BeachReads · Blog Tour · Book Reviews · Booksparks · Fiction

Book Tour and Review: ‘Barbarians at the PTA’

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‘Desperate Housewives’ meets ‘Mean Girls’ was all I needed to hear to inspire me to read Stephanie Newman’s debut novel, ‘Barbarians at the PTA‘, about a mother-daughter duo facing cliques, cyberbullying, & snobs in a wealthy NYC suburb.

Victoria Bryant is starting over. After a rage-inducing scandal & the realization that her dreamy fiancé is faker than a faux Fendi purse, she moves her psychology practice & 10-yr-old daughter, Rachel, to Mayfair Close, an idyllic Westchester, NY, suburb known for its manicured lawns & excellent schools.

The transition is initially seamless; several PTA moms befriend Victoria, her already busy practice booms, & Rachel finds a group of friends. But before anyone can say “helicopter mom,” in walks Lee DeVry. Wealthy, glamorous & perfectly toned, the PTA president is everything Victoria is not.

Vic tries to fit in w/ Lee & the other SUV driving, athleisure-wearing mothers. At first, she manages to balance the demands of her practice, single parenthood, & her budding romance w/ Jim, a handsome school administrator. All seems well until Rachel is suddenly targeted, first by the girls at school, & then by an anonymous cyberbully. As Rachel spirals, becoming isolated, playing hooky, & exhibiting signs of depression & disordered eating, Victoria vows to find out who has been messing w/ her daughter.

After she learns a secret that will help her rescue her child, Vic faces the ultimate dilemma: should she expose the bully publicly, despite the potential consequences to her professional reputation & relationships w/ Rachel & Jim?

A witty, sharp, & hope-filled debut, ‘Barbarians at the PTA‘ will have you cheering for badass moms everywhere who go to the ends of the earth for their children—& will leave you wanting more from Dr. Stephanie Newman.

Having the insight & fortitude of a psychologist & mother, Newman nails it in this book w/ the all too realistic scenarios & heart-breaking challenges of being a parent to a child who is being bullied at school & online, not just by peers, but by over-involved, competitive mothers. One of my fave comedies is ‘Bad Moms‘ & this book compares to that movie, but on a more serious level, & balanced out w/ humor, twists & sass.

Barbarians at the PTA‘ makes a great summer (or back to school time) read & is available now. Look for it at your local indie stores today! And Thank You to Booksparks for inviting me on the virtual book tour & to Stephanie Newman & SkyHorse Publishing for the autographed copy of the the book!

Blog Tour · Book Reviews · Nonfiction

Blog Tour and Book Review: ‘Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection w/ Your Teenage Daughter’ by Kari Kampakis

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Thank you @thomasnelson @karikampakis & @tlcbooktours for my gifted copy of ‘Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy & Connection w/ Your Teenage Daughter’! (pub 8/18) And thank you for inviting me to be part of the blog tour!

As a mother to 5 (1 daughter- the middle child, & 4 sons- the 2 youngest are twins), I can’t even tell you how many times over the yrs my hubs & I have said “Thank God the twins were boys!” TRUTH! I don’t know if I could survive going through these current teen yrs (again) if my twin sons were daughters. And during a pandemic? I just got chills thinking about it.

Moms are eager for tips and wisdom to help them build strong relationships with their daughters, & Kari Kampakis’s ‘Love Her Well’ gives them ten practical ways to do so, not by changing their daughters but by changing their own thoughts, actions, & mind-set.

For many women, having a baby girl is a dream come true. Yet as girls grow up, the narrative of innocence & joy changes to gloom & doom as moms are told, “Just wait until she’s a teenager!” & handed a disheartening script that treats a teenage girl’s final years at home as solely a season to survive.

Author & blogger Kari Kampakis suggests it’s time to change the narrative & mind-set that lead moms to parent teen girls with a spirit of defeat, not strength. By improving the foundation, habits, & dynamics of the relationship, mothers can connect with their teen daughters & earn a voice in their lives that allows moms to offer guidance, love, wisdom, & emotional support.

As a mom of four daughters (three of whom are teenagers), Kari has learned the hard way that as girls grow up, mothers must grow up too. In ‘Love Her Well, Kari shares ten ways that moms can better connect with their daughters in a challenging season, including:

  • choosing their words and timing carefully,
  • listening and empathizing with her teen’s world,
  • seeing the good and loving her for who she is,
  • taking care of themselves and having a support system, and more.

