Review: The Barefoot Book of Princesses

I don’t generally review children’s books, but when Melanie from Barefoot Books asked me to take a look at a couple of their titles, I checked out their website.  Filled with award winning books with stories from other cultures and eye-catching art, how could I resist?  

Melanie sent me The Barefoot Book of Princesses retold by Caitlin Matthews, which includes a storytime cd, along with Magic Hoofbeats (with 2 cds), and One, Two, Skip a Few.  I’m only going to talk about the Princess book here, but all the books would make a great gift for a young friend (and if you purchase one through Melanie you can get 10% off!)

My kids are a little too old for these books, especially the counting book, but none of us are too old to appreciate a good story.  I popped the Princesses cd in without a word to the kids, who were bouncing off the walls at the time, and suddenly a hush fell over the room.  “What is this?” my 9 year old demanded.  “Princess stories from all over the world,” I told her.  “Why are you playing it, Mom?  We’re too old for Princesses!,” she said, giving me that I’m-not-a-baby look. “That’s ok, I’m not playing it for you, I’m playing it for me. I’m going to tell people about it on my blog,” I told her. “Oh, ok,” she said.  “What is that book?”  “It goes along with the cd.  Do you want to see it?,” I asked.  “I guess,” she said, trying to pretend she didn’t care.

Well, guess what happened when I tried to turn it off 20 minutes later, in the middle of the 3rd story?  “WAIT!!  Don’t turn it off!  It’s not over!,” cried my preteen girls who are too old for princesses.  “We have to find out if the princess gets her hair back!”  Hmmm.  

This is a really special book.  There are 7 different stories, ranging from The Princess who Lost her Hair, an African folk tale, The Birdcage Husband from Central Asia, and The Horned Snake’s Wife, an Iroquois story.  There are also the classic Princess tales, The Princess and the Pea from Denmark, and the Grimm Brothers’ The Sleeping Beauty.  The gifted illustrator, Olwyn Whelan, did a fabulous job vividly portraying the stories with vibrant colors and beautiful detail.  Margaret Wolfson reads the stories on the cd in a soothing and emotive voice that could lull a little one to sleep if the stories weren’t so full of adventure.

My big girls listened to the entire cd and admitted that they thought it was great.  But don’t tell their friends, because that would be sooooo embarrassing.

Oh, and the Princess gets her hair back.

Guest Post and Hachette Giveaway: Live a Little by Kim Green

Live a Little by Kim Green is a new book coming out on August 15th. Hachette Book Group is offering 3 copies to my readers at Books on the Brain!  

It’s about an under-appreciated woman, with two bratty kids and a distracted husband, who is diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer.  Suddenly she’s treated like a queen by her family and friends.  But just as suddenly she finds out that there’s been a mistake and she is, in fact, perfectly healthy.  However, she’s not ready to relinquish the spotlight.  Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?  I haven’t read the book but you can read an excerpt HERE.  

I asked Kim to tell us a little bit about how she came up with the idea for Live a Little, and here’s what she wrote:

Live a Little, or rather, Raquel Rose, the book’s fortysomething, frustrated heroine, emerged out of my own experience as a harried mom of two. Sometime around the thousand-odd days of parenthood mark, I started to realize that not only is parenting not about your (the grown-up’s) fulfillment, it’s actually about the complete abnegation of self. Kid needs a toy while you’re in the first shower you’ve had in six days? No problem; hygiene is overrated. Sleep deprivation got you feeling paranoid or homicidal? Read an attachment parenting book; it’ll explain that you’re just being selfish.

What, I thought one day as I stuffed my writhing offspring into my raisin-littered sedan while yet another writing deadline came and went unmet, would a terminally unappreciated mother do to feel good again? How far would she go?

