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Thank you, Cara Hoffman (Be Safe I Love You)

Sometimes, readers get the opportunity to embrace a book so powerful and moving that it literally leaves them speechless. Typically, I can explain my feelings about things quite easily.  That is, until I read Cara Hoffman’s Be Safe I Love You.

First, I should give you the premise. Be Safe I Love You is about Lauren Clay, a young woman who recently returned from serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  Before she left, Lauren was a classically trained vocalist with a bright future ahead of her. Unfortunately, situations in her family life forced her to find means of providing for her younger brother, Danny, and their father.  Enlisting in the army provided Lauren with the financial means to provide a life for her brother. She knew it would mean she would have to leave Danny and her life behind. What she didn’t realize is it would leave a permanent and lasting impact on her life.

Going in to my read of Be Safe I Love You, I, like Lauren, had no idea what I was getting myself into. Like Lauren, I didn’t understand how mentally and emotionally altered I would feel after the experience. Though it has been two weeks since my second read of this book, I feel it holds part of my heart, my soul, captive in its embrace.

The first time I read it, I devoured it in a matter of hours. As the publication date approached, I knew I was going to have to read it again so I could formulate some sort of review. After I finished the second reading, however, I was just as speechless and devoid of any ability to write anything about this title that made any sort of sense. I tried, for two straight weeks, to get my brain wrapped around my feelings, to put into words how I felt about this book, about how much it moved me. I felt like such a failure when I couldn’t.

Then last night I had an idea. My problem wasn’t that I couldn’t formulate my thoughts about this book. I most certainly could! The format is what was throwing me off. So, instead. I free wrote this thank you letter to the author, Cara Hoffman:

Dear Cara-

I personally want to thank you for gifting the world with a book as brilliant and moving as Be Safe I Love You. You have succeeded at bringing to light a subject matter that has been ignored for so long. We sent our citizens into fight wars.  We give them the ammunition and physical armor to protect them in the line of fire.  Yet, we don’t give them the mental support and stability to fight such a battle. We run them through drills of all kinds yet never do we warn them, prepare them, for the mental onslaught they are about to face. In your novel, Lauren is a victim of our country’s ignorance. She has no concept of what she has signed up for and is in no way prepared to deal with what she witnesses in the line of battle.  Then, after she is sent home, she’s thrown back into the “real” world without any support. It is by mere coincidence/chance that someone catches something that causes them to worry. What if that paperwork was pushed to the side, ignored like so many other things?

As I read Be Safe I Love You, tears poured down my cheeks. I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of thousands of troops dealing with what Laura faced. These are real people, not robots that can be expected to reboot and forget everything that has transpired. They can’t shut off their feelings ore erase their memories. They have to face them. And we, as thankful and grateful citizens of the United States of America, need to help them. We need to give them the resources and support they need to get on with their lives, to heal and recover (both physically and mentally) when they return from the battlefields.  We can not afford to keep ignoring something that devastates so many of our troops. This support is the very least we can do, for these people put their lives on hold, leave their families behind, in order to protect our country.

So, Cara, while this isn’t my typical way of showing my opinion about a book, I hope it allows you to see that I get it. I hope others get it, too, and that we, as a country, put an end to the ignorance that surrounds the mental welfare of our troops. Thank you.

Introducing: Mother & Son Book Club

MotherSonBookClubOne of the many ways my son & I connect is through books. While he goes through phases when he’s lost interest in reading, when he does discover a book he’s loved I’m the first one to know.  This is something I want to nurture: the relationship he and I have together surrounding books.  In many cases, if he tells me about a book he’s interested in, I end up reading it myself simply because I enjoy the discussion it fuels.   Then I started thinking that there are certainly other mothers & sons out there that do this.  I did a little research online and couldn’t find many mother/son book clubs out there, at least ones that are virtual.  And, what happens when I start thinking? New project suddenly appear!

I would love for others to get involved and join.  I’m still working out all the logistics (like types of books to read, etc.) but to start off I’d simply like to get an indication of interest!  If you are interested in participating, please indicate so in the comments below.  My boys are 8 and 14 so this book club would focus on middle grade/early young adult titles.  Also, if you have any suggestions on book selections, please feel free to include those as well. 

