Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Featured Book: How the Grandmas and Grandpas Saved Christmas Again by Richard J. Gausselin

THEM: Thoughtless, Heartless, Emotionless Machines. 

At the North Pole, Santa is quickly realizing that children's toy preferences are changing to electronic gadgets and gizmos-and the days of traditional wooden toys "made with hands and hearts" may be over. Kids want toys that talk, walk, play games, and do their homework, and Santa does not want any disappointed children on Christmas morning. 

In order to keep up with the demand, Santa must purchase "THEM"-thoughtless, heartless, emotionless machines-to help build the electronic gadgets. The problem? The machines are well beyond the elves' technology and capabilities, and they'll need help from the grandmas and grandpas. 

With only seventeen weeks to Christmas Eve, there is much work to do, and it'll take a team of grandmas, grandpas, and elves working at a feverish pace to get things running as smoothly as a spinning top. But such a toy-changing decision does not come without challenges and problems, and "problem" is one word Santa does not want to hear. 

Hang on to your hat-it's going to be a wild ride in elfdom in How the Grandmas & Grandpas Saved Christmas, Again-dedicated to those who believe in the spirit of giving, the magic of Christmas, and Santa Claus himself.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: What School Never Taught Me About Money by Angelia Kinston

Money – we all want it and need it and work hard to obtain it. Yet, many people have trouble managing it effectively. Let’s face it, if everyone were good at it, everyone would be retired living on an island. All individuals have challenges when it comes to money and its management.

Young adults are taught many things in school, but simple home economics concepts like creating a spending plan and tracking expenses are often overlooked.

Not so young adults get caught up when life happens and are sometimes forced to make hard and bad decisions that threaten or ruin their financial health and stability.

Without a plan, it’s nearly impossible to meet the savings goals individuals and families need to reach their financial freedom and enjoy life.

Whether you are 15 or 50, this book will get you started into personal money management; breakdown saving, spending, credit and investment; get you on a fiscally responsible track; clarify the sometimes confusing financial jargon and help you succeed and get the financial freedom that we all dream about.

Received for review

This slim volume might be overlooked by those used to giant tomes on personal finance but it is just what you need to present the basics of budgeting, saving, and investing without any unnecessary complicated phrasing or examples.

The author does a very good job of presenting the information in a clear, concise manner that is easy to read and assimilate. She reiterates ideas that we have probably all heard but may not actually implement in a way that is calm and encouraging.

Overall, this is an excellent read whether you are new to budgeting and saving game or an old pro who needs a refresher course. Everyone who reads this should be able to take away at least a few pieces of valuable information that will help improve their financial lives. I certainly highly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Featured Book: Girl in Glass by Deanna Fei

Deanna Fei was just five-and-a-half months pregnant when she inexplicably went into labor. Minutes later, she met her tiny baby who clung to life support inside a glass box. Fei was forced to confront terrifying questions: How to be the mother of a child she could lose at any moment. Whether her daughter would survive another day--and whether she should. But as she watched her daughter fight for her life, Fei discovered the power of the mother-child bond at its most elemental.

A year after she brought her daughter home from the hospital, the CEO of AOL--her husband's employer--blamed the beautiful, miraculously healthy little girl for a cut in employee benefits and attached a price tag to her life, using a phrase, "distressed babies," that set off a national firestorm.

Girl in Glass is the riveting story of one child's harrowing journey and a powerful distillation of parenthood. With incandescent prose and an unflinching eye, Fei explores the value of a human life: from the spreadsheets wielded by cost-cutting executives to the insidious notions of risk surrounding modern pregnancy; from the wondrous history of medical innovation in the care of premature infants to contemporary analyses of what their lives are worth; and finally, to the depths of her own struggle to make sense of her daughter's arrival in the world. Above all, Girl in Glass is a luminous testament to how love takes hold when a birth defies our fundamental beliefs about how life is supposed to begin.

About the author:

Deanna Fei is the author of the award-winning novel A Thread of Sky. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Fei has received a Fulbright Grant and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Huffington Post, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

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Featured Book: The Disappearing Dolphins by Jennifer Kelman

Can You See the Disappearing Dolphins? 

Kevin and his twin sister Jackie always enjoy going to the beach with their mommy, but Kevin can tell that today will be extra-special. 

As he and Jackie start building a sandcastle, Kevin sees a fantastic sight: a dolphin, jumping and playing in the ocean. Kevin is known for his vivid imagination, and when he tells Jackie about the dolphin, she doesn't believe him. 

As he watches the joyful antics of the dolphin in the sparkling sea, Kevin is convinced that the dolphin is real-even he couldn't make up something this fantastic! 

Determined to share the magic of the dolphin, Kevin sets out on an adventure of discovery that will create lifelong memories for him and for Jackie. 

