Now Read This: RODIN’S LOVER by Heather Webb

happy pub day heatherThe Book:

A mesmerizing tale of art and passion in Belle Epoque France

As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice and his muse their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.

Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.
(From cover copy)

The Author:

(from Goodreads.com)Heather Webb is an author, editor, and popular blogger. This former French teacher regularly contributes to blogs such as Writer Unboxed and Romance University, and she is all over social media with her helpful comments, support, and good humor every day. (I often wonder when she has time to actually write—but does she write!) Last year’s debut historical novel Becoming Josephine was translated into three languages and earned acclaim in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, All You Magazine, the Huffington Post, and The Portland Book Review.

Find Heather at: Her Website * Twitter * Facebook *Goodreads

The First Lines:

“Camille dropped to her knees in the mud. Her skirts absorbed last night’s rain and the scent of sodden earth. She plunged a trowel into the red clay and dug furiously, stopping only to slop hunks of earth into a wooden trough. She needed one more load to mold the portrait of Eugenie. The maid would sit for her again, regardless of her protestations.”

The Good Stuff:

I have a weakness for novels that can educate me while captivating me with an entertaining story. I’d heard of Camille Claudel, and knew she had something to do with the art world, but RODIN’S LOVER formally introduced me to this provocative woman and her passionate, often obsessive struggle for love and art.

Camille is far from the typical nineteenth century lady, and she can be rather intense she’s focused on her art…and her lover, who happens to also be her mentor, the famed Rodin. (If you’re not familiar with Camille’s works, you’ll surely recognize some of Rodin’s sculptures such as The Thinker.) Throughout the tale she fights to be a modern woman, not forced into marriage or the restraints of her time. Though she knows what her place in her family and society should be, she rebels against the norms imposed against her, instead following her passion for sculpture and her beloved Rodin. Yet no amount of fervent devotion can give her what she truly desires. Rodin don’t posses the the strength to leave his companion of many years to be with Camille. And as the fiery Camille battles to gain the the recognition she deserves for her “scandalously” sensual pieces, she slowly descends into madness.

This book feels meticulously researched, making it easy for readers to slip inside the Parisian art scene of the late 1800s. Notable characters of the time such as Monet, Debussy, Zola, and Hugo infuse the story with pinpoints of veracity. From the affluent salons to the dingy art studios, you’ll be immersed in the details of this colorful world.

If you enjoyed Becoming Josephine, you’ll be enthralled by Heather Webbs’s sophomore success Rodin’s Lover. The books shines a well-deserved spotlight on a talented artist and somewhat tortured soul who craved “to leave a mark of beauty on the soul of humanity.”
The Details:

Rodin’s Lover: A Novel by Heather Webb
Print Length: 316 pages
Publisher: Plume
Release date: January 27, 2015

 

Now Read This: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

The life intendedThe Book:

After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?

(From cover)

The Author:

(from Goodreads.com)

(from Goodreads.com)

I can’t help but adore Kristin Harmel—not only is she a fellow University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications grad, but she lives here in Orlando, too. No, but really, it’s all about her books. The former People magazine journalist has written several women’s fiction favs likeand as well YA novels. She switched things up with her last novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting, a heartfelt drama that became an international bestseller and one of my (and my mom’s) favorite books of 2012.

Find Kristin at: Her Website * Twitter * Facebook *Goodreads

 

The First Lines:

“It was 11:04 when Patrick walked through the door that final night almost a dozen years ago.

I remember the number glowing red and angry on the digital clock by our bed, the sound of his key turning in the lock. I remember his sheepish expression, the way his five o’clock shadow had bloomed into and almost-beard, the way his shirt looked rumpled as he stood in the doorway. I remember the way he said my name, Kate, like it was an apology and a greeting all in one.”

The Good Stuff:

Do you ever have dreams so real, so blindingly vivid yet absolutely normal that you wake up unsure if they really happened? Where you pause when you wake, rationalizing away what occurred and finding that one absurd link that proves it couldn’t have been real…
I do. All. The. Time. If I dare mention anything about my alternate slumberville universe to my dear husband, he’ll merely shake his head and wonder if someone’s slipping hallucinogens into my chardonnay before bed.

