Book Review: Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays by Jill Smokler and Scary Mommy Contributors

Summary:
From New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed “Scary Mommy” blogger Jill Smokler comes a funny and practical guide filled with essays, recipes, and tried-and-true tips sure to get any parent through the holiday season—without losing your marbles.

Ah, the holidays: a time of joy, celebration, serenity, and peace…

Unless, of course, you have whiny, screaming children demanding presents, attention, and a personal appearance by Santa or Judah the Maccabee. Then you’re screwed.

But wait, there’s hope: Scary Mommy Guide to Surviving the Holidays to the rescue!

Yes, in this handy holiday guide, you’ll find everything you need to survive the fall/winter rush of cheer in style, and without having a mental breakdown. From relatable, hilarious essays on everything from the Santa myth to being seated at the dreaded kids’ table, to easy-to-follow recipes that might include just a little something special to take the edge off (can anyone say Kahlua?), to fun and accessible gift ideas, this book is your ticket to peace of mind—and a laugh—during the busy, crazy holiday season!
 
Release Date: November 17, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
 
Review:
Jill Smokler's website, Scary Mommy, is one of my all-time favorite sites.  The articles, the anonymous confessions, the community with like-minded parents, all of these elements combine to make a site that I visit at least once a day.  Jill hosts guest bloggers regularly and usually has a new article every day.  I love that! 

I bought this book because I knew it would be a fun read, but I also wanted to support Scary Mommy Nation's Thanksgiving Project.  Every year on Scary Mommy, families in need are provided with gift cards to grocery stores so that they can have Thanksgiving dinner.  Isn't that awesome?  Jill keeps Scary Mommy fun, but also helps people---not just at Thanksgiving---and I love that about her and her site.

I really enjoyed Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays.  It was a light-hearted, fast read, and I found myself smiling and laughing as I read.  This book consists of essays by different contributing authors (many of whom I regularly follow on their own blogs) and also recipes for holiday food.  Even the recipes were funny, as each contributor put their own spin on the instructions or the description of the food.  Not to mention, some of the recipes were quite mouthwatering just to read about!

The group of authors and the varied content kept this book feeling fresh and new the whole way through.  I never got bored and found myself loving the change in "voice" with each essay.  The perspectives from other moms, who get just as stressed during the holidays as I do, were comforting for me.  I often feel like I'm the only one who gets so overwhelmed by the get-togethers, the gifts, the busy-ness of the holidays. It was nice to read that other women, women whose writing I know and respect, feel the same way.

Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays was a light-hearted, fast, and fun read.  I had a good time reading it and would definitely recommend it!
 
 

Book Review: The Christmas Women by Elyse Douglas

Summary:
When 38-year old Trudie Parks learns that her high school drama teacher is seriously ill, she immediately contacts her two best friends in high school, Kristen and Mary Ann. Together, they'd been known as "The Christmas Girls." They'd produced and starred in the annual high school Christmas show, which their teacher, Mrs. Childs, had directed. Determined to show their love for Mrs. Childs, they plan a 20-year reunion to recreate the Christmas show for her. What they don't anticipate is the complicated emotions this provokes, as former sweethearts appear and rekindle romance, painful memories and the sting of unrealized dreams. All three women must reassess their lives and their friendships, while struggling to produce the show, even while Mrs. Childs seems to grow weaker by the day. As Christmas Eve approaches, The Christmas Women prepare for an event that will take them and the audience to the farthest reaches of the human heart and resonate throughout the rest of their lives.
 
Release Date: July 30, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
 
Review:
I've read Elyse Douglas before---her previous book, The Christmas Town was a great read (read my review here).  I was looking forward to The Christmas Women, expecting a good story with great characterization and lots of warm-fuzzy feelings.  And Douglas definitely delivered!

The Christmas Women was such a sweet story.  It really tugged at my heartstrings, and made me laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time).  I loved that the main characters want to honor their teacher in such a huge way.  Speaking of the characters, Douglas did a great job with the characterization.  I loved each main character for their different personalities.  They were realistically flawed and all quite likable.  The cast of characters and their antics was my favorite aspect of this book.

