Sunday, September 30, 2012

Week in Review

It has been such a fun week around the Snow house. Fall is officially here, in temperature and in my mind and we've been soaking up as much of the outdoors as we possibly can while it's chilly and lovely outside.

Elliott had his first Gymboree music class this week and though he was more interested in the wall length mirror than the actual class, I blame that on the teacher. She wasn't very good and I'm kinda sad we have to have 3 more classes with her. The only song she did that the parents all knew was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Not much fun when you can't even participate! Apparently this week we're moving from Latin American music to Jazz/Swing, so maybe she'll be better.

We had another illness scare on Friday, but turns out all is fine. He woke up coughing and with a pretty decent fever, but as the morning wore on both ended up disappearing. Not sure what happened, but I'm really glad he's doing fine, because we had big plans for Saturday morning! Hiking at Great Falls:

We spent the morning looking at the falls and walking through the woods, enjoying the beautiful weather. We all love being outside!

I had a busy week on the blog, as well:

A review of Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck (who I was able to see at a signing on Wednesday and is SO nice).

My thoughts on The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Elliott is 10 months old (still can't believe it)!

Picture Book Saturday featured several board books we've been reading over and over again.

Hope you have a great week!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Picture Book Saturday

Time for another edition of what Elliott and I have been enjoying together! So far, this kid LOVES books and I really hope that lasts forever. He loves to look at the pictures, likes being read to, likes eating the pages ;) It's a lot of fun and we've been reading tons of books each day and these are a few of our recent favorites:

Sniff by Matthew Van Fleet

Van Fleet is a great author of interactive books. Sniff! is his latest and it's perfect for a child Elliott's age. It fits well in little hands (some of his other books are big and heavy) and the tabs are easy to pull. Each page has something interactive about it, whether it's something small to touch or a pull-tab to make the animals move. 

The story is very simple and excellent for introducing what noses do. We've read this one quite a bit lately and Elliott loves touching the Mouse whiskers and the scaly skin of the lizard. Fun!

It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond

I'm a big fan of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but I feel all the additional books in the series were unnecessary. Too much of a good thing. This board book, though, is adorable and perfect for working on what different facial expressions might mean. Mouse paints different faces on seven pumpkins, each one displaying a different emotion (happy, sad, surprised, etc.). 

It's also a great intro into fall-themed books for us. If E were a bit older, I would definitely pair this one with an art activity or read prior to carving/decorating pumpkins. 

Pat the Zoo

This one has been our favorite book for the last month or so. The touch-and-feel portion is the best I've seen in quite awhile -- a little unique, with feathers, "whiskers" made of fishing line, and a sticky tongue on the frog and the story includes a wide range of words and adjectives for babies to learn. Elliott is encouraged to "touch," "pat," and "feel" all the animals and words like "bumpy," "furry," and "wrinkly" are introduced. 

I have to admit, we own none of the other Pat the... books, but this one has definitely made the rotation into our daily reading.

Thank you to Random House, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster for the review copies!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Elliott is 10 months old!

We've made it to double digits! I can't believe that Elliott is already 10 months old and is quickly approaching 1. I'm amazed at how fast he's learning things and how it only takes once or twice of practicing a new skill before he's mastered it.

What Elliott has been up to:

-Pulling up on everything
-Learning to climb stairs
-Boycotting naps
-Eating puffs and other harder things
-Putting his face in the water
-"Singing" when everyone else is singing (church, baby class). He really yells at the top of his lungs.
-Playing in the mirror. He loves looking at himself and trying to kiss the "baby" in the glass.
-Sleeping 11 hours a night, but still has to be in bed by 6pm or he has a meltdown
-Has started to dislike being in his carseat. He can move and wants to ALL the time.

He is just SO much fun to hang out with and the most joy-filled baby I've ever met. I'm so lucky he's mine!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thoughts on The Raven Boys

I love when I start reading an author with their very first published book and I can watch them grow as a writer. I'm able to feel a connection with the author that I wouldn't normally get when picking up a 3rd novel or a 6th. With Maggie Stiefvater, I started reading her at the very beginning -- Lament, Ballad, and her Wolves of Mercy Falls series and then moved onto The Scorpio Races. Now, with The Raven Boys, I can really see how she is progressing with her characters, her plotting, and how she's added more meat into each book. I love it! I've also met Maggie at the store and she is so, so nice. 

