Beauty and the Beast #BroadwayinTampa

Disclaimer: Due to my association with the Tampa Bay Bloggers I was provided four tickets to see Beauty and the Beast at the Straz Center. All opinions are my own. 

Growing up, Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite tales. I knew the traditional story of a wealthy merchant who lost his fortune and upon his return from a trip, stopped and picked a rose from a beautiful garden to give to his favorite daughter. This garden was owned by a beast, and to make a long story short, the beautiful, kind daughter ends up at the castle where the Beast becomes her "servant."

But what made this my favorite fairy tale was the description of the library and all the wonderful books.

I have loved libraries and books since I was a small child, so my growing up and becoming a librarian was really no surprise to anyone.

In the early 1990's Disney produced a full length animated film version of my beloved fairy tale, and I was entranced. 

The library of the original fairy tale came to life on the big screen.

And in April 1994, Beauty and the Beast became Disney's first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical.

Last night I was invited, along with my daughters, to see the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast at the Straz Center in Tampa. My beautiful friend Hope also joined us. 

I was so excited. How would they bring my beloved library to life? 

The musical opened with a beautiful Belle, (played by Jillian Butterfield) with her nose buried in a book.

And the townsfolk sing:

Look there she goes that girl is so peculiar

I wonder if she's feeling well

With a dreamy far-off look

And her nose stuck in a book

What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle

And it was during this scene that my middle child, my daughter Ella, leans over to me and her older sister Haley, and says in a joking manner, "that Belle is just like the two of you with your noses always stuck in a book."

And we were hooked. This musical was fantastic! Simply fantastic. The girls and I sang along with the songs, and laughed at the characters.

Gaston played by Cameron Bond, and Lefou played by Jake Bridges brought the house down! 

But Lumiere, played by Patrick Pevehouse was my favorite character, though the supporting cast were ALL just fantastic! 

SPOILER: Beauty fell in love with the Beast IN THE LIBRARY. She read to him the Adventures of King Arthur and became smitten with the gentle Beast. The set design for the library was great! Not too ornate, not too shabby, it was just right. 


I also took my little girls for a pre-show treat and we were so thrilled to see a special Beauty and the Beast menu!!

You can see Beauty and the Beast at the Straz Center in Tampa through May 10, 2015. Trust me, you don't want to miss this show!


Take Your Child to Work Day 2015

This is a guest post by my 11 year old daughter, Haley. Last year I was working full time as a lifestyle blogger and Haley was able to come with me to Lowry Park Zoo. You can read her recap about last year's experience HERE. But this year...this year I'm working full-time as a senior level librarian with Tampa-Hillsborough Public Libraries, so in 2015, Haley got to spend the day with me seeing what it's like to work as a librarian.

Guest post by Haley Hodges, age 11.

Take your child to work day is a great day to spend time with your parents. I learned that working full-time and having a family is REALLY HARD and very time challenging. But there are also a lot of benefits.

One way that it's challenging is that my mom has so many things to do during the day. Her morning starts early when she has to not only get herself ready for work, but get me, my sister, and my brother ready for school. She makes our breakfast, makes sure our homework is signed and completed, and that we have everything we need for our day.

And then she drives us to school, and then she has to drive to work.

I never realized that there was SO MUCH traffic in Tampa in the morning. My mom loves to listen to audiobooks, so we listened to one of her stories on the way down to visit with the bookmobile.


I loved meeting all my mama's staff, but once they left for the day we drove down to another library for mama to work.

That is another challenging aspect of my mama's job. She moves around a lot to help out at different libraries.

At the Bloomingdale Library they had a gift bag ready for me! It had bookmarks, coloring pages, crayons, pencils, and the COOLEST USB that you wear on your wrist like a bracelet. That thing is AWESOME!!

My mama has to do a lot at the library. She works the reference desk, helps people with computers, had to unload books, process books, put books in order, it was a lot of work.

My favorite part of the day was working on the reference desk.

I really liked being able to watch my mama in action, answering the phone, helping people find the answers to all sorts of questions, teaching people how to use the computer and printers.

