Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Magpie Murders

Summary: From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder. Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective. -- Harper

I can still remember when I first heard the folks at Harper talking about MAGPIE MURDERS by Anthony Horowitz. Suffice it to say, they were very excited about this novel... almost giddy! As a reader who loves mysteries, I would have to say that I was definitely looking forward to reading it too. In fact, despite it being a pretty big (and therefore heavy) book, I packed it for my train trip home from New York. And even though it's never fun to wait at Penn Station for a train (which just happened to be delayed!), at least I had a good book to read.

MAGPIE MURDERS is terrific! I'd normally say it's an extremely complicated murder mystery with lots of potential suspects that will appeal to Agatha Christie fans. However, it's so much more than that. It's actually a mystery within a mystery. Or maybe the best way to say it is, "It's a mystery book within a mystery book!" Regardless, it's like nothing I've ever read... in a very good way!

The novel begins when Susan Ryeland, a book editor for the best-selling Alan Conway's mystery novels, picks up his latest book. She's expecting nothing different than an intriguing mystery with the detective, Atticus Pund, who she's come to know well through the years. Mystery fans love Pund and his ability to figure out complicated murders that occur in small English villages. (Think Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers type books.) While Susan isn't exactly personally fond of Conway (he can be a wee bit difficult), she knows that the publishing company is highly dependent on Conway's novels for its survival.

Conway's latest novel has a few surprises for Susan. While the novel appears at first to be in the same veins his other Pund books, this one feels a little different for Susan. There are still lots of dead bodies and potential suspects, but Susan feels as if there are some hidden messages in this novel. And when she finishes the manuscript and realizes that it's missing the last chapter, Susan in on the hunt to figure out exactly what's going on... and get her hands on the missing pages. As she delves into this mystery, she realizes that the characters and places in the novel match up well with with Conway's real life. Is Conway trying to communicate some hidden secrets to his readers about his own mysterious life?

I adored MAGPIE MURDERS and it will probably be one of my favorite mysteries of the year. It was so smart (which you'd expect from Horowitz), and it's also a great mystery (or should I say mysteries?). I definitely got lost in Conway's novel and even forgot that it was part of a larger premise. I had absolutely no clue where the book was going or who was responsible for the murders, so I'd definitely say the book inside the book was a well-crafted mystery.

But the real treat of the novel was the over-arching story about Susan trying to figure out the clues in Conway's MAGPIE MURDERS. I admit she was much more intuitive than I was even realizing that Conway had hidden clues into the novel that related to his real life. After she finished reading the manuscript and began her own investigation, the book really became something special for me. I was continually amazed by how clever the book was. I can't even imagine the planning Horowitz did before he even started writing the novel -- it's that smart!

I love mysteries and that's why I'm so committed to my Mystery Mondays posts. Mystery Mondays is a way that I make sure I review a mystery a week... and share my thoughts with you! Well, MAGPIE MURDERS is definitely a book that I'm recommending to fans of mysteries. It pays homage to the classics like Christie, but it also has a contemporary feel to it through the Susan storyline. So it's got a little something for every mystery fan. But I'm telling you, the concept of this book is incredible. It's actually a novel (minus one chapter) within a novel... and it's nothing short of brilliant!

MAGPIE MURDERS is a clever and one-of-a-kind novels that is a must-read for mystery fans. 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, June 24, 2017

Kid Konnection: Animal Planet Chapter 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 early reader chapter books from Animal Planet.

Summary: Animal Planet introduces information-packed nonfiction chapter books that are just right for pleasure reading and schoolwork.

Slither along to an amazing adventure in Snakes!. Meet the biggest, the fastest, and the most venomous snakes--from massive anacondas and pythons to fierce and fanged vipers and cobras. Learn about snakes that climb trees and others that swim in ocean waters. Snakes! is the perfect overview for developing readers ready to explore this popular animal subject on their own. Special features include full-color photography throughout, "Meet the Scientist" sidebars, and "In Your Newsfeed" articles about amazing new discoveries.

