Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Little Pretty Things

Summary: Juliet Townsend is stuck in a dead-end job cleaning at a cheap motel, stealing little pretty things that catch her eye—until her former best friend and rival, Madeleine Bell, checks in. By morning, Juliet is no longer jealous of Maddy. She’s the chief suspect in her murder.

When a former friend and old high school rival, Madeleine Bell, checks into the hotel, Juliet adds envy to her bitterness. Well-dressed, flashing a diamond ring on her finger, and as beautiful as ever, Maddy is the very embodiment of Juliet's every dashed hope. But why would she choose to stay in the seedy Midnight Inn?

Before an answer to that question turns up, the next morning Juliet learns that Maddy has been found dead in her room. And the police have targeted Juliet as the chief suspect.

To protect herself, Juliet is forced to investigate the circumstances of Maddy's life and death. What she uncovers is that her onetime rival certainly never had it all. And Juliet may lose what little she has. -- Seventh Street Books

I decided to pick up LITTLE PRETTY THINGS by Lori Rader-Day, not because of the praise for this specific novel, but rather because of the amazing praise for her first one THE BLACK HOUR. I haven't actually read THE BLACK HOUR yet, but it was nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Macavity Award for Best First Novel, and the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original. While I was intrigued by the premise for LITTLE PRETTY THINGS, I was fairly certain that Ms. Rader-Day could write! And after finishing LITTLE PRETTY THINGS, I can say that I was definitely right.

LITTLE PRETTY THINGS tells the story of Juliet Townsend, a young woman who is stuck in her hometown and hasn't done much since graduating from high school ten years ago. She still lives at home with her mother (who has her own set of issues), and she cleans rooms at a pretty questionable hotel.

One day, her high school best friend and track team rival Maddy shows up at the hotel and asks for a room. Maddy looks like a million bucks and is sporting a huge diamond ring. The two women have a drink together in the hotel bar, and Juliet discovers that her feelings of jealousy have been buried under the surface all of these years.

The next morning, Juliet discovers Maddy dead, and (surprise, surprise) she's the chief suspect. Juliet decides that she has to investigate Maddy's death to save herself from being charged with the murder but also to figure out Maddie's past and what secrets she was hiding.

I enjoyed LITTLE PRETTY THINGS quite a bit, and I was very impressed with Ms. Rader-Day's writing. I liked the mystery although I admit I knew where the story was going and wasn't really surprised when the murderer was revealed. However, the real strength of this story was in the development of Juliet's character.

Juliet was so intriguing and I think many women will relate a bit to her character. She had those insecurities that so many of us have -- both as teens and women, and I appreciated how she reflected back on her high school years with a twisted view of what really took place. She also had a little issue with taking what didn't belong to her which was interesting if you're into analyzing individuals behavior.

As she delved into the mystery surrounding Maddy's death, it was also interesting to see Juliet become more aware of her past and Maddy's as well. As I mentioned before, it wasn't shocking for me to learn who was responsible for Maddy's death, but it was very shocking for Juliet. I especially appreciated how her character figured things out while also trying to cope with her past. Needless to say, Juliet's character was much more complex than I was expecting when I started LITTLE PRETTY THINGS.

Overall, I definitely recommend LITTLE PRETTY THINGS. It was a gripping mystery with a great lead character. I suggest reading this novel is you like psychological thrillers that examine complicated relationships.

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

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, July 25, 2015

Kid Konnection: I am Lucille Ball


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 an adorable and educational picture book by a famous thriller writer.

Summary: “Kids always search for heroes, so we might as well have a say in it,” Brad Meltzer realized, and so he envisioned this friendly, fun approach to biography—for his own kids, and for yours. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in a vivacious, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, those who aren’t quite ready for the Who Was biography series. Each book focuses on a particular character trait that made that role model heroic. For example, Lucille Ball could make any situation funny. By making people around the world laugh, she proved that humor can take on anything.

This engaging series is the perfect way to bring American history to life for young children, providing them with the right role models, supplementing Common Core learning in the classroom, and best of all, inspiring them to strive and dream. -- Dial Books

I should just call this Brad Meltzer week on Booking Mama. To start the week, I reviewed his latest thriller THE PRESIDENT'S SHADOW; and now, I'm featuring his new children's picture book ORDINARY PEOPLE CHANGE THE WORLD: I AM LUCILLE BALL.

