Children's Book Review: The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon by Sarah and Steven Mostyn

Summary:
Join Harold the blue baboon in this hilarious children's picture book, as he travels to the moon, in a big balloon, with an outrageous cast of friends! This creative rhyming book will inspire children's imaginations to soar to new heights!
 
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Age Group: Children's
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
 
Review:
The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon was such a fun read!  I loved the creative story, tongue-twisting rhymes, and illustrations.  The authors--a husband and wife team--have created such a unique and whimsical book.  This book reminded me of Dr. Seuss, in a good way.
 
The book starts by introducing Harold, the blue baboon who lives in a big balloon.  Harold and his brother Gerald share the balloon with an diverse cast of characters.  I loved the way each character was introduced, and how they were intertwined.  It was enjoyable and inventive, to say the least. 
 
The trip to the moon was pure fun.  The illustrations made this book so special, but the text was my favorite part.  The cadence was perfect, the rhymes were great and even a little tongue-twisting.  The book was the perfect length: short enough to hold Kaitlyn's interest (she's three years old), but long enough to maintain an interesting story line.  The words were spaced evenly from page to page (a children's literature pet peeve of mine is when there are some pages with paragraphs of words and then some pages with two to three words---it makes for a choppy, uneven reading experience, in my opinion).
 
Some children's books get boring for me: I find myself mentally cringing when Kaitlyn pulls them from the shelf.  This book, though, is one I would enjoy reading over and over again! 
 
 

 
 

It's Official: We are in LOVE with Frozen!

Kaitlyn just turned three, and has yet to show an interest in Disney movies (much to my disappointment!).  Up until now, all she wants to watch is Dora the Explorer, Curious George and the Backyardigans.  All of those are great shows, but I'd looked forward to watching Disney movies with her and thought she'd be into them by this age.
 
 
On a whim, we watched Frozen, wanting to know what all the fuss was about.  To my surprise, she fell completely in love with the music, characters, and storyline.  Since buying Frozen, we've watched it at least once a day, and she sings along with the songs and says some of the dialogue along with Elsa and Anna. 
 
 
What I love about Frozen is that it's different from the usual Disney princess theme.  Elsa and Anna don't end up with princes, instead, they reunite as sisters and best friends.  True love saves Anna---her sister's love, not the love of a prince.  I love that!
 
 
Now that we are thoroughly infected with the Frozen fever, my new mission is to find Elsa and Anna dolls for Kaitlyn.  Which is a feat easier said than done---they are sold out everywhere and are going for ridiculous prices online!
 
 
Have you watched Frozen yet?  What do you think of it?

It almost takes a disaster to occur (like an ice storm, flooding, illness with an extremely high fever or hordes of mosquitoes) to get my kids to sit down and watch a full-length animated film. Frozen was a WINNER! My daughter (8) loved it but to my surprise, my boys (5 & 2) were totally obsessed. I think this craze is two-fold. 1.) The storyline has such a great message about true love, and uniquely the love of siblings. 2.) THE MUSIC. Oh.My.Gosh. YES, WE WILL BUILD A SNOWMAN! AND YES, I WILL LET IT ALL GO! We have downloaded the music, danced like crazies all through the house and blasted it in the car for all to hear. 

Our plea, make Frozen 2! We need more family friendly films (sounds like a catchy #hashtag #familyfriendlyfilms or #FFF) & we need another dang soundtrack!
~Nat
 

Book Spotlight: Recovering From Life by Debra McKenna


Whether it’s over-indulging in drugs

and alcohol, sex, shopping, work,

or exercise…really everyone has

something to recover from.

(taken from the author's website)

 
Recovering from Life is the tale of 39-year-old, red-headed spitfire Stephanie McCarthy’s rollicking road to redemption. A gifted freelance writer in Northern California, Steph works days hawking frozen foods while her life limps along. Until her husband, Kenny, disappears into the crack ghetto. His descent into addiction catapults Steph onto a wild ride that feels unendurable—but ultimately leads to her own self-discovery.

Marooned in a state of financial doom, legal tangles, and emotional turmoil, Steph navigates the pitfalls of her new path, which takes her into the realms of drug dealers, high finance—and hot romance. With her wisecracking buddy, Lee, and other surprising allies at her side, Steph begins to rebuild her world as she stumbles into her own blind spots and wrestles with her faulty guy-radar.

