Book Review: The True Spirit of Christmas by Dorothy Thurgood Manning

The True Spirit of Christmas is a rhyming picture book geared for children ages 3 to 8. It is about Maddie, a spoiled child who loves Christmas and thinks she knows what it's all about. On Christmas Eve, she confronts Santa over the lack of presents he is leaving under the tree for her. Santa teaches her that the true spirit of Christmas is in giving and not receiving.

Release Date: June 8, 2015
Age Group: 3-8 years
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli & Kaitlyn


I know it's mid-summer, but I believe books about Christmas are fun all year-round.  After all, "I'm going to ask for that for Christmas" passes Kaitlyn's lips on a regular basis.  Kaitlyn and I really enjoyed The True Spirit of Christmas.  

I like that Manning uses her book to teach a lesson about giving, not receiving, at Christmas.  As is expected, Kaitlyn loves to receive gifts.  So she identified well with Maddie, the protagonist.  But, Maddie is a bit of a brat when it comes to receiving gifts: she has to have it all and she has to have the best.  This extremism in the main character was good for the story as it really drove home the point of how we look to others when we make Christmas all about ourselves.  

Kaitlyn loved the illustrations in The True Spirit of Christmas.  She especially loved the expressions on the character's faces and how easy they were to read.  The faces helped her "read" the story on her own after I'd read it to her.  The story rhymes, and some of the rhymes were a bit tongue-twisting.  Kaitlyn loved hearing them, but I didn't love reading all of them.  This is the only thing I didn't love about this book.

As soon as we finished the book, Kaitlyn asked to read it again.  That's her version of giving a book five stars!  We enjoyed The True Spirit of Christmas and would definitely read Dorothy Thurgood Manning again.

Giveaway and Book Spotlight: Forever For a Year by B.T. Gottfred

Today I'm joining with other bloggers and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group to promote B.T. Gottfred's Forever For a Year 

We've all been asked the same question:

“How would you describe the feeling of falling in love for the first time?” 

Falling in love for the first time was exciting, consuming, and thrilling.  I remember when I first met my husband, 15 years ago, feeling as though my world shifted as we fell in love.  I could hardly eat or sleep, I was so happy and euphoric.  It was almost like I was on mood enhancing drugs!  I remember smiling all the time, feeling that everything was going to be great now that I was in love.

Over time, that love has grown and deepened.  We're no longer in the first stages of infatuation, naturally, because those stages aren't sustainable.  Instead, we're in a loving, stable and committed relationship, both to each other and our family.

by B.T. Gottfred
In stores July 7th

When Carolina and Trevor meet on their first day of school, something draws them to each other. They gradually share first kisses, first touches, first sexual experiences. When they're together, nothing else matters. But one of them will make a choice, and the other a mistake, that will break what they thought was unbreakable. Both will wish that they could fall in love again for the first time . . . but first love, by definition, can't happen twice.

Told in Carolina and Trevor's alternating voices, this is an up-close-and-personal story of two teenagers falling in love for the first time, and discovering it might not last forever.

B.T. Gottfred is an author, playwright, and director. Some stuff he has done to feign sanity includes writing, directing & producing feature film The Movie Hero; writing the Off-Broadway play Mary, F**ck, or Kill and web series “Sex and Love Conspire to Destroy the World”, and writing & directing the play Women Are Crazy Because Men Are Assholes, which has played over four years in Los Angeles and Chicago and is set to make its Off-Broadway premiere this year. Forever for a Year is his first novel. Sort of.

Learn more on B.T. Gottfred’s Tumblr
Follow the author on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram


DATE NIGHT prize pack
Be date night ready thanks to Forever for a Year!
One (1) winner receives:
·         A copy of Forever for a year;
·         plus a $25 Sephora gift card, nail polish, and compact mirror.

Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Macmillan.

View the entire blog tour schedule here.

Book Review: Faithful (Fearsome #3) by S.A. Wolfe

A bombshell waitress who wants more. A former FBI agent who wants less … except for her.

*This is a standalone novel in the FEARSOME Series.

Imogene Walsh has always been unapologetically confident and ruthlessly opinionated with people, particularly men. No one is spared from her unfiltered mouth, but it hasn’t seemed to deter Cooper MacKenzie. Although he is not the clean-cut, businessman type she’s always thought she should pursue, Imogene is drawn to the sexy outsider who is the hottest topic in town gossip, the fantasy heartthrob women love to speculate about.

She has spent most of her life in the little town of Hera, NY, putting her numerous forgettable relationships behind her and floundering in both her professional and personal life. Work and men—neither have gone well for her. Now it’s reached the point where she wants to stop playing it safe.

It may be time to live up to her tough reputation and take a chance on Cooper, the only man who isn’t intimidated by Imogene’s brash personality. However, it could be a thrilling ride that doesn't end well.

