Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Beef Wellington -- And Sinners' Opera

Beef Wellington

The elegant dish figures often in Sinners’ Opera. It’s the kind of recipe for special occasions as it is fairly expensive to make, requiring a whole or half tenderloin and pate. I’d serve Beef Wellington at a formal dinner party, requiring my friends to dress in their finery for feast. If you are interested in offering the dish at Christmas, here is the recipe:

2-1/2 pounds Beef Tenderloin
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 onion chopped
1/2 cup Sliced Fresh Mushrooms
2 ounces liver pate
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 package (17.5 ounces) puff pastry,  thawed
1 egg yoke, beaten
10.5 ounces beef broth
2 tablespoons red wine

·        Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Place beef in a small baking dish, and spread with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until browned. Remove from pan, and allow to cool completely. Reserve pan juices.
·        Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and mushrooms in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool.
·        Mix together pate and 2 tablespoons softened butter, and season with salt and pepper. Spread pate over beef. Top with onion and mushroom mixture.
·        Roll out the puff pastry dough, and place beef in the center. Fold up, and seal all the edges, making sure the seams are not too thick. Place beef in a 9x13 inch baking dish, cut a few slits in the top of the dough, and brush with egg yolk.
·        Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until pastry is a rich, golden brown. Set aside, and keep warm.
·        Place all reserved juices in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir in beef stock and red wine; boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Strain, and serve with beef.
And now you have Beef Wellington.


Morgan D'Arcy is an English lord, a classical pianist, and a vampire. He has everything except what he desires most—Isabeau. As the Angel Gabriel he's steered her life and career choice, preparing her to become Lady D'Arcy.

Many forces oppose Morgan's daring plan—not the least of which is Vampyre law. Isabeau Gervase is a brilliant geneticist. Though she no longer believes in angels, she sees a ticket to a Nobel Prize in Gabriel's secrets—secrets that have led her to a startling conclusion. Gabriel isn't human, and she fully intends to identify the species she named the Angel Genome. Morgan is ready to come back into Isabeau's life, but this time as a man not an angel. Will he outsmart his enemies, protect his beloved and escape death himself? For the first time in eternity, the clock is ticking.


“Isabeau!” Morgan’s voice would forever strike a chord deep inside.

He leaned over the mahogany railing, his eyes alight, his smile breathtaking.

“Morgan,” she breathed, her heart thudding.

Tonight, she’d caught him in his robe.  Riding mid-thigh, the green brocade smoking jacket showed fine, long legs.  Hair mussed, eyes sleep-misted, Morgan looked like a boy who’d just woken up.  The slender, muscled physique was all man. The handsome devil must have had one hell of a late night and slept all day.  The brunette’s face popped into Isabeau’s head.  Jealousy even tasted green.  What if the woman was still here!

Avery caught her hand, claiming her attention.  “Madam, do you like Beef Wellington?”

A languorous stretch elongated Morgan’s perfect body.  “Yes, she does.”

Isabeau frowned, opened her mouth to ask how he knew.  A flash in the corner of her eye, and Morgan stood at her elbow, his smile and his eyes sheer mischief.

“Sorry.  I shouldn’t have spoken for you.”  He took her hands, his touch sizzling over her.  “I can’t believe you’re actually here.  I’m delighted to see you.”

“Even unannounced?”  She squeezed his hands.  “I’m sorry about the other night.”

He shook his head, his gaze hot and intense.  “Think no more of it,” and her embarrassment evaporated.  “Please join me for dinner.  Avery has been eager to flaunt his culinary skills.  If you refuse, he’ll never forgive you, will you, Avery?”

“No, madam, I shan’t ever forgive you.”  The old gent gave her a mock stern look.

“How can I tempt you?”  Morgan bit the lower lip of a smile.

She laughed.  “Oh, I don’t know.  Do you have a piano by chance?”

He snapped his fingers.  “Avery, isn’t there a piano in the music room?”

The old man frowned, shaking his head.  “Sir, I believe there’s a piano in the music room but then we’d require someone to play it.”

“I can play chopsticks.”  Morgan touched her shoulder, zapping her knees weak.

“I can prepare a delectable Beef Wellington.”  Avery nodded emphatically.

Morgan’s Gabriel eyes caressed her.  “Sorry you caught me looking like this.”
You look good enough to eat.  She hadn’t spoken aloud, but Morgan arched a brow.



Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, January 13, 2020

New Year - New Resolutions by Diane Burton

The new year, new decade, is 2 weeks old. Almost. Each year, I start out with new resolutions. Rather, I recycle last year's resolutions. Eat healthier, exercise more, finish that d*mn book. 

Eat healthier: we're off to a good start there. Hubs is on a low salt diet (because of his heart and kidneys). That's motivated both of us to be more conscious of ingredients. You know, the label on the sides of packages? My eyes zero in on sodium grams. But, more importantly, reading the size of a portion. That's where we often fall down. I read "500 grams sodium" and think that's good. Until I look at the portion. Half a cup? Say what! Our "normal" portion is a cup. Now we're looking at 1,000 grams (half his daily amount). Don't buy that.

I'm also hitting Weight Watchers (now called WW) on a regular basis. I know it works...when I work at it. So, Wednesday mornings you'll find me at a meeting to get inspired to track what I eat and to eat healthier.

Exercise: not doing so good there. Yet. Snow, ice. Yep, that hit us this weekend. Our daughter told us about these things you put on your shoes (Yak Trax) that help prevent slipping outdoors. They came yesterday. I'll have to try them out today. Or maybe tomorrow.

Finish the book: I'm rereading Linda Howard's Kiss Me While I Sleep. How does that connect to the book I'm writing? No, I'm not procrastinating finishing my book. The Spy (4th book in my Outer Rim series) is about a rookie covert agent who has to bring in a veteran before his cover is blown. Howard's book is about a veteran agent who has to eliminate another veteran who's gone rogue. That's given me some ideas. I'm stuck at the 75% mark. I know the ending, but I think I've written myself into a corner. I've pulled back. Reading or rereading to fill the creative well helps. 

I've been sharing 8-10 sentence snippets from The Spy with the Weekend Writing Warriors on my blog each weekend. The comments have inspired me more than I expected. My fellow Warriors anticipate things I never thought of. They've made me step back and rethink the motivations of the main characters. Better than a critique group.

Since I don't have a cover yet, here's the rest of the series.

Tentative blurb for The Spy.

Rookie agent must rescue veteran before his cover is blown.

Genna Nogaro, new to the Coalition of Planets’ Intelligence Commission, is assigned to bring in an undercover operative in Hallart’s organization. More experienced agents died before getting him out. Were they killed by the intergalactic gangster or has the operative gone rogue?

Quintall d’Sernin, con man extraordinaire, infiltrated the mob and moved up to be the gangster’s right-hand man. Hallart has his tentacles throughout the Coalition—business, industry, and government. Quin’s finally worked himself into a valued position. All he needs is the key to mob structure in order for Coalition forces to take down the entire organization.

Genna will pose as a new recruit to distract Hallart long enough for Quin to find the key. If they work together, they can accomplish more. But Quin and Genna’s lives are jeopardized by a mole in the Intelligence Commission. Will their true roles be revealed before they accomplish their goal?

How are you doing on your resolutions for 2020?


Saturday, January 4, 2020

My Favorite Thing About the New Year is Last Year

By Maureen Bonatch

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. Sure, I’ve made them, but all too often they’re the same resolutions and feel more like a ‘to do’ list, or even a ‘things I feel guilty about not doing last year list’. So much that I could label it as things I should’ve done last year—eat healthier, exercise more, spend more time writing etc. etc. Or I should say, ditto from last year.

I’ve tried making detailed lists of steps to reach these goals at the start of the New Year, but instead of motivating me to do more, it simply gave me more to feel guilty about a few months into the year when I realize how far I’d fallen behind. Besides, I’ve come to accept that the motivation and desire to make a change is more important—and effective— than the month of the year.

Paper Calendar of Dreams

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of a new year isn’t always resolutions—it’s getting out my new calendar. Sure, I have an online google calendar, and it’s awesome—but it isn’t enough. There’s something about a paper calendar.

When I get my new monthly desk calendar out, the crisp blank pages are waiting for me to make them my own, just like the new year. Each new month just waiting to be filled with all the hopes, dreams and goals for the new year.

