Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kid Konnection: Kate the Great Except When She's Not

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 fun graphic novel that's perfect for middle grade readers.

Summary: Fans of Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries will love this illustrated series by the New York Times bestselling author of All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat. Meet Kate Geller, a sassy flute-playing artist, who comes up with an original way to redefine friendship.

Kate’s older sister is way too perfect. Her younger sister is way too cute. And her mom wants her to be pals with her frenemy, Nora. Her art teacher, Mrs. Petty, is way too uncreative, and how can Kate pay attention at Junior Guides when her pod leader has a sweat stain the size of the town beach? Now she has to get through her Christopher Columbus role during Discovery Day and her “Colonial Buddies” report, but little does she know how much “help” she’ll be getting from Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein.

This humorous debut novel features more than 350 illustrations. -- Crown Books for Young Readers

KATE THE GREAT EXCEPT WHEN SHE'S NOT by Suzy Becker is another book that's sure to be a hit with middle grade readers... even reluctant ones. KATE THE GREAT is the first book in a new series that features a likable character writing her thoughts in a diary format. She also is a fantastic doodler so the book includes more than 450 illustrations!

KATE THE GREAT EXCEPT WHEN SHE'S NOT features Kate Geller, a fifth grader who plays the flute and loves to draw. She also experiences the frustrations of being a middle child and she has problems with friends (and even girls who aren't technically her friends.) When her mom asks her to be nice to Nora, the girl who runs in the same circles as Kate but isn't very nice to her, Kate discovers some valuable lessons about herself and what it means to be a friend.

I thought KATE THE GREAT was a very cute book. Fans of the Wimpy Kid series will be drawn to this adorable book that has a similar format. Personally, I love graphic novels like this one because they are both fun to read and have cute pictures to look at. Maybe I'm not so far removed from a middle grade reader after all!

Probably the best part of KATE THE GREAT was Kate herself. She is one terrific character and she's also a hoot! Many young girls will relate to her day-to-day activities like playing in the band, riding the bus, going to school, and attending Junior Guides (kind of like Girl Scouts.) However, I think almost every middle grade reader will feel an affinity with Kate for the dilemmas she faces with her family and friends (and "not" friends.)

As a mom, I appreciated many of the lessons in this story. Because the focus of this novel was on Kate and her and her friendship with Nora, naturally Kate learned some valuable lessons about what it means to be a friend. She also demonstrated some important insight into creativity and seeing things differently. Finally, I really liked that there were a few references to Eleanor Roosevelt and her wisdom. I hope this book might introduce Ms. Roosevelt and some of her famous quotations to a new audience.

KATE THE GREAT EXCEPT WHEN SHE'S NOT is a fun book. Recommended for fans of middle grade graphic novels and books about young girls and friendship. To learn more about the series, make sure you check out

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

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!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: Accidents of Marriage

Summary: From the bestselling author of The Comfort of Lies, an engrossing look at the darker side of a marriage—and at how an ordinary family responds to an extraordinary crisis.

Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children. Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he’s lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies. She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids—which works to keep a fragile peace—until the rainy day when they’re together in the car and Ben’s volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.

Randy Susan Meyers takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter. Accidents of Marriage is a provocative and stunning novel that will resonate deeply with women from all walks of life, ultimately revealing the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness. -- Atria

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I picked up ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE by Randy Susan Meyers. Actually, that's not entirely true. I have always enjoyed novels by Ms. Meyers, and I think she is a fabulous writer who creates memorable characters. So naturally, I wanted to read her latest novel. And while I know Ms. Meyers isn't afraid to take on difficult issues, ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE dealt with an extremely disturbing issue. It wasn't exactly an easy read for me, but it was a very good one!

ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE delves into a "normal" family that experiences a huge tragedy. The mother, Maddy, is a social worker who deals with abused women. She also is doing her best to hold down the fort for her husband and three children. (As any working mom knows, it's not easy!) Her husband, Ben, is a public defender who has become more and more aggressive with Maddy through the years. Maddy tries to keep the peace, but she sometimes challenges Ben if it's for the sake of the children.

One day, Ben's temper spins out of control when he encounters an aggressive driver. Ben gives new meaning to the term road rage, and he loses control of his car. Ben escapes with minor injuries, but Maddy is seriously injured with possible brain damage.

ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE is a wonderful book; however, it was not an easy read for me. Maybe it's because I am a mother, but this book hit a little too close to home for me. Not because of Ben and his anger issues. Rather because what happened to Maddy could happen to me (or any of my family members for that matter), and it was terrifying to see how everyone was affected by this accident.

Ms. Meyers is truly a special writer and if you haven't read any of her novels, you are truly missing out. She has a unique ability to create not only memorable characters but very real ones. She gets to the heart of the matter in her stories, and she creates characters that resonate with female readers. She also makes her readers think and I think that might be one of her most special skills.

In ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE, Ms. Meyers explores what happens to a family after the primary caregiver can no longer complete her responsibilities. In the case of Maddy, she was initially fighting for her life and then she was trying to cope with the challenges of her damaged brain. Her husband, who wasn't always the most hands on dad, was "forced" to man-up and take charge of the house and family. Needless to say, this wasn't easy for him.

While my heart absolutely broke for Maddy and her children, my feelings about Ben were torn. (Honestly, torn might be too generous.) I was furious with him for his treatment of Maddy prior to the accident, during the accident, and even after the accident. I found Ben's behavior to be extremely interesting (you need to read this book to see what he did), and it was apparent to me that Ms. Meyers has "known" a man or two like Ben through her experiences with abused women.

I have to warn you that ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE isn't an easy read. Though being very well-written, the entire subject matter made me very depressed and uncomfortable. Having said that, I did "enjoy" the book and by that I mean I really appreciated it! I do think Ms. Meyers walked a fine line in dealing with such a serious topic, and she successfully managed to cover more issues than just the accident and Maddy's recovery. In fact, many of the issues she delved into are very relevant for women and families in today's society.

Finally, I don't want you to think that this book doesn't have its "good" moments -- it's not all sad! I admit that I was a bit surprised by how this book ended, but it was very satisfying for me. I really enjoyed seeing how Maddie recovered from the accident, but I also liked seeing how she eventually dealt with Ben. I also was touched by how Maddy's children coped with everything.

ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE would make a wonderful book club selection especially for groups with mothers. There is a reading guide available with twelve interesting questions. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include family, grief, abuse, anger, marriage, commitment, obligation, love, religion, and forgiveness.

ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE is a well-written and thought-provoking novel. Highly recommended.

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas

Summary: An enchanting and staggeringly original debut novel about one day in the lives of three unforgettable characters

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia's legendary jazz club The Cat's Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat's Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night. A vivacious, charming and moving debut, 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas will capture your heart and have you laughing out loud. -- Crown

2 A.M. AT THE CAT'S PAJAMAS by Marie-Helene Bertino is one of those books that I thought I might enjoy. I read a few reviews and it sounded "charming." Some also were calling it a coming-of-age story. It pretty much sounded like a book I would want to read. So I read it quickly over the course of a day, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. I can't say that I loved it, but I didn't hate it either. It's is a very unique novel that had some things I appreciated and some that were kind of lost on me.

2 A.M. AT THE CAT'S PAJAMAS tells the story of three special individuals over the course of two days leading up to Christmas. First, there is Madeleine, a nine year old girl who is still reeling from the death of her mother. She's smart and sassy and aspires to be a jazz singer; however, she doesn't get much attention from her father -- he is caught up in himself trying to deal with his grief. Madeleine is determined to find the famous Philly nightclub The Cat's Pajamas and have the performance of her young life!

Then there's Madeleine's teach, Sarina who has recently returned to Philadelphia after a divorce. She is trying to start over and feels an affinity with Madeleine. She's also excited about a date with her old high school crush -- both hoping and worried that something might happen!

Finally, there's the owner of The Cat's Pajamas, Lorca who is being threatened by the police for code violations and might have to close down his nightclub. He needs to find $30,000 to save his legendary jazz club from ruin. The book follows all of these characters until their stories finally converge at "2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas."

All of me really wanted to like 2 A.M. AT THE CAT'S PAJAMAS, but only part of me did. I will try to explain, but I'm not entirely sure I can. The book itself was entertaining and I couldn't help but root for the three characters, and the writing was also pretty strong; however, the story was just a little "off" for me. The tone of the writing was pretty light and even humorous, but it was almost too quirky in some places. It definitely took me awhile to get used to prose.