Luckily, my husband is alive and well and breathing loudly beside me when I wake. But in THE LIFE INTENDED, Kate’s not so fortunate. When her *perfect* husband Patrick, who was killed over a decade ago, starts sharing the sheets with her again, Kate’s life gets complicated.

Kate appears to finally be moving on: she has a successful career as a music therapist (very interesting) and a fiance who’s an absolute gem…on paper. But when Patrick—and their daughter—start joining Kate in her dreams, Kate loses track of that line between what’s real and what should be real.

When this amazingly real but imaginary daughter they never actually had begins talking to Kate in sign language, Kate takes lessons so she can fit into that alternate life she believes she should have led via her nightly dreams. Except… the sign language classes introduce Kate to the world of foster kids and the people who care for them, and certainly none of them lead the perfect lives they’d imagined. And these people make an impact on her she wasn’t prepared for.

One of my all-time favorite performers, Dave Matthews, usually switches around lyrics during live shows, and in my favorite version of Dancing Nancies he asks:
“Don’t you ever wonder…..
Maybe if you took a left turn, instead of taking that right
You’d be somebody quite different tonight…
Don’t you ever wonder, what could I have been? Anyone?”

This story is kind of like that. Kate realizes that the right turn she believes she was supposed to take has been washed away by a landslide, so she finally takes that left turn, and things go quite different. And different can be good. Something for us all to remember.

The Recommendation:

Read it. While this tale full of ghosts, grief, heartbreak, and disappointment could have been a sappy tearjerker, Harmel deftly allows us feel like we’re in Kate’s shoes and makes her plight believable.   You’ll probably get at least teary a few times—I did, but it felt right. And the coincidences—there are a zillion of them, but I totally found my self buying all of them due to the way they are woven into the tale.

THE LIFE INTENDED is a sweet yet moving story about making room in your heart without crowding out those who’ve filled it before, about making the life you want happen instead of waiting for it to happen.  It may leave you feeling as if we all somehow find our intended life, no matter how unconventional it may be.

The Details:

The Life Intended
by Kristin Harmel
368 pages, Gallery Books
Release date: December 30, 2014

And don’t forget to check out these other books by Kristin:

Reading Challenge Complete! 75 Books of 2014

Happy New Year, my friends!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine keeping up with my reading list without Goodreads.  Last year I decided I’d challenge myself to read 75 books by the end of the year—in years past I *thought* I’d averaged about two books per week, so a measly 75 should be a breeze, right?

Weeeelll…between my job and writing and, oh I don’t know, having a family and a life, it proved to be more of a challenge than I though. But I did it. Just barely, but I did it.

2014 reading

My books of 2014 are listed below. I’ve fallen drastically behind on my book reviews, but hopefully I’ll post my favorites by genre soon. {fingers crossed!}

Not included on the list are the countless chapters I’ve read from my supremely talented (and witty) WFWA Critique Group ladies—I can’t wait to see those entire WIPs in print someday!  And I also had the privileged of reading an entire beta draft of an exceptionally gifted writer’s latest work. Since I read three-fourths of it on my kindle, it felt as if the work had already been published. It read like pure honey. I’m honored to have experienced the work.

And now, without further ado—my books of 2014—a mix of women’s fiction, mystery/thrillers, and mainstream, with a pinch of non-fiction, historical, YA, and romance thrown in for good measure:

Us
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Gray Mountain
Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy, #2)
Delicious!
Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2)
Spin
Prince Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles #11)
A Land Remembered
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Once More With Feeling
Before He Was Famous (Starstruck, #1)
Skink--No Surrender
Barefoot in the Rain (Barefoot Bay, #2)
Outlander (Outlander, #1)
Endangered
One Plus One
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
The Sassy Belles
Barefoot in the Sand (Barefoot Bay, #1)
Writing The Bestseller: Romantic And Commercial Fiction
The House on Mermaid Point (Ten Beach Road, #3)
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
After I Do
It Comes In Waves
Paper Moon (Moonstruck #1)
Her Road Home
The Mystery of Mercy Close (Walsh Family, #5)
Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!
The Good Girl
The Heist (Gabriel Allon, #14)
Landline
Forever, Interrupted
After
That Night
Vintage
All Fall Down
Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns (The Devil Wears Prada, #2)
The One & Only
China Dolls
Save the Date
Your Perfect Life
Catching Air
The Stories We Tell
Chasing the Sun: A Novel
After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse (Sookie Stackhouse, #13.5)
Sweet Life
The Shadow Year
The Big Beautiful
Insane City
The Supreme Macaroni Company
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Kids These Days: A Novel
Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones, #3)
Bone Deep (Doc Ford, #21)
Losing It (Losing It, #1)
Sycamore Row (Jake Brigance, #2)
The Expats
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