When Steph at last spies the “Welcome to Reality” sign at the end of the road, she realizes that her job is to heal from a life she never chose—and to recover from the one that she did. But while she rides that roller coaster of recovery, Stephanie has one hell of a good time.

About the Author:

With a degree in English and graduate work in Creative Writing, Debra McKenna worked as a feature writer and editor for city magazines in Sacramento, Denver, Lake Tahoe, and Las Vegas for over nine years. Recovering from Life is her first novel.
 
Visit Debra McKenna's website HERE
Buy Recovering From Life on Amazon HERE
 
 
 

Book to Movie Review: Odd Thomas


It is no secret that Oddy is my original fictional hero. I loved him LONG ago, when Koontz first conjured him up. For me, Odd Thomas is comparable to the hit CW series Supernatural but in the literary format. It has been years since there were rumors of Odd Thomas being adapted into a movie but they seemed dead in the water and I ultimately gave up. Low and behold, I went to the Redbox to get a few movies for the babysitter and what do I see on the screen before me?! FREAKING ODD THOMAS for $1.79!! When? How? Who? And ultimately, Is it good? I almost canceled my hot date (#almost my husband is way too hot) so I could instantly find out if it was a keeper. 

It was just as creepy as I remembered! The Bodachs are freaking scary, Odd is, well, just Odd and Stormy Llewellyn was a spitfire! With that said, this is not a blockbuster hit and it was clearly made for the fans. #memememe #inoddwetrust

Odd Thomas Series

This is not a series that has a love triangle, follows any specific formula, or has any predictability, this is DEAN KOONTZ. He will kill-off characters, create crazy, supernatural plot twists and at times, just bring utter madness. And in the middle of all the madness you will find Odd...
 
"MY NAME IS ODD THOMAS, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.
I am not a celebrity. I am not the child of a celebrity. I have never been married to, never been abused by, and never provided a kidney for transplantation into any celebrity. Furthermore, I have no desire to be a celebrity.
In fact I am such a nonentity by the standards of our culture that People magazine not only will never feature a piece about me but might also reject my attempts to subscribe to their publication on the grounds that the black-hole gravity of my noncelebrity is powerful enough to suck their entire enterprise into oblivion.
I am twenty years old. To a world-wise adult, I am little more than a child. To any child, however, I’m old enough to be distrusted, to be excluded forever from the magical community of the short and beardless.
Consequently, a demographics expert might conclude that my sole audience is other young men and women currently adrift between their twentieth and twenty-first birthdays.
In truth, I have nothing to say to that narrow audience. In my experience, I don’t care about most of the things that other twenty-year-old Americans care about. Except survival, of course.
I lead an unusual life."
The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.
                                                      Odd Thomas


If you like creepy-crawly supernatural and the male POV, then the Odd Thomas series is for you! It was originally intended to be a single book but the fan base was so overwhelming that Koontz went on to write 5 more in the series. There are also webisodes, character interviews, podcasts, and even a Lingering Dead Detector. Koontz even interviews Odd, read HERE. For all the Odd extras visit HERE.

Beware of the Bodachs, they follow disaster and devastation...

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: To Live Forever by Andra Watkins


Is remembrance immortality? Nobody wants to be forgotten, least of all the famous.
 
Meriwether Lewis lived a memorable life. He and William Clark were the first white men to reach the Pacific in their failed attempt to discover a Northwest Passage. Much celebrated upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of the vast Upper Louisiana Territory and began preparing his eagerly-anticipated journals for publication. But his re-entry into society proved as challenging as his journey. Battling financial and psychological demons and faced with mounting pressure from Washington, Lewis set out on a pivotal trip to the nation’s capital in September 1809. His mission: to publish his journals and salvage his political career. He never made it. He died in a roadside inn on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee from one gunshot to the head and another to the abdomen.
 
Was it suicide or murder? His mysterious death tainted his legacy and his fame quickly faded. Merry’s own memory of his death is fuzzy at best. All he knows is he’s fallen into Nowhere, where his only shot at redemption lies in the fate of rescuing another. An ill-suited “guardian angel,” Merry comes to in the same New Orleans bar after twelve straight failures. Now, with one drink and a two-dollar bill he is sent on his last assignment, his final shot at escape from the purgatory in which he’s been dwelling for almost 200 years. Merry still believes he can reverse his forgotten fortunes.
 
Nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney is the daughter of French Quarter madam and a Dixieland bass player. When her mother wins custody in a bitter divorce, Emmaline carves out her childhood among the ladies of Bourbon Street. Bounced between innocence and immorality, she struggles to find her safe haven, even while her mother makes her open her dress and serve tea to grown men.
It isn’t until Emmaline finds the strange cards hidden in her mother’s desk that she realizes why these men are visiting: her mother has offered to sell her to the highest bidder. To escape a life of prostitution, she slips away during a police raid on her mother’s bordello, desperate to find her father in Nashville.
 
Merry’s fateful two-dollar bill leads him to Emmaline as she is being chased by the winner of her mother’s sick card game: The Judge. A dangerous Nowhere Man convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Judge Wilkinson is determined to possess her, to tease out his wife’s spirit and marry her when she is ready. That Emmaline is now guarded by Meriwether Lewis, his bitter rival in life, further stokes his obsessive rage.
 
To elude the Judge, Em and Merry navigate the Mississippi River to Natchez. They set off on an adventure along the storied Natchez Trace, where they meet Cajun bird watchers, Elvis-crooning Siamese twins, War of 1812 re-enactors, Spanish wild boar hunters and ancient mound dwellers. Are these people their allies? Or pawns of the perverted, powerful Judge?
 
After a bloody confrontation with the Judge at Lewis’s grave, Merry and Em limp into Nashville and discover her father at the Parthenon. Just as Merry wrestles with the specter of success in his mission to deliver Em, The Judge intercedes with renewed determination to win Emmaline, waging a final battle for her soul. Merry vanquishes the Judge and earns his redemption. As his spirit fuses with the body of Em’s living father, Merry discovers that immortality lives within the salvation of another, not the remembrance of the multitude.
 
Read an Excerpt HERE.

Buy the Book

Amazon (Kindle Ebook)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook Ebook)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)

About the Author

Hey. I’m Andra Watkins. I’m a native of Tennessee, but I’m lucky to call Charleston, South Carolina, home for 23 years. I’m the author of ‘To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis’, coming March 1, 2014. It’s a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.

I like:
hiking
eating (A lot; Italian food is my favorite.)
traveling (I never met a destination I didn’t like.)
reading (My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.)
coffee (the caffeinated version) and COFFEE (sex)
performing (theater, singing, public speaking, playing piano)
time with my friends
Sirius XM Chill
yoga (No, I can’t stand on my head.)
writing in bed
candlelight

I don’t like:
getting up in the morning
cilantro (It is the devil weed.)
surprises (For me or for anyone else.)
house cleaning
cooking

Author Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Google+
Pinterest



Natchez Trace Walk

The Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of years ago, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from points in the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi. It was logical for the first Native Americans to settle along the Trace to follow part of their migrating food supply. When the Kaintucks settled west of the Appalachians, they had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez, but before steam power, they had to walk home. The Trace became one of the busiest roads in North America.
 
trace-map

To launch To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I will be the first person of either sex to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did since the rise of steam power in the 1820′s. March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I will spend each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.
 
I will take readers into the world of the book. You’ll see the places that inspired scenes and hear the backstories of different characters, with running commentary by my father, who’s tagging along with me.
 
I’ll also have a daily YouTube segment where I answer reader questions about the book, my walk, my arguments—I mean—interactions with my dad, and whatever readers want to know. Ask me anything at
 
mystories(at)andrawatkins(dot)com.
 
You might see yourself on this site during my tour.
 
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5dfba625/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review: Big Fat Disaster by Beth Fehlbaum


Summary:
Insecure, shy, and way overweight, Colby hates the limelight as much as her pageant-pretty mom and sisters love it. It's her life: Dad's a superstar, running for office on a family values platform. Then suddenly, he ditches his marriage for a younger woman and gets caught stealing money from the campaign. Everyone hates Colby for finding out and blowing the whistle on him. From a mansion, they end up in a poor relative's trailer, where her mom's contempt swells right along with Colby's supersized jeans. Then, a cruel video of Colby half-dressed, made by her cousin Ryan, finds its way onto the internet. Colby plans her own death. A tragic family accident intervenes, and Colby's role in it seems to paint her as a hero, but she's only a fraud. Finally, threatened with exposure, Colby must face facts about her selfish mother and her own shame. Harrowing and hopeful, proof that the truth that saves us can come with a fierce and terrible price, Big Fat Disaster is that rare thing, a story that is authentically new.
Release Date: April 18, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Madi B