So the story starts with Blue, the daughter of a psychic and a fantastic character She almost reminded me a bit of Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. She's fiesty, independent, stubborn, yet has a soft heart. She doesn't want to fulfill the fate that her mother has always told her she will someday meet. She doesn't want to kill the boy the boy she falls in love with, yet part of her knows it's inevitable. 

Gansey is a Raven Boy. He attends Aglionby Academy, is rich, privileged, and often insults people without even meaning to. He thinks money can take care of any problem and can post certainly buy happiness. He's totally obsessed with his search for a ley line, roping his loyal friends into helping him, no matter what the cost. 

The richness in this story is in the descriptions and the quiet moments inside each character's head. I think Adam was my favorite, as his background really came into play and I found myself looking forward to the parts of the plot that would focus on him. I really hope he plays a bigger role in the next two books. 

My only minor issue with the book was the length. I felt some parts could have been left out, not compromising the story, and we wouldn't have had such a long book. I certainly don't mind 400 page books, but there were several scenes, particularly with Gansey that I felt could have been shortened a bit. 

Definitely looking forward to book 2! 

The Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater
408 pages 
Young Adult
September 2012
Review copy 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hemingway's Girl review

Mariella is used to being hungry. After her fisherman father died, she was left to attempt to pick up the pieces of her family -- keeping her younger sisters fed and convincing her mother to actually get out of bed each day. She works hard doing odd jobs around the dock, but dreams of being on the water, just as her father was, making a name for herself in the fishing world of Key West. 

When she meets Ernest Hemingway, the man everyone down at the docks calls "Papa," Mariella's life changes. He hires her as a housekeeper in his home and though she doesn't exactly understand why he has an instant pull over her, she accepts the job, eager to have steady work to help her family. 

Papa is not only a reckless flirt, he is also married to an incredibly jealous woman and still, Mariella doesn't trust herself around him. He's charming, strong, and in need of someone to save him. And that's what Mariella does for everyone -- she saves. Then she meets Gavin. A WWI vet with a huge heart, Gavin is everything Mariella is looking for in a potential mate, yet she can't seem to pull herself away from Papa. Not good. 

Mariella was such a strong character and a great lead to really pull me into the book. I felt connected to her from the very first page and I loved how she made Key West come alive. She WAS what Key West is really all about. This may be historical fiction, but the descriptions of the characters, especially Papa and Mariella, made it incredibly absorbing, and really brought the past into the present. 

While reading the story, I almost forgot, at times, that Hemingway was an actual person! Robuck managed to mold his character in the story so well, that I had to remind myself that she was writing about a person who once was alive,  in the flesh. I was fascinated by his life and will definitely be picking up my first Hemingway novel after being brought into his world through this book. I really enjoyed it!

And as a quick side note, having never read a book by Ernest Hemingway or really knowing anything about him, I was astounded by how much he reminded me of my own Dad (minus the womanizing!). My father died by when I quite young, but from what I remember and what I've been told, he was in love with the Florida Keys, was happiest on a boat fishing for the day's meal, and had a fighting personality. He even resembles Hemingway in the photos I've seen. Weird and fascinating all at once. 

SO excited I get to meet the author at one of my favorite indie bookstores tonight! 

Hemingway's Girl
Erika Robuck
352 pages
Adult Fiction
NAL Trade
September 2012
Review copy

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week in Review

Fall is here! This week has been a great start to my favorite season of the year -- joined a new moms group, had a bunch of events at church, started drinking everything pumpkin, and even managed to read a little. I'm totally in love with The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Just saying.

Other fun stuff:

Woo-hoo!! I'm a Round 1 panelist for the Cybils again and am thrilled to have been chosen! This will be my fifth year participating in the awards and I can't wait to get started!

I have a giveaway going on! Read my review of Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know and enter to win a copy of your own.

I raved about A Poem as Big as New York City.

I reviewed The Cutting Season.

I had a huge Picture Books Saturday, with five bear books.

Have a great week!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know review and giveaway

A simple premise leads to a hysterical book. 11 dogs bare their sweet souls to us, their people and friends, sharing everything from why their puppies are biting us, to what goes on in a junkyard during the day, and even an apology for "accidentally" eating up the tofu. Incredibly silly and so much fun.

