Vacation Review: City Mouse by Stacey Lender

 We are currently smack in the middle of Tropical Storm Cindy while in Gulf Shores, AL – not great for beach time, but great for reading! 

Remember, my vacation reviews don’t have links – you know where to buy books, right?

City Mouse falls perfectly and satisfyingly into the genre I call Mommy Lit – books solidly about and for the moms in the world. It is both an engaging and entertaining story of motherhood and marriage, but also a love letter to New York City and urban life as Jessica and her husband wrestle with the decision of where to live with young children. 

Jessica and Aaron are like so many parents who are desperately trying to do what they feel is best for their family but sometimes end up sacrificing their own sense of self and happiness in the process. And in this case, suburban drama and humor enter the picture as Jessica realizes that the ‘burbs are nowhere near as quiet and boring as she thought they would be! 

I identified so closely with Jessica’s working mom woes and laughed out loud at some of the predicaments she found herself in, but the part that sealed the 4th star for me was the addition of the Hamilton subplot. It is such a timely and smart part of the story and ties in perfectly with Jessica’s job as a Broadway advertising executive. 

Highly recommend this book for all my mom reading friends and especially for those who appreciate NYC and the theater world. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes – all opinions are my own. 

Vacation Review: The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy

Vacation reviews mean I’m not supposed to be blogging and should be back on the beach! No official descriptions or links – you know where to find all that, right?

This was a great beach read ~ I finished it in one long beach session!

Some books grab me right away and won’t let go, and this one certainly was that kind of book for me. I love books like this that are quietly suspenseful without being shocking and books with characters I just get right away. 

I connected instantly with Mary and her life of growing up way too early and having to do anything, ANYTHING, to keep her sister safe, fed and secure. While things she did were shocking, I understand her motivation completely. 

A tale of family, tragedy, and doing the absolute best you can when life is stacked against you. 

Highly recommend to readers of family drama. 

And my choice to read it while on vacation in the Gulf was perfect since a lot of important scenes in the book take place here!

So glad I chose this as one of my Book of the Month Club picks for June!

Vacation Review: White Fur 


Vacation Review #1 

I’m not providing official book descriptions in vacation reviews ~   I trust you know where to find it if you want it!


So, let me preface this with the fact that this is NOT my normal read and I know many of my read-alike friends might not want to follow me on this sordid and graphic-sex-laden trip down the rabbit hole that is Elise and Jamey’s relationship……BUT. BUT. 

Sometimes reading outside and waaaay past our comfort zone stretches our world and more importantly our empathy. I actually hated this story, while very much appreciating the writing, for the first 100 pages……and then as soon as the story moved to NYC Elise started getting under my skin. And then more of her history was revealed. And then I’m like, oh NOW I know who she is and why she is. And then I grew to love her fierce determination to MAKE IT, damn it. 

And then I couldn’t stop reading through the madness and finished this book with the last 25 pages spent with my phone flashlight lighting the pages with a pillow over my head so it wouldn’t disturb my husband driving in the dark because I HAD TO find out how it ended.

 I can honestly say I’ve never read a book with c u next Tuesday (c’mon, I’m a school librarian- I can’t even speak that word!) used so often and it jarred me…..but jarring can be good when it’s accompanied by literary force as this is. 

Anyway, if you are willing to make the commitment to riding the White Fur emotional roller coaster, PLEASE tell me what you think of it!

Thanks to Blogging for Books for this review copy!

VACATION plus some Instagram YA Reviews

We are leaving on vacation later today and I am completely out of time and have zero sitting or blogging stamina in this state of excitement (and also still have to drive the hedgehog and border collie to their respective vacation homes – MY LIFE)……..