The conflict resolution was perfect for the story.  I liked the way Douglas tied up all of the characters' stories, not in a too-perfect kind of way, but in a realistic yet still happy way. 

The Christmas Women was a great read, and it's sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.  I really enjoyed this sweet story and look forward to reading more from Elyse Douglas.

  

Book Spotlight: The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland

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02_The Iris Fan CoverPublication Date: December 9, 2014 Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Series: Sano Ichiro Mystery Series (Book 18)
Add to GR ButtonGenre: Historical Mystery

   

Japan, 1709. The shogun is old and ailing. Amid the ever-treacherous intrigue in the court, Sano Ichiro has been demoted from chamberlain to a lowly patrol guard. His relationship with his wife Reiko is in tatters, and a bizarre new alliance between his two enemies Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu has left him puzzled and wary. Sano's onetime friend Hirata is a reluctant conspirator in a plot against the ruling regime. Yet, Sano's dedication to the Way of the Warrior, the samurai code of honor, is undiminished. Then a harrowing, almost inconceivable crime takes place. In his own palace, the shogun is stabbed with a fan made of painted silk with sharp-pointed iron ribs. Sano is restored to the rank of chief investigator to find the culprit. This is the most significant, and most dangerous, investigation of his career. If the shogun's heir is displeased, he will have Sano and his family put to death without waiting for the shogun's permission, then worry about the consequences later. And Sano has enemies of his own, as well as unexpected allies. As the previously unimaginable death of the shogun seems ever more possible, Sano finds himself at the center of warring forces that threaten not only his own family but Japan itself. Riveting and richly imagined, with a magnificent sense of time and place, The Iris Fan is the triumphant conclusion to Laura Joh Rowland's brilliant series of thrillers set in feudal Japan.

The Sano Ichiro Mystery Series Titles

Shinju
Bundori
The Way of the Traitor
The Concubine's Tattoo
The Samurai's Wife
Black Lotus
The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria
The Dragon King's Palace
The Perfumed Sleeve
The Assassin's Touch
The Red Chrysanthemum
The Snow Empress
The Fire Kimono
The Cloud Pavilion
The Ronin's Mistress
The Incense Game
The Shogun's Daughter
The Iris Fan

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
IndieBound

About the Author

03_Laura Joh RowlandGranddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She is the author of sixteen previous Sano Ichiro thrillers set in feudal Japan. The Fire Kimono was named one of the Wall Street Journal's "Five Best Historical Mystery Novels"; and The Snow Empress and The Cloud Pavilion were among Publishers Weekly's Best Mysteries of the Year. She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector and quality engineer. For more information please visit Laura?s website. You can also follow her on Facebook.

The Iris Fan Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, December 9
Book Blast, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, December 10
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse Thursday, December 11
Review at Buried Under Books

Friday, December 12
Book Blast at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, December 15
Book Blast at Layered Pages

Tuesday, December 16
Review at Book Dilletante
Interview at Dianne Ascroft's Blog

Wednesday, December 17
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, December 19
Review at Unshelfish
Book Blast at I'd So Rather Be Reading

Monday, December 22
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, December 23
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, January 5
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, January 7
Review at Book Babe
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Book-to-Movie News: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

One of my all-time favorite books is Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  I read Unwind for the first time over four years ago.  I was pregnant, emotional, and stunned at the intensity of this book.  It was unlike anything I'd ever read before.  I remember lying in bed sobbing as I read, and crying again when I tried to explain the book to my bewildered husband. 
 
I was thrilled when Shusterman announced he was turning Unwind into a series.  What could be better?  Well...now that the Unwind Dystology is complete, it's coming to the big screen!  This is a movie that I'll break my movie-theater ban for. 
  
There is a website devoted to the film, called Unwind Movie.  Visit it hereSo far, there are no official trailers, only ones made by fans.  But those are still fun!  You can watch the fan-made trailers on the Unwind Movie site.  You can also visit Unwind's IMDB page here, and Neal Shusterman's website here.  
 
So far, Unwind is still in development.  There isn't any casting information or even a concrete release date.  All IMDB tells us is that it will be released in 2016.  I can't wait!  What are your thoughts on the book to film adaptation?  Who are your cast picks?