My favorite was the first dog, Orson, because he happens to be a foodie bulldog. I have a bulldog and though she's not quite as keen to eat everything, as Orson most definitely is, she too could be considered a foodie dog. When Orson tells the story of how Thanksgiving yams become quite the issue in his life. Adorable!

"I know when another dog gets a treat and I don't. Even when I'm not there, like in another room or down the street." So my dog. She can sniff out a treat like a hound. And hound she most certainly is not.

I'm a sucker for a good dog book and this one was hilarious! It's perfect for a conversation starter (stick it on an end table somewhere) or as a lighthearted gift book. If you have a dog lover in your life, especially one with a sense of humor, I would highly recommend passing this one along. If Steve Martin blurbs it, you know you're in for a funny read.

If you'd like to win a copy for yourself, just comment on this post by next Saturday! It would make a great gift for a dog lover. 

Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know
Jeff Johnson and Hy Conrad
240 pages
April 2012

Picture Book Saturday: Bears!

I don't know if this is the season of the bear or what, but picture books featuring bears just keep showing up in my mailbox. All five of these are adorable and worthy of a read! 

Bear Says Thanks is part of one of my all-time favorite series for kids. Author Karma Wilson and illustrator Jane Chapman have created this circle of animal friends that is just so incredibly charming and sweet that your child will love them and want to hear more and more of their stories.

This particular one focuses on Bear saying "thanks" to each of his friends as they bring him something delicious to eat. It teaches a really nice lesson on thanking people, the rhymes are great as always, and it just has an overall cozy feel to it. Perfect for fall!

Bear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrator Will Hillenbrand is equally charming. This bear reminded me a bit of Winnie the Pooh with his sweet, humble, and slightly dopey ways. 

Someone begins leaving sweet treats outside Bear's cave and soon, ge begins exchanging simple gifts with this secretive animal each day. Bear hopes he has a new friend, but he can't seem to figure out who the mysterious gift-giver is. The beautiful illustrations and quiet story make this a nice bedtime read. 

Bears in Beds is the sequel to Bears on Chairs which is a huge hit at the bookstore. We use it for storytime quite frequently and toddlers seem to love it. Author Shirley Parenteau and illustrator David Walker have created, in my opinion, an even cuter bear story than Bears on Chairs. This time, the bears are all snuggled up in their beds when the wind starts to loudly blow, frightening a few of them. Luckily, Big Brown Bear knows just how to help!

This one would be great for helping with small fears. 

Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson is a great spin on the classic. While on his usual stroll through the woods, this bear somehow ends up in a big city and he has no idea what to do! He heads into a nice apartment complex, trying to find a way out of the noise of the city, finding a great home with lots of yummy food and comfy furniture. It takes him awhile to find just the right bowl of porridge, the right chair to sit on, and the right bed to take a nap in though!

Older children who know the original Goldilocks and the Three Bears story will enjoy this silly take on it and the fun illustrations would be great for storytime entertainment. 

Finally, author Bonny Becker and illustrator Kady MacDonald Denton are back with A Birthday for Bear. Much like the Karma Wilson Bear series, these are also some of my favorite books to give as gifts. They're just so sweet and pretty!

This time, it's Bear's birthday and he just wants to forget all about it. Pesky Mouse, however, has other ideas of what the best way to celebrate would be, and none of those ideas include staying home alone! Though Bear always seems grumpy and annoyed with Mouse, he ends up coming around in the end and has a very nice birthday!

Originally published in Easy Reader format, it's now being sold as a picture book, which I love!

Thank you to Candlewick and McElderry Books for the review copies!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Cutting Season review

Caren has been the manager of Belle Vie, a luxurious plantation house in Louisiana, for over four years and she is completely committed to her job and her life there. When she is informed by one of the groundsmen that a body has been discovered, half buried on the property, Caren is drawn into the story of this horrific murder and begins to learn more and more about Belle Vie's past. Things she isn't quite sure she wants to know. 

The story is incredibly intense and lush in both detail and language. This is not a simple murder mystery that would typically have the reader flipping the pages quicker and quicker to find out whodunit. You'll want to linger on these pages, reading the beautiful details that Locke injects into the plot. If there were ever a lovely murder story, this would be it!

