Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kid Konnection: Dear Santasaurus & Giveaway

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 a very fun book that's especially timely since the holidays are upon us!

Summary: Ernest desperately wants to stay on Santa's Nice List. But Ernest is also full of energy, ideas, mischief. Naughty comes easily to Ernest. Nice is harder.

But maybe if Ernest writes to Santasaurus about all the ways he's tried to be helpful and well-behaved, he can get that Jurassic Turbo Scooter X9 with the working headlight, racing fin, and secret compartment he has his eye on... -- Boyds Mill Press

DEAR SANTASAURUS by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Jef Kaminsky is an adorable picture book that many kids and parents will relate to. Ernest is a little dinosaur who wants a Jurassic Turbo Scooter. He decides to take up a letter campaign to Santasaurus outlining all of the ways that he is trying to be a good dino. Each month, there is a letter (or two) reminding Santasaurus that he wants the scooter while also chronicling some of his actions -- both the good and the bad. The reader will discover that Ernest likes to get into mischief but also that he can be nice. But can he be nice enough that Santasaurus will deliver his Jurassic Turbo Scooter X9?

DEAR SANTASAURUS is a very fun book and perfect for this time of the year when kids are preparing their Santa letters. Ernest and his letters are hilarious; and I think kids will find his antics, as well as his explanations, to be pretty darn funny. In addition, the illustrations are cute and colorful and the perfect complement to the story.

Highly recommended!

I am very excited to be part of The DEAR SANTASAURUS Blog tour which talks about books and cookies -- two of my favorite things. Ms. McAnulty has prepared a cute guest post listing the "Best of" dinosaur books. She also has a recipe for Red Velvet Crackle Cookies that looks terrific!

Awesome Dinosaur Books 
by Stacy McAnulty

I love award shows. The red carpet. The opening song. The anticipation. Yelling at the TV when the judges get it wrong. Unfortunately, there’s not a widely televised awards show for books. I guess there are just too many great choices and so many genres. I could host an award show for dinosaur picture books alone. I think my six-year-old son would make a great judge.

So let’s do it.

Best Dino Christmas Book: DEAR SANTASAURUS by Stacy McAnulty, Art by Jef Kaminisky (Yes, I wrote this one. The judge may be biased. He also thinks I’m the prettiest woman on earth.)
Best ABC Dinos Book: ALPHASAURUS by Megan E. Bryant, Art by Luciana Navarro Powell
Best Title So Nice They Named It Twice Book: DINOSAUR DINOSAUR by Kevin Lewis, Art by Daniel Kirk
Best Dino Book That Doesn’t Really Have a Dinosaur: DINOSAUR WOODS by George McClements
Best Dino Halloween Book: T.REX TRICK OR TREAT by Lois G. Grambling, Art by Jack E. Davis
Best Dino Mother’s Day Book: T.REX AND THE MOTHER’S DAY HUG by Lois G. Grambling, Art by Jack E. Davis
Best Dino Book Inspired by a 60’s Song: DINOSAUR PET by Marc Sedaka, Art by Tim Bowers
Best Dinos on Construction Site Book: BANG! BOOM! ROAR! By Nate Evans and Stephanie Gwyn Brown, Art by Christopher Santoro
Best Dino Vehicle Hybrid Book: DINOTRUX by Chris Gall
Best in a Dino Series: HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY I LOVE YOU? By Jane Yolen, Art by Mark Teague
Best Nonfiction Book About Baby Dinos: BORN TO BE GIANTS by Lita Judge
Bestest of the Best Dino Book: WHEN DINOSAURS CAME WITH EVERYTHING by Elise Broach, Art by Davis Small Roar!

And now time for the daily cookie… Red Velvet Crackle Cookies
(visit for the recipe)

Stacy lives in North Carolina with her three children, two dogs, and one husband. (She has zero dinosaurs.) DEAR SANTASAURUS (Boyd Mills Press, 2013) is her first picture book.

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

Giveaway alert: The author is pleased to offer a giveaway copy of DEAR SANTASAURUS to one winner (U.S. addresses). To enter, please fill out the form below before December 10th at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. Good luck!

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, November 29, 2013

Book Club Exchange: Pamela Schoenewaldt

I'd like to welcome author Pamela Schoenewaldt to Book Club Exchange. Ms. Schoenewaldt is the author of two terrific historical fiction novels WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS and SWIMMING IN THE MOON. I recently reviewed SWIMMING IN THE MOON and I enjoyed it a great deal; however, that wasn't exactly surprising since I also really liked WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS. Both novels are immigration stories as well as coming-of-age tales -- two of my favorite types of books -- so it's no wonder that I'm a big fan of her work.

When Ms. Schoenewaldt offered a guest post, I jumped at the chance and immediately requested a special essay for my Book Club Exchange feature. I think you'll like what she came up with!

A Writer’s View of Book Clubs

Since publishing When We Were Strangers (2011) and Swimming in the Moon (2013), I’ve been to, Skyped to, emailed and speaker phoned to dozens of groups in homes, churches, schools, restaurants, retirement communities, back yards and book stores. All are different; most are mostly women; and in every one there’s warmth, welcome and intricate connections of books and life.

Since both of my books are about the immigrant experience, I’ve heard amazing stories of love and loss, adventure and discovery. I’ve also heard many people say their family members didn’t or couldn’t share their own stories and through my characters these readers have experienced the journeys of their ancestors. In reading many other titles, we’ve all discovered parts of our own or our families’ journeys.

Naturally, structure, or lack of it, varies. Organized clubs set their reading lists a year in advance. Mine spends ridiculous amounts of time picking the next book after each meeting; we’re never more than a month ahead. Some groups assign a presenter for each title and move methodically through a list of questions. A group of English teachers which read When We Were Strangers seemed to know the plot and themes better than I did and drew connections I hadn’t been consciously aware of. My group features disorganized discussion. A Rumanian mathematician friend wouldn’t last a meeting with us. In his group, each member assigns a grade 1 to 100, with decimals allowed, as in 93.5. Grades are defended and vigorously debated. Next, each person sums the book in four (4) words; then a hypothetical film version is thoroughly cast. Finally, each person has the opportunity to re-grade the book, although (naturally) my friend never, never changes his grade. I’m tired and a little stressed just describing Vlad’s process.

