Some Summer Reads…

If you know me, you know I love my kindle. I can boost up the size of the print and not need my glasses and I can read when I wake up in the middle of the night (instead of staring at the ceiling and worrying about various things). However, summer is the best time for reading printed books for me because, as an educator, I have lots more time to read during the day and/or read when I’m not exhausted and bleary-eyed.

So – I recently gathered some of my paper books that I’ve been saving for summer and lined them up for a tbr pile picture:

Squee! I’ve got a little bit of everything in here — from Tudor times to a cozy mystery to some YA to a non-fiction laugh a minute memoir from a Little House on the Prairie cast member. Of course I have about 25 things on my kindle, but I’ll be getting to these while the days are long and there’s time to relax with a good book!

What are YOU reading this summer?

My Favorite Reads of 2016


So – I’ve been a bit off the grid lately what with the holidays and our family cruise to the Bahamas; but I’ve been reading more than ever!

Before we move on to 2017, though, I want to share my favorite books of 2016. I read well over 100 books, with my favorite genres being historical fiction, mystery, fiction, and YA.

Here, in no particular order, are my top personal reads of last year:


Historical Fiction:



FLIGHT OF DREAMS by Ariel Lawhorn

LILAC GIRLS by Martha Hall Kelly

GIOCONDA by Lucille Turner

PROMISED TO THE CROWN series by Aimie Runyan



THE TEA PLANTER’S WIFE by Dinah Jefferies

THE GERMAN GIRL by Armando Lucas Correa

THE GIRL FROM VENICE by Martin Cruz Smith



MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout






I LET YOU GO by Claire Macintosh





ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell

WOLF HOLLOW by Lauren Wolk

GOLDFISH by Nat Luurtsema



All these books are reviewed on my blog, along with many others that I enjoyed!

What was on your favorite list this year?


photo credit: loop_oh curve of books via photopin (license)


I recently received a copy of TALES OF A JAILHOUSE LIBRARIAN from my friends at Meryl  Zegarek Publicists (just a note: anything I’ve ever gotten from MZPR I’ve loved!). This is a mini-memoir of one woman’s experience working as a library cart librarian and transition counselor in the juvenile section of a large prison in New York. For Marybeth Zeman, her relationship with the boys in this facility is centered around her library cart and the books and stories she brings to them each week. Reading, for these boys, is a sanctioned escape, a chance for the future, a little bit of freedom in their everyday life.

Told in short vignettes, Marybeth has captured numerous tales of different boys: how they came to be in prison, what their daily life is like, how bright or bleak their futures are. Their stories are touching, painful, and honest, and one is left with the knowledge that these boys are just a small percentage of the thousands of young men incarcerated in our country each year. Marybeth’s story highlights the workings of the justice system and shows where improvements could occur, especially in helping the boys to have the skills they need in order to not become repeat offenders. Most poignant of all, though, are the voices of the boys that stay with you long after reading this book.

I was so touched by this book that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Marybeth Zeman while I was in NY at BEA. We connected through her publicist and spent about 90 minutes together just chatting and talking about her work, the juvenile justice system, her experiences, etc. There was no formal interview, or a “how did you come to write this book” type of Q&A. Instead we were just two educators and readers, come together to discuss our concerns and feelings about these boys and our hopes for the future.

Marybeth’s story is one that deserves to be told. Readable, touching, and unforgettable, her TALES OF A JAILHOUSE LIBRARIAN reveals an intimate portrait of what life is like for many of our nation’s young citizens. And Marybeth is a spunky narrator, both in the book and in real life! I can’t believe I’ve heard the last from this woman — she is going places and, as her subtitle suggests, she is “challenging the juvenile justice system one book at a time”.

Here is a picture of Marybeth from our time together:


Book Expo America 2014 – Highlights for Me (Part 1)

So last week I travelled to NYC for the biggest publishing industry event: Book Expo America (BEA).

I have attended the bloggers’ conference at BEA twice before, but this year decided to attend the actual BEA conference as well. It was exciting, but huge and overwhelming at the same time. I had planned to attend several sessions, especially those highlighting what was new and forthcoming in different genres, but I actually spent all my time in the exhibit halls, gathering info and books or waiting in lines to get a signed book from an author.

