BOOK SPOTLIGHT TOUR: Waves of Murder: A Fiona Quinn Mystery by C.S. McDonald

Book Details:

Book Title:  Waves of Murder:  A Fiona Quinn Mystery
Author:  C.S. McDonald
Category:  YA Fiction, 190 pages
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  McWriter Books
Release date:  April 11, 2017
Tour dates:  May 15 to 26, 2017
Content Rating:  G (The Fiona Quinn Mysteries are for everyone–adults love the books and they are appropriate for teens and tweens too!)

Book Description:

School’s out for the summer!

Kindergarten teacher, Fiona Quinn is looking forward to spending some quality time in her yard and with her boyfriend, Detective Nathan Landry. However, Fiona’s plans get squelched when her mother volunteers her to edit a manuscript for famous romance author, Wyla Parkes.

What’s so bad about that? The author insists Fiona must work on the manuscript at her beach cottage on Presque Isle–three hours away from her yard and Nathan. Spending six weeks in an adorable cottage on a private beach doesn’t really seem all that bad until people start turning up dead—beginning with the author! Fiona’s summer of sun and sand is instantly transformed into a murder investigation. Can Fiona and Nathan crack the case or will the murderer get away on a wave of deceit?

Join Fiona and the gang for a hot whodunit on the sandy beaches of Presque Isle, Pennsylvania!

Buy the Book: Amazon

C.S. McDonald

Meet the Author: 

For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. She was a professional dancer and choreographer. During that time she choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. Now she adds the Fiona Quinn Mysteries to that expansion. She decided to write the cozy mystery series for her young granddaughters, and has found that so many adults love them too.

Ms. McDonald resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

BOOK SPOTLIGHT TOUR:

May 15 – Library of Clean Reads – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 15 – Book Crazy Scrapbook Mama – book spotlight / giveaway
May 15 – Working Mommy Journal – book spotlight / giveaway
May 15 – Corinne Rodrigues – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 16 – Reviews in the City – book spotlight / giveaway
May 16 – Celticlady’s Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 16 – Books, Dreams, Life – book spotlight / giveaway
May 16 – Blooming with Books – book spotlight / giveaway
May 17 – Rainy Day Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
May 17 – Sleuth Cafe – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 17 – Zerina Blossom’s Books – book spotlight / giveaway
May 17 – Mystery Suspense Reviews – book spotlight / guest post
May 18 – FUONLYKNEW – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 18 – The Book Drealms – book spotlight / giveaway
May 18 – Laura’s Interests – book spotlight / giveaway
May 18 – #redhead.with.book – book spotlight / giveaway
May 19 – Babs Book Bistro – book spotlight / giveaway
May 19 – Brooke Blogs – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 19 –100 Pages a day – book spotlight / giveaway
May 19 – Puddletown Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
May 22 – Hall Ways Blog – book spotlight / giveaway
May 22 – Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
May 22 – Books for Books – book spotlight
May 22 – Bound 2 Escape – book spotlight / giveaway
May 23 – Kristin’s Novel Cafe – book spotlight / giveaway
May 23 – Katie’s Clean Book Collection – book spotlight / giveaway
May 23 – Cassidy’s Bookshelves – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 24 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 24 – Seasons of Opportunities – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 24 – Bookworm Cafe – book spotlight / giveaway
May 25 – JBronder Book Reviews – book spotlight
May 25 – Carole’s Book Corner – book spotlight /
May 25 – Deal Sharing Aunt – book spotlight / giveaway
May 26 – 3 Partners in Shopping Nana, Mommy + Sissy, Too! – spotlight / giveaway
May 26 – StoreyBook Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
May 26 – Jessica Cassidy – book spotlight

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Book review: Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club

  • Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club by Jane Evans (illustrated by Ruth Mutch)
  • Publisher:  Your Stories Matter
  • Published:  January 2017
  • Genre:  Children’s fiction (ages 7-9)
  • Pages:  184

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Vera McLuckie hates school. Mainly because she struggles with stuff the other kids find easy. Oh, and because she keeps getting into trouble for doing what she is really good at. Daydreaming.

So when Vera gets the chance to show just how extraordinary she is, will she dare take on the coolest, smartest girl in the whole of Acorn Bank Primary?

