Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Review: The Black Kachina

Summary: In the desert badlands of Southern California, Air Force Colonel Maggie Black loses a cruise missile equipped with powerful explosives, reporter Jordan Scott returns a dead shaman's magic basket, and a bitter half-breed named Asdrubal Torres hears the Great Spirit tell him to refill Lake Cahuilla, an ancient sea that once covered much of California. Colonel Maggie, by losing a powerful weapon, and reporter Scott, by restoring the local tribe's enchanted basket, provide Torres with exactly the tools he needs. Now Maggie and Jordan race against time, the desert, and Torres's cunning plan to stop a devastating flood designed to kill tens of thousands. -- Down & Out Books

Booking Pap Pap is back... and probably for the last time in 2017. His latest read was a thriller called THE BLACK KACHINA by Jack Getze. Here are his thoughts:

The main character in THE BLACK KACHINA is Lieutenant Colonel Maggie Black, a former Air Force pilot who lost her arm in a combat accident during the Iraqi War. Now fitted with a robotic prosthetic, Maggie can no longer fly but has been assigned the lead in a project developing a highly secretive new weapon. Things go well until a B-52 bomber carrying the experimental weapon goes missing near an Air Force Facility in California. Maggie career depends on her finding the weapon before it falls into the wrong hands.

Maggie’s hunt is complicated by Asdrubal Torres, a member of the Cahuilla Native American tribe. It seems that Torres, under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, sees the wreckage of the B-52 as a sign that he has been chosen by Kachina, the Spirit, to refill Lake Cahuilla, long ago destroyed by the building of Hoover Dam and the rechanneling of the Colorado River waters. His mission is to find the weapon and use it to destroy Hoover Dam and restore the lake.

In addition to featuring a physically handicapped middle-aged woman as his main character, author Jack Getze creates some other interesting characters. There is no question in understanding which characters are heroic and which are villainous. Torres is characterized as a crazed killer who will stop at nothing to fulfill his “destiny”. Torres partner, Henry Melancon, is a psychopath ex-con who has had significant Navy-Seal type training while serving in the Mexican military. Jordon Scott, young San Diego newspaper reporter, meets Maggie while writing a report on the lost weapon and becomes romantically involved. Jordon is further tied to the story when he returns a water basket that his family has had for years, to the Cahuilla tribe and learns that his great-grandfather may have killed to get the basket. According to Cahuilla legend, the basket may have been used to fill Lake Cahuilla.

Although the characters and story line may be a little far-fetched, Getze does bring some attention to the risk of the Southern California water supply which is totally dependent on the Hoover Dam.

The Black Kachina is an exciting suspense thriller interspersed with romance and humor. The interesting characters and the unusual storyline makes it a worthwhile read.

Thanks to Saichek Publicity for providing a review copy of this novel and to Booking Pap Pap for his review.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: A Season to Lie

Summary: In Emily Littlejohn's follow-up to her acclaimed debut Inherit the Bones, a twisted killer stalks his prey in the dead of winter.

On a cold dark night in February, as a blizzard shrieks through Cedar Valley, police officer and new mother Gemma Monroe responds to an anonymous report of a prowler at the local private high school, The Valley Academy. In her idyllic Colorado small town, Gemma expects the call was just a prank by a bored teenager.

But there in the snow lies the savaged body of a man whose presence in town was meant to be a secret. And a disturbing message left by his killer promises more death to come.

This is only the beginning . . .

Nothing is as it seems in Cedar Valley and stories, both fact and fiction, ensnare Gemma as her investigation moves from the halls of an elite academy to the forests that surround Cedar Valley.

Against a backdrop of bleak winter weather, stymied by those who would lie to protect what is dearest to them, Gemma hunts a ruthless killer before he strikes again in A Season to Lie. -- Minotaur Books

I am usually reluctant to start a series with book two; however, I made an exception to the new novel A SEASON TO LIE by Emily Littlejohn. The book sounded like one I'd enjoy, and I am always on the lookout for a new-to-me author and a new-to-me mystery series. Even though this is the second book in the Gemma Monroe series, I had absolutely no problem following the story. In fact, there were just enough teasers about what happened in the first book in the series, INHERIT THE BONES, that I want to go back and read that one!

A SEASON TO LIE takes place in the dead of winter in Cedar Valley, Colorado. Gemma Monroe is a police officer in Cedar Valley who is back after staying at home for a few months with her new baby daughter. On her first day back, Gemma is expecting some snow-related accidents, but she definitely wasn't ready for what she had to face -- a brutal murder of a famous author at the local private high school. To make things even more mysterious, there is a note left in his mouth saying, "This is only the beginning..."

