The Oleander Sisters by Elaine Hussey

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Click on cover for synopsis.

My Review:

The book reminds me of The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg, all mixed together. Except, the main dish is Amen pie, which sounds pretty scrumptious.  The story centers around Sis, caretaker to her grandma, nephew, and sister.  Her sister has her own demons to contend with, all while raising her son, preparing for a wedding, and dealing with flashbacks to being a pregnant teen mom.  Jim, her brother, is back from Vietnam with his own PTSD and wooden leg to contend with.  Lastly, there is Beulah, caretaker and confident to Sweet Mama (Sis’s grandma).  With a wedding to prepare for, overseeing a restaurant that is the beacon of hope for a small town community, and preparing for Camille, a grade 5 hurricane, this book has all the great ingredients to a great book! Add in a dead body in the backyard, and you also have a little mystery to deal with.

The book kept my attention, had a lot of events going on, and the characters were quite interesting.  The book kept at smooth pace, and even though there was a lot happening in the story, the author does a great job of introducing different characters and connecting them in a way that keeps the storyline moving along without becoming stagnant.  I did feel the story was a bit rushed at the end, but it still ended in a great way!  While the story ends, there is much to be left to the imagination!  Nothing is truly solved, but the story ends with a great measure of hope!  Hope for new beginnings, for love, and for a family to stay together despite circumstances that can easily tear them apart.

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

Dewey’s Read-a-thon: Midway Survery

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 Final Moments:

Ugh! I failed miserably.  I started reading one book, about 100 pages in, and stopped.  I just couldn’t get into it because I live too close to the place that book is based on.  I also lived nearby the Brios site, when it was under investigation and friends were moving out of the neighborhood.  I do want to finish it, but I just kept stopping too much to think about the areas.  The book is, Friendswood by Rene Steinke.   I am hopeful it will be all that I want it to be, I just felt too much pressure to hurry up and read!

So, how much did I read?

Not counting the menu, 130 pages.  I started another book, Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline.  I read Orphan Train and loved it. So, I’m really excited to read this book for TLC Book Tours!

Why did I not read as much?

Twitter! I found myself on it way too much, cheering on my friends, checking on what other’s were doing, filling out survey’s hoping to win ( I didn’t), and spending the day with my daughter! We started it out going to a tea room for lunch, followed by us going to the ballet for Sleeping Beauty.  It was a blast!!  My daughter was dressed as Princess Aurora, alongside her friend.  We purchased our daughters a little princess bag, my daughter brought her dolls (Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora).  We had front row seats and loved it all! Even though we weren’t allowed to take pics, you know I just had to take my phone out and take a quick pic. I did not use the flash…so that’s okay!

What I learned?

I’m a better cheerleader than reader, because I cave under pressure! Social media is not my friend during a readathon!  If I do decide to read next year, I need easier and lighter reads.  Probably not the best decision to pick heavy books and books that are 300 pages!

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Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?

I was reading Friendswood by Rene Steinke, however have moved on to Bleeding Heart by Lisa Gyllenhaal.
2. How many books have you read so far?  Only 1/2 of a book.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?  I want to complete a book! Any book :D
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?  Too many interruptions today.  But, good ones!! Today, I took my daughter to a tearoom, and ate lunch with her and a couple of friends.  Then, we all went to see the ballet of Sleeping Beauty, which was amazing!!
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?  I am most surprised at how much we all need our cheerleaders!! It gets overwhelming and lonely, so it’s nice to log on to Twitter and feel the love :D

Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Houston, Texas
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Friendswood by Rene Steinke

Bleeding Heart by Liza Gyllenhaal

This is the Water by Yannick Murphy

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

Us by David Nicholls

Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan

Housewitch by Katie Schickel
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

yogurt raisins
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I’m a momma of 3, married for 21 years, and love to read!
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? Not schedule at outside activities, so that I can hunker down and read.

If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Tweeting and cheering other reads, as well as finishing some books on my bookshelf!

 

To follow more updates, visits me on Twitter: @booksintheburbs.

Feel free to post in the comments any suggestions you have to finishing a book that is loosely based about a city you are familiar with!  Also, what are some books that you would suggest as easy reads!

Book Review: Addie B. Strong-I Am So Strong by Alyson Flippo and Kathleen Murphy Willer

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Click here to read synopsis.

 

My Review:

As you already know, I am very selective about the Children’s books I review.  I only review about 10 a year, so I am particular about the ones I accept for review.

The Title:

I was drawn to this book because of the title.  Doesn’t it just have a great ring to it?  Addie B. Strong: I Am So Strong, is the name of this clever and beautiful book.  It’s a little girl who is strong, but how is she strong?  Readers find out how she is strong, and how they also can be strong, as they become inspired by Addie and her journey.

The Cover: 

I absolutely love the cover of this book!  A children’s book can’t just have a great message, it also needs to hold the reader’s attention with great illustrations.  However, the cover needs to be eye catching, that a reader will naturally gravitate towards it.  This cover does just that.  It’s clever, with it’s catchy title, the colors are vibrant, and Addie is absolutely adorable.

The Illustrations/Storyline:

I read this book to my 5 year old daughter, who is the best judge for this book.  She loved the large pages and colorful design.  Addie is a little girl that can be identified as any ethnicity.  She looks like a little girl that readers will identify with, because Addie has a special look that makes her adaptable to any culture.  This is a big issue when choosing books for young readers, because a parent/caretaker wants to find a book that their child can identify with.  After all, the book’s title implies that the reader is also strong.

Addie has a simple about her, that readers can draw and make their own.  Her little dress changes with each page turn, and goes with the storyline of that page(s).  My daughter loved looking at the dresses and guessing what each page was about.  She thought it was so cute how Addie has thin arms, yet is quite powerful in each page.  She loved that Addie’s size didn’t determine her strength and her ability to move mountains and have fun adventures.  I loved that each page wasn’t cluttered, told a story, rhymed, and was colorful.

Addie is a carefree little girl, who wants to have what her friends have.  However, with some sound advice from her mom, Addie discovers she has gifts that money can’t buy.  The book ends with Addie having a new beginning, which lets readers know that Addie will have more adventures to share with them in the future.

Overall, this is a great book to buy as a gift for young children, ages3-6.  Although, it can be read to younger children, older children may enjoy reading this book to themselves, too.

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*This book was provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest opinion.

Check out these book giveaways!

 

 

 

 

 

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon Giveaway!

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This is my first time to participate in the 24 Hour Read-a-thon, this Saturday! I am very excited and have already selected my read: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman.  It’s a book that I’m reviewing for Book-alicious Mama, and I haven’t been able to read it until now.  I love the cover and title, and the synopsis is equally as great! I have read great reviews for it and look forward to reading it this Saturday.

I’m also very excited to offer my first International Giveaway!!  If you don’t live in the US or Canada, then you will want to participate in this giveaway!

 

My gift is:Click on the picture for synopsis.

This book will be part of the hourly giveaways, so you won’t want to miss it! For a list of the giveaways, click here.

I hope you will stop by and post comments here to encourage me on my reading.  I won’t be able to read for the full 24 hours, as I already committed to spending the day with my daughter and her friend.  My daughter and I will be taking some pictures that morning, in a pumpkin patch.  Then, we are going to a quaint tearoom for lunch, followed by watching a ballet!! We are seeing Sleeping Beauty, and we can’t wait!!

Don’t forget, I have a giveaway this month that is for US residents! Click here for more information.

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Win an Autographed Copy of John Searles’ Book: Help for the Haunted

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Every once in awhile, I read a book that is so powerful and electrifying, that I have to tell everyone about it.  Last year, it was Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker. I could not get enough of Robert’s book, that I scoured the internet for days to search for anything related to the case.  I still follow the case pretty closely, and stay updated on FB pages of the victim’s family.  It’s a powerful book, and Robert does a fantastic job of putting together a storyline with fragments of information he has.  He also did an extensive amount of research, interviewing people related to the case, and is a book that I always recommend to readers.