Often there’s food, usually fabulous. Some book clubs make meals inspired by the book they’ve just read. At least one I know has an artist who creates a centerpiece from the book. Last week, a book club hostess made a delicious bean soup dinner based on the "beans and bread" diet of the strikers in Swimming in the Moon.

My friend Ellen’s group (pictured, me being the one without a book) began when their children were toddlers; some members have grandchildren now. Through it all, they’ve been faithful friends in every chapter of life. In my city of Knoxville, TN, the “Third Friday” group has met (guess when) monthly since 1911. In Ohio, the 26-20 club started in 1894, with twenty members, meeting 26 times a year. The group stays at 20, exactly, with some fourth and fifth generation members.

In all this variety, book reading becomes the best it can be: personal discovery and social connection. Good fiction (usually) and good friends. Plot and life reflect and enhance each other. Books, wine, food, and friendship come together. There’s a respite from the busyness of life, intellectual stimulus and emotional journeying, friendly debate eased by wine and food; boundaries are stretched and new authors discovered. I’ve read and enjoyed titles I would never have discovered otherwise.

For writer and reader, book groups are a marvel. What’s yours like? How does it operate and how does it enrich your life? Let me know. And if you have a book group that would like to read Swimming in the Moon, let me know how I can help.

Pamela Schoenewaldt lived for ten years in a small town outside Naples, Italy. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy and the United States. Her play, “Espresso con mia madre” (Espresso with my Mother) was performed at Teatro Cilea in Naples. She taught writing for the University of Maryland, European Division and the University of Tennessee and now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband, Maurizio Conti, a physicist, and their dog Jesse, a philosopher.

A huge thanks to Ms. Schoenewaldt for participating in Book Club Exchange!

If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.   

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: The Supreme Macaroni Company

Summary: In The Supreme Macaroni Company, Adriana Trigiani transports readers from the cobblestone streets of Greenwich Village to lush New Orleans to Italy and back again while exploring the tricky dynamics between Old World craftsmanship and New World ambition, all amid a passionate love affair that fuels one woman's determination to have it all.

For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This ancient business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the schoolteacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.

But after the wedding celebrations are over, Valentine wakes up to the hard reality of juggling the demands of a new business and the needs of her new family. Confronted with painful choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: "A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything." Now the proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves—the bitter and the sweet of life itself.

Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: an unforgettable narrative about family, work, romance, and the unexpected turns of life and fate. -- Harper

I've been anxiously awaiting this day for some time! It's the official release of THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY by Adriana Trigiani. If you follow my blog at all, then you already know that I love Adriana both as an author and a person; and I just love seeing how her vibrant personality pops through on every page of her novels.

That was certainly the case with THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY, the third installment in the Valentine series. I've heard that this is the final book in the series; however as a big fan of Valentine and her crazy family, I sure hope not. I think there are a lot more stories to be told -- if not Valentine's, then some other family members!

THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY picks up where the last book left off on the roof of the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village with Valentine's business partner and love interest Gianluca proposing marriage. The marriage isn't without challenges -- Valentine is a workaholic, Gianluca is a good deal older than Valentine with an ex-wife and a grown daughter, and of course Valentine's zany family! However, Valentine is fairly confident that she can handle it all.

Valentine quickly learns that it will take everything she has to balance her very full life, but she's determined to make it all work through all of the ups and downs of her passion-filled life!

Of course, I loved THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY! I adore the characters in this series and almost feel as if I could be part of their family. (In fact, if I'm being totally honest, Valentine's crazy aunt reminds me a bit of my Italian grandmother!) I love all of their quirks and crazy antics, and I found myself smiling (and even laughing) at them on many occasions. However, despite finding a great deal of humor in Valentine's family, I admit that this book touched my heart... quite deeply.

I hesitate to give too much away about this novel because it's best to experience it yourself. Suffice it to say, the Ms. Trigiani has a few surprises up her sleeve for her characters. Having said that, the "surprise" at the end didn't really seem like a shocker because there was a great deal of deliberate foreshadowing. As a reader, I knew what was coming, but I was extremely curious to see how the characters, and especially Valentine, dealt with it.

So what made this book so special to me besides that it was an Adriana Trigiani novel? If you've ever read one of her novels, then you already know that she's a master storyteller. She creates not only memorable characters, but she also brings her scenes to life like few authors. And in the case of THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY, she describes the art of shoemaking so well that you can picture ever single design right down to the individual cuts and stitches!

Of course, all of these things made THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY a wonderful story, but it was actually the messages that I took away from this story that brought it to the next level for me. Valentine is a very human character with her fair share of flaws -- just like the rest of us. However in this book, she grew and learned so much about herself. She realized that "having it all" isn't one bit easy and that being a good wife and mother is tough -- but so worth it! She also learned that there are many tough choices in life and that life can throw you some major curve balls. As a result of all of this, she realized what's truly important in her life.

I'm going to sound a little mushy here, but these messages really hit home for me. I really don't have much in common with Valentine, but somehow, the things she faced in this book and what she learned about herself made me think about my own life... and I mean really think. I know Adriana would love that her novel is having that effect on at least one reader, but I am fairly certain that many women who read this book will feel the same way!

THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY would make for a great book club discussion, although I think it would be best if your members had read the entire series first. There is a reading guide available with fifteen questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, the balance of work and family, loss, secrets, family dynamics, ambition, and love.

I sincerely hope this isn't the last time I will read about Valentine, but if it is, THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY is a fitting farewell. Highly recommended.

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: After Her

Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day and The Good Daughters returns with a haunting novel of sisterhood, sacrifice, and suspense.

I was always looking for excitement, until I found some . . .

Summer, 1979. A dry, hot Northern California school vacation stretches before Rachel and her younger sister, Patty—the daughters of a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome (and chronically unfaithful) detective father and the mother whose heart he broke.

When we first meet her, Patty is eleven—a gangly kid who loves basketball and dogs and would do anything for her older sister, Rachel. Rachel is obsessed with making up stories and believes she possesses the gift of knowing what's in the minds of people around her. She has visions, whether she wants to or not. Left to their own devices, the sisters spend their days studying record jackets, concocting elaborate fantasies about the mysterious neighbor who moved in down the street, and playing dangerous games on the mountain that looms behind their house.

