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8.18.2014

A sweet read

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins's Sweetshop of Dreams is indeed just that - a sweet dreamy read!

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins's Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan
Sourcebooks // August 5, 2014 
paperback, 432 pgs
ISBN 9781402281839
source: ARC from the publisher

About the book:
Rose is about to get a taste of the sweet life.
Rosie Hopkins's life is... comfortable. She has a steady nursing job, a nice apartment, and Gerard, her loyal (if a bit boring) boyfriend. And even though she might like to pursue a more rewarding career, and Gerard doesn't seem to have any plans to propose, Rosie's not complaining. Things could be worse. Right?
Life gets a bit more interesting when Rosie's mother sends her out to the country to care for her ailing great aunt Lilian, who owns an old-fashioned sweetshop. But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen—whose family seems to own the entire town—she starts to think that settling for what's comfortable might not be so great after all.

My thoughts:
What a lovely read! Sweetshop of Dreams is a beautifully written story of a young woman finding herself. Rosie's life isn't bad, but it isn't good either. It is comfortable, and if we're being honest, boring. On the wrong side of 30, Rosie realizes that maybe this isn't quite where she pictured herself- with a busy job and a boring boyfriend who is more like a teenage boy than a man you'd want to marry. Then suddenly her mother calls her and tasks her to help out her old Great Aunt Lillian and her failing Sweetshop out in the English countryside. Rosie of course winds up going, and this family matter becomes exactly what she needs to wake up and see what life is really all about.
A typical chick lit (and I say that in the fondest of ways) Rosie's Sweetshop of Dreams is another coming of age tale. The difference here is that the setting is unique and the writing is superb. The book is also sprinkled with excerpts from Lillian Hopkins's book - each chapter begins with a snippet from the characters book, and this adds the perfect amount of flair and interest to this novel to set it apart.
Rosie and Lillian are both lovely characters. Rosie is a typically developed character, but it was Lillian that I truly loved. Her story was woven into the novel through flashbacks to her teenage years in addition to her current state - a grumpy old spinster. Lillian is rough around the edges but you see her sweetness shine through thanks to Colgan's ingenious writing style.
The other cast of players are given just enough development to keep the reader interested, as well as remember who is who. To me, this is a sign of an excellent author, especially if I can keep a cast of characters organized in a 400+ page book with lots going on.
The story is fairly typical, but like I said earlier, the setting is what sets it apart from the rest in this category. The coming of age tale is often overdone, but Colgan uses a fresh place and a whimsical (yet believable) backdrop with the Sweetshop. She did well describing the sweets and the shop - I could fully envision them in my mind.. which is saying something considering I'm not a sweet tooth kind of girl. I also surprisingly found myself craving old school sweets while reading - she brought it all to life is such a compelling manner. The details that Colgan supplies when the Sweetshop (or the sweets) show up is done masterfully. Every little bit was described, but done so in a way that wasn't monotonous. All of those details really draw the reader in, making us feel comfortable and connected to this little town, Rosie & Lillian, and the Hopkins's Sweetshop. I could easily imagine myself strolling through Lipton. This is one of the things that sets this book apart.
Aside from great character development and a beautiful (but normal!) setting, the choices that Rosie makes and the drama that unfolds are interesting and engaging. Yes there is a man, yes there is love and tears, yes there is drama - but aren't all those things what makes a good romance fun?? Sweetshop of Dreams IS indeed fun. I laughed at Rosie (and with her) while she bumbled through this new and exciting upheaval in her life. I didn't cry, but I did get a bit choked up about some of the romantic details and the trials she was facing - because lets face it, most of us have been there. Bored but comfortable - only to be shook up and turned on to a new scary adventure. It is that, my friends, which makes Rosie Hopkins's Sweet of Dreams a good chick lit - it is relate-able without being tired. I found myself hoping for the best for both Rosie and Lillian... and because of that simple and pure fact, I couldn't put this book down. It was a steady paced novel that still managed to keep me guessing- and turning the page.
I absolutely recommend this book. Jenny Colgan has many novels, so I would hope that if you've read her other material, you would run out and grab this. For those of you, like me, who have not yet read any Jenny Colgan, I encourage you to do so. It is a fresh and welcome twist to your typical chick lit that leaves the reader satisfied. I know I will be reading more of Jenny's work soon!


About the author:
A former columnist for The Guardian, Jenny Colgan contributes regularly to national BBC radio and is the bestselling author of more than eleven novels. She is married with three children and lives in London and France.



write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Image, book synopsis and information, author image and information from Sourcebooks

8.06.2014

Celebrity Cat Secrets

Want to make your cat famous? Follow these easy steps and you will soon be in meme heaven!

