Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Butternut Summer by Mary McNear

Butternut Summer is the second book in the Butternut Lake series by Mary McNear.  The first book in the series is Up at Butternut Lake.  

Butternut Summer tells the story of Caroline Keegan and her daughter, Daisy.   Caroline lives in the small Minnesota town where she grew up, Butternut Lake.  She runs a small diner called Pearl's.  It has been in her family for years, and she takes pride in her work and the community she lives in.  Daisy is home from college for the summer.  Unbeknownst to Caroline, Daisy has been in contact with her father, Jack.  Jack Keegan is a handsome charmer who disappeared from the lives of Caroline and Daisy while Daisy was still a toddler.  When Jack moves back to Butternut Lake and attempts to reconnect with Caroline, things are set in motion.  

Over the summer, Daisy meets a good looking "bad boy" that she grew up with named Will Hughes.  Will is a mechanic at a local shop, a small town ladies man without a sense of direction.  The summer romance of Daisy and Will is central to this story.

Butternut Lake is a charming little town like Mayberry.  In this book we meet some of the townspeople and visit local sites.  This is a town you will enjoy visiting, full of people you will want to meet.

The interrelated stories are compelling.  We have the mother-daughter story of Caroline and Daisy, the father-daughter story of Daisy-Jack, Jack's wishful pursuit of Caroline, and Daisy's first love with Will.

The book ends with a cliffhanger.  I hope the story continues in the next book.  I am looking forward to the upcoming third book in this trilogy, Moonlight on Butternut Lake.  I recommend this book highly for fans of women's fiction.

Butternut Summer is on Goodreads, and can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Butternut Summer was written by Mary McNear.   You can find the author on Facebook.

I received Butternut Summer from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Whiny Whiny Rhino

Whiny Whiny Rhino is a new picture book for children written and illustrated by McBoop.  McBoop is the father-daughter team of Carmin Iadonisi and Amanda Iadonisi-Word. 

Whiny Whiny Rhino tells the story of a little rhinoceros who whines because he is afraid to try new things.  His brothers encourage him to be tough.  He goes out to have fun with his animal friends instead.  He chooses not to swim with his alligator and elephant pals because the weather might be too cold.  He doesn't want to play ball with his bird buddies because he might fall.  His bat friends invite him to explore a cave, but he decides it is too dark.  He goes home, disappointed that he did not have fun all day.  When he ventures out again, his friends are riding in a wagon.  He trips and ends up in the wagon and surprises himself by having fun -- while trying something new!  

This story for children is told in rhyme, and it is perfect for a preschool read aloud.   The bright, colorful illustrations are sure to please young children.  The message about being brave to try new things is a great one for young readers.  

I would enthusiastically recommend Whiny Whiny Rhino for preschool age children. It is available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon.
I received this book from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
iRead and McBoop are sponsoring a book giveaway.   14 winners will receive a copy of Whiny Whiny Rhino.  The entry is easy, by Rafflecopter form.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 29, 2014

Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) - A Photo Tour

Saturday I visited MODA - the Museum of Design Atlanta.  This museum is located on Peachtree Street across from the High Museum.   It is a small museum on the ground floor of a building that also houses a branch of the Atlanta Public Library.  You enter the museum through the gift shop, with an education display showing 3-D printers at work making models.  There is a hallway and two gallery rooms in the museum.  The current display is about 100 years of design, and features posters, book catalogs, and vintage advertising.  I am very interested in children's book illustration and Mid-Century advertising, so I found this exhibit fascinating!
This photo shows portraits of early 1900's artists including Louis Comfort Tiffany and Charles Dana Gibson.  A Windsor chair is part of the exhibit, and there is an interesting early photo showing Windsor chairs on display.
This 1967 Children's Book Exhibit Catalog was illustrated by Andy Warhol.
This 1966 Children's Book Show Catalog was illustrated by Tomi Ungerer.
This Call for Entries: Children's Books brochure was illustrated by Luncina Wakefield in 1950.
This 1965 Children's Book Show invitation is so bright and colorful.  The style of illustration looks familiar, but I cannot place the artist.
This 1951 AIGA Journal was illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, a frequent Little Golden Book illustrator.
There is a portrait of Charles and Ray Eames, with a quote about Modernism in design.
This piece was one of my favorite features of the exhibit.  It includes paperback book covers from 1961.
This 1955 poster promotes Disneyland.  I love the juxtaposition of the homespun design (with buttons!) promoting a fantasy world for children.
This 1965 poster promotes popular television.  Note that The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show are prominently featured.
I love this retro inspired poster of a woman with "paint by number" style deer illustration.
This 1939 New York World's Fair poster was stunning in person!   I love anything related to a World's Fair or exposition.
This Bob Dylan poster was also amazing in person.
There was an area where you could make your own design, and of course I tried my hand at making a simple layout.
The exhibits at the museum rotate frequently, and I intend to look for upcoming shows and visit again. I highly recommend a trip to MODA for anyone interested in design.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: What Counts Most Is How You Finish - Shelia Payton

In August, I interviewed Shelia Payton, the author of What Counts Most Is How You Finish, for this blog (interview and author spotlight here).  I enjoyed the interview and information on this book, and I am glad that iRead Book Tours also gave me the opportunity to review this book.  

