Wednesday, April 30, 2014


A picture of each of the kids, once a week, every week in 2014.

Becca Grace - "Do you think I could grab the books and make a break for it?"

David - There are very few dandelions left between our house and the bus stop. You will never guess who is responsible...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Outside In

Outside In
By Doug Cooper
Greenleaf Book Group Press August 2013
253 pages
Provided for review by TLC Book Tours and the publisher 

Outside In

Brad Shepherd is a young teacher at a crossroads in his life. His job as a junior high math teacher ended abruptly with the death of a student and a subsequent lawsuit. Brad decides to take the summer to refocus and decide what he wants to do next. He travels to the island of Put-In-Bay, where he will spend the summer keeping an eye on unruly drunks at the least when he is not getting drunk or doing drugs himself.

Author Doug Cooper has extensive additional material available to accompany his debut novel, which you can find here. As I read, I found myself agreeing with many of the things he said, particularly that Brad has parallels with Holden Caulfield and that Outside In is a tale of a delayed coming of age. Brad has done everything that he should have done - gone to college, taken a job in a respected field - but when that is taken away, he doesn't know who he is without it. Mr. Cooper details the ways in which philosophy and the archetype of the hero impacted his story and those are both evident throughout. Unfortunately, it gives the book a somewhat uneven feel. The never-ending party has difficulty co-existing with the continual insinuation that this book is about deeper philosophical questions.

One of the great strengths of this book is the author's descriptive voice. From the moment that Brad first sees the island from the ferry, I felt as if I was seeing it in front of me. We see the dirty corners of the bars, the rough accommodations of the seasonal workers, and the beautiful hidden coves brought to life in a way that seems effortless.

Brad's story certainly serves as a cautionary tale about the effects of drugs and alcohol and how "having fun" can quickly spiral into addiction. The book is sometimes difficult to read because of that, but it serves to show us just how far Brad has fallen and the dark secrets that these party locales really hide. The end of the novel was difficult for me to believe because I imagine that it is a very difficult process for someone to detox after so many months of abusing drugs and alcohol. I also had trouble believing that the event that cements Brad's decision about his future would have done so when it is so similar to another event earlier in the book.

Outside In is a powerful debut about the effects that our decisions have on our lives and whether we can start again.

I have one copy of this book to give away! If you want to enter, leave me a comment and tell me about an unforgettable summer that you've experienced.

For more reviews of Outside In, check out TLC Book Tours and the rest of the tour stops!

Monday, April 14: Sara's Organized Chaos
Wednesday, April 16: Bibliotica
Monday, April 21: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, April 23: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, April 24: Knowing the Difference
Tuesday, April 29: Patricia's Wisdom
Thursday, May 1: Luxury Reading
Monday, May 5: Literally Jen
Monday, May 12: 100 Pages a Day...Stephanie's Book Reviews 
Thursday, May 15: Booke Blogs and Cupcake's Book Cupboard
Monday, May 19: Books a la mode
Tuesday, May 20: Tiffany's Bookshelf
Wednesday, May 21: Endless Days of Literary Ecstasy
Thursday, May 22: Daily Mayo
Tuesday, May 27: You Can Read Me Anything 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's Monday and I am another year older...

Hi friends! It has been a crazy few days, but they were really good. I celebrated my birthday with my family and my husband's family. Then, of course, it was the 24 Hour Readathon this weekend. I didn't read anywhere near 24 hours, but it was still a lot of fun! Did you join in the readathon? Did you read anything fantastic?

Read This Week:
The Museum of Extraordinary Things
By Alice Hoffman

Outside In
By Doug Cooper

Something Rotten (Thursday Next, #4)
Something Rotten (Thursday Next #4) 
By Jasper Fforde 

Posts from this Past Week:

Reading Now:
By Nella Larsen

Up Next:
Invisible City
Invisible City
By Julia Dahl

What are you reading this week?

Happy, Happy Readathon! The Last Post

Readathon was sort of strange for me this time around because I missed a giant chunk of it in the middle. It wasn't a bad thing - a birthday girl has got to go eat cheesecake and open presents - but it was weird to bounce back and forth. I think I ended up reading for about 7 out of the 24 hours.

