Sunday, January 18, 2015

Huge Review Round-Up

Well I have had my head in the books for the last month 
(and then some) 
and now here is the round-up of the books
 I have read and enjoyed!!!!  
I hope you enjoy them too!!!!


How Do You Know? (Seeking Happily Ever After, #1)

What if you were approaching the end of your thirties and all of the life milestones you took for granted in your youth suddenly seemed out of reach?

On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn't look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding towards her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly-aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary "break" from her live-in boyfriend results in a "break-up," Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn't always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.

Meredith Schorr, best-selling author of light women's fiction, digs deep in her newest novel and raises the age old issue of the 'proverbial clock' that haunts many women, in a way that is refreshing and sassy no matter your age or relationship status.

My Review:
So excited this is a series.  I loved everything about this book.  I felt the characters were fleshed out amazingly, the story funny and touching, the plot engaging and original.  What a treat this book is and we get more installments!!!  I just adored Maggie...I could be her friend.  I want her to be my friend. Schorr really knows who to draw a reader in and how to keep them glued to the page.  Bravo Ms. Schorr, Bravo!!!  5 stars


Saving Grace

Grace and Ted Chapman are widely regarded as the perfect literary power couple. Ted is a successful novelist and Grace, his wife of twenty years, is beautiful, stylish, carefree, and a wonderful homemaker. But what no one sees, what is churning under the surface, is Ted’s rages. His mood swings. And the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When Ted’s longtime assistant and mainstay leaves, the house of cards begins to crumble and Grace, with dark secrets in her past, is most vulnerable. She finds herself in need of help but with no one to turn to…until the perfect new assistant shows up out of the blue.  To the rescue comes Beth, a competent young woman who can handle Ted and has the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf the Chapman household. Soon, though, it’s clear to Grace that Beth might be too good to be true. This new interloper might be the biggest threat of all, one that could cost Grace her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity.  With everything at stake and no one to confide in, Grace must find a way to save herself before it is too late.

Powerful and riveting, Jane Green's Saving Grace will have you on the edge of your seat as you follow Grace on her harrowing journey to rock bottom and back.

My Review:
This book was such a great read.  I had a really hard time putting it down.  It was so well written that there were times that I felt like I was going a bit mad.  Whose perception of events were the true and accurate?   How would it end?  How can this all be happening?  I would love to see this book made into a movie!  I was pulled in the story and, at times, would yell out loud at the characters while reading.  Man, such fun this book was and I have to say that I LOVED how it ended.  I won't give anything away, but WOW! 4.5 stars


Another Night, Another Day

Three people, each crying out for help.There’s Karen, about to lose her father; Abby, whose son has autism and needs constant care, and Michael, a family man on the verge of bankruptcy. As each sinks under the strain, they’re brought together at Moreland’s Clinic.Here, behind closed doors, they reveal their deepest secrets, confront and console one another, and share plenty of laughs. But how will they cope when a new crisis strikes? From the international bestselling author, Sarah Rayner, Another Night, Another Day is the emotional story of a group of strangers who come together to heal, creating lifelong friendships along the way.

My Review:
I love when writers tackle subjects that are worth writing about, but I really love it when they pull it off brilliantly.   Rayner captures the truths in such a compelling way.  She adds in the human side, she creates the realness and included the good the bad and the ugly side of mental illness.  You cannot help but root for the characters, become attached and hope for nothing but the best for a happy outcome for all.  What an emotional read, but so well done!  4 stars


House Broken

In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…
For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.
Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.
Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.

My Review: 
First, I am IN LOVE with this book cover.  Are you kidding me with this cuteness?!?!  But don't be fooled...what is contained inside this novel is gritty truth and human conditions mingling together to create an interesting and captivating story.  There is so much depth to the story and each character feels like they need to be there, like it all just fits so well together!!!  What a great read! 4.5 stars


Secret of a Thousand Beauties

Set against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip's enthralling novel explores one woman's defiant pursuit of independence.

Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother's belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws' protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a "bad-luck woman," Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day. 
In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting--a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete--betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman's story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own. 
My Review:
Secret of a Thousand Beauties combines an interesting story with the unique history of China in the 1930s.  With the authors unusual and sparse writing style, Mingmei Yip creates a one of a kind reading experience.  I found the whole story, style and approach to telling the story be be very original.   A reader could connect to the characters and enjoy it, but for me it fell just a bit short.  I enjoyed it, but something was missing for me, but I cannot place what it was.  3 stars


Did You Know That I Love You?