A whole slew of topics are touched on --race, politics, slavery, etc.-- but there isn't so much "stuff" that the plot becomes cumbersome or that it strays totally away from being a thriller. I loved Locke's writing and her characters and I found myself caring about them in a way that doesn't typically happen with this genre of book. The setting was spectacular and I could feel myself transported to both the past and to the present in the story. 

Such an excellent read and one I would definitely recommend for fans of both thrillers and great writing in general. Attica Locke is one I'll be keeping my eye on! 

You can find Attica on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

The Cutting Season
Attica Locke 
384 pages
Adult Fiction
September 2012
Review copy

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Poem as Big as New York City

I don't review a whole lot of poetry here on this blog, because I don't consider myself knowledgeable about what's "good" and "not good".  I can, however, tell you what I like and don't like and I absolutely LOVED this book. 

New York City school children were given the task to write about what it's like to live in New York City and what being a New Yorker means to them. From what it's like to reside in specific boroughs to the different sights and sounds of every day life and what it means to have people everywhere, we're given a glimpse at this unique city through the eyes of the children who call it home. 

The poem is brilliant and flows so well with the art. Perfect for exhibiting just what New York City is and how rich in culture it really is. 

I love that the book can be used for so many different purposes. Teachers can use it to encourage their kids to love poetry, explaining that hundreds of kids wrote this one poem! It can be used as a discussion starter about what "home" means to kids and what it's like where they're from. It could even be used as a great example of collage work in art class. The possibilities are endless. 

Two huge thumbs up for this one!

A Poem as Big as New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple
edited by Teachers & Writers Collaborative
38 pages
September 2012
Review copy

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Cybils time again!

I am so delighted to have been chosen as a Round 1 judge in the Easy Reader/Short Chapter Book category of the Cybils this year! I join an amazing group of people, ranging from parents, librarians, and teachers:

Teri @ Professor Nana and LS5385

Mandy @ A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

I've mainly participated with YA and MG panels in the past, but with Elliott crawling around and becoming a toddler (shhh...we're pretending he's staying little forever), I thought shorter books would be best this time around.  I'm anxious to get started and know this will be a great Cybils season!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fitness Friday: The end of bootcamp

I'm so sad! Bootcamp is almost over! In the past 8 weeks I've become used to receiving emails with my workouts planned out for me and I'm going to be sad to not only lose that motivation, but also to have everything already decided for the week. It required basically no planning on my part -- other than when to fit the specific workouts into my day -- making it so easy to just do the workouts. I love to have things planned out, but am not always the best at doing the planning myself! Tina rocked it and I'm so glad I signed up. 

I not only lost weight in these 8 weeks, meeting a goal that I wanted to reach, I also added in strength training and started to gain muscle back. It felt SO good to be able to move up on the amount of weight I could lift from week to week and conquer exercises that have always been very difficult for me. Planks are still rough (anyone who has had a c-section will say that planks are rough), but I can hold one for 3 times as long as I could when I started this bootcamp. That great feeling of pride in myself is something that kept me going and working as hard as I could throughout the past 2 months. I wanted it and I was going to get it!

Another amazing aspect of this journey is the community that came along with Tina's workouts. Everyone who signed up truly wanted to motivate and encourage one another. I've gained a few new friends and that's just awesome. Weight loss and new friendships? I'm sold! 

This has been such an incredible experience and one I'm definitely going to be doing again. Tina has already announced Best Body Bootcamp Round 3 and I'm in! You should definitely join too...even if you don't have weight to lose, it's a great way to get back into shape or jumpstart strength training. 

Thank you so much, Tina!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The dilemma every book lover faces...

It's obvious I love books. I love them so much that I surround myself with books every day and always have.  I work with books at the bookstore, I work with them for my blog, I read books to my son, and I loooooove to buy them for other people. On one hand, I love being in the midst of my own personal library every single day. I have a lot of books -- though probably not as many as a lot of book lovers out there -- and I really do enjoy seeing them and touching them and lending them. 