How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity by Patricia Carlin
Quirk Books // April 1, 2014
hardcover, 128pgs
ISBN 978-1594746796
source: ARC from publisher

About the book:
The Internet offers an unprecedented opportunity for cats to become superstar “personalities” with revenue-generating multimedia brands—but only if you know how to cash in.

With How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity, readers can unlock the secrets of grooming your kitty for success, creating a terrific viral video, managing your cat’s burgeoning stardom, and much more. Packed with practical tips and helpful diagrams, this indispensable resource shows how ordinary housecats can follow in the venerable pawprints of the Internet’s brightest stars.

My thoughts:
I'm not a cat person. I never have been. Partly because I'm allergic and partly because I've always had dogs. Even though I've not a cat person, I do thoroughly enjoy a good cat meme... I mean, seriously, who doesn't? I'm a Pinterest addict (not in recovery!) and always snicker at the cat funnies that I come across- and boy there are a TON. This awesome book is a mash-up of all that funny stuff you see on the internet with cats, along with some (maybe?) practical advice on how to get your cat celebrity status.
This book can be described in one word: hilarious. It is snarky and imaginative, with some of the silliest pictures I've seen. The topics are amusing, and the notes sprinkled throughout are witty and comical.
It is this mini satire on the whole famous cat phase we're going through and it is well worth a look see! - even to those non-cat people. So spot-on in today's pop culture, this is definitely a book worth checking out. Totally hilarious.


About the author:
PATRICIA CARLIN is the author of the hilarious Quirk backlist title How to Tell If Your Boyfriend Is the Antichrist (and If He Is, Should You Break Up with Him?). She lives in Pennsylvania.

About the photographer:
DUSTIN FENSTERMACHER is a photographer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Vice, the Village Voice, New Jersey Magazine, Washington Post Magazine, and a litany of other publications.



write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Book image, synopsis, and author/photographer information from Quirk Books

8.04.2014

Sensory + learning = Recipes for Play

The Experiment // September 2, 2014
paperback, 128pgs
ISBN: 978-1615192182
source: egalley from the publisher

About the book:
Fun and easy playtime “recipes” that use household items to engage all five senses, for children ages two and up.
Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener created Recipes for Play for parents—and anyone else with a child in their life—who want to encourage tactile learning but don’t want their kitchen, living room, or porch overtaken by chaos. Recipes range from Yogurt Paint to Bubble Blow Darts and call for non-toxic, natural “ingredients” most of us already have—think flour, rice, lentils, tape, ice cube trays, ribbons, drinking straws, and sofa cushions. (The authors even give homemade alternatives for items like food dye.) At-a-glance icons show how each activity engages children’s sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch, and every recipe comes with simple setup and cleanup instructions!

My thoughts:
I was so pleasantly surprised with this book! I was afraid it would be just another book of same ol same ol ideas and ho hum writing. Especially with Pinterest, it seems like anyone can find quality ideas without purchasing a book... however, this book had great ideas that were both inventive and unique! Thanks to my field, I've tried many of the ideas, but some were new to me.
I think the book will contain many fresh and new ideas to lots of readers, especially those not immersed in the special education field. My experience with so many of the ideas is 100% because of my job and my engagement with our Occupational Therapists over the years.
Parents will also gain a lot of insight into sensory learning which is incredibly important to child development. I loved the incorporation of sensory information and allergy sensitive information. Sensory integration ideas and activities tied to learning are so beneficial- for all learners! Anything that pushes sensory is something I am going to push on everyone I meet.
This will be a great tool for any parent or caregiver... I also think it will be fabulous to have on hand as a babysitter - I wish I had a book like this back in my babysitting days (many moons ago!). It will also be a great addition to any younger classroom or OT office! 
I definitely recommend this to any caregiver!



write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Book image and synopsis from Netgalley.com

7.17.2014

Mercy Snow review

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker
Grand Central Publishing // Jan 14, 2014
Hardcover, 336pgs
ISBN 9781455512737
source: egalley from the publisher

About the book:
In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a quiet, steady rhythm of life. But one day a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course toward destruction, irrevocably altering the lives of everyone in their wake.
June McAllister is the wife of the local mill owner and undisputed first lady in town. But the Snow family, a group of itinerant ne'er-do-wells who live on a decrepit and cursed property, have brought her--and the town--nothing but grief.
June will do anything to cover up a dark secret she discovers after the crash, one that threatens to upend her picture-perfect life, even if it means driving the Snow family out of town. But she has never gone up against a force as fierce as the young Mercy Snow. Mercy is determined to protect her rebellious brother, whom the town blames for the accident, despite his innocence. And she has a secret of her own. When an old skeleton is discovered not far from the crash, it beckons Mercy to solve a mystery buried deep within the town's past.

