Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Summary: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. -- Putnam

I honestly don't know if I can thing of a book with more buzz surrounding it then WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens. I've been dying to read it for months, especially after Reese Witherspoon picked it as a Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick. It's only because I'm reading at a snail's pace lately that it's taken me so long to finally pick up this book... but I will say it was worth the wait!

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably have heard at least a little bit about WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING. This novel tells the story of Kya Clark, aka the "Marsh Girl." Kya's mother and siblings all left when she was a young girl, and soon thereafter her father disappeared too. Basically, Kya lived in the marshes along the North Carolina Coast and had to fend for herself, and she desperately craved human contact.

Kya was fortunate enough to have friends in the local store owner and his wife, but for the most part she was all alone... until she meets a teenage boy who teaches her to read. He not only opens her world to books, but he also opens her heart to love. That is, until he goes away to college and doesn't come back to visit. It's Kya's broken heart that leads her to Chase, a wealthy and popular town boy; and she begins a relationship with him that will forever affect her life.

I really want to tell you more about Kya's story, but I think it's best for me to leave it there and for you to pick up the book and find out for yourself. Suffice it to say that as sad as Kya's childhood story is, her adult one isn't any better. In fact, Kya finds herself accused of murder; and her reputation as the "Marsh Girl" and her unconventional life makes her an enigma to the townspeople.

I truly treasured this novel. It's a well written coming-of-age story (and you know how I love coming-of-age tales!) about an amazing young woman. It's both touching and hopeful, and I so appreciated Kya's story. I found myself constantly rooting for Kya -- at first for survival, and then for the chance for love and happiness, and then again for survival.

I was seriously impressed with Ms. Owens' and her storytelling abilities. It goes without saying that Kya's story is a special one, but I absolutely loved how the author chose to tell it. There are flashbacks between 1969 when the body was found and Kya's childhood backstory; and I thought Ms. Owens did a great job with transitioning between the two time periods. In addition, I really liked her character development and how she brought the setting to life. However, it was how she incorporated the nature aspects of the setting (especially the marsh and its wildlife) into Kya's personal story that brought the book to the next level for me. It really make me think about human nature, our instincts, and our behavior.

Another fantastic aspect of the novel was the mystery of how Chase died -- was it an accident or was it murder? I don't think I'm ruining anything for you to say that this novel is a bit of a murder mystery and that it does have a few surprising twists and turns. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that I loved how the novel ended!

Many book clubs are reading WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and it's no wonder! This novel is absolutely perfect for discussing, and there's a great reading guide with thirteen interesting questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore are family, loneliness, love, nature, what it means to be a woman, and more! There is also a conversation with the author and some recipes for meaningful food the story. You could throw such a great book club meeting with this kit!

I loved WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and highly recommend it!

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I am so excited about all of the books I got this week... and I know it's almost summer because I just got an ARC for Mary Kay Andrews' new book!
SUNSET BEACH by Mary Kay Andrews came from Tandem Literary

XL by Scott Brown came from Knopf Books for Young Readers

THE GOOD SISTER by Gilliam McAllister came from Putnam

I USED TO BE FAMOUS by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie with pictures by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff came from Albert Whitman & Company

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Kid Konnection: Turkey's Eggcellent Easter

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a picture book that's ideal for preparing kids for upcoming Easter egg hunts!

Summary: Easter is almost here—and Turkey knows just how to celebrate. He’s going to win the eggstra-special Easter egg hunt! The only problem is that animals aren’t allowed to enter. So he and his barnyard friends come up with a top-secret plan. With his trademark disguises and a whole lot of help, Turkey goes undercover. Will his basket of tricks help him win a prize? -- Two Lions Publishing

TURKEY'S EGGCELLENT EASTER by Wendi Silvano and illustrated by Lee Harper is the fourth book in the Turkey Trouble series, and it's sure to be a hit for old and new fans. This picture book is so silly and hilarious that parents and kids alike will get a kick out of it!

When Turkey catches wind of an eggstra-special Easter egg hunt with eggstra-special prizes, he just knows he has to be part of it. The only problem is that animals aren't allowed to participate. That little fact doesn't stop Turkey though. With the help of his friends and a variety of clever costumes, Turkey keeps trying and trying to capture just one special egg.