End of Event Meme:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 19 or so. I was exhausted but I really wanted to keep reading!
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Passing by Nella Larsen, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, anything by Rainbow Rowell
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon for next year? Nope!
4. What do you think worked really well in this year's Read-a-thon? The commitment of the organizers and the enthusiasm of the readers and cheerleaders made it a really great time.
5. How many books did you read? 1 and 1/2
6. What were the names of the books you read? Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde and half of Passing by Nella Larsen
7. Which book did you enjoy most/least? I only finished one!
8. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year's Cheerleaders? I didn't cheer this time around, but I hope to in October!
9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Reader and Cheerleader!

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the Readathon happen! I can't wait for October!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Happy, Happy Readathon! Post #2

I'm still here guys, I promise!

So I mentioned earlier that it was my birthday today. That meant that we drove to my parent's house for a birthday lunch and presents. We spent some time there and then went out to dinner with my sister and her fiance. We finally got back home and I am getting back to the reading thing.

Read so far: 264 pages of Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde. I have about 100 to go - I will finish this book!!!

Thank you to all of the awesome people organizing and cheerleading this event. My fellow readers, hang in there and carry on! You are amazing!

Happy, Happy Readathon! Post #1

Good morning!! I am psyched to be participating in the Readathon for the sixth (!) time.

I started this day off in bed with a book and breakfast, courtesy of my prince of a hubby.

Then I was joined by a little one for some breakfast and the classic Slide and Find ABC.

Time for the Introductory Meme! 

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? 
     The beautiful state of N.J., USA. 

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? 
     Something Rotten, Thursday Next #4

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? 

     Starting off the day with cinnamon rolls was pretty great...

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! 

      Well, today is my birthday. I have two littles - a boy and a baby girl. I'm a freelance editor. And I'm pretty bad at writing about myself...

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? 

    I think, at this point, I know not to stress. You read what you can and do whatever else you have to do during the day. It's about fun, not the number of pages read. 

Back to reading!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
By Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin Books April 2014
260 pages
Read via Netgalley

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

A.J. Fikry has resigned himself to his life. His wife has died and sales at his beloved Island Books are not doing well. He deals with his depression by staying alone and snapping at the people he must encounter. But everything changes with the arrival of two females - Amelia, a publishing company sales rep and the baby girl who is left inside his bookstore because her mother wants her to grow up with people who love books.  

This is one of those books that is gloriously and unashamedly written for people who love books.“They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?” Each chapter is named for a short story and begins with A.J. explaining why he loves this particular one. The reader gets a detailed look into the world of running a bookstore through A.J.'s eyes and about the publishing industry through Amelia's experiences. 

 Zevin pulls a bait and switch at the beginning of the novel by starting from the point of view of Amelia. We see the island, the bookstore, and A.J. through her fresh eyes as she makes her very first visit for her job. After this first chapter, the narrative switches to our favorite ornery bookseller. This technique is great because it gives us an overview of the island that we wouldn't get from A.J. because he has lived there for so long. The brilliance of it, though, is that as we read more about A.J., we are also impatiently waiting for Amelia's return.

The character development in this story seems so authentic. A.J. slowly thaws and we see him taking big, courageous steps as he decides if he can love someone again after the loss of his wife. Even the minor characters - A.J.'s sister-in-law Ismay and a local cop - become characters you root for and want to read more about. Zevin excels at making you feel things deeply. Her writing is simple but perfectly captures the emotions of A.J. and the rest of the beloved characters. It's one of those glorious experiences where you will laugh and you will cry and you won't feel the least bit guilty for either because these characters seem real to you.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a must-read for people who love books. It reminds us to open up to love and to good books. It proclaims that the right story in the right moment can heal our pain or bring us joy again. This is the sort of book that bibliophiles will keep close by, so that they can read it over and over again. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Readathon Approaches!

