Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson is out!

After years of excessive drink and sex, Patrick has suffered a massive heart attack. Although he's only fifty, he's got just months to live. But a tragic accident involving a teenager and a motorcycle gives the university professor a second chance. He receives the boy's heart in a transplant, and by this miracle of science, two strangers are forever linked.

Though Patrick's body accepts his new heart, his old life seems to reject him. Bored by the things that once enticed him, he begins to look for meaning in his experience. Discovering that his donor was a local boy named Drew Beamish, he becomes intensely curious about Drew's life and the influences that shaped him--from the eighteenth-century ancestor involved in a labor riot to the bleak beauty of the Cambridgeshire countryside in which he was raised. Patrick longs to know the story of this heart that is now his own. (publisher) 

Out now, go check it out!

You can find the rest of the stops on the tour here

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Beautiful Daughters (giveaway)

If you've been with me since the beginning (7 years -- can you believe it?!) you'll know that I've been a huge fan of Nicole Baart since her very first book, After the Leaves Fall came out. It was the first in a trilogy and I absolutely loved it and gave it as gifts to all my girlfriends. Since then, Nicole has published several other books and I've loved them all, so when I had the chance to read an early copy of her latest book, The Beautiful Daughters, I jumped at the chance.

A story about family and best friends and first loves, and what it means to help mend the hearts of people you love. The characters were the shining star of the entire book and I felt connections with all of them -- despite also wanting to shake them sometimes. Adri had her moments of being incredibly frustrating with her consistently stoic behavior and Harper was just a hot mess, but understandably so. Trust me, pick up this book and you'll become invested in the lives of these women and the men in their lives. It was enthralling.

I'll add a finished copy to my shelves once the book is published (April!!), so I'd love to share my advanced reader copy with one of you. Whether it's your first Nicole Baart novel or you've been following her for years as I have, you should enter! Leave a comment on this post by Friday night and I'll pick a winner Saturday morning. It's definitely worth a read!

Friday, February 13, 2015


One of my favorite bloggers, The Modern Mrs. Darcy, occasionally hosts a feature she calls Twitterature, where bloggers can share what they've been reading in short, casual reviews. Though she hasn't posted one in awhile, it's my favorite way to review lately as my time is short but my desire to share about my reading is high! I often review picture books this way, but I wanted to briefly fill you all in on my own reading and hopefully give you a few more titles to add to your own TBR piles.

First up, a couple of non-fiction titles.

The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley

Absolutely fascinating. Traveling around the world, Ripley explores huge differences between American schools and other education systems. A lot of information was given on the lack of quality education in the U.S. and how other countries manage to achieve higher test scores with less (or more) work. As the parent of a child who will soon be school age, this was incredibly eye-opening. Highly recommended.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This one has been all over the place and I finally got my hands on one! If you follow me on Twitter, I talk a lot about simple living and not having a lot of stuff, and the author expands upon this idea, teaching readers just how to get rid of stuff and why we should do it. Some of her ideas are a little extreme (thank your bag or sweater for a "job well done" at the end of the day), but overall, a great resource for someone needing that extra push to start decluttering.

A couple of notes on books I haven't been loving lately. I rarely finish books I'm not loving, but I did finish these two and felt the need to chat about them.

Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukoup

I really like the blog this book is based on, also titled Living Well, Spending Less, but I was disappointed in the book. This read more like a memoir (and not a well-written one) of how Soukoup got over her own spending addiction, than an actual guide on how to spend less money and still live well. There were very few actual frugal living tips, instead, briefly mentioning things in a very basic manner, like budgets and not buying things that aren't necessities, then going right back to her own personal story.  I was left wanting a lot more.

The Taste of Many Mountains by Bruce Wydick

This was a hard one to get through. Despite the fascinating topic of fair trade coffee (something I'm passionate about) it felt like reading a journal article or textbook every time the characters were speaking to each other. Flat, wooden dialogue with uninteresting characters. What was supposed to be a thrilling story was actually dry and boring. Such a bummer.

Both of these books were sent courtesy of BookLook Bloggers.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

National Readathon Day

I've participated in many readathons since I've started this blog, but jumping in today was a last minute decision. Penguin Random House has started this movement of National Readathon Day and they're encouraging readers all over the world to make time to stop and read for 4 hours today. 12pm-4pm in your own time zone. 

My pile:

Together, we can raise money for the National Book Foundation and remind ourselves that we can make #timetoread. Donate here

Friday, January 23, 2015

Migratory Animals

When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin from five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes torn between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiance without knowing when she can return, Flan learns that her sister, Molly, has begun to show signs of the crippling genetic disease that slowly killed their mother. 

