Monday, January 27, 2014

Reading with Elliott

I am so thankful that Elliott truly loves to sit down and read with me. We spend at least an hour a day just sitting in our big green chair, reading story after story, me sending him off to fetch his next choice after we've completed one. He snuggles up to me and actually sits still, which is amazing for this kid. I love it. Proud mama. 

Two recent favorites:

Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

The companion book to Not a Box, it's all about imagination and what the pig decides his stick wants to be today. Sometimes it's a baton and he's the leader of a band, sometimes it's a paintbrush and he creates a beautiful picture. 

Elliott loves seeing what the stick turns into on each page, giggling in anticipation as we turn the page. 

We've had it from the library for a few weeks and have probably read it 100 times. It's one of the very few that I don't cringe at seeing multiple times a day. That's saying a lot! 

Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb

This one is another fun one for both adults and kids! Paul is a fish swimming around his lonely bowl, when Bernadette suddenly drops in. She opens Paul's eyes to the wonderful world around their bowl, introducing him to all sort of new attractions. What appear to be boring objects to the reader -- a banana, a spoon, a vase of flowers -- is quite exciting to Paul who never knew these things existed before Bernadette showed him. The misunderstanding of what each object is definitely got giggles from my little guy!

The illustrations were lovely and the plot simple, but fun. Just enough text on the page where Elliott didn't lose interest. Would make a great toddler story time read aloud!

Thanks to Candlewick for the review copy!

Friday, January 24, 2014


So, I've tweeted a lot about Noonday after hearing about it from one of my favorite bloggers, Jenna. I love the concept of this company and the fact that they help real men and women all over the world make a living wage using their talents. It's kind of amazing the things they do. 

"Your fashion sense can now restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecudor, and create business opportunities for Ugandans." I LOVE THAT. 

A good friend of mine recently became a Noonday ambassador and I offered to host a party for her. Yes, there are a few rewards for hosting a party, but I've turned down offers of hosting all sorts of parties before, no matter the rewards. I don't like to sell things and I don't like my friends to feel obligated to buy things from me. Noonday is different. We buy jewelry, men and women support their families. 

If you're interested in browsing the catalog and possibly purchasing from my party, follow this link to the Noonday website. If you decide to buy something, make sure you enter my name in the Trunk Show portion of checkout. "Amanda Snow"

I own several pieces including this cuff, this necklace, and these earrings , and I can vouch for the quality.

My wish list includes this scarf (seriously, I'm kind of obsessed with this) and these earrings. Aren't they beautiful?!

Even if you don't plan to buy anything, read their "About" section, to learn more about the great things they're doing. Noonday is pretty awesome and I'm excited to be a part of it, even if it's just for one evening.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

And We Stay review

After an intense trauma and the death of her boyfriend, Emily is sent to live at a boarding school in Amherst. Processing her grief through poetry, Emily begins to channel the famous Emily Dickinson, who not only inspires words, but also helps present-day Emily cope with her new life and eventually connect with two fellow students. 

I loved every minute of this book. Jenny Hubbard made the emotions of a tragedy come through perfectly, while allowing the reader to experience Emily's healing process. I liked that the plot was a bit slow moving and the author focused on Emily as a character, rather than having a lot happen. 

The friendship between Emily and K.T. was quirky and awkward at first, as a real friendship would form, and those were some of my very favorite scenes. I do wish we had more of Amber from the very beginning, but the friendship aspects of the story, overall, were incredible. 

I did not read Hubbard's debut, Paper Covers Rock, but you can bet I'm placing a hold on it from the library as soon as this review is written. I need more of her writing, ASAP!

Thanks to Random House for the review copy. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Coffee and a chat...

I've seen this feature on several blogs over the past few months (most recently A Healthy Slice of Life and The Perpetual Page Turner) and thought I'd join in! It's always fun to catch up with each other and talk about something other than just books for a day. If you choose to join in, leave a link in the comments, I'd love to see what you're chatting about over coffee!