But it goes deeper. Whilst not named in the book explicitly, the three main characters exhibit dyspraxic, dyslexic and autistic (Asperger’s Syndrome) tendencies respectively. So the story can be used by parents and teachers as a catalyst for discussing what it is like to have a specific learning difficulty. In schools, teachers can use the book on a one-to-one, group or class basis to help raise awareness and improve well-being.

Book Background

Both author and illustrator are keen to raise awareness of specific learning difficulties in a way accessible to children. The illustrator is herself autistic.

Buy the book:  Amazon

Meet the author:

Jane Evans lives in Edinburgh, UK with her husband, daughter, cat and six fish. Although she has had many different jobs over the years, she keeps coming back to her first love, writing. ‘Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club’ is her first book, written with kids in mind who sometimes find things a bit tricky.

Ruth Mutch is a young artist, living in Glasgow with her rather lazy cat Phoebe. She is autistic and has a post graduate qualification in autism as well as a Primary Educational Studies degree and an HND in interactive media. She has a lot of experience of autistic children. Mutch has done various illustrations for autism awareness including an e-learning course but this is her first venture into illustrating a children’s fiction book which she is very excited about!

Connect with the author:   Goodreads   Twitter   Facebook

REVIEW:

I could soooo relate to this book.  I myself have a learning disability and remember staying after class with a teacher yelling at me because I couldn’t understand the basic concepts of letters and numbers.  I suspect I passed math in high school just so that my math teacher didn’t have to see me anymore.  Add to that the fact that I have difficulty seeing letters / objects in boxes, well – you get the picture.

In Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club we are introduced to three lovable characters who, despite their learning difficulties, become the best of friends. They help each other with their homework at Vera’s grandmother’s bookstore.

Vera is a daydreamer and a very creative one at that.  Which means that she often isn’t able to remember or complete her school work in class.  She also doesn’t like loud noises.

Max has a hard time understanding the way that other people talked and what they really meant when they said things.  He doesn’t like to be touched and notices everything!  The cool thing is, he really rocks at math!

Harry finds writing and spelling hard and she hates to read because the words just dance around on the page.  Vera and Harry help Max write about his feelings.

What I really admired about this book is that it is written in the Dyslexie font, which is a typeface for people with dyslexia.  The illustrations were drawn by Ruth Mutch, who is herself autistic.   There is also an mission in the back of the book to unlock a code word.  Is that cool or what?

A friendly and encouraging book for all those children who think they don’t fit in because they are different.

ABOUT YOUR STORIES MATTER:

About Your Stories Matter: Based in Kendal, Cumbria Paul Johnson is the founder of Your Stories Matter and the parent publishing company Explainer HQ —which provides creative video, audio, animation and print to the business and education sector. All Your Stories Matters titles are published in paperback and are available to order from online retailers including amazon.co.uk.

For more information please visit: https://www.yourstoriesmatter.org and follow on Twitter @ysm_books

Book review: The Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle

  • The Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle
  • Publisher:  Your Stories Matter
  • Genre:  children (ages 6-8 years)
  • Published: January 31, 2017
  • Author:   Beth Montgomery
  • Pages:  36 (softcover)

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Azzie doesn’t really like school. If she could spend every day drawing, painting and making stuff, things would be great. But she can’t. The teachers make her do other stuff. This nearly always means she has to read from the board, a worksheet or a text book. The trouble is, she really really struggles to read letters, words and numbers. This makes her feel stupid. But she knows she isn’t. If only she could tell someone …

This book has been written from the point of view of a child who feels misunderstood. She finds it very difficult to read, which makes school life a struggle. She feels stupid, even though she is clever and creative. She gets told off for messing around, when the truth is she can’t do what is asked of her because she has a specific learning difficulty.

This illustrated book helps parents, teachers, and other adults who support children, have a non-threatening discussion about dyslexia with children of primary school age. Children find it easier to relate to, and discuss, the character in the story rather than have all the attention focused on them.

Using the book as a catalyst for discussion, adults can use the illustrated story at home or in school with children who have dyslexia, or exhibit dyslexic tendencies. Teachers can use the book to help classmates better understand their peers who may struggle reading. Similarly, parents can use the book to help children better understand family members.

