Monday, December 08, 2014

Stocking Stuffer Idea!

Quirk Book has released two new sets of novelty postcards that might just be the perfect stocking stuffer for someone on your gift list!

Each set of 30 postcards comes in a nicely packaged folder and retails for $9.95.

The first set is called STARS AND SWIPES: 30 POSTCARDS OF AWKWARD AMERICANA:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=as_li_qf_sp_sr_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&index=aps&keywords=stars%20and%20swipes&linkCode=ur2&tag=lifebycand-20&linkId=HN6BWZQMS3GBGRWS




The collection opens up nicely with a foldout cover:



Here is an example of one of the postcards:


The second collection is called HUGS AND MISSES: 30 POSTCARDS OF AWKWARD ROMANCE:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1594747334/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1594747334&linkCode=as2&tag=lifebycand-20&linkId=EPZ7CPOKAZ4FPLVX 
You could even save this one for an anti-Valentine's gift!



 Although I found the humor of most of the postcards a bit silly and not to my taste, I could immediately think of someone who would appreciate them!  Everyone has a friend or family member would LOVE a silly little gift this these!  Another easy way to knock a gift off your list!  Click on the covers to purchase.


(I received copies of these item from the publisher for review)

Monday, December 01, 2014

Barefoot Books Sale!



I am an Ambassador for Barefoot Books and a strong believer in their missions of publishing books with a strong emphasis in storytelling and multiculturalism.

Now through Wednesday, Barefoot is having a sitewide sale.  Get 20% off your entire order by using the code TOGETHER20 and get free shipping on orders over $60. Click on any of the cover images to shop!

Here are some of my favorite Barefoot titles:

1. My son received his first Barefoot Book at age 3. It is a singalong called ANIMAL BOOGIE. It has a fun catchy tune that encourages children to get up and move around like animals.  The book comes with a music CD that you can put into your computer to see animation.

store.barefootbooks.com/the-animal-boogie-6.html/?bf_affiliate_000-1e3u

2. I absolutely love the new release OUT OF THE BLUE. This wordless book encourages children to narrate their own story.  The illustrations are beautifully detailed and I love the message of compassion.

store.barefootbooks.com/out-of-the-blue.html/?bf_affiliate_000-1e3u

3.HERB THE VEGETARIAN DRAGON is a charming story about a dragon who just wants to be himself.  A great message about compassion and acceptance.

store.barefootbooks.com/herb-the-vegetarian-dragon-3.html/?bf_affiliate_000-1e3u


There are so many more that I can't list them all! We have fantastic singalongs, adorable board books, terrific early chapter books (especially with some non-traditional princesses) and much more!  Hurry now to shop before the sale ends!

Go here to shop: 
 http://www.dancingbarefootwithamy.com

Sale ends on December 3!



LOST AND FOUND by Brooke Davis





Review coming soon!

Calamity

Although I have been doing a lot of reading, I am behind in posting. I was recently in a car accident that totaled my car and left me with injuries I am still recovering from.  The whole episode has created quite the mess in my life that I am struggling to get in order. I am so grateful that the accident wasn't worse and that my son was no in the car.

As I have been recovering, I have been doing a lot of reading.  I have a few reviews to post but I am starting to move on to Spring titles and those reviews will come out close to publication date.  Read HAUSFRAU by Jill Alexander Essbaum last week.  Wow.  Definitely watch for this one in March!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 31, 2014

US by David Nicholls

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I have to admit that I was a bit lukewarm on ONE DAY.  I just didn't connect with it.  I think Nicholls' caught me at just the right moment with US.  Doug Petersen has a pretty decent life.  He has a good job, a wife he adores, a comfortable home, and an almost-grown son.  Through his 17-year-old son Albie is bit moody and unpleasant, he is about to leave for school and Doug has planned one last family trip of a Grand Tour around Europe.  Right before the trip, Doug's wife Connie wakes him up and tells him she doesn't want to be married to him anymore.  The pronouncement shakes Doug's world and he decides that the Grand Tour will now be a trip to reconnect with and save his family.

