Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins - 7/31/09

1. It's time for me to relax and enjoy the sound of the rain on the roof.

2. My chair; it's not a bad place for curling up with a good book.

3. I must be sleepy; that's what the rain does to me.

4. Chocolate is the best thing I have ever known.

5. My head is simply hurting today from the change in pressure outside.

6. The last time I laughed really loudly was when my husband told a joke the other day.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing while it rains, tomorrow my plans include helping a friend with their plumbing and Sunday, I want to work on our new porch!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Parenting Food Mistakes

Today I am pleased to bring you Dr. Joanna Dolgoff.  She was so gracious to do this post for me.  I am excited about her topic, parenting food mistakes, as I think it is very timely, especially with school starting soon. We keep hearing on the tv and radio, how our country is overweight, even our children.  I hope that you enjoy this post today.

Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. is a pediatrician and child obesity expert. She is the creator of Dr. Dolgoff's Weigh: Child and Adolescent Weight Management Program (http:/

Dr. Dolgoff enjoys running, biking, reading, and playing Scrabble competitively online. Most important, she is the proud mother of two children, Zachary, age 6, and Danielle, age 3. She and her husband live in Roslyn, New York. (You can read the rest of her bio on her website.)

It is not easy to teach your children healthy eating habits. Everywhere we turn, our efforts are sabotaged. Schools serve fattening lunches and have vending machines filled with candy. Fast food restaurants have become ubiquitous. And processed, pre-cooked meals are replacing home-cooked fare. Childhood obesity is rising at an alarming rate. Yet many parents of toddlers spend their energy trying to get their children to eat more- even if it means allowing them unhealthy foods! Even picky children must be taught a healthy diet and they can suffer if parents allow them to eat unhealthy foods. In our affluent society, very few suffer from malnutrition and no child will suffer from skipping a meal or two. As parents, we need to make a real effort to teach our children proper habits from an early age. If we overindulge our children’s desire for “junk” foods now, we cannot expect them to become healthy eaters as they get older.


1) Parents panic if children do not eat three meals a day. Many parents of toddlers consider their children “picky eaters” because they seem to eat very little, especially at mealtimes. But most toddlers do not eat three meals a day- usually they eat one “good” meal and then pick the rest of the day.

2) Parents overestimate how much their children should be eating at each meal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a good guideline is that a toddler portion size should equal to about a quarter of an adult portion size.

3) Parents give up too easily when a child resists a healthy food. Infants and children are often resistant to new foods and will grimace when first introduced to something new. Keep offering the same foods repeatedly and the child is likely to accept them. Studies indicate that it often takes 10-15 experiences with a food before some children will accept it. Children are programmed to like sugary, high fat foods but often must be TAUGHT to like healthy foods. So don’t give up too early.

4) Parents model unhealthy eating habits. It is important to be consistent and “practice what you preach”. You cannot constantly eat chips and then expect your child not to. This goes for Dad and for any siblings, regardless of their weight. The entire family needs to practice healthy eating habits. Everybody’s health will benefit from a healthy diet and nobody should be eating chips and cupcakes on a regular basis.

5) Parents often rely on "fast" foods and typical toddler meals just to get their child to eat. Parents often fall into the trap of always serving chicken nuggets, pizza, and French fries because they know their child will eat them. Do not take the easy way out. Insist that your children learn to eat healthier fare.

6) Parents keep junk food in the house. If a food is in the house, children will eat it. Clear your house of junk food and offer only healthy options. Then, let your child choose whatever they want to eat (from the available choices). There is no need to have chips and candy in the house; these foods should be special treats.

7) Parents allow children to decide what they want to eat. A child can decide when to eat but the parent decides what the child eats. Parents must not allow children to make the rules. A child will not become ill if he/she misses a meal or two. If your child refuses to eat the healthy food that you serve, you should wrap it up and wait. Sooner or later he/she will be hungry and will eat it. Make it clear that your child does not make the rules- you do! Just make sure to pick a healthy food that your child usually enjoys.

8) Parents allow children to eat in front of the TV. Children eat many more calories when they are distracted by the television. Ideally, meals should be a time for the family to relax and enjoy. Turn the TV off, clear away all the toys and books, and sit at a table (not in front of the TV). Encourage family conversation.

9) Parents are not fully aware of what their children are eating each day. There was a time when families sat down to eat a home-cooked meal every night. Nowadays, both parents often work and everybody is rushing from activity to activity. Sometimes, children are left to prepare their own meals. Very few children will make healthy choices when left to their own devices. It is crucial that somebody is monitoring what the children are eating.

