Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Blast and Giveaway: Stellarcadia

Mother Daughter Book Reviews is pleased to be hosting a Book Blast for the third and final book in the "Adventures of Caramel Cardamom" middle grade science fiction trilogy by Julie Anne Grasso: "Stellarcadia".

Stellarcadia by Julie Anne Grasso

About the Book

Title: Stellarcadia (Adventures of Caramel Cardamom, Book 3) | Author: Julie Anne Grasso | Publication Date: December 24, 2014 | Publisher: Independent | Pages: 128 | Recommended Ages: 8 to 12 Book Description: Caramel Cinnamon is one lucky elf. She can hardly believe she’s invited to attend the first Intergalactic Youth Summit, on-board the Stellarcadia. Her friends can’t wait to go “hyper,” but even the thought of it chills Caramel to the bone. However, nothing could compare to the icy reception she receives upon her arrival. Keen to get to the bottom of it, Caramel stumbles on a dangerous conspiracy, but no one will believe her. In the exciting conclusion to The Adventures of Caramel Cardamom Trilogy, Caramel will have to do more than outwit her enemies, she will have to convince her friends to take her seriously. For ages 8-12.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


The Early Buzz

"The book is also a perfect mix of magic, science, and technology. Don’t be surprised if readers get to use their imaginations and learn something. Julie Anne Grasso has proven herself to be an original and versatile author..." ~ 5 Stars, Ilana W., Amazon
"Couldn't put it down." ~ Jemima P., Goodreads

About the Author: Julie Anne Grasso

Julie Anne GrassoWith a background in paediatric nursing, Julie Anne Grasso spent many years literally wrapping children in cotton wool. Every day she witnessed great courage and resilience from the tiny people she cared for, which inspired her to write stories to encourage and entertain them. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Danny and their little girl, Giselle.

Website | Blog | Facebook

Twitter | Goodreads


* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

Amazon 25 gift card Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest ends: March 25, 11:59 pm, 2015 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Julie Anne Grasso and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. 

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: To Dance One More Day

Title: To Dance One More Day 

Author: Rachel Jones

Genre: Contemporary Romance

From her early teens, ballet has been an integral part of Jillian Russell’s life. One by one, she loses her parents, grandparent, husband and child. If being alone in the world wasn’t bad enough, a medical diagnosis takes away her chance to become a prima ballerina.

Knowing a part of her will die if she walks away from ballet, she changes her focus and builds a ballet company and opens a dance school. This endeavor takes all her resources and leaves no time to build new relationships outside her world of dance. Jillian rationalizes if she doesn’t build relationships, she can’t be deserted. And she’s not sure she would survive another loss.

Handsome trauma surgeon, Alan Armstrong has relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina for a fresh start. Until a few years ago, he had always envisioned his future to include a wife and children. But after his father died in a plane crash from lack of medical attention, his focus for the future has shifted to equip himself professionally to set up a rural clinic. A supporter of the arts, Alan finds himself on the board of the North Carolina Ballet Company. He has always had a penchant for fixing things. Realizing Jillian’s professional life could use some help, it is not long before he realizes he is drawn to her romantically as well.

They fall in love, but when Alan discovers Jillian has been misdiagnosed, he tells her she must decide between their love or a performance career in ballet. 