When young women start turning up dead on the mountain, the girls' father is put in charge of finding the murderer known as the "Sunset Strangler." Watching her father's life slowly unravel as months pass and more women are killed, Rachel embarks on her most dangerous game yet . . . using herself as bait to catch the killer. But rather than cracking the case, the consequences of Rachel's actions will destroy her father's career and alter forever the lives of everyone she loves.

Thirty years later, still haunted by the belief that the killer remains at large, Rachel constructs a new strategy to smoke out the Sunset Strangler and vindicate her father—a plan that unexpectedly unearths a long-buried family secret.

Loosely inspired by the Trailside Killer case that terrorized Marin County, California, in the late 1970s, After Her is part thriller, part love story. Maynard has created a poignant, suspenseful, and painfully real family saga that traces a young girl's first explorations of sexuality, the loss of innocence, the bond shared by sisters, and the tender but damaged relationship between a girl and her father that endures even beyond the grave. -- William Morrow

I actually read AFTER HER by Joyce Maynard some time ago and just recently realized that I never wrote my review. I've been slacking lately with my blogging "responsibilities," but there's really no excuse for this. Sometimes, I read a novel and I'm kind of wishy-washy about it. Those reviews are always difficult ones for me to write. However, in the case of AFTER HER, I loved this novel and I want to put it in the hands of everyone I know!

AFTER HER takes place in the late 1970s in California and is very loosely based on the story an actual serial killer that took place in Northern California. Sisters Rachel and Patty live (and even play) in the area where the "Sunset Strangler" is committing his crimes. Needless to say, their lives are turned upside-down when the murders start occurring.

Their father is a charismatic police detective who has cheated time and time again on their mother, and their mother is still reeling from his betrayal. When their father becomes involved in solving this crime, his entire persona changes when he can't solve the crime. The girls not only watch their mother unravel because of the divorce, but they also see the destruction of their father.

Thirty years later, Rachel is still deeply haunted by her childhood and desperately wants to vindicate her father. She eventually finds the killer while also discovering a very hidden family secret.

I adored AFTER HER and I haven't felt that way about a lot of books in the past few months. It was one of those novels that I didn't want to put down, but at the same time, I didn't want it to end. I am a very big fan of Ms. Maynard's, and I've come to appreciate her beautiful storytelling abilities and complex character development. AFTER HER didn't disappoint, and it had a little bit of something for everyone -- mystery, suspense, love, family narrative, and even a coming-of-age story. Basically, all of the things I love about books!

It's difficult for me to focus on one or two great things about this novel because everything pretty much worked for me. While I wouldn't classify this as a traditional mystery, I did appreciate the mystery/suspense story line; and it definitely added to my overall enjoyment of the story. Of course, I also was very impressed with Ms. Maynard's writing style and especially the way she decided to tell the story  -- through the eyes of two young girls rather than the police detective or even the murderer.

And I think the characters are what makes Joyce Maynard's novels so very special. She is able to take a unique perspective on stories by making the characters so real. In AFTER HER, she delved into the members of this family and truly explored the way these crimes affected them. The father's pain and frustration was so genuine that I could almost feel it, while the mother's pain of losing her husband was equally gripping. By focusing on the two young daughters (and especially Rachel), the reader is not only able to see how much they were affected by these events, but also their perspective on their parents' behavior.

It won't be a surprise when I say that AFTER HER would make a fantastic book club selection. There is a
reading guide available with fourteen thought-provoking questions. Of course, you will want to talk about the characters, but you also might want to discuss the following themes: adultery, disappointment, love, betrayal, family dynamics, parent/child relationships, death, loss, grief, depression, redemption, and imagination.

AFTER HER is an excellent novel about a family who is torn apart by a series of murders. Highly recommended to fans of family dramas and literary fiction.

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

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. 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.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kid Konnection: The Day the Crayons Quit

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 one of the most original (and fun!) picture books I've seen in recent memory!

Summary: Crayons have feelings, too, in this funny back-to-school story illustrated by the creator of Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me -- now a #1 New York Times bestseller!

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.

What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Kids will be imagining their own humorous conversations with crayons and coloring a blue streak after sharing laughs with Drew Daywalt and New York Times bestseller Oliver Jeffers. This story is perfect as a back-to-school gift, for all budding artists, for fans of humorous books such as Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciezka and Lane Smith, and for fans of Oliver Jeffers' Stuck, The Incredibly Book Eating Boy, Lost and Found, and This Moose Belongs to Me.

THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers is one of my favorite picture books of the year!. I absolutely adore everything about this book, and I have a feeling that kids will too. In fact, my nephews enjoyed this book so much that my sister had to show it to me last time I was at her house. (I thought it looked somewhat familiar, so I came home to find that I already had this delightful book sitting on my shelves!)

THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT is the very silly account of Duncan and his crayons. One day, Duncan wants to color, but when he opens his crayons box, all he sees is a stack of letters -- no crayons. His crayons have quit, and each one has his own gripe. For instance, Black crayon wants to be used for more than just outlining and Blue is tired because he's always used for coloring big bodies of water, and Pink just wants to be used.

Duncan has to find a way to appease all of the crayons, but how?

I don't know if I can even express how adorable THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT is. Truly, the idea behind this picture book is so creative. Each page spread of this story features a letter from one of the crayons voicing their complaints as well as a cute "child's" illustration using that color of crayon. And boy are these crayons upset! What makes this book so funny is that their gripes actually make sense and ring true to anyone who has ever used a box of crayons. I especially love how funny the crayon's letters are -- each one is funnier than the last!

This is a first for Booking Mama, but I have a mini guest review (well actually just quotes) from both of my nephews. Here are a few snippets of their reaction to the book. Noah (age 5) said "The book is funny. I really liked how the blue crayon got stubby." And Jude (age 3) said, "Peach crayon is funny. He is naked!" As much as I love this book and want to share with you my thoughts, I think these quotes are probably a better indicator of how much kids will enjoy this story.

THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT is a perfect holiday gift for the little ones in your life. Highly recommended!

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

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!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: Swimming in the Moon

Summary: A new historical novel from Pamela Schoenewaldt, the USA Today bestselling author of When We Were Strangers.

Italy, 1905. Fourteen-year-old Lucia and her young mother, Teresa, are servants in a magnificent villa on the Bay of Naples, where Teresa soothes their unhappy mistress with song. But volatile tempers force them to flee, exchanging their warm, gilded cage for the cold winds off Lake Erie and Cleveland's restless immigrant quarters.