10) Parents encourage their children to drink juice. As a pediatrician, I am constantly asked at what age a child should be introduced to juice. I tell parents that a child should be introduced to juice in the same way he/she is introduced to chocolate- as late as possible, in small doses, and as a treat- not a diet staple. It is a very common misconception that juice is healthy. It is not. Juice is loaded with calories and sugar. It usually has some vitamin C- but children do not lack vitamin C- they get sufficient amounts from other foods. Juice is certainly not as healthy as a piece of fruit. It is much higher in sugar and not a good source of fiber. Drinking too much juice may induce a child to develop a preference for sweet drinks. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than 6 oz of juice a day for children under 6 and 12 oz of juice a day for children age 7-18.


1) Do breastfeed! Of all the strategies for preventing childhood obesity, the only one with scientific evidence of efficacy is breastfeeding. The odds of becoming overweight are 20-30% lower in children who were breastfed. Interestingly, these effects are delayed- they are best seen in preadolescents and adolescents.

2) Don’t introduce solids until age 6 months. There is a common misconception that cereal helps a baby sleep through the night but there is no evidence of this.

3) Do let your child watch you enjoying healthy foods. Children always like to eat what others are eating.

4) Do not worry if your child doesn’t eat three well balanced meals with foods from all the food groups each day. Some days will always be better than others. As long is it all balances out over the course of a week or two, your child likely has a healthy diet.

5) Do try experimenting with healthy versions of your child’s favorite foods- baked chicken nuggets, homemade pizza with low fat cheese, or baked frozen french fries. You will be surprised that many children don’t notice the difference.

6) Do serve a variety of foods. Allow your child to develop a taste for more than just chicken nuggets and French fries.

7) Do not give your child a liquid nutritional supplement, such as Pediasure, without consulting your child’s pediatrician. These supplements fill your child’s stomach with liquid calories, leaving no room for solids. Your child gets full from the Pediasure and develops even less interest in eating solid foods.

8) Do let your child assist with food preparation in whatever way is possible. Your child can accompany you to the supermarket where you can discuss all the fruits and vegetables. Point out the ones that you particularly like and ask your child which he likes. Give your child choices- should we buy peas or carrots? Apples or mangos? Make a fuss out of picking a new fruit or vegetable of the week for the family to try. Let your child help cook dinner or sit with you while you cook. A child is much more likely to eat a healthy food that she has helped to prepare.

9) Do pay attention to food presentation. You want to make the meal seem like fun. Arrange vegetables into the shape of a face on the plate. Make pancakes in the shape of a snowman- or even Spongebob. Cut sandwiches into different shapes- like hearts or diamonds.

10) Do serve a fruit or vegetable with each meal. Encourage your child to take at least two bites so they get used to eating these foods.

11) Do encourage your children to eat slowly- it takes time to realize that you are full.

12) Don’t make negative or critical comments. Especially with teens, if you watch too closely or criticize too often, they will likely eat more simply to prove that they are in control.

13) Do give daily praise for your child’s healthy choices.

14) Do not force your child to eat a particular food- the more you push, the more they will resist.

15) Do not “forbid” any foods- that only makes them more desirable.

16) Do not use food as a bribe- it makes children resistant to foods that they may be neutral about- “if they have to bribe me then it must be bad”.

17) Do use low fat cooking methods that require little or no fat (i.e. broiling, steaming and roasting.

18) Do trim all fat from meat before cooking .

19) Do add fruit and vegetables to recipes whenever possible- for example, mix applesauce into waffle batter or mix blueberries or bananas into pancakes. You can also add chopped vegetables into ground meat.

20) Do serve main dishes that emphasize healthy complex carbs such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta.

21) Do not serve children whole milk (unless they are between the ages of 1 and 2 years old). Children age 2-3 should drink low fat milk and children over the age of 3 should only drink skim milk.

22) Do not encourage your child to drink juice. Serve water as often as possible and introduce Crystal Light as another alternative.

You can find Dr. Dolgoff in the following places:

Linked In:   

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday - The Body Finder


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Release Date: March 2010 by HarperTeen

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she’s falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.
Why do I want to read this one?  I am a huge Ghost Whisperer fan, so when I read the summary for this one, I knew I had to read it because it sounds like it could be a Friday night episode.  I also want to know what happens between Jay and Violet.  Ah, teen love!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Because of A Book with Michelle Zink


For this week's edition of Because of A Book, we hear from another debut author.  An author who's book, Prophecy of the Sisters was due to release on Aug. 1st, but it got released early.  I am pleased to bring you the talented, Michelle Zink!

Michelle Zink lives in New York and has always been fascinated with ancient myths and legends. Never satisfied with simply reading them, she usually ends up asking, “What if?” Sometimes asking only leads to more questions, but every now and then, when everything falls into place just right, a story is born. Prophecy of the Sisters is one of those stories.

You can find Michelle online on her website or the Prophecy of the Sisters website.

