New Spring Reads! Mystery, Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, & an Instant Pot Cookbook!




Forget all that spring cleaning, because I’ve got a new bouquet of books that are worth leaving your mop and broom behind for. So find your nearest lounge chair, a big glass of lemonade, and grab one of these titles. In the bunch there is contemporary fiction, mystery/thrillers, historical fiction, and even a surprise cookbook for new Instant Pot owners.  

Enjoy!


From the author of "Girl on the Train" comes this much anticipated follow up novel. This is another twisting and turning plot with multi-voiced narration, and will please Hawkins fans, and mystery lovers alike.




Authentic Holocaust survival story loosely based on the author's own family experiences, this book is staggeringly accurate and extremely moving. Fans of well written historical fiction do not miss this one.



Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, this story of finding love and joy again after a great loss will have you cheering for its lovable characters, and feeling renewed with hope. Great book club choice. 




Coined as "a mix of Beaches and  Thelma and Louise," this debut centers around the story of some small town women headed for the bright lights of NYC. Emotional and honest portrayal of life long female friendships. 




For fans of The Nightingale and Light Between the Oceans comes another historical fiction gem centered around WWII, but this time the high society of German Bavaria. Credible reflection of war, loss, survival, and love. 




You'll never look at your neighbors the same way again after this gripping page turner. A truly shocking thriller, plan to stay up late to finish this debut, probably in one sitting. Suspenseful doesn't even begin to describe this one.



Speaking of thrillers, hold on to your bookmarks folks, because you won't need one for this book. A spine tingling, goosebump producing plot will have you unable to stop reading this one. Gardner is a master mystery storyteller keeping you guessing until the very end. 


Set in Civil War time and touching on the issues of racial divide, love, and southern themes,  this haunting tale is told entirely through letters and diary entries. A clever mystery adds to the accurate historical portrayal of the times. 


Debut thriller set in the roasting Australian outback, this book starts with the savage murder of a mother and her young son. Follow the woman's childhood friend turned detective as he tries to find the killer. You won't believe who did it! 



Pulitzer Prize winner Strout is back with the complex cast of characters, and the many dramas of their lives. Lucy Barton (from My Name is Lucy Barton) even makes an appearance in this deeply moving book that covers themes of love, yearning, and family ties. 



Still wondering how to use your new electric pressure cooker? Start here! With gorgeous illustrations and step by step directions, clear how-to's on pressure cooking, and plenty of easy and delicious dinners, this is a must have for Instant Pot owners. 

Do the Words "Science Fair" Send You Into a Panic? No Worries, Because Science Fair S.O.S. Will Save Your Sanity



“Mom, my science project is due tomorrow!”

No other sentence can send parents everywhere into a frenzied panic than that one. Oh science project season how I do NOT love thee! (And I’m betting I’m not alone on this.)

It seems school projects, especially traditional science fair projects, have taken on a life of their own as of late. What was once a small school assignment that could easily be put together in an hour or two (and with minimal crafting talent), has seemingly turned into a six week long project. There are very specific forms to complete, official processes to endure, and a very particular set of standards and concepts that all final project boards must adhere to. 

Listen, I'm all for my child discovering the scientific process,  conducting experiments, and in the name of innovation possibly inventing the world’s next must have gadget. I believe the step by step process over a longer length of time teaches planning, time management, and helps students set long term goals and objectives.  But I can’t help but wince when I hear the words “science project,” knowing full well that I will have many late nights and most likely a few arguments with my child over the how-tos and final board construction. 

Science Fair S.O.S. sample planning guide.


Basically, we’re both going to need some outside help.

This is where Science Fair S.O.S. comes in. Like it’s namesake, this website is here to throw you and your child a science project life raft, right before you drown into the abyss of rubber cement and hypothesis covered index cards. It is the brainchild of the website ArtSkills.com, which specializes in posterboard accessories, including poster markers, poster lettering, decorative items, and innovations to make easier, faster,and better, poster projects. But Science Fair S.O.S. is not simply a website for purchasing poster board accessories, it is your all in one stop for all things science fair HELP, and should be your first stop when you begin the science fair process.



At S.O.S., you will find a project planning calendar, presentation tips, science fair experiment ideas,  an emergency last minute guide, as well as pages of actual science fair board examples.  You’ll have access to their poster accessories store which offers a plethora of lettering, board decorations, craft tools, and even light, sound, and motion effects that can easily be added to your project board. There are plenty of along the way tips, planning guides, video tutorials, and even a helpline you can call to reach an actual person who can offer solutions to your project problems. 


In a word, this is the science fair lifeline you cannot live without. 

Don’t let the experience of creating a science fair project with your child be one of frustration, angst, and despair. That is the last thing science educators want the experience to be. Instead, make the planning and preparation easy and enjoyable by both you and your child with Science Fair S.O.S., and let the fair awards come rolling in. 