My least favorite part, which started off really fun, was processing the book returns and delivery. Every book has to be checked in, and if the book is on hold, a special sticker is printed up and it goes on the book spine label and then we have to put the books in alphabetical order by patron last name, and then those have to go on a special "holds" shelf out on the public floor. It was a lot of work, and after an hour or so my brain really started to spin. I didn't want to do that anymore.

And then at the end of the day, we still had an hour or so drive home where my mom still had to cook dinner, check homework, and get everything ready for the next day.

She told me that she normally tries to go to the gym on her lunch break so she can get in her run. My mama really seems like she can do it all.

The benefits to working as a librarian are that you get to help people all day long. I like helping people, and I know that my mom does, too.

I thought Bring Your Child to Work Day was very fun. But I'm not sure I want to be a librarian when I grow up.

Summer beach reads 2015

Working in a library and being a librarian certainly has its perks!!

Being one of the first to discover a brand new author is one of those great perks! Check out these dazzling new and forthcoming debut novels! Looks like I'm going to be doing a lot of great summer reading!!


Debut Authors Spring 2015


The Silver Swan

By Elena Delbanco 9781590517161 May 2015

Alexander Feldmann is a musician of international renown, a man whose prodigious talent, striking good looks, and charm prove irresistible to all who meet him. After years of hunting, Alexander acquires a glorious instrument, the Silver Swan. One of the few remaining cellos crafted by Antonio Stradivari, the Silver Swan's clarity and beauty of tone are unmatched. The maestro has one child, Mariana, who by the age of nineteen emerges as a star concert cellist in her own right and is viewed by many as the inheritor of her father's genius. There are whispers that her career might even outpace his. Mariana has always believed that the Silver Swan would one day be hers, until a stunning secret from her father's past entwines her fate and that of the Silver Swan in ways she could never have imagined.



The Ghost Network

By Catie Disabato 9781612194349 May 2015

Has the world's hottest pop star been kidnapped, brainwashed, or simply gone into hiding? The answer lies in the abandoned subway stations of Chicago . . . One minute insanely famous pop singer Molly Metropolis is on her way to a major performance in Chicago, and the next, she's gone, her cell phone found abandoned. Has she been kidnapped? Gone into hiding? Molly's personal assistant and a journalist who'd been writing about Molly launch a desperate search to find her using her songs and journal as a guide. It leads them to a map of half-completed train lines underneath Chicago, which in turn leads them to the secret, subterranean headquarters of an obscure intellectual sect--and the realization that they've gone too far to turn back. And if a superstar can disappear without a trace . . . what can happen to these young women?



House of Echoes

By Brendan Duffy 9780804178112 April 2015

In this enthralling and atmospheric thriller, one young family's dream of a better life is about to become a nightmare. Ben and Caroline Tierney and their two young boys are hoping to start over. Ben has hit a dead end with his new novel, Caroline has lost her banking job, and eight-year-old Charlie is being bullied at his Manhattan school. When Ben inherits land in the village of Swannhaven, in a remote corner of upstate New York, the Tierneys believe it's just the break they need, and they leave behind all they know to restore a sprawling estate. But as Ben uncovers Swannhaven's chilling secrets and Charlie ventures deeper into the surrounding forest, strange things begin to happen. The Tierneys realize that their new home isn't the fresh start they needed . . . and that the village's haunting saga is far from over.




By Jill Alexander Essbaum 9780812997538 March 2015

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno--a banker--and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her. But Anna can't easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it's difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.



Liar's Bench

By Kim Michele Richardson 9781617737336 April 2015

In 1972, on Mudas Summers' seventeenth birthday, her beloved Mama, Ella, is found hanging from the rafters of their home. Most people in Peckinpaw, Kentucky, assume that Ella's no-good husband did the deed. Others think Ella grew tired of his abuse and did it herself. Muddy is determined to find out for sure either way, especially once she finds strange papers hidden amongst her mama's possessions. But Peckinpaw keeps its secrets buried deep. Muddy's almost-more-than-friend, Bobby Marshall, knows that better than most. Though he passes for white, one of his ancestors was Frannie Crow, a slave hanged a century ago on nearby Hark Hill Plantation. Adorning the town square is a seat built from Frannie's gallows. A tribute, a relic--and a caution--it's known as Liar's Bench. Now, the answers Muddy seeks soon lead back to Hark Hill, to hatred and corruption that have echoed through the years--and lies she must be brave enough to confront at last.