This year, the book that has been most impactful and had a profound effect on me, is John Searles’ book: Help for the Haunted.  I wrote a review about the book, back in July, for TLC Book Tours.  You can read my review here.  Since then, John Searles and I have tweeted back and forth, and emailed one another.  He is a really great guy, behind a fantastic book, and wanted to share some love with all of you!! He gave me 2 autographed books for you all, one of which I plan to give this month! I’m holding on to the other autographed book for a big hop I will join, along with other bloggers, at the end of the year.  So, be on the look out for that one, as you can sign up for a whole lot of giveaways at my blog and others, too.

So, why do I love this book so much? I get asked that a lot!  I even recommended this book to my oldest son, who is studying Creative Writing at his university.  So, yes, I get asked…”why this one?”.  I rarely recommend a book to son because of our different tastes in genres.  However, what I love most about this book is it’s ability to transcend over many genres.  While it’s listed as Contemporary Fiction, it can easily be considered YA (the main character is a young girl), Mystery/Thriller (because there are lots of scary moments in it), Historical Fiction (lots of references to a different era), and even Christian fiction (because of the religious themes throughout the book).

I laughed during parts of this book, cried a lot, and there were times I was quite scared!  It’s a book that will definitely take you on a roller coaster!!  Some people may get offended by the book, but I hope that people will see the silver linings throughout the storyline.  I know I did.

Follow John Searles

Subscribe by Email

Goodreads

Facebook Page

Twitter

Giveaway Details:

+In the comment section below, include your name, email address, which format you are following John Searles and your username (each way you follow earns you an extra entry).

+Also, answer the following question:

                              What interests you most about Help for the Haunted?

+One random winner will be chosen.

+Due to postage costs, only US entries accepted.

+The winner will be contacted via email, and will have 24 hours to respond.

+If the winner doesn’t respond, another winner will be selected.

Giveaway ends: October 31, 2014.

In the comment section below

What the Gut!?!

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Photo courtesy by: Creations by Cindy Photography.

Just a warning:   Aside from this being quite possibly the longest post I’ve written, there is going to be a lot of TMI in this post.  During and after my experience, I’ve receive many emails, texts, phone calls, and visits about what happened.  Getting an emergency gallbladder removal is not something to be taken lightly, and I wanted to share what happened here, in hopes others can learn from my experience.  So, hold on to your seat as you read my post, “What the gut!?!”

Photo courtesy: Bay Surgical Specialists.

A week ago today, I had my gallbladder removed.  The Saturday prior, I started feeling nauseous and had a sense I was getting sick.  So, I called a local store and made an appointment to get a vitamin B12 shot.  Immediately afterwards, I felt even more nauseated and thought it was because I hadn’t really eaten that day.  After a quick pit stop at the gas station for some fruit juice ( I had been nursing a Diet Coke all day and couldn’t stand to take another sip), we were on our way to a seafood restaurant.  Ate some grilled shrimp, lobster, scallops, with wild rice pilaf and steamed broccoli.  After I ate, I felt this bloating come across my stomach and a tight knot under my sternum.  Went home, felt better, went to bed.

Sunday, I woke up in PAIN! I didn’t want to miss church, so I took an anti-nausea pill I had and got myself to church.  When I got home, I felt worse.  Nauseated and stomach cramps.  I thought it was possibly food poisoning, but I didn’t have diarrhea or vomiting.  Laid down with a heating pad, sipped on water, ate a piece of toast and a bowl of applesauce.  The pain started to get worse and I knew it wasn’t food poisoning.

Photo courtesy of Headaches.Org.

Rather than take another anti-nausea pill or Milk of Magnesia, I told my husband I was getting worse.  I could barely walk from the pain, I felt tingling all over my body and face, I was light headed, had severe cramping that felt like labor cramps, and was very nauseous.  My husband took me to the Urgent Care facility in my area, and from there it went fast.

The doctor ruled out a heart attack with an EKG, I had a cat scan, and blood drawn to see what was going on.  After ruling everything out, I was sent home with meds for pain and nausea and told it was a case of “Acute Gastritis”.  I was home for maybe 30 minutes before I told my husband I was not getting better with the meds I was given and was starting to get worse.  I truly felt like I was in labor. I had a permanent pain across my stomach, then every 3-4 minutes the cramping series would start under my sternum and radiate to the bottom of my stomach.  It was horrible and I immediately starting meditating and doing breathing exercises-like I did 18 and 16 years ago…when I was in labor!!  I was also belching a lot.

