Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Behind Your Eyes

Summary: Only two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He's a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

As Louise, David's new secretary, is drawn into their orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can't guess how wrong--and how far a person might go to protect their marriage's secrets. -- Flatiron Books

I read a fair amount of psychological thrillers, and I have to say that BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough was a treat. Rarely do I find a novel that truly leaves me guessing... and one whose ending felt like a sucker punch right in the stomach. I honestly loved how this book toyed with my emotions, and I honestly never saw the strange twists coming.

BEHIND HER EYES tells the story of a beautiful couple, David and Adele, as well as Louise, the woman who becomes entwined in their lives. David is a successful psychiatrist and Adele is his gorgeous wife. They seemingly have it all; however, Louise quickly realizes that neither one is exactly as they seem.

Louise, a single mother of a young son, meets David one evening at a bar. They hit it off and even share a kiss. Imagine Louise's surprise when she discovers that the man she is attracted to is her new boss! They play it rather cool in the office, but Louise finds herself drawn to him despite knowing that he's her boss... and a married man.

Coincidentally, Louise literally bumps into Adele one morning after dropping her son off at school. They decide to have coffee together and become quick friends. Louise is playing with fire as she continues to become closer to both Adele and David... without the other one knowing. It becomes crystal clear to Louise that something isn't quite right with David and Adele's marriage, and she finds herself caught up in a love triangle not knowing who to believe or trust!

I thought BEHIND HER EYES was a real page-turner -- one that managed to capture my interest from the start. The characters were definitely intriguing; and, like Louise, I wasn't really sure what to make of either David or Adele. All I knew is that both seemed a little unstable to me, and Louise was caught right smack dab in the middle of the mess. Even though I understood Louise's attraction to the couple, I wanted to shake her that something bad, something very bad, was going to happen.

I actually loved how the author created the tension in the story and then continued to build it until I couldn't put the book down. Part of this excitement was in how Ms. Pinborough chose to write this story. She used different time periods as well as different viewpoints to give readers a better understanding of the complexity of the characters. In addition, there were little hints that something was very off about this couple.

As far as endings go, this one is definitely something that will have you scratching your head... at the very least. I couldn't believe what I was reading, and I actually went back a few pages to do a re-read because I wasn't sure I had processed everything. It's a real zinger... and that's all I'm going to say... except for this. You know you're in for a twisted ending when the ARC has #WTFthatending on the front cover!

Overall, I enjoyed BEHIND HER EYES and recommend it to fans of psychological suspense stories.

I received a copy of this novel at last year's SIBA.

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, February 18, 2017

Kid Konnection: Bedtime Books

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you two fun picture books that are perfect bedtime stories.

Summary: Whether they're dashing, splashing, munching, or crunching, baby animals are ever-exploring! At home in their natural habitats, baby animals learn about the world that surrounds them. When the fun is done, it's time for baby animals to go to sleep. After all, every baby animal has to rest.

Full of action, sound effects, and patterned text, each story features the adorable antics and accurate behavior of six wild animal babies: tiger, elephant, giraffe, rhinoceros, panda, and gorilla. This 64-page, beautifully designed story book is perfect for bedtime. -- Henry Holt

GOOD NIGHT, BABY ANIMALS YOU'VE HAD A BUSY DAY by Karen B. Winnick and illustrated by Laura Watkins is a collection of six stories about baby animals. These stories feature animals who live in the wild like tigers, elephants, gorillas, and giraffes; and they show the many adventures that animals can experience in a day. After a fun-filled day of play, they babies are tired and need their sleep.

Kids will love seeing these wild animals in their natural habitats, and parents will love the overall message of the story -- that it's fun to play all day but babies need their rest! Each of the stories are written in fun verse with lots of animal sounds and repetition so they are perfect for read-aloud, bedtime stories. The end of the book features a fun section titled "Animal Facts" which gives a little information about each of the animals featured in the stories.

As you can see from the picture below, the illustrations are absolutely adorable. I love the mommy and baby animals as well as their gorgeous surroundings. The stories about the rhinos is especially cute with them frolicking in the mud!