If you enjoy collecting book bags then BEA is the place for you! I only take things I really want, and I still ended up with five book bags. This is a picture of my favorite one:

10299005_10152156817828339_8290662918476011710_n bookbag

I was SO very excited to see the South Dakota State Historical Press at BEA as they are publishing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original manuscript entitled “Pioneer Girl”. This is the memoir from whence the Little House books came. Now if you know me, you know that when I’m not obsessing over Louisa May Alcott, I’m obsessing over Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve been WAITING for “Pioneer Girl” to publish and it’s been a loooong wait. The gentleman in the booth said they are looking at this year at holiday time now. We had a nice chat about how when it does publish, perhaps it will put to bed these notions that Laura was not the author of the Little House books, but Rose was. Anyway, I can’t wait to get it! And this bag is so beautiful, too – the picture is the forthcoming cover of “Pioneer Girl”. (If you want to read more about the Pioneer Girl project, check out this site:

I received MANY wonderful books at BEA, but here’s a picture of some of my faves:


If you read me, you know I loved ORPHAN TRAIN and WE WERE LIARS. I was able to get paper copies of both signed by the authors – so exciting! I got a signed copy of MADAME TUSSAUD’S APPRENTICE, which I look forward to reading, too. My pick of the week, though, was CONVERSION. I really, really, REALLY want to read this book and have not been able to get it through my usual channels. Now I have a signed copy! And I will be starting it today.

The Wimpy Kid Planner was given out at the Children’s Author Breakfast, which I attended. Jeff Kinney was a great speaker – very funny as you would imagine. Mem Fox also spoke. I just love her (I’ve seen her before at Internat’l Reading). We got a copy of her BABY BEDTIME book. Carl Hiaasen spoke, and we received his new book, and the whole things was chaired by Jason Segel of Muppet Movie fame (he’s written a book for kids, too). It was a pretty fun time, though I had to hunt for two of the books as my table didn’t have them.

The day before I had attended the Adult Author Breakfast, which was chaired by Neil Patrick Harris. This was major for me as I’m a total theater nut. I was soooo excited to just be in the same room with NPH. His autobiography, which is based on a “choose your own adventure” – remember those?, is coming out in the fall. Angelica Huston spoke beautifully, too, about her life and her memoirs (which was apparently given to attendees, though my table didn’t have it — boo!). I have to say, though, that I really enjoyed Tavis Smiley, the NPR host and PBS show host, most of all as he talked about his life and Dr. Martin Luther King and his new book on him (which we received). Tavis was such an engaging speaker; I just loved him. I missed the last speaker, Lisa Scottoline.

As you can imagine, between the amazing books and authors and all the things to see in the exhibit halls, I was a bit overwhelmed in the two days I was at BEA!

My next post will follow up on the Bloggers’ Conference and what we discussed there, books we received, new friends, etc.

Book Expo America 2014

This week I’ve been in NYC to attend Book Expo America (BEA) and the Bloggers’ Con. Today is the last day of events, so soon I will have a full report on what I did, who I saw, and what great books I got.

Just a few highlights:

  • Four days in NYC – one of my favorite places!
  • Meeting lots of new blogging friends and seeing “old timers”!
  • Interesting sessions!
  • Networking!
  • Exhibits – Exhibits – Exhibits!
  • Lots of FREE books that I will be reading and reviewing and also maybe holding a few giveaways! (I managed to meet the authors of and get signed copies of both “Convergence” and “We Were Liars” – major squee! – sorry, but I have to keep those)
  • Wonderful authors that I got to meet in person!
  • Theater friends take note: Author Breakfast hosted by Neil Patrick Harris!! (that warrants two exclamation points)
  • Timing that coincided with “Manhattenhenge”!
  • All in all, a great few days!

Look to this space in the near future to see what I learned and what I came home with this year.

Also I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with Marybeth Zeman, author of TALES OF A JAILHOUSE LIBRARIAN, which I finished shortly before leaving for NYC. I’ll be reviewing her book and writing about our chat together.

Nothing like a few days away to rejuvenate this blogger!


Review: Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame (The Enchanted Attic Series, #1) by L.L. Samson

A few weeks ago I read this book and posted the book trailer for it. It’s the first in a new series for young readers, coming out in May, in which 12-year-old twins Linus and Ophelia discover a magic circle in their aunt and uncle’s attic, which brings book characters to life. (Of course the circle is also being misused for bad deeds by a nefarious former house occupant). One day Ophelia drops her copy of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” down, and the next thing they know, Quasimodo is there in person. Enlisting the help of a young neighbor friend and a “cool” priest, they have a race against time to get Quasi back to his own world.

I loved this book and look forward to more in this series. I’ve already recommended it for our school library and will be getting it for my own elementary-age children.

Thanks, Net Galley and Zonderkidz books, for my kindle copy!