Did you know that I love you?

Could you feel it in my hugs?

From her soft kisses and soothing hugs to her tasty tea and warming mug, Bird sweetly expresses her love to Fox so he knows that no matter how big he gets or where he goes, she is always with him.

Through delightfully endearing illustrations, debut author-illustrator Christa Pierce creates a whimsical tale that will have every reader feeling loved and cherished.

Watch a video HERE

My Review:
I love this book.  I have started reading it to my boys before bed.  What is a better than going to bed with visions of unconditional love dancing in your head.  The story combined with the the beautiful illustrations with draw in any reader.  I love that you can add voices to the characters and make it loving, silly and fun.  What a great book to create a class around.  I plan to make this book into a lesson for Valentine's Day!  5 lovable stars!


Have I Told You Today How Much I Love You?

My Review:
This is a cute book, not only about love, but also about measurement.  My son enjoyed this book because he was just learning about measuring in school.  This will also be a fun book to turn into a lesson in my Art Through Stories class. 4 stars

REVIEW: #ReesesSpreads #Reeses @influenster

REVIEW: I have tried many spreads and this one is by far THE BEST ONE EVER!!!  If you love Reese's this will be a dream come true for you, as it was for me.  You can have the deliciousness of the Reese's in new and fun ways (see pictures).  I am seriously in love with this spread. You can get the craving covered by a little (or big) spoonful or in so many other ways.  This stuff is the BOMB!!! 5 yummy stars!

*on an English muffin with bananas

 *on Ritz crackers

*by the spoonful

*on bananas

 "I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Books in the Classroom with Yvonne: Review- Grandma, Aren't You Glad The World's Finally in Color Today by Lori Stewart


We all can imagine what children think when they first see the old black and white family photos hanging in the hallway, framed on the mantle, or carefully tabbed into place in the family photo album. It's certainly enough to make grandchildren say, Aren't you glad the world's finally in color today!

Grandma, Aren't You Glad The World's Finally in Color Today! is a story in rhyme that takes readers on a then and now journey through time. Narrated by a grandmother, the story compares her own mother's life and times to those of her grandchildren. Side by side vintage and full color photos contrast fashion, schools, transportation, entertainment, technology, culture and the arts from the Great Depression and World War II years to those of today.
This book creates an opportunity for readers to share their own family tree, and gives grandparents a way to start conversations about who we are and where we came from, and fulfill their role as family historian.

Yvonne's Review: 

Grandma, Aren’t You Glad…the World’s Finally in Color Today!
The uses in the classroom are endless. This is one of those books that can be used over and over at various levels.
Elementary Level:
·         * Great read aloud when studying American History. The trivia and events span over 100 years.
·        *  Photos can be used for then and now comparisons.
·        *  Reading and designing a timeline
·         * Connecting photos and timeline events to the smooth flowing text/poem
·         * Lots of new vocabulary
·       *  Rhyming words
·         * Visualizing
Middle/High School Level:
·         * Each page contains a different timeline. Many of the timelines are developed around a theme that students can try to tie together. The level of difficulty varies making it a great book to differentiate.
·         * The events used in the poem and timeline of American History are unique and will appeal to students. They are not events often used to tell how times have changed in America.
·         * The events/trivia can be used to spark creative writing about how or why the inventions occurred or how events have changed America/the world (Olympic Games, Miniture Golf, Band-Aid)
·         * Fun, informative, and high interest research ideas (1928-Pink bubble gum is invented by Walter Diemer.).
The uniqueness of this book is how eloquently it flows and tells the story of America through the eyes of a grandma living next door instead of a history book. A must have book for any history teacher at any level.   5 stars


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Highlight: The Housemaid's Daughter by Barbara Mutch


The Housemaid's Daughter

“If you loved The Help, try The Housemaid’s Daughter…The friendship at its center
will leave your heart singing.” -- Good Housekeeping UK
“A shared love of the piano brings two women together across the racial divide of apartheid South Africa in Mutch’s debut novel…her setting is a fascinating one, and she does an excellent job of showing the horrifying effects of apartheid law on individual lives…Readers who loved Kathryn Stockett’s The Help may also appreciate this historical tale of female friendship across racial lines…”
--Library Journal

“Mutch’s sprawling debut spans five decades of South Africa’s richest—and most painful—history…a vividly drawn setting and Ada’s consistent, special voice drive the story and keep the pages turning.”
--Publishers Weekly

Born and raised in South Africa, Barbara Mutch has now written a powerful debut novel set against the backdrop of the beautiful, yet divided land of apartheid South Africa during the mid-1900s. In THE HOUSEMAID’S DAUGHTER(St. Martin’s Griffin; January 6, 2014;  $15.99) , she tells the compelling story of two women--one white and one black--who rise above cruelty to find love, hope, and redemption. 

