Monday, November 19, 2018

Mailbox Monday

If it's Monday, it's Mailbox Monday! Last week I had an abundance of books. This week is much more in line with what I've been getting the past few months.

It was only one book but isn't the cover gorgeous?
THE SONGBIRD by Marcia Willett came from Thomas Dunne Books

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Kid Konnection: Duck and Hippo Give Thanks

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 picture book that celebrates Thanksgiving!

Summary: It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and Hippo has his heart set on having a good old-fashioned feast with Duck and their friends. Together, Duck and Hippo go shopping for food and invite Turtle, Elephant, and Pig to share the special day with them. Then they get everything ready. But while Hippo goes to bed dreaming of his good old-fashioned Thanksgiving, Duck is busy making her own plans. There’s going to be a BIG surprise—one that will remind Hippo of all he has to be thankful for. Join Duck and Hippo for a memorable celebration! -- Two Lions

DUCK AND HIPPO GIVE THANKS by Jonathan London and illustrated by Andrew Joyner is really the perfect way to get in the mood for Thanksgiving! This adorable picture book about two unlikely friends, Duck and Hippo, celebrates the excitement surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday while also celebrating the true meaning of friendship.

Duck and Hippo decide to throw a traditional Thanksgiving with all of their friends. These two friends couldn't be more different (think the Odd Couple) with Duck's happy-go-lucky attitude and Hippo's more serious tone. Duck and Hippo work mightily hard to plan for their Thanksgiving dinner including a hilarious trip to the grocery store.

Hippo has everything ready to go -- the old-fashioned apple pie, the old-fashioned pumpkin pie, the old-fashioned acorn squash, and even table decorations. Everything looks perfect and Hippo is so excited; however, none of his friends show up! When they finally arrive, Hippo is shocked to find that they were late because they had a surprise planned for him... except that Hippo wasn't so sure that he appreciated their surprise. That is until he saw his friends' smiling faces and realized the true meaning of friendship!

I love Duck and Hippo! These two friends couldn't be more different, but they both have huge hearts and are great to each other. DUCK AND HIPPO GIVE THANKS recognizes their differences, while also showing children that people don't have to be the same to be good friends. In addition, I appreciated that the book celebrates Thanksgiving, both in the traditional way and the "Friendsgiving" way.

To get a better idea of these adorable characters and DUCK AND HIPPO GIVE THANKS, check out this book trailer:
If you want even more Duck and Hippo, check out the free downloadable activity pages.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this picture 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, November 15, 2018

Review: Marilla of Green Gables

Summary: A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness.

Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth "Izzy" Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world. 

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables. -- William Morrow

There was quite a bit of buzz at this year's Book Expo for MARILLA OF GREEN GABLES by Sarah McCoy. I met Sarah a few years ago and I am a huge fan of her books (and basically Sarah too -- she's delightful!) But I admit that I was a bit hesitant to read a prequel to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. I read ANNE for the first time earlier this year ( I know - it's hard to believe), and I absolutely loved the book. So it begged the question, "Would a prequel live up to this classic novel?"

I am happy to say that it did. I loved MARILLA OF GREEN GABLES! I never should have doubted Sarah -- she's a terrific writer, and her novel is definitely "ANNE - worthy." This book had the same feel as ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, and I fell in love with Marilla, Green Gables, and the other characters. It was absolutely charming and heartwarming and all those other words that basically mean I just loved this book!

MARILLA OF GREEN GABLES tells the story of Marilla Cuthbert. The novel begins when Marilla was thirteen years old and living in Avonlea. She meets her Aunt Izzy, who is quite a character and definitely a woman ahead of her time; and she gives Marilla an idea of what life can be outside of her small world!

Despite losing her mother at any early age, Marilla makes the best of her situation. She ventures outside of her farm life (making new friends and falling for a guy), and and begins doing charitable works for others. She even becomes involved in an orphanage that acts as a station for runaway slaves from America. Marilla is selfless and kind, and her involvement in politics and abolition help to create the woman we meet in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.

