Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson

Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson
(Harper Collins ~ May 3, 2016)

My 11 YO daughter handed me this book after finishing it and said, “Mom, this is my absolute favorite book ever. You need to read it, but then I need it back so I can read it again right away.” She fell in love with the city-girl-in-the-country storyline and was so excited that she, a born and bred country girl, could check off every single item on Annie’s list of country things she wanted to accomplish in her summer of freedom.

Naturally, when a child gives a book that kind of endorsement, this librarian mom immediately starts reading! And I LOVED it! I loved the sweet innocence of this story, but also the harder topics of cancer, eating disorders, and anxiety that were a large part of the story but not preached about.

I will be purchasing this title for both of my school libraries and can’t wait to read Steveson’s other book GEORGIA RULES next!

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz
(Scholastic – July 25, 2017)

Thank you to Scholastic and Edelweiss for the digital galley of this title – all opinions are my own.

REFUGEE is hands-down the most important upper middle grade book of the year. It is the MUST READ read aloud title for every single middle school teacher this coming 2017-2018 school year, and I don’t say that lightly given that I read so so so many books! If WISHTREE is my required read aloud for grades 1-4, then REFUGEE is assigned for grades 5-8.

Gratz weaves three refugee stories expertly in this tale, leaving readers racing to figure out how they are connected in the end. Josef is escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Isabel is leaving Castro’s Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud is fleeing Syria’s civil war in 2015. All three stories involve persecution, danger, and the horrors of the refugee’s plight, but they also give faint glimmers of hope about the kindness of certain strangers. All three children end up on boats during their journeys, telling stories that even most adults in the US are unaware of regarding these refugee crises. Our students and children need to know of the events in this book, and Gratz does an excellent job of providing the historical basis for the stories in his author’s note. He also gives suggestions on how to help.

I can’t speak strongly enough about how important REFUGEE is, but am proving it by ordering 12 copies of this book for my school libraries and am planning a staff book club for my middle/high school this coming fall centered on this book. Teachers and librarians, get this book immediately so you can read it before you share it with your students. If you are an adult reader with no classroom to read it aloud to, gift it to a school, library or child you know! If you want an adult title to pair it with, I highly recommend EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid.

REFUGEE is officially on my BEST of 2017 shelf.

 

Adult Review: The Goddesses by Swan Huntley

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Thanks to Doubleday Books for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

The Goddesses by Swan Huntley
(Doubleday Books – July 25, 2017)

I couldn’t put this book down – I classify it as one of those “train wreck” stories that you are upset with while you read, but just can’t stop reading anyway. Disturbing and full of characters I did NOT love, THE GODDESSES hits readers with an addictive relationship in a beautiful setting. The cover is deceptively calm for a story that holds so many twisted people and events – be aware. And honestly, that’s why I liked it so much. It sucked me in with the serene image and the promised Hawaiian setting, and then glued me to the pages with Ana’s despicable character and her attempted ruin of Nancy’s life. Or was it an attempt to ruin her? Still trying to figure that out!

This isn’t a frothy beach read, it’s a glimpse into the desperation many of us fall into when we are forced into a situation where loneliness looms and nothing is familiar. Nancy’s attraction to Ana reminds me of how desperate I was for ANYONE to hang out with when I was a stay-at-home mom of an infant and all of my friends worked……I ended up at some girl’s house for a pitch about a pyramid scheme thingy because we met at Target and had babies the same age for goodness sakes! Nancy isn’t the best mom and she isn’t the best wife and she isn’t the best anything…….but neither are the rest of us.

Recommended for readers who love a slow burn and don’t mind reading on the dark side.

Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller

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Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller
(Little A ~ July 25, 2017)

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

Heartbreaking and intensely relatable with scientific research interwoven between stories of Miller’s personal journey, BEAUTIFUL BODIES is required reading. No one in modern society can deny how diet-obsessed US culture has become, and Miller has a perfect view of this world via her writing career and her own fixation on weight and body image.

As a 30-something mother of 3, I have personally struggled with much of what Miller describes and have read extensively and worked with professionals on diet culture, Intuitive Eating and body acceptance, leading me to officially throw away my scale in May of 2016. Knowing that exact date indicates how personal Miller’s story is to me and how much I appreciate her frankness in how she shares her story……and how much it means to me that she never claims to be “fixed”. Her refusal to tie this book and issue up with a bow is indicative of the true nature of the problem and the lifelong nature of weight obsession. The science and historical anecdotes shared throughout the book were fascinating and gave me a much better understanding of how many current diet and exercise trends came to be in the modern world.