Gemma jumps right into the investigation of this murder and suspects that it has something to do with the Valley Academy. She investigates the author's background to see why someone would want him dead, while also looking into some strange (and evil) behavior at the high school. Fearful that she has a serial killer on her hands, she worries that she must find out who's responsible before he or she strikes again.

I really enjoyed A SEASON TO LIE. I absolutely loved the character of Gemma Monroe, both in her professional and personal lives. She was extremely relatable as a new mom and a woman concerned with trusting her boyfriend, but I also enjoyed how she mingled with her co-workers. Needless to say she is extremely human and definitely devoted to tracking down the murderer. She's also very insightful and I enjoyed seeing how her mind worked through the crimes in this story.

I also found the murder mysteries to be intriguing. I actually figured out who was responsible for the murder fairly early in the novel... and I even realized the motive which is highly unusual for me. In addition, there was a side mystery that I solved; however, I couldn't figure out how this storyline tied into the murder. What surprised me the most about this novel was that even though I had a feeling where the story was going, I still really enjoyed the ride. I just loved the characters, the setting, and Ms. Littlejohn's writing; and I now consider myself a fan of this series!

A SEASON TO LIE is a solid mystery that's sure to entertain fans of stories with smart female characters. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Kid Konnection: Ultimate Dino-Pedia


Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a two fun books that are perfect gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season.

Summary: Dinosaurs continue to fascinate kids, and although these amazing creatures roamed the Earth ages ago, new dinosaur discoveries are still being made today! The new edition of the popular Nat Geo Kids Dinopedia includes all the latest species and is the most complete, up-to-date dinosaur reference available. Find favorites, like the fierce T-rex and the gentle Brontosaurus, plus audacious new finds, like the Anzu, Kosmoceratops, and Yi. Every dino profile is colorfully illustrated and features descriptions of when they roamed the Earth, how they lived, what they ate, and more. There are more than 600 dinos featured in all, including 10 profiles of recently discovered dinosaurs and new entries in the Dino Dictionary. Reports from paleontologists present the latest news and insights from the field. -- National Geographic Kids

Booking Son was never really "into" dinosaurs, but I remember one little friend of his that was. I used to go into Booking Son's kindergarten class, and there was one boy (Guiseppe) who liked dinosaurs... and by like, I mean was obsessed! I used to help him with kid writing, and I would actually have to get out my phone and google the names of the dinosaurs that he wanted to include in his writing. This kid was five years old, and I think he was almost an expert on dinosaurs.

Guiseppe is now thirteen years old, and I wonder if he still likes dinosaurs. (I bet he does!) One thing I know for sure is that the five year old Guiseppe would have loved the ULTIMATE DINO-PEDIA: THE MOST COMPLETE DINOSAUR REFERENCE EVER by "Dino" Don Lessem and illustrated by Franco Tempesta! This book is a whopper of a book. It's a beautiful hardcover book, coming in at almost 300 pages; and it is a must-read for kids who are interested in all-things dinosaur.

ULTIMATE DINO-PEDIA is such a fun way to learn about dinosaurs. This reference book includes more than 600 different species of dinosaurs (even the new ones!) There are many you will recognize, and a few more that I guarantee will be new-to-you. There is easy-to-read text describing each type of dinosaur as well as fact bubbles and sidebars to enhance the basic information. All of the details are presented in a very appealing way... which makes learning about these creatures so fun!

This book has so much information that kids would love! Each dinosaur is profiled and includes such interesting data as the size of the dinosaur, what they ate, when they lived, where they lived, and more. There is also some history about how scientists learned about each dinosaur species. There are even some fun (and gross) facts that kids will want to share with others.

Usually at this point in my review, I would take the time to describe just how beautiful the photographs are -- National Geographic Kids books always have gorgeous color photos. However, since the subject matter of this book is animals that no longer roam the earth, there aren't many real pictures. Instead, there are some wonderful full color illustrations. In fact, there are beautiful drawings of every dinosaur described in this book!

One of my favorite things about the ULTIMATE DINO-PEDIA is the Dino Dictionary at the end of the book. This section is a quick and dirty look at every type of dinosaur known to man. The dinosaurs are alphabetically listed and appear in a grid format. Columns for each dinosaur include the meaning of the name, the geological age, where they were found, the size, and even how to pronounce the name. It's a one-stop shop for dinosaur basics!