It's almost here! It's time to assemble an impossibly large stack of books and read to your heart's content in one glorious 24 hour burst. The 24 Hour Readathon is this Saturday, April 26, which of course is my birthday. (I think Andi and Heather planned it that way on purpose...Thanks, guys!)

If you haven't signed up yet, head over here and get to it! You can participate even if you don't have a blog. And no, you are not required to read for the whole 24 hours. Read for as many hours as you can!

I think I'm going to start with Book #4 in the Thursday Next series - Something Rotten. Here is my reading pile (subject to change with my whims).

Passing by Nella Larsen
Maybe One Day by Melissa Cantor
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

I also have Invisible City ready to go from Netgalley if I feel like staring at something different for a few hours...

What are you going to read for the Readathon?


A picture of each of the kids, once a week, every week in 2014 (or something close to that...).
Once again, we are doing two for one!

Becca Grace #1 - Puzzling...we're puzzling...
#2 - Oooh. The Easter Bunny knows what babies like!

David #1 - A pillow fort is really the only place to read.
#2 - Easter picture with mom!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: While Beauty Slept

While Beauty Slept
By Elizabeth Blackwell
Amy Einhorn Book February 2014
432 pages
From the library

While Beauty Slept

Elise is a poor farm girl, working to survive with her parents and her many siblings. But she knows that her mother used to have a better life among the glitter and glamour of the royal palace. When a plague decimates much of her family, Elise travels to the palace herself and becomes one of Queen Lenore's attendants. The queen is unable to conceive and has turned to her husband's aunt Millicent in the hope that she can help her. When baby Rose is finally born, Millicent tries to cash in her help for power and prestige. The king is outraged and banishes her but not before Millicent promises that she will have revenge. As the years pass and Rose grows up, the royal family seems to forget about the curse but Elise is determined to protect them at any cost.

There is a lot to enjoy about While Beauty Slept. Elise is a fantastic protagonist and this story is just as much about her journey into adulthood as it is about telling the real story behind a famous legend. Her family is either dead or distant and Elise creates new bonds within the castle walls. She finds people who champion her and decides that she will fight with everything she has to keep the royal family safe. Many of us feel that this search for family outside of our blood relatives is a modern concept, but people have been finding love and connection among friends and co-workers for centuries.

The story of Sleeping Beauty that we all know and love is intrinsically magical - the evil Millificent curses the baby Rose, who is protected for a time by good fairies before Millificent is able to cast her spell and force the princess to sleep for eternity. Blackwell imagines how this story might have happened in the real world and easily evolved over the years and many retellings. Blackwell works well with opposites, placing her story squarely between the poverty of the village and the opulence of the palace and the interior battles between loyalty and love. It speaks volumes about the talent of a writer when they take magic out of the equation and leave the reader loving a story more than they did before.

My only complaint about this re-telling is the heavy hand of foreshadowing. Because Elise is telling this story many years later, she is aware of all the details that she didn't understand at the time. But her pointing out that "things would have been different" if only she had known or done something differently becomes grating after the first few times and really breaks up the narrative.

While Beauty Slept is the perfect read for anyone who loves historical fiction or fairy tales. Life in the village and within the castle walls is brought to exquisite life and the characters seem like they could walk off the page and into the real world. If you thought you loved Sleeping Beauty and her story of magic and true love, be prepared to love Elise and her courage and conviction even more. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Monday - Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! 

I'm glad to report that this week was much better than the last one. I drove down to see my best friend on Friday afternoon (you mean you don't brave Easter weekend traffic and cross state lines on a whim?) and then came back on Saturday. On Sunday, the Easter bunny came to visit the kids, of course, and then we were off to church. 

Afterwards, we headed to my parents' house for lots of food, naps, and games of brains and skill. Our family plays a traditional game where you tap a hard boiled egg against the egg of the person next to you. If yours doesn't break, you get to keep playing. Yours truly was the winner this year(!). We also take the Easter egg hunt to a whole new level. You really haven't enjoyed an egg hunt until you are wondering if you should climb up on a roof or dig up a flower garden in order to find your eggs...

Happy Easter from our crazy, happy bunch to yours!