I applaud Miller for writing this book and for pushing this issue to readers – BEAUTIFUL BODIES needs to be read not just by women, but by every woman, man who knows a woman, and especially parents. Understanding how complex and rooted in history our fixation on body size is can at least bring the topic up for discussion – a worthy goal for all if we hope to break this cycle.

Adult Review: Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck

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Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck
(Kensington Books – July 25, 2017)

One of my favorite reads of summer 2017, CICADA SUMMER brings my home state of Wisconsin to life in this vibrant and beautiful story. Alex is an incredibly strong female character and her fixer-upper passion is an absolute joy to read about as you cheer her along on her quest to bring a historic home back to its former glory in Lake Geneva, WI.

CICADA SUMMER has home renovation details to drool over, as well as family, romance and second chances…..this is a must-read!

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

Blog Tour: Holding Myself by Victoria J. Brown

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Holding Myself by Victoria J. Brown
(Bombshell Books – July 11, 2017)

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Kat has a busy life. She runs her own beauty salon and has an alcoholic father to worry about. To make matters worse she has just discovered she is pregnant. Kat and Max have only been together for six months and she has a turbulent relationship with his mother and his ex-girlfriend who refuses to go away. As the pressure builds Kat finds herself wondering what path to take.

Is having a baby the right thing to do?

Can you she keep her head above water while her life spirals out of control?

Kat has some big decisions to make and whatever happens her life is going to change forever…

REVIEW

holding myself FINALI would label HOLDING MYSELF as emotional and suspenseful chick lit! I found myself falling into Kat’s story immediately upon beginning to read this book, and finished it in one evening. Brown writes in an intensely readable fashion, one that I liken to many of my very favorite chick lit writers such as Sophie Kinsella and Jenny Oliver – conversational and very relatable.

In the story, Kat wrestles with an incredibly important decision – whether or not to have the baby she is carrying – and I love that Brown does not write about it in a preachy fashion. As Kat figures with her relationship with Max and comes to term with all of her childhood baggage, she leaves readers with a sense of hope and joy for the future. I so enjoyed reading about her beauty salon business and her friendships as well – I can’t wait to read more from this author!

HOLDING MYSELF is available in both paperback and Kindle from Amazonavailable in paperback and Kindle from Amazon, and is included in the Kindle Unlimited subscription!

AUTHOR BIO

photo for bombshellVictoria J.Brown has always had a passion for writing. When asked at the age of 9 years old, what she wanted to be when she grew up, her reply ‘an author’ was met with a disheartened response, ‘that jobs like that, don’t happen to people like us!’

Luckily, Victoria didn’t listen to this advice and never gave up on her passion.  She continued to write while perusing a career in Marketing after gaining a BA (Hons) in Business and Marketing.

In 2006 her eldest daughter was born and then two years later her 2nd daughter came along. Victoria realised in the midst of the mummy madness, that she’d let her writing dwindle and that nappy-changing, sleepless nights and not being able to go to the toilet in peace could not stop her fulfilling her writing dreams. So when her girls were 3 years old and 18 months old, she decided that sleep was over-rated and enrolled at Teesside University. A year later she proudly left with a MA in Creative Writing, some wonderful friendships and a passion for therapeutic writing. While studying for her MA she was also delighted to win a short-story competition judged by Adele Parks, to which she received publication and mentoring from Adele.

After her MA, Victoria concentrated on writing women’s fiction. She loves writing stories that women can relate to. The Chaos Series grew from her own experience of pregnancy, motherhood and life.

Victoria is also passionate about mental health and likes to write of such issues in her stories. Her dedication to mental health and living life to the full has led her down a spiritual path. Through her learning of spirituality she qualified as a Law of Attraction and NLP Practitioner, which she integrates into her writing. Her inspirational blog includes an A-Z motivational journey with weekly therapeutic creative writing exercises. She has developed this further and will soon launch her inspirational shop. The shop has been created to pass on positivity and love to others … you never know when someone may need to see those messages.