 

The All You Can Dream Buffet
Lost Lake
Ripper
Command Authority (Jack Ryan, #9)
Slow Cooker Revolution: One Test Kitchen, 30 Slow Cookers, 200 Amazing Recipes
The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1)
Dust (Kay Scarpetta #21)
The Art of Falling
Becoming Josephine
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
White Fire (Pendergast, #13)
The Beast (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #21)
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)
Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)
Last to Die (Rizzoli & Isles, #10)

 

How did you do this year?

All I want for Christmas…

merry everything card

I’ve been told I can be *challenging* to buy for. Ahem. Friends, family, and Secret Santa coworkers  keep asking me what tangible, miscellaneous stuff I want for Christmas, but honestly, I have everything I need. I’m saving for a new camera and a vacation or two, and I have more than enough stuff. And my pat reply of “world peace and a winning lottery ticket” seems to drift further from the realm of possibility each passing day.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few real Christmas wishes…

Wish #1:  I want my son to get into the Engineering/Tech Magnet School of his dreams. The school is beyond amazing, and my bright yet easily bored son could take classes that make him salivate—coding, web & game design, Lego robotics, and so many more. The kid was so awe-struck when we toured the school I thought he’d blow like one of those baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. (They don’t do cheesy science projects like that at this school. Think rockets, forensics, and green architecture.) The place even has an official Minecraft club. Middle school is hard enough, and this school could give him what he needs to survive thrive.

He has the grades, test scores, aptitude, and desire to excel there—but none of that matters. It’s a lottery to get in. Pure. Damned. Luck. Letters will be mailed January 6th—please, oh please Santa, let us receive a “congratulations!” note.

Wish #2:  An agent would be lovely, Santa dear. I’ve been a very good girl this year. But, see, I don’t want just an agent, I want the right agent. When I first began this quest, I assumed I’d be thrilled with any NY agent who showed an interest. But now I’ve come to realize the agent hunt is a lot like online dating. I need to examine out each perspective agent’s profile, and dig deep into what she loves/loathes/makes her tick. We’re talking long-term relationship, here. We need to mesh in just the right way, to appreciate the other’s sense of humor, work ethic, and values. We need to feel comfortable communicating the good and the bad, to not be quick to judge, and to listen with an open mind. Oh yeah, and she has to get my stuff.

I found my true love years ago. I believe my agent match is out there somewhere.
::waving hand:: Here I am!

Wish #3:  Time. (Cue Culture Club or Bangles ear worm…now.) This is a gift I can partially grant myself. Wake an hour earlier each morning. Step away from the internet. I’m lucky enough to have an office with a door. I need to go in there and shut that door more often and not let myself feel guilty about the laundry or the cat puke or what’s for dinner hours from now. I must stop worrying and planning so much about WHAT IF’S and just DO IT. I can’t make time, but if I search hard enough, I can find that elusive little bugger.

Best writer's gift ever--the Gift of TIme. Thanks to the always clever Debbie Ridpath OhiThanks to the always clever Debbie Ridpath Ohi for this *perfect* gift idea. If you visit her inkygirl.com site you can download a high-resolution version to print out and give to the writer in your life. Or just forward this idea to a loved one for a subtle hint at what you really want for Christmas and beyond.

 

How about you? Have any holiday wishes grand or small?