The Turner House

By Angela Flournoy 9780544303164 April 2015

The Turner House marks a major new contribution to the story of the American family. The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone--and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit's East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts--and shapes--their family's future.





The One That Got Away
By Bethany Chase 9780804179423 March 2015

Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down; a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer—and former flame—Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn. Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices—and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life—and in love.


The Happy Hour Choir

By Sally Kilpatrick 9781617735684 April 2015

Life has dealt Beulah Land a tough hand to play, least of all being named after a hymn. A teenage pregnancy estranged her from her family, and a tragedy caused her to lose what little faith remained. The wayward daughter of a Baptist deacon, she spends her nights playing the piano at The Fountain, a honky-tonk located just across the road from County Line Methodist. But when she learns that a dear friend's dying wish is for her to take over as the church's piano player, she realizes it may be time to face the music. . .
Beulah butts heads with Luke Daniels, the new pastor at County Line, who is determined to cling to tradition even though he needs to attract more congregants to the aging church. But the choir also isn't enthusiastic about Beulah's contemporary take on the old songs and refuse to perform. Undaunted, Beulah assembles a ragtag group of patrons from The Fountain to form the Happy Hour Choir. And as the unexpected gig helps her let go of her painful past--and accept the love she didn't think she deserved--she just may be able to prove to Luke that she can toe the line between sinner and saint. . .



Our Town

By Kevin McEnroe 9781619025288 May 2015

Our Town is the debut of a striking literary voice, one that captures the disillusion at the fringes of Hollywood as seen through a haze of drugs, alcohol, abuse, and fallen aspirations. An unseen narrator guides us through the dark fairy tale of Dorothy White, an aspiring actress who “never quite figured how to get out of her own way.” Her perfect marriage to an equally golden actor, Dale, quickly turns into one of jealousy and violence. Dorothy ends the marriage yet begins a legacy of self-destruction for the failed couple, as well as their two children, Clover and Dylan. But we see the pathos in Dorothy’s attempts to get back on track, to be a good woman, mother, and grandmother. Throughout the novel, she is left in the wake of decisions that turn disastrous. Her downward spiral from elusive fame into consistent infamy—a series of DUIs, the continuing neglect of her children, a string of failed and unhealthy relationships—is not without its grace, with the warmth of her character shining through her spackled makeup and cloud of acrid perfume. In many ways, Dorothy White is an anti-heroine for the ages—“vanilla voiced,” bewigged, loving, and ever radiant —a sympathetic character caught in the riptide of her transformation from small-town southern girl to one-time toast of Hollywood to embarrassing tabloid fodder.



The Anchoress

By Robyn Cadwallader 9780374104252 May 2015

A startling and strange debut novel about a young girl's desperate choice to isolate herself from the world England, 1255: Sarah is only seventeen when she chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman much like Saint Hildegard of Bingen, shut away in a small cell, measuring seven by nine paces, at the side of the village church. Fleeing the grief of losing a much-loved sister in childbirth and the pressure to marry, she decides to renounce the world, with all its dangers, desires, and temptations, and to commit herself to a life of prayer. But it soon becomes clear that even the thick, unforgiving walls of her cell cannot keep the outside world away, and Sarah's body and soul are still in great danger.


 The Well

By Catherine Chanter 9781476772769 May 2015

Ruth Ardingly has just been released from prison to serve out a sentence of house arrest for arson and suspected murder at her farm, The Well. Beyond its borders, some people whisper she is a witch; others a messiah. For as soon as Ruth returns to The Well, rain begins to fall on the farm. And it has not rained anywhere else in the country in over three years. Ruth and her husband Mark had moved years before from London to this ancient idyll in the hopes of starting their lives over. But then the drought began, and as the surrounding land dried up and died, and The Well grew lush and full of life, they came to see their fortune would come at a price. From the envy of their neighbors to the mandates of the government, from the fanaticism of a religious order called the Sisters of the Rose to the everyday difficulties of staying close as husband and wife, mother and child—all these forces led to a horrifying crime: the death of their seven-year-old grandson, drowned with cruel irony in one of the few ponds left in the countryside. Now back at The Well, Ruth must piece together the tragedy that shattered her marriage, her family, and her dream. For she believes her grandson's death was no accident, and that the murderer is among the people she trusted most. Alone except for her guards on a tiny green jewel in a world rapidly turning to dust, Ruth begins to confront her worst fears and learns what really happened in the dark heart of The Well.