So, with that being said, here are my YA reads from this week Instagram-style……..if you can’t see them for some reason in your email or your reader, I know the review text shows up in the browser so try that!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5 ~ YA out June 13 ~ Add this to high school required reading lists IMMEDIATELY. A story of the boy soldiers captured by Joseph Kony's rebel army in Uganda. Eye opening and heartbreaking, Soldier Boy is not a book we want to exist, given that it's a semi-factual account of horrifying events (Ricky's account is true, while the other narrator Samuel is a compilation of the thousands of boy soldiers Ricky has helped). However, given that these child soldiers are real and suffering, and Ricky Richard Anywar is a real person doing real work to help rehabilitate these child soldiers, this book needs to be read. It's not an easy read, given the graphic depictions of killing, rape and mutilation, but it is a fast read in the sense that you want to keep turning the pages. It's written at a perfect level for high school, as well as for adult readers like me who are new to reading about this ongoing tragedy. While the descriptions may be graphic, the events happened and need to be understood by more people worldwide. If we expose US students to book after book about the horrors of the Holocaust, it is our duty to share this story as well. Please read this. You will squirm and cry and want to believe this is fiction. You may need to spread it out over several days because it's so heavy, but please read it. •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this title – all opinions are my own. @fsgbooks #ya #ireadya #youngadult #highschool #coffee

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🍑 FOUR STARS ✨ "Faith is important to a lot of the world and for far too many queer youth, growing up with religion can be a painful experience. I wanted this novel to be something a young queer person of faith could hold on to as a bright spot while they navigate the waters of finding themselves" (from the author's note at the end of the book). •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*• BRAVO! Anything we can do as teachers, parents, authors, faith leaders, ANYONE to reassure youth that it is okay to be who they are, is vital in this time of political uncertainty about acceptance and rights for all. •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* Jo's story is both tender, funny and fairly racy, while also being incredibly faith-oriented. This is something I rarely, if ever, see in mainstream-publishing YA. (Note: I am not a practicing Christian, but I do read a LOT of YA and try to cover a diverse range of religions). It is a wonderful example for teens that faith doesn't demand perfection and faith should be about acceptance rather than hate. Jo and her friends are delightfully Southern and also raunchy and just………well, teens. Coming out in a small Southern Baptist town has probably never been quite so delightful, but I certainly wish it could be so! •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* "And if you are an ally reading this book, stand up for your queer friends and don't make room for hate in your belief systems." 👏 (also from author's note in book) #readproud #lgbtq 🌈 #ya #ireadya #youngadult #church #religion @jayerobinbrown

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Not sure if I will blog at all while on vacation, but if I do it will be quick and easy and probably picture-style! Stay tuned to my Instagram (especially my stories, I have fallen in love with Instagram Stories!) for vacation pictures and my vacation reads!

In addition to my HUGE bag of books I have packed, here is my Kindle Vacation TBR!

Oh, and 1 more thing – an AMAZING NEW MIDDLE GRADE book by Abby Cooper is out on July 3rd and I have teamed up with a giant group of bookstagrammers to spread the word with a giveaway starting July 2nd! If you haven’t read Abby’s first book Sticks and Stones do so NOW. Bubbles is coming out on July 3rd!!!! Also, my daughter and Abby have become pen pals and it is the best thing ever. See M’s review of Bubbles below! Mine is up on Goodreads (5 STARS) and will be posted here on July 2nd!

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And now………..


Before We Were Yours Giveaway 

Yes, ANOTHER giveaway! This one is for one of my favorite recent historical fiction novels – I reviewed it here last week, but I’m sharing the description and my opinion again below! Giveaway information at the bottom of the post.

Also, the publisher has released a brand-new digital book club kit for Before We Were Yours which you can download here. The kit includes:

  • A Note from Lisa
  • Historical Images
  • Food & drink ideas for book club events
  • Q&A with Lisa
  • A music playlist for book club events
  • Discussion questions


BeforeWeWereYoursBefore We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
(Ballantine – June 6, 2017)


Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation . . . or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.


Heartbreaking and historically accurate, this story 100% lives up to the descriptions of being for fans of Orphan Train and The Nightingale. This is being added to my “Best of 2017” list, as well as my “Best Historical Fiction” list – I anticipate it being a top book club pick for years and years to come.

Wingate has done a phenomenal job of creating a fictional family to entwine with the true story of Georgia Tann and her despicable methods of obtaining (stealing) children for profit through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society from the 1920s-1950s. The Foss family, as Wingate describes, are entirely fictional, as is Avery Stafford and the Stafford family. However, they represent the demographics of the families involved in this little-known horrible part of US history, and help this story reach an untold number of new readers. There is a very thorough author’s note (more like a chapter) at the end of the book answering the inevitable question, “How much of this story is true?” that will satisfy the most curious of readers (like me!).

