Sara Zarr and Christina Baker Kline, author of ORPHAN TRAIN!!!!
The Harper Collins breakfast was definitely one of the highlights of SIBA. Of course, it didn't hurt that I got to chat with Sara Zarr and hear about the movie that's being made from one of her books. Squeeze! However, all five speakers were outstanding. The event was hosted by Harrison Scott Key, author of THE WORLD'S LARGEST MAN, and he was absolutely hilarious. I felt bad for the person who had to follow him, but Kevin Wilson, author of PERFECT LITTLE WORLD was fantastic and very funny too. Next up was Sara Zarr, author of the new novel GEM & DIXIE. She spoke from the heart and brought me to tears -- I can't wait to read this one! Then, Christina Baker Kline spoke about her book A PIECE OF THE WORLD. Naturally, I'm dying to read it because I adore her books. Finally, we heard from Peter Swanson, whose new book HER EVERY FEAR, sounds great. All in all, I came out of this breakfast knowing that I had to read these five books!
Kathy and I took to the show room floor. While it's much smaller than what I'm used to at BEA, I loved it! All of the reps were extremely friendly. Because the crowds were so much less than BEA, they actually had time to talk about the books they are excited about for the upcoming season. I'd like to say that I showed some restraint, but I'm a sucker for a good book pitch or two!!! Kathy has the same problem, and I enjoyed being an enabler to her book collection.
It was another gorgeous day in Savannah and not too hot, so Kathy and I took to walking around the city. I'm not sure there were many more sights for us to see because we had already done so much walking, but we did manage to hit an ice cream parlor that had caught my eye on a prior day. It's called Leopold's Ice Cream, and it was adorable. I felt as if I had traveled back in time to another generation. The shop was next to a theatre so the decor was heavy on the movie posters and photos of Hollywood stars, and the ice cream was delicious.
After our ice cream settled and we walked a bit more, we decided to try the Crystal Beer Parlor for lunch. We definitely were lucky in picking this restaurant. Crystal Beer Parlor is a historic restaurant that's over 83 years old and was one of the first places to serve alcohol after Prohibition was lifted. I loved the look of the restaurant -- it was an old grocery store prior to be turned into a restaurant; and my salad was delicious. The beer menu wasn't too shabby either.
The Public Kitchen and Bar for a SheReads Cocktail Party. The party was held on a rooftop bar and it was so nice just to have a drink and visit with some fellow bloggers. We met up with Sandy and Heather, and it was fun to talk about the conference and books as well as life in general.
Our last event of the day was the Saturday Supper featuring Jodi Picoult, Robert Hicks, Beth Macy and David Arnold. I was fascinated by the story behind Beth Macy's new novel TRUEVINE, and I was charmed by Mr. Arnold whose new YA book KIDS OF APPETITE sounds great. Of course, the speaker we all wanted to hear was Ms. Picoult. Her new book is called SMALL GREAT THINGS, and it deals with a very sensitive (and timely) topic - racism. Her speech, which focused on race relations, was very well received; and she definitely made every person there think... which I'm pretty sure was her intent.
And that was pretty much a wrap for SIBA Saturday! Kathy and I had no problems getting out of the garage on Saturday night because we learned our lesson and parked outside. It was a very long day and I think we both had book overload, but I loved every minute of it!
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted—and about to meet royalty. . . . So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte—LaLa, as her charges dub her—nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. LaLa knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.
But the greatest impact on Charlotte’s life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala’s love—the kind of love his parents won’t…or can’t…show him.
From Britain’s old wealth to the glittering excesses of Tsarist Russia; from country cottages to royal yachts, and from nursery to ballroom, Charlotte Bill witnesses history. The Royal Nanny is a seamless blend of fact and fiction—an intensely intimate, yet epic tale spanning decades, continents, and divides that only love can cross. -- William Morrow
A few weeks ago, my book club discussed THE ROYAL NANNY by Karen Harper. I wrote a brief recap of our meeting here but promised to share my thoughts at a later time. Well, now's that time. I am pretty sure everyone in my book club enjoyed THE ROYAL NANNY more than I did. It's not that there is anything wrong or inherently bad about this novel. I just never would have picked it up in the first place -- it wasn't my first or even second choice.