This book was written and illustrated by someone who is herself dyslexic, and is based on her own life. She wanted to do something to help children who, years later, are still facing the same lack of understanding in school.

Buy the book:  Amazon   

MEET THE AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Montgomery lives in Nottinghamshire, England. She studied a BA in Design at Leicester’s De Montfort University, going on to complete an MA in writing at Nottingham University. Montgomery pursued various careers, including teaching, working for the Prince’s Trust and designing bespoke shoes for celebrities, before finally becoming a registered nurse. She wrote the Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle to help children and adults accept the unique abilities of being dyslexic, instead of being made to feel bad and stupid.

Website  

Book Objectives

This book has been written from the point of view of a child who feels misunderstood. She finds it very difficult to read, which makes school life a struggle. She feels stupid, even though she is clever and creative. She gets told off for messing around, when the truth is she can’t do what is asked of her because she has a specific learning difficulty.

This illustrated book helps parents, teachers, and other adults who support children, have a non-threatening discussion about dyslexia with children of primary school age. Children find it easier to relate to, and discuss, the character in the story rather than have all the attention focused on them.

Using the book as a catalyst for discussion, adults can use the illustrated story at home or in school with children who have dyslexia, or exhibit dyslexic tendencies. Teachers can use the book to help classmates better understand their peers who may struggle reading. Similarly, parents can use the book to help children better understand family members.

Book Background

This book was written and illustrated by someone who is herself dyslexic, and is based on her own life. She wanted to do something to help children who, years later, are still facing the same lack of understanding in school.

As with all of its books, the publisher – Your Stories Matter – aims to help people know they are not alone with what makes them different. If a young person or adult can relate to a story, it gives them hope and encourages them to share their concerns. The publisher aims to provide free teaching resources for all of its books that can be used in schools, to help improve understanding and celebrate differences.

REVIEW:

What a delightful book!  The Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle is about a little girl who is smart, creative and who tries very hard to read.  But she can’t read.  No matter how hard she tries, she can’t remember how to pronounce a word she has already read on the same page.  She says:  “I can see the letters just fine, but I see them differently to everyone else”.

Azzie has Dyslexia.  But it’s ok.  With a little extra help she can learn to read at her own pace.

Beth Montgomery provides an informative introduction about neurodiverse children and their neurological conditions.  These children are often misunderstood, which exacerbates the stress they already feel when they cannot learn as quickly as other children.  The author explains that there are many “positives” to being “wired differently” and that we should champion and celebrate these differences with the children in our care.

I have a degree in speech therapy and work one-on-one with children four days a week.  This book has helped me to identify those children who are experiencing the same struggle and frustration as Azzie.  This book would be an excellent addition to any pre-school library or paediatrician’s office.

ABOUT YOUR STORIES MATTER:

About Your Stories Matter: Based in Kendal, Cumbria Paul Johnson is the founder of Your Stories Matter and the parent publishing company Explainer HQ —which provides creative video, audio, animation and print to the business and education sector. All Your Stories Matters titles are published in paperback and are available to order from online retailers including amazon.co.uk.

For more information please visit: https://www.yourstoriesmatter.org and follow on Twitter @ysm_books

Book review: The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

  • Title:  The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
  • Published:  March 28, 2017
  • Publisher:  William Morrow
  • Pages:  368
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction

DESCRIPTION:

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

BUY THE BOOK:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Harper Collins

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jessica Shattuck is the award-winning author of The Hazards of Good Breeding, which was a New York Times Notable Book and finalist for the PEN/Winship Award, and Perfect Life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, Wired, and The Believer, among other publications. A graduate of Harvard University, she received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and three children in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Connect with the author:   Website   Facebook   Twitter

REVIEW:

Wow, where do I even start?  This is a book that really makes you think about how the response of the German people to Hitler’s rise to power affected the lives of millions of innocent people. We see WWII through the eyes of three very different German women and how they chose or chose not to see the injustices and brutality perpetrated against fellow Germans as well as those from other countries.  Each of these women suffered terribly during the war and their experience gives us a unique perspective of what a German living at that time may have experienced.