Because of a Book
A Little Princess

It probably sounds twisted to say that one of my most inspiring childhood books involved a girl living in an attic.

And no, I’m not talking about Flowers in the Attic. Though I read that one, too.

But it was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett that most captured my imagination in the years before scandalous family secrets and a torrid incestuous relationship captivated my attention.

In A Little Princess, Sara Crew, the daughter of a wealthy gentleman, is sent to a London boarding school while her father travels the world. With her lovely dolls, beautiful dresses, and enchanting tales of exotic locales, Sara is an instant hit with the other wealthy girls at Miss Minchin’s school. But Sara’s fortune changes when she receives word that her father is dead and she has been left penniless. Without funds to continue her education properly, Sara is forced to live in a small attic room and work as a maid at the school, waiting hand and foot on the spoiled girls who once purported to be her friend.

Sara struggles with feelings of despair, with lack of food (she is underfed by Miss Minchin), and with grief and loneliness for her father. But even in the face of all of this, Sara manages to find bright spots by imagining everything she needs to be comfortable and happy. Through sheer belief and vivid description, Sara imagines for herself and the other poor, scullery maid, Becky, great feasts when they are hungry, a blazing fire when they are cold, and parties when they are bored.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read A Little Princess, but it is one of the few books that I remember from childhood with such clarity that I can still picture the way the attic looks in my mind, the dresses and dolls, and the imaginary world brought to life by Sara’s refusal to give in to despair.

And that is the most important part. Because while there are shades of A Little Princess even in my Gothic fantasy, Prophecy of the Sisters - they share creaky, Victorian houses, gray skies and rain, and girls in gowns – it is Sara’s imagination that has stayed with me the most. Her ability to see a better life – another life - is proof to me that what I do matters. That a good story and a vividly described other-place can take us away from things mundane, depressing, and even tragic, if only for awhile.

What could be a better gift?

About Prophecy of the Sisters: An ancient prophecy divides two sisters-

One good...

One evil...

Who will prevail?

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, the girls find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents' deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets.

Lia and Alice don't know whom they can trust.

They just know they can't trust each other. 

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells
Buy it at IndieBound

About A Little Princess:  Sara Crewe seemed just like a real princess...
When Sara Crewe arrives at Miss Minchin's London boarding school, she seems just like a real little princess. She wears beautiful clothes, has gracious manners, and tells the most wonderful stories. Then one day, Sara suddenly becomes penniless. Now she must wear rags, sleep in the school's dreary attic, and work for her living. Sara is all alone, but keeps telling herself that she can still be a princess inside, if only she tries hard enough.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells
Buy it at IndieBound

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mailbox Monday - 7/27/09

Mailbox Monday is brought to us each week by Marcia at the Printed Page.  This meme was created so that we could talk about what we received in our mailboxes throughout the last week.  Here's what I got:
Bo's Cafe (ARC) by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, & John Lynch - from Windblown Media

Role of a Lifetime: Reflections on Faith, Family, and Significant Living by James Brown with Nathan Whitaker - from Faith Words

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner - from Atria Books

Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka - from Knopf

Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians by Jarrett J. Krosoczka - from Knopf

Bran Hambric: The Fairfield Curse (ARC) by Kaleb Nation - from Sourcebooks for blog tour

Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum - from author for blog feature

Wait Until Twilight by Sang Pak - from Harper Collins

Rosie and Skate by Beth Ann Bauman - from Knopf

Fang Face by Norm Cowie - from Quake

Fairy Hunters, Ink by Sheila A. Dane - from author

Golden Girl by Henry Melton - from author for blog feature

Life Happens!

It's funny how life happens when you're making plans.  This situation isn't funny, but it just goes to show that life has a way of making us stop and take notice.

Saturday was a busy day for us.  We drove to Magnolia to pick up a horse from some people we know.  They had bought the horse for their young daughter, but he was too much horse for her and she just couldn't handle him.  They didn't want to feed him anymore if she wasn't going to ride, so they asked us to take him.  We agreed to help them find her a gentler horse in exchange.  So, we spent some time over at their horse and then over at my cousin's barn, getting Happy Jack settled in.  We didn't want to bring him home right away, until we could see how he was going to do with the other horses.  He's been by himself, so we're not sure how he will react.