Book Excerpt
     Jillian lingered behind, thinking about her students. This was the best group of seven-year olds she had taught since opening the school. She enjoyed teaching all ages but this group was the highlight of her week. Sighing, she wondered if maybe it had something to do with the fact Lily would have been seven this year. Brushing the thought away, she moved to the piano and focused her attention on arranging the music for the dance company’s rehearsal the next night.
     Her school of ballet was impressive but her dance company was her crowning glory. Expanding her lungs to their fullest she exhaled, feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment. The North Carolina Ballet Company, now in its fifth year of existence, continued to experience growing pains and would for several years to come. As they grew in number they also grew in depth and dimension, becoming a cohesive group of artists excited to tell many stories through dance.  Their progress was measured by the reputation they enjoyed for offering professional performances to the surrounding communities.
     “You have a good looking group of ballerinas, Jilly,” remarked David as he crossed the studio floor, followed by Alan.
     The familiar voice brought a smile to her face. She had met David soon after moving to Charlotte when she was searching for a financial advisor. They had spent a lot of time together working on the financial end of setting up her school. When she took the plunge a year later, with David’s encouragement, and started the North Carolina Ballet Company, he was her biggest fan. Feeling she could trust him with her life, she was grateful he had accepted her invitation to be a part of the company’s initial board of directors.
     Turning around at the sound of the tenor voice her eyes darted from her friend to the familiar form standing beside him. Her smile disappeared.
     “You!” Jillian took a step back. “What are you doing here?”
     “What’s wrong?” David’s gaze bounced back and forth between his friends. “Do you two know each other?”
     Her eyes remained fixed on the doctor as if she were seeing him for the first time. He was tall, about six feet she estimated, with thick brown hair and he had the most gorgeous, deep set brown eyes. It was like looking into pools of chocolate and she was finding it hard not to stare.  She shifted her gaze to her friend.  “I recall seeing him at the hospital, after the explosion.”
     “Oh, come on, Ms. Russell. I performed the surgery on your shoulder and I was your doctor for two days—until you fired me. And all you have to say is, ‘I recall seeing you’?”
     “If memory serves it was a day and a half. And I’d prefer not talking about anything having to do with the explosion, if you don’t mind.” 
     “I see. Well, I hope your recovery is going well.”
     “Yes it is, thank you.”
Author Bio
In 1977 Rachel earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education and taught music for ten years. After the birth of her second child, she returned to school and in 1991 earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing and passed the state boards for registered nurses. She has been a labor & delivery and antepartum nurse since that time.

Anticipating her retirement from healthcare, Rachel decided to write her first novel at age fifty-seven. For years she had experienced scenes of heroes and heroines rambling about in her thoughts and spilling into her dreams. So it was a no-brainer that she should attempt to capture these thoughts on paper.

Rachel resides in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband of thirty-seven years. She has three adult children, who help spoil their Labrador retriever. She is a member of Georgia Romance Writers, Southeastern Writers Association and is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.


Buy Links

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Aoléon The Martian Girl PART TWO

Book Description:
Aoléon and Gilbert receive a special mission from PAX, a wanted criminal and leader of the Martian resistance movement to investigate the Luminon of Mars, who he suspects is planning an invasion of Earth to steal its milk cows. Gilbert has an encounter with the Luminess (the mate of the Luminon) and discovers something strange about her during a procession, and the duo are chased by the Royal Paladin Guard.

At Aoléon’s home, Gilbert meets Aoléon’s family, her sister Una, mother Phobos and father Deimos as well as her overzealous pet Zoot. He is also introduced to Bizwat, a covert operator and Procyon Commando, who uses his Saturn Pizza delivery job as a cover.

Gilbert then gets to visit the Martian Space Academy (Aoléon’s school) where he encounters Aoléon’s nemesis, Charm Lepton and her friend Quarkina, as well as receiving a history lesson on the Martian people by Plutarch Xenocrates. After class, Gilbert and Aoléon get to train in zero-G and Gilbert is treated to a Psi-ball match between Martian Space Academy and Martian Science Academy.

My Review:
This book picks up at the exact point that Part One left off.  The reader begins the exciting adventure of Mars with Gilbert and Aoleon.

I really like the details of life on Mars with Aoleon's family.  For instance, "Dinner was being dispensed from tentacle tubing that extended from the ceiling above the table, filling bowls with a milky substance."  Another example was Aoleon's holographic star map, which shone in bright colors and moved in three dimensions.

Aoleon even has a pet, a lovable little animal who looks like a cross between a cat and a pug.  At night she sleeps in a holographic sleep pod that disappears when it is not in use.  Details like this were fascinating, especially as they related to similarities and differences to life on earth.