Life Happens Between the Wrinkled Pages

Life is busy. So much that sometimes the days, months and years seem to blur together. I’ll wonder if something happened this year— or maybe it was the year before. When I pull out the calendar for the year that’s ending, I go through it month by month to write down those special days that reoccur every year such as birthdays and anniversaries. Adding stickers or highlighting so I don’t forget, and to remind me what I have to look forward to when I flip to that new month.

Usually this mundane task inadvertently results in my reflecting on the past year. Recalling the challenges, the joys, and the memories that were made. It allows me to appreciate just how much happened, in addition, or instead of, those recurring resolutions.

Because often the best things in life are all those little things that happen while we’re focusing on what we think are the big things.

How Do You Reflect on the Passing Year?

Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

Be the first to know about Maureen’s book sales and new releases by following her on BookBub, Amazon and/or signing up for her newsletter

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy 2020 by Diane Burton

A new year. A new beginning. Time to figure out where we're going and how we're going to get there. 

I love the idea of the Roman god Janus representing the new year. He's pictured looking back and looking forward. An old man and a boy. A year can be hard on a person. Just look at our presidents after they've spent a year (or 4) in office. That job really ages them. So too, a year ages all of us. Sometimes for the good. Sometimes not. 

Our family has had a year of health problems. Yet we've had some highs in spite of the lows. Hubs needs his aortic valve replaced (finally he'll get it tomorrow); our niece's baby was born at 25 weeks, one pound & change (now weighs 12 lbs and is thriving); my sister's breast cancer returned (she's undergoing radiation after a lumpectomy on one side and a mastectomy on the other, but the prognosis is good). 

Since Lea Kirk wrote such a great post on looking back at 2019, I'll strive to look forward now. What does 2020 have in store for us here on Paranormal Romantics? More sharing of information, tips and tricks, more ideas to help us be better writers. Sharing our ups and downs so we can celebrate and commiserate with each other. Knowing we're not alone in this struggle to write engaging books.

My new year wishes for all of us:

    good health
    strong writing habits
    writing enjoyment
    books that fly off the shelves (virtual or brick-&-mortar stores)
    NYT bestseller

I deliberately put happiness before the last 2. Will having a best-seller or books that fly off the shelves make us happy? It would make my bank account happy. LOL Having good health, enjoying writing, and having better writing habits will make me much happier. I hope it will be the same for you.

May you have a great 2020!

PS Today is the last day for Smashwords End of the Year Sale

5 of my books are on sale for 1/2 off:

The Pilot
Rescuing Mara's Father
Mission to New Earth
Romance Rekindled
The Case of the Bygone Brother

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019: Like an out of Control Speeder

Peeps! It's almost New Year's Eve! Wow, that went fast. 

As we come careening into the end of 2019 like an out of control speeder, I can’t resist a look back on what all has happened this past year.

In my author bio on Amazon, I mention that we have a dog who likes to talk…a lot. Well, my peeps, meet April (not named after my heroine from All of Me.) Here’s an example of her walking into the kitchen one day and for no reason whatsoever telling me how things are going to be before marching back out.

In March, I had my first author talk and book signing at a local library! Was I nervous? Yeeessss! 

Here’s a shot of me hamming it up with the two youngest members of my nerd-herd. (Don’t remember where we were.)

Hanging out with my RWA chapter sisters at our digs in Berkeley.

This is sweet. While there are no more “nuclear wessels” at the old Navy base in Alameda, there was a baby humpback whale hanging out there for a few weeks in June. It was enough to give any Trekkie/Trekker an attack of the “Awwws”. Could she have been George and Gracie’s offspring returned from the future? I don’t know. It was exciting to see her, though, and so freaking close!

August found me celebrating the First Annual Bookstore Romance Day with Tess Rider, Alice Gaines, and my lovely editor, Sue Brown.

Click here to watch our open discussion about the romance genre.

Space Ranger re-released in September!
Free gift for newsletter subscribers

Tagged along with R.L. Merrill and Kayrsa Faire to an incredible author talk celebrating Filipino-American authors including new-to-me author and friend Maida Malby.

In November I celebrated my 55th birthday, and you know what that means…senior menu at Denny’s! Yeah, baby!

(My birthday fell on a meeting night for our Scouting BSA troop, but my family came through with a surprise piece of cake and some peppermint bark. Yum!)

And, just because, here's my Christmas tree. Decorated by my nerd-herd while hubby and I were out on a date.