With a voice as soaring and varied as her moods, Teresa transforms herself into the Naples Nightingale on the vaudeville circuit. Clever and hardworking, Lucia blossoms in school until her mother's demons return, fracturing Lucia's dreams.

Yet Lucia is not alone in her struggle for a better life. All around her, friends and neighbors, new Americans, are demanding decent wages and working conditions. Lucia joins their battle, confronting risks and opportunities that will transform her and her world in ways she never imagined. -- William Morrow

A few years ago, I reviewed WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS by Pamela Schoenewaldt and I thought it was fantastic. So at this year's BEA when I found a copy of her latest novel SWIMMING IN THE MOON in one of my goody bags, I was pretty excited. Like her first book, SWIMMING IN THE MOON is an immigrant story and I do love a good immigrant story...

SWIMMING IN THE MOON tells the story of Lucia and her mother Teresa. In the early 1900s, they are servants in a villa on the Bay of Naples until one tragic day when Teresa's temperamental behavior forces them to leave the country. Their friends help them find a new home in the immigrant parts of Cleveland.

Teresa no longer wants to be a servant so she tries her luck on the Vaudeville circuit leaving Lucia behind. Lucia is an excellent student and thriving in her new home until her mom's volatile behavior returns. Lucia is torn between finding happiness and success while trying to save her mom.

Lucia discovers that she isn't the only one pursuing the American Dream. Things are hard for immigrants. Fair wages and working conditions are hard to find, and Lucia finds herself joining the battle. Ultimately, she faces much risk and potential reward; and through the entire process she also learns a great deal about her own search for happiness.

Once again, Ms. Schoenewaldt wrote a book that really captured my interest and held it. I enjoyed SWIMMING IN THE MOON a great deal, and I especially enjoyed the blend of history and fiction. As an almost purely reader of fiction, I like when I can read an entertaining story and also learn a thing or two. And in the case of SWIMMING IN THE MOON, I learned quite a few things about the early labor movement in the United States. The author included many actual events from the labor movement including the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and I thought it was evident that she did a great deal of research to write this story.

In addition, I really appreciated how this novel explored mental illness. Lucia's mother Teresa was dealing with quite a few issues that there is medication for in today's society. However in the early 1900s, mental illness was treated quite differently especially if you were a poor immigrant. I liked getting an inside view in early mental institutions as well as their some of their practices including forced sterilization. It really is difficult to think of how we treated these individuals in our country, and it wasn't all that long ago.

Another aspect of this novel that I enjoyed was how well Ms. Schoenewaldt brought her setting to life. She chose Cleveland for this novel rather than New York or Chicago, and I actually liked that it was a little different than other immigrant stories. She did a great job of describing the city as well as the immigrant quarters, and I also thought her descriptions of factory life were fascinating.

Needless to say, I'm going to recommend SWIMMING IN THE MOON for book clubs. I think it's an ideal selection because it does touch upon so many complex issues. There is a reading guide available for the novel with seventeen questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include mental illness, the immigrant experience, change, the labor movement, prejudice, honestly, guilt, duty, education, worker's rights, and family.

If you are a fan of historical fiction and especially immigration stories, then you won't want to miss SWIMMING IN THE MOON.

I received a copy of this novel at this year's BEA.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: Glider Gloves

Because I know many of you have already started your holiday shopping, I wanted to share with you a great gift idea...


I was fortunate enough to receive a pair of Glider Gloves in the mail a few weeks ago, and I was waiting for just the right time to try them out. I walk and/or run almost every day, but the weather wasn't exactly cooperating for a test trial of gloves. Well last week, it finally got cold enough and I required a pair of gloves for my morning walk.

I really like my Glider Gloves and they are perfect for my outdoor walks since I need to access my iPhone to check my emails and access my audio books. I received the Urban Style in Black ($24.99) which is the lighter weight option of glove. They also have a Winter Style option ($29.99) which is probably better if you live in a colder climate or plan on wearing them for longer periods of time.

Glider Gloves not only keep your hands warm, but they also allow you to use your touchscreen devices. They are made of a special conductive fabric woven into the liner that provides a touch response along all ten fingers and the palm -- not just the fingertips like so many other gloves on the market. That means you can even use your knuckle in a pinch to answer your phone!

In addition, they have an anti-slip grip as well as a tag on the inside that can be used to clean your screen -- how smart is that? Since I do like to coordinate my workout outfits, I appreciate that Glider Gloves come in a variety of colors including grey, pink, teal, and blue.

I think GLIDER GLOVES make a great gift for anyone who uses their touchscreen devices in the winter. And honestly, who do you know who isn't glued to a device of some sort? The gloves are very reasonably priced and shipping is free for most products. Questions? Check out their FAQs here.

And here's the best part... You can save $3 on a pair of gloves by just using the promo code: 3offGGpromo106515.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Once We Were Brothers

Summary: The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust. 

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser, Ben Solomon, is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's own family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has Solomon accused the right man? 

Once We Were Brothers is Ronald H. Balson's compelling tale of two boys and a family who struggle to survive in war-torn Poland, and a young love that struggles to endure the unspeakable cruelty of the Holocaust. Two lives, two worlds, and sixty years converge in an explosive race to redemption that makes for a moving and powerful tale of love, survival, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit. -- St. Martin's Griffin

ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS by Ronald H. Balson was another book that I heard about at this year's BEA. Like THE WEDDING GIFT, this novel was originally self published and sold 120,000 copies. The film right were also purchased by Cool People Productions LLC, and that actually makes a lot of sense because I could totally see this novel as a movie.

ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS tells the story of two men who both survived the Holocaust. Ben Solomon is certain that the man living as Elliot Rosenzweig, a civic leader and philanthropist, is really a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek. Solomon sets out to convince lawyer Catherine Lockhart that Rosenzweig isn't who he seems and wants her to make a case again him. As Solomon tells his story to Catherine, he reveals that Rosenzweig was actually adopted by his family before becoming a brutal Nazi officer and betraying them during the war.

Initially, Catherine isn't sure that she can make a case against Rosenzweig based on Solomon's personal memories (or even if she believes him for that matter); and she doesn't know if she can get involved against her firm's wishes. However, as she gets to know Solomon better, she realizes that she can't not help this man have a chance at redemption.