Don't miss the other books in the Animal Planet Chapter Books series: Bugs!, Dinosaurs!, and Sharks! -- Liberty Street

Summary: BUGS! From grasshoppers to cicadas and the deadly black widow spider, this accessible narrative is packed with full-color photos and fascinating information about every kid's favorite subject. Bug profiles highlight facts and figures about insects around the world, "Fact File" features go in-depth on important animal biology features, and "In Your Newsfeed" teaches readers about breaking news in the field. Packed with information for thrill-seekers and animal lovers alike, this is the perfect book for new readers who are ready to take a deeper dive into their favorite subject. -- Liberty Street

SNAKES! and BUGS! by James Buckley, Jr. are two terrific books for early readers that are excited to start chapter books. I have to admit that these books aren't exactly ones I would have picked out, nor would have my daughter, but there are plenty of kids out there who will love these books. I'm a little grossed out by just the covers!!!

SNAKES! and BUGS! are part of the Animal Planet Chapter Books series, and I think they are wonderful for newly independent readers. However, I also think they will appeal to reluctant readers. These books make learning (and reading) fun. The books have large text and amazing full-cover photographs which make it very readable (and by that I mean not intimidating) to early readers. There are also interesting illustrations as well as sidebars including "Meet the Scientists" and "In Your News Feed." And there are also "Fact File" pages that provide in-depth details about some very unique properties of these critters.

What really impressed me about these two books are how much information is included in these 100+ page books. I think I've already mentioned that I'm not crazy about snakes or bugs, but I will admit that these books are fascinating. Fans of science and animals will devour these books. They truly are the best of both worlds as far as parents are concerned -- educational and fun!

SNAKES! and BUGS! are wonderful resources for home and school libraries. In fact, these books are so much fun than your kid might actually enjoy his/her next book report assignment!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media 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, June 21, 2017

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Summary: In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth. -- Atria

When I was younger, I used to love to read celebrity tell-alls. I honestly don't know why I stopped reading them -- maybe my tastes just changed, but occasionally I crave the gossip and intrigue of Hollywood. And that's why THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid probably appealed so much to me. This novel reads just like a celebrity memoir and it's chock full of lust, betrayal, secrets, and more!

THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO tells the dramatic story of the larger-than-life Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo. At almost 80 years old, Evelyn, a very private celebrity and eventual recluse, finally decides to tell her story... but on her own terms, of course. She requests an unknown magazine reporter, Monique Grant; and no one, especially Monique, can figure out why.

Monique isn't without her own story. She's kind of in a bad place.  Her husband has recently left her after she caught him with another woman, and she has an entry level job writing for a magazine. Writing the authorized biography (and certain bestseller) of one of Hollywood's most glamorous actresses could be just what she needs to get a fresh start.

Evelyn is definitely no holds barred when telling Monique her story. There are plenty of juicy tidbits and salacious stories, especially when it comes to Evelyn's seven husbands. She even shares some secrets about her life including a forbidden love! While Monique is fascinated by Evelyn's tales, she still wonders about why Evelyn requested her to write her memoir. The truth is even more startling than Evelyn's life story!

I enjoyed THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO a great deal. While Evelyn was certainly larger than life, I did feel as if the author created a realistic character. In fact, it was easy to forget that I wasn't reading the memoir of a real Hollywood actress. And of course, I couldn't help but wonder if parts of Evelyn's life story were based on old Hollywood.

The novel alternates between Evelyn and Monique's stories, but make no mistake about it --THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO is Evelyn's story. Don't think for a minute that she'd share the spotlight with anyone! It wasn't until the end that I even understood why the author included Monique in the book.

Evelyn begins her story when she was a child growing up in Hell's Kitchen. She continues with her various love affairs and the details about husbands (in chronological order). Of course, you won't be surprised to learn that she didn't always marry for love. She was a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood during the golden age. The specifics behind all of her relationships were sometimes surprising, sometimes sad, but always gossip-worthy.

There is a little twist at the end of the novel when Monique realizes why she was asked to write Evelyn's story. I won't say I was totally shocked because I knew she had to be there for a reason, but I admit that I didn't figure out all of the details. I did appreciate Monique's progression as a character throughout the story, but as I said earlier, this was really Evelyn's book!

