Book Giveaway: The Good Widow

ANOTHER book giveaway this week! (Did you catch the one on Saturday? It runs through June 2nd!)
I am teaming up with a group of my favorite bookstagram friends to run a giveaway for the new suspense novel out on June 1st from Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke ~ The Good Widow

Here is the description and my review of this book, followed by the giveaway information – I hope you join us on Instagram for the contest!

The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
(Lake Union Publishing – June 1, 2017)


Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…


I listened to two of this duo’s previous novels – The Year We Turned Forty and The Status of All Things – and really enjoyed how fun and just a little bit magical they were. The Good Widow is complete head spin from those previous works, and I applaud the authors for making the leap to a new genre! I adored the Hawaiian setting for much of this story, and loved Jacks’ and Beth’s sister-relationship, and definitely did not guess the twist to this book until the authors led me to it. It was a lot of fun to go back and forth between before and after the death of Jacks’ husband, as it gave the different perspectives on the events and kept me trying to figure out who and why and where????? I can’t wait to see what Lisa and Liz write in the future – no matter what genre they write next, I’m on board with it.

Thanks to the authors for providing me with a digital advance review copy of this title!


Here is the Instagram post listing all of the contest info – it runs through midnight CST on May 31st and there are 4 copies available! Come join us! If you don’t get in on the giveaway, head to your local bookstore or library on June 1st to grab a copy.

🌊GIVEAWAY 🌊 I have teamed up with a group of my bookstagram BFFs for this amazing giveaway of the suspense debut (out on June 1st from Lake Union Publishing) by the dynamic author duo @lisaandliz – we are SO EXCITED to have 4 copies of this book to give to our reading friends here! We have all read advance copies of this twisty, emotional suspense novel and can't wait to share it with you – it will keep you guessing right up until the end…….thanks to much to @lisaandliz for partnering with us on this! •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* To enter, please do the following (open to addresses in US and Canada only): 1) Follow @lisaandliz @theloudlibrarylady @prose_and_palate @kourtneysbookshelf and @booksandchinooks (yes, all 5 of us!!!) 2) like this post 3) Comment in the section below and tag two reading buddies. ***for extra entries, also like and comment and tag on the giveaway posts on the other sponsoring accounts too! •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*• The giveaway will run through midnight CST on May 31st. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram. GOOD LUCK! #giveaway #contest #win #free #blogger

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Book Giveaway: Eden by Jeanne Blasberg

Remember my 5 STAR review of this novel a few weeks ago? I’ll wait while you go check it out………..

Great! Now that you know how much I loved the book, you are even MORE excited about this chance to win a copy of the book and a matching tote bag! This title is also a July selection for the BookSparks #SRC2017 Reading Challenge, which is a HUGE honor for a debut author.


“Eden is one woman’s story, echoing four women’s’ stories, and is, at the same time, all women’s story.  It creates a collage of female experience around the drama of introducing Becca’s long lost daughter and her impending financial despair. Determined to write the type of book I enjoy reading, my novel weaves together multiple points of view and chronologies.  I hope you love it.” – Jeanne

“..a beautifully written masterpiece that takes you on a historical journey….” —BOSTON HERALD

“A stirring historical novel perfect for women’s fiction fans.” —BOOKLIST

“If you enjoy reading family sagas that cover real history and life, this is a must-read for you.” —  READER’S FAVORITE

“This beautifully written family saga firmly establishes Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg as a rising writer to watch – and it will likely have you liking your family a whole lot more this summer.” —  REDBOOK

“Blasberg’s evocative prose captures the place and atmosphere…. An engrossing, character-driven family saga.” –KIRKUS

“This debut novel rings with lively dialogue that vivifies the rarified ethos of a family across generations.” — The Improper Bostonian

Becca Meister Fitzpatrick, wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community, is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. While coming to terms with what is likely to be her last season in Long Harbor, she decides to introduce the child she gave up for adoption fifty years prior to the family. Inspired by her granddaughter’s acceptance in the face of impending single-motherhood, Becca summons the courage to reveal the secret she’d been forced to bury. The question is how her daughter, Rachel, will react. They’d always had a strained relationship, made rockier when Rachel came home from college with an unplanned pregnancy of her own.