What I’ve been doing instead of writing, blogging, reading…

DIY Cork Reindeer

May I introduce my wine cork reindeer herd. Each of these little guys is hand crafted, which means a day full of finger-gluing, pin-stabbing, and craft-store-panic-attack fun.  But they are pretty damn cute.  Consider this my official Christmas photo, because I spent so much time on them, I neglected to photograph my own family. Priorities, you know…

Making Merry—The Library Book Snowman

Frosty the book snowman — a holiday library display

‘Tis the season when the door count dwindles and I have a few spare minutes to play on the job. Everyone seems to be hitting the stores, so libraries aren’t very busy come December. Time to spruce the branch up for the holidays!  Well, minus the spruce…

This being my first official holiday season in our library system, I had to figure out what decorations were permissible. My first idea to make a book tree was nixed due to its religious affiliation, but I discovered that snowmen are totally allowed.  And since it’s Florida, a library full of snowmen might make the 80 degrees outside feel a bit more seasonal…

After perusing Pinterest, I came up with a basic idea how to construct my snowy  bookish guy. Some coworkers doubted Frosty would look like anything but a pyramid of recycled-paper-covered books. I think he looks smashing.

 

How I made him:

Body: The base uses trade paperbacks while the middle and the head uses regular paperbacks and romance novels. We wrapped the books in recycled flyers and scrap copy paper—I think it would look cool to make white book jackets as well.

Accessories: I found the mother-load of spare snowman parts in the craft closet. Frosty has three buttons on his chest, two buttons for eyes, and a “carrot” nose made from rolled orange construction paper. His hat is made from three small pieces of black craft foam sheets, and I cut his smile from a scrap. Luckily, I dug out a nice wide ribbon to make his scarf, and a coworker grabbed two sticks from outside to make his arms.

A book snowman! Perfect display for libraries and bookstores ;)

Easy-peasy, uses all recycled/reclaimed materials, and free!

Here’s a back view so you can see the way the books are stacked better: Book snowman construction My inspiration: Copy Ream Snowman and Book snowman From the Friends of the New York Mills Public Library in New York Mills, Minnesota.

I just barely had time to create up the children’s area display board. I went with an ELF (the movie) theme:

holiday library board, elf, christmas books, childrens christmas booksInspiration: FromtheShortStacks.blogspot.com

It makes me giggle and crave candy each time I walk by.







DIY Minecraft Creeper Santa Ornament

 DIY MINECRAFT Creeper Santa OrnamentPin It

One of the most important holiday traditions in my family is the annual Christmas tree ornament. Each year, my mom has given me an ornament that celebrates where I am in my life, from beloved Sesame Street characters to college mascots. We do the same for my son now, but finding “cool” ornaments for boys can be challenging after you’ve bought the requisite Star Wars figures, and there are only so many Santas in planes, trains, and automobiles to pick from.

But what is my son (as well as about every other kid from 6 to 16) absolutely obsessed with this year? Why Minecraft, of course.

I couldn’t find a Minecraft ornament in ANY store. I searched online, and the pickings were slender—and extremely pricey. For example, Amazon had only these to offer:

Minecraft Christmas Ornaments Featuring 5 Minecraft Ornaments with Pig, Sheep, Pickaxe, Zombie and Creeper, Ornaments Average 2 1/4 to 3 Inches Tall, Great for a Mini Christmas Tree

This set cost $50!!!!

No way.

 

Or how about this

Minecraft Legos PICTURE Christmas Ornament  Custom Handmade

Cute, but $22?

Not happening.

 

Fortunately, I remembered the Pixel Paper Craft  website I’d found via Pinterest two years ago. For my son’s Minecraft birthday cake, I’d printed out Steve, creepers, and a whole menagerie of Minecraft animals—for FREE—from templates on their fabulous site.

Maybe they had something Christmas related?

They did. And they are AWESOME.

minecraft papercraft, minecraft santa, minecraft christmas

And you can easily make your own D.I.Y Minecraft Creeper Ornament, too!

Go to  http://pixelpapercraft.com.
Save then print their free Creeper Santa template. (They also have a more “traditional” Pixelated Santa.)

How to make and easy DIY Minecraft Santa Ornament

Cut out the pattern, fold along the lines, glue the tabs and pieces together, then let the glue dry.
I added a thin red ribbon when I glued on the head, and voila—you have a FREE Creeper Santa Ornament your kids will adore.