What Counts Most is How You Finish by Shelia Payton is a motivational book about goals, achievement, and living a good life.  Although the audience for the book is young adults 16 - 25, it will also be of interest to adult readers.  I found it very motivating, especially with goal setting and pivoting (reevaluating goals).  I plan to sit down to assess some personal goals as a result of reading this book.

The book is divided into sections:
Being You
Taking Care of You
Dealing With People
Overcoming Challenges
Staying Focused
Achieving Success
Making a Difference

Each section is filled with short, positive chapters.   I think the structure of the book will be very appealing to young readers.

I took notes as I read the book, and found many memorable passages and ideas.   A few highlights included:

  • Make Time to Do Things You Enjoy -- emphasis on a network of friends with shared interests.
  • What Someone Does Is More True Than What They Say -- "If you see someone doing things that contradict what they say, believe what they do, rather than what they say" (p. 80).
  • Trust Your Instincts -- "Follow your first mind" (p. 81).
  • Complaining Is Just the First Step -- step by step tips on moving from complaining to action, with a plan.
  • Don't Let Fear and Doubt Take You Out -- the valuable reminder that if someone else has done it, you can too.
  • Pivot -- This was a chapter that I know I will reread again.  It is about reevaluating goals and seeing if things need to change in order for goals to be achieved.  Ms. Payton writes, "There's no rule that says you have to keep doing what you're doing -- especially if what you're doing isn't moving your life in the direction you were meant to go" (p. 128).  She suggests that readers can "plot a new course and reinvent your life" (p. 131).
  • Each New Day Is Filled With Opportunity -- This is another great motivating passage about moving out of the past and any regrets to focus on what we have now.
  • Life Teaches You Lessons -- I love Ms. Payton's reminder that "... how your life turns out is not so much determined by what happens to you, but how you deal with it" (p. 163).
  • Decisions Have Consequences -- Ms. Payton discusses the value of making a five year plan and breaking goals down into small steps.  I think this idea is invaluable for both young readers and adult readers as well.
  • Everything You're Looking for Is Not Straight Ahead Of You -- This is another very helpful chapter with motivation on changing plans, timeline, or goals as needed.  

Ms. Payton's writing style is engaging, with lots of personal anecdotes and examples involving famous people.  Her writing style is very readable, with short, direct chapters and clear, affirmative suggestions.

I very enthusiastically recommend this book for young readers, parents, teachers, and anyone who wants to find inspiration and motivation for making and achieving goals.

I received this book from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: Dancing on the Head of a Pen by Robert Benson

It is a delight and a rarity to read a new book and to know, from the first few paragraphs, that it is a book you will read again (and again).  Dancing on the Head of a Pen:  The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson is one of those unique books.

This book about writing and spirituality combines some ideas from two of my longtime favorite books, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (about writing) and Take Your Time by Eknath Easwaran (about slowing down to live mindfully).

The book is composed of twelve short chapters that deal with creativity, inspiration, the practice of writing, the technique of editing, and slowing down to write and to live.

Robert Benson recalls a trip he made as a young man in his MGB convertible.  He rode out west in a leisurely way, enjoying the trip, and stopping when he felt like a break.  This is a metaphor for his way of writing.   He espouses writing 600 words a day, stopping at that point, and then starting the next day at the same point.  He recommends writing with the barest of book plans - a list of stories, but not an outline.  He reminds writers of the inspiration that can be found in reading their old journals, walking, and just being quiet.  "Do not be afraid to be quiet.  Never be afraid to be alone" (p. 25).

I also love his idea of writing for a jury box.  Before starting a new work, he constructs a jury box of 12 readers that he imagines experiencing his book.   I think this is a really unusual and creative way of looking at a writing audience.

Robert Benson also talks about "Hat Tricks" and the three hats that a writer must wear:  beret (creative writer), baseball cap (rewriter) and fedora (business person who handles the synopsis, cover letter, etc.).

He recommends making a shelf for influential books that inspire and motivate your writing.  I found this idea intriguing as well.

He talks about things that inspire:  journaling, a swipe file (i.e. newspaper stories, random lines, and anecdotes), a book of quotes, and a spare parts file (items edited from your work but saved for later).  He recommends collecting things that move you, reading aloud, blogging, and writing letters.

He also talks about the power of walking, observing the world, and thinking as you walk.  Dylan Thomas inspires this idea:  "A poet is a poet for such a very tiny bit of his life;  for the rest, he is a human being, one of whose responsibilities is to know and feel, as much as he can, all that is moving around and within him" (p. 131).

I truly cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone who loves to write.  It is sure to find a place on my personal shelf of books that influence and inspire me.

For more information:
Robert Benson's biography
A sneak peek at the book Dancing on the Head of a Pen
Robert Benson's website

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.