The Martian Space Academy scenes are fun;  they introduce a diverse student population like the Harry Potter series.  The descriptions of classes on Mars are really interesting

The book is action packed and fast paced, with a mix of dialogue and description that will appeal to young readers.  The illustrations are vivid and exciting, and they really enhance the story.  The colors are especially great - they almost glow.  I would definitely recommend reading this book in color format (not on a black and white reader).

This book has a broad age appeal, but I think middle school students will especially enjoy it.  It has the hallmarks of a book that appeal to young readers - action, vivid imagery, and a sense of fun and adventure.  

Buy the Book:
Pre-order your copy today!

Buy The Martian Girl Song!
Another World - Single
Featuring Élan Noelle
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Meet the Author:
Mr. LeVasseur enjoys crafting good stories based on lovable characters designed to translate well to multiple media formats such as books, games, movies, and toys. He lives in New York when he is not commuting between Southern California and Olympus Mons, Mars. His hobbies include writing, 3D animation, musical composition, and intergalactic space travel. He also enjoys various sports such as skiing, running, and exospheric skydiving.

Connect with Brent: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Aoléon: The Martian Girl
I received a copy of this book from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Pants! No Chance! by Susan Lanyi

Book Synopsis:
Lulupop rarely puts up a fuss, except when it comes to wearing pants. Dresses, dresses, dresses, is all she will ever wear! With time, a little drama, and no lack of imagination, Lulupop realizes that wearing dresses is not always the best choice. 

My Review:   
Before I was a blogger and vintage bookseller, I taught 3 and 4 year olds at a play-based preschool.  Each year there were always a couple of little girls who wanted to wear their prettiest dresses to school.  I always reminded parents that we would be fingerpainting, going to the playground, decorating cookies, planting flower seeds - and pants were practical for active play.  I wish that Pants! No Chance! had been in my classroom library.  It would have been a great read aloud to share.

Pants! No Chance! is a charming picture book for young children.  Lulupop wants to wear a dress to school every day, although her mother suggests that pants might be more appropriate.  Because of this, Lulupop finds riding a bike difficult, cannot participate in gym, and scrapes her knees on the playground.  Young readers will find out how she decides that it might not be such a bad idea to wear pants to school.

The storytelling in this book is fun and lively.  A week in Lulupop's school life is presented with details about each day.  The drama and school adventures will make for a great read aloud at home or in a classroom.

The illustrations by Alexandre Rouillard are charming.  The colors are bright and vivid, and the pictures help advance the story.

I would recommend this book for preschool children or early readers (kindergarten to first grade).  It would be a fun book to read at home, but also a nice addition to a school library.

Author's Bio:

Susan Lanyi lives in Montreal with her husband, three children and puppy. She is a writer and has previously been published in The Globe and Mail. When Susan is not busy writing or doing "mom stuff" she is shopping for dresses with her daughter….Too bad her daughter only wants to wear pants!
Connect with Susan: Website ~ Twitter


​Prize: ​One of 5 print copies of Pants! No Chance! Open internationally. Ends March 7.

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Wish by Grier Cooper

by Grier Cooper


For Indigo Stevens, ballet classes at Miss Roberta's ballet studio offer the stability and structure that are missing from her crazy home life. At almost16, she hopes this is the year she will be accepted into the New York School of Ballet. First she must prove she's ready, and that means ignoring Jesse Sanders - the cute boy with dimples who is definitely at the top of Miss Roberta's List of Forbidden Things for Dancers.

But Jesse is the least of Indigo's concerns. When she discovers her mom is an alcoholic, it simultaneously explains everything and heaps more worry on Indigo's shoulders. As her mom's behavior becomes increasingly erratic, Indigo fights to maintain balance, protect her younger brothers from abuse, and keep her mother from going over the edge. When the violence at home escalates, Indigo realizes she can no longer dance around the issue. At the risk of losing everything, she must take matters into her own hands before it's too late.

