Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
St. Martin's Press

A master of fiction, Diane Chamberlain writes from her background as a therapist in this newest novel about a 14 year-old girl who learns about something taking shape in her family that threatens her father's life. I loved finding out about Diane's background because it helped me to understand her process for writing this novel. Molly is a keeper of secrets, and keeping secrets becomes difficult when you are trying to adopt a baby. Background checks, endless interview questions, it is tough trying to keep everything straight. Especially if you're trying to cover up secrets that have their origins in your childhood. It has been twenty years, and Molly's childhood in North Carolina that she has kept at bay comes screaming back in to the wheelhouse. It could not only destroy her marriage, but her chances for a successful adoption.As Molly struggles to come to grips, she must come to accept and work through her painful childhood without unraveling at the seams. Diane Chamberlain is the master of storytelling. Read the synopsis to see if this book may be something you'll want to add to your October reading bag!

Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She and her husband live in San Diego, where they hope to soon adopt a baby. But the process terrifies her.

As the questions and background checks come one after another, Molly worries that the truth she's kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. She ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved: Her mother, the woman who raised her and who Molly says is dead but is very much alive. Her birth mother, whose mysterious presence raised so many issues. The father she adored, whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison Ridge.

Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a future filled with promise, she discovers that even she doesn't know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.

Told with Diane Chamberlain's compelling prose and gift for deft exploration of the human heart, Pretending to Dance is an exploration of family, lies, and the complexities of both.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rising Strong

Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Penguin Random House Audio

This audio has been one of the best books I have listened to in a very long time. I know it may have made me seem crazy to the people driving or walking near me, but I found myself nodding over and over again at the words spoken by the author. In just the title, the word rumble jumps out at me. Of late, rumbles have been my M.O. One thing I can hang my hat on is that I have always gotten up from the rumble and continued to fight. In this newest book, Brene revisits vulnerability and what it means in our lives. When you dare to be vulnerable, you are, on a daily basis, volunteering to get your butt kicked by people. The truth is, if vulnerability is part of your life, you will inevitably get knocked down. Life cannot always be sunshine and stars. 

But, it is not so much about getting knocked down, but in showing up every day to be in the arena. Large or small, the arena is the test of strength. In theory, we show up to the "arena" every day. I feel like being vulnerable has allowed me to walk away the victor in the arena. I have been taking steps to put myself out there, and to be honest and open and to share some of what I have with others. Has that always made me feel accepted? Hell no! I feel like I have been virtually hit...hard. I would be lying if I said I did not feel bedraggled by life, and all of the troubles I have recently faced. But you know what? I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was. The appropriate timing of this audio has provided a perfect ointment for the bumps and bruises of my life. Many thanks for the audio. I highly encourage you to get it for yourself. 

Happy listening!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg

Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg
She Writes Press

There are not many things that go straight to my heart like a story of a mother that struggles with health issues, and the thought of losing her children due to an unexpected death. Beautiful Affliction is that story. It is a memoir, but reads like you were sitting across the table from Lene. If you are a fan of memoirs, add this one to your TBR. It is not going to give you any comedic relief, and it is an open, raw, honest look at what happens when confronted with what could be the end.

Lene Fogelberg is dying―she is sure of it―but no doctor in Sweden, her home country, believes her. Love stories enfold her, with her husband, her two precious daughters, her enchanting surroundings, but the question she has carried in her heart since childhood―Will I die young?―is threatening all she holds dear, even her sanity. When her young family moves to the US, an answer, a diagnosis, is finally found: she is in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease. But is it too late?
Unflinchingly honest and often harrowing, Beautiful Affliction is an inspiring account of growing up and living on the verge of death―and of the beauty, harshness, loneliness, and, ultimately, unbending love that can be found there.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter 
 Harper Collins/William Morrow
Hello my name is Melody, and I am a recent convert to the suspense genre. I am addicted, and I cannot tell you how much I am loving these new books. In what seemed like a long stretch of books that left me wanting more, this has been a breath of fresh air! I'll admit that at the beginning the simultaneous story lines forced me to focus, and it definitely was not my typical story, but overall this story was a great one. Once the two sister's story lines converged and you found their connection, you knew you must find the answers. How were the deaths connected? A true page-turning read. Darkly wonderful, but frightening. I was in!

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged 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.

Happy reading!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

FitReads Book Club

It has been a while since I met with my book club, and I was craving that interaction and discussion around books. The camaraderie that is attained through book clubs is not easily duplicated with any other group I have been a part of. With our busy lives, it becomes incredibly difficult to set times/dates for book club, and to coordinate among many people a time and place that works for everyone. I needed to meet with my bookish folks without the crazy coordination of schedules.

One thing I do a lot of is work out. I suddenly had a moment where I thought: why not combine my love of books with my passion for working out? I know what you are thinking...I like sitting curled up on my couch with my cup of coffee/tea and read by book. You also may be thinking that you don't like working out. Maybe you were waiting for something just like this to get you back on the exercise track, and how perfect that it coordinates with your love of books. Now is the time, and I think you will love FitReads!

Here are the details:

  1. We will read one book a month
  2. We will meet every Monday at 6:00 pm a designated location (6:00-7:00)
  3. We will walk 1 mile as the warm-up (Cardio)
  4. 20 minutes will be devoted to a particular muscle group every week (arms, legs, etc.) and will utilize weights or resistance bands ( you will be notified by me as to what you should bring)
  5. Total time will be 60 minutes!
During your FitReads time, we can chat about the book we are reading, or any others that you are reading. If you are interested, please send me an email to (mellsimons at gmail dot com) to request the location information. 
Our First Read 
Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Treasure Island by Jennifer Adams

It's BabyLit book time again! I adore these little books, and if you have a baby, toddler, or young reader, these books are perfect to fit in their tiny little hands! Treasure Island, a Little Master Louis Stevenson book, is a shapes primer. Long John Silver's eye patch is an oval, and the pirate flags are rectangles, and the crosses show the pirates where the treasure may be located! It is simply wonderful to incorporate classic literature in to a board book with a purpose.

Ahoy, me hearties! Join Jim Hawkins as he sails the open seas searching for treasure and learning shapes along the way in Treasure Island: A BabyLit Shapes Primer. Spy the OVAL of Long John Silver’s eye patch, the TRIANGLES in the sails of The Hispaniola, and the CROSS that marks the spot of lots o’treasure! But watch your back because dead men tell no tales.

JENNIFER ADAMS is the author of a dozen books including Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen and the popular Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent ABC Book for Grown-Ups. Jennifer works as a writer and editor in Salt Lake City, Utah.

ALISON OLIVER runs Sugar design studio. Alison's design portfolio includes everything from logos to packaging and product design for clients such as Chronicle Books, Citibabes, and Aerie, as well as Gibbs Smith. She lives in New York.

BabyLit is a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature. For more information, or for ordering, visit

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Emma by Jennifer Adams

It's BabyLit book time again! I adore these little books, and if you have a baby, toddler, or young reader, these books are perfect to fit in their tiny little hands! Emma, a Little Miss Austen book, is an emotions primer. Young children can have a very difficult time expressing their emotions, but paired with the picture of the character's expressions, children can see what "excited" looks like. Each emotion in the book has a character from Emma portrayed. It is simply adorable!

This book would also pair well with another BabyLit classic from the Little Miss Austen line, a little book you may have heard about called Pride and Prejudice.

BabyLit is a fashionable was to introduce your child to the world of classic literature. Both books are available for purchase on, or other book retailers. 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Amazing Audio Titles: September Edition

As my anniversary of my audio listening birth quickly approaches, I wanted to share with you some wonderful titles available in audio format for your listening enjoyment. I was a print book devotee for many, many years before transitioning to e-book formats. As I began to receive more books than I could possibly keep up with, I knew a sure way to double down on my book consumption was to listen to audiobooks. I am in love! I am finishing books at a very quick pace, and I feel free to embrace books I normally would not have tried. The narrators make a huge difference! Without further ado, here I some titles I think you will enjoy...

Historical Fiction

Written by Jami Attenberg
  • Narrated byTavia Gilbert
  • This novel was wonderfully narrated by Talia Gilbert, who breathes life in to a beautifully written novel about Maizie Phillips. Reading back through her diary, readers are transported back to a time when Maizie was young, wild, and free. The story is truly a remarkable one, and to reiterate, the narrator does a superb job bringing Maizie's story to life. 
  • Synopsis:
Meet Mazie Phillips: big hearted and bawdy, she's the truth-telling proprietress of The Venice, the famed New York City movie theater. It's the Jazz Age, with romance and booze aplenty - even when Prohibition kicks in - and Mazie never turns down a night on the town. But her high spirits mask a childhood rooted in poverty, and her diary, always close at hand, holds her dearest secrets.
When the Great Depression hits, Mazie's life is on the brink of transformation. Addicts and bums roam the Bowery; homelessness is rampant. If Mazie won't help them, then who? When she opens the doors of The Venice to those in need, this ticket-taking, fun-time girl becomes the beating heart of the Lower East Side and, in defining one neighborhood, helps define the city.
Then, more than 90 years after Mazie began her diary, it's discovered by a documentarian in search of a good story. Who was Mazie Phillips really? A chorus of voices from the past and present fill in some of the mysterious blanks of her adventurous life.
Inspired by the life of a woman who was profiled in Joseph Mitchell's classic Up in the Old Hotel, Saint Mazie is infused with Jami Attenberg's signature wit, bravery, and heart. Mazie's rise to "sainthood" - and her irrepressible spirit - is unforgettable.
©2015 Jami Attenberg (P)2015 Hachette Audio

Young Adult

Written by Virginia Boecker
Narrated by Nicola Barber
Although this book is Virginia Boecker's debut, she does not disappoint. The book is a fabulous listen, and when it comes to YA, I can be quite fickle! Infusing some bits of historical fiction into this novel provides engagement for the listener, and a story that you will enjoy, and won't mind walking the dogs while finishing. 
Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight but what you fear.
Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.
Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: He will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.
But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past - if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
Virgnia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice that will leave listeners wanting more.
©2015 Virginia Boecker (P)2015 Hachette Audio

Personal Growth
Written by John C. Maxwell
Narrated by Chris Sorenson
At just three hours, this audio will provide listeners with advice and practical tips to help start you off in the right direction. Listeners can engage every day with succinct lessons, stimulating questions, and inspiring quotes. If you are looking to begin with a committed plan to help your life become more inspired, this audio will suit you. I walked away with some easy-to-implement tips for my life. 
©2015 John C. Maxwell (P)2015 Hachette Audio

Happy Listening!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Technology and the Future of Everything

Last week I facilitated some teacher professional development, and I was thinking of how far we have come with technology, and of course, how quickly we need to catch up to what's "new" and wonderful to improve learning outcomes for our students. Many schools are all Google classrooms, they collaborate digitally, e-mail their teachers and peers, and process or write their papers and turn them in on the "cloud". There are definitely a lot of pros to this kind of classroom, but it also has me contemplating what will be obsolete in 10 years. In ten years, will there be  need for paper and pencil? How quickly will textbook adoptions include tablets and e-books versus the paper kind? If you are incredulous over the thought of that, I encourage you to do some research on your local schools. Ask them what kind of technology they use. I'll venture to guess you would be surprised at how many tech tools they have! If you think low income students do not have access to technology, you would be mistaken. They have access at school, which means that teaching practices must be altered to take this fact in to consideration. Take this quote about homework by researcher Alfie Kohn in to consideration:
"There is no evidence of any academic benefit from homework in elementary school.  Even if you were untroubled by the methodological concerns I’ve been describing, the fact is that after decades of research on the topic, there is no overall positive correlation between homework and achievement (by any measure) for students before middle school – or, in many cases, before high school.  More precisely, there’s virtually no research at all on the impact of homework in the primary grades – and therefore no data to support its use with young children – whereas research has been done with students in the upper elementary grades and it generally fails to find any benefit." 

So how do we begin to change our instructional practice to make it more up-to-date? The truth is that children today are much different than children ten years ago. That's right, 10 years ago. Technology, like it or not, shapes the way we think, interact, and the way our brains work. It is both advantageous and detrimental. We, as digital natives, must give students the capacity to use the tools at their fingertips responsibly and safely. Technology makes lessons more engaging, interactive, and can improve our efficiency. Its advantages far outweigh the negatives.

"There is also little doubt that all of the new technologies, led by the Internet, are shaping the way we think in ways obvious and subtle, deliberate and unintentional, and advantageous and detrimental. The uncertain reality is that, with this new technological frontier in its infancy and developments emerging at a rapid pace, we have neither the benefit of historical hindsight nor the time to ponder or examine the value and cost of these advancements in terms of how it influences our children’s ability to think."

What sticks with me is the line "we have neither the benefit of historical hindsight nor the time to ponder or examine the value and cost of these advancements in terms of how it influences our children’s ability to think." We don't have time to think about how technology is changing student's brains because it is moving too fast!

To teach the future we need to change. It's as simple and as complicated as that.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Anchored by Brigitte Quinn

Anchored by Brigitte Quinn
Curtis Brown Unlimited

Any female fledgling reporter had aspirations to become the next Barbara Walters. She was the epitome of poise in the news, and Barbara King, the star of this broadcast is not any different than anyone else-she wants to be Barbara Walters. For newscasters waiting to move from one rung of the ladder to the next, in search of the coveted prime time line-up, it is run of the mill news stories: car chases, and interviews that lack luster and appeal to the wider audience.

When Jack Stone is behind the lens, Barbara cannot help but swoon. He is, after all, sexy and unwielding in his dynamic news delivery style. Barbara could even describe the initial encounters with Jack as aloof and stand offish. It isn't long before the two find themselves in sync, and finishing one another's sentences. Pretty soon it becomes obvious to everyone that Jack and Barbara have some chemistry, and in that kind of environment, it is all anyone can talk about. The inter-office gossip is abundant. One's limits are tested with a co-worker like Jack, and Barbara soon finds herself, and the bonds of her marriage tested. Is it worth everything to obtain stardom? Find out what happens in Anchored, a new novel by Brigitte Quinn.

About the Author
Brigitte Quinn is the morning anchor at 1010WINS radio in New York City and a former television news anchor at Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and NBC. "Anchored" is her first novel.

Happy Reading!