This book isn’t a guide to help mothers “fix” their daughters or make them behave. Rather, it’s about a mom’s journey, doing the heart work and legwork necessary to love a teenager while still being a strong, steady parent. Kari explores how every relationship consists of two imperfect sinners, and teenagers gain more respect for their parents when they admit (and learn from) their mistakes, apologize, listen, give grace, and try to understand their teens’ point of view. Yes, teenagers need rules and consequences, but without a connected relationship, parents may never gain a significant voice in their lives or be a safe place they long to return to.

By admitting her personal failures and prideful mistakes that have hurt her relationships with her teenage daughters, Kari gives mothers hope and reminds them all things are possible through God. By leaning on him, mothers gain the wisdom, guidance, protection, and clarity they need to grow strong relationships with their daughters at every age, especially during the critical teen years.

I love the easy way ‘Love Her Well‘ is laid out. Easy to read, short, to the point chapters; inspirational quotes & proverbs; lists (boy, do I love lists!); reflection questions & space to write your answers at the end of each chapter; & so much relevant, useful & easily employable advice from an author who has been on the front lines of raising daughters for many years (she has 4 daughters).

Love Her Well‘ may quite possibly change your life if you are a mother to a teen or pre-teen daughter. It’s insightful, practical, compassionate, & packed with many pearls of relatable wisdom. I will be utilizing some of Kampakis’s advice in my relationship w/ my 22-yr-old as well. Have your pen, highlighter & post-it flags ready when you read this well-written, informational guidebook & be sure to check out Kari’s blog & other books as well. (Links below)

Click HERE to be nice & give my Instagram post a LIKE.
Click HERE to pre-order ‘Love Her Well’ on Amazon. (I also encourage you to shop local indie bookstores first!)
Click HERE to add ‘Love Her Well’ to your Goodreads TBR.
Click HERE to read more about ’10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know’ also by Kari Kampakis.
Click HERE to read more about ‘Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For’ also by Kari Kampakis.
Click HERE to visit Kari’s Instagram page.
Click HERE to visit Kari’s blog.
Click HERE to visit Kari Kampakis’s podcast, ‘Girl Mom Podcast’.

Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis is an author, blogger, & national speaker from Birmingham, Alabama. Her books for teen girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know & Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For?, have been used widely across the country by teen youth groups & church groups to empower girls through faith.
Kari’s work has been featured on the TODAY Show, TODAY Parents, Yahoo! News, EWTN, Proverbs 31, Ann Voskamp’s blog, The Huffington Post, & other national outlets. She & her husband, Harry, have four daughters & a dog named Lola.

Book Reviews · Fiction

Book Review/Pub Day ‘Everything Here is Under Control’

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Happy Pub Day & Thank you @blackstonepublishing for my gifted copy of ‘Everything Here is Under Control‘ by Emily Adrian!

Amanda is a new mother, & she is breaking. After a fight with her partner, she puts the baby in the car & drives from Queens to her hometown in rural Ohio, where she shows up unannounced on the doorstep of her estranged childhood best friend.

Amanda thought that she had left Carrie firmly in the past. After their friendship ended, their lives diverged radically: Carrie had a baby the summer after high school, became a successful tattoo artist, & never escaped Ohio’s conservative grid of close-cut grass. But the trauma of childbirth & shock of motherhood compel Amanda to go back to the beginning & to trace the tangled roots of friendship & family in her own life.

Compelling & engaging, ‘Everything Here Is Under Control’ is a raw, honest, occasionally hilarious portrait of the complexity, conflicting emotions, & physical trauma of both modern motherhood & the intense, intimate friendships that women forge in their youth.

A fantastic book about the complexity of female friendships, motherhood, trauma, breaking the bonds of friendship & ultimately, forgiveness. Also touching on postpartum depression, the story reminded me of what I felt as a young mother when I had my first child…the sometimes overpowering loneliness, the sleepless nights, the anxiety once the baby does go to sleep, & the all too consuming, 24/7 feeling that you aren’t doing enough or aren’t a good enough mother, even though you are doing everything as right & as well as you know how.

I’m also an Ohioan, so I love it when a book (or part of a book) takes place in a real or fictional town in my state. I would love to see a second book as a sort of ‘where are they now’ about Gabe, Carrie & Amanda. Overall, ‘Everything Here is Under Control’ is a really beautiful, complex, engaging & diverse book & I look forward to reading more from Emily Adrian in the future. Look for this book today at your local indie bookstore.

