5M4B disclosureeverything to loseHilary is a divorced mother of one, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who is finally starting to show a little bit of progress after a couple of years in a very special school that costs $50,000 a year. Her ex is a nice guy but completely caught up in his new family, and not doing his share of expenses. Meanwhile, the housing crisis means her mortgage is worth more than her house, and she gets laid off from her job. She begs everyone she can think of and schemes like crazy to try to figure out a way to stay afloat and keep her son at the special needs school where he’s doing so well. When, one night, a car in front of her veers off the road to avoid a deer and crashes into a tree, Hilary runs down to help. She finds the driver dead, and next to him on the passenger seat, a carrier bag full of half a million dollars in crisp $100 bills.

What would you do? The man’s dead, there’s no one else on the scene yet. Hilary takes the money, only to find that in doing so, she has opened up a can of worms. Someone else knew about the money, and that person is determined to get it back.

Everything to Lose tries to imagine a normal woman in extraordinary circumstances, although I couldn’t really relate to the level Hilary lives at, with her enormous mansion, housekeeper, venti Starbucks drinks, pedicures and exercise classes. (I mean really, if you’re living at the edge of broke, surely you cut down somewhere? This really took down a lot of my sympathy for the character) Hilary figures out a way to parlay the money into useable chunks that won’t set off any alarms, pays off her bills and tuition, and figures she’s safe since she gave a false name to the second man who arrived on the scene. But she didn’t count on the determination of the guy coming after her.

By going to the funeral of the man killed in the car crash, Hilary ends up involving his son in her search for the truth about the money. Patrick is a tough Staten Island cop with his own money worries. He is working to rebuild houses in the neighbourhood where he grew up, recently destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. He and his dad have been working to help a friend of the family, an elderly woman whose entire life–every memento, every picture, every piece of china, every antique–has been swept out to sea, yet has had something returned to her. It’s in that neighbourhood that the connection lies that will link all of them to a crime committed more than 20 years ago, something someone will go to any lengths to keep hidden.

Everything to Lose touches on mental illness and how that can play into violence. A powerful figure who is also a psychopath, who has learned to hide this and can mostly keep it under control, committed a crime that could return to haunt him, even as he has successfully hidden other crimes. Two innocents are trying to bring him to justice but it all goes wrong and a lot of people die. Hilary worries about her son Brandon, with his Asperger’s Syndrome and subsequent lack of empathy and emotion. Will he, too, turn easily to violence?

I enjoyed the basic plot of this novel and it was gripping and fast-paced. In the end, however, it was too violent for my taste.

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How to Lose a Lemur

How to Lose a Lemur is one my new favorite picture books, for Frann Preston-Gannon has created a humorous adventure story with just the right combination of absurdity and heart.
“Everyone knows that once a lemur takes a liking to you, there is not much that can be done about it.”
This charming opening line accompanies a larger view of the illustration that can be seen on the cover- one of a slightly surprised young boy looking over his shoulder at a flower-wielding lemur whose cheeky grin shows off his adoration.  (The addition of lines for his teeth in the inside illustration makes the lemur even that more darling!) The boy tells the tale of the time he had a lemur fan, and how when

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What’s on Your Nightstand April 22

Has Spring finally sprung where you live?
Here in Texas, we’ve had some cooler-than-normal mornings that turn into warm, humid-free afternoons, which mean that I’ve had time to sit outside and read. No matter how busy I am, when the conditions are just right, I have to take 15 or 20 minutes to do that.
I’d love to hear what you’re hoping to read this month, or what you’ve just finished reading. Please link up in the widget below. If you don’t link up, I hope you’ll visit around and encourage everyone.
Be sure to scroll all the way at the bottom of the post to see links to some of our recently reviewed books you might have missed.
 
Check out our current giveaways.

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Hibernate

In this prize-winning collection of short stories, Elizabeth Eslami cuts deeply to the heart of the human experience in modern America, as with an expertly-wielded knife. Written in a sparse, clear form that reminded me of Raymond Carver, Hibernate takes its characters through trials and joys of everyday life, holding up a mirror to our own experience.
The characters in Eslami’s stories tend to come from small towns in the midwest (although there are exceptions). They are often poor. In Sour Milk, Deacon’s mother expected him to be “special” because of the quantity of pink boxed wine she consumed during pregnancy, and he is bound both by poverty and by the expectations of those around him. You feel hopeful for him anyway, when he manages

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Dave Ramsey’s Smart Money, Smart Kids #Giveaway

I’m so excited about working on this campaign with the Dave Ramsey company on his new book, co-written with his daughter Rachel Cruze.
Before I started reading the book, I wrote a post sharing the 3 life lessons I’m teaching my kids about money. I hope you’ll check it out as well.
Teaching our kids to handle money responsibly is something that is as important as any other kind of life skill, but I’m not sure we give it the attention that we should.
Please read my full review of Smart Money, Smart Kids over at 5 Minutes for Mom, where you can enter to win a copy.