I admit when I picked up ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS, I was pretty sure that it wouldn't live up to its hype. But that wasn't the case. I was intrigued by this story and I quickly got caught up in Solomon's story -- much like Catherine. I ended up reading this almost 400 page novel fairly quickly (for me!) and truly enjoyed it. This novel had a little bit of everything -- elements of a love story, a courtroom thriller and a mystery; and I also thought the author was a pretty darn good storyteller.

I actually like how the author decided to tell ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS. The story takes place in the present (well almost the present) with flashbacks to the time of the Nazi occupation. Through Solomon's storytelling, the reader learns what happened in his past starting with his childhood in Germany and how his family took in Piatek. I, like the character of Catherine, wasn't quite sure what to make of Solomon at times; and quite honestly, I wasn't sure if his story added up. In addition, I had many of the same frustrations that Catherine did in that I wanted Solomon to just spit out his story rather than reflecting on each and every memory!

I decided to include ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS as part of Mystery Monday even though it isn't a traditional mystery or suspense novel. Because I was so unsure of Solomon's claims, for much of the novel, I wasn't sure who was responsible for the crime. As the book progressed, more and more came out about Solomon's past and the truth was eventually revealed. It was because of Catherine and her friend who was a private investigator that much of "the mystery" was revealed.

One of the things that made ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS so special is the feelings it evoked in me. There were many details about the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust, and I felt much outrage as well as sadness. In addition, I loved how the author showed how many of the characters acted so selflessly and showed so much strength. However, it was the message of survival and redemption that really remained with me even weeks after finishing the novel.

I think ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS would make an excellent book club pick. (Actually, I first heard about this novel during a "speed dating" event for book clubs.) It touches upon so many universal issues like love, betrayal, and redemption; plus it delves into the effects of war. I was excited to find that there are discussion questions which will help keep book clubs on track. Personally, I think the questions are good but just a start because there are many other themes to discuss. Some of the topics you might want to explore include war, second chances, love, survival, lies, justice, courage, religion, patience, and redemption.

I think fans of historical fiction will appreciate ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS. But I also think readers who like literary fiction, mysteries, and courtroom dramas will enjoy it as well. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for providing a copy of this novel.

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. 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.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kid Konnection: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

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 a beautiful picture book that has already received five (yes five!) starred reviews.

Summary: Are you bored with being so proper? 

Do you want to have more fun? 

Mr. Tiger knows exactly how you feel. So he decides to go wild. 

But does he go too far? 

From Caldecott Honor artist Peter Brown comes a story that shows there's a time and place for everything...even going wild. -- Little Brown Kids

MR. TIGER GOES WILD by Peter Brown is just an all around terrific picture book. I picked it up with pretty high expectations since it's received five starred reviews, and I wasn't disappointed. The story about a very proper tiger who wants to let loose and go a little wild is adorable, as are the illustrations. It's sure to be a hit with kids and parents alike.

MR. TIGER GOES WILD is living in a pretty calm (and some would say boring) world. He, like the other animals, walks upright and is dressed in a proper suit, tie and hat. However, Mr. Tiger wants to have some fun, and frankly, be a little wild. First, he decides to crawl on all fours and immediately feels a little better. Then, he decides to try a roar despite the looks he gets from his fellow animal friends. When his elephant friend finally loses her patience and tells Mr. Tiger to head to the wilderness if he's going to act wild, Tiger thinks it's the best idea in the world. At first, Mr. Tiger loves the freedom but eventually he starts to miss his friends and returns to his old home. Upon his arrival, he discovers that his friends have started to change too, and he can finally just be himself!

Seriously, how cute is this premise? And isn't the message about staying true to one's self just fantastic for young kids? I absolutely loved this book. Not only is it seriously entertaining and even a little funny, it also teaches children that it's okay to be different and to stand up for what is right. It also reinforces that it's okay to sometimes go a little wild!

In addition to a great story, I thought the mixed media illustrations were the perfect complement. When the story begins and Mr. Tiger is quite proper, the other characters are drawn in neutral grey tones. Mr. Tiger and his quotes are the only splashes of color. It isn't until Mr. Tiger runs off to the wilderness that his world has color. I thought that was a super cute touch to the book!

There is also a fun on-line activity kit associated with MR. TIGER GOES WILD. There are downloads for a mask, finger puppets, a word scramble, a matching game, and more!

MR. TIGER GOES WILD is terrific and I highly recommended checking it out... even if you don't have a little one in your life!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this book.

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, November 15, 2013

November 2013 Book Club

Summary: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. -- Scribner

My book club met on Wednesday night to discuss THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was very excited about this selection because I'd been meaning to re-read this book since a few weeks before I saw the movie. Unfortunately, I ended up seeing the movie before I could read the book; and I have to wonder if it didn't influence my interpretation of the book.

That's not to say the I didn't love the book because I totally did -- I just kept picturing certain characters and scenes like they appeared in the movie version. In fact, my entire book club thoroughly enjoyed this book and two of the members even consider it one of their all-time favorites. We actually didn't spend a lot of time discussing the book -- some months are like that; however, much of our conversation was geared towards comparing the book and the movie.

One thing that struck me as I was reading THE GREAT GATSBY for the first time in almost thirty years is how much more I appreciated this book as an adult. I'm certainly glad that I read and discussed it in high school but I really didn't understand so many of the themes and symbolism. I just don't think I had enough wisdom and life experiences to truly get the story. In a way, I almost feel as if this novel is wasted on the young, but I digress....

Next month, we will be reading THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN by David Baldacci for our holiday meeting. My friend wanted a quick and easy read since we will all be so busy with the holidays and I think THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN fits the bill. I always look forward to our December meeting because we have a used book swap. Not that I need any more books, but I enjoy seeing what everyone brings and eventually goes home with!

Summary: This edition of the "New York Times" bestseller--a heartwarming tale of humor, romance, and mystery by the bestselling author of "Split Second"--includes the brand-new short story, "Waiting for Santa." "Baldacci whips up a pleasant holiday confection."--"People." -- Grand Central Publishing

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: The Theory of Opposites

Summary: What happens when you think you have it all, and then suddenly it’s taken away? 

Willa Chandler-Golden's father changed the world with his self-help bestseller, Is It Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Life May Be Out of Your Control. Millions of devoted fans now find solace in his notion that everything happens for a reason. Though Willa isn’t entirely convinced of her father’s theories, she readily admits that the universe has delivered her a solid life: a reliable husband, a fast-paced career. Sure there are hiccups – negative pregnancy tests, embattled siblings - but this is what the universe has brought, and life, if she doesn’t think about it too much, is wonderful. 