Release Date: October 23, 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli


Faithful was my favorite book in S.A. Wolfe's Fearsome series.  These books are stand-alone novels, but if you read them out of order, you'll know who ends up with whom.  So, I'd recommend reading the series in order.

I liked Faithful so much because I loved Imogene.  Her voice, her perspective on life, was honest and refreshing.  She wasn't a typical female lead character and I liked that about her.  Imogene knows what she wants and won't settle for less.  She's in charge of herself, her life, and her sexuality.  Imogene makes no apologies for being the person she is, and to the world is kind of "here I am, take me or leave me, I don't care either way."  I like that kind of spunk in a character!

Cooper was a likable character as well.  He wasn't quite the typical male lead character either.  The relationship between Cooper and Imogene was a fairly slow build, and quite steamy once it heated up.  Wolfe's books are like that, and in my opinion, are more adult than new adult.

I loved seeing the characters from books one and two living out their happily ever afters.  There was an emphasis on friendship and the group hung out a lot, so there were plenty of chances to see my favorite characters from previous books.

The conflict resolution was sweet and and realistic.  I liked it.  I enjoyed Faithful and would definitely read S.A. Wolfe again.  

Book Review: A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery


Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, this breathtaking story of love and loss is guaranteed to break your heart and sweep you off your feet.

When high school senior Kelsey's identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn't know about the tragedy is Michelle's boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can't bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister.

As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can't deny that she's falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn't want.

Release Date: July 7, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli


I've been on a contemporary binge lately, and books like A Million Miles Away are exactly why I keep coming back to this genre.  I loved so many things about this book!

First of all, I should mention that A Million Miles Away is a clean contemporary read.  I love it when authors make their books clean without being too "goody-goody" or prudish about it.  There can be plenty of chemistry without toeing the line of YA and NA, and Avery's writing is a perfect example of this fact.

A Million Miles Away gave me all the feelings.  Happiness, despair, elation, grief, uncertainty, and most of all, that all-encompassing falling in love feeling that I love YA for.  Kelsey goes from being a typical teenage girl to a girl who has experienced one of the worst possible things she could go through: the death of her identical twin sister (I'm not spoiling things, this is in the summary!).  Kelsey and her parents are affected by this loss in different ways, although they share the same grief.  The emotions were so raw and real that I cried more than once while reading.  

Avery explores many themes in this story, which I loved.  The entire book could have been about Kelsey's grief over losing Michelle, and that would have made a good story.  But Avery goes the extra mile (sorry for the pun, I had to do it) and explores other themes.  This gives the book even more depth and emotion.

A Million Miles Away is such a great story.  It ends on an up-note, without being too saccharine.  But I will not soon forget the emotional journey of this story.  A Million Miles Away should not be missed.

Guest Post and Book Spotlight: Tell True Stories, Not Sentimentalized Ones by David Berner

Today we're partnering with WOW! Women on Writing to spotlight David Berner's book There's a Hamster in the Dashboard.  We are proud to have David here guest posting for us about the type of stories he tells.  Welcome to I'd So Rather Be Reading, David!

Tell True Stories, Not Sentimentalized Ones
By David W. Berner

I have nothing against sweet, sentimental stories. I cry every time I see the movie Field of Dreams, okay? Gets me all the time. What I don’t want to do is write sweet, sentimental stories. It does not interest me. And here’s why when you’re writing memoir it should not interest you, either.

Life is not a melodramatic movie; it’s not a Lifetime TV show. It’s real and it’s raw. That doesn’t mean there aren’t sentimental moments in that life, but if you are telling an authentic story, the sentimental has to be tempered with a range of emotions. And that goes for the tragic, too. Touching on an array of human emotions is much more genuine.

So how do you do that and not fall into a big vat of overly sweet prose?

When I began writing and compiling the stories in THERE’S A HAMSTER IN THE DASHBOARD: A LIFE IN PETS, my memoir of living with animals, I was determined not to turn the book into another one of the many books about pets that so strongly tug on the heart strings that that they make you choke on you own feelings. I have nothing against those books. There are some beautifully done ones by wonderful storytellers. But I didn’t want that. I wanted this collection of personal essays about pets to be real, honest, and maybe even a little irreverent. Why? Because that is how life is—with or without pets. Maybe it’s my background as a journalist, always trying to get to the truth, whatever that is. Or maybe I just hoped THERE’S A HAMSTER IN THE DASHBOARD would be different than the other books.

And how did I think I could do that?

I kept digging deep. I worked very hard to look beyond the story of each particular pet and see how it truly fit into a life and my relationships with humans—my father, mother, my sister, my wife, my two sons. This took time and lots of long walks and late nights considering what these pets meant to me far beyond the owner-pet bond. I searched along the edges, contemplated the subtleties, and pondered the unapparent.

No matter what your personal story is, if you plan to write about it be confident to look as deep as you can. Don’t stay on the surface. Go down a couple of layers of the skin, past the blood and the muscle, and all the way down to the bone. This is where the story is buried. There is where the sentimental narrative is moderated into one with a truer range of complex emotions, emotions that are far more honest.