Since school has just started for many, the plan would be to start reading the book at the end of September and discuss it at the end of October and repeat for subsequent months. Discussion will take place here on the blog at first, via comments,and eventually moving it to Twitter or Facebook as the interest grows. Starting off at least, let’s keep it simple!


EDIT: To make it easier to collect information for those interested in participated, I have created a simple form below. Please use this in addition to commenting!

BEA Bound: The Best of Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday I will be heading to New York City for Book Expo America, the biggest publishing conference/exposition in North America.

BEA Bloggers Conference

Wednesday, I will be participating in BEA Bloggers Conference. Specifically, I will be on a panel discussing how blogging, a typically online behavior and experience, has spread offline, offering me numerous opportunities and experiences. These include my relationship with my local independent bookstore, #IndieThursday, and much more.

If you are going to be at BEA and see me aimlessly walking up and down the aisles, don’t be afraid to say hello! Also, if you do want to meet up, I will be checking email messages periodically. Feel free to shoot me an email (

I created a Pinterest board for all the books I’m most excited about that are supposed to be available at BEA this year.  I won’t go as far as fist fights or biting to get my hands on these, but if the opportunity presents me with these books, I’ll be happy!

Since I will be in NY through Friday, I opted not to run any new content on the blog this week. Instead, I  would like to focus favorite posts from the last year. These post will hopefully give new readers an idea of the types of books I generally review, as well as tide over existing readers until I  return rested and invigorated next week!  Enjoy!

Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 30, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0345532740
  • Source: Big Honcho Media

Three years ago, Franny Banks gave herself a deadline. By the end of the deadline, if she hadn’t yet made it on Broadway she would go back home. Six months are now left and she has yet to meet this deadline. She waits tables at a comedy club to make ends meet, not really the “important work” she was hoping to do. Her only chance to be “discovered” is during a showcase for her acting class. She has to keep her mind focused, yet when James Franklin, the most talented (and attractive) actor in her class begins to indicate an interest in her, Franny has a hard time keeping her head, staying true to who she really is.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a heartfelt, and extremely humorous, glimpse of a young woman trying to succeed in one of the post competitive of occupations in the most competitive city. Franny is an incredibly bright and talented young woman with a witty sense of humor, yet unfortunately she doesn’t realize it. Even the most heartbreaking of situations have a humorous spin on them, adding a bit of levity to what has the potential of being a dark and depressing novel.  Each chapter starts with images of Franny’s Filofax, following her progress to the deadline with comical notes and drawings.

The secondary characters are rich and well developed. Franny’s best friend and roommate, Jane, has a starring role in Franny’s life, offering her the support and confidence needed to make a future in acting. Danny, their other roommate, is an aspiring sci-fi writer and sees Franny for the smart and talented woman she is. When she begins to stray from her roots, it is Danny that reels her back down to earth.

Admittedly, while I was extremely excited to see that Lauren Graham was writing a novel, I was also a tad bit wary. Some actresses that take the leap and write fiction have tragic outcomes. Thankfully, Graham doesn’t fall in that category! I can’t help but wonder how much of her life is reflected in Franny’s story considering the timing of her acting debut fits that of Franny’s.

A tremendously endearing and heartwarming read,  Someday, Someday, Maybe follows Franny through her path of self-discovery, finding a niche that is both respectful and suits her as an individual. Those looking to branch out into acting would truly appreciate this novel as it provides some of the dark side of the trade not obviously evident. If you are looking for a light, heartwarming read, Someday, Someday, Maybe is the book for you. Highly recommended!

Visit the Official Site of Someday, Someday, Maybe
Follow @TheLaurenGraham on Twitter

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook of this title, narrated by Lauren herself!

Thanks to Big Honcho Media,  I have two copies of Someday, Someday, Maybe to give away! Open to US addresses only. To enter, please fill out the form below. The winners will be contacted via email on Friday, May 17th.