Eden is the account of the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as Becca prepares to disclose her secret, and her son and brothers conspire to put the estate on the market, interwoven with the century old history of Becca’s family, of her parents’ beginnings and ascent into affluence, and of her mother’s own secret struggles in the grand home her father named “Eden”.

Chick Lit Cafe  says EDEN is splendid, majestic, and engaging.

The Loud Library Lady calls EDEN “a love story to a family property and the beach community it inhabits….”


Stacey (aka Prose and Palate), a southern book blogger and reviewer who has become one of my bookstagram BFFs, and I are partnering with the author on this giveaway, and we are so excited to share this title that we both adored so much. We both gave it 5 glowing stars and are sharing our love for it far and wide so this debut author and her wonderful book get into more hands.

Now, the entire giveaway is happening on Instagram, because 1) that’s where Stacey and img_6352I met and spend the majority of our book reviewing time, and 2) because it’s how Jeanne Blasberg first found me to reach out to me about this book! Stacey and I love our bookstagram friends and want them all to get a chance at reading this book for FREE! If you aren’t on Instagram yet, I really do insist that you start an account – my reading life has grown by leaps and bounds from the recommendations I have gotten and connections I have made there.


I have made things VERY easy for you by including a link to my giveaway post below – all you need to do is follow these 3 accounts below on Instagram and comment on my post tagging 2 friends! You get an extra entry by commenting on Stacey’s post as well! I have included that right below mine to make it even EASIER! The contest runs through Friday, June 2nd, and is open to US addresses only.

Accounts to follow:


⭐️ GIVEAWAY ⭐️ @prose_and_palate and I are extremely excited to be partnering up with @jeanneblasbergauthor for this amazing giveaway of her debut novel, Eden, and an Eden tote bag (swipe ⬅️ to see!) • This gorgeously written book set in the beach community of Long Harbor tells the story of four generations of women "all forced to make difficult choices as mothers – first in the face of strict societal norms, and ultimately within the expectations of a family trying to live up to the promise of a place called Eden" (Katherine Sherbrooke). This was a 5 star read for both of us and we are so excited to share it with you. This book is also part of @booksparks #SRC2017 reading challange for the month of July, so that is an extra perk! (they are not affiliated with this giveaway). •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* To enter, please do the following (US ONLY) • 1) Follow @jeanneblasbergauthor @theloudlibrarylady and @prose_and_palate (yes, all 3!) 2) like this post 3) Comment below and tag two reading buddies. ***for an extra entry, also like and comment and tag on the giveaway post on the @prose_and_palate account too! •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* The giveaway will run through Friday, June 2. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram.

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GIVEAWAY! @theloudlibrarylady and I are extremely excited to be partnering up with @jeanneblasbergauthor for this amazing giveaway of her debut novel, Eden, and an Eden tote bag! This gorgeously written book set in the beach community of Long Harbor tells the story of four generations of women "all forced to make difficult choices as mothers – first in the face of strict societal norms, and ultimately within the expectations of a family trying to live up to the promise of a place called Eden" (Katherine Sherbrooke). This was a 5 star read for both of us and we are so excited to share it with you. This book is also part of @booksparks #SRC2017 reading challange for the month of July, so that is an extra perk! (they are not affiliated with this giveaway). • • • To enter, please do the following: 1) Follow @jeanneblasbergauthor, @theloudlibrarylady, and @prose_and_palate (yes, all 3!) 2) like this post 3) Comment in the section below and tag two reading buddies. ***for an extra entry, also like and comment and tag on the giveaway post on the @theloudlibrarylady account too! The giveaway will run through Friday, June 2 and is open to US residents only. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram. GOOD LUCK!

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Have I convinced you yet? Even if you don’t enter the giveaway, make sure you grab this one from your local library or bookstore!


DISCLAIMER: The author provided me with a finished copy of this book for review purposes, and I reached out to her asking if she wanted to work with us on a giveaway. I have not been compensated in any way for any of my posts or reviews related to this book – I just believe firmly in spreading the word about books and authors I love. 


Bombshell Books Are Back!