On the other hand, I'm not a "stuff" person. I don't like clutter, I don't like having unnecessary items laying around my house, and I really don't like extra things I have to dust. I don't re-read a lot of my books, so they mostly just sit on shelves as part of the decor, unless they're lent to a friend. I like things to be have a purpose if they're going to stay in my small house and I truly believe that we don't need a lot of things. 

I'm also a huge advocate for libraries and use ours frequently. My educational background is in Library Science and I've worked for several small library systems in the past, so I love the ability to borrow and return. The whole idea of going to the library and picking out books and learning to take care of them is something I'm definitely passing onto Elliott -- we've started already!

So, what's a girl to do? Is this quote true? Should I keep books that aren't being read, because they're pretty to look at? Eventually, I will have a bigger house that will have a wall of bookcases somewhere (don't we all dream?). Or do I donate the ones I know I'll never read again? I want things to be cozy, yet clean in our house... and sometimes those two adjectives just don't go well together. I'm not sure what to do. Every book lover's dilemma?

(Photo is from Pinterest, linking back to a Tumblr)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fourmile by Watt Key review

Twelve-year-old Foster is more than simply not impressed with the man his mother is dating. In fact, he's scared of him. Foster knows this guy is bad news, but nothing he says to his mother can convince her to stop seeing him and Foster is just waiting for something really terrible to happen. 

When a stranger walks up the driveway to their family farm, Foster knows that things are about to change. The man, an Iraq war vet, is walking across the country and stops to look for some work, hoping he'll find some at the farm. Foster's mother employs him temporarily and very much against her boyfriend's wishes, and he becomes a new mentor for Foster, teaching him more than Foster could ever imagine. 

Foster's character is definitely realistic, letting the reader into a twelve-year-old boy's brain. He knows he doesn't like his mother's boyfriend, but he isn't quite sure what to do about it. He's impulsive and acts without thinking a lot of the time. Readers will believe in him and want him to succeed. And there's a dog...did I mention a dog? You'll love the dog. I loved the dog. 

Watt Key is just a top notch writer. He's fantastic at writing a story that has a serious impact on the heart, but still has action, adventure, and a great storyline. I loved both Alabama Moon and Dirt Road Home and I can see this one being right up there with those. It takes a special type of book to get a reluctant reader to want to keep reading and I think Watt Key has the gift!

Watt Key
240 pages
Middle Grade
September 2012
Review copy

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Liar & Spy review

When Georges moves into a new apartment building, he meets Safer -- a kid his age running a spy club. Georges needs new friends pretty desperately, so although Safer is a bit quirky (and intimidating), the pair become friends and take on the mission of spying on one of their neighbors, convinced Mr. X is doing something scary and illegal in his apartment. 

As the club gets more intense, Safer becomes more demanding of Georges and acts in a way that makes Georges not want to be his friend any longer. He isn't sure what to do and slowly becomes unsure of what is truth and what is a lie. 

Though the story sounds incredibly simple, it is actually quite complex. There's bullying, dealing with absent parents, having to move from a beloved house to a small apartment, parents losing jobs, and other very heavy topics. All of these issues are blended seamlessly into a story that is totally appropriate for a kid to read and may even open their eyes to friends that may be dealing with some of the same things. Plus, there's a spy club and that's just cool. 

Rebecca Stead is an amazing writer and the narrator of this audiobook, Jesse Bernstein, did a great job (except for Safer's voice...that was a little weird). The tension was in all the right places and I was able to always be aware that it was a kid he was voicing, without it actually being a little kid's voice. Know what I mean? It was done very well. 

Though I wasn't quite as enamored with When You Reach Me as the rest of you, I loved Liar & Spy and I think it could be a big winner this year when award season comes around. Two thumbs up!

Liar & Spy
Rebecca Stead
Listening Library
August 2012
Library copy

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week in Review

I'm enjoying the beautiful, fall-like weather with my family today, so just a quick post.

On the blog:

I shared a few New Releases that I'm looking forward to.

I participated in the blog tour for The Bookie's Son.

I gave my thoughts on Dinner: A Love Story. Go get this one for everyone you know!

I talked about how much I love the illustrations in three new books for Picture Book Saturday.