And don’t forget to enter my current giveaway a couple posts back for your chance to win (3) hardback books from Book of the Month, & if you join BOTM through my referral link in my bio, you get (20) bonus entries to up your chance of winning even more! The August BOTM’s will be up SOON so what are you waiting for…join today! (US residents only unfortunately)
Click HERE to go to the BOTM giveaway post on Instagram.
Click HERE to give my Instagram post on this book some LIKE love.
Click HERE to add this book to your Goodreads list.
Click HERE to visit Emily Adrian’s Instagram page.

What others are saying about ‘Everything Here is Under Control’:

”A sharp, thoughtful, poignant look at early motherhood, a small town, and the complex, challenging, and beautiful relationships that make up our families both biological and chosen.” —Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

”How Emily Adrian could write a book so honest and raw about the first weeks of motherhood and yet so appealing and unputdownable and — dare I say, heartwarming — is a mystery of novelistic alchemy. Nonetheless, there it levitates: light as a feather and heavy as a stone, a romantic comedy that redefines the terms of traditional romance and takes happily ever after far beyond the loss of maidenhood. Magic, addictive, brilliant fun.” —Rufi Thorpe, author of The Knockout Queen

”I tore through Everything Here Is under Control in just a couple of days, compelled by its refreshingly honest portrayals of not only early motherhood but the kind of childhood friendship that shapes the rest of your life. Emily Adrian writes with such a keen and sensitive eye, and she’s funny, and she is an astute observer of human behavior. I cheered when I got to the plot twist midway through, and, even now, I can’t get this novel’s characters out of my mind.” —Edan Lepucki, New York Times bestselling author of California

”Emily Adrian is such a uniquely perceptive writer, possessing a kind of X-ray vision that finds the hidden truths inside of us, no matter how painful they might be. Everything Here Is Under Control skillfully lays out a story that converges on motherhood, friendship, and our responsibilities to the world around us, the lives that touch us. A beautiful, bracing novel by an amazing, open-hearted writer.” —Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here

”I could not put down this brilliant, beautiful book. It’s about the elastic, resilient love of our earliest friendships. It’s about the challenges of motherhood at any age. It’s about how the lands of our childhood define and complicate us — and how we can never leave them completely. Everything Here Is Under Control is everything I want a novel to be: suspenseful, emotional, intellectual, and populated with characters so true and dimensional that their shocks and pains and happiness merge into my own. Emily Adrian is a force. Now, go read her book.” —Jeannie Vanasco, author of Things We Didn’t Talk about When I Was a Girl

”Brutally tender, ferociously intimate, astonishingly surefooted, and deeply satisfying. Emily Adrian has crafted a multilayered story whose people — I hesitate to call them mere ‘characters’ — became so real and vivid to me that I’ve thought about them long since finishing the book. An immersive, irresistible pleasure.” —Chelsey Johnson, author of Stray City

”Emily Adrian writes with deft assurance and penetrating insight about the intensities of motherhood, marriage, and female friendship.” —Heather Harpham, author of Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After

”There is so much to examine here, from the harrowing experience of new motherhood to the role of a father in an infant’s first days. Amanda’s complex relationship with Deerling, which includes her own mother, is worth noting, too, and a twist midway through the book adds great intensity to the story. But the heart of the novel is Carrie and Amanda’s friendship, with all its sorrow and joy. A perfect selection for book groups.” —Booklist (starred review)

Emily Adrian is the author of two critically acclaimed young adult novels, Like It Never Happened and The Foreseeable Future. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, her son, and their dog, Hank.

BeachReads · Book Reviews · Fiction

Book Review: “I Was Told It Would Get Easier” by Abbi Waxman

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Happy Friday readers, writers, reviewers, publishers & so on!

In between trying to battle a week long losing battle with a butt-kicker of a migraine (that is still hanging on), I have been squeezing in a little reading when I get a bit of respite from the pain (via prescription pharmaceuticals). I have been a migraine sufferer for decades, & with 2 kids home 24/7, who treat being noisy like it’s their job, it’s getting more & more difficult to get rid of them in a timely fashion. I guess I’ll give it the weekend & then if it’s not better, then Monday I shall see the Doc.

Anyhow, let’s talk about “I Was Told It Would Get Easier” by Abbi Waxman. (That title could seriously be the name of my biography, just saying…)

Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica & Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures, from the USA Today bestselling author of “The Bookish Life of Nina Hill”.

Jessica & Emily Burnstein have very different ideas of how this college tour should go.