Overall, I did like THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO and highly recommend it to fans of women's fiction and fans of celebrity tell-alls.

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Kiss Carlo

Summary: From Adriana Trigiani, the beloved New York Times-bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, comes an exhilarating epic novel of love, loyalty, and creativity—the story of an Italian-American family on the cusp of change.

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.

Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.

Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia. -- Harper

Today is the day! KISS CARLO by Adriana Trigiani is officially available everywhere! And if you're a fan of Adriana's (like I am!) or even if you've never read one of her novels, you are going to want to head out to the store and purchase this book... like now! I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy (along with an adorable red lipstick thanks to Harper!), and I have to tell you -- it's a good one. A really good one! KISS CARLO is a book that will make you both laugh and cry (although I admit I laughed a heck of a lot more than I cried!), and it's an epic story about family, friendship and love that's the perfect summer read. Truly, this book has a little of something for everyone... even fans of William Shakespeare.

It's kind of hard to briefly summary KISS CARLO, but I'll try. The book description above does a much better job of it than I ever could. Or you could watch Adriana herself explain it here. There is a heck of a lot going on in KISS CARLO -- many different characters and side stories, but at its heart, it's a book about Nicky Castone. Nicky lives with his uncle and his family and works with them at their family owned cab business. At 30 years old, Nicky is engaged to be married but he's not entirely sure he likes the path he's on. The one thing that brings true happiness to Nicky is his (secret) job at the local Shakespeare theater company, and when he's asked one evening to fill in for an actor, Nicky is smitten with the acting bug!

To further complicate things, Nicky decides to make some changes to his life... changes that hurt some people close to him and make others furious. In an effort to flee his hometown of Philadelphia for some safety, he offers to deliver a telegram to the small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania. And that's where Nicky's life really begins to change. I don't want to give too much away from here on out because, let me tell you, you are in for a wild and, often times, hilarious ride! The story moves from South Philly, to Roseto, PA, to Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to New York City; and you will fall in love with these characters -- characters like only Adriana Trigiani can create!

Okay, by now you probably can tell that I loved this book. A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to talk about KISS CARLO with the author herself over lunch. She told me that she thought this one might be her best book yet... and I might just agree with her (although it's hard to say because there are so many good ones!) What I will say for sure is that this cover is definitely my favorite! I love the roses, the dress, the font, etc. I will also tell you that I love that Adriana has returned to her writing roots. Of course, I've loved everything she's ever written, but I have to say that she's got mad skills when it comes to creating memorable characters. And I can't express enough how much the characters in this book made me laugh.

Adriana always, always, always writes about families; and it's even more apparent in KISS CARLO that she "gets" families -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. I think readers will definitely relate to the families in this novel whether it be a daughter's love and respect for her aging father or the two brothers who can't stop holding a grudge. And I promise you will laugh at some of the scenes in this book. There are a few in particular that come to mind, but the one where the Italian women are discussing wedding plans made me crack up.

One of my favorite parts of this novel has to do with Nicky and what he wore when he went to Roseto, PA. I don't want to spoil the book for you, but Nicky ends up borrowing a Penn State Blue Band costume from the theater. As a PSU crazy family, I told my 12 year old son that Adriana mentioned Penn State in her latest book. He was excited and said, "Did she do that just for you?" I looked right back at him with a huge smile and said, "Of course she did!"

Another aspect of the novel that stood out to me was how she wove Shakespeare and many of his comedies into the story. I'm far from a Shakespeare expert, but even I could appreciate how Adriana tied together the characters and stories in the novel with many of Shakespeare's stories. Using a struggling Shakespearean theater as one of the backdrops for the novel was just perfect too!

KISS CARLO would make an excellent book club selection. There are so many themes to discuss like family, adoption, love, grief, devotion, theater, art, honestly, staying true to one's self, destiny, desire, friendship, and (the big one) forgiveness. Check out the reading guide with eighteen questions! I am seriously contemplating picking this book the next time I host. Of course, I'd love to have Adriana Skype with us; and I'm already thinking about what Italian foods I could serve like cannolis, Italian cookies, and antipasto salad.