I also wanted to fill you in on how this week's Best Body Bootcamp went:

We're in the second-to-last week of bootcamp and Tina is NOT taking it easy on us. My body has been sore many days this week (actually...every day is more like it), but it's a good sore. I'm motivated and feeling stronger, which was entirely the point, right? I also had to pat myself on the back when I realized I've made my goal, so far, of being able to get all entries in towards the grand prize at the end. No skipping workouts for this girl! I'm determined to reach my fitness goals and this bootcamp is helping tremendously. And $1000 would be a great way to solidify how very hard I've been working. 

Until next week!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Picture Book Saturday: Illustrations!

I, like many other people, love picture books for their illustrations. The stories are, of course, nice too, but I love to just slowly browse through a picture book, lingering on the pages and finding the little details. I have several "favorite" illustrators (Peter H. Reynolds, John Rocco, Alison Jay, Philip/Erin Stead are a few), but tons of books that I love to just stare at. Here are a few new ones:

I Like Old Clothes by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrator Patrice Barton

This is an older story, but has been reillustrated...and beautifully so. The story itself is excellent and fits my mindset on hand-me-downs perfectly. Why buy new clothes when there are excellent pieces out there that someone else has already nicely broken in! I hope to pass that idea onto Elliott and the fun illustrations will definitely help to encourage that. 

The pages are filled with soft colors, yet a lively pair of children that make this such a cute story. They're excited about their hand-me-downs and the reader gets to enjoy the beauty of the new-to-them clothes right along with them. I think every frugal family could use a copy of this one!

I also loved Patrice Barton's illustrations in Rosie Sprout's Time to Shine.

I Like Old Clothes
Mary Ann Hoberman
32 pages
August 2012
Review copy

Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na

Na's illustrations are SO gorgeous. In this particular book they're bright, colorful, and fun to look at, which is probably why Elliott has gravitated right to since it has been on our bookshelves. He loves to look at the pages and actually sits through the entire story!

The simplicity of a game of hide and seek is taken up a notch with the addition of a chameleon. Elephant manages to find all of his other friends, but chameleon is just too good at hiding! It's a cute story that would be great to read with your younger story time groups. And, of course, I can't say enough good things about the illustrations. Love them!

Hide & Seek
Il Sung Na
32 pages
July 2011
Review copy

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse retold and illustrated by Helen Ward

The illustrations in this book are absolutely phenomenal!! The story of the town mouse and the country mouse, each loving their lives in their respective places, is much the same as I remember from all of the other versions I own, but it's told very simply and without a huge amount of text which is very nice. Much more accessible for younger children. 

It's one of my favorite fables and so I've collected a few copies over the years, but Helen Ward's illustrations are, by far, my favorite. They are incredibly rich, both in color and detail, and you'll want to spend lots of time perusing the pages admiring her work. Everything from the pink flowers on the cover to the platter of blue cheese on the last page has this amazing level of detail and beauty. I love it!

I'm getting two to go on MY shelf to cherish and one for Elliott to enjoy. This would make a beautiful gift for a child or an adult, so in our house, we get two!

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
Helen Ward
48 pages
September 2012
Review copy

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dinner: A Love Story thoughts

Love, love, love this book. I've been reading the blog for the last couple of years and have, along with all the other blog followers, been anxiously awaiting the release of the book! 

The personal stories that are included throughout made this so much more than a recipe book for me. It's entire concept is based on parents making the decision to provide meals for their children at home, despite busy work schedules and a hectic life. Every night, Jenny and Andy manage to pull off a bit of culinary magic, getting their girls to eat a nutritious and tasty meal, while still getting to enjoy time together. 

I think I flagged half of the book to make, but so far, the amazing meatballs are the only thing I've actually made and they were so easy and so delicious. In fact, I've made them several times already, filling up my freezer for when our lives become as hectic as the Rosenstrach's. 

I'll be gifting this one to several people for the holidays, as well as myself! I need a copy too! 

Dinner: A Love Story
Jenny Rosenstrach
336 pages
Cookbook/Adult Non-Fiction
June 2012
Library copy

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Bookie's Son blog tour

"In 1960, as a way to pay off some of his debt, the bookie, Harry Davis, starts collecting loan payments for the Bronx gangster, Nathan Glucksman. Making his rounds, Harry visits a sweet tailor named Morris, who is a survivor of the Holocaust. Whether out of pity, or because Harry was one of the liberators of the camps during World War II, or because he is prone to rash decisions, instead of collecting from Morris he gives some of Nathan's money so that he can move to Israel. Nathan's henchmen, the Spratz brothers, come looking for Harry, who is forced to escape and leave his bookie business in the hands of his 12-year-old son, Ricky, and his almost deaf and nearly blind mother-in-law, Rosie. 