I think budding paleontologists are going to love the ULTIMATE DINO-PEDIA. Highly recommended for home and school libraries.

Thanks to Media Masters for providing review copies of these books.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Review: Most Requested Recipes

Summary: Take the guesswork out of cooking with Taste of Home Most Requested Recipes! Each of the 633 dishes in this mouthwatering collection is a Five-Star dish as rated on TasteofHome.com, won a recipe contest and/or received raves from Taste of Home readers! Whether whipping up a family favorite on a busy weeknight, creating an attention-getting dish for an office potluck, serving crowd-pleasing munchies for a weekend party or a planning a spread for a special occasion, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. After all, these are the foods today’s home cooks serve and share time and again. Each tried-and-true recipe has been tested and approved by the experts in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen, offers easy-to-follow instructions and calls for ingredients you likely have on hand! Serve your family nothing but the best! With Most Requested Recipes at your fingertips, it’s never been easier! -- T of H Books

Remember a few weeks ago, when I shared with you my review of TASTE OF HOME 365 DAYS OF COOKIES? I love this cookbook. Well Taste of Home has done it again! Their new cookbook is called TASTE OF HOME MOST REQUESTED RECIPES, and it's fantastic. This giant bound cookbook contains over 600 recipes (633 to be exact!) that have garnered five-star reviews. So basically, this cookbook is a great collection of "best of" recipes!

I'm not going to lie. MOST REQUESTED RECIPES is a little bit overwhelming. I mean that in the best way though. There are so many amazing-sounding recipes that I hardly know where to start... although the editors do make it easier given how they organized the book. It's divided into normal chapters by dish -- Appetizers, Snacks and Beverages, Breakfast & Brunch, Soups & Sandwiches, Side Dishes, Salads & More, Hearty Main Dishes, Casserole Entrees, Slow Cooker Dinners, Breaks & Rolls, Cakes, Pies & Desserts, Cookies & Candies, and Seasonal Specialties. However, the recipes are also noted with helpful hints like 5 Ingredients, Fast Fix, Freeze It, Slow Cooker, and more. That way, I can skim right over the more complex recipes when looking for quick weekday meals!

And what's not to love about the beautiful photos? One of my must-have requirements for cookbooks is color pictures, and MOST REQUESTED RECIPES doesn't disappoint. Of course, there aren't pictures for every recipes (because at 633 recipes, you wouldn't be able to lift the book), but there are hundreds of them. Just looking at this book makes me hungry!

Last but not least, this cookbook has detailed step-by-step instructions that are super user-friendly. It's perfect for cooks at any level, and you know every recipe is tested and approved by the Taste of Home test kitchen. In addition, there are reader reviews which often times give helpful hints like ingredient substitutions and serving suggestions. I especially like that the book is a lay-flat binding so I don't have to balance jars on the pages to keep them open.

TASTE OF HOME MOST REQUESTED RECIPES is amazing -- believe me! Highly recommended for gifts this holiday season, but make sure you pick up one for yourself too!

 Thanks to Dalyn Miller Public Relations for providing a review copy of this cookbook.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Summary: Lies She Told

Summary: Sometimes the truth is darker than fiction.

Liza Cole has thirty days to write the thriller that could put her back on the bestseller list. In the meantime, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. With stresses weighing her down in both her professional and her personal lives, Liza escapes into writing her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth is a new mother who suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home alone caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she sets out to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes it, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.

Then the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the same river and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including herself. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own. -- Crooked Lane

I'm far from an expert when it comes to reading thrillers, but I do read quite a few of them... and I definitely have opinions on them! And that brings me to my latest read, LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan. This novel is definitely entertaining and I appreciated that it had a unique premise!

LIES SHE TOLD ME tells the story of mystery writer Liza Cole. Her first novel was a huge bestseller, but she hasn't exactly found much success ever since. She has thirty days to write her new novel and give it to her publisher; however, Liza is experiencing some personal issues which make it even harder to write. She is struggling with infertility issues and her husband's best friend and business partner is missing. It's no surprise to anyone when his body is found in the East River...

Liza isn't quite certain what story she ultimately wants to write, but she has started a novel about a woman named Beth. Beth is a new mother who discovers that her husband is cheating on her. She decides that she wants to surprise both of them and get her husband back... but her plans go awry and the "other woman" ends up murdered. Strangely enough, her body is found in the exact same river...

