Short Stack Reviews

SHORT STACK REVIEWS

At the beginning of the year, I was reading so much that I simply didn’t want to stop and write about them. Before I knew it, they had accumulated and I wanted to share them with you here.  I plan to write more “Short Stack Reviews”, where you can gleam what I’ve read, add them to your TBR list (if you see any that you might like), and also to help me keep track of my reading.  Be sure and click on each book picture to read the synopsis!

This is my first DNF, this year.  I don’t typically include books I haven’t read because I certainly am in no position to rate them.  However, I am including this one.  From the first chapter, I was hooked into the storyline.  It was intense, an “edge of your seat” kind of book, that I just couldn’t continue reading.  I had so much anxiety worrying if Mark, the astronaut left behind, was going to die.  I didn’t watch Gravity, the movie with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, because I didn’t want to see him die.  I’m a wimp when it comes to movies and books.  Because I didn’t finish this book, I have no idea if Mark survives, but my heart couldn’t continue.  It is a book for sci-fi fans, those who want a narrative story (as Mark is the only one on Mars…and his potatoes), and for those who love intense books. So, what did I do with this book? I gave it to my son, who loves sci-fi, is fascinated with Mars, and loves an intense storyline.  He also saw Gravity and loved it, so there you go!

*This book was provided by the publisher and Blogging for Books, in exchange for an honest opinion.  No forms of compensation were given.

I am a HUGE Jane Austen fan.  So, when Cyndi from “A Utah Mom’s Life“, suggested this book, I downloaded it.  I loved this book and the adventures Jane (Jane in the book, not The Jane) has in Austenland.  I don’t know if there is such a place, but wouldn’t it be amazing to jump back in time and meet people that are from Pride and Prejudice? Jane has a great sense of humor and does admit the corsets get old, not being able to be alone with a male is stifling, and lack of cellphones can be a bit hard.  However, she has her own adventure, has some love challenges, and finds her happily ever after…or so I hope.  The ending did seem a bit rushed, but it was in perfect Austen form-love always prevails!

excellent cupcake 5

 

 I must admit, before reading While Beauty Slept, I just didn’t have an appreciation for Princess Aurora.  This book is another twist on  Sleeping Beauty, where Princess Aurora wakes up but doesn’t have her happily ever after.  She isn’t in love with her prince, the kingdom is in disarray, and she learns that all is not as it seems.  This novel is the first to a trilogy, which I am excited about and is a great YA book for those who love stories about fairy tales with twists.  There are definitely some cliffhangers, which I am sure the other 2 novels will address, and can’t wait to read them!  This is definitely a book that different from Elizabeth Blackwell’s book, so don’t compare them because you will be disappointed.  They are vastly different and equally good in their own right.  I enjoyed this book very much!

great cupcake rating 4 *This book was provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest opinion.  No forms of compensation were given.

 

copyright 2015

 

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Review & Giveaway: Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

Synopsis:

Tallulah de Longland,’ she said slowly, letting all the Ls in my name loll about lazily in her mouth before passing judgement. ‘That,’ she announced, ‘is a seriously glamorgeous name.’

From the day Annabelle Andrews sashays into her classroom, Tallulah ‘Lulu’ de Longland is bewitched by Annabelle, by her family, and their sprawling, crumbling house tumbling down to the river.

Their unlikely friendship intensifies through a secret language where they share confidences about their unusual mothers, first loves, and growing up in the small, coastal town of Juniper Bay. Their lives become as entwined as Annabelle’s initials engraved beneath the de Longland kitchen table.

But the euphoria of youth rarely lasts, and the implosion that destroys their friendship leaves lasting scars and a legacy of self-doubt that haunts Lulu into adulthood.

Years later, Lulu is presented with a choice: remain the perpetual good girl who misses out, or finally step out from the shadows and do something extraordinary. And possibly unforgiveable.

It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce.