The Spratz brothers ransack the apartment and threaten not only to harm Harry, but also Ricky's mother. Ricky, who is his mother's confidant and emotional crutch, takes it on himself to raise the money and rescue his family. He dreams of being the hero. Like the rest of the Davis family -- the best family in the Bronx -- he believes he is an extraordinary person trapped in an ordinary life. 

He embarks on a series of failed attempts to obtain money, which he needs to bet on a fixed horse race. he ends up stealing cash from his father's drawer -- money that his father was saving to make payments to Nathan -- and then rides in a stolen car to place his bet. 

Each member of the family is broken and needs fixing. Though they are all unscrupulous, they are filled with love and loyalty. Fast-paced, engrossing, and full of heart, The Bookie's Son paints a picture of a family forced to decide how much they're willing to sacrifice for each other -- and at what cost." 

The Bookie's Son tour continues! 

Thursday, September 6th:  Man of La Book
Monday, September 10th:  Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, September 12th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, September 13th:  The Perks of Being a JAP
Friday, September 14th:  House of the Seven Tails
Monday, September 17th:  Broken Teepee
Tuesday, September 18th:  Life in Review
Wednesday, September 19th:  Unabridged Chick
Thursday, September 20th:  Two Heads Together
Monday, September 24th:  Fiction Addict
Tuesday, September 25th:  WV Stitcher
Wednesday, September 26th:  I Am A Reader, Not A Writer  author Q&A
Thursday, September 27th:  Bagels, Books and Schmooze
Thursday, September 27th:  Between the Covers
Friday, September 28th:  Mom in Love with Fiction

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Releases (6): Girls Day!

Being the mom of an infant is tough! I'm not able to get to all the books I want to read, as quickly as I'd like to read them, but that doesn't mean you should miss out too. My New Releases feature fills you all in on some of the newest books to hit the market that I'm looking forward to reading sometime very soon. 

This week, the girls have it! 3 popular main characters in children's lit are on display in new books. If you have a 6-8 year old girl, this is the week to go shopping for her!

Junie B., First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) by Barbara Park

Apparently, this is the first new book in the series in more than FIVE years! Who knew?! Junie has always been super popular at the library and the bookstore, so I'm sure this latest addition to the series will have her fans (new and old) very excited. Plus, it's about Thanksgiving festivities and that means the holidays are coming! Yay!

Judy Moody and the Bad Luck Charm by Megan McDonald

Judy is back for #11! This time, she's dealing with a good luck charm turned bad and she isn't quite sure what to do about it. I'm sure this latest book in the series will be as silly and charming as all of the others. I love the heart that Judy has and her realistic personality. Not all kids can be as good as those Penderwick girls! 

Ivy and Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows

Who doesn't love this adorable duo?? I love the balance of sweet and sassy in these friends and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of trouble they can stir up in this new book. They're creating their own day camp, so it's bound to be interesting! 

And just a quick side note, October 13 marks the first International Ivy and Bean Day!! Since 2009, bookstores, libraries, and schools across the United States have been celebrating Ivy and Bean Day with events, activities, games, and giveaways. It's going international this year, with more than 500 events in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore! Check out the website for more info. 

Thanks to Chronicle, Random House, and Candlewick for the review copies!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Week in Review: Pantry makeover and a sick boy

What a week! As I mentioned on Friday, Elliott came down with his first real illness: a double ear infection. Poor kid was miserable:

I'm a mean mom for taking that picture, but seriously...I cried as much as he did and I had to try to find the humor at some point or I was going to lose it. Sick babies are just so sad.  Antibiotics have started working their magic and we are, thankfully, almost back to 100%. 