I AM LUCILLE BALL is part of the Ordinary People Change the World series; and while I was aware that Mr. Meltzer has been writing picture books, I had no idea how fantastic they are. I shouldn't be surprised. I absolutely adore this concept and think it's wonderful that these books are both cute and educational. Leave it to Mr. Meltzer to find a great way to teach kids about famous people who made a difference while also sending a powerful message that everyone can be a hero!

But I AM LUCILLE BALL isn't just for kids despite the fantastic illustrations and interesting story. I was surprised by how much I learned about the famous comedienne behind the iconic television series I Love Lucy. Like many funny people, her childhood wasn't easy, but Ms. Ball used humor to help her get through the tough times. As she grew older, she decided that she wanted a career in comedy; and after a lot of rejections, she got a job in a football comedy starring none other than the Three Stooges.

I loved learning the story of how Lucille Ball got her first big break on CBS with her husband Desi Arnaz. (It's a pretty special story!) She went on to be the first woman to run a major Hollywood studio, and her studio went on to produce some pretty amazing shows like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. She also was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom!

Another thing I appreciated about I AM LUCILLE BALL was the way the story was presented. The book is written in first person from Ms. Ball's point of view (that's probably obvious based on the title), and I loved how she told her story. In addition to the text, the cute illustrations by illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos perfectly complement the tone of the book. I especially liked there were lots of picture bubbles to give even more details about Ms. Ball's life... and actually add some humor to the book.

I absolutely adored everything about I AM LUCILLE BALL... especially the message. Ms. Ball not only tells the story of her life and her accomplishment, but she also gives some fantastic advice. There actually are some great tidbits of wisdom woven into her story as well as her most important life lesson: "In this world, the person you need to love most is you."

I told you I AM LUCILLE BALL is one special picture book! I definitely need to check out Ms. Meltzer's other picture books in this series! 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!


Friday, July 24, 2015

Giveaway: Life in New York

Summary: New Yorkers are as diverse as the city they so colorfully inhabit, cautious but generous, brash but welcoming. Both are captured through the comedic eye of Laura Pedersen. The author of bestseller Play Money and award-winning Buffalo Gal, Pedersen serves up a hilarious memoir about three decades of city life. Pedersen experiences her adopted city in the best and worst of times while becoming the youngest person to have a seat on the stock exchange, performing stand up comedy, and writing a column in The New York Times. Enjoy an uproarious romp down memory lane as the city emerges as the modern metropolis we know today.  -- Fulcrum Publishing

I can't think of any city I love more than New York! Every year that I visit the city for BEA, I have a wonderful time just soaking in the sights and sounds. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the memoir LIFE IN NEW YORK: HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE SQUEEGEE MEN, TOKEN SUCKERS, TRASH, TWISTERS, AND SUBWAY SHARKS by Laura Pedersen appeals to me. This book is Ms. Pedersen's account of living in New York City for 30 years. She's experienced the good and the bad that the city offers while being the youngest person to have a seat on the stock exchange, performing stand-up, and writing for The New York Times.

I have a copy of LIFE IN NEW YORK to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 6th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

*****
Laura Pedersen is a former New York Times columnist, the author of fifteen books including the award-winning humorous memoir Buffalo Gal, and a playwright. She has appeared on Oprah and David Letterman, performed stand-up at the Improv, and writes for several well-known comedians. Her award-winning play "The Brightness of Heaven" ran at New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre in 2014.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Giveaway: The Confessor

Summary: Everyone is looking for Geiger . . .

Cold, emotionless and with an innate ability to recognize lies, Geiger was the best of the best in the field of Information Retrieval. Until he was asked to break his only rule and do the unthinkable - to torture a child. Something broke in Geiger's neatly controlled mind, opening up a flood of terrible memories long kept at bay. And now Geiger is missing, presumed dead. But, with no body ever found, there are a number of people invested in finding out the truth. One of those people is Harry Boddicker, Geiger's old handler and friend. Another is his bitter rival, Dalton, who is determined to find Geiger and extract a final confession from him, before carrying out his deadly revenge. But no one has reckoned on Zanni Soames - a woman more dangerous than any of them could imagine, and hell-bent on winning the race to find Geiger first. The new novel from Mark Allen Smith is a masterfully written thriller that will send you spinning from New York to Paris and back again, and into the darkest depths of the man known only as Geiger. -Simon & Schuster

A few years ago, I reviewed THE INQUISITOR by Mark Allen Smith. This debut thriller received rave reviews, and I have to admit that it was a solid read with a very intriguing premise. The main charger, Geiger has some unique skills and in a complex character; and the author certainly knows how to weave a tale.

