine

As soon as I saw the description for THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY by Timothy O'Brien , I immediately thought of my father. I just knew he'd appreciate this novel which blends together the history of Abraham Lincoln's assassination with some suspense. Here are his thoughts:

THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY by Timothy L. O’Brien is an interesting take on the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. In the book, O’Brien starts with the premise that the plot to kill Lincoln was much more widespread than history records.

The main character is Temple McFadden, an Irish orphan immigrant who was a New York policeman until circumstances led him to move to the Washington D.C. police department. A second strong character is McFadden’s wife, Fiona, who was trained as a doctor but forced to work as a nurse because of the prejudices of the post Civil War society.

The story starts with McFadden gaining possession of the personal diaries of John Wilkes Booth and Mary Todd Lincoln, documents that conceal the depth of the Lincoln assassination plot. While McFadden simply wants to reveal the truth, his life and the life of his friends are in danger because two opposing groups also want the diaries for their own purposes and will do anything to get them.

This is where the book gets interesting because O’Brien now mixes real historical characters with his fictional ones. As McFadden is pursued by the two groups he is challenged by Lafayette Baker, head of the National Defense Bureau, Allan Pinkerton, famous detective and Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s secretary of war. They all want the diaries. Throughout the novel McFadden and his wife are aided by such famous people as activist Dorothea Dix, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, and photographer Alexander Gardner. O’Brien also gives significant roles in the story to journalist Noah Brooks, Mary Todd Lincoln and her son, Robert and Lincoln assassination conspirators Mary Surratt and Dr. Samuel Mudd.

THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY also gives a great description of the society that existed in Washington D.C. at the time. As McFadden is chased through the streets of Washington, the author’s extensive research produces great descriptions of the Civil War-era capital. The period was both violent and racist. The author’s description of Washington’s terrible climate, the muddy roads and the filth gives the reader a great picture of our nation’s capital in the 1860s. In reading O’Brian’s narrative about the victorious Union Army’s March through Washington, I felt as if I could hear the troops marching along Pennsylvania Avenue with their generals Meade, Custer and Sherman.

THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY is a well written, well researched historical thriller that is filled with intrigue and mystery and closes with a somewhat surprising conclusion. It is up to the individual reader to determine whether the premise of the story is realistic.

I would recommend this novel for those interested in the Civil War or the Lincoln assassination.

Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his review and to the publisher for providing a review copy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kid Konnection: Election Day Books

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you four fantastic picture books that are perfect for educating children about the the upcoming presidential election.

Summary: On November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony made history--and broke the law--when she voted in the US presidential election, a privilege that had been reserved for men. She was arrested, tried, and found guilty: "The greatest outrage History ever witnessed," she wrote in her journal. It wasn't until 1920 that women were granted the right to vote, but the civil rights victory would not have been possible without Susan B. Anthony's leadership and passion to stand up for what was right. -- Albert Whitman

HEART ON FIRE: SUSAN B. ANTHONY VOTES FOR PRESIDENT by Ann Malaspina and illustrated by Steve James is a wonderful picture book that is geared towards children ages 6-9. It is a gorgeously illustrated biography of Susan B. Anthony and her plight to give women the right to vote.

HEART ON FIRE is an outstanding educational tool for homes and classrooms. At the beginning of the book, the Fourteenth and Nineteenth Amendments are printed; and then the actual illustrated story of Susan B. Anthony's historical movement begins. I liked that the author chose to include dated headings to give kids an idea of the time frame as well as real quotations from Ms. Anthony including snippets from her journal entries and letters.

The book delves into details about Ms. Anthony's thoughts and actions. It even explains that Ms. Anthony believed that the Fourteenth Amendment gave her the right to vote, and that she was willing to be arrested to make her point. (Of course, she didn't really think it would come to that!) The book also details her travels across the country and her various speeches; and it covers her court case too. The book ends with additional information about Ms. Anthony's life and what happened to her plight even after she died.

I would have loved this book as a kid and I actually wish I had had it way back then. I remember getting my first Susan B. Anthony dollar and being fascinated by her life story. I also remember writing at least on report on her for a school project. Ms. Anthony's story is nothing less than inspiring, and she is definitely a national hero. I love that HEART ON FIRE gives children an introduction into her story as well as a brief explanation of how women gained the right to vote.