Although I still have awhile to go before I am Doug's age, something about his story really connected with me. Since I also have an only child who is a son, the story made me wonder what the future holds for my child and my relationships. As we follow Doug and his family on their disastrous trip, the story manages to be both humorous and heartbreaking.  Doug must confront facts about his family and who they really are and must take ownership of his own failings as a husband and father. Even so, you can't help rooting for this family to weather the storm and survive.  There were moments when I laughed out loud and others that nearly brought me to tears. Told in both the present tense and in flashbacks, the reader gets a clear idea of who these people are and the stresses of family life that led Doug, Connie and Albie to this point. I found it incredibly moving and well done.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. This may end up being one of my favorite books this year.  A wonderful story about a family in distress against the backdrop of European travels.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

UNBECOMING by Rebecca Scherm

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Grace is a chameleon. She is a master at fitting in and becoming the person that others want her to be. In her current incarnation, she is hiding out in Paris working in a business that repairs antiques.  She is hiding from the two most important men in her life who have just been released from prison. Grace grew up in small-town Garland, Tennessee where she was the girlfriend of the town golden boy, Riley.  Grace secretly marries Riley when they are in college in a move to maintain her position in his family. Soon after the marriage, she finds herself attracted to his friend Alls. In a desperate attempt to escape from Garland, the group of friends decides to rob a local historic home.  Alls, Riley, and their friend Greg are caught. Grace escapes to Europe with a valuable painting.  Now, her husband and lover have finally been released from prison and Grace is afraid that they will track her down and force her to confront not only her past but also who she has become.

I have seen this book compared to everything from GONE GIRL to Tartt's GOLDFINCH to Highsmith's TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. I did not think of any of those novels when reading UNBECOMING. The only real connection to GOLDFINCH is that of a stolen painting.  It is probably closest to TALENTED MR. RIPLEY simply because of Grace's attempt to play roles and become whoever she needs to be at any given moment. I really loved the idea of the book and the backstory. Grace is an interesting character and I loved reading about how she came to be in Paris.  The disappointment came with the ending.  It did not make any sense to me. The build-up was so good but the ending fell flat and didn't seem believable. There are hints about who Grace is at her core and this might be the closest connection I can make to GONE GIRL.  Grace's lack of a true core and sense of self is a little reminiscent of a certain character in GONE GIRL.  The reasoning behind this lack of self doesn't really work for me.  And I did not buy the transformation of Alls' character AT ALL.  It was a very nice, well-paced read until the ending and then it completely fell flat.

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended. Interesting characters and a good concept but the author failed to follow through with a plausible ending.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

THE BOY WHO DREW MONSTERS by Keith Donohue

(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

I love a good scary story.  Especially at this time of year.  But I am very particular about my scary stories.  I like suspense and chills but I do NOT like explicit violence.  When the buzz started up among my library colleagues about this book, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. It sounded like the perfect Autumn read.

Ever since he almost drowned in the ocean three years earlier, ten-year-old Jack Peter has been afraid to leave his home in a small coastal Maine town. It is implied that Jack Peter may have something akin to Asperger's which further isolates him and his family.  Jack Peter's only friend is Nick. Nick was there the day the two boys almost drowned and they share a special bond even though Nick is beginning to want to distance himself from Jack Peter. Jack Peter begins to draw monsters and it seems like those monsters are taking on a life of their own. Strange appearances begin to happen in the small town and Jack Peter's mother, Holly, begins to hear strange noises.  She turns to a local priest for help.  His housekeeper tells her about local shipwrecks and ghosts and convinces Holly that her family may be experiencing a haunting. Jack Peter's father, Tim, tries to find a rational explanation for the strange appearances but cannot find an explanation. While Holly, Tim, and Nick try to make sense of what is happening, only Jack Peter knows the truth.