Here's our favorite fan-made trailer.  I think the creator did an awesome job capturing the feel of the book!
 





Book Review: The Parts That Followed (The Parts I Remember #2) by A.K. Mills


Starting 12/16 and ending 12/21, download the Kindle version of The Parts I Remember (book one) for free here.

Summary: 
Act first. Think never. Remember nothing.

If only things were still that easy for Kelly Rockport. Enveloped in guilt after surviving the crash that claimed the life of her best friend Meredith, Kelly returns to Haysville University refusing to forget. In her mind, letting go of the accident would be like killing Meredith all over again. With therapy proving futile and sex leaving her emptier than ever, Kelly's attempts at rebuilding her life continue to fail. But just as she begins to accept hopelessness as her destiny, Kelly catches a glimpse of happiness—or something close enough to it. The only question is if she can hold herself together and rebuild a new normal. Or, in true Kelly fashion, will she crumble under the pressure and prove that happily-ever-afters don't exist for people like her? These are the parts that followed.

Release Date: December 15, 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
I enjoyed The Parts I Remember (read my review here) but I had a hard time connecting with Kelly.  Kelly is my complete polar opposite.  She's reckless, wild and impulsive.  I thought she was pretty selfish and her personal growth came too late in the story for my personal taste.  I liked The Parts I Remember but considered it almost a "what not to do in college" type of book. 

Because of my ennui about Kelly, I started The Parts That Followed not sure what to expect.  I really loved this book!  Kelly was so much more likable.  I thought she had a lot more depth and I really respected her, instead of shaking my head at her like I did in book one. 

The Parts That Followed starts with a prologue that is actually the end of the story, and the epilogue picks up where the prologue ended.  I usually don't like it when authors do that, but it really worked for this story.  Kelly's in the hospital again but for a completely different reason.  She has lost a lot of blood and succumbs to the darkness as doctors and nurses fight to save her life.  As she goes under, she goes back to the time right after the accident that killed her best friend, Meredith.  So, like The Parts I Remember, The Parts That Followed is told in flashbacks.  I like this style of storytelling and also appreciated the fact that it was consistent with the style of book one.

The Parts That Followed is an emotional story.   I found myself tearing up several times while reading, especially at the end.  Kelly changed so much throughout the book.  I was so happy to see her grow as a person and shift from her self-centered personality into thinking about others.  She really matured and that was awesome to read about. 

Mills had lots of surprises built into the plot. I was quite shocked a couple of times, and I love it when authors surprise me like that.  The pace was perfect: it was steadily exciting and it kept me reading every chance I got.  In fact, I finished The Parts That Followed in a day.  And it's been a while since I read a book that was so good, I couldn't put it down.

The epilogue was everything I wanted it to be and more.  There was the perfect amount of closure, and the conflict resolution was just right.  I was so pleased with how Mills ended Kelly's story---it was a surprise but a good surprise. 

The Parts I Remember is A.K. Mills' debut novel, and I highly recommend it and The Parts That Followed.  The books are so well-written and engaging.  I recommend reading the two books back to back if possible.  That's always the best way to get the most out of a series, and prevents the reader from forgetting details from book one.  Luckily, Mills provided enough flashbacks from The Parts I Remember that I easily remembered the storyline from book one.  

If you like contemporary fiction, you'll love this series.  I look forward to Mills' next book!  And even better, the Kindle version of book one, The Parts I Remember, is free from 12/16 to 12/21---get it here.

 

The CW Seed: Play it Again, Dick

Have you heard of the CW Seed? Me neither.

The CW's digital-only network. It's where we blur the line between television and the web and experiment with high-quality original series in smaller sizes. Basically, it's where we go digging for what's next. ~The CW

Everything is going digital. Sometimes I think it's not such a good idea (watch Revolution) but other times- like in a not so apocalyptic world, I am ecstatic! Why, you might ask? Because they have brought back my beloved Veronica Mars (in a spin-off setting)! Right now, I'm freaking out and thinking WHO CARES, I'll take it!  Dick Calabasas is hilarious and the perfect character for a spin-off. 