All in all, KISS CARLO is fantastic and exactly the book I wanted Adriana to write! Highly recommended!

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: One Perfect Lie

Summary: On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He's applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he's ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he's being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Jordan's baseball games. But Jordan is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon's wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget. -- St. Martins Press

I am truly a book geek. I find such great pleasure in picking the one book I'll read on my train ride to New York for BEA. And this year's winner was ONE PERFECT LIE by Lisa Scottoline. I've been reading Ms. Scottoline for ages, and I always look forward to her latest novel.

ONE PERFECT LIE is a gripping story about a mysterious man. Chris Brennan is seemingly perfect. He's tall and handsome. He's working as a high school government teacher and baseball coach, and he forms an immediate bond with the students. But it becomes quickly apparent to the reader that Chris isn't what he seems. Through a great deal of planning, he's created a background for himself; and everything seems to be going according to plan... until one of his co-workers realizes that they are both from Wyoming and wants to talk about things they have in common. This very same co-worker ends up dead (supposedly by suicide); and I, for one, began to wonder about Chris' intentions!

Meanwhile, Chris is targeting a few students, boys in his classes and on the baseball team, who might be vulnerable enough to help him with a plan. Details about this plan are sketchy, but suffice it to say that this plan involves a truck and ammonium chloride fertilizer.

Chris has three main interests (or targets!) -- Raz, a star pitcher whose father recently died; Jordan, a quiet boy with a single mom; and Evan, a rich kid who is keeping secrets. ONE PERFECT LIE follows each kid's personal story as Chris tries to determine who he can most control... and eventually  be complicit with him in a startling finale!

I enjoyed ONE PERFECT LIE. It was a fast-paced thriller with quite a few twists -- some predictable, some not-so-predictable. And it definitely had an action-packed ending. It was a bit different for me than most of Ms. Scottoline's books; however, I enjoyed the story, the characters, and her writing... so I guess it wasn't all that different of a reading experience for me.

One thing I really appreciated about this book is that it wasn't a pure mystery or suspense novel. Rather, Ms. Scottoline explored the complex lives of these three troubled boys. In fact, I might even say that the strength of this novel was how she delved into the lives of teenagers. I found her portrayals to be very realistic especially as they related to their friend and family relationships. As a mom of a teenager and an almost teenager, I thought she did a fantastic job of showing the ins and outs of high school as well as the difficult challenges kids face in today's society with peer pressure, social media, and more.

Another thing I enjoyed about this novel was that it did manage to surprise me -- and one of those times was a pretty big shock. The novel did have many twists and turns (and truth be told, the chase at the end was extremely exciting); however, I will admit that I did see quite a few of them coming. (Pretty much all of them except the big one!) I don't know that the predictability of the story altered my appreciation of the story, though. I thought the plot was pretty well planned and the story was pretty tight.

All in all, I'd say that ONE PERFECT LIE is a good summer read... one that should be included in your beach or pool bag. Fans of Ms. Scottoline's won't be disappointed, and I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't pick up a few new ones!

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, June 17, 2017

Kid Konnection: Quarto Craft 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 three craft books that aren't just for kids!

Summary: This full-color art journal for moms and kids to color and draw together in is designed to be a sharing experience. Mom and child can write each other letters, draw what scares them, imagine what they want to be when they are grown up, color a scene using only one favorite color, whatever their imaginations lead them to!

Mom and Me: An Art Journal to Share is filled with fun hand-lettering and artwork from Bethany Robertson along with creative prompts from licensed art therapist Lacy Mucklow.

Mucklow offers up the best ways to communicate with a child through creating together; how to start an open conversation with your child; questions you can ask that will help generate thoughtful responses; and how to tailor the quality time so it's still fun and engaging for your child. -- Race Point Publishing 

I probably should have featured the book MOM & ME: AN ART JOURNAL TO SHARE by Lacy Mucklow and illustrated by Bethany Robertson as a Mother's Day gift idea, but better late than never, right? This adorable journal is a wonderful activity for moms and kids to do together -- perfect for the long days of summer!