Looking forward, what will 2020 hold for me?

My next series novella will release in March. Skylar’s Gift takes place shortly after Collision (book three). In this story, Maggie, the precocious little girl from Blue Christmas, is all grown up. And who she gives her heart to may surprise you! It definitely shocks her parents, Alex and Gryf (Prophecy).

As fate would have it, an opportunity too good to pass up, came around recently. I can’t give you any details yet, but it’ll involve not one, but three new books in a new series! To say I’m giddy about it would be an understatement. If you want to be among the first to get the announcement, please subscribe tomy newsletter.

But, wait…what about Paradox, book four in the Prophecy series? Yes, I am still working on that, I promise! Can’t predict when it’ll be out, but don’t lose hope. Juan and Carrie won’t allow me to forget them, trust me.

And finally…

Jingle all the way!

I have happy news to share with you. There’s a bit of a blow-out sale happening for several books in my Prophecy series, including book two, Salvation! Don’t miss your chance to get this book at a reduced price because it’s not likely to happen again.
Skylar’s Gift (special preorder price!)

I wish each of you a happy and safe new year. May your way be crystal clear in 2020. 


P.S. - I'm going to see the new Star Wars movie today. After that, you all can talk to me on Facebook again. LOL.

P.P.S - Looking for an alien to cozy up to for New Years? Check out the Alien Romance Book Fair


USA Today Bestselling Author, Lea Kirk, loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her sci-fi romances. When she’s not busy writing about the blue and green aliens of her Prophecy series, or reading about dragons, she’s hanging out with her hubby, five kids (the nerd herd), and spoiled Dobie mix puppy (the same on in the video above).

She is currently working on a novella and the fourth book in her Prophecy series, and a new, super-secret project for 2020.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Resolutions and Sparkling New Years! with @meganslayer #gay #romance #resolutions #happynewyear

Time to ring in the new year and it's also time to make resolutions. I'm horrible at keeping them. I tend to forget I want to do them, then it's too late. Last year, I made a resolution to blog every day. So far, I'm still on the stick. But, I've had a few days where I've been almost late. Eek!

I also made a resolution to walk at least 700 miles for the year. I've made it to almost 850. I haven't been able to walk the three miles I wanted to every day, but it's okay. 850 isn't shabby.

What about you? What's your resolution? This year, it's to run. I've never been much of a runner and I don't like to sweat, but I want to say I ran a 5k. So...run it is. Tell me what you're planning for 2020.

In the meantime, here's a little bit about my New Year's story, Sparkling New Year!

Sparkling New Year by Megan Slayer

Contemporary, Sweet Romance, New Adult

M/M interaction

From MLR Books

New year, new relationship?

Dating and Aydin Madison haven't been good friends. He's shy, bookish and would rather be with his set designs than most people. He knows his way around the theater, but his love life is non-existent. He knows whom he'd like to date--Brandon Kidd, the boy du jour of the art school. He'd love to rub Brandon the right way. It's too bad Brandon doesn't seem to know Aydin exists.

When freak circumstances throw these two together, they'll have to decide if the sizzling connection is the key to their happy new year or just a fluke.

Get your copy here:

Friday, December 27, 2019

Fun Sites

As a belated Christmas gift, here are some of my favorite sites for writers and readers.

Fun Stuff

The purpose of CityLab is to tell the story of the world’s cities: how they work, the challenges they face, and the solutions they need. My favorite recent story is why kids love garbage trucks.  (Having something large and a little scary do the same chore each week is kind of magical, especially when a friendly driver always waves “Hi.” Also, kids love dumping stuff.)

Gizmodo is a design, technology, science and science fiction website. It has lots of neat articles and posts, cool maps, and links to the latest in science fiction TV and movies so you can get your Mandalorian fix. Gizmodo Design takes a people-centric approach to covering software, architecture, and more and analyzes why products and systems look and work in the way that they do. The section called Field Guides covers gadgets and how to make them work better for you.

If you write science fiction and need an idea for a spaceship or just like looking at cool stuff that zips through outer space, this is the site for you.

Want to know how your smartphone is listening to you or what apps steal your data? Check out Kim Komando’s tech website. It’s not scary but written clear enough for even those of us who still find our new microwave oven's controls confusing. Why are you looking at me like that? You know you can’t figure yours out either.