Marianne:  the wife of a resister from a privileged background.  Firm in her conviction that Hitler should be stopped at all costs.

Benita:  a beautiful young woman, married to another resister, yet ignorant of her husband’s plot to assassinate the Fuhrer.

Ania:  a mother with two sons, liberated from a camp at the end of the second world war.

These three women barely survived the the war.  They are brought together by Marianne who promised her late husband that she would protect the widows of resisters. The chapters in this book fly back and forth to each woman’s past both before and during the war.  Slowly we are able to put together the pieces of their lives, their sorrows as well as the guilt they deal with as they try to rebuild their lives and those of their children.   This book provides us with a series of moral issues that each and every one of us must take a personal stand for now, for, if the past repeats itself, we may be as lost as those who did not resist the holocaust.

Book spotlight: Middle South by Maya Nessouli Abboushi

Book Details:

Book Title:  Middle South by Maya Nessouli Abboushi
Category:  Adult Fiction,  215 pages
Genre:  Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Lanier Press
Release date:  March 8, 2017
Tour dates:  April 17 to May 5, 2017
Content Rating:   PG-13

Book Description:

Layla has recently moved out of her parents’ home in the Atlanta suburbs and into an apartment in the city to assert her independence. Between her job as a feature writer for a small newspaper and her social life, Layla has little time to think about marriage and children, much to the dismay of her Lebanese parents.

On a hilarious journey that takes Layla from the Southeast to the Middle East and back, she finds out a little more about herself and what she is looking for in life and in love.

Buy the Book:  Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble ~ BookLogix

Add on Goodreads

Maya Nessouli Abboushi

Meet the Author:

Maya Nessouli Abboushi is a Lebanese American born and raised in the United States. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children. This is her first novel.

Connect with the author:  Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~ Instagram

​BOOK SPOTLIGHT TOUR SCHEDULE:

April 17 – Working Mommy Journal – book spotlight / giveaway
April 17 – Kristin’s Novel Cafe – book spotlight / guest post
April 17 – Library of Clean Reads – book spotlight / giveaway
April 17 – Corinne Rodrigues – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
April 18 – T’s Stuff – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 18 – Discovering/Writing Life – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 19 – 411 on Books, Authors and Publishing News – book spotlight / guest post / gw
April 19 – The World As I See It – book spotlight / giveaway
April 20 – Puddletown Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
April 20 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 21 – 100 Pages A Day – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
April 21 – Bound 2 Escape – book spotlight / giveaway
April 24 – Celticlady’s Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
April 24 – #redhead.with.book – book spotlight / giveaway
April 25 – Elsie’s Audiobook Digest – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
April 25 – The Autistic Gamer – book spotlight
April 26 – Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
April 26 – Lukten av Trykksverte – book spotlight / giveaway
April 27 – Zerina Blossom’s Books – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
April 28 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 1 – Spines in a Line – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 2 – Books for Books – book spotlight
May 3 – Savvy Verse & Wit – book spotlight / giveaway
May 4 – The All Night Library – book spotlight
May 5 – Sharing Stories – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 5 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – book spotlight / giveaway

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BOOK SPOTLIGHT TOUR: Mama says, “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees!” by Iris Marie Mack. PhD, EMBA

Book Details:

Book Title:  Mama says, ”Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees!”
Author:  Iris Marie Mack, PhD, EMBA
Category:  Middle-Grade Non-fiction,  48 pages
Genre:  Financial and Math Literacy
Publisher:  CreateSpace
Release date:  January 14, 2011
Tour dates:  April 17 – 28, 2017
Content Rating:  G

Book Description:

Globe Newswire reports that Dr. Iris Mack’s mathematics edutainment book is “turning heads across the country in a response similar to the widely promoted ‘Hooked on Phonics,’ that improved children’s reading skills.” Her unique approach to math became one of Xlibris/Random House Publisher’s top children’s picture book royalty earners.

If there is one word that sums up our recent economic woes, it is interest. There’s interest on credit card balances, student loans, car loans, home mortgages, corporate borrowings and most prominently, on state and national debt. But there is surprisingly little interest in this interest. We all pay it. But not many of us really understand how it works. Dr. Iris Mack has filled the gap – and for young consumers.