For Emily, it’s a preview of freedom, exploring the possibility of her new and more exciting future. Not that she’s sure she even wants to go to college, but let’s ignore that for now. And maybe the other kids on the tour will like her more than the ones at school. . . . They have to, right?

For Jessica, it’s a chance to bond with the daughter she seems to have lost. They used to be so close, but then Goldfish crackers & Play-Doh were no longer enough of a draw. She isn’t even sure if Emily likes her anymore. To be honest, Jessica isn’t sure she likes herself.

Together with a dozen strangers–& two familiar enemies–Jessica & Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family & old friends along the way. Surprises & secrets threaten their relationship &, in the end, change it forever.

I am a mother to 4 boys & only 1 daughter, who it quite literally the spitting image of me in every way, shape & form. I am grateful for our friendship, conversations & candid talks now that she is a 22-yr old adult, but man, those teen years were TOUGH. I have thanked God on more than one occasion that my twins are boys, & not girls, because I honestly don’t know how I could deal with twin 14 girls & all the angst, hormones, & societal peer pressures that comes with our ever expanding technology & social media apps.

“I Was Told It Would Get Easier” (IWTIWGE from here on out) is Waxman’s 4th novel. I won “The Garden of Small Beginnings” back in 2017 & Waxman became an auto-buy author for me from then on. IWTIWGE is told from both Jessica & Emily’s POV’s & you will meet several interesting side characters along the way. I was definitely able to relate in many ways to the mother daughter relationship struggles & conflict, & even got a bit emotional a couple times as it brought back some memories both good & not-so-good.

This book is a witty, charming, touching, fantastically enjoyable read that is as insightful as it is delightful! If you are new to Abbi Waxman, you will not be disappointed & you should definitely check out her other 3 books as well.

Click HERE to add “I Was Told It Would Get Better” to your Goodreads list.
Click HERE to add “The Bookish Life of Nina Hill” to your Goodreads list.
Click HERE to add “Other People’s Houses” to your Goodreads list.
Click HERE to add “The Garden of Small Beginnings” to your Goodreads list.

What others are saying about “I Was Told It Would Get Better“:

“Waxman shines at creating characters that feel like best friends, inspiring compassion, laughs, and cheers, and fans of Katherine Center and Linda Holmes’ Evvie Drake Starts Over (2019) will adore this.”Booklist, on I Was Told It Would Get Easier

“Waxman expertly navigates the fraught shoals of college admissions in this spot-on tale…. Waxman’s alternating first-person narration from Jessica and Emily rings true, while a memorable supporting cast…provide excellent support…This sweet treat doesn’t require a college-bound child to enjoy, though anyone who has helped their offspring weather the admissions process will definitely appreciate this sharp send-up.”—Publisher’s Weekly, on I Was Told It Would Get Easier

“Funny and insightful.”BookRiot, on I Was Told It Would Get Easier

“We’re forever fans of Abbi Waxman’s sweet, witty, feel-good novels. Her latest, about a mother and daughter making college visits along the East Coast, is her best yet.”HelloGiggles, on I Was Told It Would Get Easier

“An aptly and hilariously titled novel…Waxman again delivers with her signature wit and laugh-out-loud writing, offering us authentic characters who feel like people we’ve met and loved in our own lives — all while offering sly commentary on the roller coaster that is the college application process for parents and their college-hopefuls.”Shondaland

“This book’s strengths are the exploration of the mother-teen daughter dynamics and relationship and the author’s remarkable gift for realistic, witty dialog. VERDICT: Recommended for fans of mother-daughter fiction with both lighthearted and serious moments.”Library Journal, on I Was Told It Would Get Easier

“Abbi Waxman’s warm, quippy novels explore familial dynamics with sarcastic wit and plenty of heart…. Being a teenager–or parenting one–is tricky territory, but Waxman steers her characters through it with compassion, snappy dialogue and the right dose of zany humor. Things may (or may not) get easier for the Burnstein women, but the ride, literal and otherwise, is highly enjoyable.”Shelf Awareness

Blog Tour · Nonfiction

Blog Tour for “The Opposite of Certainty: Fear, Faith and Life In Between” by Janine Urbaniak Reid

Thank you @wpublishing @thomasnelson @janineurbanurbaniakreid & @tlcbooktours for my gifted copy of “The Opposite of Certainty” which published on May 12th.

What happens when we can no longer pretend that the ground underfoot is bedrock and the sky above predictable?