Summary: It’s bedtime for superheroes . . . and KIDS! Young ones will enjoy this sweet, short rhyming story that lulls them into bedtime with the promise that all their heroes are getting tucked into bed too. And the book comes with stickers and a reward chart, so good bedtime habits can be reinforced each night when kids brush their teeth, put on their pj’s, and settle down to sleep. It’s a book and sticker package that will help parents achieve bedtime peace each night. -- Doubleday

EVEN SUPERHEROES HAVE TO SLEEP by Sara Crow and illustrated by Adam Record is another fantastic book that will surely help make bedtime easier. This picture book aimed at toddlers shows that heroes of all types need their sleep too! To make bedtime even more enticing, the book includes stickers and a reward chart that rewards kids for completing their bedtime activities like brushing teeth, getting their pjs on, reading a book, etc.

EVEN SUPERHEROES HAVE TO SLEEP is so cute! The book has whimsical illustrations that are guaranteed to make parents and kids laugh out loud. The heroes just look so silly! The book includes many different types of heroes such as construction workers, doctors, astronauts, princesses and more. The text is very fun too -- it's has a rhyming cadence and provides toddlers with the message that everyone needs their sleep!

All in all, GOOD NIGHT, BABY ANIMALS YOU'VE HAD A BUSY DAY and EVEN SUPERHEROES HAVE TO SLEEP are ideal bedtime books for parents and kids alike!

Thanks to the Get Red PR and the publishers 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!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: Perfect Little World

Summary: When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching.

Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own. Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a “perfect little world”—to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. He calls it The Infinite Family Project and he wants Izzy and her son to join.

This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families disintegrates: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.

Written with the same compassion and charm that won over legions of readers with The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson shows us with grace and humor that the best families are the ones we make for ourselves. -- Ecco

One of my many highlights at SIBA last September was meeting Kevin Wilson, author of FAMILY FANG. He was there to take about his new novel PERFECT LITTLE WORLD, and he was absolutely delightful. He talked about how hard it was to be a parent... and how it would be great if he could have some "help" from other parents to raise his kids. And that's how the idea behind PERFECT LITTLE WORLD began percolating in his mind!

PERFECT LITTLE WORLD tells the unique story of Izzy, a teenager who finds herself pregnant to one of her high school teachers. Her mother died when she was young, her father has basically checked out, and she's pregnant and all alone. Isabelle wants to keep her baby, but she isn't sure how she's going to manage with no family help and a job as a pork barb-b-quer.

And that's when Dr. Grind enters the picture. He is a child psychologist who focuses on families, and he's trying something very new called The Infinite Family Project. He wants to create an ideal world where ten children are raised collectively on a compound for then years... and when I say collectively, I mean that none of the kids know who their parents are!

Dr. Grind asks Izzy and her baby boy to join the group; and Izzy feels as if she has no choice but to enter the project. At first, things work out pretty well, but as is the case of most families, the dynamics aren't always pleasant. Couples have marital issues, friends stop getting along, funding becomes questionable, and parents find that they love their biological children more than the others. In addition, Izzy finds herself attracted to Dr. Grind and wonders if she should have ever agreed to being part of The Infinite Family Project.

I adored PERFECT LITTLE WORLD. It's such a wonderful idea for a novel and Mr. Wilson's writing is just about perfect! I admit that I was drawn to the subject matter of this novel after hearing Mr. Wilson talk about it. The premise is fantastic, but I knew the author would explore love, parenting and families in a special way. And I wasn't wrong -- this book is not only entertaining with wonderful characters, but it is truly insightful into relationships and life!

You have to admit that the premise is a good one. Who hasn't wanted some help at some point with bringing up their kids? But living with ten families for ten years is bound to have some problems. So, of course, the novel explores the ups and downs of the families' lives. Needless to say, there is lots of drama and funny moments; however, there are also some touching ones as well. It kind of reflects life!

I really fell in love with Izzy. This young girl was willing to do whatever it took to take care of her son... and be part of a family. She didn't have a good family life, or even a good experience with her first romantic relationship; however, she wanted to make things right for her child. Her insights into the other nine families as well as the experiment were so wise for such a young person. I couldn't help but root for her as she spent years living with these people.