It’s not perfect, but it’s homemade with love. And bonus—since it’s made of paper, it’s not breakable.

Every kid that comes to our house is instantly drawn to this Creeper Santa. Though my tree is overstuffed with ornaments of every shape, size, and color, they somehow zero in on this guy within seconds. Their eyes grow wide. And they ask if they can have one, too.

Pintrest HIT.

Easy DIY Minecraft Creeper Santa Ornament | KerryAnnMorgan.com

 Merry Christmas from the Minecraft world!

Looking for Minecraft gifts this holiday season? Check out my Minecraft Book Reviews —kid and librarian approved!

Minecraft Books you kids will LOVE. All these books are librarian and 10-year-old boy approved!mama katCheck out some other Pinetrest Hits with Mama Kat!

The tale of Benedict Cumberkitty, the library kitten rescue | Being Thankful

It began like every other day at the public library—mountains of books and DVDs to be processed, account and computer questions to be answered, perhaps a few books to recommend. But when a frazzled mom pushing a stroller rushed in with a story about a a cat stuck stuck in a hole outside, we knew the day would be far from ordinary. The woman said this cat seemed hungry, and she’d dropped a hot dog through the metal grate for it to eat (because we all carry spare hot dogs, right?). A staffer walked outside to investigate, and sure enough, a tiny calico kitten’s cries echoed from deep within a storm drain—only feet from the busy eight-lane road.

Being trained library professionals—(don’t snicker, it’s not polite)—we embarked on an urgent research project: who to call to rescue this helpless stray? Animal control? Nope. They said they didn’t “do” storm drains. The city’s sewage and water department? No, we were just outside the city line. The police? The fire department? I firmly stated that the fire department did NOT rescue kittens. My father is a retired fire chief, and he always said firemen never actually rescued cats from trees. Someone called anyway. And five minutes later, the ladder truck rolled into the parking lot, lights off, but ready to help. I was delighted to be proven wrong.

kitten in storm water drain

The firemen lifted the metal drain cover, broke out their ladder, and rescued the kitten in just a few minutes.

And then we had a kitten. In the middle of the day. At the library. A very hungry, scared, and exhausted kitten.

We whisked our new buddy to the back room so we could figure out what the hell to do with it. Excuse me—what to do with her—as she was a stinking adorable calico. But the name one staffer bestowed upon him her would stand: Benedict Cumberkitty. She was also rather acrobatic and could scale a box and escape in less than two seconds, even with the lid on. Not so great in a public building.

You’d think five computer savvy library employees would be able find a home for one little kitten in a jiffy, right? We called at least six animal rescues, a dozen vets, relatives, roommates, everyone we could think of—no one wanted a kitten—including one of our leads, who wanted Benedict Cumberkitty out.

My idea for a token library cat à la Dewey didn’t fly.

By now Cumberkitty had inhaled a dish of food and was purring in our arms as we passed her around. Since none of us wanted to drop her at the Humane Society, we worked out an impromptu fix: since I’d be leaving work first, I’d deliver her to another staffer’s home, and he’d care for her overnight. (That staffer happens to look just like My Cat from Hell’s Jackson Galaxy—how apropos.)  Between all of the Facebook pleas and connections, hopefully one of us would find a safe, permanent home for her.

Even though Cumberkitty was about the cutest thing you can imagine, I was not looking forwards to an hour in the car with a crying, malnourished kitten just yanking at my heartstrings. And I knew as soon as my son caught a glance of Cumberkitty he’d turn on those puppy dog eyes, BEG, plead, and try every irrational reason his clever 11-year-old brain could devise to keep her. The hubby would simply say “awwww…” and melt, and I’d have to be the evil, RATIONAL one and repeatedly explain why we couldn’t keep her. (Something to do with already having two psychotic, allergy-ridden, territorial, often bitchy cats who’ve been racking up several hundred dollars in vet bills a month lately, but why let reason speak?)