Having said that, I did like the basic premise of the story, and I couldn't help but like the three characters. Each of them was a bit of a misfit (or at least was facing some difficult times), but I found myself wanting them to have some success... even if it was a small one. Madeleine was my absolute favorite character and she really was terrific. I loved her determination and spirit and I did appreciate seeing how much she grew by the end of the story.

Another special aspect of this story was the way Philadelphia was portrayed. Despite living two hours away from Philly, I don't really "know" the city; however, this novel definitely brought it to life in such a special way. I actually would go so far as to say that the city was its own character.

I also appreciated the author's unique way with words. I probably should have marked specific parts of her prose, but suffice it to say that her descriptions were really special. She used so many quirky ways to describe situations and individuals, and the pacing of the novel was definitely something that added to its charm.

And finally, I liked how this novel made me feel -- hopeful and happy! I'm sure the setting (around Christmas) didn't hurt, but the story focused on new starts, old reconciliations, and love. It was a very sweet book where you wanted every one's story to have a happy ending.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about 2 A.M. AT THE CAT'S PAJAMAS, but I'm sure many readers will "get it" more than I did.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: Desire Lines

Summary: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train comes a novel about friendship and the memories that haunt us.

On the night of her high school graduation, Kathryn Campbell sits around a bonfire with her four closest friends, including the beautiful but erratic Jennifer. “I’ll be fine,” Jennifer says, as she walks away from the dying embers and towards the darkness of the woods. She never comes back.

Ten years later, Kathryn has tried to build a life for herself, with a marriage and a career as a journalist, but she still feels the conspicuous void of Jennifer’s disappearance. When her divorce sends her reeling back to the Maine town where she grew up, she finds herself plunged into a sea of memories. With nothing left to lose, she is determined to answer one simple question: What happened to Jennifer Pelletier? -- William Morrow

At this year's BEA, I attended a really great event hosted by the fine folks at Harper Collins. They presented some of their "best books" for Fall 2014, and I became very excited about a few of them. (Well, actually more than a few!) I also remember discovering that they were going to re-release a few of Christina Baker Kline's novels after she had so much success with ORPHAN TRAIN.  I loved ORPHAN TRAIN and just knew I had to read some of her prior work.

The first one of her novels that captured my interest was DESIRE LINES. DESIRE LINES appealed to me because it was part women's fiction/part mystery -- two of my favorite genres. The story takes place ten years after Kathryn Campbell's high school graduation when Kathryn returns home to Maine to deal with some issues from her past... and present. She is also running away from her troubled marriage!

On the night of their high school graduation, Kathryn's best friend Jennifer walks into the woods and is never seen again. No one ever heard from her and no body was ever recovered. Kathryn has tried to build a life as a wife and a journalist, but she can't escape the uncertainly of what happened to her best friend. She teams up with a friend from high school, who is also a fellow journalist; and together, they discover that Jennifer had her fair share of secrets and wasn't what she seemed. Jennifer becomes determined to get to the bottom of what really happened to Jennifer that night, and she quickly learns that someone doesn't want her digging into the past.

I really liked DESIRE LINES. I won't go so far as to say I liked it as much as ORPHAN TRAIN, but it was very good book that was both well written and intriguing. I definitely enjoyed Kathryn's journey into her past and her attempt to reconcile her issues in the present; and I also enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel.

One thing that definitely stood out to me about DESIRE LINES was the writing itself. I loved ORPHAN TRAIN and was extremely impressed with Ms. Kline's writing, and while this book wasn't quite as polished (in my opinion), her storytelling skills still shone through. I really appreciated how she developed Kathryn's character and showed how she evolved throughout the course of the story.

I found Kathryn to be an extremely interesting character and I think that was one of the main reasons I enjoyed this story so much. She was extremely complex because she was dealing with so much baggage -- both from her past and the present. I liked that the author delved into her memories from the past and showed that Kathryn remembered things very differently and both saw things that weren't there and missed things that were. (Isn't that the case for all of us when it comes to memories?)

Furthermore, I really enjoyed the mystery angle of DESIRE LINES -- I almost featured this novel as part of Mystery Mondays because it was that good. I was kept guessing until the end, not only for who did it but why; and I thought the author did a great job of revealing the mystery. As Kathryn explored Jennifer's disappearance, she discovered many new clues about her friend that were both pertinent to solving the mystery.... and important to Kathryn coming to terms with her past.