Then her (evidently not-so-reliable) husband proposes this: A two-month break. Two months to see if they can't live their lives without each other. And before Willa can sort out destiny and fate and what it all means, she’s axed from her job, her 12 year-old nephew Nicky moves in, her ex-boyfriend finds her on Facebook, and her best friend Vanessa lands a gig writing for Dare You!, the hottest new reality TV show. And then Vanessa lures Willa into dares of her own - dares that run counter to her father’s theories of fate, dares that might change everything…but only if Willa is brave enough to stop listening to the universe and instead aim for the stars. -- Camellia Press

I admit that I was with a little surprised when I looked at my copy of THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES by Allison Winn Scotch. I consider myself a BIG fan of Ms. Winn Scotch's since I've read all of her novels, and I saw that this book was published by Camellia Press instead of a traditional publisher like her other novels. Evidently, Ms. Winn Scotch decided to take a chance and go the self-publishing route on her fifth book. I have to wonder if more successful authors will follow in her path.

But enough about how this book was published and on to the book itself. THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES is sure to be a hit with readers who enjoy Ms. Winn Scotch's novels (or any smart women's lit for that matter.) It tells the story of Willa Chandler-Golden, a thirty something women who seemingly has it all -- a good job and a great husband albeit she is struggling with fertility issues. She's also the daughter of a self-help guru whose bestselling book "Is it Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Life May Be Out of Your Control" has taken the country by storm asserting that everything happens for a reason and you don't really have the ability to change what happens to you.

When Willa's loses her job and then her husband asks for a two month break, she tries to keep perspective given her father's theories about life. However, her life becomes even more complex when her twelve year old nephew moves in with her and her ex-boyfriend finds her on Facebook. Willa's best friend Vanessa, who has recently gotten a job with the reality TV show Dare You!, decides that Willa needs to make some drastic changes in her life and even challenge her father's views on fate. As a result, Willa is "forced" to experience life doing the opposite of what she'd normally do and discovers that she, in fact, does have the power to control her own destiny.

I have to say that I really enjoyed THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES. It's hard for me to pick a favorite book of Ms. Winn Scotch's, but this one is certainly right up there. I loved the blend of humor and emotional insight in this novel, and I couldn't help but root for Willa (although I did want to hit her upside the head more than once.) If I have one slight complaint in the story, it was that I had a hard time grasping the intricacies of Willa's father's theories. Generally, I understood that he believed whatever happens, happens, but it didn't totally make sense to me. I am assuming that might have been the point, though!

I think what I most appreciated about THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES is what I was able to walk away with after I finished the book. I know this is going to sound corny, but I'm going to say it anyway. All too often, I think society (myself included) blames everything bad that happens on someone or something else -- kind of a victim mentality. I loved that Willa, despite her strange upbringing and relationship with her father, was able to take control of her own life and set out in a direction that should eventually make her happy. She was forced to get outside of her comfort zone, in more ways than one, and take chances. I think as she was able to accomplish more, her confidence grew and she felt more empowered! I think there's more than one life lesson in Willa's story.

I also really liked the humor in this novel. I remember Ms. Winn Scotch's other novels having some funny situations, but THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES caused me to laugh out loud quite a few times. I loved the satire about our love of reality shows and social media along with some of our quirks about responsibility and ownership. However, I think the humor worked so well in this story because the author was able to contrast it with some pretty serious issues including 9/11, loss, infertility and marital problems.

THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES would make an outstanding book club selection, especially for groups made up entirely of women (well.... for most book clubs, then!) Ms. Winn Scotch has a reading group guide posted on her site with ten terrific questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, friendship, parent/child relationships, sibling relationships, fate, loss, grief, infertility, second chances, instincts, the effects of social media, and happiness.

I adored THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES and I highly recommend it to fans of smart women's fiction!

Thanks to Get Red PR for providing a review copy of this novel.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Giveaway: The Book Thief Prize Pack

Summary: The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that will be in movie theaters on November 15, 2013, Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul. It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time. -- Knopf

When THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak came out years ago, I knew I had to read this novel about a young girl during World War II. I ended up loving this book... like pretty much everyone else who read it. I've been telling myself that I need to read it again since it's been so long; however, I never found the right time to do it. That is until the past week or so.

I actually started THE BOOK THIEF last week in anticipation of the new movie, and it's exactly what I remembered. A beautifully written and touching story about a young girl and her love of books. I haven't had the chance to finish it yet, but I expect to do so later in the week.

THE BOOK THIEF will be in select theaters November 8. (Of course, I live in Pennsyltucky so I'm going to have to wait awhile!) THE BOOK THIEF is based on the beloved bestselling bookthat tells the inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany. The film stars Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and Sophie NĂ©lisse and is directed by Brian Percival. Personally, I can't wait to see it!

Visit the official website
Like THE BOOK THIEF on Facebook
Follow @BookThiefMovie on Twitter #TheBookThief

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox, I have a great THE BOOK THIEF prize pack available to one lucky reader. This prize pack contains the following:
  • $25 Visa gift card to see THE BOOK THIEF in theaters! 
  • Movie tie-in novel: THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak 
To enter, just fill out the form below before November 26th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Case Logic Gear

A few weeks ago, I offered the chance to review a Case Logic iPad case. Of course, I jumped at the chance after checking out the site. They have so many terrific iPad cases that it was difficult to chose just one for review. I asked for Booking Daughter's opinion and she found the perfect one... for her! I ended up receiving a QuickFlip Case for the iPad mini.

Booking Daughter is fourteen years old now, so she probably selected this case because of the adorable purple plaid pattern. (For those of you who like simpler cases, it is available in black.) I admit that I was also drawn to this print -- purple is my favorite color; however, this case is so much more than just a pretty one. It wasn't until we put the case on the iPad that we realized just how useful it really is.

The QuickFlip Case offers quite a bit over your average case and I think it's reasonably priced at $34.99. It has a hard shell with dense foam and extra firm corners. (I have to warn you that it is a challenge to get the case on the iPad, but it's the tight fit that protects the tablet.) In addition, it provides superior 360° protection Patent pending QuickFlip™ motion that makes it easy for handheld use. Both of these things are great, but my favorite aspect of this case is that it has a sturdy platform which allows the iPad to stand at multiple viewing angles.

