Monday, April 29, 2013

The Smart One by Jennifer Close

Family sagas are some of my favorite books to read and I was easily wrapped up in the latest novel by Jennifer Close. Fun and totally realistic!

The matriarch of this dysfunctional family, Weezy, had been labeled "the smart one" growing up, while her sister was the pretty one who would most likely marry into a great family. Weezy ended up being the one to marry well, despite her mother's rather rude childhood remarks, and the book chronicles a time in Weezy's life when her own children are finally grown up, but each struggling in their own way. What results is all three children returning to their home with life messes in tow. 

Each character is well-developed and likable, even with their obvious flaws. Claire starts the story off by canceling her wedding and becoming a hermit in her apartment, leaving her mother to deal with her depression and the aftermath of a canceled wedding. Her sister Martha is stuck working in retail after deciding to quit school, and Max, the lone male sibling, brings his gorgeous and overly confident girlfriend home with him -- a move that definitely stirs the pot. 

Laced with both humor and the reality of modern day families, I found this a great gateway book to summer reading. Smart AND funny. Close has a knack for creating characters you'll both love and want to strangle... the mark of a great writer in my eyes. 

Thanks to Random House for sending a review copy!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

Though her heart was telling her to stay at home, May knows she must do as her family asks and go to a neighboring homestead to help out for a few months. It will earn precious income for her family and be one less mouth to feed in their home. She knows she's not doing anyone any good there anyways, as she can't seem to learn to read -- a requirement to become the teacher she wishes to be. 

When the young couple basically walks out on her, May is left to fend for herself until her father comes for her months down the road. Her food supplies run out and May, a girl with little confidence in herself, must use her wits to survive. She's determined -- both in her present survival mode and for her future -- and that proves to keep her alive.

The self-confidence May gains is awesome, the bravery she exhibits is inspiring, and the descriptions of homestead life will please any fan of the Little House on the Prairie books. If your kids have read those and are ready for a step up, hand them this one! Life on the prairie in late 19th century Kansas is no joke. I often must remind myself of this when reading historical fiction. It may sound like a nice, simple life in the midst of my crazy fast-paced one, but these people really had to work to survive!

A quick and inspirational read. 

Thank you to Random House for the review copy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Looking Ahead: Tumble & Fall

Looking Ahead is a new series of posts I've written featuring books I'm really looking forward to in the coming months. If you have a recommendation of an upcoming book, please let me know in the comments! 

I definitely love the post-apocalyptic novels, so this being pre-apocalyptic drew my attention. Sounds like a read-alike to Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. 

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

 The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand. 
Alexandra Coutts's TUMBLE & FALL is a powerful story of courage, love, and hope at the end of the world.

Description via Goodreads. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

On Plagiarism

After everything that happened across the country last week, I contemplated not even writing this post. I didn't want to be the blogger whining about something small and unimportant in comparison to these national tragedies. I almost didn't write this post at all. I almost let it go. However, after talking it over with my husband and several close blogging friends, I decided that I just can't let it go and that I need to  at least blog about this situation, even if nothing comes out of it at all. 

I had my work stolen. 

I had a blogger that I've known for years...someone I've followed on Twitter and subscribed to her blog, someone I've chatted with about books many times -- STEAL MY WORK. Word-for-word, posted on her blog for all to see, with no credit given. And I'm not the only one she did it to. There are others who have become victim of her blatant disregard for honesty and integrity within the blogging world and they probably don't even know it. If your reviews are posted on Goodreads or Amazon, you aren't safe either.

I emailed this person who, surprisingly enough, didn't deny a thing. In fact, she responded back in less than 90 minutes, with an apology and her "answer" to correcting the issue. To tell you the truth I was actually satisfied at that point. She apologized, didn't attempt to make excuses, and then changed the specific post I had been referring to. She even posted a public apology on her own blog the next day. I was content with these actions, mainly because I didn't want a big deal to come of it. I don't like making waves and I definitely don't like drama. We want to talk about books, not someone's ridiculous act of dishonesty.

But, then I started really thinking about it. 

I re-read her "apology" and started really understanding the way she danced around what she did. I remembered what she does in her professional life, where she probably preaches about the act of plagiarism being the ultimate act of dishonesty on a regular basis, and then it was brought to my attention how many other people she has done this to, as well as the fact that she's posting to at least two other blogs, using plagiarized reviews, and I just kept getting angrier and angrier. It is not ok. Downplaying the severity of the issue is not going to make it go away. 

Before removing her apology post, I had a chance to read through the comments and since she deleted all the critical ones shortly after they were posted, the only ones left went somewhat like this: if people are upset about someone forgetting to credit a source, they need to get over it. Excuse me, what?? She didn't "forget" to credit a source. She copy-and-pasted work from multiple bloggers on a regular basis. Not ok. 

Now, I'm not a "big-time" blogger. No one pays me to write reviews and my writing about books is certainly not considered amazing or worthy of publication in any other forum than my little blog. That being said, I work hard on my reviews. I take a lot of time to read books and then attempt to eloquently express my thoughts about them in order to give feedback to publishers and authors and, most importantly, to let the readers of my blog know what books I think they'd like. This person decided to just copy-and-paste the work of others and call it her own -- and in doing all of this stealing, has managed to gain over 2500 followers on Twitter and had amassed quite the blog following, as well. 