After we got him settled, we had plans to go to an Extreme Cowboy Competition over in the next town because my husband's cousin was competing.  We'd been looking forward to going all week.  Well, as I said, life has a way of making other plans.  We showered and dressed, letting the dogs out while we did so.  We have 2 outside and 2 inside dogs.  Well, the dogs went into the pasture, as usual, where the horses were eating.  Evidently, they stirred the horses up and caused our little filly to run and get her foot stuck in our brush hog on the tractor.  I noticed she wasn't with the others, so I walked to the pasture before we left.  Thank God I did!  Poor baby!  She was standing there, with her foot hung, so calmly.  I ran back to the house for my husband, and we struggled to get her free.  She went down on us and we thought we were going to lose her or she would lose her leg.  It was so cut up, from her hoof halfway up to her knee.  It was just terrible.  We managed, with her help, to get her free.  After a long fight, we got her and momma in the trailer and headed to Angleton.  Our best friend is a vet, so there was not question about where we were headed.

I worried the whole way and my husband talked of getting rid of dogs when we got home.  The vet had been out fishing all day, and met us at his house with the horse.  When he looked at her, he said she would be fine.  He and my husband spent about an hour doctoring and bandaging her little leg while his wife and I went into town for some food.  None of us had eaten since breakfast. 

Long story I know, and I apologize for the non-bookish post, but I wanted to let you know about my non-posting for the last 2 days.  Kiddie is still in Angleton, where she'll stay until she heals.  They will be taking off the bandage today, to see how she is doing.  She's getting daily antibiotics and lots of TLC.  I know that she is in great hands and won't worry.  I do miss her though, and feel so bad that she is hurt at such a young age.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blog Tour Review: Too Many Visitors for One Little House


I am pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Too Many Visitors for One Little House, that is being put on by Pump Up Your Book Promotions.

Illustrator:  Veronica Walsh
Review Copy Provided by:  Booksicals

About the Book:  The crabby neighbors of El Camino Street are not very happy when cousins, aunts, uncles, and grannies arrive for a big noisy reunion at the house of the new family on the block.  

About the Author:  Susan Chodakiewitz is a writer, composer and producer. She is the founder of Booksicals Children’s Books- Encouraging the love of reading through the arts. Through her company Booksicals she has created the Booksicals on Stage literacy program which is currently presenting musical performances of the picture book Too Many Visitors for One Little House at schools, libraries, and special events.

Susan lives in Los Angeles in a lively household filled with music, three sons, a husband, a Dalmatian and lots of visitors. Susan loves picture books and when she wrote a musical based on one of her favorites, she realized it was time to start writing her own picture books. Too Many Visitors for One Little House is Susan’s debut book. You can visit her website at

My Review:  This is a cute book for kids.  They will enjoy the vibrant, colorful illustrations, as well as the story.  I can see teachers using this book for counting activities as the number of family members keeps growing.

There is a message in this book, and I like to use books like this in the classroom.  The message is one of inclusion, or the feeling of being included.  The neighbors on El Camino Street don't like pets, big families, noise, you name it, but when the new family moves in and they have a family reunion at their house things change.  The neighbors notice what is going on, and as much as they say they don't like it, they long to be a part of it.  Isn't that the way we feel sometimes?  I know I've had kids in my classroom say they don't like something, when they really do, once they see how much fun the others are having.

This is a sweet book that I can see children asking for over and over again.  4 out of 5 stars for Too Many Visitors for One Little House.  You can find activities and more to go along with the book at Booksicals, including this recipe for Nanny's strudel:

Nanny’s Strudel Recipe

You will need for the DOUGH:

2 1/2 c. sifted flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 c. oil
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. boiling water

Stir dry ingredients. Mix water with oil to make dough. Knead well.

Divide dough into 5 parts. Roll each part very thin between wax paper. Place dough in greased pan, layer by layer, putting filling between each layer and leaving the top plain. Sprinkle the top with oil.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

You will need for the FILLING:

2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped nuts
Raisins (optional)
1/2 c. sugar
2 apples, cut fine

Mix together and spread between layers.

Note: If preferred, five little individual strudels may be made. Bake as usual, just until lightly browned.

Friday Fill-Ins - 7/24/09

This week's Friday Fill-Ins is brought to us by Tonya.  


1. Not being at Comi-Con is not the end of the world.

2. Sitting here, listening to the sound of rain falling, I wish it wouldn't stop for awhile.

3.Chocolate tastes so good!

4. Sometimes, putting others first is the best thing you can do.

5. A sunset after the rain is breathtaking, really.

6. Well, maybe there is some truth to that.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Lisa's Sulking Party, tomorrow my plans include house/yard work and Sunday, I want to be pampered at the nail salon

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I've Been Awarded!!

I love blog awards, but I must admit that I'm not one to put them all on my blog.  That being said, I probably need to apologize to some of you, because I haven't been very good at passing them on either.  I promise to get better at that.

This weekend I was honored to receive 2 blog awards from 2 great bloggers.

I received the "Heartfelt" Award from Shawnee at Reading in Appalachia.


So what is the Heartfelt Award about?