And that's the beauty of book clubs. One of the reasons I started a book club was the hope that it would push my to read novels outside of my comfort zone -- or my normal reading fare. And that's exactly the case with THE ROYAL NANNY. Everyone in my book club seemed to like this novel so it was interesting to see the book through their eyes.
THE ROYAL NANNY is actually based on a real character named Charlotte Bill, known to the royals as LaLa. In 1897, she joined the British royal family as their nanny and decided to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of the children. The children's parents weren't exactly hands on, and Charlotte had to provide love, support, discipline, and more. Keep in mind she was preparing the future kings of England and she took her job very seriously. That meant that Charlotte chose to put the family first over her own desire to be a wife and a mother.
I didn't not like THE ROYAL NANNY, but I didn't love it either. Having said that, I can appreciate the novel for quite a few reasons. First and foremost was the way the author imagined Charlotte. While Charlotte was a real character, there isn't a whole heck of a lot of information about her on record. I guess that's a historical novelist's ideal situation, right? She had enough details to form a basis for her character, but it also gave her a lot of leeway to interpret Charlotte's life.
Another thing I appreciated about this novel was that the story was told in Charlotte's voice. Charlotte was an interesting character and I think the book benefited from seeing things through her eyes. She obviously felt an obligation to these children (and the entire family!), and she was devoted to them beyond anything I could ever imagine. In fact, there were times that I was upset with her for giving up so much in her life. I just wanted her to find some personal happiness rather than always putting the royal family first.
And finally, I thought it was interesting in how Ms. Harper portrayed the various members of the royal family. I admit to not knowing a heck of a lot about the royals, but I knew enough to recognize some of the traits she described like Bertie's stutter and George's strong personality. I should probably note that a few members of my book club knew much more about these characters, and they were impressed too!
We found a fair amount to discuss about THE ROYAL NANNY. There is a reading guide in the back of the paperback book; however, I wasn't able to find an on-line link to it. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include love, duty, sacrifice, parent/child relationships, motherhood, arranged marriages, and loss.
Overall, I think many people will love THE ROYAL NANNY. It's a touching story about a woman who was willing to give up everything for the love of others. Recommended to readers of novels about the royal family and fans of Downton Abbey.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
When we arrived, we definitely had plans to investigate parking garages. Since we weren't planning on staying too late that night, it wasn't a major issue; however, we knew Saturday night would be one. We found an outdoor one very close to the hotel. It was perfect because we could just walk a block, cross the street and put our books in the car!
I mentioned last week that I loved Savannah, and Friday morning couldn't have been more gorgeous. The temperature was mild and we decided to just walk around and take in the sights. Savannah is a terrific walking city, and we managed to hit a few of Kathy's favorite shoe stores. We also decided to eat at Paula Deen's The Lady and Sons Restaurant... because you have to do that when in Savannah!
|The Lady and Sons Restaurant|
The building is an old factory and I thought it was extremely cool. The food, on the other hand, was just okay. Maybe that's because I'm not a huge fan of Southern food, or it's possible that I just ordered the wrong thing. The highlight was discovering that we had just missed Paula and her sons who were all there for a photo shoot!
Next up, Kathy and I decided to tour the Juliet Gordon Low Birthplace. I admit total ignorance that I didn't even know who Juliet Gordon Low was; however, Kathy gently reminded me that she was the founder of Girl Scouts. What can I say? It's been a long time since I was a Brownie. This tour was one of my favorite parts of the trip. There were three of us on the tour with two tour guides! The house was spectacular, as was Gordon Low's life. There was even a very fun interactive library. I left wanting to know more about this interesting woman's life!