That’s where Live a Little came from. Now, maybe I’m a cynic, but I tend to think most of us are liars in one way or another. Maybe we just string together small fibs, or perhaps we’re more inclined toward the occasional whopper or self-aggrandizing feint. I think it is very possible for an otherwise ethical, normal person to spin a web of lies she can’t extricate herself from easily. This precept was the baseline for Raquel’s misadventure, and I demanded a lot from it (and, probably, my readers). I wanted to see how far I could take this idea and still make Raquel relatable (according to Publisher’s Weekly, not as far as I thought). What? Demanding a lot from a mom?  Good thing I’m writing fiction, no one would ever believe that….

Kim Green is the author of several romantic comic novels, including Is That a Moose in Your Pocket?,  Paging Aphrodite and Live a Little. Her writing has appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, Mother Jones, and the San Francisco Business Times, among other publications. Her requisite stint in dotcom included editing and managing projects for and other Silicon Valley companies. Kim earned an MA in International Relations from the University of Amsterdam, which qualifies her to create exotic settings for her books and little else. She lives in San Francisco with her family.

Leave a comment here by August 22nd for a chance to win a copy of Live a Little by Kim Green!

The Last Girl on Earth Without a Cell Phone

My preteen daughter, 10 years old, going into 6th grade this September, frequently claims to be the last girl on earth without a cell phone.  This comment is generally met by a slightly sarcastic remark from me, such as  “You poor deprived child” or “That’s because it’s my goal in life to make you miserable” or “I’m sure you’re not the ONLY girl without a cell phone”.  Sometimes I even roll my eyes (and then I wonder where she gets that annoying little habit!)  She’s been bugging me for a couple of years to get her a phone, but lately this has intensified.  She claims I am overprotective.  Sometimes she declares I am the meanest mom ever.   But I do have my reasons.

She rarely uses the house phone- if she’s not calling people from home, who’s she going to call from her cell phone?  We have a rule- she can get a cell phone when she enters junior high in a year, or if we feel she needs one before then (if I’m dropping her off for long stretches at one of her activities- not the case right now) and in that case the phone would be for MY convenience and peace of mind- so that I can reach her when she’s away from me.  Which right now is hardly ever.  And texting is out.

My daughter’s two closest friends have phones, but I thought that was more the exception rather than the rule, and one of those girls has already had a “situation” with texting, where she was the victim of some bullying.  I feel my daughter is too young and immature to handle something like that.

So wasn’t I surprised, then, to find that in our Girl Scout troop, she is one of only 2 girls who do not have cell phones!  And of the 8 who do, 7 have unlimited texting (and the other one hates her phone for not having it and doesn’t understand why her mother won’t allow it!)  One girl is actually on her second phone already.  All this talk just gave my kid more fuel for the fire.

Am I really that far behind the times?  Do I cave to “peer pressure” from the girl scout group of parents and get my kid a phone?  Does a not-quite-11 year old girl really need a phone, and if so, WHY?

I’d love to hear from other moms.  Am I overprotective?  Mean?  Are you a mean mom, too?

Random Stuff

A couple of things:

Why do 10 year old girls feel the need to change their clothes 5 or 6 times a day??  And why does something worn for less than an hour need to go in the hamper??  And when can children be reasonably expected to do their own laundry?

Why do 9 year old girls HATE to brush their hair?  And is it a reflection of my parenting skills if I allow her to walk around looking like she was raised by wolves in order to avoid a battle?

Why is there a sudden interest in my review of Loose Girl, a review I wrote back in April?  Can anyone explain why I would have 40+ hits today on that almost 4 month old review??  The book came out June 3rd (not today, not this week).  Why the sudden interest?  Hmmmm.

What’s for dinner?  WHO CARES!!  I’m so sick of hearing this question!!  I’m sick of trying to dream up something new night after night!!  I have such a problem with this in the summer.  We end up eating grilled cheese or hot dogs for lack of inspiration.  So my question to you is, What’s for dinner? Bonus points if you include an easy recipe.