The QuickFlip Case is ideal for anyone looking for a cute but functional case for their iPad. However, Case Logic has so many different options for the iPad (or any tablet for that matter.) They also have some unique products for cameras, laptops, phones, and other portable electronics. I think these products are perfect gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season.

I was very impressed with the QuickFlip Case by Case Logic and I highly recommend checking out their other products. In addition, they have a great warranty policy and are available on-line and at many local retailers including Best Buy and Target.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Burial Rites

Summary: Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. 

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Toti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard. 

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? -- Little, Brown

I was excited when I learned that Pennie Clark selected BURIAL RITES by Hannah Kent for Costco's Buyer's Pick for November. I had already finished this novel and thought it was a fantastic read, but I was afraid that it might fly under the radar. Thanks to Costco's successful book program, I hope that this intriguing and well written novel will make it into the hands of many readers who wouldn't otherwise have heard of this story.

BURIAL RITES is based on a true murder story and takes place in Iceland in the 19th century. The story centers around Agnes, a woman who was found guilty of brutally murdering and setting fire to her master and another man. Since there were no prisons for women during this time, Agnes was sent to live with a family on an isolated farm until her execution. Naturally, the family is less than thrilled to be hosting a "monster."

Initially, Agnes is treated very much like a prisoner, but she is given the opportunity to select a spiritual guide. She chooses an unlikely candidate Reverend Toti, a young man who does not feel that his is up for the job. As Agnes spends more time with the wife and daughters of the host family, as well as the Reverend, she begins to reveal what really happened during the murders. Eventually, the family members and the Reverend begin to see another side to the story and Agnes as a person.

If I'm being entirely honest, I wasn't sure that BURIAL RITES appealed to me. I'm always up for a good mystery, and especially a literary one at that, but the setting and the historical aspect didn't really call out to me like I had hoped. However, I had seen so much buzz for this book at this year's BEA and then some really positive reviews, that I decided to take a chance on the novel.

It's a good thing I did because I really liked this book, and I was very impressed with Ms. Kent's debut novel. I actually found the historical parts of this story to be extremely well done. It's apparent that the author really researched and understood the subject matter, and she did an excellent job of incorporating real text from the historic documents into the novel.  But I also liked how the author created another angle to this real-life story. Most people consider Agnes to be a brutal murderer; however, Ms. Kent made her very complex and therefore a very human character with a hidden story to tell.

Furthermore, I thought Ms Kent's prose was beautiful. Despite not being thrilled with the setting, I actually found Ms. Kent's descriptions of 19th century Iceland to be amazing. She brought to life this time period in such a vivid manner with her details while also incorporating facts about it that I found intriguing. In addition, Ms. Kent made the characters multi-dimensional and interesting as individuals as well as how they related to Agnes.

As far as the mystery aspect of the story goes, I found myself very interested in discovering the truth. I became frustrated with Hannah initially because I knew there was more to the story that she was sharing. As Agnes opened up to a few of the characters, the "truth" behind the story was revealed; and I discovered that I was satisfied with the story the author created.

BURIAL RITES would make an outstanding book club selection. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a guide on the publisher's website or the author's. However, I don't think one is absolutely necessary for a quality discussion. There are many interesting themes to discuss including class structure, the role of women in Iceland society in the 19th century, politics, the death penalty, the justice system, honesty, abuse, forgiveness, and redemption.

I definitely found BURIAL RITES to be a quality literary mystery and I highly recommend it.

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

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. 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.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kid Konnection: Fossil & Giveaway

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 a beautiful picture book that will stimulate your child's imagination.

Summary: When a boy and his dog go for a hike, the boy trips on a fossil, and it comes to life, revealing an ancient plant. The boy is so intrigued that he breaks two more fossils that come to life—a dragonfly and a pteranodon. When these prehistoric creatures collide with present reality, the boy must figure out a way to make things go back to normal. Visually told through art, this "wordless story" will surely spark imagination and creativity. -- Two Lions

When my children were young, we had a few picture books that didn't have words. At first, I wasn't sure if my kids would like this type of book since we enjoyed "reading" together; however, I soon learned that paging through these books could be even more fun because my children could tell me their own story.

I recently discovered a new picture book called FOSSIL by Bill Thomson which allows kids to do just that -- tell their own story through gorgeously illustrated pictures. FOSSIL begins with a young boy and his dog heading out for a hike. The boy discovers an intriguing rock, but when he trips, the rock breaks in half. Much to his amazement, he's discovered a fossil of a fern.

He finds more rocks and purposely breaks them to see what's inside. He finds two more fossils, one of a dragonfly and one of a pteranodon; and the creatures come to life! When the pteranodon grabs the boy's dog and flies away, the boy must figure out a way to save his best friend!

I thought FOSSIL was a delightful book. I enjoyed the story where the past comes to life through the fossils; however, it was the beautiful illustrations that really made this book special to me. Mr. Thomson's previous book CHALK has already been honored with awards, and I suspect that FOSSIL might win a few too.

Each page of this picture book jumps to life with the exquisite details. Mr. Thomson paints each illustration by hand, using acrylic paint and colored pencils. You can get an idea of just how amazing these pictures are in the book trailer below:

FOSSIL is guaranteed to entertain and capture the imaginations of the children in your life. Recommended for children ages three to seven years old.

Check out the rest of the FOSSIL tour stops:

Mon, Nov 11 NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Nov 12 Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Nov 13 There's a Book
Thurs, Nov 14 Sharpread
Fri, Nov 15 Kid Lit Frenzy
Mon, Nov 18 Once Upon a Story
Tues, Nov 19 The Children's Book Review
Wed, Nov 20 5 Minutes for Books
Thurs, Nov 21 Geo Librarian
Fri, Nov 22 Growing with Science

Giveaway alert: Two Lions/Amazon is pleased to offer a giveaway copy of FOSSIL to one winner (U.S. addresses). To enter, must fill out the form below before November 22nd at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. Good luck!
Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this book.

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, November 8, 2013

Review Gone Reading

As promised a few days ago, I am finally featuring some wonderful gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season. I decided to wait until after Halloween since I get frustrated when retailers put up their Christmas decorations in mid-October; however, I have to tell you that I've been dying to share a few of these terrific items with you!