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when your relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and freinds? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Hearthfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside. Rules: Put the logo on your blog/post. Nominate up to to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside.Be sure to link your nominees within your post. Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

From Sheri at A Novel Menagerie, I received "The Queen of ALLL Things Awe-Summm!!!  I'm so honored, because I have been reading Sheri's blog since I started, and I think she is AWESOME!

Once you receive this award, you have to share 7 Awe-Summm things about yourself and then pass it on to 7 others.   So, here goes...7 Awe-Summm things about me...probably more than you ever wanted to know.
  1. I have a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership - I think it's awesome because I never thought I'd go back to school, much less get an AP job!
  2. I have a very supportive husband - he is my biggest cheerleader. If it wasn't for his support, I probably wouldn't have gone back to school, or survived the grueling year and a half it took to get through it!
  3. I got married in the Bahamas, for free! - yes, you read that right. I won the whole thing on a radio show, but that's another blog post, if you'd like me to share.
  4. I raise horses - I always wanted one growing up, and luckily I married a man that loves them!
  5. I'm passionate about education - I never did it for the money, cause God knows it's not the best paying job.  I'm in it for the kids!
  6. I'm thoughtful - I'm always doing little things for other people.  It makes me happy to see the smile on their face when they get something they weren't expecting.
  7. I'm an Assistant Principal! - after 12 yrs. of teaching, I am moving up and I'm excited about it.
Blogs I'm awarding with these 2 awards:

Vania Reverie Book Reviews
Beth at Beth Fish Reads
Cindy at Cindy's Love of Books
Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelf
Harmony at Harmony's Book Reviews
Shesten at I Heart Monster
Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Scones and Sensibility


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
Release date:  Dec '09 by Egmont USA

Polly Madassa is convinced she was born for a more romantic time. A time when Elizabeth Bennet and Anne of Green Gables walked along the moors and beaches of the beautiful land, a time where a distinguished gentleman called upon a lady of quality and true love was born in the locked eyes of two young lovers.

But alas, she was not.

This, however, does not stop our young heroine from finding romance wherever she can conjure it up. So while Polly is burdened with a summer job of delivering baked goods from her parents bakery (how quaint!) to the people in her small beach town, she finds a way to force…um…encourage romance to blossom. She is determined to bring lovers, young and old, together…whether they want to be or not.

Why do I want to read this one?  Well, the cover is my favorite color, purple, and the title is intriguing.   Then, when I read the synopsis, I wanted to read it even more.  I have always thought I could have been born in another time period, so I'm very interested to read about Polly!

This was the only WoW I was going to post today, but then, I got this:

This is the cover for Cyn Balog's 2010 release, sleepless.  Isn't it pretty?

Sleepless is a paranormal about a Sandman who falls in love with a mortal whose sleep he controls.  Cyn also gave birth on Saturday, so stop by The B-log Blog to see her newest release and offer up your congratulations.  Congrats Cyn on your new little bundle of joy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Because of A Book - Lauren Becker


Today's Because of A Book guest is the lovely Lauren Becker from Shooting Stars Mag.  Lauren's going to tell us a little about herself.

I run Shooting Stars Mag, a multi-purpose magazine online with a main focus on all things entertainment. I do write-ups for the show Royal Pains on Teen Scene Mag, I do reviews for Romantic Times Magazine, and have written for Sadie Magazine and Venus Zine in the past.

As far as I can remember, my parents never read to me. This is important because it's how most book-lovers start out, isn't it? Therefore, I don't have a favorite book from when I was "yay-high" and listening to my parents at night. However, as far as I can remember, I've loved to read. Going to the library doing school was one of my favorite things to do and I'd always find a new book to bring home and check out. Orphan of Ellis Island, Little House on the Prairie, BFG, Tears of a Tiger, and many, many more.

The point I'm getting to is that I don't have just one amazing book in my life, unless you count Harry Potter...because it definitely made up my childhood. I don't want to focus on that one though, so I finally decided to tell you about Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman. When I was in middle school, my sister checked this out from the library and I thought it looked really good so I decided to read it after her. It became a favorite of mine from that point on and I even have my own copy for my personal library.

Stuck in Neutral is about a boy named Shawn who has cerebral palsy. He can't go to the bathroom by himself, he can't talk, and he has a really hard time eating...just to name a few symptoms. Basically, Shawn just sits there and everyone else has to live his life for him. However, Stuck in Neutral is told in Shawn's point of view. It gives Shawn a personality, a voice. He isn't some mindless kid that everyone believes him to be...he has crushes, hopes, fears, and more. One of his main fears is that his dad wants to kill him because he believes that Shawn is in pain from his seizures...but really, the seizures set Shawn free. I won't go into detail, because it's a book everyone should be able to read for themselves. It's pretty short too, for those of you who don't have much time.