This is such a hard book to describe!  Especially without giving away spoilers!  The story is very atmostpheric.  It takes place in the winter when all of the Summer people have fled for the season. This makes the town feel isolated and remote. The descriptions of the apparitions are chilling and the reader is forced to try and make sense of what is happening.  Are these truly the ghosts of shipwrecked souls?  Why are they plaguing this one family?  The majority of the book gives the reader a feeling of unease and uncertainty.  What exactly is going on here?  There is less overt horror and more the suggestion of frightening things.  It isn't until the very end of the book that Donohue turns everything on its head.  When I read the last page, I yelled, "GET OUT!"  I did not see the ending coming. 

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.  I think Gaiman fans will find a lot to like here.  The book is spooky without being grotesque and violent.  The M. Night Shyamalan-style ending will delight readers and make them want to start the whole book over again.  The perfect read for cold evenings by the fire.

Friday, September 26, 2014

DINOSAUR FARM by Frann Preston-Gannon

(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.)

Dinosaurs and farms! What a winning combination!  This book just made me smile the first time I saw it. Before sitting down to read it with my 6-yr-old, I read through it first on my own. It gave me an idea. I told my son that I had a new book for us to read together but he had to promise to keep his eyes closed. I told him to imagine the pictures in his mind.  I was curious to see what conclusions he would draw. Here's the fun little trick about this book. The text says NOTHING about dinosaurs! 

"First things first.
Your animals will be hungry, so you
must serve them breakfast."

My son pictured a farmer feeding chickens and cows.  This is the actual illustration:



After we read through the book with my son's eyes closed, I told him to open his eyes and we would read it again. He was so surprised to see all the dinosaurs!  The book takes you through an average farmer's day with the twist that dinosaurs live on the farm. The farmer cares for the animals and plants and even has to deal with messes like dinosaur poop left by the Triceratops!

  

The farmer also has an adorable pet dinosaur in place of a dog that appears on most pages. My son loved looking for him and seeing what he was doing. We also enjoyed trying to identify the dinosaurs on each of the pages. The illustrations were so adorable!

This book was a big hit in our little family.  We really enjoyed the combination of a traditional farmer's day with a very nontraditional farm. The illustrations were full of humor and fun and we loved the little details in each one.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended! An adorable book that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike!




Thursday, August 28, 2014

THE BARTER by Siohban Adcock





I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.



Monday, August 18, 2014

THE STORY HOUR by Thrity Umrigar





I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Trapped in a loveless marriage and crushed by loneliness, Lakshmi decides to take her own life.  After she fails, she is forced to attend therapy sessions with Maggie.  Maggie is everything that Lakshmi is not.  As a strong African-American woman who is a successful therapist in a happy marriage, Maggie doesn't seem to have much in common with Lakshmi. Yet, something draws her to the young Indian woman. Lakshmi's domineering husband has limited her world to their home and grocery store/restaurant.  With no friends and no connection to family, Lakshmi's crushing loneliness leads her to her desperate act.  Maggie helps Lakshmi to realize her worth and how to become more independent. In spite of herself, Maggie is drawn to Lakshmi and begins to cross her carefully constructed professional lines.  The two women begin to confide in one another and share secrets without realizing that each one has very different expectations about the relationship.

Although it took a little while to get going, I really enjoyed this story.  I thought both women were really interesting and that the characters were well-developed. It was especially satisfying to see Lakshmi come into her own throughout the course of the book. However, it was equally upsetting to see the poor choices that Maggie made. While one woman began to thrive, the other began to all apart. Much of the book had to do with friendship and the importance of connections between people but I think the most important part of the book was the theme of forgiveness.  Although the actions of the characters could often be frustrating, I think the book was ultimately a lovely tale of forgiving and moving on.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A really nice story featuring on the connection between two unlikely friends and the far-reaching consequences of that relationship.