Beyond the Bookends | The end is just the beginning
Welcome to Beyond the Bookends, a blog for modern Moms who love to read and wish to inspire a love of reading in their children. On the blog, you will find picks for your next great read, bookish gift guides, and book lists to help you dive deeper into a particular topic or era.
20 years after the first book in the Harry Potter series was released, the fanbase grows ever stronger. Now the children of the original readers are becoming obsessed with the magical world created by JK Rowling. My own 7-year-old routinely runs around shouting spells at this brother, listens to the award-winner audiobooks on repeat, and builds with his Harry Potter Lego sets. We are so inundated with his constant badgering that my husband, whose never seen the movie or read the books (I know….it does make me question my choice in marrying him ) can rattle off fun facts and character names, mind you he calls Ron ” LeBron Weasley” but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, I can’t escape the Harry Potter mania. So instead, I’ve learned to indulge my little guy. I’m clearly not the only person in this boat because collaboration are popping up EVERYWHERE. After my kids were each gifted a pair of Deathly Hallows Vans sandals, I decided to take a look at what other collaborations are out there – and WOW – there are a ton! So if you are looking to decorate a room, get dressed from head to toe, or find a fun game to inspire your child’s creativity, we’ve got you covered just in time to celebrate Harry Potter’s Birthday on July 31st.
*post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.
Harry Potter Vans
Let’s start with the collaboration that inspire this post – Vans x Harry Potter. Harry Potter gear has gotten a cool update in this collection. The highlight is clearly the different shoes inspired by the Hogwarts houses, my favorite are the black snitch sneakers or the Slytherin snake scaled sneaks, Hoodies, backpacks, hats, and apparel round out the collection with sizes from toddler to adult.
Harry Potter x USAopoly
My personal favorite collaboration are the puzzles and games coming from USAopoly. We absolutely ADORE Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle in this house – you build up the skills as you get better and graduate years. It’s amazing. But HP Clue is also big around here. Now I’ll be eyeing a few more in time for the holidays.
Williams-Sonoma X Harry Potter
Have a little baker on your hands? Or maybe you are planning for a Harry Potter inspired birthday party? Well the bakeware at Williams-Sonoma is perfect for you then! The pancake cutter set is my personal favorite.
Pottery Barn x Harry Potter
Remember when we made a Harry Potter Bedroom? How much easier would it have been had this incredible collection from Pottery Barn been around? I LOVE the giant Mirror of Erised. It’s such a show stopper, though the time turner, triwizard lamp, and winged key hooks are beautiful too. My boys would love the quidditch bedding set in their rooms, but I think I’ll settle with some lunch gear!
Mini Boden Harry Potter Collaboration - YouTube
Mini Boden x Harry Potter
No word yet on exactly what is going to be in the collection that Mini Boden is working on, but it launches on August 5th, with a secondary collection coming at the end of October. I’ve always been a HUGE fan of mini Boden’s children’s clothing. I’m hoping to swoop up some of the collection just in time for the back-to-school rush.
I am not exaggerating when I say that our giveaway this week is my favorite giveaway we have ever done. We have such a great list of new releases here that are so perfect for reading at the pool. Not all of them are light reads but, each one is a page-turner that will keep you completely captivated. My favorite book of the year is on the list. And if you know me, you won’t have any trouble guessing which book that is. It also happens that the author will be here next week to talk about her book. You can click here to find out more. Each of the pool reads on the list below will be given away – one a day starting on July 21st over on our Instagram account. Follow us now for a chance to win a different book for 8 straight days.
*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links will result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.
Kirsten and I were so lucky to get an advanced copy of this book. We cannot say enough good things about this amazing book. Bianca Marais’s sophomore novel is a brilliant work of literary fiction that has left me in its wake weeks after I finished. Thank you so much for my copy of this book!!! This story examines difficult topics with such love and sensitivity. From AIDS and poverty to racism and homophobia, this isn’t a book that you can skim over parts. Every word has its place but, it is written so poetically that I found myself trying to remember the words of wisdom within the pages. If I could give more than 5 stars I would. I laughed and cried with the characters in this book whose stories captivated me from the first page. So, while we usually recommend books that are purely light-hearted, we are making an exception for this book. This is a “read it anywhere you can” kind of book.
Owls play a part in this story, so we’d totally recommend reading it pool side on this adorable owl float.
The Helpline is Katherine Collette’s debut novel about a woman who is great with numbers and a little less great when it comes to people. Germaine Johnson has lost her job and begins working at a senior citizen hotline. When the mayor calls Germaine into her office to help with a special project-a special project that will have her working closely with the very handsome Don Thomas, Germaine jumps at the chance. But, as Germaine becomes involved in the feud between the mayor and the senior citizen center, she questions her loyalties and what true friendship is. This book is perfect for fans of #eleanoroliphantiscompletelyfine and #therosieproject . It is sweet, funny and such an enjoyable read. It’s hard not to like Germaine ( even if she gets so much, so wrong ) and it’s hard to put the book down.
For this book, which heavily features a war against a neighboring golf course, we had to include this golf cart float. It’s ridiculously priced, but totally hilarious!
