Readers' Favorite

April 24, 2017

Tackling the TBR Pile #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber
My to review shelf of print and audio books
For today's A to Z Challenge post I'm taking a look at a problem that most avid readers have - how to tackle the towering and often toppling to be read (TBR) pile. When I first started blogging I was so tickled that authors and publishers wanted me to read their book that I accepted just about everything. I'm kind of a slow reader. Sometimes I only get one to two books read in a month. My lack of discernment when it came to accepting these review copies led to an overwhelming number of books on my to-read list. I still have books from that first year waiting to be read (that was 6 years ago!).

For the past year and a half, I've been trying to tackle my to be read pile and get to those long waiting books. First, I added a couple of reviewers that could help with the ever present review requests in my inbox. And then I all but stopped accepting review copies myself (I still take those from authors I love or in series that I'm reading and then a few other books that sound too good to pass up).

Now that my review pile isn't growing at alarming rates, I had to get organized. The print copies are easy to keep track of as I have a physical reminder that they are waiting. My ebooks were another story. They get lost in my email, never to be downloaded (I have a Nook so they aren't automatically sent to my e-reader like for Kindle).

As I get older I find myself making myself more notes throughout the day. The problem was keeping up with the notes. This year I decided to start a Bullet Journal. Mine isn't all pretty like those found on Pinterest, but it is practical and most important makes me more productive as all my lists and notes are in one place. Several of the first pages is a list of all the ebooks in my TBR ebook pile. I organized them by genre so when I feel like reading fantasy or romance, I can quickly scan my options. I also listed the year it was published to encourage me to whittle down the backlog.

I have a monthly page that I list bills and other monthly tasks. When I accept a book for review, I put it on there so at least by the end of the month I will make sure it has been downloaded and added to my Nook.

It's been a slow progress, but so far the most successful method I have found for tackling my TBR pile. Do you have a way to keep track of what is in your TBR pile?

I also link up once a month with Book Date's meme "It's Monday! What are you reading?" to reflect on what I read each month. Here's my April list:

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.


In audio...

Pretty Girls
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter is the first book I've read by this author. I knew of her because she participated in my Big Book Giveaway last summer. So when I saw this title available at the digital library I decided it was beyond time to give her a try. I loved the book. I don't often read books set in my small college town so it was interesting, but kind of weird too, to listen to things happening in areas of town that I'm familiar with. If you are a thriller fan definitely pick up this book.

About the book: More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss - a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed. The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago ... and uncovering the possibility of redemption- and revenge- where they least expect it.

Buy Pretty Girls at Amazon

My Name is Lucy Barton
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout is a complex novella. There is so much more going on below the surface of a story about a woman reflecting on life as she recovers in the hospital. Each word and phrase tells a rich story and should be examined closely to fully appreciate the author's talents. This would make a lovely summer read.

About the book: Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

Buy My Name is Lucy Barton at Amazon

Death Cloud
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane is a young adult adventure story featuring a young Sherlock Holmes. I'm not a huge Sherlock fan, but I enjoyed the PBS series so I thought I would give this a try. I preface my thoughts with that statement because it let me appreciate the story as an adventure novel instead of as a derivative work within the Sherlock Holmes universe. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and it was a fun listen. Have wondered if Sherlock's powers of deduction was an odd personality trait or a learned ability? Lane sheds light on the question with a look into the life of young Sherlock Holmes.

It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. On break from boarding school, he is staying with eccentric strangers—his uncle and aunt—in their vast house in Hampshire. When two local people die from symptoms that resemble the plague, Holmes begins to investigate what really killed them, helped by his new tutor, an American named Amyus Crowe. So begins Sherlock's true education in detection, as he discovers the dastardly crimes of a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent.

Buy Death Cloud at Amazon

In print...

Women in the Castle
I won a copy of The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck in a Goodreads giveaway. I absolutely loved it. The characters are well developed and their names are as much a part the development as are their manners and background. Marianne von Lingenfels is every bit of the strong, take charge aristocrat that her name implies. Though the story begins at a crucial moment in both Germany's history and Marianne's life, it is really about what happens after the war. It reminded me of Chris Bohjanlin's Skeletons at the Feast (the reason I started this blog in the first place). It is a must read for fans of WWII era historical fiction and well-written women's fiction.

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 resistor 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 naïve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’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.

Buy The Women in the Castle at Amazon

In ebook...

Mercer Street
John Heldt's books are always an enjoyable read and I discovered in making my ebook review list that I have several of his books in my pile. They are sweet, simple reads about time-traveling adventures. Mercer Street would be a great addition to your beach bag this summer. The straightforward simplicity of the storytelling makes it a relaxing read. The charming characters and the intrigue of whether 3 women will screw up the timeline or just their lives as the become more and more attached to the people they meet in 1938 will immerse you in the story to point that you think you will be in 1938 when you look up from the page. 

Weeks after her husband dies in the midst of an affair in 2016, Chicago writer Susan Peterson, 48, seeks solace on a California vacation with her mother Elizabeth and daughter Amanda. The novelist, however, finds more than she bargained for when she meets a professor who possesses the secret of time travel. Within days, the women travel to 1938 and Princeton, New Jersey. Elizabeth begins a friendship with her refugee parents and infant self, while Susan and Amanda fall for a widowed admiral and a German researcher with troubling ties. Filled with poignancy, heartbreak, and intrigue, MERCER STREET gives new meaning to courage, sacrifice, and commitment as it follows three strong-willed souls on the adventure of a lifetime.

Buy Mercer Street at Amazon

The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square
Another benefit of my Bullet Journaling is that I'm able to get to books a little closer to their release dates. Such is the case with The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Street that the publisher sent me recently. Before this might have been lost for months in the sea of books. It is a great romantic comedy about friends, family, and community. A great reminder that it's not about what you have, but who you have in your life.

When Emma’s boyfriend Daniel pops the question with a ring the size of a small country, she suddenly realizes just how different their worlds are. She wants a low-key wedding with close friends and family, while Daniel’s mother is expecting a society party that their high-brow guests won’t forget! While Emma is envisioning the town hall and Uncle Colin’s pub for the reception, future mother-in-law Philippa is talking chandeliers, silver wedding favors and chocolate fountains…

How on earth can Emma put together a vintage champagne-sodden celebration - fit for Lords and Ladies - on a beer pocketbook? Not to mention the fact her cross-dressing Uncle Barbara wants to be a bridesmaid, her best friend Kelly can’t stand Daniel’s best friend Cressida, and her dad is too proud to accept any help from Daniel’s family toward the costs.