When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she is uncertain about her feelings for the man she is to marry there—her fiancĂ© Edward, whom she has not seen for five years.  Feeling isolated and estranged at Cradock House, her new home is in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert; her only real companions are her diary, her housemaid, Miriam, and later the housemaid’s daughter, Ada. 

Although she finds herself in a passionless marriage, Cathleen perseveres and gives birth to two children, her cheerful son, Philip, and her ill-tempered daughter, Rosemary.  However, over the years, it is Ada with whom Cathleen forms a unique, powerful bond.  While Cathleen’s own daughter complains that she hates to play her mother’s beloved piano, Ada thrives on Cathleen’s tutelage and becomes an accomplished pianist.  Besides sharing a love of music, Cathleen teaches Ada to read, despite the objections of Edward.  Ada often peeks into Cathleen’s diary, and learns the secrets of her heart.  Encouraged by Cathleen, Ada sees new possibilities for her own life.  But one night, while Cathleen is away on a trip, Edward takes advantage of teenaged Ada with devastating results. When Cathleen arrives home, she finds that Ada has disappeared.  No longer living in the security of Cradock House, Ada is now forced to survive amidst the harsh realities of apartheid.  She struggles to make a life for herself.  In time, she must also fight to keep her biracial baby daughter safe.  As time passes, Cathleen’s attempts to find Ada fail time and again.  She remains confused and heartbroken by Ada’s mysterious departure until one day when a piano’s music brings Cathleen to a starting discovery.

Narrated in the compelling voice of Ada, as well as Cathleen through her diary passages, THE HOUSEMAID’S DAUGHTER is a breathtaking and thought-provoking novel about the parallel lives of these two women whose poignant relationship rises above the turbulence of the period.  It is a stunning story that is certain to resonate with readers everywhere.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Book Club Girl: Belong to Me (Love Walked In #2) by Marisa de los Santos


Belong to Me (Love Walked In #2)

Everyone has secrets. Some we keep to protect ourselves, others we keep to protect those we love.

A devoted city dweller, Cornelia Brown surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to leave urban life behind and head for an idyllic suburb. Though she knows she and her beloved husband, Teo, have made the right move, she approaches her new life with trepidation and struggles to forge friendships in her new home. Cornelia's mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt. Perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed, and possessing impossible standards, Piper is the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake. Over a shared love of literature and old movies, Cornelia develops an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman who has also recently arrived in town, ostensibly to send her perceptive and brilliant son, Dev, to a school for the gifted.
Marisa de los Santos's literary talents shine in the complex interactions she creates between these three women. She deftly explores the life-altering roller coaster of emotions Piper faces as she cares for two households, her own and that of her cancer-stricken best friend, Elizabeth. Skillfully, de los Santos creates an enigmatic and beguiling character in Lake, who draws Cornelia closer even as she harbors a shocking secret. And from the first page until the exhilarating conclusion, de los Santos engages readers with Cornelia, who, while trying to adapt to her new surroundings, must remain true to herself. As their individual stories unfold, the women become entangled in a web of trust, betrayal, love, and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined, and that ultimately teaches them what it means for one human being to belong to another.

 Tiaras Book Club:  WISCONSIN

1) Piper was a complex character. She was quick to judge other people without really knowing their full story and was very hard to take in the early part of the book. But as the story goes on you get to understand Piper better and get to know why she is the way she is. Have you ever been judged too quickly by another person or did you yourself prejudged a person and later see you were very wrong about them?
2) How would you deal with a HUGE surprise from your partners past coming to light that changes the entire path for your family? Would you fight to make it work or would you not forgive and move on without them?
3) When it comes to love do you follow your heart or do what you feel is expected of you by your friends and neighbors?

Answers from the group!


1.  Piper was hard to take and I was honestly very turned off by her, but as the story went on you see that her intentions were in the right place and by the end I was rooting for her to find true happiness and not care what anyone thought!  I used to care what people thought of me when I was younger and then as I grew older I surrounded myself with people who love me for me…the rest can buzz off!!

2.   It would depend on the situation, but there is pretty clear list (that my hubby knows) that are unforgivable acts and the rest I would do what I could to make it work!