I’m a major fan of small business and independent bookstores and publishers, so I was excited to connect with the publisher Bloodhound Books a while back as one of their blog partners. Bloodhound Books is a leading independent crime fiction publisher based in Cambridge, UK and they specialize in crime, thrillers, mystery & chillers. Now they just announced this big news, and I’m pretty excited about it – as most of you know from my adult book reviews, I LOVE women’s contemporary fiction! Their forthcoming books will be available in the US as ebooks.

Here’s all the info from the publisher!

BombshellBooksBombshell Books are back!

After launching with the hilarious The Queen of Blogging, Bombshell Books are back with two new authors and three fabulous novels.

Therese Loreskar returns with her sequel to The Queen of Blogging – The Queen of New Beginnings.

Therese Loreskar started her career in 2010 self-publishing her first novel, which quickly became a critically acclaimed best-seller. In 2014 she was signed by a Swedish publishing house before being signed by Bombshell in the summer of 2016. Her novel, The Queen of Blogging, received overwhelming feedback and the book was referred to as a modern Bridget Jones. Therese has since had four bestselling children’s books.  The Queen of New Beginnings will be published on August 10th this year.

Guardian book prize shortlisted author, Suzie Tullett, signs with Bombshell Books. Suzie Tullett is an author of contemporary humorous fiction and romantic comedy.  You can find Suzie on Twitter: @SuzieTullett or you can visit her website: Her heart-warming romantic comedy, The Trouble with Words, will be published on July 29th this year.

Debut author, Callie Langridge, joins Bombshell Books. Caroline was born and brought up in Berkshire.  Her beautifully written and heart-wrenching debut novel, A Time to Change, will be published on September 24th this year.

bloodhound booksAbout the Publisher:

Bombshell Books is an imprint of Bloodhound Books. Bombshell publishes brilliant women’s fiction and is on the look out for new authors. We want stories that will make you laugh, cry and fall in love. For more information visit our website –

This Week’s Read Alouds – 5/26/17

It’s my 2nd busiest time of the year, so all I have for you today are my read alouds for the week! The school year is winding down and I still have more than 500 library books to track down and parents to call and notices to send and…..

Reviews: May Adult Reads Part 2

May 2017 Adult Reads Part 2

Part 2 of my adult reads for the month of May 2017 ~ I had to break it up this month because there are so. many. books! Read Part 1 HERE. Part 3 will be posted on May 31st!

Now, get your cup of coffee………and settle in to meet some new books!

These are listed in order of date finished…… always, there is a disclosure telling the source of each book and as always, no affiliate links in this post.

MothersKitchenMy Mother’s Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and the Meaning of Life by Peter Gethers
(Henry Holt – April 4, 2017)


Peter Gethers wants to give his aging mother a very personal and perhaps final gift: a spectacular feast featuring all her favorite dishes. The problem is, although he was raised to love food and wine he doesn’t really know how to cook. So he embarks upon an often hilarious and always touching culinary journey that will ultimately allow him to bring his mother’s friends and loved ones to the table one last time.

The daughter of a restaurateur–the restaurant was New York’s legendary Ratner’s–Judy Gethers discovered a passion for cooking in her 50s. In time, she became a mentor and friend to several of the most famous chefs in America, including Wolfgang Puck, Nancy Silverton and Jonathan Waxman; she also wrote many cookbooks and taught cooking alongside Julia Child. In her 80s, she was robbed of her ability to cook by a debilitating stroke. But illness has brought her closer than ever to her son: Peter regularly visits her so they can share meals, and he can ask questions about her colorful past, while learning her kitchen secrets. Gradually his ambition becomes manifest: he decides to learn how to cook his mother the meal of her dreams and thereby tell the story of her life to all those who have loved her.

With his trademark wit and knowing eye, Peter Gethers has written an unforgettable memoir about how food and family can do much more than feed us–they can nourish our souls.


This book was fabulous ~ a wonderful foodie memoir and ode to his mother, a woman who sounds like one of the most marvelous characters on earth. So happy I read this book.

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy!