There are three months to go until the big day. But will it be memorable for all the wrong reasons?

Buy The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Street at Amazon


In ebook...

The Brothers Three
I love Layton Green's writing, so when he offered me The Brothers Three for review I accepted even though the genre isn't one I'm too keen on. I'm only a few chapters in, but I'm loving it so far.

The Blackwood brothers from New Orleans are about to find out. Youngest brother Will dreams of escaping his mundane life as an apprentice contractor. Caleb is a bartender whose charm and good looks see him through life. Val, the eldest, is a high-powered attorney who hides the fact that he can perform parlor tricks with his mind.

The brothers' lives are changed forever when they receive a belated inheritance from their father: a staff with a mysterious stone on top, a pair of rogue's bracers, and a sword that Will can barely lift. Searching for an explanation, it is not until a strange key whisks the brothers across time and space, into a terrifying version of New Orleans ruled by wizards, that the brothers accept the truth and undergo a perilous journey home. With the help of an alluring but deadly adventuress, they must break into the keep of a sorcerer known for his love of diabolical games, find a trio of enchanted talismans, and somehow defeat an evil wizard who can raise legions of the undead to do his bidding.

It seems the brothers have found their adventure. But will they live to tell the tale?

Buy The Brothers Three at Amazon

In audio...

The Cinderella Murder
I enjoy Mary Higgins Clark's mysteries and this one is really good so far.

About the book: Television producer Laurie Moran is delighted when the pilot for her reality drama, Under Suspicion, is a success. Even more, the program -- a cold case series that revisits unsolved crimes by recreating them with those affected -- is off to a fantastic start when it helps solve an infamous murder in the very first episode.

Now Laurie has the ideal case to feature in the next episode of Under Suspicion: the Cinderella Murder. When Susan Dempsey, a beautiful and multi-talented UCLA student, was found dead, her murder raised numerous questions. Why was her car parked miles from her body? Had she ever shown up for the acting audition she was due to attend at the home of an up-and-coming director? Why does Susan’s boyfriend want to avoid questions about their relationship? Was her disappearance connected to a controversial church that was active on campus? Was she close to her computer science professor because of her technological brilliance, or something more? And why was Susan missing one of her shoes when her body was discovered?

With the help of lawyer and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley, Laurie knows the case will attract great ratings, especially when the former suspects include Hollywood’s elite and tech billionaires. The suspense and drama are perfect for the silver screen -- but is Cinderella’s murderer ready for a close-up?

Buy The Cinderella Murder at Amazon


In print....

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is another book I won in a Goodreads giveaway.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife's hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother's mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter's present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Buy The Twelve Lives of Samual Hawley at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 23, 2017

Time-Traveling Adventure: Mercer Street by John A. Heldt

by Donna Huber
Mercer Street
October 2015; ebook (431 pages)
time travel, historical fiction

If you could travel to any time during the 19th century what year would you choose? That is the question facing the 3 women in John A. Heldt's time-traveling story Mercer Street.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free ebook was provided for an honest review.

Grandmother Elizabeth, mother Susan, and daughter Amanda are on vacation in California when they attend a lecture by a professor Bell on time traveling. Bell's interest in the women is piqued and their journey of a lifetime begins. The women travel back to 1938 when Elizabeth's family first arrived in the U.S., fleeing a Hitler controlled Austria, with one-year-old Elizabeth. In addition to traveling across the country in the post-depression era, the women face love and danger as the nation prepares for war.

Mercer Street is the second book in Heldt's American Journey series. Somehow I missed the first book in this series, but outside of a few references to the people who travel in September Sky, Mercer Street is a stand alone novel.

I have read Heldt's other series Northwest Passage and I assumed that the American Journey series would be similar. I was right and I was wrong. Unlike in the Northwest Passage were characters stumble upon doorways to the past, in American Journey the characters have an encounter with the professor who invites them on a journey of the lifetime.

Like the stories of the Northwest Passage series, Mercer Street is a simple story told in a straightforward manner. The beauty of Heldt's writing is in this simplicity as the stories aren't boring. I enjoyed every minute I spent in 1938 with Elisabeth, Susan, and Amanda. Without the complex plot and complicated character interactions, it was a relaxing read. I felt I should be rocking on the front porch with a glass of sweet tea, or perhaps lounging on the beach without a care in the world.

I love that the story is told in third person limited. In alternating chapters, I was able to see the world through the eyes of all three women without having to keep track of who's point of view it was. It provided depth to the story and richness to context.

While the plot isn't complicated, the approach of a world war does complicate the lives of the three women. Particularly when Amanda falls in love with the son of a German diplomat. Will she change the course history?

Then there is Elizabeth who babysits herself. Will the time-space continuum implode?

And not to mention they are 3 women with weak back stories visiting a time that national paranoia is increasing. Will they slip up and say something they shouldn't? Will someone dig a little deeper into who they really are?

And what about when it comes time to return to the 21st century?

Only one thing kind of irked me. A tiny detail really. When Amanda meets Dorothy Gale in 1938 she comments that she looks a lot like her college roommate. I kind of thought she would look up what happened to Dorothy when she returns to the present seeing how good of friends they became, but she doesn't. I know she has her hands full, but I would have liked to have that thread tied up.

I liked the winks to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Back to the Future.

If you are looking for a book to accompany your next weekend of R&R, I highly recommend Mercer Streat.

Buy Mercer Street at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 22, 2017

Supernatural Stories with #Static and Stiletto #AtoZChallenge

By Elisabeth Scherer

Supernatural elements in books are a fantastic tool to use with some plots. The two books I have chosen to review today use them quite well.  First is a book by Eric Laster called #Static which is a Young Adult Mystery/Fantasy.  The second book is by Daniel O'Malley called Stiletto, the sequel to the first in The Cheque Files after popular sci-fi/fantasy book, The Rook.   Both books have a wonderful humor throughout that kept me turning pages to see what would happen next.