This takes some doing. You have to be willing to move your story deeper. Sometimes that’s not so easy because not only are you hoping to allow the reader to look at your story through a clearer lens, you’re the one pointing the camera and allowing it to focus for a long time on something that might not be so pleasant. That’s not to say you have to turn that sweet story into something sour, certainly not. But as the old adage suggests—not everything that glitters is gold. And isn’t that the way life really is?

I’m not sure I completely succeeded it keeping all the syrupy sweet out of THERE’S A HAMSTER IN THE DASHBOARD. Frankly, some sugary stuff is part of this collection, and that’s okay. But I tried to combine it with bigger, tougher topics—the tumultuous 1960s, the ache of personal loss, even the scourge of prejudice. No story is always what it seems on the surface.

Book Summary:
A book of essays by award-winning author and journalist David W. Berner is the next best thing to storytelling around a bonfire. In There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard, Berner shares stories of “a life in pets”—from a collie that herds Berner home when the author goes “streaking” through the neighborhood as a two-year-old, to a father crying in front of his son for the only time in his life while burying the family dog on the Fourth of July. And from the ant farm that seems like a great learning experience (until the ants learn how to escape), to the hamster that sets out on its own road trip (but only gets as far as the dashboard). Along the way, Berner shows that pets not only connect us with the animal world, but also with each other and with ourselves. The result is a collection of essays that is insightful and humorous, entertaining and touching.

Buy links:
Print or Ebook: Amazon
Print copy only: Dream of Things

Paperback: 138 Pages
Genre: Memoir, Pets, Essays
Publisher: Dream of Things (April 23, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0990840719
Twitter hashtag: # HamsterDash

About the Author:  
David W. Berner is a journalist, broadcaster, teacher, and author of two award-winning books: Accidental Lessons, which earned the Royal Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature, and Any Road Will Take You There, which was a Grand Prize Finalist for the 2015 Hoffer Award for Books. Berner’s stories have been published in a number of literary magazines and journals, and his broadcast reporting and audio documentaries have aired on the CBS Radio Network and dozens of public radio stations across America. He teaches at Columbia College Chicago.

----------Blog Tour Dates

Monday, July 13 @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

Wednesday, July 15 @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
"The Best Way to Submit Your Creative Nonfiction to small publications and literary journals" is today's hot topic at Choices. Stop by today to hear from guest post author David W Berner as he shares his thoughts with Madeline Sharples and her readers. You won't want to miss this insightful article and opportunity to learn more about Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Thursday, July 16 @ Mari McCarthy’s Create Write Now
Today you're in for a special treat with a giveaway and guest post at Create Write Now. Win a copy of David W Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets" and read his guest post titled "So, Your Life is Not That Interesting...Oh, yes it is! Now Write About it!"

Friday, July 17 @ Building Bookshelves
Jodi Webb reviews David W Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets" at Building Bookshelves today! Don't miss this great blog stop!

Monday, July 20 @ Hott Books
Today is a special treat with a review and giveaway at Hott Books! Head on over to find out more about (and possibly win a copy of) David W. Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Tuesday, July 21 @ All Things Audry
David W Berner writes today's guest post at All Things Audry. Today's topic is" Mini-Memoirs: How to tell your story in fewer than 1000 words". Don't miss this fabulous blog stop and opportunity to learn more about Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Tuesday, July 21 @ I’d So Rather be Reading
"Tell True Stories, Not Sentimentalized Ones" is the hot topic today as David W Berner guest authors at I'd So Rather be Reading. Don't miss this opportunity to learn more about Berner and his latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Thursday, July 23 @ Cathy Hall
David W Berner is today's guest author at Cathy C Hall's blog and the topic is " Staying Disciplined.,.. Write, Write, Write!". Read this great post and find out more about Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Friday, July 24 @ Words by Webb
Jodi Webb interviews David W. Berner about his latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Monday, July 27 @ Bring On Lemons
Educator and avid reader, Cathy Hansen reviews "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets" by David W Berner. Don't miss this insightful review as well as a giveaway for your chance to read this great book for yourself!

Monday, August 3 @ Sioux’s Page
Sioux reviews David W Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Tuesday, August 3 @ Lisa Haselton
Join David W Berner as he writes today's guest blog post at the blog of Lisa Haselton. Today's topic is: "How the Story of Your Pet Can Tell Your Story". Learn more about this and Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Thursday, August 6 @ Selling Books
"Is Your Writing Space the Right Space" is today's topic as David W Berner writes the guest post at Cathy Stucker's Selling Books blog. Don't miss this great post and wonderful opportunity to learn more about Berner's latest book "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets"

Thursday, August 13 @ MC Simon Writes
MC Simon reviews the latest book by David W Berner "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets" and offers readers a giveaway of this fabulous collection of essays