My thoughts:
I had a very difficult time getting into this novel. The build up was too cumbersome. It was very drawn out and took a long time to get to the action.
The characters were very interesting and well developed though, but it wasn't enough to hold the story afloat in my opinion. However, with the characters, I was quite impressed.
The writing all together was solid, but a bit wordy at times. Sometimes I just wanted to scream "spit it out" at the pages. I also felt like she added in a big vocabulary and lots of complex words (that felt unnatural coming from the characters) just to show off - they didn't have a point and they didn't feel like things some of the characters would say.
Overall, my biggest issue is that it took much too long to get to the climax. I will say that it raced from there. The ending was well done and didn't leave any loose ends which I appreciate in a novel. It was the redeeming quality that got this novel 2 stars instead of 1.
Mercy Snow was a haunting tale of good and evil, the sinner and the Saint... it is just too much work to get to those beautiful parts of the story, in my opinion.


write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Book image and synopsis from Netgalley.com

7.08.2014

Stepmom Tips to help you through

101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom by Laura Petherbridge
Bethany House
May 20, 2014
Paperback, 160pgs
ISBN 9780764212215
source: egalley from the publisher

About the book:
In this down-to-earth book, Laura Petherbridge offers real answers from someone who's walked in your shoes--and not only survived, but thrived as a stepmom. Here you'll find compact solutions arranged by topic, such as parenting, coping with the children's biological mom, finances, and dealing with the holidays.
You will learn
-how to better understand your blended family
-what to do when you feel like an outsider
-ways to navigate the drama
-keys to gaining the respect of your stepkids
These bite-sized tips are perfect for a busy stepmom, offering at-a-glance advice you can use today--and see change begin.

My thoughts:
At this point, I've read my fair share of stepmom and stepfamily related books. Even though I won't be a stepmom *officially* until June of next year, Barrett and I have been together for quite some time and have  owned our home together now for 2 years. Madeline and I have a fabulous relationship, and have since she was younger and I was first introduced into her life after her father and I were dating a few months. While we've never asked her to call or refer to me as her stepmom, she started introducing me or mentioning that I am her "stepmom" or her "kind of stepmom" during the summer of last year. I think it was partly because she views me in that role and partly because it was easier to say to her friends, rather than "my Dad's girlfriend" which can often bring looks and comments. Since our engagement last February, Madeline is now constantly referring to me as "pretty much my stepmom" or "soon to be stepmom" when talking about me, but that hasn't changed anything- I'm still Jenna and we continue to have a great relationship. She is thrilled and so am I. As thrilling as it is and as wonderful as life is as an "almost stepmom" it isn't one that doesn't come without prejudices and bumps along the way. I get comments, looks, and advice- but most of that advice is ill-informed off-the-cuff comments about stepfamily life from people who have no idea. This is why I turned to reading material on the subject, especially from child psychologists and stepfamily experts. I've also made it a point to use my background (both personal and professional) to fill my brain with stepfamily information. All I can say, is that through this journey I am learning a lot- both through experience and through literature.
Sooo, back to this book.
I must admit that it was a very quick read, but was also very informative. I felt like I got a lot of little tips and reminders while reading it. There is a lot of encouragement sprinkled throughout, which as any parent or stepparent knows, is vital to our sanity. Reading this and being able to say "hmm, I'm not alone in this thought, experience, backlash, comment, advice, etc." is powerful. As every step family is different, I was able to skim some parts that didn't pertain to my situation. There are sections about having your own children or blending more than one family together and some other tidbits that just didn't fit my stepfamily life. However, the book as a whole was still informative and allowed me to remember that I'm not alone in my journey.
I must add that I didn't gather from the description that it would be as heavily religious though. I think readers would appreciate knowing right off the bat that there is a lot of religion woven into the book. However, even with my views on religion, I can appreciate the fact that those parts will be immensely helpful to some. There were areas I grazed over and some that I did read- specially some of the Psalms. They were beautifully written and I can see how they fold right into the life of a stepfamily and would really be beneficial to some readers.
In all, I would recommend this book to those who are looking for guidance- especially those looking for a religious aspect to the guidance they seek. For those of you in the journey that are not religious or practice another religion or form of spirituality, I would say it is up to you on how you feel about reading a title that weaves a lot of Christianity into it. Only you can decide what fist for you as a reader. Like I said, I still found that it is a beneficial read.



write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow