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    The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades (A Book Review)

    The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades
    thethunderbeneathus

    Publisher: Dafina (Kensington Publishing Corp.)
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 320

    Synopsis
    To the world, Best Lightburn is a talented writer rising up the masthead at international style magazine James, girlfriend of a gorgeous up-and-coming actor, and friend to New York City’s fabulous. Then there’s the other Best, the one who has chosen to recast herself as an only child rather than confront the truth.

    Ten years ago, on Christmas Eve, Best and her two older brothers took a shortcut over a frozen lake. When the ice cracked, all three went in. Only Best came out. People said she was lucky, but that kind of luck is nothing but a burden. Because Best knows what she had to do to survive. And after years of covering up the past, her guilt is detonating through every facet of her seemingly charmed life. It’s all unraveling so fast: her new boss is undermining and deceitful, her boyfriend is recovering from a breakdown, and a recent investigative story has led to a secret affair with the magazine’s wealthy publisher.

    Best is quick-witted and headstrong, but how do you find a way to happiness when you’re sure you haven’t earned it—or embrace a future you feel you don’t deserve? Evocative and emotional, The Thunder Beneath Us is a gripping novel about learning to carry loss without breaking, and to heal and forgive—not least of all, ourselves.

    Reflection
    Survivor’s guilt.  It’s something many people deal with at some point in their lives.  People living with survivor’s guilt for extended periods of time often experience depression, self-loathing and self-punishment.  In each situation in their lives – whether it’s a relative living as an addict, a parent being a full blown alcoholic, or being the lone survivor in an accident – they feel like they had somehow, unfairly, escaped the doom and gloom that seemed to prey upon the people they love the most.  Sometimes they even believe they caused it.  As a result, people suffering from survivor’s guilt end up wasting a lot of time and emotional energy trying to answer questions like, “Why them and not me?”  If you’ve ever experienced the pain of survivor’s guilt in some capacity then The Thunder Beneath Us is the book for you.

    The opening line of this book made me laugh out loud – literally!  It immediately intrigued me and drew me into the story.  Best (short for Bathsheba) is a beautiful, accomplished magazine journalist dating a hot actor.  What more could a woman ask for, right?  Although it sounds like she has it all together on the surface, her life is a hot mess! She’s been living with so many secrets that eventually begin to come bubbling to the surface and rock her world upside down.

    Although I think the first half of this book was a bit slow to develop, the second half definitely made up for it and had me turning the pages so fast wanting to know what was going to happen next!  After having a breakdown, Best visits her childhood home in Canada.  That’s when we learn what really happened ten years ago when she was the sole survivor of a terrible ice accident that tragically took the lives of her two brothers. What she had to do in order to survive turns out to be the mystery.  For years Best lived with survivor’s guilt, without ever expressing her feelings.  Can you imagine what that must feel like?

    While Best isn’t the most likeable character, I did find myself relating to her in some chapters.  Her personality can be described as sassy, witty and funny.  Some may even call her a hater.  No matter how you feel about Best Lightburn I think you’ll find yourself cheering for her, laughing at her, crying with her, cursing her out and wanting to reach out and give her a big hug at times.  She’s not perfect – she’s human.

    I love the author’s attention to detail and the way she describes each character, their actions and the scenery around them.  The Thunder Beneath Us is a very thought-provoking, gripping, compelling and emotional book with themes of: love, family, relationships, personal discovery, self-acceptance, healing, loss, forgiveness, coping with the past and moving forward.  There are some valuable personal growth and self-discovery lessons to be learned for people who have struggled with things that haunt them from their past.  Best is forced to finally confront her tainted past so she can finally move on, forgive herself and experience happiness in her life once again.

    Add this book to your holiday gift list for yourself or a friend.  This book has it all: fresh, detailed and concise writing, scandal, secrets and workplace affairs it’s great for reading while traveling or over the weekend.

    About Nicole Blades
    nicoleblades

    Nicole Blades is a novelist and journalist who has been putting her stories on paper since the third grade. Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, by Caribbean parents, Nicole moved to New York City and launched her journalism career working at Essence magazine. She later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health. Now a freelance writer, her features and essays have appeared in MORE magazine, Cosmopolitan, NYTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com, MarieClaire.com, BuzzFeed, SELF, and BlogHer. Nicole has been a speaker and panelist at BlogHer, Mom 2.0 and the MA Conference for Women. She also created Ms. Mary Mack, a blog that aims to bring compassion and common sense back to parenthood.  Nicole currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and their son.

    Connect with Nicole Blades!

    Website| Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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    adult books, book reviews, children's books, holiday gift guide series

    Holiday Gift Guide Series: The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda

    The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda
    thechristmasstory

    Publisher: Candlewick
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 12
    Age Range: 5 – 8 years old (and up)

    Synopsis
    Hope and joy radiate from the pages of Robert Sabuda’s new pop-up book celebrating the Nativity.

    Long ago in the town of Bethlehem, on a bright and starry night, a baby was born, a child who was called the son of God. Announced by an angel, born in a humble manger, laid in a bed of straw, visited by shepherds and wise men—the age-old, awe-inspiring story of the birth of Jesus is lovingly brought to life by master pop-up artist Robert Sabuda in six gorgeously imagined scenes, culminating in a 3-D manger sheltering humans and beasts, guarded by an angel above. Glinting with touches of gold and pearlescent foil, The Christmas Story is a visual feast, a holiday treasure to be shared with the whole family.

    thechristmasstory1

    Reflection
    Before there were 3D movies, there were pop-up books.  As a child, I used to love pop-up books because the action literally jumped right out at me as I turned the pages.  Opening each page was like unwrapping a gift.  There was always a surprise awaiting on the next page to reward me.  So fun!

    Pop-up book artist Robert Sabuda is the master at transforming a blank piece of paper that lacks dimension, texture and movement and turning it into a beautiful piece of art.  That’s exactly what he has done with the book The Christmas Story.  It’s truly a marvel in paper engineering that your kids, and even some adults, will be pretty impressed by.

    My kids love looking at all of the intricate art on each page.  As I read the story, they like counting the number of items they see on each page like: doves, sheep, palm trees and camels.  They also love pointing at the gold foil accents that make certain things in the book stand out like the stable where Jesus was lying in.

    Reading this book really gets me in the holiday spirit.  It features six imagined scenes from the inspiring story of the birth of Jesus.  Little readers will see scenes of the angel who came to tell Mary she would soon have a baby named Jesus, a scene of the three wise men traveling, and more.  The book ends with a beautiful nativity scene with the three wise men giving Mary precious gifts befitting for a king.

    This book makes a really special holiday gift for children or adults.  While I wouldn’t recommend it to be held by the smallest readers due to the fragile pop-up art, I think children ages 5 and older would handle it just fine.  The pages are sturdy and so is the cover, but the pop-up artwork is fragile.  A true delight to read and marvel at all the beautiful scenes featured.  A holiday book that can be enjoyed as a family again and again each year during the holiday season. Perfect for religious families!

    Your turn: Have you read any of Robert Sabuda’s pop-up books?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman (A Book Review)

    Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Our Edible World  by Julia Rothman

    foodanatomyPublisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 224

    Synopsis
    Get your recommended daily allowance of facts and fun with Food Anatomy, the third book in Julia Rothman’s best-selling Anatomy series. She starts with an illustrated history of food and ends with a global tour of street eats. Along the way, Rothman serves up a hilarious primer on short order egg lingo and a mouthwatering menu of how people around the planet serve fried potatoes — and what we dip them in. Award-winning food journalist Rachel Wharton lends her editorial expertise to this light-hearted exploration of everything food that bursts with little-known facts and delightful drawings. Everyday diners and seasoned foodies alike are sure to eat it up.

    Reflection
    I’m so impressed with the Anatomy series by Julia Rothman!  I’ve read the two previous books and this third one surely didn’t disappoint – it’s so deliciously gorgeous!  Being a fellow foodie, I enjoyed this book immensely and learned so much from it.  Food is a topic that literally everyone can get behind because it’s something we all need in order to survive.  There’s something for people of all cultures in this charming international guide.

    The book starts out providing readers with a brief history of food from 80,000 BCE right up to modern day. It also includes detailed illustrations of place settings from different cultures around the world: formal American, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Indian/Nepalese.  It’s filled with interesting nuggets of information like this of all things related to food – one of my favorite subjects.

    Did you know there is a special type of fork for eating asparagus or a special spoon specifically for eating grapefruit? Or that in the Philippines people typically like to eat banana sauce on their french fries?  Do you know how to braid a challah or make tofu or chocolate?  You’ll learn the answers to these questions and so much more by reading this book.  What makes this book so scrumptious are the whimsical illustrations on every page.  They look good enough to eat!  In addition, the paper quality is top-notch and really helps to bring out the lovely hand-drawn illustrations.