Finally was called to the ER room, saw the doctor, who said I looked very sick!  He said he didn’t even need to decide if I should be released or not…I was staying.  He was determined to get to the bottom of it!  He thought it was my colon or gallbladder and ordered an ultrasound, drew some blood and called in some IV pain and nausea meds.  While the nurse was going to get the IV meds, I started to throw up…profusely!! It was more than I had ever thrown up before and looked like at least a gallon of fluids.  Seriously.  Immediately afterwards, my husband was eager to find out if I was okay and asked if I felt better.  I didn’t.  I felt worse.  The doctor knew something was wrong, even when the tests were coming back normal. He said there is no way that the amount of vomit I had was from 1 or even 2 days ago.  It was a week’s worth! Wow.

I was admitted and the next day saw a total of 4 more doctors/surgeons, countless nurses, PCA’s (primary care assistants), and the “blood lady”, who drew my blood a lot!!  I was in great hands, as we knew the gastroenterologist doctor (Dr. Harry Ojeas), who gathered an excellent team of doctors to oversee my care.  The bloodwork came back all normal, my ultrasound was clear, my catscan showed nothing, yet the pain and nausea was still there. I couldn’t eat anything, not even the liquid diet they had me on.  For 3 days, I was unable to eat anything or drink water.    I couldn’t eat ice chips without getting cramps and nausea.  I was being fed by IV for 3 days.

A Hydascan was done and an endoscopy.  I had a fatty liver and the gallbladder had ZERO function.  It had scar tissue everywhere, was inflamed, and was “diseased”.  Thankfully, the doctor was able to remove it.  I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia (I’m allergic and have horrible side effects as the medicine wears off), and was in pain!! In a different kind of pain, but still pain.  My nurse told me the best way to relieve the pain was to walk it off.  I only heard pain relief equals walking, before I was in the hallways for 3 days! I was determined to walk that pain off!! I was so groggy, couldn’t keep my eyes open, and hurt so bad, but I walked! Thankfully, my husband is strong and held me up, along with my IV cart.

As I look back on everything, I realize that I had been living with an inactive gallbladder for some time.  While I didn’t have gallbladder stones, I did have a diseased gallbladder that needed to get out.  Each doctor, a total of 5 independent  doctors at the hospital all said that I was on too many prescription medications and natural supplements.  One said I had the prescriptions of a sick, elderly 80 year old woman. I’m 41 years old.  Five of the 6 doctors, seen at urgent care and the ER, said to me at different times: either change your PCP or you need to talk to the doctor to streamline your meds.  You are overmedicated!!

Is my PCP to blame? No.  Did he know something was going on with my gallbladder? No.  Every 4 months, I get bloodwork to determine how my body is adjusting to the meds and if the doses need to be adjusted.  It’s when I realized most of my symptoms were a direct result to my gallbladder of symptoms, even though the dots weren’t being connected to my gallbladder, yet.

  • Symptom:  Nausea every morning upon waking up.
  • Treatment:  Coke, later Diet Coke, to help calm my stomach down.  The carbonation helped decrease the nausea and no other carbonated drink helped.  If it got too bad, prescription medicine for anti-nausea
  • Length of Time:  At least 4 years.

 

  • Symptom:   Acid reflux
  • Treatment:  OTC protonics
  • Length of Time:  3 years.