I am happy to say that Geiger is back in THE CONFESSOR. In this novel, Geiger is missing and presumed dead; however, many individuals are searching for the truth. This book has already been called "a brilliant thriller" from Publishers' Weekly, and it sounds like another great novel of suspense.

I have a copy of THE CONFESSOR to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 5th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Giveaway: The Rosie Effect

Summary: With The Rosie Project, “Graeme Simsion achieved the impossible and created an entirely new kind of romantic hero,” Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You said. Now Don Tillman returns in the hilarious and charming sequel to the international sensation. Get ready to fall in love all over again.

Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie.

Picking up where The Rosie Project left off, The Rosie Effect is a fun, hilarious, and poignant read. “Don Tillman helps us believe in possibility, makes us proud to be human beings, and the bonus is this: he keeps us laughing like hell” (Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook). -- Simon & Schuster

Earlier this year, I reviewed THE ROSIE EFFECT by Graeme Simsion. This novel is the followup to the huge hit THE ROSIE PROJECT (which had around two million readers), and fans of Don Tillman will definitely want to see what happens after he "wins" the girl. Don discovers that life with Rosie is far from simple when they find themselves expecting a baby, and Don does his best to fully research what it takes to be a father. Of course, Don stumbles along the way; and his research methods are a bit unorthodox... and hilarious for readers!

I am a huge fan of Don Tillman and can't recommend these funny but heartwarming books. You can
visit www.RosieBooks.com for videos, excerpts, and reading group guides from both THE ROSIE PROJECT and THE ROSIE EFFECT. My book club read THE ROSIE PROJECT last year and had a fun time discussing not only the book but also what we would look for in a partner.

I am giving away a copy of the newly released paperback edition of THE ROSIE EFFECT courtesy the publisher. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 4th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper & Giveaway

Summary: Actress Lizzie Pepper was America’s Girl Next Door and her marriage to Hollywood mega-star Rob Mars was tabloid gold—a whirlwind romance and an elaborate celebrity-studded wedding landed them on the cover of every celebrity weekly. But fame, beauty, and wealth weren’t enough to keep their marriage together. Hollywood’s “It” couple are over—and now Lizzie is going to tell her side of the story.

Celebrity ghostwriter Hilary Liftin chronicles the tabloids’ favorite marriage as Lizzie Pepper realizes that, when the curtain falls, her romance isn’t what she and everyone else thought. From her lonely holidays in sumptuous villas to her husband’s deep commitment to a disconcertingly repressive mind-body group, Lizzie reveals a side of fame that her fans never get to see. Full of twists and turns, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper is a breathless journey to the heights of Hollywood power and royalty and a life in the spotlight that is nearly impossible to escape. -- Viking

MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER written by Hilary Liftin was definitely on my radar this summer! It has been chosen by USA Today, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue.com as a Great Summer Read; and if you're like me and enjoy juicy stories by the pool or waves, then this is the book for you!

Author Hilary Liftin is an accomplished celebrity ghost-writer, and she uses her skills to create a fantastic "celebrity memoir" novel. After working as a ghostwriter on a few celebrity tell all books, the author decided that she wanted to write a "the celebrity memoir of my dreams." The result was this MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER.

Young adult actress Lizzie Pepper was America's Girl Next Door who had a successful television series. However, it wasn't until she started dating one of the biggest Hollywood stars Rob Mars that she graced the cover of every tabloid magazine. Rob was about 20 years older than Lizzie and he said all of the right things to convince Lizzie that she was "the one."

They had whirlwind romance, pregnancy and marriage; and life seemed perfect for the two stars; however, Rob was involved with One Cell Studio, a controversial mind-body studio. As Lizzie became more involved with One Cell, she became estranged from her family and friends.

Lizzie discovers that fame definitely has its drawbacks and Rob might not be the man she thought he was. Lizzie begins to doubt her new life and marriage, and she decides that her future decisions have to be what's best for her twin boys. As she starts to "investigate" Rob's life, she makes some startling discoveries and learns that it's not going to be easy to escape from her world of money and fame.

I have enjoyed my fair share of celebrity memoirs/tell-alls in my life, so MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER sounded fantastic. And I have to say that I really, really liked it. This is a fun book that gives readers an inside view into the lifestyles of the rich and famous which is exactly why I picked up this novel. However, it also has some interesting twists and turns which ending up surprising me. It was just a great escape book for the summer!