Required reading this summer – order it or request from your library now!

Thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC – all opinions are my own.


Yet again, we are running the giveaway on Instagram – here is the link and all the info to enter – good luck!!! It runs through Thursday, June 15 2017 at midnight CST.

🎉 GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED – THANKS FOR ENTERING! 🎉 I have teamed up with the lovely @prose_and_palate yet again – this time for an amazing giveaway of the brand-new novel "Before We Were Yours" by @author_lisa_wingate ! We are SO EXCITED to have 2 advance reader copies of this book to give to our reading friends here. This book was published on June 6 and is featured in this week’s People magazine as one of The Best New Books out now. Many thanks to @penguinrandomhouse for providing us with these copies! *•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* We have both read this 5 STAR incredibly powerful historical fiction novel and can't wait to share it with you – it will break your heart and you WILL need tissues handy……. •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* To enter, please do the following (open to addresses in US and Canada only): *•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* 1) Follow @author_lisa_wingate @theloudlibrarylady @prose_and_palate (yes, all 3 of us!!!) 2) like this post 3) Comment in the section below and tag two reading buddies. You can enter as many times as you'd like, just have to tag 2 different people each entry. ***for an extra entry, also like and comment and tag on the giveaway post on @prose_and_palate account too! ***another way to get an extra entry is by sharing our giveaway posts in your IG stories, tagging us, and sending your #bookstagram friends to our giveaway posts! •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* The giveaway will run through midnight CST on Thursday, June 15th – enter now, this is a short one!. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram. GOOD LUCK!

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New Adult Releases – June 13, 2017

Someone in publishing selected this date as the date ALL AMAZING BOOKS WOULD BE RELEASED, so this is a loooooong list! Grab your coffee/tea/Coke/water and settle in……

Hunger by Roxane Gay
(Harper Collins – June 13, 2017)


From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

“I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.


Raw, biting and honest, this memoir will make you squirm and examine pretty much every aspect of modern society. It’s about body image and body size, rape and trauma, family and friendships, sex and sexuality, fitting in and fitting a body into the physical world. It’s about eating and eating disorders, kindness and hatred, race and gender, obscurity and fame, and most of all, hunger. Hunger for love and comfort and acceptance. Gay dissects her soul for us and spreads it out on these pages, an act of vulnerability most of us, and certainly most writers, would never dream of attempting.

This isn’t an easy read, but reading it will make you a better person. Highly recommend.

I received a digital ARC of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
(Atria – June 13, 2017)


From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.


I could not put this down – devoured it in one evening! Glamour and glitz and the cutthroat business of film…….combined with a much, much more complex and nuanced plot than I ever anticipated based on TJR’s other work and the official book description. I loved the way the book went back and forth between Angelique and Evelyn, and I really admire Jenkins’ ability to write Evelyn’s character as unapologetically selfish, but also one of the most brazenly tough businesswomen I have ever read about. (Note to other reviewers: when you say you don’t like Evelyn, do you realize that’s how you are SUPPOSED to feel? Evelyn says it herself a million times – she knows who she is. The author isn’t hiding anything or trying to trick you! Evelyn’s character is quality writing.) And magically, although I didn’t always like Evelyn, I admired her guts and ability to get pretty much anything she ever wanted. Except the one thing………no spoilers, just a major teaser! I love the premise and importance of this story, and the various issues discussed within.

If you are looking for a lush and complex and immensely addicting saga, this is for you. If you are looking for a conventional girl meets boy love story (times 7!), you will either be pleasantly surprised or sadly disappointed. Because I want all readers to have a heart like mine, I pray that you will be pleasantly surprised. I adored this story, and the twists and turns really did keep me guessing right up until the end.

Thank you to Edelweiss for the digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.

The Salt House by Lisa Duffy
(Touchstone – June 13, 2017)


In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.


Heartbreaking and hopeful, The Salt House drew me in and wouldn’t let me stop reading until the very last word. The first half of the book had me aching with sadness for the Kelly’s family horrific loss of their baby daughter (I had to take a short break from reading to process it), and the second half had me combining that sadness with awe for the perseverance and determination of this family in their quest to survive their grief.