I love the sciency stuff and Science Friday is one of the best. It’s fun for the brain, an entertaining, informational show produced by public radio. The most recent show discusses the best board games and science books for the layman in case you need to spend that gift card. Then check out the 2019 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, a tribute to offbeat and quirky scientific studies. (The researchers who won the economics prize tested which country’s paper money is best at transmitting dangerous bacteria.)

Writing Stuff

This is a nifty site from Purdue University that’s open access for the public. It’s not just for academics. They have easy to understand explanations for grammar, word usage, and punctuation and good articles on the writing process.

From the blog by Suzannah Windsor Freeman, the title says it all. These aren’t just short tips, but links to blogs with a detailed discussion of particular issues.

For the writer and the hypochondriac in all of us. WebMD is written for the layman so it’s the perfect site to find just the right disease to inflict on a character.

Reedsy is great for writers looking for help. The site has professionals for hire such as editors, book designers, cover artists, and the like, especially helpful for self-publishers. Reedsy also produces an interesting blog and has lists of tools, book promotion sites and writing contests.

Speaking of tools…ProWritingAid
I was leery of writing tools, but ProWritingAid changed that. It has a lot of interesting features, a strong editing interface and is great for catching grammar errors. More importantly, I found it easier to use with a smaller learning curve  than Grammerley and Scrivener. Also, it’s reasonably priced. Grammerley has free a version to download or you can upgrade to premium. ProWritingAid and Scrivener both have free trials. Each site has pluses and minuses, so try before you buy. ProWritingAid and the others are no substitute for a human editor, but help to polish that first draft. If you’re thinking of a writing tool, check them out.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance and a touch of sass. She loves stuff, digital or otherwise.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Dragons for Christmas with a New Release

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday's y'all! If your looking for good reads over the holiday break (I know I always am), and you love dragon shifters, I hope you'll check out my latest release.

Part of my Fire's Edge series, this is Drake's story. My grumpy dragon shifter who is dying needs a strong, sunshiney woman to help him find his way. Don't you think?


Some kinds of fire are only meant to kill.


Death comes for everyone. Even Drake Chandali. The aging process that twists all unmated dragon shifters’ bodies into something useless has taken hold of his body centuries early. A mate could have reversed the process, but now it’s too late. To protect his team of enforcers, he leaves, and comes face to face with the woman he’d thought was human when he saved her from a fire months before.

Except she’s not human. She’s a mate.

Camilla Carrillo almost lost her family to wildfire. To discover she’s fated to mate a creature made of flame and rage, and become one herself, should be terrifying. But somehow a rightness settles inside her, especially when she’s around the glowering red dragon shifter who wants nothing to do with her.

When Drake learns Cami bears his mark—the same mark as the High King—he refuses to believe she’s meant to be his. It’s too late. How could he turn Cami only to take her with him to the grave? At the same time, he can’t walk away. Hiding her from the corrupt, rotting High King might be the last honorable thing Drake ever does with the little time he has left.


Usually by now, when he didn’t speak, people left him alone. When Cami levered off the floor, he expected her to do exactly that, or maybe go get Rune. Shock had him freezing when, instead, she crawled onto the bed beside him, a swirl of scents—crisp winter air, exotic jasmine, and an edge of smoke—surrounding him, smothering him, filling him up.

Drake held his breath and wished her anywhere but next to him on this bed.

Oblivious to his sour thoughts, Cami reached to put a hand to his forehead.

Only he slapped it away before she could touch. “I’m fine,” he said on a growl.

Cami scowled, not remotely intimidated. “Then speak up and say so.” She backed off, but not much and muttered a word that sounded suspiciously like pendejo.

“I am not an idiot,” he muttered.

“Yeah?” The word burned with her scorn. “Do you have any idea how long you’ve been out? Two days.”

That explained why he had to piss so damn bad.

“Or is your default setting asshole?” she continued. “I’m trying to help you, and I don’t scare as easy as the others.”

Apparently, she already had him pegged. Drake grunted, then pushed up to sitting, hating the way his arms shook with that small task, a weakness that had him mentally swearing at the muscles. Hiding a grimace, he leaned against the rounded wall of the cave which served as a headboard for the mattress. The cool of the stone seeped through his thin shirt and into his skin, sending a shiver racing through him.