OneDayWellAllBeDeadOne Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
(Doubleday Canada – March 7, 2017)


In One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi deploys her razor-sharp humour to share her fears, outrages and mortifying experiences as an outsider growing up in Canada. Her subjects range from shaving her knuckles in grade school, to a shopping trip gone horribly awry, to dealing with internet trolls, to feeling out of place at an Indian wedding (as an Indian woman), to parsing the trajectory of fears and anxieties that pressed upon her immigrant parents and bled down a generation. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of colour, where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision or outright scorn. Where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, forcing her to confront questions about gender dynamics, racial tensions, ethnic stereotypes and her father’s creeping mortality–all as she tries to find her feet in the world.


These essays are hilarious and cutting and so so very real. Koul does not hold back even one tiny bit in her commentary on womanhood, race and culture, which makes this an incredibly refreshing and feminist read. Her dialogue and descriptions of her parents are simultaneously witty and touching, and tell the reader exactly how much she loves them. This book is much needed and highly recommended.

This was one of my April Book of the Month Club picks – a subscription service I pay for. 

ItsAlwaystheHusbandIt’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
(St. Martin’s Press – May 16, 2017)


Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.

How did things come to this?

As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?


Campbell draws readers in immediately with the college setting, and then horrifies and intrigues them with the account of the year of drugs and debauchery the girls experience together. The mark of a successful thriller, in my opinion, is keeping the reader guessing until the very last minute, and this book almost did that for me – I had several theories that I kept alternating between, with the true one only a glimmer that would pop up occasionally. I devoured this book in less than 18 hours and was genuinely surprised at how things actually happened – not shocked, but intrigued that that’s where she went with it.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t connect with a single character, but I also believe that Campbell wrote the characters that way – they perfectly fit the boxes she drew for them. I couldn’t see any evidence whatsoever of why Jenny and Aubrey kept being so loyal to Kate when she was obviously so horrible to them, but some of the references make it seem that those reasons happened outside of the story’s narrative. A solid thriller that the majority of suspense and thriller fans will enjoy.

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

File_000 (4)Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer
(Ballantine Books – May 16, 2017)


Memorial Day weekend means that seasonal visitors have descended on the glamorous island of Nantucket. For year-round resident Darcy Cotterill, it means late-night stargazing in the backyard of the beautiful house she grew up in and inherited from her beloved grandmother. It s also Darcy s chance to hit the beach and meet her new summertime neighbors. But the last person the thirty-year-old librarian expects to see staying next door is her ex-husband, Boyz, along with his wife, Autumn, and stepdaughter, Willow.

Darcy must also navigate the highs and lows of a new romantic relationship with local carpenter Nash Forester even as she becomes smitten with handsome vacationer Clive Rush, a musicologist in town to write a book and visit family. And she finds herself pulled into the concerns of Boyz, Autumn, a charming elderly neighbor, and an at-risk teen.

As the season nears its end, Darcy must decide her next move: retreating to the comforts of her steady and secure island life, or risking it all for a chance at true happiness.


I am a complete sucker for books set in Nantucket and books with a librarian main character, so this one completely filled those criteria. It’s a very, very frothy story and one that is a perfect beach read for those days when you know you’ll be distracted by kids (or people-watching) constantly and need to be able to not focus on an intricate plot line. I loved all of the Nantucket descriptions and reading about Darcy’s time at work as a children’s librarian. I also really like reading about her love of books and reading.

The one issue I had with this story is just how much I hated Boyz (and his NAME! and his FAMILY!) and every single part of the book where he is included. I completely skimmed over the part where it describes Darcy and Boyz meeting and their time together, and whenever he entered the story later on I wanted to skip it. He is supposed to be an unlikeable character, but I wish he had been a very, very background minor player.

All in all, this one will satisfy most readers of frothy romantic chick lit and long time Thayer fans.

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

IntoTheWaterInto the Water by Paula Hawkins
(Riverhead Books – May 2, 2017)


A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

OPINION: 2/5 (Aubible Audio version)

1.5 stars. Just……no. Maybe it was the audio version that I disliked so much, maybe it was the insane hype, maybe my expectations were too high, maybe the story really was that ugly and boring. I finally put this at 1.25x listening speed just to get through it. Not for me.

I used one of my monthly Audible credits to purchase this audiobook. 