With warm, comforting language and beautiful illustrations, The Disappearing Dolphins is sure to become a favorite with anyone who cherishes the wonder of the natural world as seen through children's eyes.

About the author:

Jennifer Kelman is a licensed clinical social worker, life coach, author and entrepreneur. The Disappearing Dolphins is her third children's book. Her first two are part of the Mrs. Pinkelmeyer book series. Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and her lovable dog, Moopus McGlinden, created by Jennifer, are award-winning children's characters that inspire self-esteem in children through their love, warmth and silliness. Jennifer took a departure from that series to write this lovely tale of the disappearing dolphins. Jennifer is an avid cyclist and tennis player and credits all of her creativity to her young twins.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Featured Book: Baby Lady's Scary Night by Oksana & Marina Davydov

The monster under the bed. The Boogey Man. Those mysterious things that go bump in the night. 

Bedtime can be fraught with fear and anxiety for children with overactive imaginations – and the parents who struggle to comfort them. 

Baby Lady’s Scary Night: A Ladybug Story tells just such a story, a tale of anxious little Baby Lady, who sees things – terrifying things – when the lights go out at night. But what Baby Lady learns about the dark turns out to be not so very scary after all! 

The precious little ladybug discovers that the world that comes alive at night is all in her head. Things are not as they seem – and that’s okay. 

Baby Lady’s Scary Night is a beautifully illustrated children’s book that educates youngsters on how their own imaginations and fears can convince them they’re seeing things that aren’t really there. 

More important, this charming and compelling story shows kids how to employ their own knowledge and logic to recognize these fears as irrational, and overcome them for a restful sleep.

About the authors:

Oksana and Marina Davydov are sisters who have used their love of writing to create their first children's book. They live in Brooklyn, New York.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Club Kit: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

In the tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha and The Piano Teacher, a heart-wrenching debut novel of family, forgiveness, and the exquisite pain of love

When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: Shallcross by Charles Porter

A modern-day Odyssey. A modern-day romance. Shades of A Clockwork Orange with a shocking end and a surprising view from inside a man’s split mind, Shallcross tells the story of a middle-aged car dealer who entertains and haunts himself in a heated hatchery of colorful phanera, film, and music, spawned in the auditory and visual hallucinations he’s experienced since childhood.

Aubrey Shallcross feels lost after selling his business, but conventional cures do not seem to help. In his retirement without executive routine, he and Triple Suiter, his mind’s other voice, ride the good times and bad, going on long hauls through the sawgrass of his psyche and engaging in a scary retrospect of Catholicism after journeying from religious to secular man.

Determined to stay sane and happy on his South Florida farm, he resumes a lifelong passion for training horses, surfing, and music in his oceanfront county, where big cattle ranches stretch inland to Lake Okeechobee. Aubrey falls in love with an unusual woman, and they lead a life of devotion and magic until a rabid stalker, jealous of this love, shoots out the sun.

Received for review

It’s really never a good sign when reading a book makes you feel high as was the case with this. Granted, the main character has auditory and visual hallucinations, but that shouldn’t translate to giving the poor reader nightmares as well. This has the Twin Peaks effect in spades.

I just had no connection with Aubrey and his hallucinations. I did not find them engaging, charming, or anything else. If anything they were annoying and really detracted from the story rather than adding to it.

Since I couldn’t care less about Aubrey and his adventures the book was a bit of a bust for me. I didn’t care about what happened to Aubrey either way as long as he would just shut up. I really could not get through this fast enough.

Overall, unless you are actively searching out a way to feel like you’re hallucinating when you’re reading a book then I would give this a pass. I was not impressed in the least and really cannot recommend it at all.

☆☆☆☆ = Didn't Like It

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Featured Book: TaleSpins by Michael Mullin

A trilogy of alternative fairytales & retellings for YA readers. 

Meet Creepy the unknown 8th dwarf and learn the truth about Snow White. 

Discover a teen princess who hires The Frog Prince witch to get revenge on a Mean Girl at school. 

And learn what happens when a man who lives high above ground encounters a boy thief named Jack!

About the author:

Michael Mullin lives in Pasadena, CA, although all his sports allegiances remain in his native New England. He wrote TaleSpins, a collection of three twisted fairytale retellings for YA readers. The first story, which features Creepy the unknown 8th dwarf, has become a cult hit with book bloggers and has also been published in graphic novel form ("8: The Untold Story"). Michael is also co-author of several titles in the award-winning Larry Gets Lost™ picture book series, and wrote the middle-grade humor/adventure titled Rocketboy: The Return of Dr. Megaton.

He lives with his wife and their teenage twins. The kids pretty much run his life, despite his best efforts to appear as if he is running theirs.

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