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Can you commit to 20 minutes of reading as a family for 20 days? #Read20

I love reading aloud with my kids. My enjoyment has grown as they’ve gotten older. Whereas many parents can say that they always read 14 stories to their preschoolers every single night, I can’t say that’s the case. Of course I read to them, but did I read 20 minutes a night every night? Nope. And then once they were able to read to themselves, reading aloud with them dropped off unless I was making a conscious effort to read a chapter book with them.
But that is where my joy kicked in. I’m not always reading a book with them, but it is something we like to share.
Find out more at the Scholastic Book Club Family Reading Challenge page.
We Need You.
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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

I’m the mother of a teenager, but I also love reading YA just for me. I love remembering what it was like to be a teen.
In Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we meet Lara Jean. She’s going to be a junior, and she knows this year is going to be different. Her sister has just left for college — in Scotland! — breaking up with her boyfriend, literally the boy next door, before she leaves. Lara Jean, Kitty, and her father have accepted Josh as a part of the family, so this changes thing for their family. The absence of Margot is even more felt in this family because she’s sort of stood in as their mother since her death

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5 Great Poetry Collections for Kids #NationalPoetryMonth

With April being National Poetry month, we had to share some of our favorite poetry collections. Most of these books were sent to us for review in the past, but they continue to stand out in our mind. I (Jennifer) am sharing 3 of my favorites first, and then I turn the list to Dawn, who shares two of her favorites.

The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry – This is the first book that always comes to my mind when I think of poetry collections. The combination of new and classic poems and great illustrations is a win-win.
Kenn Nesbitt’s The Tighty Whitey Spider- I love funny poetry, as does my son. This is one of mine and my son’s favorites.
I Didn’t

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Strong Motion by Jonathan Franzen

I like Jonathan Franzen. I’m not sure why, since it seems that one of his goals is to question and debunk principles that I hold dear, such as big business, family, purpose, goodness, and religion. But maybe that’s why. He addresses issues of our day, and the opinions he has and the characters he paints definitely reflect our society. His long-awaited novel Freedom captivated me (click through to read my review), so when Strong Motion came out in audiobook recently, I knew I wanted to try it out. It was first published in 1992, so it now reads like a bit of historical fiction, twenty years in the past. The 90′s setting was interesting, and yet the big business topic felt familiar and current.
His

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Resurrection: Books on Screen

Last year, I was awed, fascinated, and totally spooked by Jason Mott’s novel The Returned, a harrowing tale of mysterious reappearances of long-dead people. While these “returned” folks seemed just as they had been before they had died, the true fright of this story lay in the emotional toll experienced by the loved ones of the previously deceased.  While the novel briefly told of several people’s experiences returning from the dead, the main spotlight was on one family, whose eight-year-old son Jacob had returned… almost fifty years after he had drowned. Both Nancy and I were taken by this novel, and you can read our full accounts in the review we co-wrote back in September.
Even before the novel had published, it had been optioned

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Casebook

Miles Adler-Hart is a curious 9-year-old who wants to know what his parents are planning for him. Typical enough, you’re thinking. But he goes to great lengths to find out. He hangs out on the roof to listen to conversations on the porch below. He rigs up a telephone extension so that he can listen in on conversations between his mother and her friends. He enlists his best friend, Hector, to help, and the two of them move on to reading emails and even phone tapping, with equipment purchased from Radio Shack.
Miles and Hector soon learn that their parents are separating–both sets. His mother, a very intelligent woman who is at one point called “beautiful for a mathematician” (a compliment that sends Miles into

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Space Saver & Alfie’s Great Escape

Space Saver: Ben has, as usual, come to Mission Control after school. Both his parents work there, and it’s usually a great place to hang out. But today, something is wrong. Everyone is shouting and upset, and there aren’t even any biscuits for his tea.  That morning, a wheel fell off the Moon Buggy with the new spy camera mounted on it, and the astronauts weren’t able to work with the tiny screws to fix it. They have flown away and left the buggy with the spy camera just lying there on the moon, where anyone could get at them.  Even the Prime Minister calls to yell about it, and Ben answers the phone. “I expect you to sort this problem out straight away,” shouts

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