Fall is near... and so is RIPIX!

It is time to say goodbye to summer, and while that kind of stinks, it also means the coming of Fall and all things Autumn! It is my favorite time of year for many reasons, one of those being 2 months of bookish fun with Readers Imbibing Peril, hosted by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings. This is it's 9th year running and I've participated for a few years now. It is always great fun, with lots of ways to participate. RIPIX runs from Sept 1 - Oct 31 and is all about reading (and watching!) anything that gives you chills at night. There are many ways to join - head over to RIPIX sign up post for all the specifics.

First, I will be logging more than 4 books - so I am joining in for Peril of the First.

I also will read some short stories, as this is my favorite time of year for short spooky reads, for Peril of the Short Story.

I'm also a sucker for horror movies - so of course I'm in for Peril on the Screen.

Last, but certainly not least, I am going to join in with the Estella Society again for the Peril of the Group Read. This time around we're reading The Haunting of Hill House.

I hope you will join us and if you're already participating, hope to see you around the RIPIX site, on twitter, and on IG! (For RIPIX reviews, use this link.)

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


Blackfin Sky is an incredible debut

"Secrets can be buried. But not if the truth still lives"

Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis
Running Press // September 2, 2014
ISBN 9780762454013
source: ARC from the publisher

About the book:
Just like any other morning, Skylar Rousseau is late for school, but when she is greeted by a blanket of silent stares upon entering Blackfin High, she discovers that the whole town thought she fell from the pier and drowned on her sixteenth birthday three months earlier. However, Sky remembers the last three months living her life as normal, and since she is a full, living breathing human being, she has no idea whose body is buried underneath her tombstone. Everyone seems reluctant to help except her steadfast friend and crush, Sean . . . and a secretive man who draws her to a mysterious circus in the woods.

Sky must wade through impossibilities and lies to discover the truth about what happened to her, which proves to be a bit difficult when someone is following her every move with the intent to harm her. And Sky's only hope of finding the answers she seeks may have already been turned to ashes.

My thoughts:
WOW. Let me just start by saying that this is an incredible, fabulous, thrilling, amazing debut novel. I was simply blown away by the creativity of the story and the magnitude of the plot in Blackfin Sky. Upon opening the book, I was drawn in immediately by the mystery of Silas and what story I was about to unearth.
The characters in the book are multifaceted and incredibly presented to the reader. Their depth of their stories unfold magically as the novel pushes on. Sky is a beautifully written strong female lead. She is engaging, tough, mysterious, and magical. Oh, have you noticed I keep using the word "magical"? It's because this novel is truly a masterpiece in magic. The other characters are all interesting and woven perfectly into the tale as well. As the characters develop, so does a thrilling plot line - where has Sky been and what exactly is going on in Blackfin?
Those questions are slowly revealed as the book comes into its own. Without giving anything away, all I can say is that the pace is fabulous and keeps the pages turning. To uncover the mysteries of Blackfin and of Sky's mysterious life, you just have to read it. I cannot sing the praises of this debut novel enough! You just have to read it to believe it. Magical and thrilling, this deserves 5 stars without a doubt. You will love this book, I promise!!

About the author:
Kat Ellis grew up immersed in ancient myths about dragons and giants, and spending most of her time getting into trouble while exploring the local cemetery. Blackfin Sky is her debut novel. Ellis lives in Denbighshire, North Wales.

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

Book image, synopsis, author image and information from Running Press


The book you can't beat!

Tic Tac Toe - a much loved favorite pastime... until you realize you CAN NEVER win against this book!

Tic Tac Tome: The Book That Will Beat You at Tic-Tac-Toe by Willy Yonkers
Quirk Books // June 10, 2014
paperback, 1,444pgs
ISBN: 9781594746871
source: review copy from the publisher

About the book:
Think you’re pretty smart? Turn the pages to play your moves and watch as Tic Tac Tome beats you forward, backward, and diagonally. Tic Tac Tome features more than 1,400 pages, hundreds of draws and losses, and just one way for a clever reader to win. No apps, batteries, or touch screens required—Tic Tac Tome is powered by good old-fashioned book smarts. It’s deceptively simple, endlessly addictive, and (nearly) impossible to defeat. Complete with introduction and FAQs for the unfamiliar and unsure, Tic Tac Tome is the smartest book you’ll ever cross.

My thoughts:
FRUSTRATION! That is the first word that pops into my head. The second word is fun. I really enjoyed this book, even though I never won a single game of tic tac toe. This book is the greatest coffee table book ever made. It is seriously hilarious and entertaining to play around with. I brought this to work and all my students played it as well- of course none of them were able to beat the book either, but we did have a blast trying. The book is definitely smarter than everyone who has encountered it so far. This book is a must-have for everyone who ever played tic tac toe as a kid (which is basically everyone). Also, I think this would be the best gift for that hard-to-buy-for buddy of yours. I know I would love to have this gifted to me!

About the author:
WILLY YONKERS is lead industrial designer at ThinkGeek, Inc. He lives in Arlington, VA.

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

Book image, information, synopsis, and author information from Quirk.com


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


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


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