JustMyFaceThis is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe
(Houghton Mifflin – May 1, 2017)


Gabourey Sidibe—“Gabby” to her legion of fans—skyrocketed to international fame in 2009 when she played the leading role in Lee Daniels acclaimed movie Precious. In This is Just My Face, she shares a one-of-a-kind life story. Sidibe paints her Bed-Stuy/Harlem family life with a polygamous father and a gifted mother who supports her two children by singing in the subway. Sidibe tells the story of her first job as a phone sex “talker.” And she shares her unconventional rise to fame as a movie star, alongside “a superstar cast of rich people who lived in mansions and had their own private islands and amazing careers while I lived in my mom’s apartment.”


Hilarious and honest, this book that is more essays than memoir lays Sidibe’s life out with absolutely no attempts at shielding readers from the harsh realities that were her childhood experiences. Her honesty about her eating disorder and depression are what earned the 5th star, as these issues are too often kept secret or vaguely referenced. Sidibe does neither, and still manages to be witty while recounting her darkest days. My heart ached for her childhood self, and cheered for her as she pulled her way up through some extremely tough challenges that would have knocked many others down. Highly recommend for adult readers open to raw and open dialogue about family, gender, race and body issues.

I checked this book out from the public library. 

File_000 (5)Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
(Doubleday – May 23, 2017)


Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, is back with an uproarious new novel of a family riven by fortune, an ex-wife driven psychotic with jealousy, a battle royal fought through couture gown sabotage, and the heir to one of Asia’s greatest fortunes locked out of his inheritance.

When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside–but he’s not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park–a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore–the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises. As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife–a woman hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette. A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a schoolyard kidnapping to a gold-leaf dancefloor spattered with blood, Kevin Kwan’s gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia’s most privileged families.


This series is my utter guilty pleasure! I actually listened to the first two books Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend from Audible, and they were SO amazing to listen to. TCRAhe accents were outstanding and they were just hilarious. I read this newest installment, and found it just as fun to read in print as it was to listen to the first two. This series has me 1) dying to visit Singapore 2) desperate to own a property like Tyersall Park and 3) so sad I’ll never meet Su Yi.CRG

Down-to-earth and modern couple Nick and Rachel put all of the ridiculousness and pretentious show of their family and friends into perspective, and let you enjoy this as a completely tongue-in-cheek soap opera. We ALL have an extra cool $3 billion to invest in a pet project, right? I love that Kwan ends this latest book in a way that leaves me desperately hoping for a next installment featuring……….no spoilers, but I love the ending!

This book could stand alone, but to appreciate the full pleasure of the story, read books 1 and 2 first!

Thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC of this title.

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!




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Have a great weekend!

Weekly Bookish News: Week of 5/15/17


As always, this is a duplicate of the newsletter I send my K-12 school district staff every Friday morning ~ a short and sweet round-up of literacy news and happenings that caught my eye, along with a few books to highlight and my elementary read alouds for the week. If you want to know about ALL the middle grade, YA and adult books I read, please hit me up on Goodreads! That’s where you’ll find the good, the bad and the ugly. All picture books are on my Instagram

This week is a VERY short one – end of the year and all that entails!

Favorites from around the web:

50 Brilliant Books for the Summer – Scholastic Teacher Magazine

A few books to highlight:

Rather than a list of a few books, I’m sharing with you the list of 100+ titles that my elementary teachers marked as their favorite in my library this winter at our Staff Library Expo! They each chose 5+ books to mark and then we put a heart label on the spine, a nameplate on the inside, and I cataloged all of these in Destiny in resource lists as 2016-2017 Staff Favorites. I also created individual resource lists in Destiny for each teacher’s favorites so students can easily find those books. I hope to make this an annual event and also hope to have more teachers exploring and finding some of the newer titles as well as these classics!

2016-2017 Staff Favorites in my library (this is a PDF shared via Google Drive – titles listed in order by library call numbers, and the list is generated from Follett Destiny)

Elementary Read Alouds for the Week

Just a picture of them this week – no time for a table!


Balcony on the Moon: YA Title Feature

File_000 (4)I have written before about windows and mirrors, and thought I had found plenty of perfect examples of books that give my rural Wisconsin readers a look into worlds other than their own. That was before I read Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine by Ibtisam Barakat. This title is actually the stand-alone companion to Barakat’s earlier book Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood. Both books are must-haves for middle and high school libraries and classrooms, which I will expand upon in my review below.