3.  Always follow the heart...if you are not truly happy then nothing is ever really worth it!

Sara D:

#1. sadly I judge all the time. Even though it hurts when it happens to me, its just instinct to do. I make assumptions or believe what others say before taking the time to find out for myself.

 #2. I hate surprises so at first I may be upset but would want to talk it through and stand by those I'm committed to.

#3. I will always follow my heart. Life is too short to not do what makes you happy. You will never please everyone around you so please yourself!

Sara L:

#1. When I read the beginning of the book I did not like Piper at all. I remember thinking, "I could never deal with a friend, neighbor etc like that". She does change throughout the book and I was able to like her character by the end of the story. I have been in many situations where I feel I was judged too quickly but as I have grown older I do not let it bother me like I did when I was younger.

#2.  I like to think that I would stand by my husband through any situation. In this particular book, the husband was just as blown away by the surpise from the past as the wife. If it was something the husband had known and "hidden" I think it would be a little bit harder to forgive and accept.

#3. Once again, as I have gotten older I tend to not care as much about what others think of me or what choices I am making as long as I am happy. There was a time in my life where I may have been more influenced by my friends or families expectations.

Anne B:

1. I am usually shy/uncomfortable when first meeting someone new. I'm quiet until I get to know that person better which sometimes makes them think that either I don't care enough to talk to them or I'm too good to talk to that person.

2. I hope I would forgive no matter what surprise comes to light but since I have never been put in that situation, I am not 100% sure on that.

3.  I definitely follow my heart! If it feels good to me, I don't listen to anyone.

1.  I am not one to judge by past or present.  I go with the flow and see what happens.

2.  I am pretty forgiving and tend to try to work things out before I go my seperate way.
3.  Always follow heat.


1)  I use to be extremely shy until I got to know someone better, which caused many people to think i was snobby. Unfortunately in today's society more often then not people are very judgmental, you need to prove your worth knowing. It made me sad to think that others were judging me before really getting to know me. After moving to a new country being shy was no longer an option if I had any hopes of having a social circle.

2)  If there's an extreme betrayal of my trust I struggle being able to put my faith back into that person, if I can't trust them then there's no foundation to build up from. That being said I believe that family is worth fighting and I would do everything in my power to try and repair and damage that was done.

3)  I am one who follows my heart, I find my mind can deceive me and if I over think things it can get complicated. So I trust my heart and see where it leads me.


1.  I definitely have been on the receiving end of a quick judgment. I am pretty sure it happened last week and I gotta tell ya it doesn’t feel that great. However, I know I have an opinion about many people I may not know really well. I am not sure if it is a good/bad thing to form a judgment about someone without all the facts.  But, I get older I have learned to trust my instincts a lot more than I used to.

2. I have to say I have been with my husband so long that I had a hard time thinking of a situation that would make me not want to fight for him. Then I thought of something and I still think I could work with anything.

3.  I think I like to think I follow my head. The reality is that I follow my heart because it is what brings the most joy.


1. I used to catch myself pre-judging quiet/reserved people and thinking that they were stuck up instead of getting to know them and realizing that they were just uncomfortable socializing because they were quite or reserved by nature. Now, I'm not a very judgmental person, but I've been through a lot in my life, and I have the motto that you should not judge a person until you know his/her story.

2. I think that my willingness to forgive would depend on what the HUGE surprise is. If it is something that my partner and I can work through together, I could probably forgive them. I would like to say that I would fight for him, but I haven't been in that situation, so it's hard to say what I would do. It's a lot easier to make an opinion based on a character or another person's experience. When it's your own situation, it's much harder to make the decision yourself.

 3. When it comes to love, I follow my heart, and I am lucky because the love of my life is very well-loved by all of my family and friends. My dad loved him too!  


1. Never prejudge or you miss out on what could be your next best friend.

2.  I will work through anything until there is no sign that is is worth fixing...then I pull myself up and move on!

3.  Head, then heart!

Mrs Mommy Booknerd's Review: 
I really enjoyed BELONG TO ME.  I felt like you were able to view some of the best and worst times through many sets of eyes..each character offering a point of view so very much their own.  I found that I misjudged some of the characters and found that as the book went on I learned to appreciate them for their imperfections and struggles.  Each character faced some amazing highs and some very deep lows, but it was because of friendship, love and choosing your own path (without influence of others) that leads these characters into new, unexpected paths...paths that put them right where they were meant to be.  4 stars

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