I am still holding out hope that there will be a Veronica Mars 2 movie but until then Mars Investigation is trying to make a come back, so do me a sold and start streaming! 




Thank you fellow Marshmallows,         






*image source: google.com

Book Spotlight: Heir to a Prophecy by Mercedes Rochelle

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02_Heir to a Prophecy Cover
Please join Mercedes Rochelle as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual book Tours for Heir to a Prophecy, December 8-30.

Publication Date: December 12, 2014
Top Hat Books Paperback; 418p
ISBN: 978-1-78279-754-8
Genre: Historical Fiction
   
Add to GR Button




READ AN EXCERPT.


Shakespeare's Witches tell Banquo, "Thou Shalt 'Get Kings Though Thou Be None". Though Banquo is murdered, his son Fleance gets away. What happened to Fleance? What Kings? As Shakespeare's audience apparently knew, Banquo was the ancestor of the royal Stewart line. But the road to kingship had a most inauspicious beginning, and we follow Fleance into exile and death, bestowing the Witches' prophecy on his illegitimate son Walter. Born in Wales and raised in disgrace, Walter's efforts to understand Banquo's murder and honor his lineage take him on a long and treacherous journey through England and France before facing his destiny in Scotland.

Buy the Book

Watch the Book Trailer



 About the Author

Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they built themselves. For more information please visit Mercedes Rochelle's website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Heir to a Prophecy Blog Tour

Monday, December 8
Interview & Giveaway at Mina's Bookshelf

Wednesday, December 10
Review at Back Porchervations
Guest Post at Boom Baby Reviews

Thursday, December 11
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Saturday, December 13
Spotlight at I'd So Rather Be Reading

Monday, December 15
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, December 16
Review at Book Nerd
Guest Post at Queen of All She Reads

Wednesday, December 17
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, December 19
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Saturday, December 20
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Monday, December 22
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, December 23
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Friday, December 26
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, December 30
Review at Unshelfish
Review at The True Book Addict

Holiday Gifts for the Readers in Your Life

Here are my thoughts on the best book gifts for the readers in your life.  The book titles are linked to their respective reviews on I'd So Rather Be Reading.

For The Man in Your Life
  For Your Mom





For Your Best Girlfriend
 


For Fellow Mothers
~and~
~and~


For Your Pregnant Friends and Family Members
  
For Women of All Ages
(Especially Graduates and Brides-to-Be)




For Your Chick-Lit-Loving Friend



For Kids
~and~



For Anyone Who Loves YA
~and~
For Dystopian Fans
The Unwind Series by Neal Shusterman
~and~
  

For Fans of Contemporary Fiction

The 2B Trilogy by Ann Aguirre
The Shape of My Heart (Review to come soon)

For Fans of New Adult Fiction
Genna Rulon's For You series

For Anyone With a Chronic Illness



For Anyone Struggling with Depression



For Fans of Thrillers
~and~
~and~
For Fans of Christian Fiction
~and ~







What are your favorite bookish gifts, either given or received?
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Book Review: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Summary:
Mysterious. Magnificent. Creepy. Welcome to Rockford Manor.

"There's something hidden in the Maze." Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family's English country manor.

Haunted by her parents' deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin's untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess.

All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion's aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself--and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?

Combining a fresh twist on the classic REBECCA with a spine-tingling mystery and powerful romance, SUSPICION is an action-packed thrill ride.
 
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
 
Review:
I love Alexandra Monir's writing (read my reviews of Timeless here and Timekeeper here) and I was so happy to receive a review copy of her latest novel, Suspicion.  I loved the Timeless series for Monir's sweet love story and intense, fast-paced plot.  I'm happy to say that I loved Suspicion for the same reasons.

Suspicion is a stand-alone novel, something that was a huge positive for me.  I love reading stand-alones because they provide so much closure.  I love series as well, but really only when I can read all of the books in a series close together.  There's nothing worse than having to wait years for a series to finish!