I hold the barre lightly with my left hand and begin moving when the music starts. It's the same music I've heard in every ballet class I've taken for the past ten years. We always start with pliés.

My knees bend in time to the music: demi plié, demi plié, grand plié. My
body moves through the positions while my mind replays the scene in the car.  The image of my mother's uvula is stuck in my brain.

"Indigo, where is your focus this morning?" Miss Roberta's voice pulls me back into the present moment. I glance in front of me at Marlene's feet and realize I'm in the wrong position. I shake my head to clear it. Go away, Mom. This is the one place where I get away from you - even if it's only for an hour and a half.

Compared to the rest of my life, ballet classes are refreshingly orderly and predictable. Barre exercises always follow the same routine. Do everything that works the right leg, then turn and repeat everything with the left.

We move through the barre exercises. Every beat of the music dictates what comes next. The rhythm makes demands and the body answers with precision.  Already my muscles are beginning to feel warm and stretchy.

"Monique, your leg does not end at your ankle. Point those toes! Jeanine, you're sagging. Stand up straight!" Miss Roberta's voice carries through the room. Today she's all in pinks with a floral chiffon headscarf. She's the classic tiny dancer: dark-haired with pert features. Her eyes flicker across the class, constantly appraising technique and posture. Even though she's tiny, she commands the room. If she sees imperfections or lack of good effort, she will call you out.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Grier Cooper (also known as the writer in a dancer's body) is a California based writer, photographer, and dancer. She received her professional training from the School of American Ballet and performed worldwide with the San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Today she lives in a seaside hamlet with her husband, daughter and Coco Chanel (a black standard poodle). She draws on over thirty years of experience as a dancer, teacher and performer to create stories and art to inspire others.



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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Downton Abbey: Season 5, Episode 8 (Season Finale)

What Happened (A Very  Short Summary)
This was an episode packed with plot developments.  Rose married Atticus, after much unwanted drama from her mother, Susan.  Mary had a moment of sadness about the household breaking up, as Rose moved on, Edith busied herself with baby Marigold, and Tom advanced his plans to move to Boston.  Robert realized that Marigold is his granddaughter.  Prince Kuragin suggested to Violet that they move forward as friends - and lovers.  Daisy considered moving to London, but decided to stay on until she finishes her studies.  Robert honored Mrs. Patmore's nephew with a war monument.  Anna was arrested for Mr. Green's murder.
Character of the Week
Rose is my choice, since she just got married, and the Rose-Atticus pairing is a true love match. 

Line of the Week
"Love may not conquer all, but it can conquer quite a lot." (the Dowager Countess)

"Oh My" Moment
Anna was in a Scotland Yard line up.   That is a sentence I never expected to type about this show!
What I Hope Will Happen Next
I am very curious to see what will happen next with Anna's arrest.  I wonder if Mr. Bates will "take the rap" and confess so she can walk free?   It seemed like he was hinting at that this episode.  I also am looking forward to seeing how the Dowager Countess responds to Prince Kuragin.  From the trailers, it looks like Mary may have a new man on the horizon - so of course that will be interesting as well.

What were your thoughts on this episode?  What do you hope to see in the Christmas episode, which airs next week?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: The Monster That Ate My Socks by A.J. Cosmo

Book Synopsis:
A young boy, who is about to be grounded for going through so many socks, discovers that a monster has been eating them.

Max is a young boy who is constantly getting in trouble for his socks disappearing. He doesn’t know where they go, but he does know that if he doesn’t do something quickly his mom will ground him for summer. Max soon discovers that a little green monster is sneaking into his room at night and eating his sweaty socks. His mother, of course, doesn't believe him, so Max calls on his best friend to come for a sleepover to catch the monster.