No one has the right to take my words,  no matter how "small" my blog is. You didn't steal my car -- something that can be replaced. You stole my thoughts. My words. My experience with a book. You are a thief of something incredibly personal. 

After this woman's public "apology," she blocked the public from seeing her blog unless invited, therefore, not allowing this act of attempting to make up for her transgressions to be seen. How do we know she isn't still stealing our work, as we can no longer access her blog? She has also made her Goodreads profile private, but I made sure to make note of all the friends we had in common, so I can at least attempt to warn a few of them. 

I have proof of a lot of it. I have a copy of the posted apology, along with many of the examples of stolen work, even though they're no longer accessible to most of the public now. I'm just not entirely sure what to else to do with it. Maybe nothing. I'm sure she'll never grasp the magnitude of her actions. I will, however, be watching to see if her blog becomes public again. I've blocked her on both Twitter and Goodreads and will be emailing as many blogger friends that I know we had in common, to notify them that their work may have been stolen too. 

My lesson in this? Pay attention. There are people out that that can be sneaky, dishonest, and lack integrity. Even teachers. I really hope this is both the first and the last case of plagiarism involving my blog... this is supposed to be a fun method to share books with each other, not some drama-filled process!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia

Kate, a high-powered attorney in New York, loses her teen daughter, Amelia to suicide. Amelia apparently jumped off the top of a building at the ritzy private school she attended, though why, Kate doesn't understand. Her daughter was ambitious -- one of the "good" kids and certainly did not seem to be suicidal. Why would she just decide to kill herself one day?

Shortly after Amelia's death, Kate receives a text message that implies Amelia did not, in fact, kill herself, which sets the woman off on a mission to find out what re
ally happened.

The story unfolds through the voices of both Kate and Amelia, in alternating chapters and through text messages, emails, and Amelia's posts on social media. The topics of hazing and bullying play a huge role in the plot, which I found perfect for the issues teens face in today's society, as well as interesting in that they made for quite the thriller. Topics such as these are often very sensitive, emotional stories, rather than fast-paced page turners. 

Once I picked up the book, I did not want to put it down for a second. Forget chasing my toddler around (ok, I didn't really forget, I promise), I wanted to just turn the pages as fast as I could and find out the real deal behind Amelia's death. 

Though I don't quite understand the comparisons to Gone Girl, I do love a good page-turner and would recommend this to those that are looking for a great read to keep them guessing. I just think Gone Girl was more of mind-play with a whole lot of vulgarity. A great story, but not for everyone. This one would make any mystery/thriller lover happy. 

Thanks to Harper for the review copy!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Carry On, Warrior review

I've been reading Glennon Melton's blog, Momastery, for the last couple of years. Her blunt musings on life, parenting, and her rocky past made for incredibly interesting blog reading and I slowly began to love this woman who put her entire soul out there. She's easily the most honest blogger I've ever come across. Her Love Flash Mobs may have had something to do with my love for her writing too. Such an amazing thing!

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, is a collection of Glennon's blog posts, along with several new essays, all on the idea that perfection is unattainable and we should give ourselves permission to make mistakes. We all need to just let go of the idea of appearing perfect to our friends and family and allow our honest vulnerability to show -- we'll be happier and everyone else will be too. 

This book had me both laughing out loud, sharing different chapters with my husband (his favorite was "A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On"), and sniffling a little. It's powerful stuff presented in a fabulous package. 

I was also lucky enough to be able to go to Glennon's very first stop on her book tour and had a blast, along with over 500 others who came to witness her joy. Such fun! She was as charming and sweet in person as any reader of her blog would imagine her to be. 

 Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending a review copy.

Friday, April 12, 2013

It's My Birthday...and you win!

Today, I turn 30. Happy Birthday to me! Though I'm not one to make a big deal out of my own birthday, I thought it might be fun to make a big deal out of it on the blog! While I'm celebrating with my little family and my very best friend, you all have the opportunity to win a few of my favorite things.  Hooray!

$5 Starbucks Gift Card - Coffee!

$5 Cold Stone Gift Card - Ice cream!

$10 AMC Theatre Gift Card - Movies!

And what would a birthday be without a book? The winner gets a book of his/her choice, under $20. 

I'm sure chocolate will be involved too. Chocolate should always be involved on birthdays. 

Entering is easy -- because, really, who needs lots of annoying steps for a birthday giveaway? Just leave a comment and let me know a way to contact you if you're the winner. You can earn a 2nd entry by following me on Twitter, but that's certainly not required. If you do, be sure to leave your Twitter handle in a 2nd comment. I'll pick a winner on Monday night. Giveaway now closed. 

Happy Birthday to Me (and you!)!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected

I've been reading Kelle Hampton's blog, Enjoying the Small Things, since just after her second daughter, Nella, was born. She posted Nella's birth story, and I, like so many others of you out there, fell completely in love with the entire family and the honesty Kelle poured into each one of her posts. You feel this woman's emotions and want to be her best friend. She just gets life the way you know a perfect best friend would. 