Her financial literacy book “Mama Says Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees!” is focused on teaching students that math can be fun and key to understanding money and interest. In today’s world of subprime mortgage crises, bankruptcies, massive credit card debt and predatory lending, Dr. Mack’s book is more relevant than ever. In “Mama Says Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees!” a group of smart, animated characters explain how money and interest work, as young consumers are introduced to mathematics and financial literacy.
Professor Ø, Ms. Madonna Sorenson and Dr. Mackamatix lead students Al G Bro, Frakshun, Nada, Queen% and Material Girl Ma$ through a fun-filled math class all about how money and interest work in their everyday lives.

Learn more: MathQED TV

Praise for this book:

“I think the work you do showing how math can be beautiful and practical is great, keep it up!” says Javier Tordable, Senior Software Engineer at the Google Corporation.

“Making math fun and relevant is a real public service. Old fashioned, boring textbooks aren’t the thing that will capture the imagination and engage our children in the fun and yes, joy, in math and problem solving. Iris Mack has created a group of characters and scenarios that will draw young people into the fold of knowledge.” says Karen Pritzker– Producer of The My Hero Project and Editor of The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity website.

Buy the Book:  Amazon

Iris Marie Mack

Meet the Author:

Iris Marie Mack, PhD, EMBA, earned a doctorate in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University. She was also awarded a Sloan Fellowship Executive MBA from the London Business School. Dr. Mack worked at various energy and financial institutions, acted as a faculty member at MIT, and worked at NASA and AT&T Bell Labs – where she obtained a patent for research on optical fibers.

Dr. Mack currently lectures on Energy Trading and Risk Management for the Fitch Learning Certificate in Quantitative Finance Program on Wall Street and at Tulane University. Because of Dr. Mack’s extensive knowledge of the derivatives, energy trading, and investment banking world, she has been invited to write opinion columns for the UK edition of the International Business Times.

Dr. Mack has also been named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 Working Women, and she is no novice writer. This publishing will be her third financially-focused and published book – including her energy trading book published with Wiley Finance and a financial literacy book for teens and adults. With this breadth of experience and sheer intellectual prowess, Dr. Mack is more than able to help readers reach the financial stability they deserve.

In addition, Dr. Mack founded The Global Energy Post and MathQED – a homework help site for K-12 and college students. Previously known as Phat Math, this service has even been named one of the Top 50 Social Sites for Educators and Academics, 25 Savvy Social Media Sites for Grad Students and 25 Useful Networking Sites for Grad Students. Such accolades illustrate Dr. Mack’s ability to clearly inform the masses.

Connect with the Author:  Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook 

BOOK SPOTLIGHT TOUR SCHEDULE:

April 17 – Library of Clean Reads – book spotlight / giveaway
April 17 – Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine – book spotlight
April 18 – 100 Pages A Day – book spotlight / giveaway
April 18 – Divas With A Purpose – book spotlight
April 19 – Books, Dreams, Life –  book spotlight / giveaway
April 19 – The Cheshire Cat’s Looking Glass – book spotlight / giveaway
April 20 – A Mama’s Corner of the World – book spotlight / giveaway
April 20 – One Frugal Girl – book spotlight / giveaway
April 21 – #redhead.with.book – book spotlight / giveaway
April 21 – Books for Books – book spotlight
April 24 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – book spotlight / giveaway
April 24 – The All Night Library – book spotlight
April 25 – Blooming with Books – book spotlight / giveaway
April 25 – 411 on Books, Authors and Publishing News – book spotlight / giveaway
April 26 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
April 27 – Lukten av Trykksverte – book spotlight / giveaway
April 28 – My Life. One Story at a Time. – book spotlight / giveaway

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Book review: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay!

  • Published:  March 28, 2017
  • Publisher:  Harper Collins Canada
  • Pages:  560
  • Genre:  General fiction

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  

In present-day Boston, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Russian ballet, has decided to auction her jewellery collection and donate the proceeds to the Boston Ballet Foundation. It is a mysterious gesture that has piqued the interest of two particular individuals: a rising associate director at the auction house, Drew Brooks, who seeks to unravel the provenance of the pieces; and a professor and Russian translator at the nearby university, Grigori Solodin, who believes the jewels might hold the key to his past.