Kobo Aura HD: Product Review

overview_hero_wLogo_naWhen I was contacted by Kobo to review their newest eReader, the Aura HD, I gladly accepted the offer. While I am not presently looking for an eReader for myself, several close friends and acquaintances are on the search for a basic eReader and, in order to keep up-to-date on current eReader trends, I saw this as a great opportunity to fulfill both needs.

First, for the basics (taken from Kobo’s web site):

Size: 175.7 x 128.3 x 11.7 mm (6.91 x 5.05 x 0.46 in)

Weight: 240 g (8.4658 oz)

Processor: 1 GHz; 20% faster processor than other leading eReaders.

Display: 6.8″ WXGA+ Pearl E Ink Screen

ClarityScreen+: 265 dpi, 1440 x 1080 resolution

Light: Built-in ComfortLight technology with micro-thin coating for durability and even light distribution

Connectivity: Wi Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Micro USB

Storage: 4 GB, option to expand up to 32 GB with a Micro SD card

Battery: Up to 2 months*

Now for the features I particularly enjoyed:

I was impressed with the Aura HD as soon as I took it out of the box. It as a sleek, ergonomic feel to it. It fits perfectly in the palm of your hand, great for comfort while reading. IMG_1183Additionally, the set up was incredibly easy. You have two options for set-up: via a computer or wirelessly. I opted for wireless. Once an update was installed, I was able to log in to my Kobo account in seconds. There are also options to create a new Kobo account or to sign in using your Facebook account.  From start to finish, set-up took less than 10 minutes.

The Reading Experience

It is obvious that this eReader was created, and geared toward, passionate readers. Following are some of the features I think readers will find valuable as related to the reading experience:

  • All of your books are accessible from anywhere, via the Kobo cloud. Additionally you can purchase books based on recommendations from Kobo (your feedback to these recommendations will further tailor these recommendations.
  • 10 font styles and 24 font styles allow you to customize the overall look of the text as you are reading.
  • A dictionary is installed and by clicking on a word, the definition(s) appear within seconds.
  • By highlighting the text, you can either take notes and/or share that text to Facebook
  • This reader is compatible with ePub and Adobe ebooks, so you can easily download books for free from your local library.
  • For those who review egalleys, you can add these titles to the Kobo Aura HD easily using Adobe Digital Editions
  • You can easily buy ebooks from your local independent bookstore by either adding you existing Kobo account linked to that bookstore or by going on the store’s web site to create a new one.
  • Kobo Reading Life tracks your reading habits. Find out your reading speed and page turn rate and earn rewards for reading.

By far one of my favorite features is the backlight. By pushing a button, the screen illuminates, the strength of the light adjustable. The screen is also glare-free so you can read in comfort in any lighting situation. The light actually illuminates the screen beautifully and I was able to read easily in the pitch dark without disturbing my husband next to me.

Are you one of those “social readers” who checks to see what others are reading while in public? Well, Kobo’s Aura HD allows you to show off what you are reading, even when the device is powered off. The “screen saver” is the cover of the book you were last reading:



At $169, the Aura HD is a bit more expensive than the comparable Barnes & Noble and Amazon products.  That said, the Reading Life feature as well as the fact that it is not “tied” to a store makes the price well worth it for me.

All in all, I think this is a perfect eReader for a passionate reader. You won’t find any features to distract you from reading. A truly rewarding experience overall.

PicMonkey Collage

Update your Feeds!

This is a sticky post. Please scroll down to see new content.

After years of frustration and indications that Google will no longer support/run Feedburner, I took a leap and moved to FeedBlitz, a fee-based service. Please be sure to update your feed to this address:  Clicking on this link will also allow you to subscribe to my blog via email, if you prefer.

I will shut down the Feedburner feed in early September so please be sure to make the switch before then so you can continue to receive updates!



Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atria (April 26, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1439192316
  • Source: Publisher

    “R”, as the reader knows him, is a young man with a bit of an identity problem. You see, he’s dead. Or technically, undead. A zombie.  Wait, wait…come back.  This isn’t your typical zombie novel.  “R”, and the others like him, aren’t your normal zombies.  They hold conversations (granted, to the Living human ear it consists of a bunch of mumbling) and they have a conscious. One of the biggest tragedies is they remember nothing of their past. They don’t remember their names, nor what they did when they were Living.  They jokingly speculate about their careers and pasts based on the clothing they are wearing. Most difficult to “R” is not knowing his name:

    “I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else’s, because I’d like to love them, but I don’t know who they are.”

    It’s unknown how things ended up this way, but it’s been the case for some time:

    “I think the world has mostly ended because the cities we wander are as rotten as we are. Buildings have collapsed.  Rusted cars clog the streets. Most glass is shattered, the wind drifting through the hollow high-rises moans like an animal left to die. I don’t know what happened.  Disease? War? Social collapse? Or was it just us? The Dead replacing the Living? I guess it’s not so important.  Once you arrive at the end of the world , it hardly matters which route you took.”

    “R” and hundreds of other Dead live in an abandoned airport. The Dead maintain many of the traditions they carried on while Living: They marry, they “have kids” (adopt, really), they go to church. The children go to school, learning what it takes to survive as the young undead. “R” spends a great deal of his time riding up and down escalators. Occasionally, he joins a group of others and they go off to the city and feed. Yes, they still require human flesh to exist. “R” craves the brain in particular,  for it brings a spark of memory, a bit of life.  He isn’t fond of many of the zombie’s “habits”, isn’t sure of why they have to eat in this manner, but he does what he has to survive. It is one of these visits to the city that “R” meets Julie, the girlfriend of Perry, the man “R” has just eaten.  Flashed before him are Perry’s memories of his relationship with Julie. Perry’s memories become his own.  But this time is different; they last longer than the typical few seconds.  They hold on a little longer than normal. “R” takes Julie back to the airport and since “R” isn’t as decayed as most of other undead, he doesn’t appear as frightening as some of the others.  A very unlikely relationship starts.  “R” and Julie aren’t truly enemies.  In a conversation with Perry, “R” sees he’s not necessarily the “bad guy” in this situation, just a victim of circumstance:

    “You and I are victims of the same disease.  We’re fighting the same war, just different battles in different theaters …My soul, your conscience, whatever’s left of me woven into whatever’s left of you, all tangled and conjoined…

    This relationship, a modern day Romeo & Juliet, sparks change.  A completely different future is in the horizon. The Undead begin changing, becoming more Living.  It is then that “R” and Julie discover that they must be the vehicle for this change.  The Undead can learn to live among the Living, to co-exist.  “R” and Julie must stand strong against those who oppose him, generations stuck on living the life they same as they have for generations.

    Warm Bodies isn’t your typical zombie novel, if you haven’t noticed. Instead, it is a look at our society, the fate that may be in store for us if we don’t stop and look at how our actions influence the future.

    Mind you, this book isn’t all dark & serious, there are some pretty humorous scenes as well.  One can’t help but fall in love with “R”, a handsome (ok, it may be a stretch but compared to the others) zombie with a conscious. He doesn’t want to continue living off of human flesh.  He wants to live a happy, normal life.  He, along with Julie, are saddened by the current state of society and strive to do something to change it.

    They say that change starts with a on person.  In this case that one person is “R”…willing to stop at nothing, including risking his Undead life, to see that it happens.

    Highly recommended.

    *Warning*-considering this is a zombie book, there are some pretty gruesome scenes.  That said, they aren’t without a purpose. They serve to allow the reader to truly grasp the consequences of their actions. While it might not be “real” zombies that loom in our future, some characteristics of these creatures, including selfishness, greed, etc. are a real and true possibility.

    Review: The Kensei by Jon F. Merz

    • Paperback: 304 pages
    • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; Original edition (January 18, 2011)
    • ISBN-10: 0312662238
    • Source: Author

    We meet Lawson, a vampire, in Japan where he’s gone for a bit of recovery & training.  Not only is Lawson a vampire, he’s also a Fixer, a member of an elite group that keeps the balance between the human & vampire worlds stable. When something goes awry in this balance, it is up to the likes of Lawson to fix it.