The story of 2 (actually kind of 3) female entrepreneurs who kick started the beauty industry was well crafted. This historical fiction mostly covered the 30s to 50s as Josephine and Constance constantly try to one-up each other personally and professionally. These titans challenge each other to push their respective companies to greatness. Their lives parallel throughout the story in unique ways though they remain enemies until their dying day. (Not a spoiler as the book opens with one presenting legal papers at the funeral of the other.) I loved getting a look at how the beauty industry was influenced by Hollywood and the war – and the story to find a mascara formula that worked was fascinating. CeeCee was probably my favorite character in the book – she was fierce!!! The only miss for me was the prologue and epilogue – they weren’t needed in my opinion and didn’t add to the story much. I think the last scene and frankly, the last sentence before the epilogue would have been the ideal ending. All in all, a fun read for anyone interested in the flashy, fictionalized origins of the beauty industry.
Obviously the lip floatcould not be more perfect for a book about the beauty industry!
I love Jenny Cogan and I was so happy to have an advance copy. This book, while related to her previous book “The Bookshop on the Corner”, is not a sequel. In fact, I felt that this book was a departure from her previous work. It dealt with some issues that are definitely more serious and delved into these issues in her unique way. The book felt light and easy to read even though it had some more serious issues without trivializing them. Despite the length of the book( 400+ pages), I really wish the ending was longer. I loved the character development and wanted more. I’m hoping there is a sequel!
Is there a better place to read a book about Scotland than nestled into a Nessie pool float?
What an enjoyable little short story! Clocking in at less than 150 pages, this one sitting story packs quite the punch. 12 people are connected via flights around the globe, each brief location touching on the next character via their airport connections. As the connections circle the world, the story comes full circle. Though brief, the characters each have depth and poignancy. I wanted to spend more time with each of them – I’m lamenting how short this story was, but impressed by the achievement of how quickly character development took place. It really is a literary #loveactuallywithout the romance.
Does this even need an explanation? This plane float is perfect to relax and read this book on.
This story is about Eliza, a jewelry store owner and Instagram influencer who accidentally announces her engagement – except she doesn’t have a fiancé or even a boyfriend! With sales going through the roof after her announcement, she’s determined to find a man and set it all right. The resulting story is delightful, fun and frivolous but full of heart. I could totally see this as a rom-com movie. While reading this on the beach, I couldn’t stop scrolling through jewelry sites. I might have purchased a piece or two while reading – but don’t tell my husband!
A book about a faux engagement needs a faux engagement ringright? This float cracks me up!
I absolutely adored this YA romance. It is wholesome and totally appropriate for a younger audience but sweet and fun for adults as well. This book is perfect for fans of #thesunisalsoastar and #toalltheboysivelovedbefore . The story looks at what happens when you can no longer depend on your sight. Tessa learns to use her other senses with the help of Weston. He is a 16-year-old boy with an outgoing personality and no legs. He is the only one who knows what it is like to lose something you depend on every day. Despite trying to push him away, Weston comes to visit Tessa and help her learn to really “see”. Even though you will guess the ending of the book (It has a very fairy tale feel to it), it is well written and I became emotional while reading it. It is a perfect book to sit and binge read.
Flowers play a key role in this story (no spoilers though!) so naturally this float is the ideal reading spot.
This enchanting story kicks off when a young couple makes a pact to reunite in 5 years at their favorite restaurant. The multiple love stories are perfect for the summer, but its not what make this book so unique. There are links at the end of certain chapters that take you to video reenactments of key scenes. You can also shop the clothes listed in the books and worn in the scenes. How cool is that? Hats off to Riley Costello for starting this new trend in books.
The only appropriate pool float for this book is a heart, because this whole book is a love story!
It’s finally here. The shopping event of the year, The 2019 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, is officially live. We’ve shopped and explored for the better part of a week to pick out all our favorites. I’ve seen so much animal print, I think I might be back working at the zoo. The bright colors on these clothes have put a smile on my face, and I’ve already walked away with some delicate jewelry purchases. But enough about my purchases, what trends will you be sporting this fall? Whether is a new denim cut or updated outwear, we think everyone will find some items to spruce up their closet. Let us know what you purchase and which trends you are passing on. A word to the wise, we shopped online and instore, but online is definitely the way to go. So many items I went to try on weren’t available in my size or were online exclusives. Just thought we would pass on that little tip. Happy Shopping!
*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.
Stash your skinny jeans away because new trends in denim are popping up! Straight legged, split hem, wide leg, flares, and distressed boyfriend jeans are all the rage right now. I’ve been easing into this trend for a year now and my legs are thanking me – straight leg jeans are just so much more comfortable!
Sweaters and Tops
Chunky sweaters in bold colors, animal print cardigans, silky blouses and camis, and of course loads of plaid. This season’s layers are truly stellar. I’ll be stocking up on a bold red top and Jackie is headed straight for the plaid shirt department. What will you be grabbing?
Dresses, Jumpsuits, and Skirts
Jumpsuits are still super popular, but the midi skirt is the trend du jour. I’m loving all the animal print on both skirts and dresses too of course. The navy puffed sleeve jumpsuit has me wishing I had an event to attend because I’d snap it up in a second.