You shouldn't be surprised that DESIRE LINES would make a great book club selection. There is a reading guide with twelve interesting questions. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include marriage, loss, grief, redemption, choices, consequences,"desire lines," high school drama, and friendship.

DESIRE LINES is a well-written literary mystery that I highly recommend to fans of women's fiction. I will be sure to read more of Ms. Kline's novels in the very near future.

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Gossamer Ghost & Giveaway

Summary: Carmela Bertrand knows that Halloween in New Orleans means a week of rabble-rousing, costumed craziness—and she can’t wait to get the party started. But when a local antiques dealer turns up dead, Carmela suddenly finds herself in a real-life danse macabre…

An evening’s work deciding on the class schedule for her scrapbooking shop has put Carmela in the mood to kick up her heels. But after some strange noises draw her into Oddities, the neighboring antiques shop, Carmela’s night is abruptly put on hold when a bloody body falls out of a curio cabinet—and into her arms.

While shop owner Marcus Joubert was known for being an eccentric with a penchant for eclectic merchandise, Carmela never thought he was the kind of man who could inspire the passion required to kill. But when Marcus’s assistant—and fiancĂ©e—Mavis reveals that a priceless death mask was also stolen, it becomes clear that murder wasn’t the culprit’s sole intention.

Carmela can’t resist the urge to investigate the growing mystery, but as the list of suspects increases, she realizes it’ll take every trick in the book to unmask the killer thief before there’s another night of murderous mischief… -- Berkley Prime Crime

Halloween is quickly approaching and I have a great book that's sure to get you into the spirit of the season. It's a cozy mystery called GOSSAMER GHOST by Laura Childs, and it's the twelfth book in her Scrapbooking Mystery series. Fans of cozies and crafts will enjoy this fun new book.

GOSSAMER GHOST takes place in New Orleans and features scrapbook store owner (and part-time amateur sleuth) Carmela Bertrand. One day, Carmela hears a noise from the antique store next door, and she over to check things out. After a quick look around the store and in a curio cabinet, she is shocked to discover the owner Marcus Joubert's dead body!

Like many shop owners in New Orleans, Joubert and his store were a little unusual; however, Carmela would never have considered him a candidate for murder. Her boyfriend, who just happens to be a police officer, warns Carmela to stay out of the investigation, but it's almost as if she can't help herself from becoming involved... especially after she learns that a priceless death mask is also missing from the store.

The suspect list keep growing as Carmela begins asking questions about Joubert, his shop, and his relationships with buyers and other sellers. Can she find the murderer before he (or she) strikes again?

I found GOSSAMER GHOST to be a very cute murder mystery and it definitely set the mood for Halloween. Of course, one of my favorite things about this series is the setting -- a scrapbooking store in New Orleans; however, I also like the main characters and the dynamics between them. The murder had its fair share of twists and turns, but it wasn't too complicated to figure out. (I was able to figure out the who if not the why.) Overall, it was a very fun read!

Halloween in New Orleans might be a sight to behold! Or at least that's how I picture it after reading GOSSAMER GHOST. I loved the author's descriptions of the French Quarter with the various parades, fun runs, parties, and more. In addition, the costumes were described in great detail. I'm not the biggest fan of Halloween, but this book definitely captured my imagination with all of the holiday references.

I also really liked the characters in this story. Carmela is a wonderful amateur sleuth and I enjoy seeing how she interacts with her employee, fellow shop owners, and her boyfriend. Not only is she good at figuring out murder mysteries, but she also has some great craft ideas for her customers and for classes at her store. In this novel, she was particularly impressive at solving the mystery since it was pretty complicated.

And finally, I appreciated all of the crafty ideas and recipes that were in this novel. Naturally, there are a few scrapbooking suggestions, but I liked that this book gave examples of how to make ghosts as well as various costume ideas. The back of the book even included some craft tips -- like how to use old game tokens, how to make wine labels, how to make sachets, and how to design guest towels. In addition, there were a number of recipes for the various foods mentioned in the story including beignets!

GOSSAMER GHOST is the perfect book for October. Highly recommended to mystery/cozy fans and craft hobbyists!