They devise a trap and capture the monster only to learn that the creature can speak. It hasn’t meant to cause any harm, it's just trying to feed its family. The monster shows them his home and his three little children and begs the boys not to turn them over to the adults. Adults, he says, want to destroy monsters.

The boys are left in a pickle. Allow the monsters to be and get grounded, or turn the monsters in knowing what will happen to them? Neither idea seems good, so they come up with a new plan!

My Review:
One of the most important questions I ask about any children's book is, "Is it fun to read?"  The Monster that Ate My Socks answers that question with a resounding "YES!"    Children will enjoy the adventures of Max as he discovers his missing and half-eaten socks and sets out to solve the mystery.  The monster in this book is a friendly creature who will pique imagination.

The book is fast paced, with lively writing.  The paragraphs are short, there is dialogue to engage young readers, and the descriptions are vivid.

The illustrations in this book are tremendous fun.  They are bold, with vivid colors, and they all feature the three-eyed monster.  The pictures really help move the story along.
This book is reading level 2.0.   Teachers and homeschooling families will love the lesson plan that is included.  The lesson plan includes new words, prediction questions, guiding questions, and word work.  

I heartily recommend this book for children who enjoy a lively book that they can read themselves.  This is a fun read that is sure to engage even reluctant readers.  

Author's Bio:
A.J. Cosmo's stories are crafted to help parents teach their children simple everyday lessons in an easy to understand manner. By artfully marrying beautiful illustrations and language, children are challenged to explore his magical worlds. Written for the transitional reader, A.J.'s stories allow your child to develop and master a new level of reading.
Connect with A.J.: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Where to buy the book:
Prizes: 2 Kindle Fire HD 16GB Open to USA & Canada.

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: The Frailty of Things by Tamsen Schultz

The Frailty of Things
By Tamsen Schultz
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Book Blurb:

Independence. Kit Forrester is a woman who wears her independence like armor. Despite keeping secrets and hiding her past, she's built a life she loves and is accountable to no one. Until, that is, one of the world's most wanted war criminals sets his sights on her and she must weigh the risk to one against the chance of justice and closure for many-a decision Kit couldn't make on her own even if she wanted to.

Certainty. As a man who makes his living in the shadows of governments and wars, certainty isn't a part of Garret Cantona's vocabulary, and he's just fine with that. But when Kit walks into his life, he realizes he's never before been so sure about anything or anyone. Suddenly, he finds he's looking at the world, his world, in a different light. And now that he is, he's determined to protect it, and her, in whatever ways he can.

Frailty. No one knows better than Kit and Garret that an appreciation for
what is, or what was, or what might be, can be born from the uncertainty and fragility of life. But when a hunt for a killer leaves Garret no choice but to throw Kit back into her broken and damaged past, even his unshakable faith in what they have together might not be enough to keep it from shattering into a million pieces.
Author Bio:

Tamsen Schultz is the author of several romantic suspense novels and
American Kin (a short story published in Line Zero Magazine). In addition to being a writer, she has a background in the field of international conflict resolution, has co-founded a non-profit, and currently works in corporate America. Like most lawyers, she spends a disproportionate amount of time thinking (and writing) about what it might be like to do something else. She lives in Northern California in a house full of males including her husband, two sons, four cats, a dog, and a gender-neutral, but well-stocked, wine rack.

Twitter: @tamsenschultz
The author is giving away 3 $10 Amazon Gift Cards to 3 lucky readers!
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Secrets: Diary of a Gutsy Teen


Following in the footsteps of The Truth, Secrets: Diary of a Gutsy Teen begins as the thirteen-year-old protagonist makes a move with her family to a new town. She has grown up a lot over the past year—and has made a list of everything that’s important to her now that she doesn’t want to forget when she gets older. But now, as she enters her early teen years, she begins to write down the secrets she wants to keep—and the ones she has no one to tell about. From new school experiences to a new baby in the family to a new crush, this new teen finally feels empowered on making her own decisions with confidence and keeping those secrets she holds dearest for herself.