My Review:

This is a book that grew on me.  As I turned each page, I became more immersed in the story of Tallulah de Longland.  When it ended, I simply wanted it to go on. The story spans a few decades, with Tallulah (Lulu) reflecting back on the past and sharing her story of the present.

It starts out with Lulu meeting Annabelle at their Catholic school, St. Rita’s.  Soon, they become the best of friends, developing their own language and creating a dictionary.  Both come from eccentric families, with Lulu’s mom struggling with a mental illness that is never defined (but includes bouts of severe depression).  While her mom, Rose, has her quirks, she loves her daughter immensely and loves to bake!  Lulu has twin brothers, who aren’t main characters in the storyline, but still show how resilient children can be, in a home where someone is mentally ill.  Both, Rose and Harry, are a couple who do what they can to provide for their children and help move them along to create their own adventures.

Lulu experiences first love with Josh, and the three of them (Annabelle, Lulu, and Josh) become inseparable.  Something happens and Lulu’s life stalls.  Annabelle and Josh move on, and it isn’t until Lulu moves in with a friend, that she meets the infamous Duncan.  Lulu develops her own voice and draws the line (so to speak), with Duncan, which sparks a life long friendship that is so endearing and heartfelt!  Duncan has his own issues, one being that he loves women with the letter “K”.  It is through Duncan’s own journey, that Lulu comes into her own and embraces who she is.

Because Lulu grew up Catholic, it made sense to see how much Lulu struggles to accept happiness and gifts from others.  However, through the course of the book, she learns to forgive herself, forgive those she loves, and embrace the adventures that her family and Duncan very much want for her life.

Frances Whiting is a debut author, who wrote this book, with the setting being in Australia.  So, there is some Australian lingo, mate.  However, it doesn’t come across confusing or difficult to follow.  This story has so many beginnings and endings, throughout the novel, that it really seems like this novel could have been a sequel of sorts.  Reading the interview at the back of the book, I was simply amazed that this book was a labor of love that took 7 years to write!!  The novel doesn’t show this at all, as it is seamless, quite relevant, and has a great rhythm to it.

While it could easily have been a “girl meets boy” tale, Frances takes the story even deeper and brings forth issues that happen in real life-which makes it quite relatable to anyone.  Frances also raises serious issues about friendships, boundaries, infidelity, health issues, starting over, and finding love.  Frances shows that everyone has flaws, have  journeys that sometimes intersect with their past, and above all, that everyone deserves a second chance.

This was a beautiful novel that I enjoyed.  I cried, laughed, and simply loved the way every character has his/her own personal challenges to overcome, yet no one is ever truly alone to experience those.  The title didn’t make a whole of sense to me, until I read the interview Frances gave.  Then, it made perfect sense.  Like a trampoline, there are dips, falls, and times you are soaring in the air!  Overall, an excellent book that I highly recommend!

P.S. I do hope Frances considers writing a sequel to this novel! There are so many adventures for Lulu and her family and friends to share with all of us!!

excellent cupcake 5

*This book was provided by the publisher and NetGalley. No forms of compensation were given.

Book Giveaway!

The publisher has graciously offered 2 copies of this book!! 

Simply fill out the form and 2 winners will be randomly selected. 

This giveaway is open to US & Canada readers.

Giveaway ends March 10, 2015.

Please Note:  This is a 2 part process! 

1) Fill in the comment form (it will not be visible to anyone but me, Books in the Burbs.

2) There is a question in the comment form.  Answer it below this post, where the general comments are listed.

****In order for your entry to be valid, both parts must be answered.  This includes your mailing address.  It takes time to receive word back from winners and I am on a deadline to submit both winner’s information to the publicist.  Thank you!   

copyright 2015

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.

excellent cupcake 5

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.

copyright 2015

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!

great cupcake rating 4

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.

great cupcake rating 4

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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.

excellent cupcake 5***************

 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!

supreme cupcake rating 6

*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!

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.

 

Peanuts Gift Pack Giveaway!

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.

 

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

 

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!

excellent cupcake 5

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.