I found MARILLA OF GREEN GABLES to be such a beautiful work of fiction. The author brought Green Gables and its characters to life, and it was so fun to see who they were before Anne changed their lives forever (in the very best way!) I especially appreciated Marilla's romance with John Blythe. While it didn't end exactly the way I wanted (no surprise there!), it really helped explain how Marilla turned out to be a spinster and living with her brother.

Fans of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES will love this book -- I promise! However, I also think anyone who loves a heartwarming story about a woman discovering herself will enjoy it too. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy at this year's Book Expo.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Mailbox Monday

It's been quite a few years since I've participated in Mailbox Monday, but I've been blogging less since I started working full-time, and I still want to share with you the great books that are on my radar!

I had a fantastic week of book goodies -- I can't remember the last time I received so many books! So many of them look terrific -- what stands out to you?
THE DUKE THAT I MARRY by Cathy Maxwell came from Avon Books

THE OTHER MISS BRIDGERTON by Julia Quinn came from Avon Books

SAVE ME FROM DANGEROUS MEN by S.A. Lelchuk came from Flatiron Books

THE MOTHER-IN-LAW by Sally Hepworth came from St. Martin's Press

EGGS ON ICE by Laura Childs came from Berkley

THE BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS by Camille De Maio came from Lake Union

DRAGONSHADOW by Elle Katharine White came from Harper Voyager

MRS. CLAUS TAKES THE REINS by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Mark Chambers came from Two Lions

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Kid Konnection: First Snow

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 picture book that celebrates kids' favorite part of winter -- snow!

Summary: Snowflakes falling! What a treat! Friends gather outside to celebrate the first snowfall of the season with snowball fights, sledding, building igloos, drinking hot chocolate, and making the most of a windy, wintry day. With rhyming text and cheerful illustrations, this is a charming celebration of the winter season. -- Albert Whitman & Co.

I'm certainly not looking forward to the first snow of the year, but FIRST SNOW by Nancy Viau and illustrated by Talitha Shipman is cute enough that maybe, just maybe, I'll crack a smile when I see those white flakes falling!

FIRST SNOW is an adorable picture book about two kids (and their friends) and their excitement for the first snow. The text in the book is short and sweet.. and perfect for toddlers; and the rhyming cadence of the words makes it fun to read aloud. I think this book captures the essence of children's joy surrounding snow absolutely perfectly.

In addition to the little story, the illustrations are precious. I love the bright colors set against the white snowy background, and the kids (and dog) in the story are too cute. Even the endpaper is fun with its collection of colorful winter hats and mittens.



FIRST SNOW is a beautiful and fun book that kids will love. Highly recommended!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this picture 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!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Kid Konnection: History's Mysteries


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 book for the kid in your life who is curious about history!

Summary: Curious kids itching for real-life Indiana Jones-like intrigue will get swept away with the next book in this spine-tingling series about solving puzzles of the past--from whole civilizations that have vanished to mystifying monuments and urban legends.

Fans of Night at the Museum and the Indiana Jones saga will be fascinated by these real-life mysteries: Is there any truth to the legend of Bigfoot? Why have planes and ships suddenly disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle? Is there really a lost city of gold in the jungle of Central America? The next book in this exciting new series will cover even more of history's most fascinating head-scratching conundrums, including the curse of the Hope Diamond, King Tut's tomb, black holes, the puzzling disappearance of ancient civilizations, cryptic creatures of myth and legend, long-lost treasure, and so much more. Kids can dig into these mysteries, uncover clues, and ponder leading scientific theories to help decipher what really happened. Chock-full of cool photos, fun facts, and spooky fun, this book is sure to keep curious kids engaged as they try to piece together these puzzles of the past! -- National Geographic Kids

National Geographic Kids is back with another edition of HISTORY'S MYSTERIES: FREAKY PHENOMENA: CURIOUS CLUES, COLD CASES, AND PUZZLES FROM THE PAST by Kitson Jazynika. It's the perfect gift for kids who are interested in history... and truthfully even for ones who don't think they are interested in history. This 160 page book make learning about history fun because it covers strange real-life mysteries!