Here are the official descriptions from Goodreads for both books:

TastingTheSkyTasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) – February 7, 2007)

“When a war ends it does not go away,” my mother says.”It hides inside us . . . Just forget!”
But I do not want to do what Mother says . . . I want to remember.

In this groundbreaking memoir set in Ramallah during the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. With candor and courage, she stitches together memories of her childhood: fear and confusion as bombs explode near her home and she is separated from her family; the harshness of
life as a Palestinian refugee; her unexpected joy when she discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. This is the beginning of her passionate connection to words, and as language becomes her refuge, allowing her to piece together the fragments of her world, it becomes her true home.

Transcending the particulars of politics, this illuminating and timely book provides a telling glimpse into a little-known culture that has become an increasingly important part of the puzzle of world peace.

BalconyOnTheMoonBalcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) – October 25, 2016)

Picking up where Tasting the Sky left off, Balcony on the Moon follows Ibtisam Barakat through her childhood and adolescence in Palestine from 1972-1981 and chronicles her desire to be a writer. Ibtisam finds inspiration through writing letters to pen pals and from an adult who encourages her to keep at it, but the most surprising turn of all for Ibtisam happens when her mother decides that she would like to seek out an education, too. This memoir is a touching, at times funny, and enlightening look at the not often depicted daily life in a politically tumultuous area.

Review of Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine

As an adult, I can honestly say that despite my voracious news consumption, I have never fully understood the issues of Palestine and Israel and the West Bank and the constant conflict there. I still don’t consider myself an expert (or even able to explain it very well) by any means, but Balcony on the Moon has given me the best explanation and visual representation of this region and its history that I have seen yet. This would be an amazing choice to use in classrooms as a read aloud or even a whole class read, whether during a memoir unit or a history or geography unit. Or a strong women or overcoming challenges book club, or………..the list can go on and on!

There are so many things that fascinate me about Barakat’s story, but the one that stands out to me the most is her courage in the face of enormous odds stacked against her. Just two examples of this are when she defied her family and snuck out to find a factory job when she was twelve years old in order to earn her own money, and when she managed to sneak letters to an outside journalist while in high school – I had no idea that she wouldn’t have been allowed to send mail to Kuwait and would have to route it through a British postmaster! These are type of stories about which I can imagine having long and amazing discussions with students, stories that will give students an entirely different worldview.

This book also does an excellent job of discussing the many religions observed in Palestine, and gives a great deal of background information on Islam. This is a topic that must be discussed in US schools today in the face of such lack of general knowledge on the topic leading to fear and uncertainty. With knowledge comes power, but also with knowledge comes security. When students learn about topics that they are originally uncertain or fearful about, they can understand how something like a different religion connects to their own lives. The back pages include a list of resources, including links to the following:

I can guarantee you that I will be reading extensively on this topic now, and these links will be my jumping off point.

One quote that stood out to me in Balcony is from page 51, when Ibtisam says to her mother, during a time of political turmoil, “I feel afraid!” and her mother replied in frustration, “Well, feel something else!”. That really encapsulates what Barakat and her family had to do to survive their ordeal, or actually, their existence.

VERDICT: If you are a librarian, or teacher, purchase this book for your libraries or classrooms. If you are a library card holder (and you’d better be one!), ensure that your public library has copies of both of these titles – if they don’t have them now, please request that they purchase them.

I first heard about Balcony on the Moon from a Nerdy Book Club post by author Kate Hannigan  and was fortunate enough to sent a copy of this book from the author and her publicist after commenting on that post. This copy is being added to my middle-high school library.  It is crazy how things work in the librarian and book blogging business – connections are made in the most random places and I always manage to find new books I love and want to shout from the rooftops about!

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



Middle Grade & YA Reviews: Week of 5/15/17

A round-up of a new middle grade novel in verse and three new YA titles………..