How often do you change the sheets on your bed?  Be honest.  Do real people, with children and multiple beds, really change all the sheets on all the beds every week?  I’m so sick of this chore.  How old do my kids have to be before they can be trained to do it themselves?  

Ok, I’ll stop bitching about stuff now.  Just a reminder- my Queen of the Road giveaway ends tonight.  The Safety of Secrets giveaway started today and goes through August 8th.  Good luck!

Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Vol. 12

In this 12th volume of In Praise of Book Clubs, Stephanie from the very popular blog The Written Word writes about Mother/Daughter book clubs, and why she’d like to start one in a few years.

I’m a mother of two daughters, one of which has just turned six. Her first year of Kindergarten has been full of many accomplishments, the biggest one being the fact that she has learned how to read. I’ve found the process incredible and it blows me away to see my little girl, who could just write her name in September, be able to compose full sentences now. I have always tried to foster a love of reading in my children (although I can’t seem to get my nineteen month old to sit still long enough to get through Goodnight Moon). Now, as Leah is about to enter first grade, I’ve begun contemplating a mother-daughter book club. Not only would this be a way to encourage my daughter to take the time to read for pleasure, but will hopefully keep the lines of communication between us strong as she grows into a young lady. Originally an idea brought up by my girlfriend Nicole, who has a daughter about the same age and who is a participant in my monthly adult book club, the mother-daughter book club is a pretty popular idea among readers these days, and luckily for us there are plenty of resources to get us going! 

The Mother-Daughter Book Club written by Shireen Dodson is a book filled with advice on how to get your mother-daughter book club off the ground. With chapters like “why to start a mother-daughter book club” and “how to find and read books” and even “girls will be girls: age and attitudes” this seems like the perfect go-to guide when starting out. 

One you have your club up and running, it’s time to figure out what you actually want to read with the girls. Book Crush by Nancy Pearl (you know, America’s favorite Librarian and author of Book Lust) is a guide to help kids and adults figure out what books are appropriate by age and genre. The book cover says “recommended reading for every mood, moment, and interest” and boy it sure does have it all. If you’ve found that the girls all have a common interest in horses, then check out the section on them and find that Pearl suggests Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague and even Mr. Revere and I.  

But your local bookstore isn’t the only place to get great information on mother-daughter book clubs. The internet is filled with great resources and ideas. Julie P. over at Booking Mama writes about her mother-daughter book club, with reviews and insight into the meetings, which I know I will be referring to once my own mother-daughter club is established. You can also find lots of information at Cindy’s blog (which is a companion to and showcases mother-daughter books clubs from around the country, book ideas and information about her own personal book club with her daughter. 

Of course, if you’re not quite ready to dive into a book club like this, there isn’t any reason why you can’t read about it. Just check out The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. A work of fiction geared toward girls ages 9 – 12, the novel is about a group of four sixth grade girls who are in a book club with their mothers and are reading Little Women. Check out the description by Booklist on the site. It looks like a cute read.  

Hopefully you’ll find some of this information useful as I have and maybe I’ll be blogging about my own mother-daughter book club in the future!  

Blogger Bio:  Stephanie is a stay at home mom of 2 girls and part time graphic design student.  She is also an avid reader and can be found at The Written Word.

***Would you like to share about your book club here at Books on the Brain? If so, leave a comment and I will get in touch with you about a guest post!

For previous volumes of In Praise of Book Clubs, click HERE

For more info on starting your own book club, click HERE

For fun ways to make your book club better, click HERE

For a chance to win Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring, click HERE and leave a comment by June 6. 

The Sunday Salon: The Weekend in Books

We’re having another scorching hot weekend here in Southern California, but the heat (hovering around 90) wasn’t enough to keep me away from the 13th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA.  The festival is a huge special event that brings writers, publishers, book sellers and readers together.  We visited dozens of booths and it was all very exciting for me.  Authors are like Rock Stars in my world.  Not so much for my kids, though, who did a lot of complaining about the heat while spooning frozen lemonade into their mouths and soaking their feet in the big fountain on the quad.  I should have left the whiners at home!

