Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Pig in a Wig

What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig
by Emma J. Virjan

5 stars
copy received for review

Oh my goodness, the giggles.

This probably just earned a spot on MeiMei's list of favorites.

With a simple text filled with rhymes, this is an awesome one for beginning readers to read themselves.  Also a great read-aloud, though.  Either way. :)

Overall, just a really cute picture book for the pre-k/k crowd.  (Not that it didn't make my older kids smile too, but there's probably not as much staying power there.  MeiMei's probably going to be requesting this one CONSTANTLY.)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Guest Post! Ten Most Memorable Moms in New Fiction

by Andrea Lochen author of Imaginary Things (review coming soon!!)

What better time of year than Mother’s Day to showcase some of the most memorable fictional mothers in some of the best new novels? From loving, supportive mothers to complex, trailblazing mothers to selfish, vindictive mothers, this list has it all!

1) The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White (Lake Union, July 2015)

Ella Fitzwilliam, the mom in THE PERFECT SON, quit a successful career in jewelry design to be full-time parent, mental health coach, and advocate for her son, Harry, who has a soup of issues that include Tourette syndrome. She has devoted 17 years of her life to his therapy, to educating teachers, to being Harry’s emotional rock and giving him the confidence he needs to be Harry. Thanks to her, Harry is comfortable in his own skin, even when people stare. After Ella has a major heart attack in the opening chapter, her love for Harry tethers her to life. But as she recovers, she discovers the hardest parenting lesson of all: to let go.

2) Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb (Plume, January 2015)

In RODIN’S LOVER, Camille’s mother, Louise Claudel, is spiteful, jealous, and disapproving of Camille’s pursuit to become a female sculptor in the 1880s. She also shows signs of mental illness. Because of this relationship, Camille struggles with all of her female relationships the rest of her life, and ultimately, to prove to her mother that she’s truly talented.

3) Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen (Astor + Blue Editions, April 2015)

In IMAGINARY THINGS, young single mother Anna Jennings has a unique power that most parents only dream of—the ability to see her four-year-old son’s imagination come to life. But when David’s imaginary friends turn dark and threatening, Anna must learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon, what his friends truly represent, and how best to protect him.

4) The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister (Sourcebooks, January 2015)

In THE MAGICIAN'S LIE, Arden's mother is remarkable both for what she does and what she doesn't do. As a young woman, she bears a child out of wedlock and runs away with her music teacher, never fearing the consequences. But later in life, her nerve fails her—just when her daughter needs her most.

5) Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer (Putnam, 2014)

In FIVE DAYS LEFT, Mara Nichols is, in some ways, a typical mother: she loves her daughter fiercely, thinks about her constantly and goes to great lengths to balance her high-stress legal career with her daughter’s needs. But there are two ways in which Mara isn't typical at all. First, she adopted her daughter from India, making good on a lifelong promise to rescue a baby from the same orphanage where Mara herself lived decades ago. And second, when Mara is diagnosed with a fatal, incurable illness that will render her unable to walk, talk or even feed herself, she has to make the kind of parenting choice none of us wants to consider—would my child be better off if I were no longer alive?

6) House Broken by Sonja Yoerg (Penguin/NAL, January 2015)

In HOUSE BROKEN, Helen Riley has a habit of leaving her grown children to cope with her vodka-fueled disasters. She has her reasons, but they’re buried deep, and stem from secrets too painful to remember and, perhaps, too terrible to forgive.

7) You Were Meant for Me by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Penguin/NAL, 2014)

In YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME, having a baby is the furthest thing from Miranda Berenzweig’s mind. She’s newly single after a bad break up, and focused on her promotion at work, her friends and getting her life back on track. Then one frigid March night she finds a newborn infant in a NYC subway and even after taking the baby to the police, can’t get the baby out of her mind. At the suggestion of the family court judge assigned to the case, Miranda begins adoption proceedings. But her plans—as well as her hopes and dreams—are derailed when the baby’s biological father surfaces, wanting to claim his child. The way she handles this unforeseen turn of events is what makes Miranda a truly memorable mother.

8) The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft (Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2015)

In THE FAR END OF HAPPY, Ronnie has hung in there as long as she can during her husband's decline into depression, spending issues, and alcoholism and he will not accept her attempts to get him professional help. She is not a leaver, but can't bear for her sons to witness the further deterioration of the marriage. She determines to divorce—and on the day he has promised to move out, he instead arms himself, holes up inside a building on the property, and stands off against police. When late in the day the police ask Ronnie if she’ll appeal to him one last time over the bullhorn, she must decide: with the stakes so high, will she try one last time to save her husband’s life? Or will her need to protect her sons and her own growing sense of self win out?

9) Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (Washington Square Press, 2014)

In YOUR PERFECT LIFE, long-time friends, Rachel and Casey wake up the morning after their twenty year high school reunion to discover they’ve switched bodies. Casey is single with no children before becoming an instant mom to Rachel’s two teenagers and baby. Despite her lack of experience as a parent, and her often comedic missteps with the baby in particular (think: diaper blow outs and sudden sleep deprivation) Casey’s fresh perspective on her new role helps her connect with each of the children in a very different way than Rachel. And when the oldest, Audrey, is almost date raped at her prom, it is Casey’s strength that she draws from an experience in her own past that ultimately pulls Audrey through. Although it is hard for Rachel to watch her best friend take care of Audrey when she so desperately wants to, she realizes that Casey can help her daughter in a way she can’t. And Casey discovers she might have what it takes to be a mom to her own children someday.

10) The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman (Bantam, 2013)

Elizabeth Bohlinger, the mother in THE LIFE LIST, is actually deceased. But she still has a big presence in her daughter's life—some may say too big! With heartfelt letters, Elizabeth guides her daughter, Brett, on a journey to complete the life list of wishes Brett made when she was just a teen. Like many mothers, Elizabeth has an uncanny ability to see into her daughter's heart, exposing buried desires Brett has long forgotten.

Andrea Lochen is a University of Michigan MFA graduate. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Berkley, 2013), won a Hopwood Award for the Novel prior to its publication. She has served as fiction editor of The Madison Review and taught writing at the University of Michigan. She currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, where she was recently awarded UW Colleges Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her second novel, Imaginary Things (Astor + Blue Editions, 2015) is recently released and has garnered wonderful praise. With features on Barnes &, Huffington Post, and Brit + Co., her work is being introduced to thousands of new readers. Andrea currently lives in Madison with her husband and daughter and is at work on her third novel. For more information visit

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Picture Book Round-up Easter Edition

Hahahahahaha "Easter Edition" "round-up"  HA!

Anyway.... Nevermind.  Easter was (what feels like) 600 years ago.... (Can we not talk about April, please? Better yet, can we pretend it never happened??)

And.... I forgot what other books I was going to put in this post.

So, let's just talk Bunnies


Bunnies!!! by Kevan Atteberry
5 stars
received for review

Oh the giggles.  This one has been a HUGE INSTANT HIT around here.  It's hilarious.  Simple but utterly adorable.

I LOVE it.  The kids love it.  I even love reading it aloud, which I promise you is not the norm.

I simply MUST try to get video of LuLu "reading" this one.  So stinkin' cute.

Seriously-- do yourself a favor and get this one.  Whether you have kids or not.  Borrow somebody else's kids or something.

Heck, just read it yourself.  It's just too cute.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May the FOURTH Be with You

Chronicle Books sent us a cool activity kit for our May the 4th party this year!!  How awesome is that?
It had this great poster:

And this fun new book-- each page is like a little comic.  It was a HUGE hit.
It also had stickers, activities to copy, pins... ridiculously cool.

SO-- it needed to be an awesome party.  We put it together and celebrated with Alyson's crew (of Eat, Read, and Be Mommy).

We needed light sabers.... (these were a "hit" [pun so very intended] but they make an insane squeaky sound when they hit each other, so there was actually less fighting than anticipated, lol).

And blasters.... (which were actually pretty much a flop-- didn't work well AT ALL).

(Playing with the blasters)

Here are 6 of the 7 padawans.... LuLu kept wandering off.

(Epic light saber battling)

The activity that was the biggest hit, though, was rescuing the poor soldiers frozen in carbonite.  Each of the padawans had a tray with "carbonite" (baking soda mixed with just enough water to pack it) and a bowl of vinegar....

along with some cool Star Wars ice "cubes"....

and they were off and "saving" the poor plastic army men.  

My kids play with vinegar and baking soda on a regular basis (gotta love cheap entertainment) but this was LuLu's first time.  She'd pour a bit of vinegar and look up at me exclaiming "WOW!"  It was pretty cute.

And of course you can't have a party without food-- here's our tie fighter and ewok snack.

The kids read the book in between activities and overall we all had a blast!! (Ironically, excepting the part with the blasters... wouldn't do that bit again probably....)

HUGE thanks to Chronicle Books!!  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Long Non-Bookish Snarky Post

**Warning: long post containing possibly egregious snark**

So, my Shutterfly package went on vacation to Colorado.