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Middle Grade

MacyMcMillanMacy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green
(Pajama Press – May 15, 2017)


Sixth grade is coming to an end, and so is life as Macy McMillan knows it. Already a For Sale sign mars the front lawn of her beloved house. Soon her mother will upend their little family, adding an unwelcome stepfather and pesky six-year-old twin stepsisters. To add insult to injury, what is Macy s final sixth grade assignment? A genealogy project. Well, she’ll put it off―just like those wedding centerpieces she’s supposed to be making.

Just when Macy’s mother ought to be sympathetic, she sends her next door to help eighty-six-year-old Iris Gillan, who is also getting ready to move―in her case, into an assisted living facility. Iris can’t move a single box on her own and, worse, she doesn’t know sign language. How is Macy supposed to understand her? But Iris has stories to tell, and she isn’t going to let Macy’s deafness stop her. Soon, through notes and books and cookies, a friendship grows. And this friendship, odd and unexpected, may be just what Macy needs to face the changes in her life.


Perfect middle grade free verse! I am so excited to share this with my elementary and middle school students, as I am always talking up free verse, but can’t find enough excellent examples to share with them. Macy’s story is heartwarming and thought-provoking, and her relationship with her elderly neighbor is a wonderful one for kids to read about. I love their connection over baking and books – I especially loved the book references throughout the story, like to the books El Deafo and The Tale of Despereaux – books that kids today will know and be able to relate to. Kids will also be able to connect with the storylines relating to parent remarriage and moving, and will be able to look into the world of someone who has lost their hearing, much as they have enjoyed doing with El Deafo.

I can’t wait to read this author’s other middle grade novel Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles and order both of these titles for my libraries.

I received a digital advance review copy in exchange for an honest review – all opinions are my own.

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

Young Adult

ThatThingWeCallaHeartThat Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim
(HarperTeen- May 9, 2017)


Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After hooking up with the most racist boy in school and telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is ready for high school to end. She faces a summer of boredom and regret, but she has a plan: Get through the summer. Get to college. Don’t look back. Begin anew.

Everything changes when she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack, and meets her there every afternoon. Shabnam begins to see Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Jamie finds Shabnam fascinating—her curls, her culture, her awkwardness. Shabnam finds herself falling in love, but Farah finds Jamie worrying.

With Farah’s help, Shabnam uncovers the truth about Jamie, about herself, and what really happened during Partition. As she rebuilds her friendship with Farah and grows closer to her parents, Shabnam learns powerful lessons about the importance of love, in all of its forms.


A fresh and complex contemporary YA story with a Pakistani-American protagonist that manages to be both wryly hilarious and discuss Urdu poetry, the Bosnian genocide and Indian Partition all in the same page. That takes serious skill! As I have said in some of my other reviews, I am a librarian and read and review a LOT of YA – I’m always on the hunt for an original story and this one certainly fits that description. Thanks to Edelweiss for the digital review copy!

Shabnam and her friend Farah are at the heart of the book and their discussions about wearing hijab and what it means to be a “good” Muslim were incredibly deep and heartfelt, but at the same time the girls were just plan funny. There is discussion about sexuality and sexual diversity but in a “ugh, why is the world so heteronormative” way, not in a preachy way. There was minor drinking and drug use, but as a backdrop for the larger story. There was a love interest, but one who helped Shabnam find her true self and devotion to her family’s history.

I really enjoyed reading this story and would recommend it for purchase in all high school libraries as a window for some and a mirror for others. If the book creates dialogue and controversy about what a good modern Muslim looks like and acts like, that’s a healthy thing for teens to be discussing, whether with one another or their parents and teachers.

I received a digital ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

TheLoveInterestThe Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
(Feiwel & Friends – May 16, 2017)


There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.


Refreshing, smart and funny ~ The Love Interest did something no other YA has done for me lately: completely surprise me and upended ALL of the YA-love-scifi stereotypes. There’s major romance and steaminess, yes, but there’s NO SEX. There’s alcohol, but no one is drunk and there are no drugs. There is sci fi, but it’s not really sci fi because it’s spying, and it’s……….it’s just different. And different is so good right now. I read so much YA as a book reviewer and librarian that I am just overjoyed that Dietrich managed to create a new story.