He scowled. Dragons didn’t shiver. They were impervious to cold.

Cami must’ve caught a nuance in his expression because she narrowed her eyes. “You’re not okay, are you?”

She reached out again, and this time he didn’t stop her from laying her cool hand against his forehead, though he had to stop himself from leaning into her touch. She tsked. “You’re burning up.”

“All dragon shifters burn,” he said.

Cami shook her head. “No. I think this is different.”

“Because you’d know.”

She ignored his heavy sarcasm. “I should go get Rune.”

Drake shifted under the sheets that seemed determined to remain wrapped around his feet. “I’m surprised he left you alone with me.”

“He didn’t want to, something about you being a scary motherfucker. His words. He needed to sleep after flying all that way, and, after the yelling, and throwing a pillow—” She paused and shook her head at him the way a school teacher might scold a small student who’d thrown a pencil. “None of the others would come near you.”

“You should’ve listened to him.” Only he got the sense she wasn’t fully comprehending his words, whether willfully or naively he wasn’t sure.

“You were out cold.” She gave a negligent shrug, only confirming his concern. “And weak as a newborn giraffe, if I miss my guess. I’m safe enough.”

That newborn giraffe comment rankled and had him biting back an irritated growl. Did this woman have no sense of self-preservation?

In a swift move, he grabbed her by both wrists, rolling so that he lay on top of her, holding her hands over her head, pinning them against the bed in a forceful grip, weighing her body down with his own. He had to hide how that small move had him breathing hard, though. He glared at her as though nothing was wrong.

“I’m not out cold now. Am I?”

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Last Minute Books for Kids of all Ages by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

Need a last minute stocking stuffer or need just one more gift for that special someone in your life? Of course I recommend books. As an expert in the areas of emerging, struggling, and developing readers, I have tried to include those that will appeal to all levels of readers in every age group. You know best which of these great books is best for your reader.

Ages 3-5 (and younger, as you will be reading to them)

Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series, to introduce a child in your life to the misadventures of Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGreggor’s garden. Classics are classics for a reason.

Tom Fletcher’s There’s an Elf in Your Book, and it’s a bossy elf, who may be trying to trick you or get you into trouble, so you may have to outwit him. A fun addition to the whole Elf on a Shelf craze.

Plum: How the Sugar Plum Fairy Got Her Wings Will and Grace's Sean Hayes and composer Scott Icenogle fill in the oft-wondered-about backstory of how the Sugar Plum Fairy came to be. 

National Geographic’s First Big Book of Why by Amy Shields, to help with all those why’s in that sometimes confusing (how do you explain things that are complex in simple terms) why stage.

Jessika von Innerebner’s Kevin the Unicorn: It’s Not All Rainbows, is especially good when your child may not be having a perfect day, or may be a bit cranky (not that the child in your life would ever be cranky).

All Aboard! The Christmas Train by Nichole Mara. Folding out car by car, this accordion-style board book takes readers on a tour of Santa’s Christmas train. Each car has lots to see—elves making toys, penguins playing, reindeer preparing for the big day—as Santa searches for his missing boot. With a running landscape dotted with objects for children to find and count on the back of the book, All Aboard! The Christmas Train is a fun, interactive ride from beginning to end.

Jan Britt’s The Tale of the Tiger Slippers, is based on an Indian folktale and reminding little ones to persevere, work hard for what they get and to remember where they came from.

Dragons Love Tacos 2 by Adam Rubin, comes in as box set with two plush dragons. A funny tale about how the dragons save their favorite food.

Paul McCartney has written a book called Hey Grandude! For adventure-loving kids, you can’t go wrong with this action-packed picture book from one of the most celebrated musicians in history. With help from his magic compass, Grandude takes his grandchildren on a globe-trotting expedition. Celebrate imagination and adventure with this delightful story.

Who doesn’t love the Bernstein Bears by Jan and Stan Berenstain? Everyone’s favorite bear family is celebrating Christmas in Bear Country, in The Bernstein Bears’ Merry Christmas. With two books in one, Berenstain Bears fans will get to enjoy both The Mad, Mad, Mad Toy Craze and Meet Santa Bear. Join the family as they experience the spirit of giving and learn what matters most during the holiday season.

