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Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 210 pgs.
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Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the perfect workbook for budding memoirists because it provides not only writing exercises but enough room to write inspirations down.  Users can even staple additional pages in the book if they need more room.

What I love about the workbook, other than that it is written by Beth Kephart, is that the illustrations could jog the brain into writing and the exercises vary from writing about a first memory to writing a poem about an event.  Born from her Juncture workshops, Kephart uses those experiences to offer writers exercises that will leave them inspired to tackle that memoir or other writing project they’ve been thinking about.  For example, in the writing about your first lie exercise, there are tips about finding the bigger story in the lie, as well as suggestions to think about the details to make them alluring and to think about who you were before the lie was told and who you were after it was told.

The workbook is broken down in to finding your voice, finding the true you, hunting for memory, navigating your world, using photographs to job memory or inspire, and many other topics.  I love how the exercises help you tease out details for your writing, and by the end of the workbook, you should be prepared to tackle that memoir or other work you’re looking to finish.  Always remember that the truth matters and that your memoir is not just about you!  Very sage advice.

If you’re looking for a workbook full of exercises to get you thinking outside the box, Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the one, especially if you’re writing a memoir.  Using your imagination, you could also adapt the exercises to suit your fiction writing needs or just get writing in general, if you’re a little rusty.  Kephart has done it again.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart’s most recent book—This Is the Story of You—was published by Chronicle and is a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection, on the 2017 TAYSHAS list, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a Top Ten New Jersey Book.

Kephart will release two middle grade books with Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country.

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews

Source: Tandem Literary
Hardcover, 224 pgs.
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The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews has the best tagline ever: “easy, breezy recipes with a southern accent.”  This cookbook includes all of Andrews charm and humor with some fantastic recipes that can make you feel like you live at the beach. Whether looking for some fruit-flavored drinks for an evening of conversation and board games or looking to make a dessert that will have the neighbors talking, Andrews has the right recipe for your summer gatherings and beyond.

For book club weekend, I made pig candy, which due to some work in the kitchen at the same time ended up being burnt!  The parts that weren’t, however, were delicious!  You knew they would be — bacon and brown sugar — and that kick of cayenne pepper.  Perfect little treat.

My drink of choice was the Prosecco Sippers with strawberries (I love strawberries), which was delicious.  Think summery, slightly sweet and bubbly white wine with ice.  Delicious for the summer months.  It was super easy to make and delicious.  I also made marinated shrimp, which can be served cold with greens or as an appetizer with toothpicks.  I served it in a dish from which everyone could sample some and it seemed to be a big hit with everyone who tried it.  I even enjoyed it and I don’t like shrimp much.

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews has a wonderful collection of recipes for every occasion and has stories to accompany her recipes.  I love that she included family photos and more with these easy to follow recipes.  This is definitely a cookbook that I will use again; there are some yummy desserts I can’t wait to try.  Perfect way to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

RATING: Cinquain

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About the Author:

Mary Kay Andrews graduated from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree in 1976.  She worked as a reporter at a number of papers, and spent 11 years as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before leaving to write fiction full-time in 1991.  She published ten mystery novels under her own name between 1992 and 2000, and since 2002, she has authored a number of best-selling books as Mary Kay Andrews.

Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 60 pgs.
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Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman is a small book of stories about enigmatic cats and their owners. The introduction talks about how many people fail to understand the behaviors of cats, especially when they act erratically. It talks about creating an environment that appeals to their wild instincts as part of an effort to avoid problems that can occur with cat ownership.

Many of these stories are a testament to the bond between cats and their owners, like Holly who was spooked while on vacation in Florida with her owners and disappeared. After a good Samaritan found the cat and had the ID chip scanned, it was discovered that Holly had walked 190 miles in 62 days, trying to return home from Florida. This collection includes not only stories about cats and their owners, but statistics about perceptions of cats and expert explanations about certain behaviors. In Holly’s case, she used her hunting instincts to find her family, and her tenaciousness kept her going even when she was near starving.

For younger readers, there’s even information on cartoon cats and why and how they became famous, such as Grumpy Cat. Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman is for ages 8+, but if read together, it can be a good night times story book for kids who love cats and are younger than age 8. My daughter is fascinated with cats, even tough our dog is no friend to cats. This was a perfect book for us to read together.