All Janine Urbaniak Reid ever wanted was for everyone she loved to be okay so she might relax and maybe be happy. Her life strategy was simple: do everything right. This included trying to be the perfect mother to her three kids so they would never experience the kind of pain she pretended not to feel growing up. What she didn’t expect was the chaos of an out-of-control life that begins when her young son’s hand begins to shake.

The Opposite of Certainty is the story of Janine’s reluctant journey beyond easy answers and platitudes. She searches for a source of strength bigger than her circumstances, only to have her circumstances become even thornier with her own crisis. Drawn deeply and against her will into herself, and into the eternal questions we all ask, she discovers hidden reserves of strength, humor, and a no-matter-what faith that looks nothing like she thought it would. 

Beautifully written and deeply hopeful, Janine shows us how can we come through impossible times, transformed and yet more ourselves than we’d ever allowed ourselves to be.

Click HERE to add this to your Goodreads TBR

I found this story utterly compelling, touching, & heartbreaking, but also very heartwarming, uplifting, & inspiring. I have a family member who went through something similar with her son many years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer & she was raising 5 kids. The sleeplessness coupled with daily fatigue, battles with insurance companies & what they will or won’t cover, the daily uncertainty of what each new day will bring. Her son, just like Janine’s, was eventually cured, but the stress of it all really took a toll on my family member’s own health.

“The Opposite of Uncertainty” is a memoir about one mother’s deeply emotional & personal journey through motherhood, letting go of perfectionism & struggling with feelings of hopelessness & overwhelming fear after her son is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Advocating for a proper diagnosis & treatment for him while navigating the healthcare system, Janine details the ups & downs she went through daily trying to get her son the care he needed & while trying to be what she considered a perfect wife & mother.

I couldn’t put this book down. It just resonated with me & spoke to my very soul, not to mention that I, too, have a son named Mason, who has autism & has also given us some pretty frightening health scares in his lifetime. This book also reminds me of the old saying, “God only gives us what we can handle.” Sometimes all the little things that are overwhelming & emotionally exhausting you really are just that…little things, & we get reminded of that when the big things come at us out of nowhere to give us that reality check. “The Opposite of Certainty” is more than just a medical memoir. It will also lift your spirits & help you learn to live in the present, not the past or future, & be mindful about how much time & energy you are really wasting on the trivial aspects of your existence.

This book is so well written & articulated, you will want to reread it as soon as you finish it! Beautiful, inspirational & motivational, this book is already available for purchase. You can also read a sneak-peek of the book at the author’s website, JanineUrbaniakReid.com. You can also use BookStoreLink to find this book & others at a local independent bookstore. Many of them offer curbside pick up, home delivery or e-commerce sales.

Reviews from other authors:

‘The diagnosis of life-threatening illness is one of the most terrifying challenges any family or individual can face. Anger, resentment, fear, and loneliness rise up ready to do battle with hope, and all are made more powerful by love. The Opposite of Certainty is a deeply personal memoir about such a journey, told with brutal honesty and so much grace it will touch your soul.’ –Jacqueline Winspear, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Journey to Munich, A Dangerous Place, Leaving Everything Most Loved, and nine other novels featuring Maisie Dobbs

‘A beautiful sucker punch, like life. When the ground crumbles beneath your hopes, big dreams, and great expectations, what do you stand on and for? Where do you find the strength to keep going? You find it in this gem of a book.’ –Ron Fournier, New York Times bestselling author of Love That Boy

‘Somedays it’s doughnuts and hot coffee. Other days it’s gurneys and scans. That’s true of almost every full life. Here’s the good news: observant and warm, the writing of Janine Urbaniak Reid is the finest company on both kinds of days.’ –Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me More and The Middle Place

About the Author

Janine Urbaniak Reid was born in Chicago and grew up in California. Before she began raising a family and then writing full-time, she was vice president of a San Francisco public relations firm.

Janine has been published in the Washington PostChicago Tribune, and San Francisco Chronicle and is widely syndicated. Hoping to bring humanity into the healthcare discussion by sharing her experience as a mother of a son with a brain tumor, she penned a piece for the Post that went viral. She has been interviewed on national news networks and continues her work as a spokeswoman for healthcare justice.

Janine writes about her imperfect life, what connects us, and addresses the question of what it means to love fiercely in a sometimes dangerous and always uncertain world.

Janine is a graduate of the University of California at San Diego and lives in Northern California with her family and a motley assortment of pets. She attends St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Marin City: all are welcome.

For more information, please visit JanineUrbaniakReid.com. You can also connect with Janine at Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.