The outwear trends right now have me really excited! Primary color blanket coats, pastel plaids, oversized blazers, and motorcycle jackets are all the rage. Plus, Patagonia and North Face jackets are on sale.
The shoes are easily the best part of this sale. Hunter Boots are on sale! There are tons of reptile and animal print booties, plus fun brightly colored boots and shoes. Mules are still going strong, but I’m particularly partial to the stacked heel or open-toed bootie look.
I love that the effortless, dainty look is back when it comes to jewelry. Huggies, Hoops, pave diamonds, thin layering necklaces, and delicate rings are all back in style. Even Statement earrings have gotten more delicate. I’m also loving the ear cuff and earring crawler trends. I’m actually considering getting a second hole in each ear to wear more of these delicate designs!
Fall is easily my favorite season because of all the layering possibilities. I love to throw on a hat or a scarf to help update my look. The bags this season are simple crossbodies, waist bags, and backpacks. Plaid scarves are still all in style and, thanks to Meghan Markle, the fedora still reigns supreme.
Like the Sephora Sale, this sale also has some amazing beauty specials. I love the fact that pale pinks and neutral, feminine colors are in style. All my friends have been raving about Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk lipstick FOREVER and now I’ll be swooping up this lip bundle on sale. Jackie, on the other hand, is a Trish McEvoy fan. I know she’ll be seriously considering this makeup kit! Everything else down below we personally use and recommend.
Just after we started the blog in April of 2017, I received a book in the mail. It had a beautiful green cover with yellow writing called Hum if you Don’t Know the Words written by Bianca Marais. I read the book in two days- I absolutely adored it and could not put it down. And then, because she was visiting me at the time, I let my mother read the book as well. My love of reading comes from my mother who is always a much harsher critic than me. She could not say enough great things about the book. Somehow, my love of this book turned into a wonderful friendship with the author.
This July 16th, Bianca’s sophomore book, If You Want to Make God Laugh, will be released. It is a truly spectacular follow-up to Bianca Marais’s first novel, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. Her emotional depiction of South Africa during the late ‘90s results in a stunning novel with depth. She covers racism, homophobia, the AIDS epidemic, and corruption in the church, with eye-opening frankness and heart. Her characters take root in your mind from the first page. I found myself laughing, cheering, and crying along with their story. Yet somehow, through the many difficult topics, Marais manages to weave a story filled with love and hope.
The writing is prosaic. I found myself re-reading certain lines to chew on the kernels of truth so eloquently written. Every word, every sentence, has meaning to the story. I can’t say I’m surprised that Marais wrote such a stunning novel. I look forward to reading whatever she writes in the future.
AND Bianca will be coming to the Philadelphia area on July 22nd to talk about it!!!! We are so excited to meet with Bianca at Main Point Books in Wayne. If you are local or not so local, please join us! You can RSVP for the event Here. Normally we feature a book lover who is local but, since Bianca is coming to visit, we thought we could make an exception. Bianca also lives in my hometown of Toronto, Canada which makes her local when I visit my parents. Okay, I know it’s a stretch but, any excuse we have to ask her some questions is a good enough reason.
Name: Bianca Marais
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Current Hometown: Toronto
How long have you lived in Canada? 7 years
How did your birthplace inspire your novels? Both of my novels are based in South Africa and are about issues that shaped me, either as I was growing up, or once I was an adult. Writing about them help me put them into perspective and make sense of it all – it’s a kind of therapy. The irony was I could only write about South Africa once I left it.
How much of your characters is fiction and how much is based on someone you know? Real people often inspire my characters but it’s either just physical traits or personality quirks. Most times, my characters are composites of various people with a lot of fictionalized bits thrown in for good measure.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters? I see a bit of me in all of my characters – something parts of me that I like but often the ones that I don’t.
Was there a difference in your writing process with your second book? Yes! I didn’t have a deadline with my first book whereas I pretty much had six months to write the first draft of my second book and I so had to be a lot more disciplined with it. I thought I’d be better at it the second time around but starting each novel feels like learning how to write all over again.
How many books do you read each month? It depends on how well the writing is going. LOL. I can read anywhere between 5-20 books in a month.
What is your ideal Sunday Funday? Sleeping in late (which never happens because my golden retriever, Muggle, has a built-in 5 am alarm), brunch with friends on a patio, and doing some writing and reading. Sailing around the Toronto harbor all day would be pretty awesome too!
Name 5 things you can’t live without. Books (to read), notebooks (to write in), mimosas, buttered toast, earplugs
Who is your literary inspiration? JK Rowling
Last but not least and most importantly: Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Over the last few years, I have rediscovered my love of fantasies. I forgot how much I love to be swept away into other worlds. I lose myself in these worlds filled with magic and witches, vampires and genies, fairies and mermaids. If you love fantasies, I wanted to give you an amazing list of fantasies to add to your TBR. Rather than give them all in one big list, I wanted to break it down into smaller groups to make it more manageable. Not really into fantasies? Don’t worry. I have a list of books that are perfect for you too. This is the magic realism section. If you are looking for your next great fantasy to take you away, this list is perfect for you!