We talked to Lori Nelson, author of a delightful book for girls called Hillary’s Big Business Adventure , about a 5th grader from Baltimore who has all kinds of entrepreneurial ideas.  This was right up my kids’ alley as they are Lemonade Stand Queens and are always dreaming up new ways to make cash.  My 5th grader actually has brochures and business cards made up for a business idea she has.  The book was written for kids a bit younger than mine, though, so I didn’t buy it, but 4-8 year olds would love it.  The illustrations are outstanding.

We also had a celebrity sighting.  Marilu Henner was at the Borders booth signing her new book Total Health Makeover.  She looked cute in a spring dress and sun hat and laughed when my husband called out, “We loved you on The Apprentice!”

Of the many panels and workshops at the festival there were three I’d hoped to attend, but we got there just in time for the first only to discover it was way on the other side of the sprawling campus.  The other 2 were happening at 2:30 and 4, but by 1pm we were melting in the heat and couldn’t take any more.  We all agreed it was time to leave.

I was excited to find a signed first edition of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin in my mailbox when I got home, sent to me by the author himself!  I look forward to starting it today.  Josh is going to do a guest post for me in the next few days about book clubs, and I’ll be giving away a copy of his book, so keep an eye out for that.  Matrimony is also the May selection for the online book club at Every Day I Write The Book Blog.  You might be able to score a copy of it over there if you hurry!  They are (were?) giving them away to those who want to participate in the discussion.

Last night we had a neighborhood BBQ to attend.  Our friends across the street recently hired an au pair from Brazil to care for their 3 year old twins for the next year. A new Brazilian au pair is a great excuse to party, I always say! 

By the time we came home at 8:30 I was so pooped from being out in the heat all day that I didn’t feel like reading (or maybe it was the massive amounts of bbq’d meat and the 3 beers I consumed that made me feel couch potato-ish).  Luckily Juno arrived in my mailbox from Netflix this weekend, so I popped it into the dvd player, not expecting too much, but I loved it! I laughed, I cried, I marveled at Ellen Page’s talent, her range of emotions, her character’s extensive and colorful vocabulary.  It is smart, funny, touching.  If you haven’t seen it, I insist you go check it out right now!  Or later.  Whatever works.  But do it!  You won’t regret it.

Ok, back to books.  I just gobbled up The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski for my book club.  It’s a breezy whirlwind of a book, quick and light and fun, but also thought provoking.  June Parker gives an acquaintance, Marissa, a ride home one night after a Weight Watchers meeting.  They get in a crash on the freeway and Marissa dies.  Later June comes across a list in Marissa’s purse of 20 things she wanted to do before she turned 25.  There are large and small items on the list, ranging from “kiss a stranger” to “change someone’s life”.  The book is about June’s mission to finish the list for Marissa.  My book club is meeting on May 4th to discuss TNTOML, and the author has graciously agreed to join us by speaker phone.  I’ve asked everyone to bring their own list of 5 things they’d like to do before their next big birthday, but now I’m having trouble coming up with 5 things for my own list!   I keep reminding myself that they don’t need to be profound, just something new, but it’s not easy.  What would be on your list?    

Have a beautiful Sunday!


Looking for Suggestions

I’m looking for some help.  I’ve got an idea for a family bonding experience.  Our get togethers aren’t as lively as I’d like, and usually I’m placed at a dinner table next to my dear step-grandma, an intelligent, kind woman, who loves to tell me all the latest antics of people I’ve never met.  She gets offended if I interrupt to say, “Now, who is Randy again?” and she’ll say, “Don’t you remember?  He’s Kenny’s 2nd cousin’s husband, the one from Fresno?  With the son who is a blackjack dealer in Reno?  I mentioned him at Christmas!” and then she resumes the story as my eyes glaze over, not daring to ask who Kenny might be.