I also found the Dr. Grind's character to be interesting. He had a very unusual childhood that left him with a lot of baggage. He had become a leader in his field and was definitely dedicated to his project; however, that didn't make him a happy and complete adult. Like Izzy, he wanted to do what was right for others for a greater cause; and I found that I wanted him to work through his past issues and find some peace.

As entertaining as PERFECT LITTLE WORLD was, this book is so much more than just a fresh story. This novel is one of the best I've read about life... and love... and families. It's smart, funny, and truly thought-provoking; and I think every reader will find something to relate to in this story. As a result, I do think it would make a wonderful book club selection. I wasn't able to find discussion questions but I'm certain most book clubs would find plenty to talk about!

Overall, I adored PERFECT LITTLE WORLD and highly recommend it to fans of literary fiction!

I received a copy of PERFECT LITTLE WORLD at this year's SIBA.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review: True Love

Summary: Color your way through a romantic journey with a cow named Lulu as she searches for her true love.

Lulu the cow knows there is a special someone out there waiting for her. With her curious parrot, Nina, at her side, Lulu hits the road to find Mr. Heart—an enchanting adventure filled with strange and wonderful places, unusual new people, and surprising challenges and opportunities. Lulu and Nina must draw out the shy, bashful people who call Hide & Seek Town home, while in Topsy-Turvy Town, they discover a world turned upside-down and backwards.

As they reach their final town, the friends are dazzled by the bright sunshine. In the distance, Lulu spies a bull with a heart shape mark. Could he be Mr. Heart at last? Combining stunning, intricately designed black-and-white illustrations with a unique love story, True Love: A Romantic Coloring Book will enchant readers and coloring enthusiasts. -- Harper Design

Happy Valentine's Day! I didn't really have a post planned today and then I received a copy of the beautiful coloring book TRUE LOVE: A ROMANTIC COMEDY ADVENTURE by Inko Kotoriyama. This coloring book is an adorable story about a cow named Lulu who is lookin' for love!

TRUE LOVE is truly a special coloring book. It has gorgeous detailed black and white illustrations along with a story within its pages. TRUE LOVE begins by showing some ideas about how to use this book. For instance, you can use different art materials as well as differing coloring methods. The book clearly shows how each method (colored pencils, watercolor pencils, and gel pens) would look. For a beginning "colorer" like me, I loved this!

The next page introduces the main characters in the story. Lulu, the cow, is the heroine of the story. Nina is a parakeet who travels with Lulu on her romantic adventure, and Mr. Heart is the bull who might or might not be the bull of Nina's dreams! Then the coloring book provides a page titled, "About the Story," which explains Nina's journey to find Mr. Heart as well as the settings for the story.

And then the story begins! There are dozens of ornate coloring pages full of animals, flowers, and shapes. The drawings are really beautiful and Lulu is just too cute. In addition, there is text explaining the story or the naming the various settings. A pleasant surprise is that there are five puzzles within the story. For example, there are seek and finds, a maze and spot the differences. It really is a very fun coloring book!

If you are looking for a fun gift for Valentine's Day or even Galentine's Day, then look no further than TRUE LOVE!

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: My Husband's Wife

Summary: When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind. But then she takes on her first murder case and meets Joe. A convicted murderer whom Lily is strangely drawn to. For whom she will soon be willing to risk almost anything.

But Lily is not the only one with secrets. Her next-door neighbor Carla may be only nine, but she has already learned that secrets are powerful things. That they can get her whatever she wants.

When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep sixteen years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way. -- Pamela Dorman Books

When I learned that the new psychological suspense novel MY HUSBAND'S WIFE by Jane Corry was from the Pamela Dorman imprint, I knew I had to read it. I am always up for a new thriller and Pamela Dorman books are always a treat. MY HUSBAND'S WIFE pretty much lived up to my expectations. This novel was a fast-paced suspense novel that definitely had some intriguing characters... and a pretty twisted ending!

MY HUSBAND'S WIFE tells the story of Lily McDonald, a newlywed and lawyer, who is more than anxious to start a new life and leave the secrets from her past behind. She has a new husband, a new flat, and even a new job -- she's handling her first murder case. Joe was convicted of murdering his girlfriend by pushing her into a scalding bathtub.