Once upon a time, there were worlds ruled by Gods and Angels. Every book in this category is a story where gods are alive and present and often interfering with the lives of humans.2
If you are not really into fantasy then this is the perfect genre for you. Maybe you always wanted to try and fantasy but are not into whole other worlds or creatures. All of these books have just a touch of magic. They have just that little something extra that makes them not quite real but, believable. Personally, this sub-genre has some of my favorite books ever.
Fairy Tale/ Folklore Fantasy
I grew up reading fairy tales. They were the first fantasies that I ever read. Wishes and fairies, curses and transformations are hallmarks of this genre. The books we put in the category have a fairy tale like quality to them.
How is it possible that we are already halfway through 2019 and a 1/3 of the way through the summer season? This year is flying by! The good news is that we are headed into the prime summer reading season. You can tell by the books on our list that we opted for lighter fare this month. Hot books like Daisy Jones & The Six, Fix Her Up, American Duchess, and a few newly released beach reads have all been reviewed this month. We are also giving you the scoop on some bookish and non-bookish topics we’ve been obsessed with this month. Without further ado, here is June 2019 Novel Ideas.
*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.
(Thanks to Berkley for my review copy. All opinions are my own.) What a ride!!! The Great Pretenders was not at all what I expected, but I adored it! I was expecting a light-hearted story about the glamorous world of 1950s Hollywood. I was expecting Cary Grant, Ginger and Fred, Rock Hudson and the like. I got them, but this story had meat on its bones. Roxanne is a granddaughter of a movie studio head but she decides to strike out on her own as a Hollywood agent. Upset with her grandfather’s callous treatment of his loyal writers with former communist ties (This is prime McCarthy Era) she begins representing blacklisted writers under pseudonyms. As if this plotline wasn’t compelling enough, she then begins a deep and meaningful romance with a young black journalist covering the emerging civil rights movement. The author brought to light so many issues of the time in such a thoughtful way. I had never considered how the shifting politics of the time would affect the film industry. The glamour of Hollywood was present, the book was overflowing with old movie references (which I adored), but it was the love and personal growth at the heart of this story that I found most compelling. If you are interested in a beach read that will leave you thinking, this is your book.
I grabbed this book from our list of 30 books for fans of The Crown. The cover drew my eye, but the tag line – The original American duchess – held my attention. Consuelo Vanderbilt was mentioned in passing in the book about Wallis Simpson I read earlier this month (Another Woman’s Husband) so it was nice to dive into her story. This particular historical fiction reads like a biography. It tells Consuelo’s life story – from her forced first marriage to an English Duke through to her escape from France during WWII. She was one of the many American heiresses sent to England to marry for a title during the Gilded Age, but she was a reformer. While the story was engaging, it dragged a few times when the author gave too many historical facts without enough fictional flavor. Still, Consuelo’s marriage and subsequent divorce were fascinating. She paved the way for women of her stature in society to embark on such an endeavor. She was a badass feminist ahead of her time. I’d recommend this one for fans of books like American Wife and Mademoiselle Chanel.
After finishing my binge-watching of Netflix’s The Medici: Masters of Florence, I was on the hunt to read a good historical fiction set in Renaissance Italy. I can not believe how few books were written about this time period. How is that possible? Luckily, I did stumble upon this tale of badass warrior duchess Caterina Sforza. The Medici family makes an appearance in the book which was a pleasant surprise, but really Caterina’s life story is compelling on its own. She was a fierce woman who skillfully navigated the tumultuous political climate of the time. She went up against Pope Borgia and other leaders and defied them all. Her story is told through the eyes of her lady’s maid, and half-sister, who made an interesting storyteller. I wish that it had been told from Caterina’s point of view though. I would have loved a fictional look inside her calculating mind.
I started reading this book but when my audiobook library hold came in I changed over to the audiobook version. HOLY COW. The audiobook is EVEN BETTER. Seriously, I think this might have been my favorite audiobook of all time. I expect it to sweep the Audies this year for sure. The book is laid out in chronological order about the making of a band in the 70s, but the story is told in interview style from a dozen sources. The audio version has a different narrator for each character and the performances the actors give are stupendous. I was overcome with emotion numerous times while I was listening. The story itself about the rise and fall of one of the hottest bands was so utterly fabulous – it’s pure sex, drugs and rock n’ roll in all the best ways. There is a Spotify playlist that goes with it – scroll down for all the details.5 stars and a standing ovation.
My son’s school has let us know that they would be reading this book and doing mini-lessons on it all year long for the 2019-2020 school year. Being the nerdy and supportive mom that I am, I decided to read it first so that we could talk about it together. The sequel to the smashingly successful The Little Book of Hygge, this novel attempts to uncover the secrets to happiness. Hint – it’s not money! It was a quick, on-sitting read that left me with a smile on my face and some ideas of how to sprinkle lasting happiness into my life and the life of my family members. I can’t wait to see how this book will be used in lessons next year. 4 stars.
(Thanks to BookSparks for my review copy. All opinions are my own.)
