Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

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Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves…

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins…

My Review:

I did not read the prequel: Garden Spells, and didn’t know this was the sequel to it (until I read the Acknowledgements).  However, this book can certainly be read without feeling lost.

I don’t typically read holiday books, over Christmas break.  I don’t know why, but I like to read them in the summer.  Maybe it’s so that I can feel a little Christmas in the summer, too!  This book is fantastic!  I absolutely loved the storyline and was instantly immersed into the world of the Waverley’s.

Claire has switched from being a caterer, to selling “magical” candies.  Sydney is the owner of a hair salon and tends to make quite a lot of excuses for her receptionist, Violet.  Bay is a young teenager, experiencing her first crush and dealing with the pressures of bullying and teasing.  Mariah has a friend that seems to be a huge influence on her life.

The house is magical, as is the famous apple tree.  As the Waverley’s prepare for the “First Frost”, each woman and teenager experiences separate journeys that somehow merge together.  Add in a mysterious man, who has information on the Waverley sister’s mom, and it becomes a novel that will be quite difficult to put down.

I absolutely loved this novel, loved the magical touches to it, and the way that each sister and daughter come into their own, embracing their differences and accepting each other as they are.  A brilliant story that is sure to be a favorite for Allen’s fans, and a great book for newbies who haven’t read a novel of hers.

In addition to this fantastic novel, I am simply in awe of Sarah’s own personal journey and am thankful that she is in remission.  Despite her own personal struggles, she manages to write a novel that will take readers away from their own world and into a world where trees feel, food talks, and doors lock on their own.  Need a read for this winter break? Grab this one!  It’s fantastic!

P.S. As soon as I finished this novel, I purchased the prequel and have started reading it. I can’t get enough of the Waverley’s!

excellent cupcake 5*This book was provided through the publisher and NetGalley.  No forms of compensation were given.

 

Review: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

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 Synopsis:

Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.

Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.

My Review:

I am a huge Jane Austen fan, so I was quite fascinated to read this book about Sam, who quotes Austen in daily conversations.  She grows up in a foster home, but manages to go to college with the help of a benefactor.  In exchange, she must keep a journal and write down her daily adventures.

I loved the relationship between Samantha and Kyle, who is in foster care, too.  I loved how they both understood each other and learned to develop a relationship through running.  Kyle’s journey is not unlike other foster children, where he is shuffled back and forth to various foster homes.  He also experiences some kind of abuse and retreats back inside himself.  Through the determination of Samantha, a coach, and priest, Kyle has his own happily ever after- that had me crying!  I used to work with homeless youth in a foster home, so his story truly touched me.

Samantha’s journey is unusual, but she has an innocence about her that is charming.  I liked how she learned to trust others and develops a sweet relationship with Alex.  Although, she and Alex definitely have their issues and deal with a major crisis regarding their relationship and trust, but in Austen true form-this book has many happy endings!

 

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*This book was provided through NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest opinion.  No forms of compensation was given.

 

Book Giveaways Galore!

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I love this time of year, when bloggers are hosting a lot of their end of year giveaways.  This is also my 5 year blogger anniversary, so it seemed rather fitting to have more than one giveaway this month.  While many of the giveaways end this week, you still have time to enter and win some fantastic books.  I’m hosting quite a few, so take a peek and see which ones interest you the most!

Choose from 3 Gift Packs!

Giveaway ends December 18, 2014

Giveaway ends December 22, 2014

Giveaway ends December 20, 2014

Giveaway ends December 19, 2014

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Peanuts Gift Pack Giveaway!

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THE PEANUTS GANG: BOOK ‘EM THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

IN CELEBRATION OF 50 YEARS ON TV FOR A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS

 

Hard as it is to believe, but this year marks the 50th annual airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas!

To celebrate the occasion, ABC will air the special twice: Tuesday, December 2 at 8:30PM ET/PT and Tuesday, December 16 at 8:00PM ET/PT.  Meanwhile, Peanuts Worldwide is offering a host of great holiday books guaranteed to get you in the mood for the big television anniversary.