RATING: Quatrain

National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 112 pgs.
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National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues includes some engaging stories about rescued pets from cats and dogs to rabbits and so many more. There is even a section at the end about celebrity rescues. Some celebrity animals have famous parents, while others are famous through social media and charity fundraising ventures.

These stories are engaging for kids between ages 8 and 12. Some of these animals are very talented, with some even learning to surf. My daughter loved the colorful pages and the animal stories we read, and one of her favorites was Kuli who learned to surf in Hawaii, and she’s a cat. She loves surfing so much that she just jumps in her owner’s bag every time they head out to the beach.

There’s also some adoptions of older animals included, which was good to see. Many times shelters have dogs and cats that are in their older years and they are not the ones people come in looking to adopt.

National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues best feature comes at the end with tips on how to make a difference. Besides adopting animals — especially if you can’t — people should consider donating items that animal shelters may need from food and blankets to toys and leashes. Other options include becoming an advocate for shelter animals or spaying and neutering pets to keep populations on the street low. Volunteering is another big help to shelters, especially those with little funding. Parents should consider reading this book with their child to explain why some animals are left at shelters and how they too can help these animals find the best homes.

RATING: Quatrain

50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 288 pgs.
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50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst is a gorgeous guide to the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces. Each section breaks down the state or province into cities and landscapes, offers tourist information, provides a background on capitalism, and offers highlights of local favorite foods and drinks and festivals or other events. Some states have hidden treasures, while others include road trip suggestions or trivia about movies, art, or music that came from that location. Yogerst also includes little known facts in some states as well, which could be fun to test on a road trip with family or friends. Rounding out the book are gorgeous, full-color photographs of landscapes, local hubs, monuments, and animals. These provide users with a sense of what to expect when visiting these locations.

My family and I have looked through this book several times, and I took extra care in revisiting some of the states we’ve already visited, just to see what Yogerst recommended. We also checked out what he recommended within our immediate area — Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. For D.C., there is the typical Smithsonian and government buildings listed, as well as our personal favorite The National Zoo, but there were no local flavors listed such as the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl. I also noted that the National Arboretum, the Maine Avenue Fish Market, President Lincoln’s Cottage, and others were not included. Each section is probably kept minimal, but there are some great hidden treasures that shouldn’t be missed.

On the other hand, I was thrilled to notice my favorite museum as a kid, the Worcester Art Museum, made it into the list for Massachusetts. But again, here there were no mentions for the EcoTarium or the Blackstone Valley River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which has a series of trails and more for exploring the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. My hometown is the home of the Asa Waters Mansion, which was part of the Underground Railroad. Maybe I’m just being a bit too picky.

50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst is not as comprehensive in finding some hidden treasures as I would prefer, but when visiting new places, the treasures he points out are just what most people would like to see. I think as a beginners guide to traveling the 50 states, this works well. There is enough within each state to occupy those interested in culture, history, and nature. I’ve had the travel bug since I was younger, and while I dreamed of visiting all 50 states someday, I’ve only seen about 19. Wish us luck as we try to tick other states off the list!

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

During three decades as an editor, writer, and photographer, Joe Yogerst has lived and worked on four continents—Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. His writing has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Islands magazine, The New York Times (Paris), and numerous National Geographic books. During that time, he has won four Lowell Thomas Awards, including one for Long Road South, his National Geographic book about driving the Pan American Highway from Texas to Argentina. Buy the book at the National Geographic Store.

Animal Adventures: Sharks

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Animal Adventures: Sharks by Cynthia Stierle is a box full of undersea wonder, with 6 plastic sharks, 20 fact cards about different species, a diorama to create, and four 3D puzzles. This was another activity that my daughter snatched up the minute it came and opened it right away. The box is eye-catching and full of sharks and other activities. Stickers complete the package.

We worked on the diorama of coral and other life together as she wasn’t sure how to get them to stand up in the cardboard base. Other than that, she put together the 3D sharks herself and set about telling her own sea stories with the diorama once we’d finished.