I was expecting a lighthearted read, but this book had more soul than I was expecting! Set in 1938 in Montauk among the glamorous world of Manhattan’s summering elite, it was full of secrets and romance. It’s sort of like a historical fiction version of an Elin Hildebrandt book with romance and personal growth as our heroine discovers true love in a sleepy beach town. I shed a few tears at the ending – which took me completely by surprise by the way! There is a short, not-so graphic rape scene – so if that’s a trigger for you, steer clear. Otherwise, I applaud this debut and recommend it for your beach bag! 3.5 stars
Jackie was a huge fan of this book and so we read it as our book club pick this month. The story is a historical fiction mystery version of Groundhog’s Day where one man has 8 days to solve a murder. Those 8 days are actually the same day repeated 8 times but the hero wakes up in 8 separate bodies. I was not a fan of the story at all actually. I listened to it and found it confusing and a bit dull. It clocked in at well over 25 hours and I was tortured to get through it. In the end, I did finish it but I could only give it 2 stars.
I had only a vague understanding of who Wallis Simpson was going into this novel, and boy was she a pistol. Cold, calculating, and selfish, I loved to hate her. It was so interesting to see her machinations from another point of view. She was ruthless in her pursuit of what she wanted. Gill Paul also wove in a mystery set in London at the time of Princess Diana’s death which I found to be well-done too. This is a great historical fiction book about the more recent parts of the British Monarchy. I highly recommend it for fans of The Crown. 5 stars
Thank you so much to Atria for my copy of this book. I started reading this book and found that I had a really hard time putting it down. It is one of those books where the main character is completely imperfect and often infuriating but, will grow on you! If you loved The Rosie Project or Eleanor Oliphant then you will love this book. Germaine has lost her job at an insurance company and begins working at a helpline for senior citizens. The mayor has a side project for Germaine. She wants Germaine to help her in the feud between the golf club and the senior citizen center. Sometimes, as Germaine will find out, things are not always what they seem. 4 stars
(Thanks to Putnam Publishing for our review copy) After the end is something completely different from Clare Mackintosh. I was so excited to read her latest book which is a complete departure from her usual genre. She is well known for her psychological thrillers. This book takes a thoughtful and poignant look at what happens when parents don’t agree on treatment for a terminally ill child. This book was so well-written and so well done. Despite being a completely different genre, Mackintosh found a way to keep her style. I loved that even though it is a difficult subject matter, the book is not a book that will have you crying the entire time. Brilliantly done and highly recommended. It’s being published tomorrow, so jump on it!!! 4 stars
So, I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into when I started reading this romance. It was definitely a lot steamier than I had anticipated. When Travis Ford, an injured and retired baseball superstar, returns back home, he is in a state of depression. Georgette Castle, the best..
Is it just me or have you noticed the new trend in children’s books? Narwhals and Octopuses are everywhere. And why not? Narwhals are legitimate unicorns of the sea and octopuses (not octopi- I did look that up) have eight legs and can squish themselves anywhere. That’s pretty cool. So, look no further. We have 16 books your kids (and you) will love about octopuses and narwhals.
*This post may contain affiliate links. We get a small commission if you purchase an item from an affiliate.*
Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together.
A wonderfully silly early graphic novel series featuring three stories. In the first, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever — even though it doesn’t have any words…or pictures!
In the tradition of Uni the Unicorn and Gaston, this heartwarming and adorable debut picture book tells the story of a young unicorn who was born under the sea to a family of narwhals.
Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed that he was a narwhal like the rest of his family. Sure, he’s always been a little bit different—his tusk isn’t as long, he’s not as good of a swimmer, and he really doesn’t enjoy the cuisine. Then one night, an extra strong current sweeps Kelp to the surface, where he spots a mysterious creature that looks just like him! Kelp discovers that he and the creature are actually unicorns. The revelation leaves him torn: is he a land narwhal or a sea unicorn? But perhaps, if Kelp is clever, he may find a way to have the best of both worlds.
Everyone in the ocean can make music, except for Wendell the Narwhal. His big, pointy horn can’t go “pop” or “clappy clap clap” or even “whoosh”. Will Wendell find a way to join in with symphony of sea creatures?
“The little narwhal from Strictly No Elephants gets her own story…Equally good as a stand-alone or for fans of the first book.” —School Library Journal
In this charming companion to the award-winning picture book Strictly No Elephants, a tiny narwhal discovers that sometimes the difference between staying home and a big adventure is a group of loving friends.
The story of how a little narwhal’s quest for adventure gets him into trouble. Remembering what his father told him, he finds the courage to get out of a dangerous situation and return to the safety of his family.
Narwhal doesn’t think she has any skills – especially when she compares herself to the mermaids. She’s just Narwhal! So when the mermaids need someone to judge their painting contest, Narwhal doesn’t think she can do it. But the other creatures don’t judge it fairly, and Narwhal soon learns that her talents lie in being honest, fair-minded and just.
Sweet, rhyming text and Lara Ede’s beautiful illustrations combine to make a delightful picture book that will be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Go on a delightful adventure in an undersea world brimming with adorable narwhals and their companions. Children and adults alike can color one of the ocean’s most mysterious animals and bring these legendary creatures, with their sword-like tusks, to life. Part of the popular I Heart Coloring series, this book is the perfect purchase for any narwhal lover and is sure to be a whaley good gift.
This Narwhal book trend has converted into other fun things for kids. Headbands, squishy plushes, horn-shaped sidewalk chalk, even a tea strainer! The backpack and nightlights are what stole my heart though. Those little purple faces!