In a positive and supportive diary-entry format, Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein encourages tween and early teen girls to carry the most precious parts of themselves into adulthood. A great book for mothers and daughters to read together, Secrets is aimed to improve communication, understanding, and self-esteem for young girls as they enter the rocky road of teenager-dom.  


Date: June 27
Dear Diary,
I can't believe it. Today we moved, and I feel like I'm in a dream. I just
keep walking around our new house and wondering when we will go home. It feels so different and strange.

Everything is on one floor (that's called a ranch house). The floors are all bare wood. My mom said our rugs would look terrible here so she let the people who bought our old house keep them. I think she was probably right. They were a dark maroon and the walls here are a light cream. I don't think that would look good.

I went to the bathroom three times since we got here and every time I used a different bathroom. I can't believe it. Three different toilets in the same house! Only my friend Susan, my rich friend, had more than two bathrooms in her house. And four bedrooms! And a family room. I can't believe we have this much space now.

When I look out of the windows I expect to see the shrubs and the Hudson's house who were next to us on the left, but I don't. Instead, I see a big open field that will probably have houses built on it by next year. That's what my dad said anyway. And when I look out to the right I expect to see our clothesline and the Dixon's driveway, but instead I see rose bushes and a wooden bench under a tree that the last owners said we could have.

Tonight, we had to eat supper off paper plates and use plastic forks,
knives, and spoons because our boxes are still packed. My aunt made us a big picnic basket full of food and that's what we ate for supper. It was delicious. There was fried chicken, potato salad and potato chips, cupcakes for dessert, and fruit salad. And at the bottom of the basket under the ice was a whole package of Hershey Kisses. Yum!

My brother already started to play with a kid next door who's about a year older than he is. He's so lucky. I have no new friends yet and that's the truth!

I have been a positive psychologist in private practice for the past thirty years. In the course of working with my clients, I originated the idea of THE ENCHANTED SELF(R), a positive psychology therapy where I teach people how to recognize and utilize their strengths, talents, skills and even lost potential. I have developed a number of methods, including using our memories to rediscover what is right about ourselves and our lives, rather than what went wrong, helping people to overcome adversity, experience positive emotions and live the good life!

Since developing this concept, I've been able to use many tools to bring the Enchanted Self to everyone, particularly women and girls. I've written many books, starting with THE ENCHANTED SELF, A Positive Therapy, and then Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU!  My books for girls are very popular, as they are great fictional reads and also help deal with many of the questions that trouble kids as they move into the tween and teen years.  The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween and Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen are the first two books in this series.

I really love to teach and educate about happiness and how to benefit from positive psychology in ways that let us lead lives of meaning and happiness. You can find me all over the place on the web. In particular,,, on Facebook at Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein: Psychologist & Author, on Pinterest at and on You Tube. Just look for me on You Tube via Barbara Becker Holstein.


The author is giving away a $20 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift certificate.
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Downton Abbey - Season 5, Episode 7

Things I DIDN'T Like About This Week's Episode:

1. Isis was diagnosed with cancer, and Cora and Robert put her in bed between them for the night as she was about to pass.  This scene just did me in.

2. Tom (my favorite character) is planning to move to America with Sybil.

3.  Isobel (my second favorite character) was treated with unbearable rudeness by Lord Merton's sons at a dinner party celebrating her engagement.

Things I DID Like About This Week's Episode:

1. Rose and Atticus are engaged.  I think they are the most adorable Downton couple ever, and I hope their romance continues to be a happy one.

2. Cora found out about Edith and Marigold, and they worked out a plan for Edith to adopt Marigold openly and live at Downton.  Finally a hopeful resolution for this long, sad storyline!

3. Daisy, Baxter, and Molesley visited Mr. Mason at his farm.  Mr. Mason is as lovable as ever, and he encouraged Daisy to continue her studies. 

4. Mary found resolution with Tony Gillingham, as Charles helped her stage a flirtation to signal that she was truly done with the Gillingham romance and wanted him to move on.