As their close-knit circle of friends struggles with Molly's diagnosis, Flannery must grapple with what her future will hold: an ambitious life of love and the pursuit of scientific discovery in West Africa, or the pull of a life surrounded by old friends, the comfort of an old flame, family obligations, and the home she's always known. But she is not the only one wrestling with uncertainty. Since their college days, each of her friends has faced unexpected challenges that make them reevaluate the lives they've always planned for themselves. (Goodreads)

I admit, I struggled to get into this. I'm in the middle of another book that contains several of the same themes (returning from Africa after 5 years, past secrets, difficult family relationships) and this one is not nearly as readable. It takes some patience to understand Flannery and the way the author wrote her story, but once I got into it, I wanted to see where the story would go. 

The effects of the disease Molly is diagnosed with are devastating to the family and the circle of friends, yet I didn't necessarily feel that emotion like I wanted to. The passages describing her downward turn were moving, yet not as powerful as I had hoped and I always closed a chapter wanting more. 

If you'd like to check out the rest of the stops on the tour, go here

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Elliott's Picks: Weather and Seasons

It's been cold and cloudy here in Northern Virginia and our family is currently working with just one car. This means Elliott and I have been spending a whole lot of time inside our house trying to make the days pass. Lots of playing with trucks and trains and, of course, lots of reading.

We've been making our way through piles and piles of picture books, both review copies and library books, and these are the ones Elliott really loves and seems to request over and over.

Blizzard by John Rocco is the true story of the author's experience during the Blizzard of 1978, which brought over 50 inches of snow to Rhode Island. Simple text and Rocco's amazing illustrations helped my 3-year-old truly understand what was happening on the pages and exciting him about the prospect of "so much snow, Mama!"

On each page spread we talked about what the boy was doing during the blizzard and what happened once the snow stopped. We talked about how he performed a good deed for his family and neighbors by walking through all the snow to pick up supplies and how the plows would eventually be able to do their jobs and life would go back to normal.

A great story to read together during these cold, dreary days.

After the story about too much snow, I was anxious to read about spring, so we picked up Finding Spring by Carin Berger (out on 1/27). The illustrations are what initially drew me to the book and the story was just as charming.

A sweet bear named Maurice really wants to find spring. It's all his friends can talk about and, despite being almost time to hibernate, Maurice is determined to find it. What he finds and believes is spring is completely adorable and resulted in lots of giggles from Elliott. He also noticed the illustrations being different than "typical" illustrations. Mixed-media, made into beautiful collage scenes, they definitely are different then paint or drawing illustrations and I was impressed with his noticing.

The story allowed for us to talk about the different seasons and why winter was different than spring and why Maurice was silly to think that what he found was a sign of spring. It also made this winter-weary mama desperate for some spring sunshine!

Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes illustrated Elliott's next pick: Blue on Blue by Dianne White. This one is perfect for reading inside on a stormy day, whether that storm is snow or rain, as in the story.

The illustrations are perfection, depicting each rain drop, cloud, and puddle beautifully. The text is incredibly simple - just a few words on each page to describe the scene - allowing for the illustrations to really tell the story of this family and the thunderstorm on their farm.

For me, the mark of an amazing book is pacing and the author and illustrator absolutely got it right with this story. I read it aloud slowly, letting each page sink in before turning to the next, and we then went back and started right over again. When we were finished, we immediately picked up our library copy of Rain by Peter Spier, one of our absolute favorites, and spent time comparing the two storms.

Caldecott winner, maybe??

More picks to come soon!

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster for the review copies!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Sister to Honor review

Afia Satar is studious, modest, and devout. The young daughter of a landholding family in northern  Pakistan, Afia has enrolled in an American college with the dream of returning to her country as a doctor. But when a photo surfaces online of Afia holding hands with an American boy, she is suddenly no longer safe - even from the family that cherishes her. 

Rising sports star Shahid Satar has been entrusted by his family to watch over Afia intros strange New England landscape. He has sworn to protect his beloved sister from the dangerous customs of America, from its loose morals and easy virtue. Shahid was the one who convinced their parents to allow her to come to the United States. He never imagined he'd be ordered to cleanse the stain of her shame... (from publisher)

A timely story and a well-drawn main character made this a fascinating read. I loved the alternating perspectives, allowing a glimpse into the minds of everyone involved in the story. Honor codes are something we learn about here in the U.S., but are rarely faced with the reality of, and though fictional, this story brought those cultural aspects smack into my face. 

I thought the story authentic, with its exploration of culture and faith and was fascinated with the decisions these characters, and so many across the world still, are faced with, due to traditions within their cultures. For them, it's not as simple as refusing to participate in these roles. 

I'll definitely read whatever Lucy Ferriss writes next. Thank you to Penguin Random House for the review copy.