If you like Jasper Fforde or Robert Rankin's books, you will definitely like these books as well.

#Static By Eric Laster
#Static by Eric Laster
April 2016; Automatic Publishing
9780991272938; ebook, print (336 pages)
YA, Fantasy

What would you do if you received a phone call from a recently deceased sibling? That is what happens to the main character, Curtis, in #Staticby Eric Laster. Curtis is sure his brother has called to help him solve Wilt's murder. His brother, Wilt, calls as part of the standard program of adjustment to the afterlife - an "inescapable, ever-expanding Walmart filled with discontinued products."

This book is a murder mystery but includes some wonderful coming of age moments for Curtis. It also has some touching sibling moments between the brothers that make this a great read. Curtis goes on a daring plan to catch his brother's murder and along the way has to navigate the hormones of a teenage boy, handle a rocky home life, and avoid his school counselor. Will Wilt be successful in organizing a rebellion in the Aftermart?  Will Curtis find Wilt's killer before someone finds him snooping around?  All these questions help push this story from page to page.

I would recommend this book to anyone high school age and up. Laster's humor along with his ability to weave in truly wonderful moments between the brothers and between Curtis and other supporting characters leave me wanting to read more from him. One of the things I appreciate about this book is the growth that happens to Curtis throughout the book. He is definitely a different person when the book ends.

Buy #Static on Amazon
Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley
June 2016; Little, Brown, and Company
9780316228046; ebook, audio, print (583 pgs)

Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley

The Checquy is Britain's century-old secret organization that protect the population from supernatural threats. The Grafters are a centuries-old supernatural threat. These two groups are forced to merge after many years of bloodshed and hostility. The synopsis of this book puts it best by saying,

"Only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women, who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war."

This sequel has more wonderful female characters to love with wit and humor that Daniel O'Malley brought to us with Myfanwy Thomas in The Rook. Pawn Felicity Jane Clements and Grafter Surgeon Odette Lelifield are complete opposites and have grown up being taught to hate each other. Now with the merger of the Grafters and Chequey they have been thrust together during this major time of change for the secret organizations. Both have supernatural abilities that quite frankly disgust the other. They must come together to help keep the peace negotiations intact while managing to find out who is behind the attacks.

O'Malley is brilliant as ever at creating strong, intelligent female characters. This sequel is a bit longer with larger chunks of exposition to give us readers enough to understand the motivations of the characters. Some readers may find this to be drier than The Rook, but it does its job. This helps push the readers into his world by giving us as quick a rundown of the secret warring groups. He uses this information to show just how far apart the divide between the two groups is at the beginning and how far they must come to keep the peace.

There are main layers of subtext to read in this book and for me it hit home with a quote from the book on grief. In my life, while reading this, I was hit with the death of a young girl whose family I am very close with. This quote summed up how I was feeling then and still how I feel today.

"It's been weeks now, and it doesn't stop I want it to go away!"

"It won't ever go away entirely," said Felicity. "I wish it did. But with things like this, with wounds on the inside, sometimes it's just a case of getting through the day. Or the hour. Or the minute. Sometimes the hard times come every other minute, and they'll keep slapping you, so that you can't ever relax. And sometimes you'll go for weeks and maybe even months before it gets you, right when you least expect it.  But it never goes away entirely." Odette sighed. "But it does get easier, Odette. And it's easier when you have comrades."

-excerpt from page 568-569

You can picture the relationships that O'Malley creates from this conversation. Intelligent humans coming together to fight forces unknown. Change is hard for everyone because as a human we struggle to get our brains to think in different ways. It can be done but it's a precarious dance where every move needs to be thought out as though you are playing a long game of chess.

Be forwarned with these books however that there were four years between publishings. though we can hope that another book in this series will come quicker, if we must I would recommend filling the void with rereads and find the nuances the Daniel O'Malley hides in this book.

Buy Stiletto at Amazon

Elisabeth Scherergrew up in a very small town in Minnesota but now lives in the lovely Pacific Northwest where she spends most of her time raising her two young children. She and her husband have a large collection of books that takes a good space of their small condo. When she's not reading she has a variety of hobbies that include crocheting, drawing, baking, cooking, and movie watching. She is currently obsessed with making French Macarons and other baked deliciousness! You can also find her blogging at

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 21, 2017

R is for Romantic Tales #AtoZChallenge

by MK French

A lot of stories have at least a romantic subplot even if the book isn't strictly Romance. There's historical romance, and paranormal romance, and fairytale romance, and on and on it goes. It is human nature to want to connect to another person on an intimate, romantic level. MK French recently reviewed several romantic tales. ~ Donna

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Free books were provided for honest reviews.

Campbell's Redemption
November 2016; Loveswept; 9781101964903
ebook (240 pages); Scottish romance
Campbell's Redemption by Sharon Cullen

Iain Campbell is laird and feels responsible for all the people of his clan. He feels responsible for the death of Cait's husband years before and had avoided her. At the start of this novel, however, he brought an injured man to her home, knowing that she has renowned healing skill. They are constantly in each others' orbits after this, and Iain has to confront his feelings for her, as well as the mounting tensions between clans and coming from England.

This is the third book in a trilogy, but it all made sense even without reading the first two books. Cait's history is one of intense tragedy and loss, starting from her birth. Everyone she has ever cared about was eventually lost to death or estrangement, so it's difficult to earn her trust. Iain walks a fine line between his Scottish and English heritage, especially with England trying to tighten its stranglehold on the Scots.

They're a likable hero and heroine, even with all of the background hurt between them, and the other characters in the book also feel believable. There are so many obstacles in the way of these two getting together, it almost felt as though it couldn't be the traditional happily ever after of a romance novel. There was a very sudden change in circumstances at the end of the book that allows it to happen; I wonder if it would be less of a shock to me if I had read the first two books of the trilogy. All in all, I enjoyed the book and was rooting for Cait to finally find happiness.

Buy Campell's Redemption at Amazon

An Unseen Attraction
February 2017; Loveswept
audio, ebook (209 pages); Victorian romance 
An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles

Clem Tallyfer runs a boarding house at his brother's bequest. He likes how peaceful it is, the people he works with, the hobbies he has and his quiet evenings with tea. He especially likes sharing that tea with Rowley Green, one of his tenants. They're good friends, slowly becoming more in spite of the norms of the era. When another tenant is left murdered on the house's doorstep, Clem is uncomfortably thrust into the middle of an investigation that forces him to question his loyalties.