7 Books to Help You Find Joy, Grace, and Peace with Christ This Easter Season


Spring is right around the corner, and with often comes the urge to purge and clean up our homes. But what about cleaning out our hearts and minds? Now is also the perfect time to seek spiritual renewal, and this list of Christian non-denominational titles  geared specifically toward women, mothers, and grandmothers, will help you when seeking higher meaning during these spring days. It's time to see your joy bloom, not just your flower beds. 




Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Love by Rachel Macy Stafford.  Stafford is the author of the bestsellers "Hands Free Mama" and "Hands Free Life," and knows all too well the stresses placed on motherhood. This book is meant to be read in bits and pieces, and need not be started at the beginning. Part devotional, part inspiration, Only Love will help you learn to live with more intention, and less frustration.



Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want by Maria Goff
Maria is wife to Bob Goff, author of the bestseller "Love Does." This is from a wife's point of view, and tells of the many incredible journeys they have shared as a family, while teaching the importance of living and loving right where you are at, accepting grace, and to stop comparing. 



You Are Free, Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons  
Ready to overcome the exhaustion of trying to be someone you're not just because you want to please others? Tenderly written, this is a good follow up to Ann Voskamp's "The Broken Way."  Learn to embrace the freedom of perfection because Christ has already given you the best freedom of all- grace. 



Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen 
Calling all "Type A" personalities, ready to stop trying so hard? Me too. Beautifully written book to help release you from the stresses of self-induced perfection, and introduce you to the grace that Jesus offers you, knowing that you are enough for Him. 



Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott
Lamott has the great talent of being able to write inspirationally deep content, but filled with humor and honesty that will have you both laughing and reaching deep into your soul at the same time. Library Journal has already coined this latest book of hers as one "not to be missed." I couldn't agree more.



The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us by Sarah Arthur and Erin F. Wasinger
Two families embrace on a year long experiment to live out their faith as strongly and radically as they can, instead of waiting for the "right" time to do it. Somewhat of a field guide to living out the teaching of Mother Teresa, by doing small things but with great love, but very relatable and how to do those things living in suburbia. 




Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren 
Wake up, make breakfast, wash clothes, go to work, eat dinner, go to bed. Where is Jesus in all of this? Well, He is closer than you think. By exploring all the small and overlooked things in our days and redefining them through the eyes of Christ,  this book will have you reexamining the sacredness and beauty of living an ordinary life. 



10 Can't Put Down Books for Reluctant Boy Readers



One of the questions I was asked most as a librarian was "How do I keep my son interested in reading?" It’s very typical for normally book loving young boys to lose interest in reading right around age nine, and to continue to be disinterested during the middle school years. With a multitude of tempting technological distractions like tablets and video games, as well as other hobbies such as sports and music, it’s nearly impossible to get your average boy to sit still and be fulfilled by turning the pages of a book. But don’t fret, because I’ve put together a list of what librarians would typically call "hi/lo" readers. These are books that have a "hi" interest, with an average or low reading level, and often offer the best chance to keep a boy’s nose in a book. Left off the list are graphic novels but don’t discount this genre, or even comic books for that matter, as being a poor reading choice. Remember the goal is to slowly get them simply reading and engaged in pages, and for many boys, graphic novels are the first step to doing just that. 




Holes by Louis Sachar
This may well be on your son's school required reading list, but if it isn't, it should be. The winner of both a Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, this inventive page turner will have boys guessing the "whats?" and "whys?" until the very end. Great story of true friendships and why we fight for the underdog.






The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence
Outdoor adventure fans and boys who loved "Hatchet" will devour this story of survival set in the Alaskan wilderness.  Fast moving pace, suspenseful, and gripping scenes of life or death will keep boys turning pages.







Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Stories about a boy and his dog (in this case a fox) never go out of style, and this one is no exception.  Long listed for the National Book Award and set during amongst the ravages of a war, a boy's search for his abandoned fox takes the reader on an adventure with both heartbreaking and tender scenes. Adult readers will enjoy this as well.





The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
A magical and oft hilarious mystery, this story leads readers on a clue searching mission full of so many twists and turns readers will dare put it down. From the bestselling author of The Mysterious Benedict Society, readers who enjoy a little magic with their whodunits will love this one. 





Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Book 1) by Richard Paul Evans 
Non-stop action from start to finish, this is geared toward readers ages 11-up. You will root hard or the main hero Michael in this dystopian/sci-fi themed book as they fight a battle against forces who want to take them over. Fans of the Alex Rider series will enjoy this series. 






Masterminds by Gordon Korman
Young fans of James Patterson and John Grisham's YA novels will enjoy this twisted mystery that follows a group of boys discovering their small, quiet town (and their parents) are not what they seem. Great cliffhanger and characters boys will relate to.