The multiple narrators (all 4 members of the family had their own alternating chapters, both parents as well as their 8-year-old and 16-year-old daughters) fully immerse readers into the family’s grief and attempts to cope, and give the story a richness that would not be possible if the story were told from only one perspective. The daughters, Jess and Kat, are refreshingly honest in their youthful take on the past year, while the parents, Hope and Jack, are achingly raw in their inability to return to life as normal.

Duffy’s descriptions of the coastal Maine fishing town are absolutely beautiful, and reinforce my desires to visit this area of the US at some point in the not too distant future.

This book will stay with me for a long time, and I will recommend it to everyone I know. However, if you are a parent of a baby or young toddler, be aware that it made me eternally grateful that my children are past the age of Maddie in the story, as I don’t know if I would be able to put my little one down for a nap again after reading this book. Grief is hard to read when you can’t imagine yourself exactly in the shoes of the grieving, but almost unbearable when you can.

Thank you so much to the author for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
(Little Brown – June 13, 2017)


Nantucket is only two and a half hours away from Martha’s Vineyard by ferry. But the two islands might as well be worlds apart for a set of identical twin sisters who have been at odds for years. When a family crisis forces them to band together–or at least appear to–the twins slowly come to realize that the special bond that they share is more important than the sibling rivalry that’s driven them apart for the better part of their lives. A touching depiction of all the pleasures and annoyances of the sibling relationship, THE IDENTICALS proves once and for all that just because twins look exactly the same doesn’t mean they’re anything alike.


My absolute favorite Hilderbrand novel yet! And that’s saying a lot, since I have loved every one of her books. The Identicals lets us immerse ourselves in the rarified worlds of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket while becoming completely enthralled with the different worlds of Tabitha and and Harper. The character development is perfection and the setting descriptions are sumptuous. Summer and beaches, love and heartbreak, motherhood and sisterhood ~ this book has it all in an excellently written package.

One of my favorite books of summer 2017 so far!

Thanks to Net Galley for the digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
(Putnam – June 13, 2017)


‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’

When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.


THIS BOOK!!! I have never read a suspense story with such an original and absolutely chilling premise – this one will stay with me for a long, long time. I loved that it was a quieter suspense read without the typical suburban-husband-kills-wife or diabolical serial killer slashing through bodies left and right. I’m really struggling to describe how this book impacted me and how much I recommend it to suspense and family-drama readers, and readers (like my husband) who enjoy hunting/fishing/outdoors books……..this short review will have to suffice, though!

A few thoughts on the book beyond my general rave:

1) I was absolutely haunted by Helena’s feelings toward her despicable father throughout the book, but also understand just how realistic those feelings may be for a child/adult in her situation – raised in captivity and taught to hate her mother. I just can’t stop thinking about this part of the story!
2) The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a fascinating and perfect setting for this book – I’m familiar with the UP from living within driving distance while growing up, but the stark isolation described in this book goes beyond anything I ever have or want to experience there.
3) The alternating now-and-then style is captivating and keeps you reading, all the while making you shake your head at how???? OMG!!!

Thanks to both Net Galley and Edelweiss for the digital ARC of this title – all opinions are my own.

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor
(Riverhead – June 13, 2017)


Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. When his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, and simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher’s fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad’s collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

OPINION: 3.5/5

For fans of European WWII fiction, this is a unique and compelling addition to the genre. I really enjoyed the fact that the back-and-forth between wartime Austria and present day Los Angeles wasn’t back to actual present day, but to 1989-1991 and includes the reunification of Germany and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. This along with the stamp engraving and collecting storyline were a major factor in my rating of this book. These are both very unique in this genre, which can start to feel saturated for readers (like me!) who read a lot of historical fiction. The trips to England and East Germany provided some additional texture to the setting and storyline. I also loved the history of the edelweiss flower interwoven in the story, and appreciated the author’s note in the back describing the factual basis for the book.