I absolutely love how Cade deals with his sexuality and I especially love the note in the back pages of this book:
“Lastly, I want to give a shout-out to the LGBTQIA+ people out there. If you’re “LGBTQIA+ and reading this, know that you are perfect, and valid, and you deserve only the best. I hope The Love Interest managed to get my feelings about you across, but just in case, I’ll make it crystal clear here: I love you.”

Is this book perfect? Nope. There is a little bit of clunkiness with some of the dialogue and transitions, but I’m willing to put that aside because of 1) the uniqueness of the storyline 2) the excellent LGTQIA+ portrayal and 3) the fact that I got this book at 4 pm and finished it the next morning at 4:30 am. It takes skill to keep readers reading!

Hat tip to Book of the Month Club for including this in their May 2017 choices – it’s definitely a unique pick for them, and I love that they did such an amazing thing for this debut author and book.

I chose this as one of my Book of the Month selections for May 2017. I pay for this subscription.

RamonaBlueRamona Blue by Julie Murphy
(Balzer + Bray – May 9, 2017)


Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.


Julie Murphy became a favorite of mine after I read her book Dumplin’. That plus the hype about Ramona Blue is why I was anticipating this one so much! While reading I was up and down and up and down about 15 times on whether I was loving it or liking it.

Here is why I settled on 3 stars:

– tackles ambiguous feelings about sexual identity (and Murphy used sensitivity readers) which will be a welcome topic for any teens struggling to label themselves. I did feel like some of the dialogue was less-than-fluid and there were some unnecessary sexual references in jokes and offhand comments that felt a bit forced and could have been cut, though.
– has beautiful descriptions of feelings about family relationships, and the storyline involving Ramona and her pregnant sister is my favorite in the book. I also love Ramona’s interactions with her father.
– the Olympics and swimming storyline is a unique one, and I loved that Ramona has such body confidence.

While the book has definite merits, I have books I have loved more about all of the topics above.

I love Julie Murphy and I know every book can’t be like my favorite of any author. I applaud her for tackling topics in this book that many authors avoid (race, sexuality, etc). I am so excited about the next Dumplin’ book that Murphy is working on!

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

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

The Simplicity of Cider: Adult Title Feature

I’m so excited to share with you all the newest release from one of my favorite authors, Amy E. Reichert! She is a Wisconsin author, which makes her work near and dear to my born-and-bred Wisconsin heart. This title is out on May 16th, and is a perfect fit for both Wisconsinites and non-locals who love a good story about family and pride, with little touches of romance and magic.

Here is the official book description as well as my thoughts on this title:


The Simplicity of Cider
by Amy E. Reichert
(Gallery Books – May 16, 2017)

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.


CoconutCakeYou had me at Wisconsin. You had me at apples. Add in the fact this is the Wisconsin author of a favorite book of mine (The Coincidence of Coconut Cake) and I was dying to read this! Thanks so much to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review pre-release!

Sanna Lund is certainly not the typical quirky but warm and lovable female protagonist that I typically see in this type of book – she is bristly and singularly focused on her orchard and ONLY her orchard. However, her relationship with her father is achingly sweet, and her desire to hold onto her family’s land is one that any longtime-landowner can relate to. No matter what, the land is worth more than any money it can bring in. This is something I see every day as a rural lifelong Wisconsin resident, and Reichert nailed this characteristic. She also completely accurately portrayed the starkness and isolation of rural Wisconsin in the winter – loss of electricity, potentially being housebound, etc. I live this life, and appreciate both Sanna’s determination to live this way forever, as well as her mother’s complete and utter horror at her time in Door County.

This story may have romantic elements, and a hint of suspense, but I simply adored the tiny touch of magic that Reichert wove in. Being able to taste colors and having a family “special touch” with their trees is just special enough, but also just believable enough to allow readers to completely buy into this storyline. It left me wanting to taste Sanna’s cider to see what color I would see upon drinking it!

All in all, Reichert has yet again brought Wisconsin and its beauty to readers in the rest of the world with unforgettable characters and a unique setting.

LuckLoveLemonPieNOTE: I am currently listening to Reichert’s second title Luck, Love and Lemon Pie from Audible and am really enjoying it – I can’t wait to share my review of it in my next Adult Reads round-up at the end of this month!

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