Minuets before I was to walk out the door with her, fate intervened. A mom and her young daughter had spotted Cumberkitty’s adorable Facebook mug  as it made the rounds. They’d hurried to the library to see if she was still in need. The mom told us they’d just had to put to sleep their own beloved cat of twenty years that morning. They’d suffered though a horrible day—but when she’d seen the post she’d though it was meant to be. I knew as soon as the little girl snuggled up with Cumberkitty it was a done deal. She clutched the kitten tight and kissed her, and her blonde curls shook as she began to cry.

So did we—well, at least my eyes got teary.

I was thankful Cumberkitty had found a home. I was thankful our “brave” firefighters proved they could be heroes to even the tiniest of creatures. I was thankful the power of social media could be harnessed for good. I was thankful a heartbroken little girl had found a new love. And I was thankful my heart felt it had swelled a few sizes that day.

Be thankful. Be grateful. Be kind. Be good.

 library kitty rescue

 

mama kat

 

 

Minecraft Books Kids Will Love — Librarian & Kid Approved!

Librarian, parent, & kid approved Minecraft books! Perfect gifts for boys and girls ages 6 - 16 and a great way to get kids reading. #minecraft #holidaygifts #giftsforboys
Every parent, teacher, librarian, and kid knows that MINECRAFT is the hottest thing out there for kids 6 to 16. The phenomena has taken the world by storm, and been praised for its ability to stretch users imaginations and skills as they learn how to build, create, collaborate, and survive in their Minecraft world. But if you’re like me, you might think your kid plays the game WAY too much—how about trading some screen time for book time?

Buying gifts for kids (especially boys) in this age range can be quite a challenge. With birthday parties it seems like every weekend and the holidays approaching, I’ve been hunting for some winning gift ideas. I’ve always given books to younger kids and adults, but kids in this range can be tricky.  Solution: MINECRAFT BOOKS!

But which to buy?

If you browse through Amazon, you’ll find pages of Mineraft-related book offerings. Almost all the books are very recently published and few offer reviews. Then there are dozens of free Kindle books, but you have no idea if they are any good.

As a library staffer and parent, I’ve personally checked out all of the books listed below. My library system now carries all of these titles, so you know they are librarian-approved “real” books, not something a 12-year-old fan wrote and tossed up on Amazon. They range from introductory guides appropriate for elementary-aged beginners to more complex developmental aids for those tweens and teens with an interest in programming.

 

Essential Minecraft Books

Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection

Age Range: 8 – 12 years (even 6-year-olds will love them!)
Grade Level: 2 – 7
Hardcover
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.; Box edition (October 21, 2014)
Amazon  $19.18
Scholastic $22.00

 

This is the complete collection of the Official Minecraft books written by the game’s developers and published by Scholastic. Each handbook contains helpful tips and information from the creators themselves, all of which will prove vital to players survival and creativity as they learn to mine, craft, and build in a world that they control. The graphics and layout make the books easy to navigate and the tutorials are spelled out with step-by-step directions almost anyone can follow. This durable yet beautiful set is considered THE MUST-HAVE set for the enthusiasts and beginners (my son and his friends carry it around in their backpacks at school even!).

The collection includes the four handbooks listed below, but at a better price!

Minecraft: Essential Handbook: An Official Mojang Book

The first OFFICIAL Minecraft book, this one is the #1 guide for any newbie or elementary-aged player. Learn how to find resources; make a shelter; craft tools, armor, and weapons, and protect yourself from monsters. With tips from Minecraft experts, including developer Jeb and creator Notch himself, this is the definitive guide to surviving your first few days in Minecraft.

 

 

Minecraft: Redstone Handbook: An Official Mojang Book

According to my Minecraft experts, Redstone is one of the most important substances if you want to build contraptions in the Minecraft world. This second book in the Scholastic/Mojang collection explains how to connect and control the blocks that make up the Minecraft world.

 

 

Minecraft: Construction Handbook: An Official Mojang Book

Whether players want to build their own mansion and gardens or dream of creating their own roller-coaster ride, this handbook will give them the confidence and skills to fuel their creative genius. Readers will learn how to construct houses, ships, floating islands, bridges, roller coasters, and more!

 

 

Minecraft: Combat Handbook: An Official Mojang Book

Creepers and Zombies and Ghasts, oh my! In this book readers can learn how to defend their home, build forts, fight monsters, and craft weapons. Learn how to survive and thrive in player versus play mode, evade death in the Nether, and battle the Ender Dragon in the End.