The stakes are raised when an anonymous individual donates a necklace that perfectly matches the bracelet and earrings in Nina’s collection, claiming the pieces belong together. It is this donation that will bring Drew and Grigori together in unexpected ways to uncover the story behind Nina’s fabulous jewels—a bounty said to have been smuggled out of Stalinist Russia when she defected from the country in the early 1950s.

It was there, in Russia, that Nina first learned to dance, fell in love with the handsome poet Viktor Elsin, and struggled with the choice to pursue her craft or begin a family. Nina and her circle of free-thinking artist friends lived in constant fear of Stalin’s disapproval, of arrest and torture by the secret police for unpatriotic behaviour and so-called crimes against the state. Yet when their circle was broken by just such an arrest, a devastating misunderstanding parted the four friends and lovers forever.

BUY THE BOOK:   HarperCollins | Amazon

MEET THE AUTHOR:  Daphne Kalotay is the author of the award-winning novel Russian Winter, which has been published in twenty languages, and the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, and has taught at Boston University, Skidmore College, Grub Street, and Middlebury College. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Connect with the author:  Website – Facebook – Goodreads

REVIEW:

Russian Winter is a Dr. Zhivago-esque blend of fiction and history.  There are several storylines blending together in this book with Nina, a young Russian ballerina as our principal player.  She is now living in Boston and has decided to auction off the jewels she received as gifts while she was living in the Soviet Union.

Grigori Solodin, an immigrant Russian professor in Boston is haunted by artifacts in a purse he received from his parents.  He is unable to determine their provenance until he learns of the auction of Nina Revskaya’s jewels.

Nina grows up in Stalinist Russia and is chosen to work for the Bolshoi Ballet. As she makes her way to becoming the principal dancer, she must choose between what comes first in her life, the Bolshoi Ballet or those she loves.

During the 1950’s in Stalinist Russia it is impossible to trust anyone, and with Nina this mistrust includes her family and friends.   Intrigue, informers and fear are the background to this story.   Despite the political environment, Nina falls in love with a handsome poet, Viktor Elsin.  As artists, however, they are not free to pursue their own passions, they belong to Stalin.

I was concerned that I a very short time frame in which to read this 500+ page book for review. The pages flew!  The author left clues throughout the book and so it was fairly easy to guess what would happen.  However, I was not prepared for the gut-wrenching revelations toward the end of the book. This is a keeper!

 

Book review: Success With Stress by Jae Ellard

Book Details:

Book Title:   Success With Stress by Jae Ellard
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction, 102 pages
Genre:  Self-help
Publisher:  Simple Intentions
Release date:  March 31, 2011
Format available for review:  Print
Will send print books:  Internationally
Tour dates: April 10 to May 5, 2017
Content Rating: G (This is an all ages book designed to create awareness and manage stress)

Book Description:

Believe it or not, stress isn’t all bad; in fact, it’s an important part of the natural world. Stress helps us survive as a species – because of that we want the ability to be stressed. That said, being able to manage stress with greater success is the difference between surviving and THRIVING. Success with Stress explores five simple ideas to spark your personal power to change the level, duration, and frequency of the stress in your life. With workplace stress being linked to quality of life, health, and workplace morale, this is a must-read for any team looking to improve morale and individuals looking to improve their quality of life.

Buy the Book:  Amazon

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About the Author:

Jae Ellard is an author and expert on behaviors that cause imbalance, disengagement and distraction. After years in senior communication roles crafting content for executives, Jae collapsed from stress-related adrenal fatigue. This life-altering experience propelled her to research human behavior, neuroscience, mindfulness, and organizational relationship systems. In 2008, Jae founded Simple Intentions and developed the Mindful Life™ Program to generate intentional conversations to disrupt patterns and create awareness, accountability and action at team and individual levels. Jae has taught the skill of awareness in more than 50 countries to thousands of employees at multinational corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia.