The Great Greene Heist (Jackson Greene) by Varian Johnson
Reads like a middle school version of "Ocean's Eleven," follow the adventures of a snarky middle school principal, a young future politician, and a funny con artist who swoops in to save the day. 






The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A Newbery Medal winner, this book tells the story of Nobody Owens, an orphaned child raised by ghosts and ghouls in a cemetery. With tones from Kipling's, The Jungle Book, the adventures of Owens and the cast of historical ghosts who raise him is surprisingly funny, suspenseful, and is wonderfully told. 




Hatchet by Gary Paulsen 
This classic sets the gold standard for boyhood survival stories, and is a must read for boys and girls alike. Paulsen's dramatic storytelling of the young protagonists Brian and his struggle to survive in the wilderness is by far superior to every other survival story out there. Make sure the check out the sequel, "Brian's Winter" when you're done with this one. 




The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
This one you will want to read with your son, as it tells the story many a parent can relate to (letting go of a child when they grow up) but in this case, it's a boy sending a toy back to its own world. First rate fantasy telling with humor, action, plenty of fun and  even some tears. 


























5 Great Ways to Get Your High Schooler Ready for the SAT/ACT

For high-school parents across the country getting ready to register their teens for college entrance exams, it may be scary to think that what they do over the course of four hours at a testing center has the power to determine their fate for the next four years. But it doesn’t have to be.
How and what you do to prepare your teen for taking the SAT/ACT can make all the difference in the world in both their test scores, and their reaction to how they performed. 
Where we once thought their college entrance exam scores were the end all be all of their youth, we can be comforted in knowing that today’s standardized test score is just one part of a larger portfolio of academic work, classroom honors, and other accolades the average high schooler will accumulate.
Even so, having a student walk into test day exuding confidence and calmness can make all the different in the world. Try these five tips to ensure your college-bound student experiences test day success.
1. Remind them it really is just a test.
It is comprehensively impossible to develop 12 years of education into a “test,” and your teenagers need to be reminded of that. Sadly, they may potentially leave the test feeling frustrated and, well, stupid, but reassure them that statistically, less than 5 percent will score perfect or even close to it. The perfect test that is able to measure your teen’s whole body of intelligence and potential simply does not exist, and never will.
2. Use those giant test prep books. Really.
Those giant phonebook like test prep book may seem overwhelming, but they hold a wealth of information and resources. Most importantly, they offer practice tests and answer keys with explanations. It’s also a good way to get the feel of a printed test on paper!
3. A professional test prep service and/or series of test prep classes are worth every penny and may pay for itself later.
Students with even the slightest bit of test anxiety may benefit greatly from test prep tutoring the most, as they teach a specific set of test taking skills not normally offered (or even talked about) in regular school.
More importantly, even though the cost of private test tutoring can be pricey, as little as an increase of one point on a section of the ACT can be the difference between receiving academic merit based scholarship monies or not. You may even find a some test prep service that guarantees an increase in score.
Test taking is truly a learned skill, and your teen may well benefit from a class that actually teaches it. Better yet, many of these are available online and can be completed in the comfort of your teen’s surroundings, at their own pace, and include videos, apps, and other high tech methods of instruction.
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4. Retake, retake, retake.
Most colleges will assess no punishment or place any negative connotation on the fact a student decides to retake one of the tests, even if they do it more than once. Many will even allow for a composite score, meaning you take the best score from each section no matter what day you took them on.
Taking the test more than once and having a base score is actually helpful, and can determine which range of colleges you should be looking at, and what kind of score improvement you will need to gain for acceptance into your “reach school.”
Finally, did you know you can retake the test while already in college? Ask your financial aid office if a significant increase in score would mean the difference in receiving additional grants and scholarships, and then go ahead and give the test another try.
5. Assemble puzzles and exercise.
In the months leading up to test day, one interesting way to prepare for a several hour long session of intense thinking and focusing that the SAT/ACT requires, is to practice with puzzles. Spending time working on complex puzzles helps wire your brain to remember how to stay focused with one goal in mind, and to not be swayed by distracting thoughts or daydreams. Puzzles which require logical thinking are a bonus.
Another method to boost your brain while at the same time encouraging relaxation is to exercise! Your “lazy” teen may have no interest in going for a long fast walk with you, but the head clearing and “runner’s high” effect it will have on them may quickly change their mind.
Exercise is also proven to give you a more positive outlook on life, and this may help negative thinking teens who lack test confidence.
Modern high school often places today’s teens under an extreme amount of pressure to excel and succeed, leaving some students unable to even begin to feel they will have sufficient time to prepare, and have success on the SAT/ACT.
Luckily test prep services like Magoosh, and its innovative and highly successful approach to student achievement, are available to ensure students from all backgrounds and educational levels can achieve test day success.