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She did ask about some of the sharks and I read some of the information on the cards to her. We enjoyed Animal Adventures: Sharks by Cynthia Stierle. We’ll likely get back to playing and learning soon.

RATING: Cinquain

Make and Move: Shark

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 28 pgs.
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Make and Move: Shark by Jen Green includes a 28-page book and 20 pieces to build a 37-inch shark floor puzzle. The puzzle is easy enough for a Kindergartner to put together on their own with little help. My daughter set to work on the puzzle the moment it arrived on the doorstep. She loved how there were pieces that moved like joints and fins that moved as if the shark could swim. We talked about the jaw and the internal organs we put together.

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The book itself is attached to the box with the puzzle pieces, and it explains what sharks are, how they swim, what senses they have, and how they breathe underwater. There were many different types of sharks in the book, and each has a different body shape. My daughter was fascinated that there were sharks that hunted food by spiraling.

Make and Move: Shark by Jen Green provides kids with educational material and a fun activity. My daughter was eager to do the puzzle again after the first time.

RATING: Quatrain

Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 36 pgs.
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Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho has stickers, pop-out characters to dress up, and patterned paper and stencils to create clothes and accessories. The paper patterns are mostly flowers and other embellishments, though there are a couple that are geometric or have animals. The stickers you can use to make belts and other accessories are a wider variety. The book also contains several scenes that kids can use to create their own stories, such as going to shopping or going on a trip to outer space.

Here’s some of the fun creations we made (she made them; I was just the assistant):

The book tells you what materials are available inside and what additional materials you’ll need, such as scissors and glue. You can also add your own pom poms and glitter if you have those on hand. There are other project ideas inside as well. This book could offer kids hours of fun, especially if they like to create their own characters. We really liked that there were a variety of characters, including an alien. One draw back for us was that you couldn’t remove the stencils from the book, unless you cut the cardboard to take them out. It makes it hard to trace the clothing patterns inside the book because of how many stencils are inside.

Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho is a great book to use on a rainy or wintry day with kids. Have a blast; get creative.

RATING: Quatrain

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green

Source: Berkley
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green is more than just a cookbook, it’s family dinner or a gathering of friends in which Green shares not only where her recipes come from, but some of the stories behind them or that churn up in her memory. The narrative accompanying each recipe is like sitting across the table from Green. Readers will picture her dinner parties and family gatherings happening in much the same way — Green mixing ingredients across the kitchen island while her guests munch, chat, and help out. These are the family and friend gatherings that are the most fun because everyone is not only enjoying the food but the company of one another.

“I realized quickly that for me, having people over is less about the food, and more about comfort, warmth, nurture. It is about creating the kind of welcoming environment that instantly makes people feel relaxed and cared for, that truly brings meaning to the concept of food being love.” (pg. ix)

I particularly loved her early advice about putting out nuts and cheese and fruit, rather than hors d’oeuvres that can make people full before the meal is even served. Many of my own family gatherings were this way, and we were all very hungry when the meal was served. And who doesn’t like the smell of fresh baked bread — Potato, Gorgonzola, and Sage Bread is one recipe I’ll be trying when I have more time.

What I did make from the cookbook was dessert — you knew it had to be dessert, didn’t you? Warm chocolate and Banana Cake, a recipe that was her mother’s special dessert, and like her mother, my grandmother kept many of her recipes in her head and what was written down is in some kind of code that needs a key to unlock. Despite these encryption techniques, Green has recreated a delicious and moist dessert that people will want seconds and thirds of! I know I did, even though our Confectioners’ sugar has somehow vanished!

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green is a wonderful cookbook and my family enjoyed the chocolate cake. My daughter gobbled it up every chance she got, which is unusual as she generally doesn’t prefer sweets. For this cake, she made an exception.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Jane Green is the author of seventeen novels, including sixteen New York Times bestsellers. She has over ten million books in print, and is published in over 25 languages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Review and Giveaway: Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay

Source: Sterling Publishing
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay is a gorgeous coloring book that perfectly illustrates the beauty and sadness of Poe’s work, with quotes from various stories interspersed throughout. Begay is a talented artist who carefully weaves in beauty with each horrifying image — from skulls to pestilence personified. Many of these designs are very intricate and will require a steady hand to keep within the lines, but that’s half the fun of achieving calm through coloring. It’s almost meditative to follow the curves of her images and think about how to complement each color to make an overall pleasing image.