|Juliet Gordon Low Birthplace|
Out first planned event at SIBA was at 2:00. While I was enjoying seeing Savannah and visiting with Kathy, I was excited to meet authors and hear about their books. SIBA took over an entire restaurant in the Hilton De Soto and turned it into a Signaround. Basically, you just walked up to an author sitting at a table and they signed a book for you. While it was a bit crowded, we had no issues meeting every author on our list... and a few more! Some of the terrific books I managed to gather were:
HAMSTER PRINCESS: RAPUNZEL by Ursula Vernon
THE MIGHTY ODDS by Amy Ignitor
THE SECOND MRS. HOCKADAY by Susan Rivers
THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE by Donna Eberhart
AMONG THE LIVING by Jonathan Rabb
We did a little more of touring Savannah, including taking a peek at the First African Baptist Church which was organized in 1773; and we also walked around the City Market. Since we ate lunch so early, we decided to have an early dinner at The Treylor Park. Kathy had heard this restaurant had a good beer list and an interesting menu, and I was definitely game. I ordered a sandwich I'm confident that I would only get in the south. It was a grilled apple pie sandwich with cheddar, cinnamon apples, and bacon served on brioche. I added chicken to it so I'd get some protein and just in case it was too sweet. Never did I imagine that it would be a big old hunk of fried chicken!
We finished dinner just in time to head back to SIBA for the Rep Pix panel. This was definitely a treat! It was a one hour panel and each rep was given two minutes -- yes, two minutes with no exceptions -- to pitch their favorite books for the upcoming season. I loved this format and I couldn't take notes fast enough although I admit I was a bit overwhelmed! I compiled a huge list of books to look for on the show floor and add to my must-read pile!
Immediately after the Rep Pix panel, we headed downstairs to the First 180 Days Party... and what a party it was. The room was packed beyond belief, but the lines to see the authors weren't too long. Despite trying to show some restraint, I still got excited when I saw all of those books! I grabbed some must reads including many I heard about at the Rep Pix panel. Here's a brief list of books that I can't wait to read:
INSPECTOR FLYTRAP IN THE GOAT WHO CHEWED TOO MUCH by Tom Angleberger
THE ORPHAN'S TALE by Pam Jenoff
THE DRIFTER by Christine Lennon
THE RIVER OF KINGS by Taylor Brown
THE BOOK OF POLLY by Kathy Hepinstall
GIRL IN DISGUISE by Greer Macallister
BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN by Susan Meissner
After loading our stash into the car, we decided to head back to Hilton Head and get some rest. We needed to get up bright and early the next morning because we had to be at the SIBA breakfast by 7:30!
Monday, September 26, 2016
With these words, Lady Athelinda Playford -- one of the world's most beloved children's authors -- springs a surprise on the lawyer entrusted with her will. As guests arrive for a party at her Irish mansion, Lady Playford has decided to cut off her two children without a penny . . . and leave her vast fortune to someone else: an invalid who has only weeks to live.
Among Lady Playford's visitors are two strangers: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited -- until Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder. But why does she seem so determined to provoke a killer? And why -- when the crime is committed despite Poirot's best efforts to stop it -- does the identity of the victim make no sense at all? -- William Morrow
I was so excited to discover that there is another "Agatha Christie" novel out there. No, I don't mean a new book written by Ms. Christie. Rather, it's a new book based on Agatha Christie's novels written by the talented writer, Sophie Hannah. I read THE MONOGRAM MURDERS a few years ago and thought Ms. Hannah did an excellent job of capturing the essence of Ms. Christie's novels, and CLOSED CASKET is another terrific mystery!
CLOSED CASKET is a complex story that will have readers scratching their head from the very start. Lady Athelinda Playford, a famous children's mystery writer, has invited both Hercule Poirot and Edward Catchpool, a Scotland Yard detective who is also the narrator of the novel, to her home with no explanation. At dinner the first night, she tells her two children, along with her other guests, that she's decided to change her will. Rather than leaving her fortune to her two children, she's decided to leave it all to her secretary Joseph Scotcher. As if that's not surprising enough, Mr. Scotcher is suffering from Bright's disease and only has a few weeks to live.
It dawns on Poirot and Catchpool that maybe Lady Playford has invited them to her house to prevent her own murder. However, when Scotcher is found brutally murdered in the parlor, things get even more confusing. Why would someone kill Scotcher when he is gravely ill? Things become even more complicated when there is a witness to the beating, and her story doesn't seem to add up. It's up to Poirot and Catchpool to conduct their own investigation... while staying out of the way of the the real inspector.
And truly that's just the beginning of the twists and turns in CLOSED CASKET. Nothing was really as it seemed especially pertaining to the character of Joseph Scotcher. Needless to say, I had no idea what the heck occurred at Lady Playford's estate; and I loved how convoluted the mystery was. Perhaps my favorite part of this entire novel was when the murderer was finally revealed. Everything suddenly made sense (as it should in a well-written mystery), and I was totally surprised by the motive!
