First Book of the Year & Giveaways!

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During the month of December, I didn’t have any major tours I was reviewing for.  So, it gave me a chance to catch up on books that had been on my reader, waiting patiently to be read.  About a few days before January 1, I started reading, Firefly Lane, by Kristin Hannah.  I finished about a week after.

Make no mistake, this is a big book!  At 479 pages, the paperback can look quite intimidating.  Thankfully, I read it on my Kindle and it wasn’t as overwhelming holding a rather large book.  This is a story that is truly about friendship and how it evolves over time, distance, different career/life paths, and love.

While I have read other books from Kristin Hannah, this one tugged at my heartstrings the most.  Because Kristin and her mom both worked on this novel, while her mom was in the hospital, I couldn’t help but think of them and wonder which parts of themselves were in this book.  I am always intrigued by the people behind the actual book, so I was quite excited to read this novel…although, sad, too.

This is a story that certainly shows how people change, but that the values they are raised with, certainly impact them into adulthood.  While Tully didn’t have a father figure in her life and had a mother that was drug addicted, she has a wonderful grandmother that loves her and cares for her.  Kate has the 2 parent home, with a mom that wants her to find friends and worries for her, as Kate is the outcast at school…until Tully shows up.

I loved how Kate’s family loved Tully as their own.  Kate’s children love Tully and embrace her into their lives.  So much so, that some challenges arise between Katie and Tully because of the relationship Tully has with Marah.  As things usually do-everything comes full circle as Kate sees how much her own mother wanted a relationship with her, just as she wants with Marah.

Kate has the marriage, the children, the doting husband, and loving parents.  Tully has the world.  Tully is a first rate reporter and travels the world in search of great stories that will catapult her career to match that of Barbara Walters.  However, that lifestyle comes with a price.  Travelling, being away for long periods, and working past deadlines, leaves Tully going to an empty home.  Both want a part of each other’s world, and it isn’t until Kate is faced with a health issue, that both realize the importance of friends, family, and forgiveness.

This book reminded me a bit of the movie, “Terms of Endearment”, particularly with the relationship Kate has with her children.  Be prepared to cry, there are moments that I simply had to put the Kindle down and just grieve for each character.  Kristin Hannah works her magic in this book, as she writes a story that spans 30 years, and keeps the reader engaged throughout.

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Enter to win your copy of Firefly Lane AND Fly Away (the sequel) by Kristin Hannah!

Including your email, answer these questions:

Which book was your first read for the year? What made you choose that one?

Giveaway open to US readers only. Giveaway ends February 18, 2015.

Book Review: Big Little Lies by

 

Synopsis:

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .
A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.   But who did what?
Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).
Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

My Review:

I read Liane Moriarty’s book, The Husband’s Secret, which I absolutely loved and listed as one of my Best Books of 2013.  I purchased Big Little Lies last year, but only recently was able to read it.  That is the benefit of not having so many scheduled book tours!

It reminded me of a modern time Agatha Christie murder mystery, with the dissection of the events dispersed throughout the book, and different people interjecting what they saw and know.  I love that from the very beginning, the reader knows there is a murder, there is some bullying going on, and there are lots of secrets, however the pieces of the puzzle don’t come together until the very end!

As in Liane’s last book, she is able to seamlessly and flawlessly weave different stories, characters who at times seem to only 1 thing in common, and bring them all back together in the end.  In the beginning of the novel, most of the story revolves around bullying occurring at school.  Oh, how I can relate!  I am the mom of 3 children, one being in kindergarten (age 5), right now!  So, I can understand the dynamics, school structure, peer relationships, and school politics that a parent and child has to experience.  There are also many different kinds of moms: the single mom, the active mom, the rich mom that is very quiet and flawless, the divorced mom, the step-mom, and the list continues.  Each of them have two things in common: they love their child and their child attends the same school.

While there is a huge issue of bullying in the school and trying to figure out what is going on with that, Liane raises a huge issue: do children act out what they have learned or do they act out simply because that’s in their nature?  She also shows how intelligent children are (regardless of age), how in tune they are to what is happening around them, and how they act out what they don’t always understand but feel (rage).

While there is a murder and an investigation, Liane also shows the dynamics between step families, the importance of having good relationships with ex-spouses for the sake of their children, the importance of having a support group, the need for therapy when it’s necessary, and most of all-that not all battered women live in the ghetto and are uneducated and in a dead end relationship.

Domestic violence awareness is such an important topic for me, as I have worked with families impacted by abuse-especially the children who do hide, keep secrets, clean the blood soaked floors, and learn unhealthy ways to be in a relationship.  If there is anything I hope anyone walks away with: aside from this being a brilliantly written book, is that as culture-we need to stand up for those who don’t have a voice, have lost their voice, and/or don’t know what to do.

If you or someone you know is in a violent relationship, please contact the number below.

 

Click on this image for more information!

 

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Ultimate Supreme Cupcake Books of 2014

supreme cupcake rating 6What makes a book an Ultimate Supreme Cupcake?