Aren’t those images gorgeous? This book is perfect for those who love Edgar Allan Poe, participating in the fall R.I.P. challenge, or those who just want to color some horrifyingly beautiful illustrations. Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay is a wonderful tribute to the macabre Poe and his darkly beautiful work.

Here’s one of my pictures — it’s not very good:

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RATING: Cinquain

About the Author/Illustrator:

Odessa Begay resides in Philadelphia, PA. She is a graduate of NYU/The Tisch School of the Arts where she studied photography and imaging. She has licensed her work widely in the children’s/baby markets, as well as botanicals for home décor, paper, and fabric. Learn more about her at Website.

Want a copy of your own? Live in the United States or Canada?

Leave a comment on this post by Sept. 29, 2016, 11:59 PM EST, about which story or poem by Edgar Allan Poe is your favorite.

***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!***

Make Your Own Zoo by Tracey Radford

Source: Cico Books
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Make Your Own Zoo: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford helps parents and kids turn recyclable materials into fun jungle animals and habitats.  My daughter had a babysitter, Anna‘s daughter, for a week, and they attempted to do more of these than the sad-looking lion that she and I did before or the unfinished animal she started with daddy.

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Our sad lion, who is apparently missing his tail.

When my daughter and the girl were working on their projects, we discovered that I somehow missed a step…I forgot to cut out the templates for the lion parts that are included in the back of the book. So the poor looking parts are my poor drawing skills at work. They decided not to cut out the templates either, but their stuff looks better than mine — probably because my daughter used some old stencils my parents gave her from my attic savings at their house.

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Hard a work on their own version of a jellyfish

Trying to make her own animal.

Trying to make her own animal.

You need the templates unless you’re more confident in your drawing skills, glue, scissors, paint, pens, cardboard tubes, egg cartons (cardboard and Styrofoam), old newspaper, and cereal boxes. Animals range from giraffes to parrots, and you can made ice floes, tree houses, and more.

Their giraffe without paint

Their giraffe without paint

The girl's jellyfish in water.

The girl’s jellyfish in water.

Make Your Own Zoo: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford is an adaptable book that can be used by all ages to create animals and fun dioramas on a rainy afternoon. Some of the directions are a bit complicated for the age 5 group, but with a little help, they can have fun putting these animals together. Make it a group activity and see their creativity become unleashed.

RATING: Quatrain

Sweets & Treats With Six Sisters’ Stuff

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 176 pgs.
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Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family is a fun book for the sweet-tooth in your family or for those gatherings, like book club, where you’re sick of making the same old treats.  The Six Sisters are masters at combining ready-made products in the grocery store with original recipes, as well as creating recipes from scratch.

When I got this book out of the library, we went through and selected recipes we all wanted to try.  My husband chose Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches for a gather we had with several kids, and the kids loved making them.  I’d recommend this for hot summer days when you have cookies and ice cream on hand or you could make your own cookies.  I chose to make Oatmeal Scotchie Blondies, which we shared with our daughter’s preschool class, since it made more than a dozen.  These were more like bars and something happened with the recipe that made these harder than expected.  Perhaps it was because I had to substitute some brown sugar for white sugar.  I’m not a culinary expert.

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The final recipe we made, and one we’ll likely make again, was shared with book club in June.  Mint Oreo Brownies were easy to make, using brownie mixes and Oreo cookies, as well as marshmallow creme.  The recipe called for food coloring and mint extract to make a light green colored marshmallow and frosting.  These were such a hit with book club that we only had two left, and I also cut the recipe down to one box of brownie mix.

Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family has recipes that are so easy to use, and as long as, users know how many people they are feeding, the recipes can be adjusted.  The cookbook includes recipes for other brownies, cakes, cookies, and bars, as well as pies, no-bake treats, and ice cream.  It’s definitely a cookbook to keep on hand.

RATING: Cinquain

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