If you read even part of the description, you know that this story sounds kind of familiar, right? I can honestly say that it was the closeness of the story to a larger than life Hollywood couple that appealed to me; and I would love it if that actress ever decided to tell her story. However, I'm not sure that's likely so I thought MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER was the next best thing. I am sure that Lizzie's story has a few more twists and turns anyway and made for a better story!

MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER is definitely a guilty pleasure, but a must-read if you love celebrity tell-alls. It's the perfect book for your summer beach bag!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER goes on sale today; and thanks to the publisher, I have a copy along with some awesome goodies (a pair of branded sunglasses with a Lizzie Pepper hangtag and popcorn all packaged in a gold envelope) to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following days. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!


Monday, July 20, 2015

Review: The President's Shadow

Summary: There are stories no one knows. Hidden stories. I find those stories for a living.

To most, it looks like Beecher White has an ordinary job. A young staffer with the National Archives in Washington, D.C., he's responsible for safekeeping the government's most important documents . . . and, sometimes, its most closely held secrets.

But there are a powerful few who know his other role. Beecher is a member of the Culper Ring, a 200-year-old secret society founded by George Washington and charged with protecting the Presidency.

Now the current occupant of the White House needs the Culper Ring's help. The alarming discovery of the buried arm has the President's team in a rightful panic. Who buried the arm? How did they get past White House security? And most important: What's the message hidden in the arm's closed fist? Indeed, the puzzle inside has a clear intended recipient, and it isn't the President. It's Beecher, himself.

Beecher's investigation will take him back to one of our country's greatest secrets and point him toward the long, carefully hidden truth about the most shocking history of all: family history. -- Hachette Audio

A few weeks ago, I was in the mood for a Brad Meltzer book. It's been years since I've read one, but I remembered seeing a huge billboard in New York (right across from the Davits Center) advertising THE PRESIDENT'S SHADOW. For some reason, the book stuck in my mind so I decided to pick it up and settle in for a suspenseful read.

The first thing I realized (rather quickly) is that THE PRESIDENT'S SHADOW is part of the Culper Ring series.... a series that I've not read before. I'm not a big fan of starting series in the middle; however, I figured that Mr. Meltzer is a pro and I could probably catch up. I have to tell you that I sure wish I had started these books from the beginning. I had no issues following the story or getting to know the characters, but I just felt like I was missing out if that makes sense. Plus, I'm pretty certain that I would have really enjoyed reading the books in order and anticipating the next one!

After getting over that little surprise (and slight disappointment), I remembered that I just adore Mr. Metzler's writing. He really is one of the best at these types of books. In THE PRESIDENT'S SHADOW, Beecher White, a young archivist at the National Archives and member of the secret society known as the Culper Ring, finds himself in a complicated investigation. (For those of you who aren't familiar with this series, the Culper Ring is a secret society started by George Washington to protect the presidency.) When a buried arm is found on the grounds of the White House, the President and his men are in a bit of a tizzy. They have no idea who the arm belongs to or how someone breeched security to bury it in the White House gardens. Furthermore, they have no idea why someone would even want to bury a severed arm or what it could possibly mean!

When they find something hidden in the hand of the severed arm, Beecher realizes that the ultimate message of the arm isn't intended for the President, but rather him. Beecher's investigation leads him to solve this disturbing crime while also discovering difficult things about his father's past.

I really liked THE PRESIDENT'S SHADOW, although as I mentioned earlier, I sure wish I hadn't started in the middle of the series with this book. I have read that this book in particular was probably not the one to start with, but it's too late to worry about that. I certainly liked Beecher and his loyalty to the cause, and I definitely appreciated how the story about his father's past was revealed. I also really enjoyed the pacing and suspense of the story as well as the many twists!

I know next to nothing about how the Secret Service or those surrounding the President operate, but I felt as if THE PRESIDENT'S SHADOW was well researched and much of it seemed to be authentic. I actually love the idea of a clandestine agency whose mission is to protect the presidency, and it does make for some terrific story ideas. Mr. Meltzer is just a consummate pro at writing thrillers about our government and its inner workings... and making them convincing.

As a newbie to this series, I can't really compare this story to the earlier ones. However, I did really enjoy the complexities of Beecher's character. At the start of this novel, he is obviously dealing with some very difficult issues, namely his mentor is in a coma and he still needs answers to what happened to his father. I found Beecher to be very likable, but it was more than that. I actually cared what happened to him and felt his pain as he discovered what happened to his father. It was touching and much deeper than I was expecting for a thriller.

Overall, I enjoyed THE PRESIDENT'S SHADOW quite a bit. I love the premise of this series and intend to go back and catch up!

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

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.