Grumpy Monkey Party Time by Suzanne Lang. Everyone's favorite grumpy monkey is back in a new story! Jim Panzee is nervous about going to a party. He doesn’t know how to dance. In fact, he doesn’t even like to dance. Kids that get nervous in new situations will appreciate this funny picture book. Filled with laugh-out-loud moments and expressive illustrations, this book shows kids how to manage their anxiety.

Ages 6-8

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. Sure, there’s a movie, but why not read the original book first? Teach your youngster the skill or compare and contrast from word to screen (said the retired English teacher), and increase their literacy skills!

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is great for younger kids too.  Again, book versus movie opportunity here! 1986 Caldecott Medal Winner A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole . . . Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish. 

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin The title illustrates the delightful and uplifting message in this beautifully illustrated book.

Runny Babbit Returns by Shel Silverstein Fun and quirky! The mixed-up language in this hilarious book will get your kids laughing and inspire their imaginations.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition. I just love this and think it’s a fun keepsake for kids of all ages (including adults). In this beloved picture book that could only come from the visionary mind of author and illustrator TIM BURTON, we meet Jack Skellington-- a well-intentioned inhabitant of Halloweenland. Jack is bored of "the scaring, the terror, the fright....tired of being something that goes bump in the night". And so, in an effort to bring joy to his town, Jack kidnaps Santa and takes his place as the jolly old elf. But instead of bringing joy to the world Jack, who is a little more than a grinning skeleton, brings fear by delivering creepy toys and riding a sleigh carried by skeletal reindeer. Only through a number of things going horribly wrong does Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas.

Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties by Dave Pilkey For kids beginning to explore the world of chapter books, the Dog Man series is a favorite. A Tale of Two Kitties is the newest book in the series and is perfect for Captain Underpants groupies and kids that enjoy goofy humor.

Who doesn’t love a ninja princess? The Princess in Black: Three Smashing Adventures by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale Get the first three adventures in everyone's favorite ninja-princess series with this boxed set. Growing readers will devour these stories and enjoy the mask-wearing, pony-riding, monster-smashing fun.

Got an American Girl lover in your life?  They need one of these! American Girl Character Encyclopedia by Carrie Anton and Erin Falligant They can learn more about their favorite dolls and the stories behind them, explore outfits, and discover facts every American Girl enthusiast should know.

Coding for 6-8 year old’s, really? My First Coding Book by Kiki Prottsman Coding is quickly becoming a life skill for the rising generation, and it's a high-interest topic for kids. With flaps to lift, puzzles to solve, and easy to digest information, this book makes coding accessible, interesting, and fun for young readers.

The Flower Fairy aficionado has developed a beautiful coloring book that’s perfect for this age all the way through adult! Color with your favorite youngster! The Flower Fairies Coloring Book by Cicely Mary Barker Young artists and Flower Fairies devotees will love coloring the stunning artwork on these pages. With beautiful illustrations of flowers and fairies, it's the perfect gift for the fanciful young artist.

Letters From Father Christmas J.R.R. Tolkien’s kids got a letter from Father Christmas every year, with detailed stories and illustrations to go with each. Here, his magical notes are remembered for all to enjoy.

Ages 9-12

This is a great age to get the youngster in your life started on journaling, and here’s a great first book to help them out. My Smile Diary by Raina Telgemeier Your youngster can document the details of their life, dreams, and big goals in this whimsical diary filled with blank pages and bordered with Telgemeier’s characteristic comic-style artwork, as well as handwritten prompts for deeper reflection.

Don’t think zombies are popular with this age group? Think again! The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate. This fifth book in the action-packed Last Kids on Earth series takes place after Jack and his friends survive the Monster Apocalypse. In this story, Jack uses his Louisville Slicer blade’s incredible powers to fight zombies and Vine-Thingies. Meanwhile, Dirk’s acting suspicious and a new villain arrives in town.

Have a kid in your life that’s getting a fur baby from Santa? Dog Training for Kids: Fun and Easy Wats to Care for Your Furry Friend by Vanessa Estrada Marin For kids ready to become dog parents, this digestible guide book is a must-read. Easy-to-follow instructions allow kids to walk their pets through basic obedience training, essential commands, and clever tricks. Parents will also appreciate that kids are learning patience, compassion, and responsibility — all essential qualities in both dog training and life.