When Lily enters the prison to meet Joe, she isn't quite sure what to make of him or his story. He's not exactly up front with Lily. Rather, he sets creates a game of sorts to see if she's "worthy" of defending him. Their encounter is extremely awkward and more than a little uncomfortable; however,  there is something about Joe that Lily is drawn to. It's likely that he reminds her of her autistic brother who died as a teenager.

Meanwhile, Lily's nine year old neighbor Carla enters the picture. She becomes close to Lily and her husband Ed when they watch her when her mother is out. Carla is a beautiful girl and Ed is fascinated with drawing her. Carla begins to realize that the secrets she learns can help her to further her own agenda. She's quite the manipulative little girl!

Fast forward sixteen years when Carla shows up at Ed and Lily's home. She is even more beautiful than before and also extremely scheming. Carla  ends up causing a great deal of trouble for the couple, and tensions escalate into a stunning conclusion!

I really enjoyed MY HUSBAND'S WIFE. The story was fast-paced and the characters were definitely interesting. The story was written in a such a way that kept me guessing, and the ending was fairly shocking. I appreciated the twists and turns in the story and the way that everyone's secrets were eventually revealed. All in all, MY HUSBAND'S WIFE was a very good read!

I mentioned that the characters were interesting -- maybe a little too interesting if that's possible. I'm not really sure that I liked any of them (and that includes Lily), and I certainly didn't trust them. It seemed like they all had selfish motives, multiple character weaknesses, and lots of secrets. Having said that, they did keep me guessing so that's something.

In addition, I enjoyed how Ms. Corry told this story. The book begins with a brief prologue that alerts the reader that the ending will most likely have someone die. Who that someone is is the question. The book then goes back fifteen years in the past and introduces Ed and Lily and eventually Carla. After their story is established, the book moves ahead fifteen years and picks up on these individuals' lives... and explains what happened in the prologue. I really liked how I wondered for 350+ pages what the first page of the novel was all about.

If I had a knock against the book (and it's not a big one), it's that there were a few too many coincidences in the novel. I don't want to give away anything, but there was a tie between the characters that just seemed a little too easy for me, if that makes sense? It didn't affect my appreciation of the novel and the connection was a little surprising, but it made sense and worked out in the end.

Overall, I liked MY HUSBAND'S WIFE a great deal and recommend it to fans of psychological suspense novels.

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, February 11, 2017

Kid Konnection: Picture Book Round-Up

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 cute picture books -- one that is aimed at preschoolers and one that is perfect for toddlers.

Summary: Told in rhyming text, Excavator, Bulldozer, Crane Truck, Dump Truck, and Cement Mixer will all need to work together as they tackle their biggest job yet--a massive building.

Check out the entire Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train family! -- Chronicle

MIGHTY, MIGHTY CONSTRUCTION SITE by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld is the perfect book for preschoolers who love all things construction. Case in point: I babysit a four year old and when he saw the "pitch" on my email for this book, he asked me if I could get it for him. He just knew he'd love this adorable book that's chockfull of construction vehicles!

Fans of the best-selling GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT CONSTRUCTION SITE have been anxiously awaiting its sequel... and with good reason. MIGHTY, MIGHTY CONSTRUCTION SITE is a great picture book that has already received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. In MIGHTY, MIGHTY CONSTRUCTION SITE, the familiar trucks that readers know and love are all back; and this time, they are working together to complete their biggest project yet.

MIGHTY, MIGHTY CONSTRUCTION SITE is adorable. I love the rhyming text as well as the fantastic illustrations. The book also has a pretty great message -- it teaches youngsters that anything is possible when you work together. Highly recommended!

Summary: Babies can explore different textures and expand their senses as they discover this padded board book’s tactile elements. They can touch soft bunnies, fuzzy teddy bears, sparkly hearts, and more, and feel all the love you have for them. Baby Touch and Feel: I Love You promotes sensory development and early language skills, and is the perfect size for small hands to hold.

With simple images that are clearly labeled, and an amazing range of novelty textures, Baby Touch and Feel books capture the attention of the very youngest children and create an experience they’ll want to repeat again and again.