Jae is a columnist on workplace awareness for Mindful Magazine, as well as the author of 7 books on the topic. She contributes to the Healthy Living section on Huffington Post as well as the Simple Intentions blog. In 2013, she founded Seattle Wisdom, a community organization working to create and support conscious conversations in professional spaces in the Pacific Northwest. Jae has a master’s degree in Communication Management from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication from Metropolitan State College of Denver. She holds certificates in co-active coaching and organizational relationship systems coaching.

Connect with Jae:  Website ~ Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~ LinkedIn

REVIEW:  
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This is the second book from Jae Ellard’s series of self-help books that I have had a chance to read and review.  I enjoyed her first book “The Five Truths About Work-Life Balance”  and was interested to read another one in the series.
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She begins with defining what stress is and that most kinds of stress can be traced to issues concerning not communicating properly with others as well as not respecting our personal boundaries.  She then gives a bit of a scientific background on how the chemicals in our brain and body react to different types of stress.
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A subheading “5 Strategies for Success with Stress” gives practical advice on how to accept the elements in your life that are truly causing you stress and how to deal with them.  We also learn how eliminating multitasking can decrease our stress level.
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A small, easy-to-read book with a lot of practical suggestions.  Just a quick note, the quote on page 67:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not an old adage.  It is found in the Bible in Luke 6:31 ““Also, just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them” (NWT).  I found it paradoxical that the book uses  both the theory of evolution in the beginning of the book as well as a Biblical quote as a basis for her advice.
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Book review: Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis

About Dishing Up the Dirt

Hardcover:  304 pages
Publisher:  Harper Wave (March 14, 2017)

Andrea Bemis, the creator of the popular farm-to-table blog Dishing Up the Dirt builds on her success with this beautiful, simple, seasonally driven cookbook, featuring more than 100 inventive and delicious whole-foods recipes and dozens of color photographs.

For Andrea Bemis, who owns and runs a six-acre organic farm with her husband outside of Portland, Oregon, dinners are inspired by what is grown in the soil and picked by hand. In Dishing Up the Dirt, Andrea offers 100 authentic farm-to-table recipes, arranged by season, including:

Spring: Honey Roasted Strawberry Muffins, Lamb Lettuce Wraps with Mint Yogurt Sauce, Spring Harvest Pizza with Mint & Pea Pesto, Kohlrabi and Chickpea Salad

Summer: Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Biscuits, Roasted Ratatouille Toast, Kohlrabi Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce, Farmers Market Burgers with Mustard Greens Pesto

Fall: Farm Girl Veggie Bowls, Butternut Molasses Muffins, Early Autumn Moroccan Stew, Collard Green Slaw with Bacon Gremolata

Winter: Rutabaga Home Fries with Smokey Cashew Sauce, Hoisin Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Country Girl Old Fashioned Cocktails, Tumbleweed Farm Winter Panzanella

Andrea’s recipes focus on using whole, locally-sourced foods incorporating the philosophy of eating as close to the land as possible. While many recipes are naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian, many others include elemental ingredients like bread, cheese, eggs, meat, and sweeteners, which are incorporated in new and inventive ways.

In short essays throughout the book, Andrea also presents an honest glimpse of life on Tumbleweed Farm – the real life of a farmer, not the shabby-chic fantasy often portrayed – offering fascinating and frequently entertaining details about where the food on our dinner tables comes from. With stunning food photography as well as intimate portraits of farm life, Dishing Up the Dirt allows anyone to be a seasonal foodie and an armchair farmer.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Andrea Bemis

Andrea is the writer, recipe developer, and photographer behind the food blog DishingUp TheDirt.com. Her recipes and Tumbleweed Farm have been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Well and Good NYC, and Eating Well Magazine. She lives on her farm in Oregon with her husband and dog.

Connect with Andrea on Instagram and Facebook.

REVIEW:

I’ve just finished reading through Andrea’s cookbook and can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading a cookbook this much.

It was really interesting to read about what led Andrea and her husband, Taylor to where they are now as organic farmers on their six-acre farm in rural Oregon.  Andrea had never farmed or gardened (and she admits that hadn’t been much of a cook either) but the first two years of their married life together consisted of working on a sixty-acre organic vegetable farm in Massachusetts.  She began experimenting with new vegetables she had never seen before.  She grew to love her work in the kitchen.  She began sharing her recipes on a blog which “suddenly, had begun to attract a readership that extended beyond my parents”.