Review:
I’m not usually one for the troubled darker reads. What can I say, I prefer comedy to tragedy. Even so, this was my favorite book sent to me from Merit Press thus far! I found myself growing attached to Colby and really feeling for her! Colby sucked me into her world and wanted to step into the book and give her a hug. My favorite aspects were…
1.     I think the author (Yes, I’m talking to you, Beth) did a great job getting the readers to feel empathy. (Maybe not purposefully but either way it worked). I wanted to help Colby. I wanted to slap her family for her. I genuinely wanted to step into her story not because it would be fun but because I felt for Colby.
2.      I liked the rawness of the whole story. Colby held nothing back in her narration and I think that contributed to #1.  Colby narrated this story with complete honesty and it gives this novel an authenticity that may not have been there otherwise.
3.     Character development. Like most dark troubled protagonists, Colby had some SERIOUS character developing to do in this book. I would have preferred it to go a tad faster (I’m a teenager! Therefore I’m impatient!) but it was delivered.
I really liked this book but it wasn’t intended for me. This is a book that, given to the right audience, could change a person’s life. Some stuff I didn’t like…
1.      The balance of the book was off. When you have a plot as heavy as this one, you need to lighten up with something. A love story, a funny friend, a hobby any of these would have worked. I was never that excited to pick up the book and continue reading the book because I had nothing to look foreword to. Needless to say I felt like I HAD to pick up the book because it wouldn’t be fair to Colby otherwise. (I’m telling ya EMPATHY)
Other than that I didn’t have any complaints! Big Fat Disaster was a deep, heartfelt story that overall I’m glad I read.


 

Book Review: Here Without You (Between the Lines #4) by Tammara Webber

Summary: 
Everyone has secrets.
Some are buried so deep, their existence is forgotten.
But a secret never told can turn into a lie.
And in love, a lie is one thing:
Poison.

Reid's in love with Dori, though she hasn't told her parents that she's fallen hard for the guy they'd forbidden her to see. Now she's leaving for college, and Reid's promise not to push her to go public is wearing thin, especially when she can't - or won't - return those three important words he wants to hear.

Five years ago, Brooke and Reid were a Thing. That relationship is long gone, detonated amid allegations of cheating - but they still share a secret that would stun everyone they know and alter public perception of them both if it ever comes out. And it's about to do just that.


Release Date: August 6, 2013
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Purchased

Review:
I've loved every second of Tammara Webber's Between the Lines series and Here Without You was no exception.  In fact, it was my favorite book out of the entire series.

I did not like Reid at all in the first two books, but I grew to love him in book three.  I loved he and Dori's relationship and how sweet they are together.  I really enjoyed the fact that Dori has the upper hand a lot of the time with Reid: he's not always as sure of her feelings, and she keeps things to herself.  I liked that Dori is no pushover and is good at standing up for herself and speaking her mind.

What made Here Without You so special to me was the emphasis on parenthood.  I love reading about parents, now that I'm a parent.  I was so happy with how that story arc ended and I thought it provided a great deal of character growth for all of the main characters.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with Brooke, but those feelings changed to a grudging acceptance and even admiration for her character.  Seeing her change throughout the series really made me like her more.  I hope that she gets her own series, it's time for her to have her own happily-ever-after.  

The Between the Lines series could be split into two parts: the first two books are about Emma and Graham (and they make short appearances only in the last two books) and books three and four are about Dori and Reid.  I like that about this series, it kept things from getting too repetitive.  

I really can't say enough good things about Tammara Webber.  I've read everything she's written, and I have loved every word of it.  If you like contemporary fiction, I highly recommend this series!


This entire series was so dang good! I thought I was in love with Emma & Graham's story until I met Dori! I completely agree with Kelli in every way. Webber is brilliant and I can't believe it's over! WHY? We NEED more, we Want more and we will BUY more! So, Tammara get back to that computer and give us more... more Reid & Dori, more Brooke and more little River. Oh little River, he definitely pulled on my mommy heart strings.

Heck, I'll take more of anything that is Young Hollywood, New Adult and written by the hand of Tammara Webber! ~Nat

A Great Surprise

Last week I got the most exciting package in the mail.  As soon as I opened the shipping box, I knew this package would be the highlight of my week.  Here's the outside of this really cool wooden box with a sliding lid:
 


At first glance, I thought this box contained an ARC of Leigh Bardugo's Ruin and Rising, one of my most anticipated books of 2014.  I picked the book up and realized that it's an excerpt from Ruin and Rising, the first few chapters, which is still unexpected and amazing! This is what I saw when I first slid the box's lid open:
 
 
And then, I looked underneath the excerpt and found these scented tea light candles, which coordinate with the theme of the series.  How cool is this for a surprise series-themed gift?   