These are books that are cream of the crop! They stand out from all the rest and are books that I simply couldn’t put down, remembered long after the last page was read, and are books that I could re-read.  These books have me research more about a person,  (if it’s based on some historical fact), a place, and even has me explore more books in that particular genre.

I read a little over 70 books this past year, surpassing last year’s book total.  I am quite happy with that, considering some of the personal issues I had to deal with regarding my health, which put me a little behind on my reading schedules.

Throughout the year, I post books with a cupcake rating.  It’s a creative approach to the traditional 1-5 star rating.  However, I also give ratings to books that are not only a 5 star rating, but an all time favorite read of mine.  So, from that list, I chose the books.  This makes it harder for me because I have more books with the Ultimate Supreme Cupcake Rating for 2014, but chose the ones that even stood further above the pack.  This is why it has been so hard to choose!  How do you choose??? It’s like Sophie’s Choice!  Okay, maybe not that drastic, but if you are bibliophile like me, then you understand! It’s not easy.  So, without further delay, below is the list of books I chose to be the Best Books of 2014.  ultimate supreme cupcakes of 2014

book1I fell in love with this book. I had no idea how much this book would touch me, but it did. I love John Searles’ style of writing.  It is simple, yet deals with complex issues that many of Christian faith will relate with.  Click here for my review.

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book2One word:  Creepy!  This book had me on the edge of my seat!  This is one of those books where I couldn’t read fast enough to keep up! I found myself holding my breath, as I tried figuring out what was going on! Click here for my review.

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book3The title of this book is a mouthful.  However, don’t let that fool you.  Inside this clever little book is a story that will keep you reading, wanting more, and shedding a few tears along the way!  Click here for my review.

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book4I love anything Jane Austen, especially books about her life!  The title alone grabbed my interest and when I read it, I was absolutely intrigued and couldn’t put this book down! Click here for my review.

 

 

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book5I realize everyone is raving about Randy Susan Meyers’ latest book, Accidents of Marriage, but it would be remiss not to include this fantastic book!  It has a storyline that is emotionally charged, will definitely challenge your own belief system about infidelity, and is a book that never fully leaves your mind.  Click here for my review.

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book7This is the second book that has completely given me a different and better appreciation for a character/storyline I wasn’t much interested in before.  The first was Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, now this one.  I loved this story so much that I took my daughter to her first ballet to see The Sleeping Beauty.  Yeah, it’s safe to say, I just love this book! Also, it is very different from the movie that came out this summer: Maleficient.  Click here for my review.

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book8Julie Klassen’s writing is very similar to that of Jane Austen.  I absolutely loved this book and the murder mystery storyline.  I was sad to finish the book because I just loved reading about Abigail and the secrets she uncovers.  This is by far one of the best books Julie has written! Click here for my review.

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??????????????????This was a huge surprise for me!  I have read about Pablo Picasso and his many conquests, aside from his art, but haven’t read much about Eva Gouel.  Anne Girard is a beautiful storyteller, as she writes this fantastic novel with very little information about Eva.  However, she captures a beautiful relationship between Pablo and Eva, shares the vulnerable side to Picasso and the love that transcends his work.  Click here for my review.

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book14So, this is a book that I read for review in 2013, but re-read it this year, for personal use.  This is why I posted it as a top pick because I found the book to be so valuable and loved the information about the Amish culture, along with daily prayer and inspiration.  It’s an easy read that make it a nice way to connect with God and have prayer life.  Click here for review.

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book10 In the early part of 2014, I purchased this book online.  I had it on my reader and decided to read it, during some downtime I had between book tours.  Wow.  I was so blown away by this book that I ended up buying other Zelda books, such as the fantastic book, Z is for Zelda, and other books that were about her life and her own book, too. Click here for review.

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book6Have you ever read a book that reminded you of your teen years and first crushes? This book took me back to my youth and while I didn’t have the same life as Eleanor or Park, Rainbow Rowell beautifully paints this storyline to resonate with a reader of any age.  It is so raw, has so many layers that teens and young adults will identify with, older people (like me) will reflect on, and will have you rooting for them along the way.  I cried, I laughed, and it gave me an absolute love for YA books, again.  I don’t read too many YA books, so when I read one that is magical, it’s a book that everyone needs to read! I didn’t write a review on this one, because of time, but I will post a review on Goodreads.  In the meantime, check out this book, because you will love it!

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book15I don’t review too many children’s books, but the ones I do, I have been so happy with.  This is one of the books I wanted to include in my list because it is so important to share books with other moms and dads, aunts/uncles, and friends, who are looking for a book that isn’t blasted all over the internet or bookstore.  It’s a special book amongst many great books, and one that really deserves recognition.  I love that the reading is simple, the meaning is huge, and the pictures are fun to look at.  While the illustrations are simple, it still gives little one opportunities to talk and explore what they think is happening on each page.  Click here for my review.

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More Than 1 Book From The Same Author:

It was hard to choose between books, so I had to simply just include the names of these authors.