GIFT SET #1:

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS: THE MAKING OF A TRADITION

This lushly illustrated tribute to the television classic takes readers behind-the-scenes of the Peanuts holiday special. Including the script of A Charlie Brown Christmas, more than 200 full-color pieces of original animation art, Vince Guaraldi’s original score, and a look at the making of feature from producer Lee Mendelson and original animator, the late Bill Melendez, fans of Charles M. Schulz, the Peanuts gang, and A Charlie Brown Christmas will treasure this beautiful keepsake volume for years to come.

Available at amazon.com and major book stores nationwide for $19.99.

My Review:

I grew up watching Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang.  I especially love the cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas!  So, this is a real treat for my blog to offer you so many great books to read, buy, and possibly win!  This book is the perfect gift for someone who grew up watching the Christmas movie!  With attention to detail, skits, sketches, and dialogue from the actual movie, the Peanuts fan will love this book!  It’s very well made and gives a behind the scenes look to the movie!

BE JOYFUL BOOK

This charming little book filled with Peanuts inspirational wisdom is the perfect stocking stuffer! The book highlights the simple joys of friends, life and goodwill through a collection of heart-warming quotes and illustrations from the Peanuts classic comics.  Available at amazon.com or wherever books are sold for $7.95.

My Review:

This is definitely the perfect gift for someone who loves to read little quotes from the Peanuts gang!  It’s quite colorful with simple quotes from your favorite characters, that will definitely make you smile and feel a bit nostalgic, too!

 

GIFT SET #2:

PEANUTS: A SCANIMATION BOOK BY RUFUS BUTLER SEDER

Charlie Brown and the football, Snoopy’s happy dance, Schroeder at his toy piano—cherished characters and iconic moments come to life through the magic of Scanimation.  Created by Rufus Butler Seder, an inventor, artist, and filmmaker fascinated by antique optical toys, Scanimation is a state-of-the-art six-phase animation process that combines the “persistence of vision” principle with a striped acetate overlay to give the illusion of movement. It harkens back to the old magical days of the kinetoscope, and the effect is astonishing, like a video without a screen. It is Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts—funny and wise and beloved, forever a part of our lives—like you’ve never seen before. Available for $14.95 at workman.com, amazon.com, Powell’s Books, Barnes and Noble, and independent book stores nationwide.

My Review:

This is the kind of book that any little reader will love!  The scanimation design is pre-electronics, but still is just as entertaining.  With a little storyline, each page has the scanimation that gives movement to each character and scene.  It’s a hard book that is a great size for small hands.  It’s a book that will be a great introduction in to the Peanuts gang, which will be a childhood favorite for your own little one, too!

BEST FRIENDS PLAY-A-SOUND BOOK AND CUDDLY SNOOPY

This play-a-sound book comes with its own adorable mini-Snoopy plush—essentially making it two gifts for the price of one! Aimed at the toddler on your list, the book spotlights the topic of best friends from the Peanuts point-of-view and features three buttons that highlight a different sound from the story when you press them. Available for $11.99 at Toys R Us or wherever books are sold.

My Review:

Any little child will love this book!  With coordinating buttons to cue each page, your little reader will love to hear the sounds form the Peanuts Gang!  Along with a plush, stuffed Snoopy, this will be a great treat for little ones!  The book is small enough for little hands, hard pages to prevent bending and tearing, and the sounds really encourage the reader to look for sight words and press the button to hear the sounds.  This is an excellent book that will make a great gift for any occasion!

 

 

GIFT SET #3:

GOOD GRIEF, IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!

The Peanuts gang believes in “growing up without growing old” and that’s the message behind this hilarious book filled with famous celebrity quotes paired with artwork from the classic Peanuts comic strip. Among the celebrities quoted are George Burns, Mae West, Audrey Hepburn, and of course, Charles M. Schulz himself! Perfect for anyone on your list celebrating a birthday in December and beyond. Available at Target or wherever books are sold for $9.66.

My Review:

This book is perfect for any person, as you celebrate that special birthday! I love the quotes that correspond with each Peanuts character.  Each quote makes you smile, laugh, reminisce, and will definitely make a great birthday gift for a loved one!

CLASSIC PEANUTS PAINT-BY-NUMBER KIT

For the budding artist, The Classic Peanuts Paint-by-Number Kit provides everything you need to make five paintings of iconic Peanuts moments.  From a group shot of Charlie Brown and the gang to Snoopy as Joe Cool, bring the charm and nostalgia of the classic comic to the canvas. Inside the box, you’ll find five paint-by-number canvases and stands, 10 acrylic paints, paintbrush, and a book exploring the comic’s great moments. Available for $15.25 at Barnes and Noble or wherever books are sold.