 

  • Symptom:  Shoulder and neck pain
  • Treatment:  Steroid shot every 6 months, anti-inflammatory prescription medicine, physical therapy, ibuprofen if pain increased, prescription pain medication if pain was unbearable.  Biofreeze was my perfume-I used it all the time!
  • Length of Time:  At least 2 years.
  • Symptom:  High triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Treatment:  2 prescriptions medicines, 6 salmon fish oils a day
  • Length of Time:  At least 4 years.
  • Symptom: Pre-diabetes
  • Treatment:  Diabetes medicine
  • Length of Time:  1 year
  • Symptom:  Migraines
  • Treatment:  Prescription medicine as needed
  • Length of Time:  4 years, minimum
  • Symptom:  Lower back pain
  • Treatment:  Slept on a heating pad, almost every day, ibuprofen as needed, prescription medication on days it was really bad.
  • Length of Time:  1 year
  • Symptom:  Insomnia & waking up at 1:30 am & 3:30 am (if not already awake).
  • Treatment:  Prescription medication ( 2 kinds)
  • Length of Time:  2 years
  • Symptom:  Depression and anxiety
  • Treatment:  Told it was due to hormones fluctuating and had Peri-Menopausal Dysphoric Disorder
  • Length of Time:  2 years
  • Symptom:  Vision blurry and fuzzy, if looked up too fast-eyes would also take time to adjust.
  • Treatment:  Glasses
  • Length of Time: 2 months
  • Symptom:  Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Treatment:  Natural meds, later prescribed meds, to OTC ibuprofen as needed.
  • Length of Time:  16 years
  • Symptom:  Nauseous from scents and certain foods
  • Treatment:  I just wouldn’t eat those foods or be in a room, where its being made.
  • Length of Time:  2 years
  • Symptom:  Hypothyroidism
  • Treatment:  Prescription medicine
  • Length of Time:  2 years
  • Symptom:   Recurring UTI’s, inflamed bladder 
  • Treatment:  Antibiotics
  • Length of Time:  10 months

Overall, can you see how I started to feel like my body was rejecting me? I had gained weight, which I attributed to hypothyroidism, my insomnia and pain to the shoulder (right one) never getting better post-surgery, and my nausea-attributed it to all the meds I was on.  I don’t typically take so many medicines, but I was tired of trying to do things naturally and wanted a productive life without ailments stopping me from experiencing life.  I had shoulder surgery, on my right side, almost 3 years ago.  It was related to a car accident, where we were rear ended. So, I think that is what threw my doctor off. Pain on your right side shoulder, neck, back, and even migraines can be due to a malfunctioning gallbladder. However, my shoulder injury and surgery disguised what was really going on.

Does anyone know when my gallbladder started to fail me? No.  Can anyone tell me if all of the symptoms are related? There is speculation, but not definitive confirmation.

What I can confirm is that immediately after my surgery, the pain in my neck and shoulder went away.  My fuzzy eye vision, in spite of wearing glasses, stopped! I now have clear vision.

The whole time I was in the hospital, I didn’t take my “pre-diabetes” medicine and my blood was checked every 4 hours.  The highest number was 136, which was right after surgery.  My sugar stayed between 70 and 90 in the morning and was 107-117 after eating.  So, I never needed an insulin shot or diabetes medication while there.

I also realized that I experienced my anxiety when my pain was at it’s all time high.  So,  my pain is directly connected to my anxiety.  Because I was experiencing high levels of pain, I lived anxious.  Mind you, I had a midwife deliver both of my sons: my oldest was 8.6 pounds and my youngest was 9.14 pounds.  So, I have a very HIGH tolearnance to pain, which is why this got so bad! When I didn’t feel the strong pain, I wasn’t anxious.

Photo courtesy from Care Resource. Org.

Since I’ve been home, I have only taken my thyroid medicine, antibiotics prescribed by my surgeon and urologist, and 2 probiotics.  I’m also going to visit another doctor, an internist, who my surgeon recommended.  He gave me the names of 3, due to my persistence.

Photo courtesy by Emory Johns Creek.

I have 4 incision sites, like the picture above (left side).  I’m expected to make a full recovery.  I can eat food that is not high in acid, I’ve stopped drinking Diet Coke and only drink water or my veggie/fruit shakes, and am limiting my carb intake (breads at a minimum).  I’m not a “sweets”person, but I am a pickle girl.  I love Dill Dixie pickles!! I ate a small one last night, and paid for it dearly.  My stomach hurt and cramped all night.