Something that many readers will enjoy is that this is NOT the typical 450-page tome, so it will appeal to many book clubs and more casual readers. Personally, I wish several of the story’s aspects had been expanded upon more so I could understand more about Katie’s failed marriage and Benjamin’s back story, as well as more of what happened between wartime and 1989-1991 for Elena and her sister. However, that would turn the book into a 600-page doorstop, and probably wouldn’t appeal to most readers!

Recommended for fans of historical fiction and WWII stories, with the caveat that this may not be as deep as you have seen in other recent releases in the genre.

Thanks to Edelweiss for the digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.

The Little French Bistro by Nina George
(Crown – June 13, 2017)


Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage. After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, also known as the end of the world.

Here she meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable locals who surprise her with their warm welcome, and the natural ease they all seem to have, taking pleasure in life s small moments. And, as the parts of herself she had long forgotten return to her in this new world, Marianne learns it s never too late to begin the search for what life should have been all along.


This is a magical tale of a woman finding herself (finally!) at age 60, the French seaside, gorgeous food and setting, and most importantly, the discovery of the importance of a life well-lived. If you like quiet and description-rich stories with interwoven magic, this one is for you. Magic isn’t especially my thing, which is why I landed at 3/5 for this book.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

e31929d7-9e74-453a-bd11-fec483f71658-606-0000016552ee05cfThe Map That Leads to You by JP Monninger
(St. Martin’s Press – June 13, 2017)


A romantic, vivid novel that takes place in the tender time of a young woman’s life: Heather has graduated from college and is traveling around Europe with her two best friends. She’s left school responsibility behind and adult responsibility is looming, but this is her one, ONE last summer to be free. Heather doesn’t expect to even meet Jack, let alone fall in love with him. Jack is an enigmatic Vermonter a few years older than she is, who is following his grandfather’s journal to various cities around Europe. But in the same way that forces are bringing Jack and Heather together, life and duty are pushing them apart. And Jack has a secret that is going to change absolutely everything.


I inhaled this book in one evening ~ yup, one of THOSE books. Dreamily romantic and with the most lustworthy European settings imaginable, this romance sucks you in and makes you wish for your very own post-college European tour and your very own Jack……because no matter how happily coupled you are now, a love like Jack is one of daydreams and romance novels. This story reads almost like a YA novel although the characters are all in their 20s, and the banter is absolute perfection. Oh, and I adored the constant literary references. If you like dreamy and frothy and you lust over Europe, this is a must-read for you!

I read a friend’s ARC of this title that she received from the publisher – all opinions are my own.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie 
(Little Brown –  June 13, 2017)


A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, and loss from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award winner.

When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine–growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.


This book absolutely blew me away. I’d give it 10 stars if Goodreads would let me! I laughed and I cried and I read this book in a day. Poetry and essays combined into one of the most heartfelt memoirs (and accounts of the travesties committed against American Indian tribes) I have ever read. If you don’t know who Sherman Alexie is, you need to know him – look him up and read this book. If you already know his work, this will cement your appreciation for him. His life story is heartbreaking and his grief over the loss of his mother can almost be physically felt through reading. Absolutely, positively required reading for every adult.

School librarian note: If you teach Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, or read Thunder Boy aloud, you can now reference this memoir for your students and describe how much of the novel is autobiographical. This memoir is NOT appropriate to use in the classroom, however.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

Want to know how I decide on a rating for a book? Check out my post Rating With Heart! You can find me on Goodreads for ALL of the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of those, plus my picture book reviews, are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!

Tween Review: The Nocturnals by Tracey Hecht

You may remember that my 11-year-old has entered the reviewing world.…..well, here is another review from the marvelous M!

I was sent a middle grade animal adventure series to review called The Nocturnals by Tracey Hecht, and my daughter immediately grabbed the books and asked to read them first. I let her take them after giving them my librarian page-through, since I can never say no to a kid desperate to read! The full book descriptions are included below our thoughts, along with more information on Fabled Films and several of their Nocturnals-related initiatives.

As you can see in the picture below, my daughter gave The Nocturnals Book 1: The Mysterious Abductions 4 out of 5 stars! She is currently reading Book 2 and has Book 3 up next.