Monir writes with such beautiful imagery.  I felt like I was really there with Imogen, especially once she arrived at Rockford Manor.  There was definitely an eerie feel to this book: it wasn't scary in a horror-type of way, just high on the creepy ghost factor.  I'm no fan of ghost stories, and Suspicion definitely wasn't a ghost story, but it took me a little while to figure that out. Before I discovered the source of the malice in Suspicion, I was definitely spooked.  Because I'm such a ninny about ghosts, I didn't read this book at night (pathetic, I know!). 

I was surprised by the ending, and loved the conflict resolution. There was a magical realism element to Suspicion and it was unique and very well-done.  I was surprised by the depth in this story.  My only complaint is that Suspicion was slow to start.  Once the story took off, though, it was a great read.  Suspicion was an easy, fast read. It is definitely YA, and may even be appropriate for an older MG audience. 

If you're new to Alexandra Monir, I highly recommend her books!   

 

 

Book Review and Giveaway: Rite of Rejection by Sarah Negovetich


Summary:
"Before you stands the future."

Straight-laced, sixteen-year-old Rebecca can't wait for her Acceptance. A fancy ball, eligible bachelors, and her debut as an official member of society. Instead, the Machine rejects Rebecca. Labeled as a future criminal, she's shipped off to a life sentence in a lawless penal colony.

A life behind barbed-wire fences with the world's most dangerous people terrifies Rebecca. She reluctantly joins a band of misfit teens in a risky escape plan, complete with an accidental fiancé she's almost certain she can learn to love.

But freedom comes with a price. To escape a doomed future and prove her innocence, Rebecca must embrace the criminal within.
 
Release Date: December 4, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
 
Review:
I loved this book!  Rite of Rejection is Sarah Negovetich's debut novel, and she certainly starts her writing career on a high note with this book.  Rite of Rejection was so well-written, engaging and fast-paced.

I love the premise of Rite of Rejection.  The Acceptance ceremony has a unique feel to it.  On one hand, Acceptance reminded me of a 19th century debut ball.  On the other hand, it made me think of other dystopian novels, in that when teens come of age their place in society is determined.  But in this world, the determination comes from a machine.  The Machine, in fact, reads biomarkers from the teen's hands and flashes green for Acceptance, and red for Rejection.  People can be rejected on the basis that there is something inside of them that will make them future criminals or discontents.  That made me think of the precogs from Minority Report: how people are arrested for a crime before the crime even happens.  The premise in Rite of Rejection is that people are removed from society before they can hurt anyone.  It's a really neat concept and I loved that Negovetich focused the story on the Machine and how the Cardinal uses it to control the entire country.

Negovetich has an excellent writing style.  Sometimes authors can write action really well, but lack in emotional intensity.  Or their books are full of emotion but the pace is so slow and the plot lacks depth.  This is not the case for Rite of Rejection.  This book had it all: a great premise, perfect pace, a super-sweet (and clean!) love story, and a thrilling plot that left me on the proverbial edge of my seat.  The story had such a great flow to it.  There were no slow parts or sections where I felt like putting the book down for a break.  Every chapter was as good as or better than the last.

I love the way that Negovetich writes emotions.  Her characters' emotions just jumped off of the page, and into my heart.  I grew to love the characters and felt so invested in their stories.  This is not always the case, so when it happens, I really enjoy the feeling. 

There were some great surprises as I read.  I found one part of the conflict resolution to be predictable, but overall, I was happy with the twists the plot took and how the book ended.  Speaking of the ending, Negovetich gives some closure but leaves plenty of room for a sequel.  And that's a sequel I will eagerly await! 

I've read so many dystopian novels---and I've loved so many of them---that books in this genre can start to feel predictable.  I really felt like Rite of Rejection stood out from others in the genre.  I highly recommend this novel, and cannot wait for book two!
 

 
 
Giveaway
Sarah Negovetich is generously offering this book-themed international giveaway to readers! 
 
 
Prize description:
Chapter 17 tissues (because that’s when you’ll need them), a jumbo sized chocolate bar (a hot commodity inside the PIT), an orange scented candle (courtesy of Rebecca’s fondest memory from home, a dandelion pen (as featured on the cover), handcrafted Molly bag (named after the character responsible for sewing them in the book, these are the bags used extensively by the main characters), and a $10 Amazon gift card.