Giveaway alert: I have two copies of GOSSAMER GHOST to share with two lucky readers. To enter, just fill out the form below before October 31st at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Thanks to the author 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. 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, October 18, 2014

Kid Konnection: The Skywalker Saga

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 great gift idea for the Star Wars fans in your life!

Summary: Star Wars is an ever deepening, timeless, mythological tale of good versus evil, set in a galaxy far, far away. Filled with noble Jedi Knights, fearsome creatures, and cruel villains, the epic space fantasy introduced "the Force" into the global vocabulary, along with characters such as evil Darth Vader, wise old Yoda, idealistic Luke Skywalker, and lovable Chewbacca. The epic Star Wars saga continues to grow and expand, captivating new generations with its exotic worlds, iconic themes and unforgettable stories.

A new era in the rich history of Star Wars is about to begin with the announcement of a new trilogy of Star Wars movies, starting in 2015, and the announcement of a series of Star Wars spin-off movies, over the coming years

· Enjoy more than a hundred glossy, full-color images from Star Wars movies.

· Comprehensive look back at all six movies

· Collect nine full-size, pull-out posters.

Poster-A-Page delivers children's most popular characters, stories, and memorable moments to them in a unique visual format. With every page a poster, plus 9 supersize fold-out posters inside, this series offers kids ages 4-12 the opportunity to bring their favorite friends and stories into their homes, onto their walls, and become part of their world. -- Time Home Entertainment, Inc.

Booking Son is ten years old and has been a Star Wars fan for years. So you can imagine his excitement when STAR WARS POSTER-A-PAGE: THE SKYWALKER SAGA EPISODES I-VI arrived in our house. This gorgeous book is loaded with posters! And by that, I mean over 100 glossy, full-color images from all six Star Wars movies. In addition, there are nine supersize (also known as full-size) pull-out posters.

Star Wars fans of all ages will love this collection of posters. I can already see collectors decorating their basements with the pages from this book. Fan favorites like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, R2D2, Chewbacca, and my personal favorite Yoda appear in various movie scenes. The only problem might be deciding which side of the poster to display!

In addition to THE SKYWALKER SAGA, there are some other really cute poster books available in the series including:

MARVEL Poster-A-Page: Avengers Assemble in Action brings to life the most powerful superhero team in the world! Including Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, and the Black Widow, this book has all of the favorite Marvel characters showing off their skills and fearlessness.

Disney Frozen Poster-A-Page: Magical Moments relives the magic of the second highest grossing Disney movie of all time. With wintry scenes and cherished characters, this book follows Anna and Kristoff as they encounter Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman, in their epic journey to find Elsa.

Disney Junior Poster-A-Page: Let’s Play features the lovable characters from one of the highest rated children's TV series, including six-year-old Doc McStuffins; Mickey Mouse and his clubhouse friends Goofy, Donald, Minnie, Daisy, and Pluto; and Jake and his Never Land Pirates crew.

Sofia the First: Practice Makes Princess includes sweet images of Sofia, her family and friends, as well as lots of wisdom from the Princess herself.

Disney Princess: Fairy Tale Moments serves up the royal treatment with illustrations from some of Disney’s most beloved princesses, including Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, Rapunzel, Ariel, Mulan, Tiana, Aurora, Jasmine, Merida, and Pocahontas.

These poster books are the perfect gift idea because they retail for less than $13. Boys and girls alike are sure to find one that features their favorite characters. Highly recommended!

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

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!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Henna House

Summary: An evocative and stirring novel about a young woman living in the fascinating and rarely portrayed community of Yemenite Jews of the mid-twentieth century, from the acclaimed author of The Family Orchard.

In the tradition of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, Henna House is the enthralling story of a woman, her family, their community, and the rituals that bind them.

Nomi Eve’s vivid saga begins in Yemen in 1920, when Adela Damari’s parents desperately seek a future husband for their young daughter. After passage of the Orphan’s Decree, any unbetrothed Jewish child left orphaned will be instantly adopted by the local Muslim community. With her parents’ health failing, and no spousal prospects in sight, Adela’s situation looks dire until her uncle arrives from a faraway city, bringing with him a cousin and aunt who introduce Adela to the powerful rituals of henna tattooing. Suddenly, Adela’s eyes are opened to the world, and she begins to understand what it means to love another and one’s heritage. She is imperiled, however, when her parents die and a prolonged drought threatens their long-established way of life. She and her extended family flee to the city of Aden where Adela encounters old loves, discovers her true calling, and is ultimately betrayed by the people and customs she once held dear.