Being accepted by Bombshell Books is a dream come true for Victoria, she hopes that her mantra for giving love always and never giving up will inspire others to follow their dreams and passion.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Victoria, her inspirational blog and shop you can visit www.victoria-brown.com, plus you can follow her on:

FB: www.facebook.com/vicjbrown/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/victoriajbrown
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoriaj.brown/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/victoriajbrown/

Adult Review: Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
(Pamela Dorman Books – May 2, 2017)

Love, love, loved! Eleanor is one of the most unique and lovable characters I have read, while being simultaneously the saddest and most ravaged by life. I can’t review this book very well without spoilers because all I want to do is talk about all the parts I loved and all the people I loved……and I did NOT see the part at the end coming, and the !!!! You see? This is one I just need to talk about and not actually review. Just loved it, though. It’s a love letter to all the people who have suffered trauma in our world and risen in spite of it. Hallelujah for Eleanor Oliphant – I just want to give her a HUGE hug, although she wouldn’t appreciate it at all 😉

I listened to the audiobook from Audible, and the audio narration was amazing and definitely added to the story with the Scottish accents. Would highly recommend this version if you are a fan of audiobooks!

YA Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart


I was so excited to get my hands on this copy of Lockhart’s forthcoming young adult suspense novel from the #KidLitExchange network of reviewers!

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
(Delacorte Press – September 5, 2017)

What a unique story and format! Bravo to Lockhart for writing this fast-paced YA suspense novel in reverse chronological order and keeping me guessing throughout the entire book. It reads like a spy novel and will definitely satisfy fans of the author’s hit title WE WERE LIARS. Trying to figure out just who Jule was surely kept me on my toes, and the grittiness of the story was refreshing in today’s realistic YA market.

I was expecting a bit more of a shocker at the end (or was it the beginning??) but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Thanks to the #kidlitexchange review network for this review copy – all opinions are my own.

Adult Review: Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong

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Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
(Henry Holt – July 11, 2017)

Heartfelt and dryly hilarious, GOODBYE, VITAMIN takes readers into the life of Ruth for a year as she returns home at age 30 to help care for her father who is losing his memory. My heart ached for the entire family, but just as I was starting to descend into despair, all of a sudden there would be a phrase or scene so witty or shocking that I would find myself laughing out loud. Khong manages to write about a truly horrible situation, and one almost any of us could find ourselves in, with brevity,
brutal honesty, and hope.

GOODBYE, VITAMIN is written diary style, but also includes segments of a journal of Ruth’s father about her as a child, and at times she is also writing TO her father. It was a delight to read about such identifiable and mundane moments (postal service-related fears, for example!) in the midst of the anguish over Alzheimer’s.

There is grief in abundance in this book, but humor and heartwarming anecdotes and events balance it out. Highly, highly recommend. I can’t wait to read more from Rachel Khong!


This was one of my Book of the Month Club selections, and I won’t lie – I’m obsessed with BOTM. I post about them constantly on Instagram and I hoard the special editions on a special book shelf. OBSESSED. If you are at all interested in joining, and want to use my referral link, I have linked it here. If you join by using my link, I get a free book credit and you get 3 months for $9.99 each and a free tote. BOTM has an amazing Instagram community too – just check out the #bookofthemonth posts! I’m sure you’ll see me there…….

Picture Book Review: Fallingwater

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Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. 

Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece by Marc Harshman & Ann Egan Smucker
(Roaring Brook Press ~ October 17, 2017)

Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. 

As a school librarian in Wisconsin, I have a large number of students every year choosing Frank Lloyd Wright as their topic for their Wisconsin Heritage Fair projects, so I was absolutely delighted to see the subject of this new book! I have already pre-ordered two copies for my elementary school library, and will be encouraging my 4th grade teachers to purchase copies for their classrooms as well.

FALLINGWATER is the true story of how Wright’s masterpiece by the same name in Pennsylvania came to be, and describes in detail the process of designing and the inspiration behind the unique structure. The text of the story is detailed enough to use for research, but spare enough for a rich whole class read aloud including discussion of Wright’s career and extensions involving images and exploration of Fallingwater itself. There is a very thorough author’s note and artist’s note in the back pages that will be excellent for research purposes, and the finished copy will also include a bibliography and source notes.

The illustrations by LeUyen Pham are absolutely stunning and manage to capture the uniqueness of Fallingwater, and in the artist’s note Pham discusses how difficult it was to replicate the structure on paper. This book would be excellent for use in art classes for discussions on architecture and illustrations of architecture.

Highly recommended for all school libraries and classrooms in general, but a required purchase for those in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

This galley will now be passed on to the #kidlitexchange review network.