MOM & ME gives moms and kids the opportunity to share their thoughts for each other with places for handwritten letters, drawings, and more. The concept behind the book is that it might be easier for some kids to communicate through art rather than words. Each two page spread in the book includes a prompt to help get the conversation going, and mother and child can work together by drawing side by side. For example, one of the page spreads asks you to focus on the positive rather than the negative and draw something that represents happiness to each of you. Another one asks you to draw three things you wish for.

MOM & ME is adorable! There are cute drawings on each page that just beg for your child's (and your) artwork. This journal is a terrific way for you to bond with your child by communicating through art! Highly recommended.

Summary: Color and create your own personalized stickers!

Stick it to 'Em is your invitation to play as you create customized stickers with sass! With just a hint of silly irreverence, this guide includes a list of colorful art tools in addition to easy drawing and lettering techniques and step-by-step tutorials, all designed to get your cheeky creativity flowing. You'll then be treated to more than 35 pages of stickers, including a selection of fully designed styles to use any way you like, a variety of stickers to color in, and blank stickers to create your own. Filled with tons of puns, wit, and wisecracks, Stick it to 'Em is your answer to getting through each day with humor and fun. -- Walter Foster

Another fun craft book for the summer is STICK IT TO 'EM: PLAYFUL STICKERS TO COLOR AND CREATE, 275+ STICKERS  WITH SASS FOR FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND FRENEMIES by Bailey Fleming. This book has almost 40 pages of stickers -- many that you can color with felt-tip pens, watercolors, colored pencils, and watercolor brush sets. The stickers are fun and definitely sassy, and I think middle grade girls are going to love this book.

In addition to the pages of stickers that are begging to be colored, there are also some stickers ready for use. I have to warn you that a few of the stickers are more adult in nature -- they have ones with adult beverages like martinis and margaritas!

One of my favorite things about STICK IT TO 'EM is that there are some easy-to-follow instructions for making your own doodles. I love the ones for how to draw a cute cupcake as well as how to draw an adorable piñata. They also teach you a few things about different fonts and how to decorate them.

I think STICK IT TO 'EM is a new twist on the traditional coloring books and sticker books! It would make a great gift for the pre-teen or teen girl in your life!

Summary: Your hand lettering contains a little bit of you! It expresses what you have to say, and demonstrates your creativity in all your communications. In Hand Lettering A to Z, artist and author Abbey Sy has invited four international artists--Meg Hyland, Joao Neves, Tessa Go, and Lisa Lorek--to join her in designing all new alphabets for you to draw and use in many different languages.

You don’t have to be a trained artist to master the art of hand lettering. These alphabets are for every skill level, and will suits any taste: colorful, or black and white, classic or just plain fun. It’s all about getting creative with the twenty-six letters and a little bit of you. -- Rockport Publishing

HAND LETTERING A TO Z: A WORLD OF CREATIVE IDEAS FOR DRAWING AND DESIGNING ALPHABETS by Abbey Sy is yet another great craft book from Quarto Publishing. I absolutely love this book and can't wait to try making a few cool fonts, although I'm not very artistic so it could go horribly wrong. The book promises that you don't have to be artistic to be successful at creating your own hand lettering, so I plan to test that!

HAND LETTERING A TO Z is a great book for those individuals who want to add a little pizazz to their handwriting. They have loads of cute alphabets, some easier than others; and terrific instructions for the best tools to use. There is also an Embellishment section in the back of the book that teaches you how to do those adorable little doodles as well as a showcase of gorgeous art ideas.

HAND LETTERING A TO Z might be better for an older audience. I have a feeling that a younger crowd might get frustrated with the detailed instructions. However, I do think this craft book is a great gift idea for teens and even graduates.

Thanks to the Quarto Group 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!