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you that I was able to go on an awesome hike this morning. It's so hard to hike in the cold with a toddler, so we haven't been out for a few months and it was just fantastic this morning. We took a new-to-us trail and stumbled upon old cemeteries and railroad tracks. I love being in the woods, especially in the chilly mornings, so this was the perfect way to spend a holiday morning. 

If we were having coffee... I'd fill you in on my Florida trip coming up next week. I'm the type of mom that realizes, in order to be a BETTER mom, I need time to myself. So, I'm hopping in the car next week and making the drive to Florida to hang out with my Aunt for a few days. I plan to eat a lot, spend time by the water, and just relax. Hopefully it will be just the refresher I need. 

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you that we're supposed be getting a lot of snow tomorrow. Not that it's the most interesting topic in the world, but seriously, I live in Northern Virginia. These people can't handle their snow and I'm sure they've already started closing schools for the predicted 5", which means a day stuck in the house. No Bible study, no play groups, just stuck inside. I have a really hard time being in the house for hours on end with a 2-year-old. Not sure about you other moms out there, but I need outside time for my sanity!

If we were having coffee... I'd let you laugh at me when I said I signed up for my first half marathon. Remember last year when I set that as one of my goals and then slowly realized I didn't have the desire to be a distance runner? Well, I've been convinced by a friend that we need to do one, just to do it. It may be the only one I ever run, but I have enough time to prepare for it that I'm not super nervous. Yet. 

If we were having coffee... I'd show you this bag that I'm dying to own. Saw a customer with it while I was working this weekend and she told me the Etsy shop she bought it from. Love. Getting a little selfish here, because I'm so NOT a bag person and would never spend that kind of money. But, I love it. I also love this one. And since we're chatting about Etsy shops, I'll take one of everything from here

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you about this amazing 4 week book club a few of my friends and I are doing together. Based on Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, we've been getting together each Monday night for the past few weeks and each bringing a dish from the menu in the book. It's 8 of us that didn't know each other very well before starting this and after only a couple weeks, we've all become great friends. You should definitely try it! On this week's menu:

Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Watermelon Feta Salad
Magical White Bean Soup
Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee with Vanilla Ice Cream

Even if you don't jump into a book club/dinner party, I highly recommend the book. It was one of my favorites last year. 

Hoping to make this a weekly feature! Join me!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Playing St. Barbara review

"The secrets, struggles, and self-redemption of a Depression-era coal miner's wife and three daughters plays out against a turbulent historical backdrop of Ku Klux Klan intimidation and the 1933 Pennsylvania Mine War. Their intertwined lives eerily mirror the 7th century legend of St. Barbara, patroness of miners, reenacted annually in the town pageant. 

Tested by scandal, heartbreak, and tragedy, each woman will write her own courageous ending to St. Barbara's story." (Description via Goodreads). 

When I picked up this book to read it, I didn't really know much about it, having only briefly read the description a few weeks prior. Sometimes those are the most interesting books! I learned so much about mining life and this Mine War, while being thrown into these four women's lives through the excellent character development. We all know how I am attracted to character-driven novels and this one definitely shone in that area. Drama with a punch. 

I also loved the idea of St. Barbara having such a large role in this story, not ever having heard of her before. I don't know a whole lot about saints, but having a town pageant dedicated to this particular patroness of miners was fascinating. Though I didn't grow up anywhere near a mining town, the people of The Hive and the way life was led there truly reminded me of my own small town, with its quiet caste system and drama-filled lives. 

I was part of the TLC Book Tour for Playing St. Barbara. You can find author Marian Szczepanski on her website or on Facebook. You can find the rest of the tour stops here

Monday, January 13, 2014

These Broken Stars review

Lilac and Tarver could not be more different. The daughter of an incredibly rich and powerful man -- literally the richest in the universe -- Lilac is privileged beyond any measure. She longs for real relationships and friendships, yet with her father constantly watching, most people are afraid to approach her. 