Academy Street

By Mary Costello 9780374100520 April 2015

Tess Lohan is the kind of woman that we meet and fail to notice every day. A single mother. A nurse. A quiet woman, who nonetheless feels things acutely—a woman with tumultuous emotions and few people to share them with. Academy Street is Mary Costello's luminous portrait of a whole life. It follows Tess from her girlhood in western Ireland through her relocation to America and her life there, concluding with a moving reencounter with her Irish family after forty years of exile. The novel has a hypnotic pull and a steadily mounting emotional force. It speaks of disappointments but also of great joy. It shows how the signal events of the last half century affect the course of a life lived in New York City.



The Death’s Head Chess Club

By John Donoghue 9780374135706 May 2015

SS Obersturmfuhrer Paul Meissner arrives in Auschwitz from the Russian front. After being badly wounded he is fit only for administrative duty and his first and most pressing task is to improve flagging camp morale. He sets up a chess club which thrives, as the officers and enlisted men are allowed to gamble on the results of the games. However, when Meissner learns from a chance remark that chess is also played by the prisoners he hears of a Jewish watchmaker who is 'unbeatable'. Meissner sets out to discover the truth behind this rumor and what he finds will haunt him to his death...



Hugo and Rose

By Bridget Foley 9781250055798 May 2015

Rose is disappointed with her life, though she has no reason to be—she has a beautiful family and a perfectly nice house in the suburbs. But to Rose, this ordinary life feels overshadowed by her other life - the one she leads every night in her dreams.  After a childhood accident, Rose's dreams take her to a wondrous island fraught with adventure. On this island, she has never been alone: she shares it with Hugo, a brave boy who's grown up with her into a hero of a man.  But when Rose stumbles across Hugo in real life, both her real and dream worlds are changed forever. Here is the man who has shared all of her incredible adventures in impossible places, who grew up with her, even if they aren't what either one imagined. Their chance encounter begins a cascade of questions, lies, and a dangerous obsession that threatens to topple everything she knows. Is she willing to let go of everything she holds dear to understand their extraordinary connection? And will it lead her to discover who she truly wants to be?


The Underwriting

By Michelle Miller 9780399174858 May 2015

Todd Kent is young, hot, and on his way to the top of Wall Street when the eccentric founder of Hook, the popular new dating app, handpicks him to lead its IPO. Given just two months to pull it off, Todd and his investment banking team—brainy Neha, party-boy Beau, and old college flame Tara Taylor—race to close the $14 billion deal of the decade. It’s the chance of a lifetime for Tara, too, who sees her opportunity to break through the glass ceiling and justify six years of sacrifices for her career. But nothing is what it seems in Silicon Valley, and when tragedy strikes Stanford University’s campus, there’s no telling where the sparks will fly… 



 War of the Encyclopaedists

By Chris Robinson and Gavin Kovite 9781476775425 May 2015

On a summer night, in the arty enclave of Capitol Hill, Seattle, best friends Mickey Montauk and Halifax Corderoy throw one last blowout party before their lives part ways. At twenty-three, they had planned to move together to Boston for graduate school, but global events have intervened: Montauk has just learned that his National Guard unit will deploy to Baghdad at the end of the summer. In the confusion of this altered future, Corderoy is faced with a moral dilemma: his girlfriend Mani has just been evicted and he must decide whether or not to abandon her when she needs him most. He turns to Montauk for help. His decision that night, and its harrowing outcome, sets in motion a year that will transform all three of them.
Months later, Corderoy and Montauk grapple with their new identities as each deals with his own muted disappointment. In Boston, Corderoy finds himself unable to play the game of intellectual one-upmanship with the ease and grace of his new roommate Tricia, a Harvard graduate student and budding human rights activist. Half a world away, in Baghdad, Montauk struggles to lead his platoon safely through an increasingly violent and irrational war. As their lives move further away from their shared dream, Corderoy and Montauk keep in touch with one another by editing a Wikipedia article about themselves: smart and funny updates that morph and deepen throughout the year, culminating in a document that is both devastatingly tragic and profoundly poetic.