LIES SHE TOLD ME goes back and forth between Liza's life and Beth's life which is written as Liza's novel. Both stories are interesting in their own right, but as the book progresses, the lines between the stories begin to blur. At first I had absolutely no issue with the transitions between the chapters and keeping everything straight; however, I admit that there were times later when I confused the storylines. That might sound like a knock on the novel, but I suspect that's exactly what the author had in mind!

LIES SHE TOLD ME is most definitely a page-turner. The murders in the novel are suspenseful, but I think it was the character of Liza that held my interest the most. I wasn't sure whether she was a reliable narrator or not, and as I realized that the lines between the stories were blurring, I really began to wonder what to believe about her. Liza was all out of sorts because she wanted to conceive a baby so badly and was on some experimental hormones. She also felt the pressure of having to write a quality novel, and then there was the unspoken baggage from her past! It's no wonder Liza was having a hard time facing reality and eventually began hearing Beth (the character in her novel) speaking to her.

I am extremely impressed with Ms. Holahan's writing. LIES SHE TOLD is her second novel, and I definitely am interested in reading her first one -- THE WIDOWER'S WIFE. She's definitely clever and knows a thing or two about writing a suspenseful story. I really appreciated how the stories became more and more blurred... and just how much it affected me as a reader. And I also appreciated the surprising twists and turns she threw into the ending -- those really kept me reeling!

Overall, LIES SHE TOLD is a smart and well-written psychological thriller. Highly recommended!

Thanks to McCartin Daniels PR for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Kid Konnection: National Geographic Kids Gift Books


Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you two fun books that are perfect gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season.

Summary: Even Christmas can be weird -- it's true! Get ready to celebrate the holiday season with wacky facts, stats, tidbits, and traditions about the most wonderful time of the year. Did you know that Santa's reindeer are probably all female? Or that artificial snow can be made from seaweed? Or that "Jingle Bells" was the first Christmas carol sung in space? Every kid will ho ho ho when they unwrap this fun and festive little gift book, perfect for stocking stuffers or under the tree. -- National Geographic Kids

WEIRD BUT TRUE! CHRISTMAS: 300 FESTIVE FACTS TO LIGHT UP THE HOLIDAYS is great book for kids who are interested in learning more about the holidays! This softcover book comes in at over 200 pages, and it's chock full of fun facts about Christmas.

I think this little book is just adorable. I honestly learned quite a bit from this book, and I'm certain curious kids will too. There are some interesting facts as well as some pretty strange ones, but they all focus on the holiday season. For example, did you know that there is an 18 mile frozen stretch in British Columbia, Canada, that is the longest ice-skating trail on Earth? Or did you know that bakers in Norway made a 1,435 round gingerbread man?

As you can see, there are some interesting fun facts in this book; however, I think the photos and other graphics really make this book appealing. National Geographic Kids are known for fantastic photographs, and this book is no exception. There is also a wide variety of colorful fonts to make each page inviting... and loads of fun!


I highly recommend WEIRD BUT TRUE! CHRISTMAS to entertain your kids this holiday season!

Summary: Can't get enough hilarious jokes from National Geographic Kids? Never fear! With this brand-new bigger, better Just Joking book, you'll get loads of laughs to keep you ROFL and to share with friends and family. It's jam-packed with 1,000 jokes, including knock-knocks, puns, riddles, and tongue twisters, plus more than 1,000 photos of cool animals, silly situations, and more! Get hundreds of fun facts about all the coolest creatures and some of the craziest info about the history of funny business. It's the right formula for laughing, learning, and maybe even launching your stand-up comedy career! -- National Geographic Kids

Boy oh boy! I'm not sure that I'm going to share JUST JOKING JUMBO: 1,000 GIANT JOKES & 1,000 FUNNY PHOTOS ADD UP TO BIG LAUGHS with Booking Son. This big old book has loads of funny jokes and photos, and I'm sure my kid would love to share them with me... all the time... and then laugh out loud with that fake laugh!

But seriously, JUST JOKING JUMBO is perfect for the budding comedian in your life! There are almost 300 pages in this softcover book with 1,000 jokes. You will recognize many long-time favorites like knock-knock jokes, puns (our favorite!), and riddles, but there are also tongue twisters and laughable lists.

I will admit that some of the jokes are downright corny. But what'd you expect from a kids' jumbo joke book? For example, what was the name of the Egyptian ruler who always felt gassy? King Toot! Here's another one. What did the small green fruit say after it was put in a pickle jar? "I guess olive."