HISTORY'S MYSTERIES is a very cool book for kids and adults alike. There are some amazing stories about some of history's most famous unsolved cases like the Loch Ness Monster, the Curse of the Hope Diamond, the Baiae Tunnels, and more! I've always been drawn to the mystery surrounding King Tut, so that section was especially interesting to me. But I found quite a few of the features to be extremely thought-provoking. I'm sure every reader will have a favorite mystery (or two!)

Once again, I am impressed with how these National Geographic Kids' books present material to kids. It goes without saying that the photographs and other images are amazing and certain to draw in even the most reluctant of readers. I also like that the written material is presented in a concise, easy-to-read way. There are plenty of fun facts, and I like the "New Evidence Revealed" sections. This book is about history but it's not at all intimidating to kids!

I also like that the ideas are offered in such a way that kids can try to solve these mysteries... or at least, they can come to their own conclusions about these mysteries. So while this book is providing some historical context to kids, it's also making them think about the information. How awesome is that?

I highly recommend HISTORY'S MYSTERIES. It's a must-have for school and home libraries.

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!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Review: November Road

Summary: Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America—a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.

Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.

A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.

Guidry knows that the first rule of running is "don’t stop," but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.

For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.

It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.

Charlotte sees that he’s strong and kind; Guidry discovers that she’s smart and funny. He learns that’s she determined to give herself and her kids a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.

Another rule—fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunters are closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.

Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but now Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love.

And it might get them both killed. -- William Morrow

Without a doubt, my favorite question at Book Expo each year is, "What book are you most excited about this fall?" And one of my favorite book people (Book Club Girl) said, "NOVEMBER ROAD." Of course, her recommendation was all I needed, but I'll admit the amount of well-respected authors on Twitter who were raving about this novel and the author Lou Berney, made me even more excited to read it! Plus, NOVEMBER ROAD received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Are you getting the idea that this book is a must-read?

Well if so, you are correct! I loved, loved, loved this book in a time when I don't get to read all that often. I basically hid every day during my lunch just to escape with this novel. It's that good. The characters are so incredibly real, and the plot is suspenseful, and I could go on and on; however, it's Lou Berney's writing that makes this book absolutely amazing.

The description above for NOVEMBER ROAD is pretty detailed, so I probably don't need to add much more to that. In summary, this novel takes place in the days following JFK's assassination and follows three people who are on the run -- Charlotte, a housewife who has just left her alcoholic husband, Guidry, a street lieutenant with the New Orleans mob, and a hitman who is chasing both of them. It's definitely not Guidry's intent when he picks up Charlotte and her daughters to fall in love with her, but he finds himself not only trying to safe his own life, but also trying to make a new one with her. It's quite the ride... both for the characters and the reader!

What amazed me the most about NOVEMBER ROAD is that, while it was a really well-written suspense novel, it was perhaps even more special because of the characters and the depth of their stories. It's part mystery, part suspense, and part love-story; and it truly reflects the mood of the country during this dark time. Every page is compelling and I absolutely loved how the author explored these characters' innate desire to live life to the fullest against the backdrop of Kennedy's death.

Another aspect of this novel which I'm finding hard to explain is the pace of the story. In many ways, the novel was extremely fast paced. The entire book took place in a short period of time and the chase aspect made it feel hurried. However, there were poignant times between the Charlotte and Guidry that seemed almost slow-motion in contract to the chase. I know this isn't making much sense, but I so appreciated how these two main plotlines wove together to make a beautiful story.

NOVEMBER ROAD would make an excellent book club selection. This is literary suspense at the highest level, and the character development is outstanding. You could really analyze their choices and motivations for quite some time. In addition, there are some universal themes that would make for some interesting discussion including love, loss, fear, second chances, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

I purposely left my review for NOVEMBER ROAD a little vague -- mostly because this novel left me speechless (if you can believe that.) It will without a doubt go down as one of my favorite books of 2018 (and maybe even this past decade.) 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.