I seriously cannot wait for June 17!  This series has been so unique and compelling.  I can't wait to find out how it all ends!

 

Home Sweet Anywhere Blog Tour

We are happy to host a stop on the blog tour for Home Sweet Anywhere by Lynne Martin.  Keep reading for a summary of Home Sweet Anywhere, an exclusive excerpt, and the book trailer.  Home Sweet Anywhere launches on April 15, 2014.
 

An enchanting account of how one couple sold everything to fulfill a dream of living abroad—one country at a time
 
Reunited in love after 35 years and suffering from a serious case of preretirement wanderlust, Lynne and Tim Martin made a life-altering decision: they sold their house and possessions and hit the road to live internationally full-time. Now tethered to nothing but their suitcases, each other, and their next exotic location, they’ve never looked back. From sky-high pyramids in Mexico to monkeys in Marrakech, this delightful, inspiring memoir is a romantic tale of derring-do for grown-ups and a road map for anyone who dreams of turning the idea of life abroad into a reality.
 
Twitter: @Lynne1Martin
 
EXCERPT – IRELAND
The cold winds and icy rain of the Cliffs of Mohar did not help a nasty little cold that had started to overtake me when we arrived in Ireland. It increased in intensity as we worked our way down the Irish coast. Tim booked a room at The Lodge, a charming B & B near the center of Kenmare, in County Kerry. The owner, Rosemary Quinn, an attractive young woman whose family lived in a large wing of the lovingly maintained old building, greeted us and showed us to our comfortable room. I snuffled and coughed, feeling miserable. “You’ll be needing a little help with that cold. Have a seat and I’ll be back in a minute with just the thing,” she said.
 
I felt so rotten that I obeyed and watched while Tim unpacked our essentials. Soon, Rosemary returned with a small silver tray. I knew immediately what she had in mind: a pot of hot water, a plate with a slice of clove-studded lemon, and a flowered china bowl holding dainty silver tongs and sugar cubes sat on the tray. The business end of this graceful presentation contained a man-size tumbler with a big slug of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey! She quickly combined two sugar cubes, the lemon slice with cloves, and the whiskey, and poured in hot water to the brim. “This will fix you right up,” she said. “You’ve lived in Ireland, so surely you’re familiar with good old fashioned hot whiskey! Slainté.” She handed me the potion.
 
I certainly remembered that Ireland’s wild, wet weather made frequent stops for a hot whiskey a necessary part of any walking expedition. A pub was never hard to find. I’m not so sure about the concoction’s actual curative powers, but once the Jameson’s hit its target, I didn’t really care that I was sick. The Irish cure for cold weather and sniffles is much more fun than Nyquil.
 

 
 
 

 

Book Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Summary:
Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.
 
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By:  Kelli
 
Review:
The Here and Now was such a riveting read!  I really enjoyed it.  Without consciously meaning to, I've delved into reading books about time-travel.  I always thought I didn't like this genre, but I think I was just reading the wrong authors.  I really enjoy a good YA time travel book and The Here and Now is one of the best I've read.

I loved the premise of traveling back in time, and trying not to change the natural course of history.  It was sort of scary and thrilling to read about: the characters who came from the future walked such a fine line of staying to themselves and not doing anything to attract attention.  They were a self-sufficient community: with their own doctors, their own medications and their own counselors.  Everyone has someone watching over them to make sure they keep to the rules.  And boy, those rules were strict, and punishable by death!

The plague aspect of the future gave this story a quasi-medical thriller feel, which I adored.  I went through a phase years ago where all I read were medical thriller and I like to go back to them from time to time.  Brashares' love story is subtle yet strong.  I liked that it's nowhere near the focus of the book, but it's a strong part of the book.  I just don't know if I could love a YA book that didn't have a love story.

The Here and Now was slow to get started, at least for me.  The writing wasn't as intense as I'm used to for this genre, so I could easily put this book down for the first half of the book. Halfway through, though, the story really took off and I knew there'd be no stopping me until I'd finished it.

I'd recommend The Here and Now to fans of YA and fans of the time travel genre.  I'm looking forward to Brashares' next book!