From a librarian viewpoint, I love the premise of this series as there is no animal word that every single elementary student knows the meaning of as well as the word “nocturnal” – it’s so funny! Kids love animals, and almost every nonfiction magazine or article about animals somehow ends up covering this term and group of animals. The three main characters in this series are a fox, a pangolin, and a sugar glider and the adventures take place in their nighttime world. They meet other nocturnals such as an aye-aye and a tuatara in the course of the series. I definitely plan to book talk this series in my library classes with a brief visual and factual introduction on all of these animals, as that will immediately hook readers.

These books are written in typical chapter book format, and feature a color illustration with each chapter heading. This is a great addition, as more and more middle grade stories are including illustrations of some kind. Vocabulary in these books is higher than in some middle grade, so I plan to introduce these to my fourth and fifth graders first. The animals have charming ways of speaking, and I love Bismark the sugar gliders formal eloquence.

I love when I get sent quality books like these for review, since the finished copies end up in my school library! These will be added to my collection over the summer, just in time for the new school year.

Here is the official information about the series:

The Nocturnals by Tracey Hecht; illustrated by Kate Liebman

Book One: The Mysterious Abductions
 (Now Available)

“The characters are delightful and the nighttime landscape is captivating. It was just as I expected—because the best stories always take place in the dark!” — R.L. Stine

In the first book of the critically acclaimed middle grade series The Nocturnals, we meet three unlikely friends—Dawn, a serious fox, Tobin, a sweet pangolin, and Bismark, the loud mouthed, pint sized sugar glider. Discover the friendships, teamwork, and humor, as the Nocturnal Brigade solves the unpredictable mysteries of the night.

In The Mysterious Abductions, animals are disappearing without a trace. With the help of a gentle wombat, a jittery jerboa, a band of coyotes and some kooky bats, the brigade journeys to the depths of the earth where they find themselves in a wacky, high stakes game that will determine all of their survival!

Book Two: The Ominous Eye (Now Available)

Join Dawn, Bismark and Tobin as they set out to investigate the source of a violent jolt that fractures the earth! Along their journey, the Nocturnal Brigade meets an unfamiliar reptile—a tuatara named Polyphema—who reveals that a giant beast caused the destruction and will soon strike again. Polyphema with her special insights, is the only one who can help the Nocturnal Brigade stop this fearsome predator… but can she be trusted? With help from an owl, the jerboas, and some kiwis, the animals set a trap since surrender is not an option against this relentless beast.

Book Three: The Fallen Star (Just released – official pub date is May 2nd)

In The Fallen Star, Dawn, Tobin, and Bismark awaken one evening to a disaster: all of the forest’s pomelos have been mysteriously poisoned! As the Nocturnal Brigade sets out to investigate, they encounter Iris, a mysterious aye-aye, who claims monsters from the moon are to blame. While the three heroes suspect a more earthly explanation, the animals of the valley are all falling ill. And then Tobin gets sick, too! The Nocturnal Brigade must race to find answers, and the cure, before the pomelo blight threatens to harm them all.


With the publication of The Fallen Star, Tracey Hecht will continue the nationwide Nocturnals’ Read Aloud Writing Program that was created in partnership with The New York Public Library (NYPL) and expanded professionally through an American Association of School Librarians’ Webinar. At the American Library Association Midwinter meeting, Fabled Films Press launched a “Read Aloud Not Alone” nationwide campaign for middle graders and has created a Nocturnals Read Aloud Blog ( to provide research that supports the benefits of reading aloud and inspiration through recorded audio excerpts.

You can find more about the series, Tracey Hecht, and Fabled Films Press at:
Facebook: nocturnalsworld
Instagram: nocturnalsworld
Twitter: @fabled_films



Goodreads Monday – June 12, 2017

Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. If you want to participate, simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off! Make sure you check out Lauren’s Page Turners and link back to her blog and add your own links! I first learned about Goodreads Monday from Steph at Steph’s Novel Fiction and I’m excited to join in ~ my TBR list is out of control, so I might as well have fun with it!

The book I chose this week (#54 based on a random number generator!) is one that has been on my Goodreads To-Read shelf since February 14, 2015, and one I recently added to a list of recommendations from an author panel on “Race in Minnesota” I attended at TeenLitCon in May.