Read This Week:
While Beauty Slept
By Elizabeth Blackwell

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
By Gabrielle Zevin

Posts from this Past Week:
Review of Attachments

Reading Now:
The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Up Next: 
Outside In
Outside In
By Doug Cooper 

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Attachments

By Rainbow Rowell
Plume March 2012
323 pages
From my shelves


Lincoln O'Neill wasn't expecting to read people's emails when he took a job as a security officer at a newspaper. But that is what he is asked to do each evening. Most of the emails that are flagged are inappropriate, but the exchanges between copyeditor Jennifer and movie critic Beth are a blast to read. The friends are kind and funny and Lincoln finds himself wishing that he could actually talk to them instead of just cyberstalking them for a paycheck. When he finds himself falling for Beth, Lincoln decides he couldn't possibly introduce himself...or can he?

Attachments is a wonderful read. It is told in alternating chapters - some chapters are from Lincoln's POV and the others are email correspondence between Jennifer and Beth. I am not usually a fan of epistolary novels, but this one makes it work. The emails between the two girls look just like the ones that are in your inbox from your best friend. While I certainly agree that characters don't have to be likeable to be interesting, there is something irresistible about falling for characters as they fall for each other. Lincoln and Beth and Jennifer are people you can't help but love. They have quirks and flaws, but they quickly feel like friends who you have known for years. 

This story takes place in 1999 and 2000. Rainbow Rowell manages to hit the perfect balance of placing her story firmly within a time and also making it feel timeless. The newspaper where they work may just be introducing an online edition and Y2K may be a real concern (remember that?) but their story of figuring out who they want to become is timeless.

The characters in Attachments are going through the big life changes of their mid and late twenties. They have graduated from college and are in that middle place where they are deciding if their first job will become a career, if they want to have kids, and if their first love will be their partner for life. These decisions feel just as important for these characters as they are in real life, but their magnitude doesn't weigh down the story.

Attachments is a really fun read that will have you cheering for the characters and smiling when you turn the last page. The problems that Beth, Lincoln, and Jennifer are dealing with are real - the day to day frustrations and the major life decisions that each of us encounter - and they will resonate with readers. This is a perfect book for those days when you need to believe again that good friends can get you through the pain and uncertainty of life. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesdays with David: The Yoda Chronicles Trilogy

Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles Trilogy
Scholastic 2014
96 pages
From our shelves

The story: Count Dooku and General Grievous have another evil plan to destroy the Jedi. Only Yoda and his Padawan students stand between the evil Sith and the destruction of the Jedi Order. Can they save the day?

Mama opines: This book is the story from 3 Lego Star Wars episodes. There are lots of pictures and plenty of snarky comments from the Lego characters. Little Jedis will love this one.

Thoughts from David: Ooh boy! Another Star Wars book done. This is the best book I've ever read. Every time I read this one, I keep having more ideas for playing Lego Star Wars. All those, oh man. I can just think of them. Just think about it! I know that this is just the best book I've ever read.

Ok, ok, ok. Now that I think about it, it's my favorite because it has these things and I will list the following items.
1. Jek-14
2. C-3PO (He's clumsy this time....)
3. General Grievous
4. Raku
5. Bobby
6. The army of cloned clones
7. Chancellor Palpatine
8. An eight thousand year old green guy (It's Yoda in the book. Just don't tell!)
9. The whole entire Sith order, now reborn

At the end, I can just imagine those badges that the Padawans and Jek got.

Happy Reading! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Things

You can read more top ten lists over at The Broke and the Bookish! This week is all about things that are bookish, but aren't books.

womens_a wrinkle in time
Available at Out of Print Clothing
(I already have this one. I also have The Great Gatsby and Wizard of Oz shirts...)

Women's T-Shirt
Available at Cafe Press 

Atticus Finch Runs Maycomb
Available via Skreened

Ain't No Party Like A Gatsby Party (Vintage Tank)
Available at Skreened

Flannery O'Connor t-shirt from Hirsute History
Available at Hirsute History 

Book Junkie decorative pillow 12x16 with insert
Available at Etsy shop LifeCraftsWhatever

Available at Baby Lit

Image of SALE: Elephants Texts Bookplate Stamp
Available at Ink and Wit

Custom calligraphy book plate stamp
Available at Etsy shop MeganLaceyDesign

Available at Horchow 

What are your favorite literary things??