One fun thing that I was able to work into the fussy-boy schedule was a night at work. I love working at the bookstore, especially when we have authors like JOHN GREEN call in for our book club meeting to answer questions about The Fault in Our Stars. I tried not to be a total fangirl and completely make a fool out of myself when I answered the phone, but let me tell you -- seeing John Green's name on the caller ID almost made me lose myself. ;)

At home, the in-laws came for the weekend and Aaron and I are about to start the first of several little projects around the house. We are tackling our pantry this weekend, so if anyone has tips on how to make shutter doors easy to paint or how to best organize a mess, please help! This is the before (don't judge the mess):

We're going with mason jars and clear containers to help organize a little, but I want it to actually look nice too. Any thoughts?

On the blog:

I filled you in on my new love of Toon Books.

I reviewed The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman.

I talked about what happens when illness and overall life "stuff" gets in the way of exercise in my Fitness Friday feature.

I posted my monthly (or weekly lately) Picture Book Saturday feature with books that are helping us to get creative around here. I really hope Elliott loves painting and coloring and creating things when he gets a little older. I want a fridge filled with pictures and art all over my house made by his little hands!

Hope you had a great week!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Picture Book Saturday: Let's Get Creative

School has started in most of the country and it's time for kids and teachers to get creative. Let the fun begin! I've received a few books over the summer that will help encourage your kids, whether they're in your classroom, your library, or your homeschool setting...I want to help inspire them to seek their creative sides!

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont and illustrator David Catrow

First published in 2005, this one is getting a new look...lap book form! Perfect for my almost-toddler! The story is fairly simple: mischievous boy with a big imagination decides (with a little help from Mama) that he "ain't gonna paint no more," but first he must finish what he started. The result is a big, bright, beautiful mess of paint and fun. Mama may not be happy, but kids have been delighted by this story since it originally came out. 

I've loved this book for years. David Catrow uses incredibly bold color choices to help show off the fun and creative story that Beaumont has created. Who cares if the child is a tad disobedient? So what if the English used isn't the best? It's a super cute story with great rhymes and a huge dose of imagination. I think we all could use the reminder that sometimes, it's just ok to PAINT! Self-expression is huge here and I love it! 

(After reading this to Elliott we will definitely having the "it's only a story and it is NOT ok to paint your body or our house" talk). 

This story is incredibly spirited and makes for a super silly storytime read. Chant it at the top of your lungs and then pair it with a crazy painting activity. Just make sure you have smocks on hand ;)

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! 
Karen Beaumont
32 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 2012 (lap book edition)
Review copy

Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds

Marisol is in charge of painting the sky for the class mural, but she can't find the color blue! She isn't sure how to create the perfect sky without the perfect blue color and is worried she won't be able to make a beautiful mural. 

When she sees has the opportunity to watch the sky change from day to night -- while riding home on the bus and then sitting on her porch -- Marisol realizes that the sky doesn't HAVE to be blue. It can be whatever she wants it to be, while still becoming something absolutely beautiful. 

Peter Reynolds is one of my absolute favorite authors. Sky Color is going to inspire kids AND adults, which, at least for me, makes an awesome picture book. Just because we've been taught that the sky is blue doesn't mean it has to be blue all the time. Sometimes it's purple, pink, orange, grey...lots of colors. Marisol will help everyone realize that you don't need the color blue to make a creative! 

Sky Color
Peter H. Reynolds
32 pages
August 2012
Review copy

Create with Maisy by Lucy Cousins

Elliott has started to fall in love with all things Maisy. I've seen it happen with kids at the library and bookstore, but didn't realize my own would love this cute little mouse too! This particular title is a bit above his skill level right now, but it will be sticking around on our shelves for awhile until he can use it. 

We start off with a page spread about how Maisy loves to create things and showing off a few of the items she likes to be creative with. The crafts that follow are simple and though they may require a small amount of adult assistance, they'd be excellent for kids 4 and up. It's a great way to let them get creative and express themselves through art, with a small bit of instruction and direction. 

Your kids can make Beady Butterflies, a Blossom Tree, a Pencil Holder, Paper Lanterns, a Button Bowl, and other fun crafts to use as homemade gifts. The holidays are coming up, as much as we'd all like to deny it and our kids are going to have to get busy!

This would make an excellent resource at home, as well as for teachers and librarians. I know you all need crafty books too. 

Create with Maisy: A Maisy First Arts-and-Crafts Book
Lucy Cousins
48 pages
July 2012
Review copy