I love realistic fiction and this is definitely one of the first ones that I read that really stuck with me, so I think it's an important book in my life, in my childhood.

-Lauren Becker

About Stuck in Neutral:  Shawn McDaniel is an enigma and a miracle--except no one knows it, least of all his father. His life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. Not even those who love him best have any idea what he is truly like. In this extraordinary and powerful first novel, the reader learns to look beyond the obvious and finds a character whose spirit is rich beyond imagining and whose story is unforgettable.

My life is like one of those "good news-bad news" jokes. Like, "I've got some good news and some bad news--which do you want first?"

I could go on about my good news for hours, but you probably want to hear the punch line, my bad news, right? Well, there isn't that much, really, but what's here is pretty wild. First off, my parents got divorced ten years ago because of me. My being born changed everything for all of us, in every way. My dad didn't divorce my mom, or my sister, Cindy, or my brother, Paul--he divorced me. He couldn't handle my condition, so he had to leave. My condition? Well, that brings us to the guts of my bad news.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powell's
Buy it at IndieBound

Ballads of Suburbia Release Day!

Today is the release of Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert.  I am so excited for Stephanie!  Here is a note from her, about the release...
Today, my second novel, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, will be released in stores everywhere! I hope you’ll check it out, tell your friends, and let me know what you think of it.
If you want to order a signed copy from a great indie bookstore, Women & Children First, who will ship nationwide, you should do that ASAP since I will be signing the books on Friday. All the details are here.
No matter where you buy your book, if you do so before July 31 you can enter a very cool contest that some bloggers are running here.
 If you are in the Chicago area, come out to my event at the Beacon Pub tonight or at Women & Children First on Friday. All the details and some August events can be found here.
And no matter where you are, drop by my cyber launch party at, which features guest blogs from amazing authors, tons of prizes and runs through 8/14! Today I’ll be telling the story behind the writing of the book.
Thanks for celebrating this amazing day with me!

The contest Stephanie speaks of is hosted here on this blog and is full of great prizes.  Please consider purchasing Ballads today.  When you do, just send me a copy of the receipt and you are entered; it's that easy!  The contest runs until the end of the month.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mailbox Monday - 7/20/09

Mailbox Monday is hosted every week by Marcia at the Printed Page.  Head over there to see what others got this week.

My mailbox wasn't very busy this week.  For that, I am thankful.  Yes, I love getting packages in the mail, but I have more than enough to keep me busy for awhile.  I have gotten real selective about the books I receive/request for review, and I think the mailbox has finally caught up.  Since the list is short, I'll be sharing covers with you this week.  Here's what I got...

The Weight of Silence (ARC) by Heather Gudenkauf, from Mira
It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.

Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.

Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year by Esme Raji Codell, from Algonquin Books
A must-read for parents, new teachers, and classroom veterans, Educating Esmé is the exuberant diary of Esmé Raji Codell’s first year teaching in a Chicago public school. Fresh-mouthed and free-spirited, the irrepressible Madame Esmé—as she prefers to be called—does the cha-cha during multiplication tables, roller-skates down the hallways, and puts on rousing performances with at-risk students in the library. Her diary opens a window into a real-life classroom from a teacher’s perspective. While battling bureaucrats, gang members, abusive parents, and her own insecurities, this gifted young woman reveals what it takes to be an exceptional teacher.

Heroine to thousands of parents and educators, Esmé now shares more of her ingenious and yet down-to-earth approaches to the classroom in a supplementary guide to help new teachers hit the ground running. As relevant and iconoclastic as when it was first published, Educating Esmé is a classic, as is Madame Esmé herself.

South of Broad (ARC) by Pat Conroy, from Doubleday
Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of thirteen, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes friends Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades-from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The ties among them endure for years, surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, and Charleston's dark legacy of racism and class divisions. But the final test of friendship that brings them to San Francisco is something no one is prepared for.

The Journey to Amazing Grace: Out of Slavery by Linda Granfield, from Tundra Books
The story of slavery, a man, and the world’s most beloved hymn.

John Newton led a rich life. He was a God-fearing man and a successful seafaring trader; his cargo was a lucrative business, for his wares were human beings. In 1748, Newton’s ship, the Greyhound, sailed the triangular trade route from Liverpool to Africa and on to Antigua as it had many times before. But on one journey, at the height of the slave trade, a storm raged. Feeling all was lost, Newton prayed that if he were spared, he would leave the cruel world of slave trading behind forever. That night, Newton’s prayers were answered, and true to his word, he turned his back on the slave trade. In fact, he went on to become an ardent abolitionist. Among Newton’s many achievements, his greatest legacy would be the most beloved hymn of all: “Amazing Grace.”