Line of the Night:
"I'd say she takes after the dachshund, M'Lady." (Sprat to the Dowager Countess, about new maid Danke) 
"In what way?" 
"She's QUITE untrainable."
As a lifelong dachshund person, that had to make me laugh.

What did you think of tonight's episode?  I would love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning - Book Review and Giveaway

About the Book:
Two unlikely friends, an old woman and a boy with special needs, take an aging champion to Westminster Dog Show, and heal their troubled families.

Seventy year-old Bess Rutledge has fantasized about winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life, but now she has decided she is too old to follow her dream. She meets Benny, an angry fourteen year-old with mild autism and ADHD, who has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. He becomes convinced that winning Westminster with McCreery, Bess’ aging champion standard poodle, will finally make his mother proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy.

My Book Review: 

At the heart of Almost Perfect there are two people and two dogs.  Benny, a fourteen year old boy with special needs, wants a dog more than anything else.  His love of dogs leads him to meet Bess Rutledge.  Bess has been a top breeder of standard poodles for years, but she is closing her kennel without ever achieving her dream of winning the Westminster Dog Show.  There are also two special dogs in this story:  Bess's dog McCreery, who is a champion poodle and the sire of Breaker, a mischievous puppy who plays a very important role in this book.

I love books about puppies and dogs, so I knew I would enjoy this read.  I certainly did!   The details about the dog show world were new (and very interesting!) to me.  I have already recommended this book to several dog friends.  I'm sure they will enjoy it too.

I found the changing focus back and forth between Bess and her life and Benny and his family and school very interesting.  I liked learning about their separate lives because it made their unlikely friendship that much more moving.

The dogs, McCreery and Breaker, stole the show.  The author did a great job at capturing their individual personalities.  I especially loved watching Breaker's growth from a puppy to a young dog.

I listened to this book in Audible audiobook format.  Caroline Miller did a wonderful job with the narration, especially in the separate voices and personalities of Bess and Benny.   This book translated very well to audiobook format.

At first I found the character of Benny a bit disconcerting because he seemed so much younger than his 14 years.  If I had not been told he was 14, I would have assumed he was a much younger child, perhaps 6 - 8.  As the book went on, I got used to him seeming very young for his age and my interest in the story about Benny's love of dogs and friendship with Bess became primary in the read.

The setting of the dog community and dog show world was especially interesting.  I enjoy watching the Westminster Dog Show, and especially enjoyed reading this book just before this year's Westminster, February 16 - 17.

I would recommend this book for dog lovers from middle school age to adult.  It is a family friendly story with an appealing, heartwarming tone.  I kept thinking, as I read, that this would make a very good Hallmark movie.   Do you love dogs?  Do you enjoy a warm, uplifting story?  Then you will really enjoy Almost Perfect.

Author's Bio:

Diane Daniels Manning is the co-founder and director of The New School in the Heights, a therapeutic school in Houston, Texas which helps children dealing with social-emotional challenges find success in school and life. She has a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H from Harvard and is a practicing child psychoanalyst certified by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Formerly, she was the Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities Clinic at Tufts University, Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard, and Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane University. She learned the inner workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a lifetime President of the Poodle of Club of America. Her writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition.

When not at The New School, Diane and her writing partners, a Standard Poodle named Misty and a rescue cat named Elvira, convene at the keyboard to share great thoughts and plan the dinner menu.
Connect with her: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook
Where to buy the book:


​Book Trailer:​

Almost Perfect Trailer V1-2 from Kaizen Marketing on Vimeo.


Giving away 13 copies of Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning (5 print copies - USA only, 5 ebook copies and 3 audiobooks from Audible - international) and one $25 Amazon Gift Card (open international)
​ Ends Feb 20, 2015​

You can also win one $50, $25 or $10 Amazon Gift Card on the author’s website. ​The author will ask a question about the book as an entry.​
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received this book from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.