I adored TURKEY'S EGGCELLENT EASTER! It's an extremely fun book that is meant to be read over and over again. I liked the premise of this picture book, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the author made this story so darn funny. Turkey is a riot with his variety of undercover costumes and just how close he comes to getting an eggstra-special egg. I couldn't stop laughing at his attempt to look like a bunny!

In addition, Mr. Harper's illustrations truly are the perfect complement to this tale. I love how he brings the animals to life and uses accessories (like sunglasses) to really bring out their personalities. The expressions on the characters faces (including the animals) are terribly cute too.

TURKEY'S EGGCELLENT EASTER is definitely a twist on traditional Easter books, but I guarantee you won't be disappointed by this silly story! Highly recommended.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media 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!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Guest Review: The Killer Collective

Summary: A fast-paced, page-turning novel of betrayal, vengeance, and depraved secrets in high places from the New York Times bestselling author of the John Rain and Livia Lone series.

When a joint FBI–Seattle Police investigation of an international child pornography ring gets too close to certain powerful people, sex-crimes detective Livia Lone becomes the target of a hit that barely goes awry—a hit that had been offered to John Rain, a retired specialist in “natural causes.”

Suspecting the FBI itself was behind the attack, Livia reaches out to former Marine sniper Dox. Together, they assemble an ad hoc group to identify and neutralize the threat. There’s Rain. Rain’s estranged lover, Mossad agent and honeytrap specialist Delilah. And black ops soldiers Ben Treven and Daniel Larison, along with their former commander, SpecOps legend Colonel Scot “Hort” Horton.

Moving from Japan to Seattle to DC to Paris, the group fights a series of interlocking conspiracies, each edging closer and closer to the highest levels of the US government.

With uncertain loyalties, conflicting agendas, and smoldering romantic entanglements, these operators will have a hard time forming a team. But in a match as uneven as this one, a collective of killers might be even better. -- Thomas & Mercer

Thankfully, Booking Pap Pap has had more time lately to write reviews than I do! His latest is by an author he's come to really enjoy -- Barry Eisler. Here are his thoughts about Mr. Eisler's latest THE KILLER COLLECTIVE:

THE KILLER COLLECTIVE by Barry Eisler takes on the uncomfortable subject of sexual abuse of children. The novel opens with Seattle cop Livia Lone, a survivor of child sexual abuse herself, serving as a member of a FBI-Seattle Police joint task force investigating international child pornography. Livia discovers a possible pornography link to several individuals in the Secret Service.

Livia is soon the target of an assassination attempt. After a plane goes down with two other members of the task force on board, Livia is fearful that the government may be behind the attacks and reaches out to old friend Dox, an ex-marine sniper who now resides in Bali. Being a little smitten with Livia, he quickly comes to her aid and together they assemble an eclectic group of individuals to identify and eliminate any threat to Livia. The group included John Rain, a retired assassin, his estranged lover and Mossad agent Delilah, black ops soldiers Ben Treven and Daniel Larson and Special Ops leader Scott Horton. This collection of killers is challenged to work as a team because of questionable loyalties and romantic involvements. But they must find a way if they are to take on government agencies, powerful politicians and private military contractors as they move from Seattle to Washington to Paris. D.C.

Author Barry Eisler has weaved together several differing story lines to bring THE KILLER COLLECTIVE to a thrilling conclusion. Even though his characters, particularly John Rain and Livia Lone, have been developed in other novels, the depth of the characters are a strength of the novel. The story line has its share of violence, sex and rough language but not uncomfortably so. THE KILLER COLLECTIVE is a fast paced international thriller with lots of intrigue that takes on a current but uncomfortable subject.

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I received some great kids' books this week that you're sure to see soon on my weekend Kid Konnection feature!
BIG FOOT AND LITTLE FOOT: THE SQUATCHICORNS by Ellen Potter and art by Felicita Sala came from Amulet Books

BIG NATE PAYBACK TIME! by Lincoln Peirce came from Andrews McMeel Publishing

LUCY SPEAK OUT!: A PEANUTS COLLECTION by Schulz came from Andrews McMeel Publishing

POISON IN THE COLONY: JAMES TOWN 1622 by Elisa Carbone came from Viking Children's Books

TURKEY'S EGGCELLENT EASTER by Wendi Silvano and illustrated by Lee Harper came from Two Lions

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Kid Konnection: Life with My Family

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a fun picture book that focuses on families!