Once again, I have to give a tremendous amount of credit to Ms. Hannah. It can't be easy to write an Agatha Christie novel, but I think she's outdone herself with this one. I actually felt as if I could be reading a novel by Ms. Christie; and I loved the well-plotted story, the interesting characters, and the humor she included in the story. She even managed to capture the essence of the quirky Belgian detective Poirot.
Overall, I love that Sophie Hannah has taken on the challenge of writing Agatha Christie novels. I will continue to read every single one she writes because I love these well-written and smart mysteries! 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, September 24, 2016
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 middle grade book written by award winning and best-selling adult author.
A few years ago, I reviewed THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER by Patricia Harman. I really enjoyed this book and it was apparent that Ms. Harman, a midwife herself, truly understood the important of midwives. She has now taken her knowledge of midwifery as well as her writing talent to the middle grade crowd. Her new book, LOST ON HOPE ISLAND: THE AMAZING TALE OF THE LITTLE GOAT MIDWIVES, is an intriguing read that's perfect for those kids who are interested in adventure stories.
LOST ON HOPE ISLAND tells the story of Trillium and Jacob, two kids who find themselves alone on a deserted island after their family's boat capsizes. I say deserted but they do encounter a herd of little goats... and an abandoned house. Trillium, the narrator of the tale, is the older of the two; and she tries her best to provide food and shelter to her younger brother until their parents (or really anyone) finds them. Life certainly isn't easy for these kids, but they show an amazing amount of strength and hope!
Trillium is a fantastic character! She's smart and courageous and extremely resilient despite facing one problem after another. She develops an interesting relationship with the various goats on the island, and she even helps them during birthing season and when they get sick. I'm sure that young readers will find many things to admire in Trillium, and I'm willing to bet that they will also find a few of her traits in either themselves or their friends.
The book was filled with simple, black and white, illustrations by Trillium Stone (the narrator of the story); and I thought they were a nice addition to the book. They help bring the story to life... and give younger readers a little break from all of the words. They also highlighted Trillium's love of nature and art. Another thing I appreciated was that the author included a few text boxes with step-by-step instructions for things that Trillium "figured out" while living in the wild like How to Milk a Goat and How to Make a Tin Lantern.
The story was left rather open-ended, and the author did provide an Afterword with a few hints as to the future of the children. Suffice it to say, I suspect LOST ON HOPE ISLAND is only the first volume in new series of books; and I look forward to seeing what eventually happens to Trillium and Jacob.
THE GOATS OF HOPE ISLAND would certainly be an interesting book to discuss either at home or in the classroom. The story is definitely intriguing and brings up quite a few interesting dilemmas that the kids face. It also touches upon some serious issues like courage, birth, death, isolation, fear, diversity, nature/environment, and hope.
Overall, I think LOST ON HOPE ISLAND will definitely appeal to young readers who enjoy an "real" adventure story -- two kids surviving all alone out in the wild. It will also appeal to adults who are looking for a clean story with good messages to share with their kids.
Thanks to JKS Communications 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, September 22, 2016
Last weekend, I had the privilege to attend the SIBA (the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) Trade Show. Kathy, aka Bermudaonion, and I missed out on attending this year's BEA in Chicago; so when we realized that attending SIBA in September in Savannah might be possible, we made plans. I basically bought my airplane ticket and she handled the rest. She drove almost 6 hours roundtrip on Thursday to pick me up at the airport in Columbia, SC, and then take me to her family's condo in Hilton Head where we stayed for the next four nights. Then she drove another six hours to take me back to the airport on Monday. She truly is an amazing friend... and she's also a whole lot of fun!
Even though the conference wasn't in full force on Thursday, we headed to Savannah to do a little sight seeing. Kathy also drove back and forth between Hilton Head and Savannah each day -- about an hour drive. What a trooper! She also managed to stay calm as she drove over the Talmadge Bridge eight times!!! I think it's safe to say that she's not exactly comfortable with driving over a bridge that high and that steep, but she persevered! I thought the bridge was beautiful, but Kathy definitely doesn't like it. I wasn't even allowed to breathe, nevertheless talk to her, while driving over it!