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi During the summer of 1984, science fiction enthusiast Ebony-Grace leaves the comfort of her grandfather’s home in Huntsville, Alabama to visit her father in Harlem. Initially, she’s overwhelmed and retreats to her imagination, but soon she embraces the parallels between Harlem and the world of science fiction adventures.

White Bird: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio Written by the author of Wonder, this meaningful graphic novel about Julian’s Jewish Grandmère shows that kindness takes bravery. Despite the fact that Sara’s friends bullied him, when the Nazis come for Jewish children, a boy and his family hide Sara from the soldiers — saving her life and showing her the power of forgiveness.

The Long Haul (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #9), by Jeff Kinney Everyone’s favorite wimpy kid, Greg Heffley, is heading off on a road trip with his family—and any reader who loves the Heffleys knows disaster can’t be far behind. Whether it’s a pack of rogue seagulls or a fender bender, this family trip will be full of exciting incidents…and it may well turn out to be an adventure they’ll never forget.

I recall that I had to fight to get this “witch” book into the hands of students when it was first released, some who had never read a chapter book before (but read and loved this one!). Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Read the first sentence of the book that kicked off worldwide Pottermania, and just try not to read on. If you know a young reader who hasn’t yet met Harry Potter, consider yourself lucky: you get to make the introduction. There are few stories so magical, few casts of characters so beloved, few fantasy worlds as soundly built and utterly compelling as Rowling’s. 

The Web Paige Chronicles by Emilio Iasiello PRAISE FOR THE WEB PAIGE CHRONICLES: "Web Paige Chronicles offers a refreshing and empowering role model for young adults. By eschewing this iGeneration’s stereotypical malaise in favor of positive curiosity with technology, Iasiello folds practical cybersecurity guidance into a relatable story." -Scott Schober, author of Hacked Again

The Giver, by Lois Lowry This is a classic, winner of numerous awards. Another book to movie discussion opportunity. Perhaps a bit difficult for struggling readers, but used as curriculum in many middle schools, Lowry’s dystopian classic is the kind of timeless book that never gets outdated. Twelve-year-old Jonah is in training to take over as his community’s Receiver of Memory. Everyone else in his world is obsessed with “Sameness,” trading emotional depth for eternal calm. Released in 1993, this novel has been a staple of school reading lists for years, and belongs on the shelf of any child who loves The Hunger Games—and anyone who appreciates great storytelling that will stick with you for life.

Middle school can be brutal for kids.  Help them see the humor with this Dork Diaries series. Tales from a Not-So-Happily Ever After (Dork Diaries #8), by Rachel Renée Russell
In the eighth installment of the wildly popular Dork Diaries series, bubbly heroine Nikki Maxwell gets a bump on the head in gym class after an April Fool’s Day prank goes awry. It knocks her right into a fairy-tale-inspired dreamland, in which she and her classmates each take the role of a classic character—but Dork Diaries fans will be glad to know Nikki is just as much her goofy self in her dreams as she is in everyday middle school.

Ages 13 Up

The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman is the story of three unlikely heroines, each with brilliant and diverse wishes, talents, and passions, who form an unlikely friendship despite their differences when they meet in unlikely circumstances.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene is a moving story about life, death, friendship, hope, and love, as a sixteen-year-old girl learns to deal with the fact that she will die and leave everyone she loves behind.

Another book and movie combo! Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling is a must-read installment for fans of Harry Potter. This prequel to the original series sees Dumbledore on a mission to stop Grindelwald from raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman IT TAKES A GRAVEYARD TO RAISE A CHILD. Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.The Graveyard Book, a modern classic, is the only work ever to win both the Newbery (US) and Carnegie (UK) medals.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery's never been there, but she's heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows. The town is picture-perfect, but it's hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone's declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing. Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she's in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something.

How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow  Here is what happens when your mother dies. It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart. That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, aloneHere is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

Enter the Grishaverse with the instant #1 New York Times-bestseller King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. "[Bardugo] touches on religion, class, family, love ― all organically, all effortlessly, all cloaked in the weight of a post-war reckoning with the cost (literal and figurative) of surviving the events that shape both people and nations." ―NPR
"The story exists at an intersection of past and future selves, and in the dawning understanding that what you most fear may be what you most need." ―Washington Post

Happy Reading to you and yours!