Terrific source of information on Susan B. Anthony and the path to women's right to vote!

Summary: The school gym is a polling place, and Bailey, Ren, David, Meg, Aiden, and Isabella know all about Election Day and voting! Bailey helped her Aunt Julia run for a seat on the city council. Aiden goes with his grandpa to vote. David's brother Jake will be voting for the first time. Meg talks about how years ago, some citizens were not permitted to vote. A perfect picture book for future voters of America, Today on Election Day will simultaneously entertain and educate. -- Albert Whitman

TODAY ON ELECTION DAY by Catherine Stier and illustrated by David Leonard is a very fun way to teach children about Election Day and voting. As you can see from the front cover, the illustrations are whimsical and extremely interesting to look at; however, it's the content of this book that makes it so special.

The book begins with a brief summary of Election Day and the various elections that can be held on this day. It teaches children that there are elections at different levels of government as well as when they will be able to vote. There is also a description of the Constitution and the three amendments defining who has the right to vote. I think this page might be geared towards an older crowd than the rest of the book, but I love that the author and publisher decided to include it.

The rest of TODAY ON ELECTION DAY is probably geared towards kids ages 5-9, and I liked how it showed Election Day in a way that that will appeal to them. TODAY ON ELECTION DAY makes this process relevant to them despite being years away from actual voting age. Not only does it describe what we do on this very important day, but it mentions how kids can see their schools transformed into polling places and how they can watch the adults in their life cast their ballots.

I appreciated TODAY ON ELECTION DAY because it was a very fun way to introduce the election process to children. The book goes into some history including the voting rules that didn't allow women or blacks to vote and even describes how individuals fought for this right. It also explains that there were eventually amendments to the Constitution and that everyone regardless of gender, race, or wealth can now vote.

I think elementary school teachers will absolutely love TODAY ON ELECTION DAY, and I think it should be part of every classroom! Definitely recommended.

Summary: Imagine starring in commercials and traveling in your own campaign bus! Or seeing your face on bumper stickers and T-shirts!

If you ran for president, you would get to do these and other fun things, but you would also have to do a lot of hard work. You would study the nation’s problems, tell the American people about your platform, select a running mate, and debate your opponents on live television. Finally, in November, Election Day would arrive. You would keep your fingers crossed and wait for the results—will you be the next president of the United States?

A multicultural cast of children imagines what it would be like to run for president. The entertaining yet informative text is a good conversation starter for discussions on the election process. A note about this process accompanies the story. The author, Catherine Stier, is no stranger to politics—her previous book, If I Were President, looked at the various responsibilities of the president. Lynne Avril’s cheerful illustrations perfectly complement the lively text. -- Albert Whitman

IF I RAN FOR PRESIDENT by Catherine Stier and illustrated by Lynne Avril is another great book for home and the classroom. This cute picture book teaches children about the entire election process, and is absolutely perfect for this time of year.

Children (and adults) might be tempted to skip the first page of the book because there is a lot of text, and it isn't as "fun" as the rest of the story. However, that would be a mistake since this page actually teaches kids about the the rules regarding who can run for president along with a great summary of our election process. It goes briefly into when elections take place, but it also gives a great description of the electoral college. I actually think some adults could benefit from this summary!

The remainder of IF I RAN FOR PRESIDENT shows a variety of multicultural children dreaming about all of the great things they could do if they ran for president. Some of these ideas include declaring your candidacy (after answering "yes" to a variety of questions, working with their political party, attending conventions, debating their opponent, touring the entire United States, and voting for themselves! On each of these fun pages, there are educational facts thrown in about various laws as well as the descriptions of each event.

I adore IF I RAN FOR PRESIDENT and I think it's a fantastic way to introduce the entire election process to children. Highly recommended!

Summary: A multicultural cast of children imagines what is would be like to be president. -- Albert Whitman

IF I WERE PRESIDENT by Catherine Stier and illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan is a companion books to IF I RAN FOR PRESIDENT. It is definitely aimed at a young audience -- most likely five to eight years olds, and it gives brief descriptions of the many duties of the President of the United States.