Henna House is an intimate family portrait and a panorama of history. From the traditions of the Yemenite Jews, to the far-ranging devastation of the Holocaust, to the birth of the State of Israel, Eve offers an unforgettable coming-of-age story and a textured chronicle of a fascinating period in the twentieth century.

Henna House is a rich, spirited, and sensuous tale of love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and the dyes that adorn the skin and pierce the heart. -Scribner

My reason for reading HENNA HOUSE by Nomi Eve is a little out-of-the-ordinary for me. While I do love the gorgeous cover and the book's description, I admit that this book wasn't really on my radar until my husband asked me about it. That's right -- my husband who doesn't read novels (or many books for that matter.) He was on Facebook looking at Penn State stuff and asked me about HENNA HOUSE. I almost fell over! He explained that this novel was written by a Penn Stater and I had to read it! He even went so far as to contact Ms. Eve!

I was actually very glad he brought HENNA HOUSE and Nomi Eve to my attention. This novel was an intriguing story about Adela, a young Jewish girl living in Yemen during the 1920s. In many ways, it was a coming-of-age story for Adela (and you know how I love those!); however, it was also a rich story about family, traditions, and survival.

HENNA HOUSE begins in 1920 when Adela Damari is a young girl. The Orphan's Decree has recently been passed allowing orphaned Jewish girls who were unbetrothed to be adopted by the local Muslim community. Adela had pretty bad luck when it came to finding spouses, and the health of her parents wasn't exactly optimal either. As a result, things weren't looking good for poor little Adela until her mother tricks her cousin Asaf into an engagement with her. The two have a sweet childhood romance until Adela's uncle leaves with her cousin.

A few years later, Adela's life is turned upside down when a different uncle moves to her town bringing with him his wife Rahel, who is both a dealer and a henna artist, and their daughters. Adela becomes very close to Rahel and her cousin Hani. Adela becomes inthralled with her aunt and cousin who teach her how to read and do henna drawings and finds some semblance of happiness in her otherwise pretty bleak life.

And then.... drought and illness hit Adela's town. When Adela is 15, she moves to Aden with Hani's family and eventually discovers her long lost cousin Asaf. At this point in her life, Adela is forced to quickly grow up as World War I threatens to erupt, and she finds that she has many difficult decisions to face concerning love and family.

I really enjoyed HENNA HOUSE for a number of reasons -- from the history aspects of the story, to the intriguing characters, to the cultural traditions. The story was beautifully written and I especially loved the focus on women and family. Despite taking place in an entirely different time, this book reminded me of THE RED TENT with the religious and Jewish culture references as well as the way female relationships were portrayed.

I probably shouldn't say this for fear of sounding ignorant, but I knew very little about the Yemen Jews and what occurred in the 1920s. Reading HENNA HOUSE was definitely an eye-opener for me.  I wasn't familiar with the Orphan's Decree and the entire concept of a Jewish child being pulled from her family to live with a Muslim family is just appalling. I thought the author did a fabulous job of creating the sense of desperation that Adela and her family had concerning this threat.

In addition I appreciated so many of the characters in this story... especially the female ones. Of course, Adela was a special girl and I loved her voice as the storyteller in this novel; however, I also loved her aunt Rahel. What made this book so special to me was the interactions between the various women in the story. Adela and her mother had a strained relationship which was perfectly juxtaposed by Adela's relationship with her aunt. In addition, it was interesting to see how Adela and Hani's relationship evolved throughout the course of the story.

And finally, I really enjoyed learning about the unique Jewish traditions in this novel. I honestly had no idea the Yemen Jews had henna as part of their traditions, and I found the parts of this novel featuring the henna drawing to be absolutely fascinating. In addition, I loved the aspects of the story which dealt with Rahel and her interest in healing. It was apparent that Ms. Eve did a huge amount of research to get her facts straight.

HENNA HOUSE would make an excellent book club selection. There is a reading guide with twelve discussion questions and some ideas to enhance to enhance the meeting. I've probably already mentioned many of the discussion topics, but you might want to talk about family, customs, religion, faith, persecution, survival, love, friendship, female relationships, marriage, betrayal, forgiveness, and redemption.

I enjoyed HENNA HOUSE and I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction.

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