    It’s evident a lot of time and research went into compiling all of this information.  I think this book is well suited for adults and children alike.  It serves as a wonderful reference book and will make a lovely addition to any coffee table.  There are also several recipes included throughout the book for things like: creamy maple mocha pudding, shikanjvi (a spiced lemonade drink from India) and noodle pudding.

    I believe readers will enjoy the crisp, clean perfectly imperfect lines and detailed information that has been the hallmark of Rothman’s work since the very beginning.  Not to mention all of the tidbits of information and the recipes.  It’s a true gem!  This books makes an excellent gift for readers of all ages – especially for food lovers.  Did I mention that I love this book? 🙂 I’m sure you will too.

    Check out all the books in this series: The Julia Rothman Collection | Farm Anatomy | Nature Anatomy

    juliarothmancollection

    The Julia Rothman Collection presents all three of Julia Rothman’s popular Anatomy volumes in a handsome giftable box set featuring a specially designed slipcase and 10 framable prints.

    Your turn: Have you read any of the books in this series?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    adult books, book reviews, children's books, family fun

    Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout! (A Book Review)

    Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood

    by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
    letsclapjump
    Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
    Age Level: 7 and up
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – 12
    Pages: 184
    Available for Sale: January 10, 2017

    Synopsis

    Parents and grandparents will delight in sharing this exuberant book with the children in their lives. Here is a songbook, a storybook, a poetry collection, and much more, all rolled into one. Find a partner for hand claps such as “Eenie, Meenie, Sassafreeny,” or form a circle for games like “Little Sally Walker.” Gather as a family to sing well-loved songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Oh, Freedom,” or to read aloud the poetry of such African American luminaries as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. And snuggle down to enjoy classic stories retold by the author, including Aesop’s fables and tales featuring Br’er Rabbit and Anansi the Spider.

    Reflection

    Oh, the hand clapping and jump rope games in this book bring back so many memories for me.

    Remember this one?

    “Down, down, baby, down by the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, I’ll never let you go. Shimmy, shimmy coco pop, shimmy, shimmy pow!” 

    Or how about this one?

    “Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack,
    All dressed in black, black, black,
    With silver buttons, buttons, buttons,
    All down her back, back back.”

    Growing up as a kid, my sister and I used to love playing hand clapping games with each other and our friends. We didn’t have all the fancy technology that’s available for kids today. We simply used our imagination and made up songs and games or we learned from other cultures and made the songs/games uniquely our own by adding different rhythms and movements.

    There are also some beautiful spirituals, hymns, proverbs, psalms, fables, parables and circle games included in this book.  Some of my favorite gospel songs are featured too like: “This Little Light of Mine”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”.  I had fun teaching my daughter some of the hand clapping games like “Miss Mary Mack” and “Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop”.

    I truly enjoyed this book…it’s a treasure that will no doubt be passed down for many generations to come in my family.  Not only is it jam packed with games, songs and stories that I can relate to, it also has some of the most beautiful swirling watercolor and ink illustrations to accompany the text.  Each game, song or story is preceded by a note from the author describing the origin/background or sharing a personal story from her childhood memories.

    It’s also worth mentioning that the author of this book grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee, in the 1950s.  It’s a collection of her favorite childhood games, songs, poetry and stories that are directly linked to her African-American heritage.  That being said, if you grew up in the 1950s, in either Missouri or Tennessee you’d probably relate best to this book.  However, I’m not saying this book is specifically geared toward that audience. What I am saying is that depending on what decade you were born and where you grew up, the wording to some of the hand claps and jump rope games may vary.  For example, the words to some of the songs featured in this book are slightly different from the words we used to sing.  Keep in mind I grew up in the 1980s in the Northeast close to NYC, which is a totally different time frame and geographic location than the author.  Also, some of my favorite hand claps like: “CeCe My Playmate” weren’t included in this book.  Perhaps that’s because the author didn’t sing that one as a child or maybe it wasn’t popular in the 1950s in the area where she grew up in.

    Overall, I’d highly recommend this book for every African-American household.  Even if you’re not an African-American family, I’d recommend checking this one out and using it as a reference.  I think it’s wonderful!  Also great for keeping in a school library or classroom.  Look for this one in January 2017 or pre-order a copy now!