This is a wonderful look at the Victorian era, especially for those who aren't in the titled class. It starts off slow, really getting to know these characters separately before throwing them together as a pairing. We see the ins and outs of running a lodging house at that time period, as well as some background into being a taxidermist. It's fascinating, because these professions for our main characters gives us a window into the class system of the era and how they feel about it. Clem has difficulty with reading and tolerating loud noises or crowds, which is never formally named as dyslexia or ADHD as it would be in our time, but as a very real struggle that he has to deal with on a daily basis. He has made a number of adaptations that are available in that time, and it's wonderful to see Rowley deal with them and learn how to address them as a couple. There's a definite sense of fondness and emotional connection even before the physical aspect is dealt with, which was also lovingly handled.

The pace of the book picks up as the murder mystery truly begins, shifting from day-in-the-life romance story into more of a thriller. There are the inevitable contacts that Clem has which allows the mystery to be pieced together without the police's help. Still, Clem and Rowley aren't supermen able to finish off everything themselves, and they do support each other to the very end of the book.  As the first in a trilogy, the book is very much a standalone with a hint at possibilities for more that are picked up in the rest of the trilogy.

Buy Unseen Attraction at Amazon

April 2017; Quirk Books; 9781594749476;
ebook, audio, print (320 pages)
YA, fairytale romance
Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Elle lives with her stepmother and twin stepsisters, who are all interested in makeup, social media, impressing others, and looking their best. Elle, on the other hand, loves the show Starfield, which her late parents had loved. In fact, her father had founded ExcelsiCon, the large convention in Atlanta. Elle and all the other fans of Starfield are upset with the movie reboot being filmed, and Darien Freeman is just as nervous. Unbeknownst to the public, he's also a fan of the original show and doesn't like the publicity stunts his manager father pushes him to do. He tried to call ExcelsiCon's staff to get out of some appearances, leading to him beginning to text Elle and discuss fannish theories.

The book is subtitled "A Fangirl Fairy Tale," and that it certainly is. There are wonderful nods to other fannish interests, and Starfield is very reminiscent of Star Trek. ExcelCon seems more like Dragon*Con, and the Cosplay Ball is a great way to tie cosplay and the Cinderella stories. Elle's fairy godmother is a fun addition because it isn't such an obvious parallel in the beginning. Elle herself is a believable and relate-able mix of defeatism and hope, just as every other geeky seventeen year old would be. There's a strength in her, even when she feels trapped by others' expectations and her lack of resources. While she still gets "rescued" by her prince in a way, Elle also has her own independent attempts to break free and still be true to herself.

This is a fun YA book that lovingly understands the teen geek and fully lives up to the "part love letter to nerd culture" description for the book.

Buy Geekerella at Amazon

March 2017; Diversion Books; 9781682307014
ebook, audio, print (268 pages);
paranormal romance
Souljacker by Yasmine Galenorn

Lily O'Connell is a succubus and owns a sex salon. When one of her clients is murdered by a vampire, not only is her reputation tarnished, but her life is at stake. The murderer is an insane tattoo artist that escaped a prison for the criminally insane supernaturals, and he is going after everyone that he ever gave a tattoo to. This includes Lily and many of her close friends. The police can't do much for this case, so she is referred to the private investigator Archer Desmond, who is also a chaos demon.

There is a wide range of supernatural creatures: the fae, vampires, weres, demons, witches, and ghosts as well as humans. They all interact in this world, mostly uneasily, and in a realistic manner. There were discussions about property ownership, citizenship, how the laws interact with the supernaturals, as well as the fae courts. The relationships between all of the characters were really well done, slowly unfolding and giving more information and backstory as we went further into the book. Lily discovered more about behind the scenes events as she dug into the investigation. She doesn't have superhuman strength, agility, intelligence or any of those kinds of powers. She does have the power inherent in her succubus nature, which is to charm others and to draw in their chi, or life force. That allows her to heal from some of the damage dealt, but that doesn't mean she can combat all of her obstacles on her own.

This is the beginning of a new series of books by Ms. Galenorn, and the dovetailing of the different supernatural creatures reminds me a bit of the October Daye books. This will hopefully shape up to be a series just as good because this is a great start.

Buy Souljacker at Amazon

Pretend Princess
March 2017; Williamson Press
ebook (299 pages); romantic suspense
Pretend Princess by Carolyn Rae

Tricia is visiting Cordillera, a tiny kingdom located between Spain and France where her parents are doing missionary work. She intends to watch over her younger sisters while her parents are at a conference for two weeks and is briefly mistaken for the Crown Prince's cousin, who had disappeared. She agrees to take the princess's place at public functions in order to help the royal family avoid scandal while they search for her. In the meantime, she gets close to the Prince and tries to fight their growing attraction.

Romance novels often rely on tropes, and the lookalike impostor that helps solve the mystery and falls in love with the hero(ine) is a favorite trope. The novel begins with this, and the setup is done beautifully. It just gets a little repetitive and runs down after a while, because there's nothing new and no additional obstacles for our hero and heroine to overcome.

The advance copy had a lot of quotation errors (action breaks in the middle of a statement meant that the quotes weren't picked back up for the rest of it) that I hope are fixed in the final copy.

The prince didn't impress me very much, and not just because he's a product of his country's culture. I didn't find him particularly charming or noteworthy. Tricia liked some aspects of his character, but he steamrolled over some of her objections or outright dismissed them, which never appeals to me. The expected happily ever after ending was abrupt and a complete turnaround from the royalty/commoner conflict throughout the book that it felt very contrived. For such a promising beginning, I was disappointed by the ending of the book.

Buy Pretend Princess at Amazon

March 2017; Loveswept; 9780399178436
ebook (303 pages); fairytale romance
Disenchanted by Susan Carroll

Ella Upton lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters. They tend to live with their dreams and are somewhat oblivious to the realities of the world around them. Even in a kingdom where magic exists, there are bills to be paid, meals to be cooked, houses to clean. Ella loves her family, and won't let her best friend Malcolm put them down. She has no interest in going to the royal ball, but her stepsisters do. They still believe in true love and the possibility of marrying the prince, but Ella had already lost her sense of magic.