TheLateHomecomerThe Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir
by Kao Kalia King
(Coffee House Press – January 2008)


In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, The Latehomecomer is Kao Kalia Yang’s tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them all together. It is also an eloquent, firsthand account of a people who have worked hard to make their voices heard.

Beginning in the 1970s, as the Hmong were being massacred for their collaboration with the United States during the Vietnam War, Yang recounts the harrowing story of her family’s captivity, the daring rescue undertaken by her father and uncles, and their narrow escape into Thailand where Yang was born in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp.

When she was six years old, Yang’s family immigrated to America, and she evocatively captures the challenges of adapting to a new place and a new language. Through her words, the dreams, wisdom, and traditions passed down from her grandmother and shared by an entire community have finally found a voice.


I have no recollection of adding this to my list back in 2015, but I definitely know why the topic interests me and why I added it to my TBR!

In my area of western Wisconsin, we have a large Hmong population in the larger towns, and I used to teach in a school where over half of my caseload was of Hmong heritage. I am always interested in learning about different cultures and aspects of world/US history, especially when so locally relevant, so I’m newly excited about this title.

Since I drafted this post last week, I bought a copy of this book so I won’t forget about it again!

Has anyone read this yet? Thoughts? What’s a book on YOUR TBR list right now?

Click here for the rest of my mile-long Goodreads TBR list! I need to go in there and weed out the ones that I did actually read years ago and forgot to track in GR……

And…….more of my Goodreads Mondays posts.

Rating with Heart

Screenshot 2017-06-10 07.15.40

I read a LOT of books. I rate and review a LOT of books on Goodreads. I also spend a lot of time reading other reviews of the books I read, sometimes before and sometimes after I read a book – usually all of the professional reviews and a large number on Goodreads and Instagram. Here’s what I have found…………

One book can inspire an infinite number of opinions and feelings from its collective readers.

Haven’t you ever read a review of a book you just finished and thought that the reviewer must have been reading a completely different book than you read? Sometimes a review will make me go back and reread and examine my own initial opinions, and realize that I had missed a lot of nuance. Sometimes a review will make me shake my head and think that OBVIOUSLY that person has never read XYZ by ABC, because if they had, there is NO WAY they would have given this book 5 stars.

So here’s the thing: take my ratings and reviews for what they are worth – they are only as important to your reading experience and enjoyment of a book as my opinions are. And my opinions and ratings are simply a reflection of my emotions and collective knowledge of every book I have read before. You might hate a book I love and love a book I hate. That’s cool. You might agree with me completely. That’s cool too. Your opinions of a book are a reflection of YOUR emotions and collective knowledge of every book you have read before. Yours and mine don’t always converge, and that’s okay. If you only ever read steampunk, my review of quirky literary fiction might help you not at all, because you would DIE before picking up that book – my 5 star rating is worthless to you! And my one star for your five star steampunk is also worthless to you, right?

I rate and review based on so many things, here are some of them. Of course there are no hard and fast rules, though – my opinion of a book is a tricky, tricky thing!

  1. Emotion. If a book makes me laugh out loud or cry, it’s almost guaranteed a high rating.
  2. Originality. I want every book I read to feel new to me. I certainly read formulaic genre books, but they are very unlikely to get a 5 star rating from me. BUT, sometimes they do for nostalgia’s sake. I reserve the right to do that! In general, though, quirky is good.
  3. Societal importance. Certain themes like gender, sexuality, race and politics in fiction that can be applied to our real world or make me rethink the world usually get upstarred.
  4. Feminism. Yes, I read with a feminist lens. That means that if I read books with body, weight and slut shaming that are not intended to be satirical, I will give them a 1 or 2 star and slam them in a review. I have my personal soapbox on this, and I refuse to let authors make women (or men!) think it is acceptable for bodies to be judged on size or shape. Commenting on a woman being promiscuous is one thing, but having other characters calling her a slut for doing so in a way that is not a literary device is not okay.
  5. Perpetuating stereotypes is a guaranteed 1 star for me. If a book is written about a marginalized population by a person not of that marginalized population and is written poorly with blatant stereotypes, it is rare that I will even finish the book. But if I have to for review purposes, it won’t be pretty.
  6. Random things like a well-written book with a librarian main character will probably be a higher rating for me than a similar book with a real estate agent main character. I can do that! Librarians need more representation!
  7. Books set in Wisconsin might get rated higher than a similar book set in South Dakota. I can do that! Home state pride!
  8. My connection with an author. I won’t lie – if I have connected with an author and know their impetus for writing a book and know how they interact with their readers and such, I might be inclined to bump a book up from a 2 to a 3. Reviewing is hard work, and it is very difficult to not be influenced by a connection with the creator of the story.
  9. Series loyalty. If I have read every book in a series and there are 19 books in the series, even if they aren’t high fiction they will get rated at least a 3. How can I justify reading 19 books if I don’t like them? There’s something to be said for a dependable series that you know you’ll get a new installment of every year.
  10. The mood I am in when writing a review, the weather, my outfit of the day, my coffee being hot or cold and other completely random things. I often go back and read and revise my ratings and reviews based on the fact that I know that I let my detest for wearing pants with waistbands ruin entire days, and it’s not fair for a book to be rated with that influence.