So, back to my idea.  There are 8 of us- 4 couples- ranging in age from 29 to 87.  Three of us, including the oldest two, are Japanese Americans.  The oldest couple are first generation Japanese Americans who actually remember being in the internment camps in Central California during World War II as children.  The youngest of us is my brother’s longtime girlfriend.  She is a first generation Chinese American.  4 of us grew up in California, the rest of us are transplanted midwesterners with WASP-y heritages. The women and one of the men love to read, the rest are reluctant readers.

My idea is that I’d choose a book for all of us to read and discuss.  I’d give the books out as gifts on Mother’s Day (the next time we’ll all be in the same room at the same time) and we’d discuss the book on Father’s Day.  The reluctant readers might receive an audio book.

My dilemma– what book would appeal to a group with such wide differences in age and backgrounds? Does a book like that exist?  I’m looking for suggestions.  Please let me know what you think.

Celebrating Poetry, Music, and Daughters

In celebration of April being National Poetry Month, and in an even BIGGER personal celebration of good test results from a biopsy my daughter had last week, I’d like to share the lyrics to “In My Daughter’s Eyes” by Martina McBride.


In my daughter’s eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter’s eyes

In my daughter’s eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe 
In my daughter’s eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It’s hangin’ on when your heart
has had enough
It’s giving more when you feel like giving up
I’ve seen the light
It’s in my daugter’s eyes

In my daughter’s eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she’ll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I’m gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I’ll be there
In my daughter’s eyes



April Contest for YA Books at The Page Flipper!

Chelsea at The Page Flipper has multiple giveaways each month, and she is sponsoring an awesome contest for April. Her April prize pack includes FIVE (5) FIVE!!! books that would be just right for Tweenagers (and I just happen to have a couple of those!) To enter, simply leave a comment HERE, and if you post about it on your blog, you get an extra entry (twice as nice!)  Be sure to check out The Page Flipper if you’re interested in YA books or if you’re a YA librarian. She’s looking to interview anyone in that business for her blog. Good luck!

Review and Author Interview: Keeper and Kid by Ed Hardy

Keeper and Kid by Edward Hardy is a wonderful, funny novel about what happens when the past and the present collide.  James “Jimmy” Keeper has just purchased a home with his girlfriend, Leah.  He co-owns a business hunting down antiques and selling them on eBay and in a store called Love and Death.  He enjoys a few beers at his weekly “can’t miss” card night with his buds.  Life is good, until he receives a call from his former mother in law.  His ex wife Cynthia is in the hospital and has a favor to ask of him, one that will change his life forever.

When Cynthia suddenly dies, Keeper discovers that the favor doesn’t involve a dog, as he was told, but a 3 year old boy, the son he never knew he had.  Thrown into parenthood completely unprepared, Keeper brings his son Leo home to stay while girlfriend Leah is away on business.  Leah freaks and takes off, leaving Keeper to deal with the house, the job, and of course the kid.  Overwhelmed by the constant demands and needs of a drive-you-crazy toddler who is mourning the loss of his mom, he makes a ton of mistakes and ultimately finds he can’t do it all alone.  Keeper,  quite clueless at first, learns a lot about love, responsibility, family, friendship, and growing up in the process.

This bittersweet novel touched my heart.  The characters are believable and endearing.  I carried this book everywhere for 2 days and would pick it up even if I only had a minute or two to read.  I loved it and would recommend it to anyone who has children or is thinking about parenthood. Discussion questions can be found on the author’s website.

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Ed Hardy graciously agreed to be interviewed for Books on the Brain, and here is what he had to say:

 Hi Ed, Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your new novel!  How did you come up with the idea for Keeper and Kid?

When I started the book, almost five years ago now, our oldest child was three and a half and his sibling was on the way, so we were already deep in the land of early parenthood, which can sometimes feel like living on another planet.  Along the way I began to wonder how this might feel to someone who wasn’t at all ready for the trip, and that’s how it started.