 

 

 

Chapter Books

Want to encourage your child to actually read? The series below is librarian and teacher approved, and the perfect gift if you want to get your little gamer excited about taking time away from the game to read.

 

Invasion of the Overworld: Book One in the Gameknight999 Series: An Unofficial Minecrafter’s Adventure

When one of Gameknight’s father’s inventions teleports him into the game, he is forced to live out a real-life adventure inside a digital world. Stuck in the game, he discovers Minecraft’s best-kept secret: the creatures within the game are alive! He will have to stay one step ahead of the sharp claws of zombies and pointed fangs of spiders, but he’ll also have to learn to make friends and work as a team if he has any chance of surviving the Minecraft war his arrival has started.

Age Range: 9 and up
Grade Level: 3 and up
Series: Gameknight999 (Book 1)
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (August 26, 2014)
Amazon $9

Battle for the Nether: Book Two in the Gameknight999 Series: An Unofficial Minecrafter’s Adventure

Epic battles, terrible monsters, heartwarming friendships, and spine-tingling suspense . . . Battle for the Nether takes the adventures of Gameknight999 to the next level in a nonstop roller-coaster ride of adventure.

Age Range: 9 and up
Grade Level: 3 and up
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (August 26, 2014)

 


Confronting the Dragon: Book Three in the Gameknight999 Series: An Unofficial Minecrafter’s Adventure (Gameknight999 Minecraft)

An evil army threatens to destroy all of Minecraft in the third Gameknight999 adventure!

Age Range: 9 and up
Grade Level: 3 and up
Series: Gameknight999 Minecraft (Book 3)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (October 21, 2014)

Unofficial Guides

The Big Book of Minecraft: The Unofficial Guide to Minecraft & Other Building Games

Up to date for the 2014 holiday season, The Big Book of Minecraft is packed with the most recent training, tools, and techniques to help readers get more out of their favorite sandbox game. 2014 was a pivotal year for Minecraft, and this book captures all the latest and greatest things that have happened to one of the most brilliant and immersive games in video game history. From a brief overview of the game to advanced farming, mining, and building techniques, this guide touches on everything Minecraft enthusiasts could ever ask for. Featuring authoritative and engaging content from our internal experts, The Big Book of Minecraft also highlights some of the most influential builders in the Minecraft community today and examines their creations and techniques that catapulted them to fame.

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Triumph Books (November 1, 2014)
Amazon $14.99

 

Building in MinecraftBuilding in Minecraft: The Unofficial Building Guide to Minecraft & Other Games

This isn’t so much a “guide” as a cool idea book. The photos highlight some of the most amazing builds ever created, from nuclear submarines to mind-boggling castles. There are no directions as to how to actually build these complex projects, but crafters will flip through the pages with awe. I’ve only found this book inside Barnes and Noble—look for it on the display tables up front or ask.

Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Triumph Books (November 1, 2014)
Barnes and Noble $7.98 (in-store only)

 

Programming & Mods (Advanced Users)

Minecraft Mastery: Build Your Own Redstone Contraptions and Mods

This book does start with some basic redstone material, but the bulk of its one-of-a-kind tutorials are for the advanced user. Learn how to create logic gates, advanced mechanisms, and much more. You’ll also find out how to host a Minecraft server, use the qCraft and Computer-Craft mods, and develop your own custom mods. Exponentially expand the dimensions of your world with help from this hands-on guide–the only limit is your imagination!
Age: Advanced users—teen & up
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: McGraw-Hill/TAB Electronics; (June 5, 2014)
Amazon

Minecraft Mod Development in 24 Hours, Sams Teach Yourself

While this book was just above my own 11-year-old’s abilities—a bit of Java knowledge going into this would be helpful—it would be perfect for teens/tweens interested in learning programming.