    Lawson’s attempt at rest is short-lived: on the train from the airport he witnesses an attempted murder: a young couple is nearly killed.  Instead, their attacker winds up dead.  The attacker isn’t just anyone, but a member of the Yakuza (Japanese mob), and the mob seeks vengeance.

    Meanwhile, Lawson’s girlfriend, Tayla,  a former KGB assassin (and human!), arrives in Japan, Lawson beings to realize his vacation isn’t going to be as restful as he imagined.   She’s investigating a crime of her own:  children from impoverished villages  killed,  seemingly for their organs alone.  Tayla has uncovered an organ-trafficking ring that she’s followed from Hong Kong & Shanghai and now to the same city in which Lawson is trying to recover.

    Lawson & Tayla soon learn that their two crimes are linked: a shadowy, sword-wielding creature known as the Kensei has attempted to create an army of hybrids, both human and vampire:

    “…they do combine the best of what humans and vampires share-namely extra strength combined with superlative regeneration abilities as derived from the ingestion of the life-force energy contained in blood.”


    The human organs that have been stolen will be used to create these vampire-human hybrids.  It is up to Lawson & Tayla to put an end to this organ-trafficking ring & destroy any chance of these hybrids being released into the human world.

    While The Kensei is technically the fifth book in  the Lawson Vampire series, Merz does provide a great deal of history and back story.  It’s obvious that Lawson isn’t your typical vampire!  He’s a witty, super secret agent with ninja skills & an incredible sense of humor.  The fact he is a vampire doesn’t weigh too heavy on the overall storyline, a attribute that lends this book to appeal to a wide range of readers.

    Merz has without a doubt done his research into the culture of Japan..and of vampires.  The “logic” behind Merz’s vampires makes sense.  They aren’t horrible creatures who feast on human blood (well, not all of them).  I did notice a mention of “sparkling” but I’ll pretend to overlook that bit.

    The Kensei is full of in-your-face action.  Merz himself is quite adept in martial arts; his knowledge is apparent (Click here to see images of some of Jon’s training exercises). Fans of both the paranormal & tales of espionage will appreciate this series.  How can you pass up a book referred to as “James Bond with fangs?”


    Merry Christmas 2010!

    It’s been a relatively calm Christmas Eve in our house, comparatively! I wanted to do a quick post to thank you all for a wonderful year!

    One of my husband’s coworkers gave him this gorgeous Lego ornament for Christmas. I simply had to share it with you all, as well as instructions on how to make it.

    Isn’t is gorgeous? Anyway, here are the directions on assembling, including the Lego pieces you’ll need to complete the ornament. Obviously, not enough time to do it for this Christmas, but plenty of time for next year!

    I wish you all a Merry Christmas!!

    Announcing: A Multitude of Giveaway Winners

    I apologize for my delay in announcing these winners. My oldest had the flu last week, we had a bunch of stuff delivered to our house this weekend. I’m in much need of a rest.

    Ok, enough of the complaining! You came here for winners, not whiners! Without further ado…

    The winners of the Monstrumologist Giveaway are:

    Kristen from Bookworming in the 21st Century
    Brooke DeSpain

    The winner of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is:

    RK from Fictionall

    The winners of the Fright Fest Audiobook Giveaway Are:

    Rob from Books are Like Candy Corn (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter)
    Autumn from From the TBR Pile (Boneman’s Daughters)
    Swapna from S.Krishna’s Books (David Baldacci Prize Pack)
    Jill from Rhapsody in Books (The Way Home)
    Julie from Booking Mama (James Patterson Prize Pack)
    Raelena from Throughthehaze Reads (Love Bites)
    Kelly from Kelly’s (former) France Blog (The Gate House)
    Marie from The Boston Bibliophile (The Secret Speech)
    Lois (The Tenth Justice)

    Whew! Congrats to all the winners!  I will be shipping the audiobook prizes this weekend; all other prizes are being shipped directly by the publisher! Congratulations to all the winners!