It's a Snap!: George Eastman's First Photograph by Monica Kulling, from Tundra Books
In 1877 in Rochester, New York, George Eastman couldn’t understand why picture-taking was so difficult. Having left school at fourteen to support his mother and two sisters, George decided to find out by making photography his hobby. He packed up glass plates, a plate holder, a tent, a heavy tripod, a thick piece of black cloth, a water jug, and chemicals and set off to take his first photograph.

George realized that not many people could own a camera — they were too expensive and the size of today’s microwave ovens! But how could he make picture-taking easier? Eventually, George created dry plates, and they were such a success that he opened his own dry-plate company in 1881. But this was only the beginning — George went on to invent film and the Brownie camera. The rest is history.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Before I post the winners of my last two contests, I want to apologize to some of you whom I still owe books to.  I haven't forgotten you; life has gotten me.  I recently mailed off some and will be mailing the rest at the end of the month.  Please forgive me as I got overwhelmed and just got behind.  I promise not to be so slow next time.  Some of you are waiting on books from publishers and I am checking into that as well.

Today, I have the winners from my Secrets to Happiness and Harry Potter contests.  Please help me congratulate them today!


The winner of a hard cover copy of Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn is:


The winners of the Harry Potter prize pack (paper backs of bks 5, 6, & 7) are:


I will be emailing all the winners and hope to hear from you within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.  The HP books will be coming from the publisher and Secrets to Happiness will be mailed by me.

Thank you all for entering.  We had 85 entries for HP...woohoo!!  Look for the winners of the Eyes Like Stars Extravaganza to be posted this week.  More contests to come!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Snapshot Saturday #18

This week's snapshot is a request.  If you are a frequent reader or Twitter follower, you know that I have horses.  You also know that we spent the month of March anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new addition to our herd.  That addition, Kiddie, who was named with the help of one of my readers, came into the world on March 30th.  She was born at our vet's in Angleton (their stallion is the daddy), and she stayed there until the 4th of July when we brought her and momma home.  The homecoming was met with some trepidation from the other horses in the pasture as well as the momma.  The others wanted to "check out" the baby, and the momma wanted them to stay away.  It was not a pretty scene at first, but horses are herd animals and they just had to get their "pecking" order.  Now, they are fine.  Well, I said all that to say, it's about time you got some new pictures of Kiddie, because she has really grown!  Also, because I have one Twitter friend who keeps bugging me for pictures.  So, here she is!

This picture was taken on 4/23, almost 1 mo. old.  I show you this so that you can see her growth.

 These next pictures were taken last night (7/17) so she is 3 1/2 months old.  I got her next to momma for perspective.

Here she is walking toward me.  It was hard to take pictures because she follows me around.  I'd get far enough away from her to get the picture and she would come towards me.

 She is following my nephew.  And with that, I leave you...until next Saturday.

What snapshot will you share this week?  Leave me a link in the comments.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Blog Tour Review: Miss L'eau


Title:  Miss L'eau
Author:  T. Katz
Review Copy Provided by: Pump Up Your Book Promotions

About the Book:  James and David had always known there was something unusual about their elementary school teacher, Miss L'eau, but they could never quite put their finger on it. David discovered their first clue, was in her eyes-- Miss L'eau had the most unusual pair of eyes! She wore glasses when she taught, but when she had to deal with just you--she would lean over your desk, move her glasses down to the end of her nose . . . and there they were! Miss L'eau's eyes were as blue-green as the sea, and if you could get up the courage to stare right into them, you'd swear you could see angel fish, sea plants, coral beds and even sea anemones! It was the most wonderful, yet frightening, experience when she would talk to you face-to-face. The boys lived their whole lives near the ocean, but never thought about how import it was or how vulnerable it might be. Through Miss L'eau, and her unexpected relationship to the sea, they develop a love and understanding of the ocean and become involved with the nearby aquarium and organize an annual clean-up.

About the Author:  T. Katz, a resident of Southern California has been involved in the children's entertainment industry since the early 80's working on hundreds of episodes of animated television and as a music instructor to hundreds of very animated children. She is also the honorary conductor of a four-part harmony household, consisting of her two children (three if you count the spouse on a bad day) and Alice the cat. The people that surround her help her to continue seeing the world with all its magic, beauty and potential. She lives by the motto "a good book, a cup of tea and somehow all is right with the world." Her adventures in life are adding welcome lines of character to her face and scattered optimistic silver linings all over her head. You can visit her website at

My Review:  This is a quick read, small book, with a powerful message!  I wish school age kids could read this as part of an ocean unit.  It would so enhance their learning.  No, this book does not teach about the ocean, per se, but it does teach about how to take care of it and keep it around for the generations that come after us.