Prior to the meat of the book, the author provides a summary of what it means to be the president. There is some great information included in this section like how we pick a president and the criteria for the job as well as a basic idea about the three branches of government. In addition, this section mentions some of the president's major responsibilities including making laws and leading the armed forces.

IF I WERE PRESIDENT then begins describing all of the different things children would do if they were one day the President of the United States. Some of the ideas include being sworn in, moving into the White House, working in the Oval Office, giving the State of the Union, comforting families during times of loss, throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season, and even lighting the nation's Christmas tree. There are also wonderful full color illustrations that complement each page.

I thoroughly enjoyed IF I WERE PRESIDENT. I appreciate that it gives children a brief idea of what being the president involves, but it also includes some of the fun parts of the job. I especially like that it shows a multicultural children serving in this very important job. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing review copies of these books. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love Albert Whitman's educational (and fun) picture books!

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Giveaway: To Kill a Mockingbird Book and Movie Tickets

You’ve read the book…now see it come to life on movie screens nationwide!

I am so excited about this giveaway! TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is my all-time favorite book and now you have the opportunity to win a copy plus 2 tickets to the 50th anniversary movie event!

For one day only on Thursday, November 15th, select movie theaters nationwide will show the award-winning film version of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, in an event in honor of its 50th anniversary. In partnership with Fathom Events, Harper Perennial is offering YOU a chance to win 2 tickets for this event, plus a copy of the book!

PRIZE PACK: 2 tickets to the event at the movie theater nearest you and a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird
First: Click here for a list of participating theaters to confirm there is a screening of the event near you.

Second: Fill out the form below. Feel free to comment on this post and share it with your friends on your own blog/Facebook/Twitter! 

**A winner will be selected at random by end of day Sunday, October 28th

**To participate, first CONFIRM there is a movie theater in your area.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: In the Pink

Summary: Susan McBride, author of The Cougar Club and Little Black Dress, opens her heart in this irresistible memoir about how she got married, got pregnant, and beat breast cancer—all after her 40th birthday. By turns deliciously funny and utterly poignant, In the Pink is definitely Susan's story . . . but her experiences are parts of every woman's journey. -- William Morrow

As a blogger, I tend to receive a fair amount of books every month. Of course, there are those that I have accepted "for review," but I also get some unsolicited ones too. That was the case with IN THE PINK: HOW I MET THE PERFECT (YOUNGER) MAN, SURVIVED BREAST CANCER, AND FOUND TRUE HAPPINESS AFTER 40 by Susan McBride. The publisher's timing was perfect since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and they packaged this little book with some other breast cancer awareness swag including a cute teeny tote bag with an animal print ribbon as well as a cute button and rubber bracelet.

Part of the reason that I decided to feature IN THE PINK today is because I believe that breast cancer is a HUGE issue, and we all need to be aware of this horrible disease that touches so many women's lives. I think we all know of someone who has been affected by this disease, and it's through stories like IN THE PINK where we not only learn about breast cancer, but we also see that it's okay to share our feelings about this subject.

IN THE PINK is author Susan McBride's memoir about meeting her dream guy (finally!), getting married, battling breast cancer, and finding herself pregnant. And believe it or not, all of these things occurred after she turned 40! Her story is informative and heartfelt, but it is also very funny; and I thoroughly enjoyed learning how Ms. McBride managed to keep everything in check and eventually find happiness.

The first thing that came to mind as I was reading IN THE PINK is that I need to get my yearly mammogram scheduled; and truly, if this book has that reaction in every woman that reads it, then it should be considered a success. However, I was also inspired by Ms. McBride's personal story. In many ways, she was a late bloomer in finding love -- both with a man and a baby; and her life proves that it's never too late. In addition, she is a role model for how well she handled her breast cancer diagnosis. She had some valuable advice for dealing with doctors and medical information that every woman should know when facing serious decisions about her health.

IN THE PINK is a very quick read. Ms. McBride's story is only 70 pages and it's available in paperback and as an ebook for $2.99. There is also a Q&A with Ms. McBride along with "Susan's Tips for Dating after Forty," "What I Learned from My Diagnosis," and an excerpt from her new novel THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE AND LIGHTNING. I think this book is perfect for women who are battling (or have battled) breast cancer, but it's also a nice read for anyone who needs to be reminded about the importance of living your life to the fullest!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book.