This is a wonderful retelling of Cinderella. Instead of Ella being horribly abused by her stepmother and stepsisters, they're simply absent-minded children she felt responsible for taking care of. Her stepmother has never been mean to her but simply wasn't her mother.

There are a plethora of possible suitors by the end of the novel, in keeping with this being a Loveswept title, but it isn't terribly contrived. Of course, the Harper she once fell in love with wasn't who she thought he was, and the dour Commander isn't the relentless slave to rules that she thought he was. Even Malcolm's motives give her pause, though he remains a good friend throughout the book. I really enjoyed seeing how nuanced her relationships with each of the characters was. She's stubborn at times, but a very kind and loving person. It shows in how she acts toward her family and how she feels guilt over past mistakes, and I felt very connected to her as a result. There isn't anything more than a few kisses scattered throughout the book, and the ending feels rather open for future installments. I don't know if this is meant to be a series, but if it is, I would definitely read more novels.

Buy Disenchanted at Amazon

Meet Me On the Ice
December 2016; Hartwood Publishing
ebook (131 pages); romance
Meet Me on the Ice by Laura Jardin

Elise had missed out on a lot in her troubled childhood, so as an adult she decides to learn to ice skate. At the public rink, she meets Zachary, who is trying a different route to work through his grief at losing his best friend. They get to know each other, and Zach is convinced he's all wrong for her, just as she's convinced that it will work out between them.

This is a cute story, and fitting for winter. Our two leads meet cute, and they are instantly attracted to each other. Elise thinks Zach is gorgeous and he is instantly drawn to her cheerful mood and determination to succeed despite how often she falls.

It's a short book, very sweet and with a predictable but heartwarming end. It's a book version of hot cocoa in front of the fireplace.

Buy Meet Me on the Ice at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 20, 2017

Q is for Quindlen...Anna Quindlen #AtoZChallenge

by Susan Roberts

Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of eight novels: OBJECT LESSONS, ONE TRUE THING, BLACK AND BLUE, BLESSINGS, RISE AND SHINE, EVERY LAST ONE, STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS, and MILLER'S VALLEY. Her memoir LOTS OF CANDLES, PLENTY OF CAKE, published in 2012, was a number one New York Times bestseller. Her book A SHORT GUIDE TO A HAPPY LIFE has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, LIVING OUT LOUD and THINKING OUT LOUD. Her Newsweek columns were collected in LOUD AND CLEAR.

Have you ever read any Anna Quindlen books or seen one of the movies made from her books?  My favorite of her books was Still Life with Bread Crumbs (see review below) and my favorite movie was ONE TRUE THING (1998) starring Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger.  If you have a favorite, please share in the comments below.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs
October 2014; Random House; 978-0812976892
ebook, audio, print (288 pages); women's fiction 
Still Life with Bread Crumbs 

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

MY REVIEW:  It isn't often that you get to read a novel with a main character in their 60s. Younger people always think that they will have life figured out by the time they reach their 60s. This novel shows that women at that age are still struggling to be what and who they want to be.

It was a refreshing and fun read. There are quirky characters but the main character, learning to live her life is the best. This was a great, easy, fun book to read. Its very different from her other novels but its another winner for Anna Quindlen!

Buy Still Life with Bread Crumbs at Amazon

Miller's Valley
April 2016; Random House; 978-0812996081
ebook, audio, print (272 pages); women's fiction
Miller's Valley

For generations the Millers have lived in Miller’s Valley. Mimi Miller tells about her life with intimacy and honesty. As Mimi eavesdrops on her parents and quietly observes the people around her, she discovers more and more about the toxicity of family secrets, the dangers of gossip, the flaws of marriage, the inequalities of friendship and the risks of passion, loyalty, and love. Home, as Mimi begins to realize, can be “a place where it’s just as easy to feel lost as it is to feel content.”

Miller’s Valley is a masterly study of family, memory, loss, and, ultimately, discovery, of finding true identity and a new vision of home. As Mimi says, “No one ever leaves the town where they grew up, even if they go.” Miller’s Valley reminds us that the place where you grew up can disappear, and the people in it too, but all will live on in your heart forever.

MY REVIEW:  I have read all of Anna Quindlen's books and every time I read one, I say that its the best one yet. I think that this time....this book is the best one yet FOR SURE. From the first page, I was caught up in the coming of age story of Mimi. She lives on a farm in Miller's Valley with her two older brothers and parents. From the very first, we learn that the government plans to flood the valley for a recreation area and that plays a huge part in the story but the story is so much more than that. Its all about family dynamics - a brother in Vietnam, Mimi's first love, her plans for college, her friends and so much more. I loved the story but more than that I loved the main characters - they felt like people that I know in my day to day life - especially Mimi and her mother. During the book, I laughed with them and cried with them and now that the book is over, I miss them. This is a fantastic book - one that I won't soon forget.

Buy Miller's Valley at Amazon

Movie Trailer for One True Thing:

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 19, 2017

Photos: Post, Prompts, and Challenges #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber

Pictures can say a thousand words and it can be more eye-catching than a screen of words. Using photos and other images is important to blogging. It can also be fun to find the perfect picture that conveys your post's meaning.

Post Photos

It is imperative that we use images responsibly. Like any other created work (also known as intellectual property) photos, drawings, digital images, etc are protected by copyright law. That pretty photo or fun clipart belongs to someone. And unless you created it, that image you want to use may not be free to use. Just because it came up on Google images, it doesn't mean you are free to use it.

There is a clause in the copyright law that allows for "fair use", but there are stipulations to what can be used. If you are doing a review of a book, movie, or album then you can use the cover because it provides a visual reference to what you are discussing.

Beyond fair use the easiest way to use images freely is to use ones that are in the public domain or have a creative commons license that the owner specifies how their images can be used. There are a few different creative commons licenses so be sure you understand the agreement before you use the image. I use images that have a CC0 license because I can use it for personal or commercial projects, I can modify the image, and I don't have to provide attribution (though it is still nice to do so).