Learn how to…

  • Set up the environment where you’ll write your mod
  • Create the basics for your mod with the Forge API
  • Establish a framework that makes it easier to build complex mods
  • Work with recipes and other small modifications
  • Create multiple recipes, items, blocks, and entities at once
  • Cook up food items that heal your players
  • Make custom pickaxes, shovels, and completely original tools
  • Use Tile Entities to create complex and unique mods
  • Create interesting custom armor for players
  • Master Java programming techniques you can use far beyond Minecraft

Age: Advanced users (tweens & teens with some programming knowledge)
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Sams Publishing; 1 edition (September 20, 2014)
Amazon $24

 

Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins: Create Flaming Cows in Java Using CanaryMod

Write your own Minecraft plugins with CanaryMod and watch your code come to life with flaming cows, flying creepers, teleportation, and interactivity. Follow along with the book and add your own features to the Minecraft game by developing Java code that “plugs in” to the server. You’ll manipulate and control elements in the 3D graphical game environment without having to write tons of code or learn huge frameworks. No previous programming experience necessary.

Age Range: 10 and up
Series: The Pragmatic Programmers
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf; (November 8, 2014)
Amazon $20

 

And Just for Fun…

Minecraft 2015 Wall Calendar

Format: 2015 Wall Calendar
Size Closed: 11.5″ W x 11.5″ H
Size Opened: 11.5″ W x 23″ H
Amazon $6.85

Five of the Scariest Novels I’ve Never Read

 There are some novels that you know will shake you at a primal level, that will haunt your dreams and darken even the brightest day. They’ll leave you shivering with “what if’s.” They’ll leave their dark marks upon your soul. Here are a few of those books—
stories I’m afraid to read, because I won’t be able to forget them…

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Many reader friends have told me I must read this book. In fact, they were horrified I hadn’t read this “masterpiece” yet. But I’m afraid it will disturb me too much. THE ROAD is a
grueling and grim post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son struggling to survive.
The spare pose echoes the utter and complete desolation of the world as one man
attempts to instill a glimmer hope in his son.
I shiver thinking about it. Did I mention there’s cannibalism?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood

This could be the future—a future where a misogynistic, monotheocratic government rules all, where women are reduced to base breeders and laborers. It’s terrifying because you can
imagine it could happen if the wrong people gained power. I’m embarrassed to admit
I haven’t read this yet, andI plan to correct this lapse soon.
Even if it gives me nightmares.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Readers seem to love or hate this unique novel, and it has a die hard cultish following. It’s been described as not only a mind-blowing haunted house story, but a story inside a story inside a story…(or was it a riddle wrapped inside and enigma?)  Due to its trippy print style, the books is only available in print, so readers can scour  the appendices, colored texts,
sideways prose, and do the old “read backwards in a mirror” gimmick.
But it’s scary…if you can make it through the 700+ pages
without feeling physically trapped by the style.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

What happens when YOU create the monster? In reality, it’s a story that often drives fear into all of our souls—a teen opens fire in a school, and seven classmates and two adults die. This could be in your neighborhood, in your children’s school. But cold-blooded killers aren’t just born, are they? This novel explores how our culture creates child killers, and how it would feel if this child was your own. The threat of school massacres hits me too close to home. I…just…can’t…

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

On the surface, the protagonist is epitome of a golden boy: attractive, filthy rich, and a Wall Street wunderkind. But inside, the man is a raving lunatic. A calm one at that. He kill, rapes, and tortures with a cool detachment. Some say this novel is a comedy, a satire of epic proportions. Others say it’s pure horror. I haven’t seen the movie either, and reading Ellis’ IMPERIAL BEDROOMS disturbed me enough for a few years, thanks.

Runners up:

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

Though technically a Western, this perverse story evokes images of Heironymus Bosch as it follows a band bounty hunters for Indian scalps near the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s–a ragged caravan of indiscriminate killers led by an unforgettable human monster called “The Judge.” Described as bleak, and bloody, and bleak—a book that may or may not leave you with no faith in humanity whatsoever.

Complete Collection Of H.P.Lovecraft – 150 eBooks (Complete Collection Of Lovecraft’s Fiction,Juvenilia,Poems,Essays And Collaborations)

Okay, this one I’m buying now, since it’s only $1.99 on Amazon now. Dubbed “Twentieth Century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale,” Lovecraft’s stories have influenced generations of horror writers and readers.

How about you? What’s the scariest book you’ve NEVER read?