Eight twisty, twirly arms make Octopus really good at tickling. But most of his friends are beginning to find his tickling tiresome, especially when one teeny, tiny tickle lands Octopus in BIG trouble! Octopus tickles Oyster and causes her to lose her precious pearl. How will Octopus get it back?
While searching for a meal, a hungry octopus encounters hazards and opportunities, and displays a dazzling array of defensive devices including jet propulsion, clouds of ink, extreme camouflage and mimicry, even sacrificing a limb if necessary. “Explore More” sections for kids and adults offer information and activities on the adaptive behavior of these very intelligent creatures.
When it comes to show-and-tell, Sam is in it to win it. But no matter how hard he tries, one of his classmates is always showing him up with a slightly better costume or a slightly cooler object to share. His teacher says it’s not a competition, but just once Sam would like to be the best–which is why he’s so excited when Take Your Octopus to School Day is announced. Sam is pretty sure he’s the only kid with a real live pet octopus to bring, and Thurgood, his eight-tentacled best friend, is excited too. Together, they prepare Thurgood’s travel tank and get ready for a school day like no other. . . . What could possibly go wrong?
Sprinkled with sly humor and scientific facts about the class Cephalopoda, readers who loved Flora and the Flamingo or Sparky! will want to get their tentacles on Take Your Octopus to School Day.
“[Here is] a charming introduction to the truly amazing octopus [from its intelligence to its ability to change colors to the camouflaging black ink it squirts to escape predators]. Lauber’s chatty, fact-filled text makes the book a good read-aloud, and Keller’s amusing and colorful drawings enhance it—a perfect match of text and illustration.” —SLJ.
(Named one of the best Kids Books of 2018) Inspired by a true event! In the summer of 2015, an adorable new species of octopus was discovered on the ocean floor―this picture book story imagines how this cute creature got his name.
Deep down in the water lives an octopus small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But he doesn’t have a name! Anglerfish is named for his hook like an angler, Mimic Octopus for her ability to change shape and color, and Giant Squid is GIANT! But this little guy doesn’t have the same abilities as the other creatures. What could his name be? With Marisa Polansky’s sweet text and Joey Chou’s dynamic illustrations, Hello, My Name Is… imagines how the cutest creature in the sea got his name. The story includes a note from a scientist about the naming process and more information about Adorabilis.
Come sing and dance around in an octupus’s garden in the shade! The classic Beatles song comes to life with colorful illustrations from bestselling illustrator Ben Cort and a CD with a new music recording and audio reading from stellar musician Ringo Starr.
I’d like to be under the sea In an octopus’s garden in the shade He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been In his octopus’s garden in the shade
Who wouldn’t like to visit an octopus’s garden? Well, now you can! This lively picture book, complete with a CD of the beloved song, brings Ringo Starr’s joyful underwater tale to life and is perfect for reading, sharing, and singing again and again.
Peanut butter and jelly. George and Martha. Frog and Toad. Cowboy and . . . Octopus? Yes, that’s right. Meet Cowboy and Octopus—the next great pair to become a household name. Cowboy likes beans’n’bacon and bacon’n’beans. Octopus eats raw seafood. Octopus prefers knock-knock jokes, but Cowboy doesn’t get them. How will these two ever be friends?Hello, My Name Is… by Marisa Polansky
I am one of those readers that feels that there is a time and place for all books. And while I definitely have genres that I am more drawn to than others, my list of favorites includes books from literary fiction to the fluffiest of reads. Sometimes, I want the words of literary fiction to wash over me and other times, I just need a mental break. My mental getaways don’t usually include watching television (reality) but they do include reading some great fluff. Between Kirsten and I, we have read so many great books that make us feel good without making us think too much. We have included them in our ultimate list of fluff reads. Let us know if your favorite is on the list. If not, we need to know which books to add.
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I love guilty pleasure royal romances, but this is so much more! Part romance, part mystery, this book has something for everyone and is an amazing beach read. A young journalist is given a mystery to uncover after an old actor passes away, but her investigation quickly turns deadly. I felt all the feelings on this one.
I loved this book and although it’s a long one, it is such a great love story with some historical fiction thrown in there as well. We also included it in our list of books to read if you loved Outlander. So, if you are in the mood for a great read that will keep you enraptured for just a little bit longer, this is your book!
This story about a Palm Beach socialite whose marriage and finances are falling apart was fluffy and fun. It’s VERY heavy on the designer names, fancy restaurants, and chic surroundings, and I ate up every over-the-top description. I spend a tiny bit of time in Palm Beach each winter, so it was amazing to hear about the places I can vividly picture in my head. If you aren’t into fashion or name-dropping, this will not be for you. But it’s a candy delicious treat for a fashion-lover like me!
This is a completely addictive YA series that is perfect for anyone who loves Twilight. It does become very racy as the series continues. When Feyre kills a massive wolf in the forest near her home, a beast comes and demands retribution. Feyre goes with the beast to his home where nothing is what it seems. This is a twisted Beauty and the Beast.
When I read this book, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a modern fairy tale. What is life like for people who are so crazy rich? It’s beyond my imagination. This is such a fun read, you won’t even notice how long it is!