Where do you find these free stock images? I mostly use a site called LibreStock which searches a number of sites with free stock images. But in truth, most of my images come from Pixabay. Wikimedia Commons is another good source for public domain images. Be sure to read the details with the image as there may be requirements such as linking to a specific site.

A word of caution: Protect yourself when even when using an image from a free stock site. I have read about 2 instances where the blogger claimed to get an image from a free stock site with a free to use license (public domain or creative commons), but then was sued for copyright infringement. They had no record of where they got the image or proof that it was listed under a creative commons license.

Whether is a person taking an image that isn't free, claiming it is theirs and then publishing it on a free stock site under a CC license or the person who owns the photo posting it under CC and then pulling it, it is your responsibility to protect yourself. To do that it is recommended that you take a screenshot that shows the website and license. With this 'proof' you may be able to show that you, in good faith, used the image as the license allowed and that the offending party (the person who uploaded the image or perhaps the website) are responsible. **I'm not a lawyer so it would be best to get the advice of a lawyer if you are concerned about the images you use and your liability.**

According to, CC licenses are irrevocable. If you use an image that is under the license and later the owner of the image decides to stop distributing the image under the CC license, you can continue to use the image. Again, this is why it is important to take a screenshot to show that when you got the image it was under the license.

Of course, using your own images can eliminate this headache. You can dress up your photos with online programs like Picmonkey. So simple staging can also yield a nice picture. I used a pillowcase for the background and some glass rocks for a bit of sparkle.

Photo Prompts

Another great thing about photos is using them for inspiration. A number of sites, mostly geared towards fiction writers, have weekly photo prompts. Have you used a photo prompt for inspiration?

I have thought about doing a photo prompt that would be open to any bloggers. Would you be interested?

Here's the deal. There would be a photo with a link up and then you could write a short post on whatever would fit your site and the photo. For me, the image might remind me of a favorite book and I would write about it. A fiction writer might create a short story, a mommy blogger might share a family memory the image invoked. After doing your post, you would add it to the linky. Everyone participating would be encouraged to visit the other blogs.

Photo Challenges

Since today is the Letter P in the A to Z Challenge I tried really hard to come up with all P words (plus I like alliteration), but I couldn't find anything to substitute for challenges.

Photo challenges can be a fun way to create your own database of photos to use on your blog. I've done the Photo A Day challenge a few times. In this challenge, you are given a word for each day of the month and then you find something to take a picture of that day. Sometimes they are easy, like the flowers, or they can be difficult, like cascade.

I have thought about doing a bookish Photo A Day challenge. Anyone interested?

The challenge really got me thinking creatively. Both to take a great photo, but also to creatively think about the challenge that day.

Post your photos!

Having great photos is just the first step. Even if they don't go into a blog post, sharing them on your social media sites is a great way to encourage engagement. Instagram is all about the picture. But Facebook and even Twitter are becoming more image-centric. On Facebook, if I ask the question "what you are reading? and then upload a cute picture to go with it, I get much more interaction than if I just posed the question alone (plus Facebook shows it to more people).

You don't have to have a fancy camera or much photography knowledge to take a great photo, so don't be afraid to snap a few dozen each day.

How do you use photos in your blogging?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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April 18, 2017

Outstanding Suspense Novel: Duplicity by Jane Haseldine #AtoZChallenge

by Susan Roberts

Today I am going to review an outstanding suspense novel.  It's book 2 in the Julia Gooden series but can be read without reading the first book.  Do you enjoy reading suspense novels or watching suspenseful TV shows that keep you guessing until the end?  What are some of your favorite suspense novels and/or TV shows?

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.

March 2017; Kensington Publishing; 9781496704078
ebook, audio, print (352 pages); suspense
a free book was provided for this review
This is the first book that I've read by Jane Haseldine. Even though you can read Duplicity as a stand alone, I enjoyed it so much that I want to go back and read book 1 and am already anxious for the next book in the series.

Julia Gooden is a reporter for one of the major newspapers in Detroit. She covers some of the worst stories in the city and lives in the suburbs with her two young sons. She still struggles with the memory of her brother who disappeared when he was eight years old and tries to overprotect her children because of that memory. She and her husband, David, are trying to reconcile their marriage despite the stress of him starting a big trial as lead attorney to try to convict Nick Rossi for a number of crimes. A bomb at the courthouse that critically wounds David, throws their lives and the criminal trial into chaos.

This is a wonderful page turner. On a personal note, I loved it because I grew up in the Detroit area and recognized many of the places that the author wrote about in the book. From a reader's perspective, once I started this book, I couldn't put it down until I was finished. Just when I thought that everything was solved, there were more revelations still to come. This was a great story and I am anxious to see where the author takes Julia (and her readers) in her next book

Buy Duplicity at Amazon 
Also available at Kensington Publishing and Barnes & Noble

Jane Haseldine writes the Julia Gooden mystery series for Kensington Publishing, including The Last Time She Saw Him (July 2016) and Duplicity, which will be published in April 2017. Jane is a journalist, former crime reporter and deputy director of communications for a governor. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two sons.

Author Links:, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson. Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 17, 2017

Nonfiction Review: Neurodiversity by Barb Rentenbach and Lois Prislovsky #AtoZChallenge

by MK French

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review
May 2016; 978-0988344914; ebook & print (246 pages)
nonfiction; health
a free book was provided for this review

Barb Rentenbach is a woman with autism spectrum disorder that renders her mute, and she communicates by typing. Lois Prislovsky is her therapist, and also has ADHD. The two have collaborated on a number of projects, including a podcast where Barb's typed sections are read by her psychiatrist. The two alternate chapters in this book, discussing aspects of their personal lives and then giving practical advice on how to deal with similar situations. Their focus is on celebrating and respecting all people, regardless of how their brains function.

There is a lot of humor in this book, and the chapters are short and easy to read. It can sometimes feel disjointed, as the brevity of the chapters means that sometimes a topic first mentioned in one chapter isn't dealt with until later ones. The humor helps, as they are addressing concerns that many people have, even if they don't have the specific label.

Someone doesn't have to be autistic or have been diagnosed with ADHD or anxiety in order to appreciate this book. There are excerpts of therapy sessions as well, so people that might find the idea of seeing a therapist intimidating can see that it really is a conversation about how to be the best person that you can be. This is a very approachable and easy to read book, and helps bring humanity back to the labels that people carry.