Tarver is a war hero. He's famous, but considered low on the totem pole socially and he knows it. Though he finds Lilac beautiful, it's quickly made apparent that he would never have a chance with her. 

Then the ship crashes. 

Well, technically the ship doesn't crash YET, but as the impending crash becomes more obvious, Lilac and Tarver are launched into space, landing on unfamiliar territory and forced to attempt survival with only each other as company. What happens is actually quite beautiful. 

Books with spaceships aren't typically my first choice of reading material, but after hearing all the buzz about this book and chatting with some of my most trusted blogger friends, I decided to give it a try anyway. So glad I did. 

The plot was nicely paced and the characters, despite their "typical" love story were not at all typical. It felt like a fresh take on a YA love story and I really appreciated that. Lilac was annoying, but understandably so, and Tarver was just swoon-worthy. 

I'm definitely looking forward to the next one by this writing duo! Oooh and the cover -- so pretty!

Thanks to Disney-Hyperion for the review copy. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Young Adult Fiction Cybils finalists

This is my 6th year participating as a judge for the Cybils and I'm really excited to be on the Round 2 Young Adult Fiction panel this time around. Round 1 is great, but SO much work! This time, I can sit back and enjoy the finalists and help to pick the ultimate winner. My brain thanks me for this change. 

The Round 1 judges have managed to choose 6 great titles for us to choose from and I know it's going to be tough choosing a winner. This is what happens when so many great books are published each year.

Here's what my team is working with:

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Winners will be announced on February 14th! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Thoughts on 2013 and looking ahead

Every good book blogger must write-up a year-in-review post right? So what if I'm a week late. With the holiday madness of travel and life stuff getting in the way, blogging had to take a backseat these past few weeks. I'm going to try to be better this year... but more on that later.

2013 started off great with books for me. I was flying through them and so many were fantastic that I really thought, despite having a small child, this might be my best reading year yet. Unfortunately, during the summer, my motivation fizzled or the books stopped being quite as great... not really sure what happened, but my reading became sporadic and I really lost my drive to finish any book. Like I referred to it before: life stuff. Sometimes life happens and reading takes a nosedive and that's what happened with me. I'm sad and regretful about it though, so definitely hoping to get it all back. I miss my books!

I originally started out with a goal of 105, which seemed doable, matching my 2012 number of books read. I figured, with a busy toddler, I'd be reading less. I hit 105 sometime over the summer and upped my goal to 150, thinking at the rate I was going, I'd probably fly past that too. Nope. Everything fizzled out and I slowed down. Total number of books read in 2013: 142. 


Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The Time Between by Karen White
Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Hold Fast by Blue Balliet
7 by Jen Hatmaker
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

Ok, so that's 11, but I couldn't leave out the 2nd Moyes book. So good.

For 2014, I just want to read. Simple as that. Last year I really wanted to read a lot of non-fiction and expand my reading from mainly YA to other things. This year? Just read. Read what I want. Read less books for review and more on my TBR. I might set a numbers goal, I might not. I just want the love of reading that I've always had back. 

A lot of people choose a word to focus on for the year. My word for 2014 is Peace. This past year kicked my butt. Having my baby turn into a toddler was difficult in so many ways. He's the only little one I'll have in our home and so each milestone is incredibly bittersweet, but I also learned that patience can be difficult to come by and my stress level went through the roof some weeks. 

I didn't read as much as I wanted, but also took on the amazing blessing of leading my local chapter of MOPS and becoming an encouragement to 50 women every other week. Some excellent stuff goes on in those meetings and I'm so thankful to just be part of the group. It's a lot to do, but so much fun and more rewarding than I could have ever hoped for. 

In the midst of all the happiness and craziness, there was definitely struggle, but in 2014, peace is what I'm aiming for. Peace and lots of reading. Happy 2014 all.