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Monday and I am ready for a better week

This has been a long, tough week. I'm hoping that this week coming up will be better...

But reading wise, I read two really good books and I'm looking forward to reading some great ones this week too.

Read This Week:
By Richard Powers

By Rainbow Rowell

Posts from this Past Week:
It's Monday, What Are You Reading?
Wednesdays with David: Little Boys Bible Storybook
Reviews of Unspoken and The Here and Now

Reading Now:
While Beauty Slept
While Beauty Slept
By Elizabeth Blackwell

Up Next:
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
By Gabrielle Zevin

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, April 10, 2014


A picture of each of the kids, once a week, every week in 2014.

Becca Grace - "It's my bottle and I'm taking it with me!"

David - Chef David made mini pizzas for dinner. They were delicious!

Review: The Here and Now

The Here and Now
By Ann Brashares
Delacorte Press April 2014
288 pages
Read via Netgalley

The Here and Now

Prenna James might seem like your normal teenager. She lives with her mother, goes to school, spends time with her best friend, and tries her best not to be distracted by the cute boy in her math class. But looks can be deceiving. Prenna is actually a time traveler, sent back in time with others  in the hopes that they can stop a horrifying future from becoming reality. Their time is a nightmare, a society that is broken by a deadly and virulent disease. Prenna believes in following the rules. She obeys the mandates to not question authority, to not change history, and to only trust the people she came back with. But when Ethan reveals that he knows more about her story than she does, Prenna has to decide who to trust and discover if she can actually change the future. 

The Here and Now is an ok read. Now I know what they say about faint praise, but I basically mean that the story is entertaining and you won't be shouting angrily at the sky when you finish reading it. There are downsides, though. Prenna as a character is rather underwhelming and Ethan seems to basically exist as perfection in teenage boy form. He is kind to her (and apparently in love with her) although she has been trying to ignore him in order to follow community rules. He happens to be a genius, which works out well when they have to team up to save the world. And there are no repercussions when he just takes a few days off from life with a car borrowed from a neighbor so he can save Prenna.

There also seems to be some confusion about science. The book has a very clear message about taking care of the planet, but the methods that Prenna and her fellow time travelers used to go to the past are a bit more nebulous. It's also unclear how we have the technology to travel back in time, but we can't stop a disease, create enough clothing for everyone or figure out how to grow fruits like mangoes. This story really would have benefited from some more answers about the future, the people who traveled back, and their plans to save the world.

The Here and Now is a quick and easy read. The romance between Prenna and Ethan is actually sweet and awkward. It just falls flat as a dystopian story. It's light on science, as our heroes spend a lot more time going to the beach and learning to play card games instead of explaining exactly how all of this works. This might be a good introduction to dystopian lit for the middle grade reader, but there are much better choices for teens and adults looking to get their fix of saving the present in order to preserve the future. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesdays with David: Little Boys Bible Storybook

Little Boys Bible Storybook
New Kids Media June 2009
359 pages
From our shelves

The story: Well, there are a lot of them. You probably know them, if you have spent any time in temple, Sunday School, or CCD. We have an ocean that parts to let the Israelites through, a man swallowed by a whale, and a boy who defeated a giant.

Mama opines: This children's bible is specially written with moms and little boys in mind. Each story is accompanied by adorable cartoon characters, including a little angel and lizard that take in everything that is happening. At the end of each story, there are questions for discussion, along with a verse and ways for mothers to encourage their sons.

Thoughts from David: I'm wondering how they made this book. It's so many books in one! I just can't wait to read it again. Oops! I didn't talk about that right. I was supposed to be talking about how I liked this book. I like this book because of the cool characters like God who knocked down the Tower of Babel and it would just crumble and fall down.

Do you have a favorite children's Bible?

Happy Reading!