The Netflix movie of this book has quickly made this series an obsession. It is the perfect YA romance. In fact, It is so perfect that we have an entire list of books that you should read if you love this series.
I received this book as an advanced copy and devoured it in a day. It is well-written, thoughtful and sweet. It is the perfect book to read if you want a YA to make you feel happy. When Tessa temporarily loses her sight in a car accident, she starts to lose herself as well. Who better to help her than Weston? After losing his legs in an accident years before, he is longing for someone to get to know him and not his injury.
I love Jenny Colgan. I have read every book that she has written and I think it is safe to say that any one of her books could be on this list. But, since this isn’t a list of Colgan’s greatest hits, we decided to include one book with the caveat that if you have read this, pick up the next book of hers that is on your list and you will not be disappointed.
The New York dating scene is not the same as it was during the Sex in the City years. Tinder and other dating apps are taking over and matchmakers are back in fashion again. Sasha is a 20-something new matchmaker who seems to have it all until her romantic life implodes and she left trying to pick up the pieces. This Rom-Com is perfect for the beach.
This was the perfect rom-com for wedding season! 3 sisters, 1 wedding – what could go wrong? I laughed and cringed in equal measure while reading this story. Brenner turns out another great beach read – but there was one editorial discrepancy that stopped me from giving this higher marks. (PS you can read our interview with author Jamie Brenner.)
Look no further than this royal romance. If you haven’t read this romance loosely based on Wills and Kate’s love story, read no further. This is the end all, be all of Royal Reads and it is on the list for our reading challenge
What is so great about this book is that it can go anywhere you want it to. Choose your man and choose your adventure. It is such a fun book to spend an afternoon with. You can pick as many or as few stories that you want. Personally, I found my happy ending with a Scottish man who, in my mind, was Jamie Frasier!
Great book that had me laughing out loud and wondering who in the world does these crazy diets!! I also loved how the story found a 40-something finally embracing her own badass-ness and standing up for her self. It’s the perfect poolside read.
A fictionalized account of the TomKat relationship that was the talk of the town for quite a few years. Told from the perspective of the wife, Lizzie Pepper, we get a faux look at the world of Scientology and Hollywood. It’s over the top in the best way possible.
A regular girl plus a bad-boy pop star who needs to reform his image equals the perfect getaway from reality. The story is predictable which is what makes it the perfect fluff-read. Erin Watt’s Paper Princess Series is a great fluff read that was on our first list. You can see that list here.
It’s time for another seasonal list! This time, we are talking about the new releases for Summer 2019. Looking ahead at the books being released makes me so incredibly happy. I love looking to the horizon to figure out exactly what I’m planning to devour and we found more than 70 new releases we can’t wait to read this summer. Lousie Penny, Hannah Orenstein, Beatriz Williams, and Philippa Gregory all have new books coming out that I’ll be reading for sure, but I also see some fantastic new author debuts coming out. So check out the list, and let us know what you are planning to read this summer!
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From the glittering ballrooms of 17th Century England to the dangerous intrigues of the French court, Laura L. Sullivan brings an unlikely heroine to the page, turning on its head everything we’ve been told about The Three Musketeers and their ultimate rival.
I’ve gone by many names, though you most likely know me as Milady de Winter: Villainess. Seductress. A secondary player in someone else’s tale.
It’s finally time I tell my own story. The truth isn’t tidy or convenient, but it’s certainly more interesting. Before you cast judgment, let me start at the beginning, and you shall learn how an innocent girl from the countryside became the most feared woman in all of Europe.
Because we all know history was written by men, and they so often get things wrong.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives and A Certain Age creates a dazzling epic of World War II-era Nassau—a hotbed of spies, traitors, and the most infamous couple of the age, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in the Bahamas to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires? More…
In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.
Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it’s what she can’t have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to heal, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.
As the mystery surrounding the infant grows, the complicated lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah become inextricably linked. What follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves?
In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.” More…”
Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and unforgettable wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate and second chances…
Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique to fend off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.
James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger’s Wife returns with “a bracingly epic and imaginatively mythic journey across the American Westin 1893, in which the lives of a former outlaw and a frontierswoman collide and intertwine” (Entertainment Weekly)
In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives collide. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life—her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home.
Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Nora’s and Lurie’s stories intertwine is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel.
Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht’s talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely—and unforgettably—her own.
Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Résistance. Inès fears they’ll be exposed, but for Céline, half-Jewish wife of Chauveau’s chef de cave, the risk is even greater—rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.
When Céline recklessly follows her heart in one desperate bid for happiness, and Inès makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator, they risk the lives of those they love—and the champagne house that ties them together.
New York, 2019: Liv Kent has just lost everything when her eccentric French grandmother shows up unannounced, insisting on a trip to France. But the older woman has an ulterior motive—and a tragic, decades-old story to share. When past and present finally collide, Liv finds herself on a road to salvation that leads right to the caves of the Maison Chauveau. More…”
Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade king and rebellious parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even the remote tidelands —the marshy landscape of the south coast.
Alinor, a descendant of wisewomen, trapped in poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.
Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.