I emailed customer service asking why it had left Utah and nearly coming to my house and got back a general "the estimated delivery date is between [this day and this day]-- if you have not received it at that time please contact us" which is not actually helpful.

Here's my (possibly unnecessarily snarky) response:

"Okay, no offense, but that's possibly the least helpful response possible.

Maybe I didn't make my concern clear-- my concern is not that the package is late, I was concerned that there was something incorrect in the shipping information sending the package hundreds of miles out of the way. If nothing else, it seemed like a company would like to know that something like that had occurred since it can't possibly be either efficient or cost-effective for your company to ship a package nearly to its destination and then send it on vacation in another state. I'm sure Colorado is quite nice in the spring and that my photos are having a lovely time, but it seems rather silly for them to be sent there.

If this is a random occurrence but nothing is wrong with the shipping information and my photos are merely making an entirely circuitous route to my home, then feel free to disregard my messages. I was hoping to be helpful in that either there was a problem in the shipping information and catching it earlier would be better than later or your company could save shipping costs by correcting whatever routing makes some packages randomly go elsewhere needlessly. Next time, I shall simply wait until the package is late and risk things being beyond repair."

Their response?

"We thank you for contacting Shutterfly.

Please accept our apologies for the previous response. We see that the order is expected to be delivered by April 15, 2015. If you have not received it by then, please write to us. We will be glad to assist you further.

Thank you for choosing Shutterfly. Please let us know if we can offer additional information. "

Oh gee, thanks.

Here's the thing-- I love Shutterfly.  I do.  But oh my gosh, can you be any less helpful?

Basically what they're saying is either a) your package isn't late, so we're not going to actually read your email or b) we don't know the answer to that, so here's a stock response.

Anyway, the package arrived ahead of time, safe and sound, and looking quite relaxed for its get-away. ;)

And what was in this package, you ask?  Pictures of this cute little Pixie, done by Lani Wilkinson Photography!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Round-up Passover Edition

Our friends at Kar-Ben publishing have some cool Passover titles this year.  We haven't read any of them yet, but wanted to spotlight them for those looking for fun Passover books!

After a long day of cooking and cleaning, Papa, Mama, Hannah, and Noah Sheep are all ready for Passover seder in And Then Another Sheep Turned Up. But just as they're about to sit down and begin, Grandma Sheep shows up! She's not the only unexpected guest that arrives during the seder, as Uncle Sol, Grandpa, Danny and Sharon, and finally Aunt Deb all join the celebration. Told in buoyant rhyme, this newest Passover story from Kar-Ben includes all the most important parts of a Passover seder while telling the story of the Sheep family's surprising evening!

Engineer Ari has only one day to gather all the things he needs for a seder with his friends in Engineer Ari and the Passover Rush, the fourth story in Kar-Ben's popular Engineer Ari series. Luckily, his many friends and neighbors happily share their seder plate items with him. In return, Engineer Ari promises to bring them matzah from the matzah factory in Jerusalem. He enjoys watching the workers make the matzah, but will he make it back to Jaffa in time to celebrate the seder with Jessie and Nathaniel? The "Engineer Ari" series is inspired by the historic train from Jaffa to Jerusalem rail line, built in 1892, which shortened the journey between the cities from 3 days to 3 ½ hours.

One minute, twins Scarlett and Sam are bickering about who's going to read the Four Questions at the Passover seder. The next minute, they've been swept up by Grandma Mina's time-traveling carpet and dumped in the ancient Egyptian desert! And as if being stranded 3,000 years in the past isn't bad enough, they also find their fellow Hebrews suffering in slavery.
So they team up with Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help free the slaves. The future's looking bright! But the story they know so well doesn't turn out the way they expected . . .

Hannah, in The Littlest Levine, hates being the littlest Levine. She can't ride the school bus like her sister and brother. During Sukkot, she needs help hanging her decorations in the Sukkah, and on Hanukkah she's not allowed to light candles by herself. "Be patient," her grandpa tells her, "soon you'll be proud to be the littlest Levine." Every evening in the weeks before Passover, she studies with her grandpa, and when the seder comes, it's finally Hannah's turn to shine!

Seder in the Desert invites you to join a group of families as they follow Rabbi Jamie into Moav, Utah to celebrate a most unusual Passover seder in the desert. As they hike through the sandstone and red rock desert, they learn important lessons about the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, such as the importance of helping one another. Together, the community hikes, learns, laughs, sings, debates, and enjoys the delicious Passover seder meal. The story is accompanied by photos of the celebration as well as stunning desert scenery by award-winning photographer Jeff Finkelstein.