The Art of Baking Blind

By Sarah Vaughan 9781250059406 May 2015

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookbook writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs. Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now that her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her facade shouldn't slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest pastry seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn--as Mrs. Eaden did before them--that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much more difficult to achieve in life.


The Memory Painter

By Gwendolyn Womack 9781250053039 April 2015

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there's a secret to his success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. When Bryan awakes, he possesses extraordinary new the ability to speak obscure languages and an inexplicable genius for chess. All his life, he has wondered if his dreams are recollections, if he is re-experiencing other people's lives.

Linz Jacobs is a brilliant neurogeneticist, absorbed in decoding the genes that help the brain make memories, until she is confronted with an exact rendering of a recurring nightmare at one of Bryan's shows. She tracks down the elusive artist, and their meeting triggers Bryan's most powerful dream yet: visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer's, died in a lab explosion decades ago.

As Bryan becomes obsessed with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the scientists' deaths, his dreams begin to reveal what happened at the lab, as well as a deeper mystery that may lead all the way to ancient Egypt. Together, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.



Our Endless Numbered Days

By Claire Fuller 9781941040010 March 2015

Peggy Hillcoat is eight years old when her survivalist father, James, takes her from their home in London to a remote hut in the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Deep in the wilderness, Peggy and James make a life for themselves. They repair the hut, bathe in water from the river, hunt and gather food in the summers and almost starve in the harsh winters. They mark their days only by the sun and the seasons.
When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest and begins a search for their owner, she unwittingly unravels the series of events that brought her to the woods and, in doing so, discovers the strength she needs to go back to the home and mother she thought she’d lost.
After Peggy's return to civilization, her mother begins to learn the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.


Her Name is Rose

By Christine Breen 9781250054210 April 2015

In a cottage in the west of Ireland, Iris--gardener and mother to an adopted daughter, Rose--is doing her best to carry on after the death of her husband two years before. At the back of her mind is a promise she never intended to keep, until the day she gets a phone call from her doctor.

Meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Rose is a brilliant violinist at the Royal Academy in London, still grieving for her father but relishing her music and life in the city. Excited but nervous, she hums on the way to an important master class, and then suddenly finds herself missing both of her parents when the class ends in disaster.

After the doctor's call, Iris is haunted by the promise she made to her husband--to find Rose's birth mother, so that their daughter might still have family if anything happened to Iris. Armed only with a twenty-year-old envelope, Iris impulsively begins a journey into the past that takes her to Boston and back, with unexpected results for herself and for Rose and for both friends and strangers.



Love is Red

By Sophie Jaff 9780062346261 May 2015

Katherine Emerson was born to fulfill a dark prophecy centuries in the making, but she isn’t aware that this future awaits. However, there is one man who knows the truth: A killer stalking the women of New York, a monster the media dubs the “Sickle Man” because of the way he turns his victims into canvasses for his mesmerizing, twisted art.

Unleashed upon Manhattan after lying dormant for centuries, the Sickle Man kills to harvest the precious hues of his victims. As his palette grows, so too does his power. Every death brings him closer to the one color, and the one woman, he must possess at any cost.

While the city hunts the Sickle Man, Katherine must decide what to do about two men who have unexpectedly entered her life: handsome and personable David, and alluring yet aloof Sael. Though she’s becoming increasingly torn between them, how well does she really know them? And why is she suddenly plagued by disturbing visions?


So....which of these novels will make it on to your MUST read list for the summer?? For me...while I certainly want to read ALL of these, Our Town, The Anchoress, The Art of Baking Blind and Our Endless Numbered Days are first on MY list!