Australian bestselling novelist Karen Brooks rewrites women back into history with this breathtaking novel set in 17th century London—a lush, fascinating story of the beautiful woman who is drawn into a world of riches, power, intrigue…and chocolate.
Damnation has never been so sweet…
Rosamund Tomkins, the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, spends most of her young life in drudgery at a country inn. To her, the Restoration under Charles II, is but a distant threat as she works under the watchful eye of her brutal, abusive stepfather . . . until the day she is nearly run over by the coach of Sir Everard Blithman.
Sir Everard, a canny merchant, offers Rosamund an “opportunity like no other,” allowing her to escape into a very different life, becoming the linchpin that will drive the success of his fledgling business: a luxurious London chocolate house where wealthy and well-connected men come to see and be seen, to gossip and plot, while indulging in the sweet and heady drink. More…”
In Berlin in 1941 during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites Alice Hoffman.
In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.
Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be.
What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never-ending.
Summer is incredible for so many reasons. The sun, the longer daylight hours, and the beach breeze all make for a truly wonderful season. But summer also means that school is out. So now, you’ve got kids bursting with energy to entertain and longer daylight hour, it can make for a frustrating situation if you aren’t prepared. I like to encourage my kids to be outside as long as possible in summer because soon enough the icy days of winter will be here. One way to encourage this behavior is to have fun, unique toys that they’ll want to play with! I’ve rounded up some personal favorite outdoor toys that we have and those items I’m eyeing up for the kiddos this year.
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When days creep up to 90 degrees or more, the best thing to do is keep your kiddos wet! Check out these water-based outdoor toys!
I came across Water Wubbles in the Target outdoor section and bought them on a whim last year. What fun they turned out to be! Regular water balloons are bad for the environment and messy to clean up – all those little pieces! These reusable water balloons are easy and fun to use. Simply submerge them in a bucket of water and they fill up and self-seal. Toss them at your opponent, watch the water release, and repeat! Water balloon fights have never been better.
A friend of mine got her daughters this Unicorn sprinkler and to say they are obsessed is an understatement. I like this rainbow arch version as well, but I think my boys would appreciate the dinosaur the most.
Baseball season just ended around here and my boys are missing it like crazy. Little do they know, I just purchased this baseball slip and slide to continue the fun well into summer. Now my boys will be able to practice their skills out in the hot sun, I have a feeling my husband will get some good use out of this toy too!
Many of my friends have inflatable bounce houses and I’m so envious. They are an investment, but I’ve seen how they get used again and again and again. I’m seriously debating purchasing this pirate version because it has a slide and sprinklers too. If I had the yard we have now when my kids were even younger, I wouldn’t hesitate.
Summer days often mean beach days, but how do you keep your kiddos occupied in the sand?
A friend of mine debuted these at the beach Memorial Day Weekend and I immediately went out to buy some for my kids. The kids throw the Surfer Dudes as far as they can into the ocean, then the weighted bottom automatically corrects the surfer so that he or she is upright. The toy then surfs on top of the waves onto the beach, as if it’s a real surfer! They come in multiple colors and make for awesome beach entertainment.
My boys got ladder ball for the beach last summer and it was a huge hit! Lightweight and easy to transport, this toy kept the kids (and the adults) entertained for hours on the beach. Some people call it ladder ball, others call it ladder golf, but either way, the rules are the same. Toss the strung together golf balls and score points based on the rung they land on. The first person to earn a specific number wins the game. It’s totally addicting.
What kid doesn’t love making sandcastles on the beach? Now they can decorate their sandy creations with sand paint. How cool is that? It’s applied directly to the sand from the bottle so you can add color to your designs. This would work well in an at-home sandbox too.
Looking to have the best backyard in town? These outdoor toys will get you on your way!
My boys each received a phlat ball for their birthday and it’s quickly becoming their new favorite ball. Part frisbee, part ball this toy can be played with in so many ways. Flatten the ball in the center and toss it like a frisbee and it will turn into a ball in mid-toss. We use ours in our backyard, but since it’s made of plastic, it would make a good beach toy as well.
I love this foldable play tent so much. I love the idea behind those wooden or plastic outdoor houses, but the reality is that they quickly become covered in dirt and cobwebs. YUCK. This tent makes an excellent fort while your kids want to play it, but then can be collapsed and stored inside so it remains clean. Leave it to Chip and Joanna Gaines to come up with a perfect solution to outdoor play.
We’ve talked about this one a few times! The classic outdoor game of capture the flag gets a fun update! Stretch your days even later with this fun glow-in-the-dark version of everyone’s favorite camp game. I was debating between getting this and laser tag, but I think this is a toy they’ll play for years to come!
Isn’t this just the funniest thing you’ve seen? It reminds me of those funny little balls that hamsters roll around in! My kids love to rough house, but I can’t stand to see them do it. These bumper balls seem like the happy medium we’ve been searching for!
Another outdoor toy we discovered from a friend’s house, the extreme roller coaster provides hours of entertainment. Position it on a flat area of your yard, drag the car up to the top, sit inside and whoosh down the long slide! Make sure you have plenty of room to roll because the speed sends the car flying far into the yard! A word of caution, watch little ones around this as they tend to get underfoot when the car is on its way down.