Ultimate supreme cupcake authors 2014

  Megan Shepherd and Sarah Addison Allen.  I read Megan’s Madman’s Daughter Trilogy and Sarah’s books: Lost Lake and First Frost. I love them all.  I think anyone that likes a Sci-fi/YA book with a female heroine will love Megan Shepherd’s books.  I read Megan’s first book in 2013, and the last 2 books in 2014.  If you read one, you will need to read all 3.  The first book can be a standalone, however the other 2 are definitely books that need to be read in order and back to back.

If you want a little magic in Women’s fiction, then pick up an Allen book. You’ll love her style!  These are easy reads, but deal with issues that aren’t so light.  However, in Sarah’s fun style, she knows when to include humor, splashes of hope and whimsy, and always ends books with you feeling good.  I love her writing!

books to look out for in 2015

I hope you have already some of these books and if you haven’t, that you will consider reading them!  I am looking forward to some great 2015 books, a couple that I read in 2014, but won’t write much about until they are published.  Two of them that I loved are: Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner and A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor.

So, which books did you love in 2014? Any on this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Books to Add to Your List for 2015

The best part about book blogging is having an opportunity to preview books before they are published to the general public.  Below are some books I read this year, and know you will equally love them as much as I did!

This is book 2 of The Madman’s Daughter trilogy.  I loved the first book and while the 2nd one is more grotesque and quite violent, I still found myself on the edge of my seat reading this one.  With random and horrible murders happening everywhere, Juliet has an idea as to who is causing the killings.  Just as Juliet leaves the island and her father behind, she realizes her past is always there to haunt her.  It’s an excellent companion to the first book, although you will immediately have to purchase the 3rd book because it leaves you hanging!

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This is a fantastic wrap up to the trilogy.  It’s a bit long, but there are so many loose ends that Megan has to address so that it ends on a high note! I love the trilogy and how much Juliet grows through each novel.  She must choose her destiny: that of her mother, her father, or perhaps, even her own path that isn’t what her parents may want.  She learns about the family secrets, brings closure to the ghosts of her past and finds meaning that goes beyond that of her father.

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I absolutely loved this book.  I am always fascinated with how flowers have their own knowledge and the emotions they convey.  This is a story that will certainly be a favorite for many!

Tilly becomes an assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls.  It is while she is there that she comes across a diary and reads about Florrie and Rosie. I love the historical facts weaved throughout this story and how the stories merge from past and present, to finally the present.  It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, but as always, this book gives hope.

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 I have read almost every book written about the fabulous Coco Chanel and have watched every movie and documentary made about her life.  I am absolutely fascinated with her and truly did not know what to expect with this book.  However, I have read C.W. Gortner’s work and love his writing.  From the first chapter, I am immersed in Coco’s life!  It’s a fantastic story with tidbits in there that aren’t in too many books.  Readers will love this book and finish it, wanting more! This is by far C.W. Gortner’s best work to date and I know this will be a huge favorite for many!

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*Each of these books mentioned have very little information about them.  I intentionally chose not to write a huge write-up on them because they aren’t going to be available to the public, until 2015.  However, I needed to put these books on your radar so that you can add them to your wish lists, pre-order, and buy them the minute they hit the bookstores.  The only exception is Megan Shephard’s books, however, I stayed with the same style: simple.

Happy Reading!

Were there books under your tree?

 

photo courtesy by School Library Beyond Survival

This was the first year that my sons purchased their gifts for the family, on their own!  With absolute no guidance, suggestions or hints.  It made me the happiest mom and avid reader in the world to know that they went to the bookstore and bought books!

My husband doesn’t typically read, so we bought him a couple of audibles, however had to buy a couple of hardbacks…because one can always hope!

My sons bought me:

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz-

My son read all the Alex Rider books and was excited to see that there was a book that he knew I would enjoy reading, too!

The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson

I have this book already for book review, but I typically post those as book giveaways. So, this really excited me and showed me how well my kids know what kinds of books I love!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

My son was given the book to read a few years ago and he loved it.  A close friend of mine also mentioned how much she loved it, so I’ve been reading it and am excited to know what happens.  I also am a huge fan of trilogies, so I’m excited that I get to read more about these characters in the other books by Cashore!

I’ve been reading such fantastic book lists, lately. With the gift cards for my Nook, I’ve been quite busy downloading and reading books.  I recently read:

It’s a pretty fast read and reminded me a milder version of “The Others” with Nicole Kidman.  As I was reading it, I thought it was quite interesting to read how a family operates, the dynamics between siblings, the relationship between daughter and father, etc, through the eyes of young teens.  It also shows that teens, while they may seem oblivious, do understand more than they are given credit for.  I enjoyed reading it, especially since I used to work with brain injured patients and their recovery can be quite long. I loved the stories Cadence tells at the beginning of each chapter, it’s her rendition of how she views her aunts and grandfather.  They read like a little fairy tale, some not so happy.  Because the story is told through Cadence, it’s hard to really understand the layers of issues each sister has and what the relationship was like before their mother, Tipper, dies.  However, it is brilliantly written, quite sad and beautiful, and is an excellent read!

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Which book did you read over the holidays? Which books did you receive that you can’t wait to read? I’d love to know!!

 

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Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

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

 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.