Buy Neurodiversity at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 16, 2017

Two Books about two Different Kinds of Wars

by Susan Roberts

We've all heard the saying that 'war is hell' and I have reviews of two war books today, each from a totally different perspective.  We were the Lucky Ones is a novel about a Polish family during WWII.  The Weight of this World is about PTSD suffered by a soldier who fought in Afghanistan.  Both books show not only the horror of war but also the struggle by people who are trying to go back to their normal lives after suffering the trauma of war.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Free books were provided for honest reviews.

We Were the Lucky Ones
February 2017; Viking; 9780399563089
ebook, audio, print (412 pages); historical fiction
a free ARC was provided by Netgalley
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

This is a wonderful historical fiction novel based on the true story of the author's family. As with all books about the Holocaust, it's difficult to read in parts but these are facts in our history that we don't want to forget if we don't want them to happen again.

It's the story of the Kurc family, parents and five children who are Polish Jews and the story begins in the late 1930s. The Nazis are gaining power but the family continues to feel safe because they are prestigious members in their community. As the Nazis continue to take over Poland with their goal being to wipe out the Jewish community in the country, the family travel to different places in Europe. For the duration of the war, most of them have no communication with each other and no idea if any of the family is still alive. It's a well-told story and follows each member of the family as they struggle to survive the horrendous conditions that were going on during these years.

I strongly recommend this book. It's a story about WWII but more importantly, it's the story of a family's love for each other and their ability to survive the worst conditions imaginable through their love and strength.

Buy We Were the Lucky Ones at Amazon

The Weight of this World
March 2017; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 9780399173110
ebook, audio, print (270 pages); crime fiction
a free book was won through

The Weight of This World by David Joy

A combat veteran returned from the war, Thad Broom can't leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he forgive himself for what he saw there. His mother, April, is haunted by her own demons, a secret trauma she has carried for years. Between them is Aiden McCall, loyal to both but unable to hold them together. Connected by bonds of circumstance and duty, friendship, and love, these three lives are blown apart when Aiden and Thad witness the accidental death of their drug dealer and a riot of dope and cash drops in their laps. On a meth-fueled journey to nowhere, they will either find the grit to overcome the darkness or be consumed by it.

This was a beautifully written but hard-to-read novel. It's very dark and pretty depressing but gives a fair portrayal of life with PTSD. It's the story of love and friendship despite the life that these characters are living.

Buy The Weight of This World at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson. Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 15, 2017

Maria Murnane: How one particular friendship helped Bridges come to life! #AtoZChallenge

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.

Bridges is a story about how friendship can overcome differences such as geography, age, income, even marital status. In my own life, friendship helped me overcome the fear that my success as an author had come to an end. I make a living off my novels, so after I finished Wait for the Rain, which I absolutely loved writing, I put a lot of pressure on myself to begin another book right away. That proved to be a terrible decision because I didn’t have a good idea for an interesting plot. As a result, I ended up spending more than a year working on––forcing, actually––a lackluster story that was going nowhere. In the process, I not only lost my joy for writing but my confidence. When I finally decided to pull the plug on the book, I honestly didn’t know if I had it in me to write another one.

Fast-forward a few months, and during a visit to see my parents back to California I met up with my dear friend Annie Flaig, who may be the most kind-hearted person I have ever met. A devoted fan of my books—as well as the inspiration for the globe-trotting, ultra successful saleswoman Skylar character in both Wait for the Rain and Bridges—Annie convinced me to get back on the horse, and over dinner, we put our heads together and came up with the idea for Bridges. It was a bare bones outline, but it got me motivated to try again.

As soon I returned to Brooklyn, I sat down and started writing. For months I wrote and wrote, and when I finished the first draft I emailed it to Annie to see what she thought.

The very next day I got this email from her:

OMG!!!  Maria…it is 554am here in the Canary Islands and I stayed up all night reading your book!!!  I was going to just start it by reading a couple of chapters and fall asleep (on my iPhone…not even my iPad) and ended up reading the entire thing on my phone!  I was pretty much crying or had tears in my eyes the whole book (in a good way!) so I had to expand the text on my phone a bunch of times to read through the water works!

I absolutely LOVE it!  You are an amazing writer (as I already knew) but I agree with you that this one is very special.  You really got to the bottom of these characters and I am with you…I want to be friends with them too!

My book made Annie cry, and Annie’s reaction to it made me cry. How wonderful is that? I never would have been able to write Bridges without her help and support, and I can only hope those who read it enjoy it a fraction as much as she did. Here’s to the power of female friendship!

Buy Bridges at Amazon

Enter the giveaway!

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Maria Murnane spent several years working in high-tech PR before deciding she needed a change. She quit her job and went to Argentina by herself for what was supposed to be a two-week trip before figuring out what to do next. Instead, she ended up staying for a year to play semi-professional soccer, and while down there she also decided to write a humorous novel called Perfect on Paper based on her experiences as a single woman in San Francisco. Fast forward a few years, and she’s now the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series (Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, Chocolate for Two), as well as Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, Wait for the Rain, and Bridges.
Visit Maria on Facebook, Twitter, and website

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April 14, 2017

Learn About Literature #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber

As I mentioned in my first post for the A to Z Challenge, I don't have a degree in English or Literature. I have a degree in biology and to be honest, my English courses in college were more about ticking off a box on my requirements than learning anything. I enjoyed my American Lit class, but I also chose it because I had read everything on the syllabus.

I love learning and have maybe a bit of free time I would like to learn about something I'm passionate about (I was passionate about biology and I do use my degree a little bit in my day job). As an employee of a university, I can enroll in classes for free. I almost completed a Ph.D. in Ecology (didn't defend). But I don't care to take tests or do projects. I want something that fits my schedule.

For those wanting to learn anything, technology has definitely made it possible. If you don't care about getting a certificate or college credit there are a number of literature courses available online for FREE! And these aren't no-name schools or shady organizations. You can listen (and in most cases watch) recorded lectures from MIT, Yale, Harvard, UC Berkley, Oxford and more.