Nella's birth story ultimately became Bloom and I was so, so thrilled when I heard Kelle had turned this beautiful series of blog posts and memories, into a beautiful memoir -- and it's really, so gorgeous. She's an incredibly talented photographer, which makes the reading the story of her family both more enjoyable and more emotional. I became attached to those beautiful girls so quickly!

While Kelle allows us to see her heartbreak and grief over an unexpected circumstance, she also encourages us all to take those circumstances in our own lives and fully embrace them. Take a moment to grieve and then live life to the fullest. Truly enjoy the small things -- the tiny moments that seem like they don't matter -- along with those huge, life changing events. It's beautifully done and one of my favorite books to give as a gift to anyone going through a tough time. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending a review copy! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I wouldn't turn down a gift...

I've never been one to ask for a lot of gifts or even desire them, but I thought it would be fun to share what would be on my wish list, if I had made one. 

A new piece of wrist jewelry perhaps?
Garmin Forerunner

Or maybe a scarf?

Little Minnow Designs (photo from Little Minnow Designs Etsy Shop. Buy something!)

How about a new pair of shorts?

Brooks Shorts (size M, please)

And what girl doesn't want a new pair of shoes?

Saucony Hurricane 15

And, of course, the books I would love:

I certainly wouldn't turn down a gift, I just wouldn't necessarily ask for them. ;) 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I haven't posted in almost a week, but I'm blaming the gorgeous weather. I don't like to force myself to blog -- that totally takes the fun out of it -- so, if I'm not feeling like sitting down at a computer, I just don't. Instead, we've been enjoying the outdoors! My birthday is also this week (watch for a big giveaway on Friday), so look for fun posts the rest of the week. 

Saturday we spent in D.C., wandering Eastern Market and eating along the way. We may have bought a pickle, hoping to get a few funny-face photos out of E, but instead, he loved the sour dill flavor. Ate the whole thing!

Sunday, Aaron ran a local 5K with a few friends, so we went out to cheer him on and ended up spending most of the morning at the race location, just enjoying the weather and letting the child tire himself out with people/dog watching. We all had a great time! 

After Sunday naps, I finally ended up at a running store (literally, The Running Store) to get properly fitted for shoes, have a gait analysis done, and pick out new shoes. Apparently I'm still a Saucony girl and I never should have strayed to Mizunos. Great shoes, just not for me. 

I'm going to finish out this post with a photo dump -- I can't help myself. E is just too cute to not share. Tomorrow I'll be sharing my birthday wish list in the event you all want to go shopping for me, Thursday a review of one of my favorite books of the year, and Friday a BIG giveaway in honor of my BIG birthday. See you tomorrow!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Christian Mama's Guide to Parenting a Toddler

I read a lot of parenting books. I grew up in a home that needed a lot of work, so I'm at least attempting to do some of that same work as E is growing up, rather than after some damage has been done. I certainly won't be perfect and I'm not saying that parenting books are the answer to everything, but I gain a few tips from each and hopefully that builds up to a decent amount of knowledge eventually. This parenting gig is HARD. 

I was sent The Christian Mama's Guide to Parenting a Toddler from Book Sneeze to review and was anxious to read something that was aimed, not only at my child's age group, but also based on God's word. Unfortunately, it fell a little short to me. 

The chapters range from Food Fights to Bedtime Battles and Tantrums 401. A lot of material is covered, but it's not exactly new material. There just isn't anything fresh and exciting about the topics talked about or even the way the information is presented. 

I did love the Scripture verses scattered throughout the text and the personal experiences of several moms and dads and different situations they were in with their children. 

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the book, in fact, I'd buy it for a friend's baby shower in a heartbeat. If I hadn't read a bunch of other books on the same subject, I think I'd really enjoy it, I just didn't find myself learning anything new. 

The book is a part of a series that includes different age levels, so if this sounds like something you may enjoy and you're looking for a book on babies or older children, author Erin MacPherson has those for you too!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Look what's out!

I love, love, love all of the books by Tom Angleberger and was so glad to see an activity book finally being published.  Origami Yoda was such a huge hit with all of my nieces and nephews that I've been slowly sending them Darth Paper Strikes Back and The Secrets of the Fortune Wookie, trying to draw it out until the next one comes along. This is perfect!

I don't do origami myself, but for fans of the series, this would be a great accompaniment. Felt the need to plug the author's awesomeness!

Thanks to Abrams for the review copy.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March in review

I don't know if I've ever had a better reading month. Between having the flu and not being able to get out of bed for 4 days and taking a road trip that had a couple of 7 hour drives, I went through book after book after book. If every month was like this I might actually get through more of my TBR. 

19 read
11 Fiction
8 Non-Fiction
4 YA 
1 MG

Favorites of the month:

Headed home from New York tonight, so I'll have a little more reading time to kick off April. I'm hoping to read a few old ones from my never-ending list this month, so we'll see what I can get to. Happy Reading!