    Your turn: What are some of your favorite hand clapping games, songs or spirituals from your childhood?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    The Art of Blissful Parenting + A Giveaway!

    BeachBoundBooks is pleased to be coordinating a Book Blast for The Art of Blissful Parenting by Sharon Ballantine. The blast will run October 24 – October 26, 2016. collages14


    About the Book

    artofblissfulparenting Title: The Art of Blissful Parenting | Author: Sharon Ballantine | Genre: Parenting Number of Pages: 190 | Publisher: Balboa Press | Publication Date: November 24, 2015 Book Description: What if you had the ideal relationship with your children? This book is for every parent that wants to have a powerful bond with their kids. Parents have the opportunity for newfound freedom and joy when they teach their children about their Internal Guidance System. Tools and guidance are offered in this book for exacting the art of blissful parenting by practicing alignment. It’s fun and easy to work with the Universe and a short lesson in the Law of Attraction is part of this script. Parents-live and also teach your children how to manifest what they want by thinking in a more positive way and deliberately creating their lives.

    Amazon | Balboa Press | Barnes & Noble

    What others are saying… “This book is filled with amazing tools for any adult who wants to sharpen the innate gifts of the children in their lives and support them in developing and following their internal guidance. Beautifully and thoughtfully written with clear practical exercises to allow you to put into practice what you have read.” – Debbie (Amazon Reviewer)
    “The Art of Blissful Parenting offers readers a refreshing, out-of-the-box approach to raising happy children. Sharon offers practical tools and tips for teaching kids how to thrive by using the law of attraction and following their internal guidance system.” – (Amazon Reviewer) “This is a fascinating book for anyone who wants to raise confident, independent children. The author presents her unique ideas in a thoughtful and insightful way” – Cheryl (Amazon Reviewer)

    About the Author: Sharon Ballantine

    1475380012 Sharon Ballantine is a Parenting Coach and certified Law of Attraction Life Coach. She has successfully raised three children and is the author a new book “The Art of Blissful Parenting.” Sharon is the founder of “The Ballantine Parenting Institute,” her online parenting program. Ballantine is a sought after speaker, and was host to her own Internet TV Show with Conscious Evolution Media Network from 2013-2014. The platform of The Sharon Ballantine TV Show featured a conversation with passionate spiritually minded guests. Sharon also had her own column with Beliefnet.com “Parenting on Purpose.” Sharon was interviewed on TV, February 15, 2016 for her new book release, “The Art of Blissful Parenting” on KING 5 New Day Northwest, a live daytime talk show in Seattle. Ballantine has been interviewed on several radio shows including Blog Talk Radio in Los Angeles, Chat with Women radio show in Seattle and Conscious Evolution Media Internet TV in Denver. Her interview with Hay House Radio will air by summer ’16. Sharon’s website is SharonBallantine.com which features weekly teaching blogs, podcasts and slideshows. You can see her educational videos on her YouTube channel, Sharon Ballantine. Sharon lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband Jay.

    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Google+

    Book Blast Giveaway

    Prize: One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card or $25 PayPal cash prize, winner’s choice.

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    What I’m Reading (in October 2016)

    I realize it’s been a while since I’ve told you guys what I’m reading.  Over the summer I was so engaged with the kids and their activities that I didn’t take as much time to read as I normally do.  Now that the kids are in school, I’m back to my normal routine of reading 2-3 books per month.  Here’s what I’m reading this month:

    Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain
    quietpower

    Synopsis
    The monumental bestseller Quiet has been recast in a new edition that empowers introverted kids and teens. Susan Cain sparked a worldwide conversation when she published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. With her inspiring book, she permanently changed the way we see introverts and the way introverts see themselves.

    The original book focused on the workplace, and Susan realized that a version for and about kids was also badly needed. This book is all about kids’ world—school, extracurriculars, family life, and friendship. You’ll read about actual kids who have tackled the challenges of not being extroverted and who have made a mark in their own quiet way. You’ll hear Susan Cain’s own story, and you’ll be able to make use of the tips at the end of each chapter. There’s even a guide at the end of the book for parents and teachers.

    This insightful, accessible, and empowering book, illustrated with amusing comic-style art, will be eye-opening to extroverts and introverts alike.