My Review:

This is the gift that is perfect for any person that loves to paint!  I was quite impressed with the quality of the paper, which has numbers corresponding with the paints.  Of course, any artist can deviate from the suggestions!  I also love the little book enclosed!  This makes a great gift for the artist in your life!  After each page is painted, the hard back pictures can easily be framed!

Overall Thoughts:

We all love Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang, especially if you are child of the 80’s/90’s.  However, this is a fantastic way to introduce your beloved cartoon characters to your own children, grandchildren, friends, students, etc.  Books in the Burbs is quite excited to introduce these fantastic gift ideas, as well as offer a few giveaways!

Giveaway Details:

US entries only.

When you fill out the form, your information doesn’t appear on my blog.  It is sent to me directly.  The 3 winners chosen will have their addresses sent directly to the publisher, who will mail the gift sets directly.

Giveaway ends December 18, 2014.

 

Book Review: Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James & Giveaway Details

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Publisher:  Berkley Trade
Publication Date: August 5, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Synopsis:

Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to the nearby estate of Bifrons–a fascinating, highly accomplished young man who is truly worthy of Jane’s affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race–and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention.

Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?

My Review:

As many of you know, my all time favorite author is Jane Austen.  I absolutely love her books, love reading about her life (albeit-it’s sad), and am drawn to anything Jane.  So, this book definitely peaked my interest.  Just when I thought I had read everything there was to know about Jane’s life, Syrie James does her research and finds Jane Austen’s first love: Edward Taylor!  This story is based during a short period of Jane’s life.  She’s 15 years old, visiting her brother Edward, and celebrating his engagement.

I love that Syrie James brings to life the charisma and charm that Jane Austen exudes in all of her writings!  While this story is based on historical fact, laced with some fiction, it is rather interesting to imagine how Jane created characters, shared her stories with others, and the interactions she has with family.  We all know that Jane never marries or has children, however, her childhood certainly shapes the views she had on relationships and helped create characters for her novels.  So, it was quite a treat to see the possibility that her summer experience helped with the storylines and characters in Emma and Pride & Prejudice.  The most special relationship, even more so than Jane’s and Edward Taylor, is between Cassandra and Jane.  The secrets they share, they talks they have, and just the concern they have for each other is quite poignant and wonderful to see how it evolves and becomes even more important for them to maintain into adulthood.

Overall, this is a fantastic storyline that Jane Austen fans will love.  It’s a book that gives a glimpse inside the world of Jane Austen, as a young teenager, who experiences first love and plays matchmaker to a group of people-only to realize that sometimes what is imagined, isn’t always realistic.  However, she never gives up on the idea of love, which we experience through her writings!

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*A huge thank you to the publisher and Syrie James for the opportunity to review the book and offer a giveaway!  No forms of compensation were given.

Photo courtesy of Syrie James website.

About the Author, Syrie James:

“The queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings.” —Los Angeles Magazine

Syrie James is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, including Jane Austen’s First Love, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Nocturne, Dracula My Love, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages, awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, a Discover New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine.

Syrie is a member of the WGA and a life member of JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America). She spent many years as a screenwriter and enjoys writing both novels and screenplays. Syrie writes practically every weekday. She says, “Many people can’t wait for the weekend to arrive. It’s the opposite for me. I truly love my jam-packed weekends, but from the time I turn off the computer on Friday evening to the moment I’m back in my chair on Monday morning, I’m anxious to get back to the characters I left in limbo, who are just waiting for me to continue their story.”

Syrie was named after a character in a radio show that her mother listened to as a girl. Today, Syrie is thrilled that her name is pronounced the same as Siri, the iPhone personal assistant–even if they spell the name incorrectly. :)

Syrie was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and moved west at age one because her father didn’t like shoveling snow. She has lived most of her life in California, if you don’t count the two years as a child when she lived in France.

Connect with the Author:

Webpage

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Click here for giveaway details!