I’m still sleeping on my recliner, can’t do heavy lifting, and won’t be able to truly resume normal activities for another month.  Each day I am getting stronger, and in less pain.  I still get tired quickly from too much walking and I get out of breath easily, but the doctor says with time I will be fine.

I plan to post a couple of more posts about my family and life after gallbladder removal surgery, as well as my hospital experience.  I am thankful that I have self-insured health insurance that is covering 90% of my hospital stay and 100% of my doctor visits.   I am blessed to have a wonderful husband and children, who all came together and helped, while Mom was away for 6 days and 5 nights.  Most importantly, I am thankful and blessed to serve a Mighty God!

God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

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Liebster Award!

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I was nominated for the Liebster Award from Ivory Owl Reviews!  Thanks so much, Rhiannon!!

I am super excited because this blog started 4 years ago, with just a desire to talk about books and give a few away.  It means a lot that I have you reading my little blog, and that you have joined me on this blog journey!  This December will be 4 years that I have been book blogging! Can you believe it?

What is the Liebster Award?

An award given to book bloggers by book bloggers.

The Rules 

  • Link and thank the person who nominated your blog
  • Answer the eleven questions they asked you
  • Pick eleven bloggers with less than two hundred followers to nominate
  • Ask them eleven questions
  • Let them know that you’ve nominated them by commenting on one of their posts

Here are the questions I have been asked to answer:

  1. What is your favorite book of 2014 so far?  This is a tough one, because I’ve read so many great books from different genres, that I love! However, the one that stands out the most to me is:  Help for the Haunted by John Searles.  This book had me crying, angry, sad, and hopeful.  It’s also a book that can easily be considered for multiple genres, too!
  2. Do you re-read any books on a regular basis?  I don’t re-read books regularly, but I do have books that I do re-read!
  3. How long have you been book blogging?  It will be 4 years this December!
  4. What is your favorite book blogging link-up?  I love to link up to Bloglovin’.  I have found so many great blogs using Bloglovin’ and it’s fairly easy to link up to it.  I also link up to Goodreads and LibraryThing, so that I can share my reviews and keep track of the books I’ve read.
  5. How many books do you usually read each year?  I typically read under 100.  However, I have been reading a lot this year and may pass 100.
  6. Do you save all your books or do you do regular purges?  I am book hoarder. I love books.  However, having a blog has helped me to “purge” by providing book giveaways.  I have also donated books to local shelters, which helps the community and helps me to clear out my bookshelves.  Of course, book hops are always great, too!  The books I do keep are the ones that have inspired me, impacted me in a profound way, and/or I have developed a great relationship with the author. The ones kept are typically autographed, too. Now, the bad part- I don’t purge any e-books.  So, I have an extensive library on both Nook and Kindle.
  7. What book really sparked your love of reading?  I have been reading since I was a little girl.  Because I grew up in the barrio, where books were scarce, I devoured any book I could get my hands on.  I borrowed any book I could (didn’t matter the genre), and I lived at the library. I loved books then, and do now!  So, it’s hard to know which book was my first.
  8. Do you have any authors that you have read everything they have written?  Yes! I have read everything from Jane Austen (I’ve reread her books, too!), Judy Blume, Julie Klassen, Julie Farley (love her book series), Sarah Jio, Melanie Benjamin, Suzanne Collins (her series), Stephenie Meyers (yes, even the unpublished chapters she shared), and probably more that I have left out.  Sorry!! My mind is blank right now.
  9. What is your favorite reading snack?  Frozen grapes-the purple ones!
  10. What is your least favorite book?  I don’t know which is my least favorite because I typically won’t finish a book that is not capturing my attention.  If I had to pick one-it would be anything that has a lot of grammatical errors.  Granted, I am not an English teacher and I am sure I have my fair share of errors, too.  However, if I can catch them, then that’s pretty bad.
  11. What time of day is your usual reading time?  At night.  I love reading right before bedtime! It’s how I calm my mind from the day and enter into another world with characters that I want to know more about!
I am so thankful for this great award! I can’t wait to share it with some of my fellow book bloggers!
I nominate the following bloggers:
For those who have been nominated, answer the same questions I answered :D
xx,
Lisa