    I was immediately drawn to this book because not only am I more introverted, but my daughter is too.  I am in LOVE with this book you guys – it’s so insightful!  I think it’s a must read for all parents raising introverted children.  Be sure to check out Susan Cain’s Ted Talk which still stands as one of the most viewed Ted talks of all time.

    Like Magic by Elaine Vickers
    likemagic
    Synopsis
    This sweet middle grade novel featuring a diverse cast of characters proves that friendship can be just around the corner.

    For three ten-year-old girls, their once simple worlds are starting to feel too big. Painfully shy Grace dreads starting fifth grade now that her best friend has moved away. Jada hopes she’ll stop feeling so alone if she finds the mother who left years ago. And Malia fears the arrival of her new baby sister will forever change the family she loves. When the girls each find a mysterious treasure box in their library and begin to fill the box with their own precious things, they start to feel less alone. But it’s up to Grace, Jada, and Malia to take the treasures and turn them into something more: true friendship.

    Your turn: What books are you currently reading?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    adult books, book reviews

    Think Happy by Karen Salmansohn (A Book Review)

    Think Happy: Instant Peptalks to Boost Positivity by Karen Salmansohn
    thinkhappy
    Publisher: Ten Speed Press
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 128

    Synopsis
    Happiness expert and Oprah columnist Karen Salmansohn presents a collection of 50 inspirational inner peptalks to boost your confidence, attitude, and mood. These peptalks are different than affirmations because they’re feisty, fun and memorable–and will thereby stick in your brain like a catchy song. You’ll naturally want to keep repeating them, thereby changing your neural pathways so you’re inclined to think positive thoughts, which lead to positive habits, which lead to a positively happy life!

    Whether you’re feeling stressed, need motivation, are dealing with haters, or need to turn your tale of woe into a tale of wow, THINK HAPPY’s instant peptalks and whimsical illustrations will grump-proof your brain so you can move forward with optimism, resilience, and plain ol’ fabulousness.

    Reflection
    How you think and what you think about, over time, largely creates the circumstances of your life – including the degree to which happiness, joy, love, excitement, passion and purpose will play a major role in it.

    It takes a tough person to learn to think differently.  We develop patterns of thought and habitual ways of thinking over the course of a lifetime.  The good news is we can learn to think differently and view the world with new eyes. This book is the perfect example of how to change your mindset to start thinking happy thoughts and giving yourself mini peptalks.

    This book embraces the power of words and encourages you to think happy thoughts. Each section provides you with 5 things to say when you’re faced with a particular situation. For example: 5 things to say when you are trying something new, 5 things to say when faced with failure, 5 things to say to motivate yourself to go for your dreams and so much more.  This collection of 50 positive pep talks will quickly become your favorite go-to tool for whenever you need a little extra support or positive affirmations.

    When you use the instant peptalks in this book regularly you will begin to change your thought patterns which will lead to more optimistic thoughts and positive habits.  Which ultimately will lead to you living a happier life.  I can personally attest to that as I’ve been putting these peptalks into practice in my daily life over the past few weeks.  For example, I constantly find myself repeating the phrase “Every expert started out as a beginner” whenever I try something new.  I also like saying, “You are a fine piece of china.  Don’t let anyone treat you like a paper plate” when dealing with toxic or annoying people.

    I like using these instant peptalks because they are catchy and serve as positive reminders for me to keep moving forward and pushing harder.  I have my favorite peptalks written on post-it notes in places where I can reference them often. Another great thing about these peptalks is they are great to use with children.  Here are some of my personal favorites for kids: “Practice is how you learn”, “Realize how much you’re worth…don’t give people discounts” and “Do good to feel good.”

    We all know people and circumstances will occasionally break you down in life. But if you keep your mind focused, your heart open to possibility, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, you will be able to quickly recover the pieces, rebuild, and come back much stronger than you ever would have been otherwise.

    Each day you wake up with a choice.  Transformation is yours to create.  Will you decide to be grateful, spontaneous, enlightened, and joyous, or will you choose to keep complaining about how terrible your life is?  Research shows the power of positive thinking cannot be underestimated.  So go and think yourself to a new level of happiness and joy.  I dare you!  Check out this book if you’re in need of some good instant peptalks or gift it to a friend or loved one.

    Your turn:  I’d love your thoughts on building positivity habits.  What is your favorite way to shift your mindset when things get tough in life? Feel free to share yours in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

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