 

 

An Interview with Author, Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

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I suppose every reader has a guilty pleasure.  For me, my guilty pleasure is reading “Chick-lit”.  I first started reading Chick-lit books with the Bridget Jones Diary series, and from there would pick up a book here and there, to read.  It’s not a genre I read all the time, so when I do, it has to be a book that really calls my attention.  There are just so many books out there, so how do you choose, right?

They synopsis was quite interesting in New Money, which I read about a year ago. I love the Cinderella themed novel, and Savannah is a character I really liked.  You can read my review here.

I am also a huge fan of sequels and trilogies!  I love a great book series because I have a chance to read more about my favorite characters and their adventures!  So, I am quite happy that Lorraine decided to write the sequel to New Money: Independently Wealthy.  She has graciously given some of her time for an interview, for you all to read!   There is also a giveaway, because you know…we all love a free book!

 

 

Synopsis:

Savannah Morgan had high hopes. She dreamed of becoming a writer and escaping her South Carolina town, where snooty debutantes have always looked down on her. But at twenty-four, she’s become a frustrated ex-cheerleader who lives with her mother and wonders if rejecting a marriage proposal was a terrible mistake. Then Savannah’s world is shaken when she learns the father she never knew is Edward Stone, a billionaire media mogul who has left Savannah his fortune on the condition that she move to Manhattan and work at his global news corporation. Putting aside her mother’s disapproval, Savannah plunges into a life of wealth and luxury that is threatened by Edward’s other children—the infuriatingly arrogant Ned and his sharp-tongued sister, Caroline, whose joint mission is to get rid of Savannah. She deals with their treachery along with her complicated love life, and she eventually has to decide between Jack, a smooth and charming real estate executive, and Alex, a handsome aspiring writer/actor. Savannah must navigate a thrilling but dangerous city while trying to figure out what kind of man her father truly was.

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1.  Independently Wealthy is the sequel to New Money. What do you hope readers will enjoy most about this sequel?

Lorraine:  I hope readers will enjoy the evolving relationships between the characters and seeing that by the end of the story, many of these characters have changed a great deal from who they were in the first book. I also hope readers will enjoy that a big part of the story takes place in a wonderful setting—NYC during the holidays.

2.  In what ways do you think Savannah grows more in this novel?

Lorraine:  In New Money, Savannah was abruptly thrown into a situation that was very fortunate, but it was also filled with treachery, conflict, and hard feelings. Being a wealthy heiress in Manhattan was completely foreign to her, so she didn’t always know how to navigate this world filled with people who want to take her down. In Independently Wealthy, some time has passed since she arrived in NYC, so she has become more comfortable with her new circumstances. But the way in which Savannah grows most is through her relationships—especially with her half-brother (Ned) and half-sister (Caroline). In New Money, Ned and Caroline were devastated that their father left his fortune solely to Savannah, and they were understandably resentful toward her. Toward the end of that story, Caroline had reasons to soften toward Savannah, and their relationship continues to grow in Independently Wealthy. Ned’s relationship with Savannah slowly changes throughout Independently Wealthy—and both of these characters change, too.

3.  Which character did you most resonate with?

Lorraine:  I think authors generally resonate most with their main characters—probably because we spend so much time with them! So I would say that I related most to Savannah. Despite her glamorous life, she really is just a regular girl!

4.  What would you like your readers to learn most from your novel?

Lorraine:  Readers interpret literature based on their individual personalities, values, and taste—so I think everyone will view the story and characters uniquely and learn something different from my book. However, a main theme in this series is that people are often quite different from how they appear on the surface—and it’s important to understand their circumstances and background before judging them.

5.  Prior to this sequel, you wrote your first novel: Other Words for Love. How different was the writing process for you this time?

Lorraine:  My writing process was the same, but the style was different. Other Words for Love is quite introspective and somewhat literary, while New Money and Independently Wealthy are more fast-paced. The time period is also different, as Other Words for Love takes place in the 1980s, and the New Money series is set during the present day—so when writing each story, I had to make sure the real-life references, characters’ values, etc., accurately reflected the time period.

6.  How challenging is it for you to write a book knowing that it will be sequel? Does that impact your writing the first novel: New Money?

Lorraine:  The challenge of writing a novel that will be followed by a sequel is being sure to wrap up all the storylines in a way that is satisfying to the reader but leaves enough room to continue the story.