I don't want to say too much about this one, as I don't want to give the whole story away.  The main character is a boy, in 5th grade, so I'm sure that will appeal to boy readers.  This book, I think, would also appeal to reluctant readers because it is not overwhelming in length, but strong in story!  I will definitely share it with some of the boys in my school this year.  The main character and his best friend are strong, determined characters, who put aside what others might think, to help out someone they love, their teacher.  They swear to keep her secret, even though it is hard for them to let her go.  I loved the premise behind this story!  Teach kids to take care of the ocean, by bringing a part of the ocean to them.

4 out of 5 stars for T. Katz and Miss L'eau. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour.

Friday Fill-Ins - 7/17/09


1. Chili and fritos make a quick and easy dinner.

2. Nothing But Ghosts is the book I'm reading right now.

3. July brings back memories of vacations in Arkansas with my grandparents.

4. The answer was obvious.

5. They say if you tell your dreams people might think you are crazy because of them.

6. It's okay to take the time to think it over.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting some sleep, tomorrow my plans include reading and Sunday, I want to spend the day with my husband

Want to join in on the fun? Visit Friday Fill-Ins!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blog Tour Review: Shimmer


Today's review is part of a Blog Tour with Unbridled Books.  I'd like to thank them for providing me with this book and the opportunity to be part of this tour.

Title:  Shimmer
Author:  Eric Barnes
Review Copy Provided by:  Unbridled Books

About the Book:  In just three years, CEO Robbie Case has grown Core Communications, a data technology company, from 30 people to over 5,000. Now a $20 billion company made legendary by its sudden success, Core is based on a technology no other company can come close to copying, a revolutionary breakthrough known as drawing blood from a mainframe. And Robbie, its 35-year-old CEO, is acclaimed worldwide for his vision, leadership and wealth. Except that all of it is based on a lie. The technology doesn t work, the finances are built on a Ponzi scheme of stock sales and shell corporations, and Robbie is struggling to keep the company alive, to protect the friends who work for him and all that they ve built. Each day, Robbie tries to push the catastrophe back a little further, while his employees believe that they are all moving closer to grace, the day their stock options vest, when they will be made rich for their faith and loyalty and hard work. The details of the lie are all keyed into a shadowy interface that Robbie calls Shimmer, an omniscient mainframe that hides itself, calculates its own collapse, threatens to outsmart its creator and to reveal the corporation s illegal, fragile underpinnings. Shimmer is the story of a high-tech crusade nearing its end. The shell game Robbie has created is finally running out of room. And Robbie is the only one who knows or who has a chance to make things right. Or is he? A breathless debut novel that charges the atmosphere with suspense and surprise and delivers complex characters you can root for in spite of their flaws, Shimmer is Robbie s race against the truth.

About the Author:  Eric Barnes is the writer of the novel, Shimmer (Unbridled Books, July 2009). Eric has been writing fiction for many years and published a number of short stories before finding a home for Shimmer at Unbridled
He is the publisher of The Daily News and The Memphis News, two local publications covering business and politics in Memphis. Eric was once COO (and, before that, Publisher and Managing Editor) of Towery Publishing, a publisher of city guides, books, maps, city sites and business directories for cities around the country. Towery went under in 2003, a sad and endless and unforgettable experience that culminated in the purchase of a few cases of beer for the remaining staff at one final staff meeting at Union and Mclean.

Prior to that, Eric was managing editor of a business magazine in New York City, which was in the midst a transtion from what's known as a "business opportunities" magazine to a legitimate business magazine. Business opportunities magazines run ads for get rich quick schemes and, it seems now, those ads were an influence on the much bigger schemes in Shimmer.

Eric lives in Memphis. Previously he lived in New York, and before that in New London, Connecticut. He grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and Juneau, Alaska. He attended the Columbia University School of the Arts, Connecticut College, and Woodrow Wilson High School.

Eric is the father of Reed, Mackenzie, Andrew and Lucy, and husband to Elizabeth, a wonderful person and incredible teacher at Memphis University School. These things are very important.

My Review:  I haven't read a thriller in awhile, so this was a welcome change for me.  It's nice sometimes to take a break from your current genre of reading, to spice it up a little with a good thriller.

I enjoyed the characters in this story.  They are the kind that keep you glued to the book because you want to know what happens to them.  The main character, Robbie, seems like the kind of person who just got involved in something that got him in over his head.  I feel like he inherently wants to do good, but he got into the swindle and then spent the rest of the book trying to figure out how to "fix" everything.

When Ponzi schemes are relevant in the news right now, this book is "right on time."  It gives you a look at a Ponzi scheme from the inside.  Barnes writes about corporate America in a way that will keep you asking for more, hoping for the best, and clinging to the characters even after you close the book.

I enjoyed this one and hope that you will take the time to read it.  4 out of 5 stars for Eric Barnes and Shimmer.
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