Baby Touch and Feel books are the perfect series for the very youngest readers. These small, padded books excite babies and toddlers with their foil and touch-and-feel covers. Each book in this affordable series contains twelve vibrant interior pages with bold, engaging images and large word labels, and each page has foil or glitter to behold or a texture to touch. These safe novelty textures immediately intrigue babies and are perfect for little fingers to feel. The Baby Touch and Feel series encourages sensory development, language skills, and early reading skills while teaching colors, shapes, patterns, and opposites. -- DK

I just had to feature BABY TOUCH AND FEEL: I LOVE YOU this week. Valentine's Day is only three days away, and this book is the perfect gift for the baby/toddler in your life. My kids are twelve and seventeen; and needless to say, they are way beyond picture books. However, I fondly remember how much they loved DK books and especially "touch and feel" ones.

BABY TOUCH AND FEEL: I LOVE YOU is just precious. It's a padded board book and small so tiny hands can hold it. It's also full of colorful photographs that babies will appreciate. My kids loved books with photos of animals and babies! In addition, there are bright colors, foil images, and plenty of textures to feel including a basket, a sweater, and fur. Even the cover has rabbit fur for little ones to touch. Way too sweet!

BABY TOUCH AND FEEL: I LOVE is perfect for Valentine's Day... and really every day!

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, February 8, 2017

Review: Egg Drop Dead & Giveaway

Summary: In Laura Childs’s New York Times bestselling mystery series, Suzanne, Petra, and Toni—co-owners of the Cackleberry Club café—are back to track down another bad egg…

Maintaining good personal relationships with their suppliers is one of the secrets of the Cackleberry Club café’s success, so Suzanne doesn’t mind going out to Mike Mullen’s dairy farm to pick up some wheels of cheese. She’s looking forward to a nice visit with the mild-mannered farmer before heading back to their hectic kitchen.

But when she arrives, Mike’s nowhere to be found. The moaning of his cows leads her to look in the barn, where she discovers a bloodcurdling sight—the farmer’s dead body. Apparently not everyone was as fond of Mike Mullen as the Cackleberry Club.

Churning with grief and outrage, Suzanne, Petra, and Toni vow to find the farmer’s murderer—but as they get closer to the truth, the desperate killer gets whipped into a frenzy and plans to put the squeeze on them… -- Berkley

I haven't been reading many cozies these past few months, but I was in the mood for one now that the weather is cooler and the skies have been so dreary. I decided to pick up EGG DROP DEAD by Laura Childs, an author who never fails to entertain me. EGG DROP DEAD is her latest in the Cackleberry Club Mystery series, a set of books that stars three women who own and operate the Cackleberry Club cafe.

EGG DROP DEAD begins with Suzanne, the owner of the cafe, heading out to pick up some wheels of cheese from her local supplier, Mike Mullen. She always enjoys her visits with the kind man; however, when she arrives at his farm she notices something isn't quite right. (This happens a lot with Suzanne!) She is shocked to discover that Mike has been brutally murdered! (This also happens a lot with Suzanne!)

Suzanne immediately calls the local police with whom she has an interesting relationship -- Suzanne has assisted them with murder cases in the past. The lead cop warns her that Mike's killer was a very angry person and that she should leave the investigating to the professionals... but Suzanne can't help by get involved. It's just her nature.

Suzanne, along with her besties Petra and Toni, are determined to find this mild-mannered farmer's murderer. Despite his calm demeanor, it's obvious that he upset at least one person. Could it be Mike's wife who was very eager to sell the farm after his death? Or, maybe the wheeler and dealer land developer who just came to the town? Or, is it the even scarier thought that it's someone they don't even suspect?

Laura Childs has done it again! EGG DROP DEAD was a fun cozy that managed to keep me guessing. It has fantastic characters whose interactions are both sweet and entertaining, and the murder mystery had some intriguing side stories... that may or may not have been red herrings. In addition, the book takes place in a cafe so there's lot of talk about food and drink. And the author even includes some recipes in the back of the book. What more could a cozy reader ask for?

If you are a fan of cozies, you really need to read the Cackleberry Cozy Mystery series! They encompass everything readers would want in a cozy, and you can just jump in with any of the books -- you don't need to read them in order. Ms. Childs has a few other series like her Scrapbooking Mysteries and her Tea Shop Mysteries that you should check out too!

I am so excited that I have a copy of EGG DROP DEAD to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before February 21st 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!