 Having children changes your life, obviously, but Keeper can only see the negative aspects of that at first.  The thing that startles him most about sudden parenthood seems to be the ‘dailyness’ of it.  Was that a surprise to you as well?  Did you feel like your life, or “life as you knew it,” was over with the onset of parenthood?

 One level you know that with kids your life is going to change, but I think it’s the thoroughness of the change that comes as a shock.  For me it seemed that the life I knew before kids just receded into the background, and over time you find out that some of those things you used to do you can still do, but differently or only once in a while.  I do think the dailyness of it comes as a surprise to many parents.  You’re in the kitchen, way down on sleep, refilling that sippy cup for the eleventh time and you can’t help but have an occasional moment of thinking: “How did we get here again?”

 Maintaining his relationship with Leah becomes a big problem for Keeper, but even under ideal circumstances, a relationship changes when children enter the picture.  Did you find that to be true in your own life?

Sure, with kids the focus in a relationship changes drastically and that can be hard.  One trick seems to be figuring out ways to occasionally jump back in time and remind yourselves that there was something else there before the kids arrived.  Babysitters help.

Keeper seems like the all American guy.  A card playing, beer drinking, stubborn “guy’s guy”.  He’s a really likable character who seems to understand his shortcomings,  yet he’s trying to do everything by himself.  Why do you think it’s so hard for him to ask for help with Leo?

Keeper gets a kick out of figuring things out on his own, only once Leo arrives it takes him a while to realize that he really doesn’t have that luxury any more.  He’s also one of those guys who would much rather keep on reading the map instead of stopping to ask for directions.

The voice of 3 year old Leo seems very real to me.  He’s an unusually bright and verbal child.  How were you able to write him so authentically?  Were you inspired by your own children?

I was definitely inspired by my own kids and by their friends.  A lot of getting Leo’s voice on the page had to do with really listening to exactly what kids say and paying attention to how their sentences move, compared to the ways that adults speak.

How long did it take you to write Keeper and Kid?  What is the writing process like for you.. do you write at home?  In an office?  On a laptop?

The book took about three and a half years to write, but there were a lot of interruptions in there:  teaching, parenting, a massive house renovation.  I work at home, upstairs in a small office off our bedroom and on a laptop.  I used to be a newspaper reporter and editor years ago so at this point I can only write on a screen.

The cover of the book is adorable and joyful.  Did you have any say over what the cover would be like?  Who decides these things?

The publisher came up with the idea and I only got a look at the cover pretty late in the process, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it.

Any chance Keeper and Kid might become a movie?  As I was reading, I could see it on the big screen in my mind’s eye.

I’d be thrilled if Keeper made it to the big screen, but there’s nothing in the works right now.

I read that you had written for various publications and had a short story featured in Best American Short Stories.  How is writing a novel different?  Do you prefer one format over another?

I started out writing stories and I’m probably a story-writer at heart.  With stories you’re working in a much smaller space and for a story to really click everything needs to line up and getting there is a big part of the fun.  In a novel characters and events tend to build up layer by layer and that means you’ve got a lot more room to roam around.

I loved Keeper and Kid and look forward to reading more of your work. What are you working on now?

 I’m in the gathering-wool stage for a new novel.  I think it’s going to be about a group of over-extended grown-ups who start an alt. country band and run into a string of unintended consequences, but if I say much more I’ll jinx it.

A big THANK YOU to Ed Hardy for answering my questions and for writing such a wonderful book!

 If you’d like to win a copy of Keeper and Kid, please leave a comment here on my blog by Friday, March 27th.  I’ll let the random number generator do it’s thing and pick a winner. Post about the giveaway on your blog and you’ll get an extra chance to win.  Don’t have a blog?  No worries.. just make sure to leave your email address here so I can alert you when you win!