If you are looking for a bit more interaction than just listening to a lecture, you will often have access to the assignments (i.e. essay topics) and since in some courses (like those at Coursera) the assignments are peer graded, you could get your own "class" together. Again technology can help with that. You can use Google Docs to share essays or Google Hangouts or Skype for oral presentations. You can create a Facebook group which would allow for ongoing discussions. Reach out to your network and see who is interested. (I know some homeschoolers do something similar).

Where can you find these courses where you can learn anything from basic English grammar to studying Shakespeare and the Great American Novel? Here are the top spots I've found (often the same courses are cataloged at several sites, these sites offer the widest range of different courses). While I linked to the literature courses, you can find a number of other subject matters if you are interested in something else.

MIT OpenCourseWare
Open Culture
edX Literature Courses
Open Yale Courses
Oxford Playlists  This includes all subjects, but there are a number of audio guides to classic novels.

Do you have any favorite learning sites?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

April 13, 2017

Kids Favorite Top Five Books Lists #AtoZChallenge

by Elisabeth Scherer

kids favorite book reviews

Today I'm veering away from my regular reviews to talk about something that we read in our household daily. With two young children, we are constantly reading to them and searching out the next great read. My friends frequently post on social media requests for recommendations for books and recently we've come across quite a few good ones I'd like to pass on to other people looking for inspiration.

When I first started compiling for this article I pulled books I wanted to include down from our kids' bookshelf and realized I'd need to find a way to categorize them for making this list manageable. So without further ado, books our household currently ranks as the top reads for board books, early reading books, chapter books/middle readers, and series of books.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this article.

For board books, I look to my little girl's stash and found her top five frequently requested books.

5. I Know A Rhino by Charles Fuge
        This is a cute book about a girl who knows quite a few animals.

4. Glasses by Ann Gwinn Zawistoski Photography by Heide M. Woodworth
        This book makes the top because my little girl wears glasses and it helps introduce kids to glasses on people and what is their purpose.

3. Don't Push the Button written and illustrated by Bill Cotter
        Much like Monster at the end of the book, this is a fun and interactive story to read.
Peanuts Do Your happy Dance book

2. Hello Ninja by ND Wilson and illustrated by Forrest Dickison
        The Nerd in my loves this book. The rhyming and cute pictures have me reaching for it over and over.

1. Peanuts Do Your Happy Dance! Celebrate Wonderful you by Charles M. Schulz, Adapted by Elizabeth Dennis Barton, Illustrated by Scott Jeralds
       This book by far is my favorite board book. It talks about being an individual, trying hard, being different, trying your best, and many other life lessons with our favorite gang. It is a long book but worth every read.

For early reading books, I am pulling from a wide selection of my personal favorite and unique books I like to read to the kids.

5. Squid Kid the Magnificent by Lynne Berry and Illustrated by Luke LaMarca
        This is a delightful book about a Squid who thinks he's a magician and his pesky sister.
4. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
        Do you like tacos? Well did you know Dragons like them too? But they do not like Spicy tacos!
3. LMNO Peas by Keith Baker (bonus would be Little Green Peas a big book of colors also by Baker)
      This cute little book walks you through the alphabet of professions with cute little peas. Don't forget to find the ladybug hiding on each page.
Don't worry bear book

2. Don't Worry Bear by Greg Foley
      The cute illustrations make the wonderful topics in this book soar.

1. The Further Tales of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson (bonus would be the two other books she has written as well, all equally as good as this one)
      I'm a huge fan of Beatrix Potter and Emma Thompson does a fantastic job writing complimentary tales. It's another adventure for Peter!

For Chapter books and middle readers, I looked at books that I'm anxiously waiting to read to my children when they get a bit older.

5. Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
       In this book Andrew sees the boy sitting in front of him has freckles and Andrew believes he could solve many of his problems if he just had freckles. Another classmate hears his woes and tells him of Freckle Juice, a way to get freckles.  This is a fun story that I think the kids will giggle at and enjoy.

4. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
        In this classic story, a family of Rats needs to move but one young member of the family is very ill. Mrs. Frisby meets the rats of NIMH and they come up with a solution to her problem. It has well-written characters, the great theme of courage and doing what is right. Good for kids and wonderful to re-read as an adult.
Fortune's Folly book by Deva Fagan

3. Fortune's Folly by Deva Fagan
     Fortunata makes up fortunes to help earn money for her family. One day she tells a fortune that may cost her. A clever heroine, wonderful supporting characters, and a nice different fairy tale.

2. The Six by K.B. Hoyle
      Darcy and her friends stumble upon a gateway to another world where they are all part of a prophecy. This book is very C.S. Lewis and Tolkien inspired with wonderful creatures and characters and a great plot.

1. Circus Galacticus by Deva Fagan
      Trix is a tough girl orphan who is offered a position with the travelling space circus. She finds a new world to explore with dangers and new friends as well as exploding desserts. She is searching information about her past in this delightful Middle reader.

Finally here are the top three books series that I think are must haves for families with children.

3. The Day the Crayons Quit & The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt & Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
      These two books chronicle the misadventures of crayons in a boy name Duncan's life. They are compilations of letters of crayons going on strike for various reasons. In the second book, the Crayons write Duncan from multiple locations with tragedies and convictions.   We find it's more entertaining with someone reading in funny voices as well. Hilarious and silly.

2. Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer & Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
      Each book in this series is about a real person who changed in things in the world. The books are illustrated in the cartoon style which keeps younger kids interested as well. People such as Albert Einstien, Jane Goodall, Helen Keller, and George Washington are all have their own books.
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

1. Sky Color & Ish & The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
     These are my absolute favorite books. Each book talks about someone struggling with an artistic concept. In Sky Color, Marisol is looking for the right color to paint the sky in a mural. In Ish, Ramon struggles with if he can draw after receiving criticism from his brother. And in The Dot, Vashti is certain she can't draw until one special teacher takes a different approach to reach her.  Each book is beautifully illustrated with a lovely message. There is a fourth book about music which we are itching to by called Playing from the Heart. 

Elisabeth Scherer grew up in a very small town in Minnesota but now lives in the lovely Pacific Northwest where she spends most of her time raising her two young children. She and her husband have a large collection of books that takes a good space of their small condo. When she's not reading she has a variety of hobbies that include crocheting, drawing, baking, cooking, and movie watching. She is currently obsessed with making French Macarons and other baked deliciousness! You can also find her blogging at

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