I realize that this list does NOT really help you know what kind of book I like (except that I will hate one with lots of fat- and slut-shaming characters), but my Goodreads “Read” shelf will give you some trends for sure.

Reading is personal and I reserve the right to love the books I love and hate the books I hate. I try so hard to never slam a book in my reviews because I respect the work of the author SO much (with the exception of fat- and slut-shaming and blatant racism or homophobia of course), so there’s always a does of sugar in with my low-rated reviews.

I read with heart. I review with heart. Reading is personal. 

Oh, and just so you know, all of the above does NOT apply to my School Library Journal reviews. Those are written by the rubrics from SLJ and are in a completely different and objective category. 

You can find me on Goodreads for ALL of the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of those, plus my picture book reviews, are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!

My Mug Addiction (and a discount code)

Hi reading friends!

As anyone who follows me on Instagram knows, I LOVE mugs. LOVE LOVE LOVE them. So, I reached out to an etsy shop owner (a shop with mugs that I LOVE, Maria of MariaBMakes), and proposed a partnership – she would let me pick a mug of choice to feature for you, and she’d give YOU ALL a discount code! Use code BOOKSRULE10 for a 10% discount! What a great deal for all of you!

(I make ZERO money when you buy a mug – this isn’t an affiliate code. I just wanted to share a discount code with you.)

Besides the adorable artwork on every mug, here’s what else I love: they are printed on both sides of the mug (the better to appreciate the design regardless of how you are holding it!), the design is seamless, and the mugs are thick and BIG. I like big MUGS and I cannot lie – ha!

See all the details in this Instagram post:

☕️📚you all know I love mugs, right? I work HARD at that collection! One of my favorite places to find mugs is etsy, and one of my absolute favorite etsy shops is @mariabmakes ❤️Isn't this one adorable? And perfect for me? I have partnered with the shop owner to give all of YOU a discount at her shop – HOORAY 🎉 😍 use the link in her Instagram profile @mariabmakes to get to her shop and use the code BOOKSRULE10 for a 10% discount- easy as that! And when you buy one, please share a pic here and tag me on it so I can check out which one you picked…..I'll probably end up buying that one too 😉 Thanks to Maria for letting me pick a mug of choice for our partnership! P.S. I make ZERO money if you buy a mug 😊 – I approached her to get YOU a discount! #partner #ad

A post shared by Kate Olson (@theloudlibrarylady) on


And about that Instagram thing – what are your thoughts on how the posts appear on the blog? Does it work for you? How about if you are an email subscriber? I need your feedback, so please share in the comments! As I’ve said before, Instagram is my first love, and I desperately want to share all that I do here…………without spending a gazillion hours rewriting and uploading and such. Because remember, I don’t make a cent off this blog. And I have 3 kids. And a husband. And a dog. And a hedgehog. And a job that technically I’m not working at right now, but I still need to do lots of stuff for. Oh yeah, and a goal of reading a book a day. And writing a review for each book I read. That’s a lot. So linking Instagram posts I already spent a lot of time on here is a compromise I make sometimes!

So, your thoughts???? And what mug are you going to pick out???