One of the highlights of Thursday was eating dinner at Gryphon, the restaurant run by SCAD, the Savannah College of Art & Design. Kathy has been there a number of times and just knew I'd love it. She was right! It is a wonderful cafe that serves sandwiches and salads, and they even have tea service. We opted to get a light dinner and a pot of Tropical Green Tea. My sandwich was delicious, but I think I would have loved anything there because the restaurant itself was so charming. The building was an old pharmacy with lots of dark wood and stained glass globe lights. It's also chock full of old books. They even bring your check in an old book!
Mary Kay Andrews' house hosted by St. Martin's Press. Oh my goodness was her house ever lovely! It was an older home decorated to the nines with antiques. -- see the picture on the right. It was even featured in a spread in HGTV magazine if that gives you any idea how amazing it was. I honestly can't believe how gracious she and her husband were to have all of us there. Honestly, Mary Kay Andrews is one of the kindest, most humble, authors I've ever met. I just loved her!
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Intrigue, murder, corruption, and dramatic courtroom battles combine to make Infamy another must-read in Robert K. Tanenbaum’s “tightly-written” (Booklist) legal thrillers. When a former Army veteran suddenly murders a colonel in New York, he claims that he had to do it because he was being used in mind control experiments. Surprisingly, a top Wall Street criminal defense lawyer, one with ties to the White House, decides to defend the killer, arguing that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress from his tours in Afghanistan and that it’s his patriotic duty to assist him.
As New York District Attorney Roger “Butch” Karp prepares a murder case against the veteran, he meets with investigative reporter Ariadne Stupenagel, who suspects that one of her sources for a story on high-level government corruption was a victim in the shooting. This points not to a random act of violence, but a hired killing that goes to the top levels of our nation.
In this fast-paced thriller, Karp goes up against corruption so powerful that he, his family, and his friends are in danger if he intends to prosecute those responsible for the murder of an FBI whistle-blower. Filled with edge-of-your-seat action, stunning plot twists, and, “solid courtroom scenes” (Kirkus Reviews), Infamy will keep you guessing until the very end. -- Gallery
I have just returned from a wonderful time at SIBA in Savannah, GA with Kathy (aka Bermudaonion) and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed this week. Thankfully, my father provided me with a review just in time! His latest read is INFAMY by Robert K. Tanenbaum, and here are his thoughts:
INFAMY, by Robert K. Tanenbaum is the 28th book in the series featuring New York District Attorney, Roger “Butch” Karp as the main character. In this latest novel, Karp becomes involved in the mysterious murder of a U.S. Army Colonel in a New York park by a former army vet who served under the colonel. When a top Wall Street attorney with White House ties volunteers to defend the former soldier, it signals to Karp that there might be more to this case than he initially thought. With the help of a well-connected journalist, Karp learns about a secret Middle East operation referred to as “Mirage” that is connected to the Colonel’s murder. Karp follows the clues and soon finds himself battling murder, threats against his family and corruption at the highest levels of the U.S. Government.
Author Robert Tanenbaum opens INFAMY with a prologue that describes a court scene where the prosecution and defense are awaiting a verdict from the jury. The author uses this scene to introduce the important characters in the book except the defendant. He then moves back eleven months to begin the story. In an interesting approach, Tanenbaum gradually reveals the plot and the guilty party to the reader and the story then revolves around Karp’s effort to prove it in court. Although the author relies more on the plot and court room drama to carry the story, he does manage to present an interesting mix of characters including his wife, his daughter and her fiancé, a Taos Indian tracker, a journalist, a Vietnamese gangster, his best friend and a New York City detective. The reader gradually learns the role each character plays in bringing the defendant to justice.
While we witness examples of the manipulation of people and the government by an elite few, in INFAMY, Tanenbaum takes it to a level that is possible but likely a little far-fetched. INFAMY features intrigue, corruption, murder, power and dramatic court scenes with plenty of twists and turns to hold the reader’s interest. Although INFAMY is the 28TH book in the Karp series, it really stands on its own. Anyone who enjoys the legal thriller genre will like this book.
Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his review and thanks to FSB Associates for providing a review copy of the novel.