One of my favorite things about JUST JOKING JUMBO is that there are amazing full-color photos in this book -- over 1,000 if you can believe it. There are also funny facts about animals and even a little bit about this history of comedy. This book truly is a must-have for kids who love to make others laugh!

Thanks to Media Masters for providing review copies of these books.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review: Christmas in London

Summary: Set during London's most festive time of year and filled with delicious food Anita Hughes' Christmas in London is about love and friendship, and the season's most important lesson: learning how to ask for and give forgiveness.

It’s a week before Christmas and Louisa Graham is working twelve hour shifts at a bakery on Manhattan's Lower East Side. When a young cooking show assistant comes in from the rain and begs to buy all the cinnamon rolls on her tray, she doesn’t know what to do. Louisa is just the baker, and they aren't hers to sell. But the show burned the rolls they were supposed to film that day; so she agrees.

The next morning, Louisa finds out that her cinnamon rolls were a hit, but the star of the show was allergic, and the whole crew is supposed to leave for London that afternoon. They want Louisa to step in for their annual Christmas Eve Dinner TV special at Claridge's. It’s a great opportunity, and Digby Bunting, Louisa’s famous baking idol, will be there. Even if he does seem more interested in her than her food.

And then there’s Kate, the show's beautiful producer. On their first day in London she runs into the skinny boy she jilted at St. Andrew's in Scotland ten years ago. Now he’s a handsome, brilliant mathematician, and newly divorced. Their familiar spark is still there, but so is the scar of how they left things. Kate and Louisa are busy preparing for the show, but old and new flames are complicating their work. -- St. Martin's Press

I am not getting a ton of reading done right now, but I did make it a priority to read CHRISTMAS IN LONDON by Anita Hughes over the Thanksgiving weekend. First of all, I adore holiday books and wanted to read something light that would get me in the mood for Christmas. Second, I knew I needed to read it early so I could share my thoughts with you in time to get this book before Christmas!

CHRISTMAS IN LONDON tells the story of two women who travel to London the week before Christmas for their jobs and ending up finding love along the way. Louisa is a baker who works long hours in a Manhattan bakery to save enough money to one day open her dream bakery. When Noah, a cooking show assistant, comes in from the rain and wants to buy all of her newly baked cinnamon rolls for the show, Louisa doesn't feel as if she can sell all of the store's specialty. However, Noah gives her an offer she can't refuse!

Louisa is thrilled to learn that her cinnamon rolls were a huge hit, but the star of the show was allergic to her secret ingredient and her lips blew up. Needless to say, the star can't appear on air looking like that... and even worse, she can't go to London to film their annual Christmas Even Dinner TV social at Claridge's. Noah offers Louisa the chance of her lifetime -- he wants her to go to London and film the show. To make things even more tempting to Louisa, her foodie idol Digby Bunting will be there!

Kate is the show's beautiful producer who is extremely career driven. However, her very first day in London provides some distraction for her. She runs into Trevor, her best friend (and love interest) from her days at St. Andrew's in Scotland over ten years ago. He is now all grown up and a famous mathematician... and newly divorced. Both Kate and Trevor still feel the attraction, but there is a lot of leftover baggage from how they parted.

Needless to say, these two women headed to London to help their careers and quickly realize that there are more important things in life than work!

I thought CHRISTMAS IN LONDON was delightful. It's a very sweet story about love and friendship that takes place in a fabulous setting. What could be better than London at Christmastime? I enjoy Ms. Hughes' novels, and I think fans of her books won't be disappointed with this one. I will say that the story is kind of/sort of predictable, but I think that's fine. CHRISTMAS IN LONDON is meant to entertain and tug on the heart strings... and it does!

One of my absolute favorite things about Ms. Hughes' books are the settings. She does a fabulous job of bringing different locations to life, and London in the book sounds positively heavenly. I could visualize the city perfectly with her vivid descriptions, and I loved how she had the characters visit many of the major tourist spots. In addition, Ms. Hughes is so good at describing food. Seriously! I was thrilled when the characters worked in the food industry because I just knew that there would be amazing descriptions of desserts and pastries!

I also really liked both of the main characters in this book as well as their love interests. They were young and very driven, but they also were sensitive and kind. Their romances were sweet and had just enough tension to make them interesting. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of romance, but these two women's stories were interesting and heartwarming.

CHRISTMAS IN LONDON is a lovely story that's guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit. Recommended to fans of romance and contemporary women's fiction.

Thanks to Get Red PR for providing a review copy of this novel.