Recently, I discovered a very cool website called Gone Reading. This retail site promises "Brilliant Products for the Reading Lifestyle," and I couldn't agree more. The minute I opened this site, I was blown away by how many book-related products they offer. They have everything from tee-shirts, to cards and stationery, to book lights, to posters, to wine charms, to book shelves, to dishes, and much more! I admit that I had a hard time narrowing my focus because it was a book lover's dream!

I received two items for review -- a Beach T-Shirt for Women and a Large Book Shaped Serving Platter; and I couldn't have been happier with either item. The tee-shirt is positively adorable and features and women reading a book while at the beach. It's absolutely perfect for me since I spend our entire beach vacation with a book in my hands. All of their tees are pre-shrunk and 100% cotton and they feel like a quality tee -- you know what I mean. In addition, the women's tees are made for women. They are cut slimmer and are definitely more flattering than a traditional tee-shirt.

Despite loving the tee-shirt, I have to say that my favorite item was the Large Book Shaped Serving Platter. I can't wait to use it for my book club. The platter is made from porcelain and is safe for dishwasher, oven and microwave use. I can't wait to use it when I host my next book club meeting.

I know my platter feels a little lonely and that's why I've decided that I need to get the entire set of platters and plates! I know I'm showing my inner book geek, but aren't they just the cutest things? 

Gone Reading has made it super easy to shop either for yourself or another book lover in your life. Their site is organized very well and you can shop by product type, by special collection (which includes headings like book club gifts, Jane Austen gifts, and librarian gifts), or by best-sellers. Shipping is free for orders over $100. You can also join their e-mail list to get the latest and greatest on specials and new products.

And if you need another excuse to make an order from Gone Reading, I have a great one. The folks at Gone Reading donate 100% of their after-tax profits to reading-related charities like READ Global, Ethiopia Reads and BiblioWorks! I'm telling you -- I love this company for so many reasons!!!

I'm pretty sure you're going to want to check out their book-related products offerings, so here's a little incentive -- a 25% discount code off of all your purchases between now and the end of the year. Just type in mamas25 when you checkout.

Happy shopping!!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guest Blogger: Mary Kay Andrews & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed a delightful Christmas novel called CHRISTMAS BLISS by one of my favorite authors Mary Kay Andrews. This cute story about two best friends is guaranteed not only to put you in the Christmas spirit but also warm your heart.

I am super excited to welcome back Ms. Andrews with another wonderful guest post about the appeal of White Christmas. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did... and make sure you check out the fantastic giveaway!

A Christmas Confession 

Growing up in sub-tropical Florida, the closest I ever got to a white Christmas was a day spent frolicking on the sandy white beaches of the nearby Gulf of Mexico. I never saw a real snow sled until I was grown and in college, but there was more than one holiday where my siblings and I went water skiing on Christmas Day. Okay—in a wetsuit, but still, it was in the high ‘70s. 

Maybe that explains my attraction to the movie musical White Christmas, which I share with the protagonist of my new novella Christmas Bliss. It’s a Wonderful Life is grand, sure, and Home Alone, which was a favorite of my own now-grown children is still wickedly funny, but for Weezie Foley and me, it’s always gonna be White Christmas.

In the early years, before VCRs and DVD players, I’d eagerly await the night the movie would be broadcast on television, usually the week before Christmas. Finally, nearly twenty years ago, my sister, knowing how I loved the movie, gave me my own videotape of the movie. When technology advanced, she gave me my own DVD.

Why do Weezie and I love this film? Don’t know about Weezie, but maybe part of the appeal for me is that it was released the year I was born—although I didn’t realize that until recently. Or maybe it’s the Irving Berlin songs. Every once in a while, when my little sister and I get together, we belt out a screechy version of “Sisters”. Certainly, part of the appeal is the glorious costumes, which were the creation of legendary designer Edith Head. Those smart post-war suits worn by the men and women, and my favorite, the glamorous black strapless sequined gown worn by Rosemary Clooney in her “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” number. True confession: years ago, when I wrote another holiday-themed mystery, Midnight Clear, I had a costume-maker friend create an identical version of the red satin Mrs. Santa gown Rosemary wears in the movie’s finale. This year, with the release of Christmas Bliss, I’ve dug the costume out and worn it to several signings.

In CHRISTMAS BLISS, Weezie’s fiancĂ© Daniel, who has ambivalent feelings about the holiday, tells Weezie is favorite Christmas movie is The Ref. Weezie is appalled by his fondness for such a dark, cynical movie, and her reaction is the same as mine, when both my children professed their love for the Dennis Leary blackly comedic look at dysfunction in the suburbs. Seriously? Is this what they think families are like?

Sure, I realize “my” movie is soaked in that syrupy post-war optimism of the fifties. It’s an unrealistic depiction of filial devotion, show business, you name it. Hell, even the snow is laughably fake. But none of that matters to me. To me, White Christmas is about friendship and faithfulness, and ultimately, the triumph of true love. Also? The costumes are way cool.

Mary Kay Andrews is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Fixer Upper, Savannah Breeze and Blue Christmas, as well as Deep Dish, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies and Savannah Blues.

She also wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck. Her mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Awards.

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida (and a diplomate of the Maas Bros. Department Store School of Charm), Trocheck earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Georgia in 1976 (Go Dawgs!). She started her professional journalism career in Savannah, Georgia, where she covered the real-life murder trials which were the basis of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. She left journalism after a ten-year stint as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

She is a frequent lecturer and writing teacher at workshops including Emory University, The University of Georgia’s Harriette Austin Writer’s Workshop, the Tennessee Mountain Writer’s Workshop, and the Antioch Writer’s Workshop.

As a lifelong “junker” the author claims to know the location of every promising thrift store, flea market and junkpile in the southeastern United States, plus many parts of Ohio.

Married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mother of two grown children and a proud grandmother. After a brief hiatus in Raleigh, NC, she and her husband moved back to their old neighborhood in Atlanta, where they live in a restored 1926 Craftsman bungalow. She divides her time between Atlanta and her restored beach cottage on Tybee Island, GA.

Giveaway alert: I have an awesome CHRISTMAS BLISS giveaway for one lucky Booking Mama reader. Just look at what you can win -- a copy of CHRISTMAS BLISS, a signed bookplate, a bookmark, a set of recipe cards, and an ornament.

To enter, just fill out the form below before November 20th at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!