7.  For aspiring writers: what is the one piece of advice you would like to share with them?

Lorraine:  Aspiring authors should always keep in mind that writing is extremely subjective. Just because an agent, an editor, or anyone else tells you that he/she doesn’t like your work doesn’t mean it isn’t good—it just means the reader didn’t make a connection. When that happens, don’t allow it to discourage you or make you doubt your abilities. Listen to people’s criticism, take from it what you think is valid, and discard the rest. Don’t allow criticism to stop you from writing or make you give up trying to become a published author. Some people might not care for your work—but there might be many others who will love it. Just keep looking for those people, and always keep writing.

8.  Paper/pen or computer: Which method do you prefer when writing?

Lorraine:  I write all of my novels on a computer—but when I’m not in my office and ideas pop into my head, I reach for the paper/pen to write them down.

9.  Day/night/afternoon: Which time of day do you feel most productive when writing?

Lorraine:  I usually write during a 9 to 5 schedule, but I do work a lot of nights and weekends. I have often felt that I am most productive very late at night. It’s easier to become absorbed in a scene when it’s quiet and there are no interruptions.

10.  How do you best prepare for writing a novel?

Lorraine:  It’s really just a lot of thinking—and listening to music helps, too. Music is very inspirational and can also evoke the emotions that I want to capture in particular scenes.

Thank you for time!

You are welcome! Thanks so much for having me here.

 

About the Author:

I was born and raised in New York City, where I went to high school in Queens at St. Francis Prep:

www.sfponline.org. I graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa: www.usf.edu with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Education. I also earned a Master’s degree in English, with a concentration in American and British Literature, from Northern Kentucky University: www.nku.edu, which is located just across the bridge from Cincinnati.

When I’m not writing, I like to read, work out, and spend time with my husband. I also enjoy keeping up my lifelong hobby of being a devoted TV & film buff.

Follow Lorraine on Twitter!

Lorraine’s Blog

Giveaway

 Giveaway Details:

Win 1 copy of Independently Wealthy

Add your email and answer this question in the comment section:

What is one interesting tidbit you enjoyed from Lorraine’s interview and/or the synopsis for her new book?

US entries only.

Giveaway ends December 20, 2015

Review & Giveaway: Addie B. Strong: Dream Big by Alyson Flippo and Kathleen Murphy Willer

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Series: Addie B. Strong (Book 2)

Hardcover: 28 pages

Publisher: B-Strong, LLC

Publication Date:  September 1, 2014

 

Synopsis:

Join Addie B. Strong in her second adventure, Addie B. Strong – Dream Big. Little Addie has a big dream, but it is much more work than she thought it would be. Meet Addie’s cousin, Collin B. Kind, whose wisdom and kindnesshelps to remind Addie of her forgotten strength. As Addie works her way through the not-so-simple task of reaching for the stars, she discovers once again the magic of the strength that lies inside of her. Follow Addie on her quest as she continues her journey and discover that you too can Dream Big.”

My Review:

Back in October, 2014, I reviewed Addie B. Strong: I Am Strong.  I have been given the opportunity to review the second book in the series, and this book didn’t disappoint!

This is the second book in the series for Addie B. Strong.  The book is large, with glossy pages, which are perfect for small hands and their attention spans.  Each page can tell a story based on the dress and scenes that Addie finds herself in.  With messages of self-empowerment, never giving up, and reaching out to others, this a book that many children will love and identify with.  Parents and educators will love the message this book offers to young children, because it teaches children to not limit themselves, rather to always reach high for the stars.  While the story is simple, the message is clear, and the illustrations are clean and crisp, it’s a book that children up to age 7/8 will enjoy.  The rhyming words help with speech and fluctuation, as well as help kids stay interested in the storyline because it’s not overloaded with too many words or cluttered with too many images.  Overall, an excellent book!

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Connect with the Authors and Addie B. Strong:

Facebook

The Author, Alyson Flippo

Twitter

Giveaway

Giveaway Details:

The publisher has graciously offered both books: Addie B. Strong: I Am Strong & Dream Big!

Only 1 winner will win both books!

Giveaway ends December 22, 2014.

Winner will have 24 hours to respond to the email.  If a reply isn’t given, another winner will be chosen.  The winner’s email and address will be sent to the publisher, who will mail the gift set.