Friday, June 16, 2017

Guest Review: The First Congress

Summary: This “fascinating” (Chicago Tribune), “lively” (The New York Times) history tells how the First Congress and the Washington administration created one of the most productive and far-reaching governments in American history—“gracefully written…and well worth reading” (The Wall Street Journal).

The First Congress may have been the most important in American history because it established how our government would work. The Constitution was a broad set of principles that left undefined the machinery of government. Fortunately, far-sighted, brilliant, and determined men such as Washington, Madison, Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson (and others less well known today) labored to create a functioning government.

In The First Congress, award-winning author Fergus Bordewich brings to life the achievements of the First Congress: it debated and passed the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which we know as the Bill of Rights; admitted North Carolina and Rhode Island to the union when they belatedly ratified the Constitution, then admitted two new states, Kentucky and Vermont, establishing the procedure for admitting new states on equal terms with the original thirteen; chose the site of the national capital, a new city to be built on the Potomac; created a national bank to handle the infant republic’s finances; created the first cabinet positions and the federal court system; and many other achievements. But it avoided the subject of slavery, which was too contentious to resolve.

The First Congress takes us back to the days when the future of our country was by no means assured and makes “an intricate story clear and fascinating” (The Washington Post) -- Simon and Schuster.

I'm sure you're not surprised to see that this review for THE FIRST CONGRESS: HOW JAMES MADISON, GEORGE WASHINGTON, AND A GROUP OF EXTRAORDINARY MEN INVENTED THE GOVERNMENT by Fergus M. Bordewich isn't one of mine. This book of American history is definitely more up Booking Pap Pap's alley. Here are his thoughts:

In THE FIRST CONGRESS: HOW JAMES MADISON, GEORGE WASHINGTON, AND A GROUP OF EXTRAORDINARY MEN INVENTED THE GOVERNMENT, author Fergus M. Bordewich takes the reader through the process that created the current U.S. government. The First Federal Congress sat from March, 1789 through March, 1791 to form a workable government based on the recently approved Constitution. The first two sessions of the Congress met in New York and the third met in Philadelphia. Among the items debated and ultimately decided upon included ratification of the first ten amendments now called The Bill of Rights; formation of a Judiciary; structure of the Executive branch, including payment of the officers; creation of a National Bank; establishment of a national regiment to fight Indians; and a permanent location for the National Capital. They even debated the title for the presidency.

Bordewich describes the political environment at the time the First Congress began deliberations. He portrays a government that was barely functioning as formed under the Articles of Confederation, a country saddled with a poor economy and large debts, a population pessimistic about the future and a group of states that did not agree on the issues of state rights versus national interests. At this point only eleven states had ratified the Constitution.

After culling through masses of information, Bordewich utilizes interesting detail to bring the story to life. For example, Washington had a personal financial interest in locating the capital in the Potomac area. Congress did not consider the first ten amendments important and very little time was spent on debating them before approval. Hamilton and Madison became enemies after disagreements on the National Bank. Jefferson did not want to be Secretary of State and was quite happy living in France. Travel to and from the sessions was quite perilous and many members were injured or became ill. Stories about the interaction between congressional members were sometimes quite amusing.

All of us were taught that George Washington, John Adams Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton played important roles in the formation of the government. Author Bordewich makes the argument that Hamilton was the most important and John Adams was the least helpful because his performance as Vice-President set the precedent for the do-nothing office it is today.

What we learn from reading THE FIRST CONGRESS is that 65 representatives and 26 Senators also played a significant role. I’m not sure these men were extraordinary as the author claims or brilliant, but in spite of big egos, constant arguing, regional bias and some anti-constitution positions, these men through compromise and horse-trading, accomplished an awful lot. They managed to establish a government that struck a good balance between state rights and national interests and set up a national government structure with checks and balances among the three branches. Maybe our current politicians could learn from the First Congress what can be accomplished with compromise and putting national interests ahead of personal gains.

The one major issue that they failed to address fully was slavery which they feared would splinter the nation. Their premonition proved accurate as this issue did divide the country some 70 years later.

If you enjoy American history then you should read THE FIRST CONGRESS.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book and to Booking Pap Pap for his terrific review.