Summary: When a young girl gets frustrated with her chaotic life at home, she imagines what things would be like if her family were animals instead. Would life be better as a pod of pelicans, a pride of lions, or a herd of buffalo? Or is it ultimately a family of humans that she needs? In this beautifully illustrated book, young readers learn the names for groups of animals through a sweet, whimsical narrative that focuses on the importance of family. -- Penguin Workshop

I absolutely love the picture book LIFE WITH MY FAMILY by Renne Hooker and Karl Jones and illustrated by Kathryn Durst! You know how you love your family, but they can sometimes get on your nerves? Well, LIFE WITH MY FAMILY is one little girl's take on what would happen if her family were animals instead of people.

Each page of this adorable book features her family as a different group of animals... and it's so darn cute. There are pelicans at the beach, fish in the ocean, wombats in the grass, and bees in a meadow. What I love about these illustrations is that the animals have the family's faces on them -- even the baby has a pacifier. So darn cute!

Besides being utterly cute, this book is also educational. It teaches kids about the names of different groups of animals. There is even a page in the back of the book that provides the collective nouns used to describe many groups of different animals. I even learned a thing or two. Did you know that a group of iguanas is a mess and a group of owls is a parliament?

LIFE WITH MY FAMILY is a cute book for little ones and a good reminder that even though families can be trying, we wouldn't want them any other way!

Thanks to the publisher for providing review copies of these books.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Review: Before She Knew Him

Summary: Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . . -- William Morrow

I have thoroughly enjoyed every novel that I've read by Peter Swanson, so when I saw that he has a brand-new book out this week called BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM, I was definitely in! BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM is another intriguing suspense novel that's fast-paced and a terrific read.

BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM tells the story of Hen, an artist/children's book illustrator who has moved with her husband into a new house outside of Boston. She seems to be in a good place now -- she has a new home, a nearby artist studio, and her bipolar disorder is under control with her current meds. However when she visits her new next-door neighbors' house, she discovers that he has a trophy that reminds of her of a another neighbor -- one who was brutally murdered about two years ago!

Hen was fascinated with this murder but she has moved on... well kind of. When she sees this trophy and starts asking a few questions, she finds herself caught up once again in this murder. She begins to wonder if her neighbor Matthew killed this boy and if he's even a serial killer. The problem is that her husband and the police aren't sure if her concerns are based on reality or another manic episode in her life!

One evening, Hen decides to take matters into her own hands and follows Matthew. She catches him doing something unspeakable in the parking lot of a bar, and worse yet, he sees her watching him. Hen realizes that Matthew is a very dangerous man, yet she still tries to "understand" him despite putting her own life at risk!

I really enjoyed BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM! Mr. Swanson is a fantastic storyteller, and I found his characters to be extremely interesting and complex. Like his other books, this novel has terrific pacing and is a real page-turner. In fact, the only very slight issue I had was that parts of the story were a little predictable.

I think what I enjoyed the most about this novel were the characters of Hen and Matthew and the relationship between them. Matthew was certainly interesting and readers were given just enough of his backstory to explain how he became a crazy killer. Hen was intriguing in that she had a mental illness that made her behavior seem questionable at times. However, it was the scenes where they interacted that made this book so special to me. Their relationship was more than a little "off" to me, yet I appreciated how Matthew almost needed Hen and vice versa. It made for an unusual twist to what could have been a typical suspense novel.

I also enjoyed a few of the twists in this novel. While I did figure out a pretty major one (and I think most readers will!), I did like how there were many times when I wasn't quite sure what was coming next. Many of the chapters ended with mini cliffhangers which made the book hard to put down, and there were plenty of little surprises along the way. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of describing the feel of this novel, but it was a very smart thriller that constantly had suspenseful moments.

All in all, I think fans of psychological thrillers will enjoy BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-copy of this novel.