I carefully read through all the recipes in the book, eager to find something that I hadn’t seen before.  I began bookmarking the recipes that I am dying to try.  Here is a (preliminary ) list that caught my attention: (watch that drooling now…)

  • Honey Roasted Strawberry Muffins
  • Chicken & chickpea pesto summer salad
  • Brussel sprouts with toasted hazelnuts, lemon & parmesan
  • Honey & Cardamom whipped sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash kale salad with maple-bourbon dressing
  • Sweet potato tart with hazelnut oat crust

Many of the recipes are gluten-free or sweetened by honey.  I didn’t realize that you could grill scallions and romaine lettuce.  Some of the unusual flavour combinations are intriguing.

I really enjoyed the  photographs of “their life on their farm” as well as the different dishes featured in this book.  Their informative website contains background information as well as recipes for many different vegetables.  As a former farm girl, I will live vicariously through this book.

Book review: Xenogeneic: First Contact by Lance Erlick

Book Details:

Book Title:   Xenogeneic: First Contact by Lance Erlick
Category:  Adult Fiction,   300 pages
Genre:  Sci-fi Thriller
Publisher:   Finlee Augare Books
Release date:  March 2017
Format available for review:  print and ebook (mobi, ePub)
Will send print books for review to:  USA
Tour dates:  March 13 to April 7, 2017
Content Rating: PG + M (This book is rated PG+M because of mature subject. No explicit sex.)

Book Description:

Xenogeneic is a science fiction thriller about first contact with an alien race that lost their civil war and wants to take over Earth.

Dr. Elena Pyetrov’s father vanished in space 18 years ago while searching for extraterrestrial life. As an aerospace engineer, Elena travels into space to search for answers and continue his work. Her ship is pulled off course and crashes. She suspects extraterrestrial interference.

The alien Knoonk lost their civil war in a distant star system and fled to Earth’s neighborhood to hide and regroup. They seek a new home—Earth. Unable to live in Earth’s toxic environment, the aliens kidnap and use humans to genetically modify their species to adapt.

Surviving the crash, Elena and her shipmates are transported to a closed cave system where the Knoonk monitor and control everything. Elena tries to make a connection with her hosts and find ways to work together, but Knoonk leaders rebuff her and force the humans to submit as slaves. The aliens use illusions, distractions, and social experiments to learn from their hostages and keep them off balance. Resistance by captive humans brings swift punishment to break the human spirit.

While Elena continues to look for ways to cooperate with the Knoonk, it becomes apparent that there can be no compromise. The Knoonk want to capture Earth for their species. It is winner take all. With time running out, Elena must dig deep to uncover the alien plan and find a way to stop them before the human race faces enslavement and extinction.

Buy the Book:  Amazon  ~  Add to Goodreads

Lance Erlick

Meet the Author:

Lance Erlick writes science fiction thrillers for young adult and adult readers. He is the author of The Rebel Within, The Rebel Trap, and Rebels Divided, three books in the Rebel series. In those stories, he explores the consequences of Annabelle Scott following her conscience. He authored the Regina Shen series–Resilience, Vigilance, Defiance, and Endurance. This series takes place after abrupt climate change leads to the Great Collapse and a new society under the World Federation. His latest novel is Xenogeneic: First Contact about encounters with an alien race aiming to take over Earth.

Connect with the Author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest  

REVIEW:
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I  have to admit that I’m a sci-fi fan and do enjoy a good space opera.  The plot from Xenogeneic begins on earth with Elena Pyetrov planning a manned space flight to space.  While en route her craft is hijacked and her crew and passengers taken hostage on an unknown planet.  This is where Space 1999 meets Planet of the Apes.
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The plot had my head spinning.  I really struggled to keep track of the different characters.  There was constant head-banging repetition and that really made the book drag.  The language was YA or lower (although labelled adult fiction) and I was aghast when there were mature scenes interspersed throughout the book because I always felt that the book was written for a younger audience.
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To be honest, although this book drove me crazy, there is enough in the plot to keep you reading to the end.  The author has a lot of imagination and if you are a B movie enthusiast, you will enjoy this story.
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