Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: London Soho New York Cosmetic Bags

If I'm being entirely honest, books kind of take a back seat to almost everything this time of year. As the holidays approach, I am much more focused on crocheting and knitting scarves and boot cuffs, making ornaments, decorating the house, and shopping for gifts. I'm sure most of you can relate!

I feel like I'm in pretty good shape for Christmas... except for buying gifts. But I think I've found something perfect for at least one of my six nieces. It's a Cinderella cosmetic bag that's absolutely adorable and it retails for $9.99. What a great gift at a great price!

LONDON SOHO NEW YORK® has teamed up with Walgreens to offer a charming Disney collection of cosmetic bags featuring Cinderella. These bags are available exclusively at Walgreens and include a train case, organizer, two wristlets and 2 piece clutch set. LONDON SOHO NEW YORK® is known for versatile, long-lasting and on-trend cosmetic bags; and I think they've hit it out of the part with the beautiful collection of Cinderella-inspired ones.

Train Case $11.99
2 Piece Clutch Set $9.99
Wristlet $7.99
Wristlet $7.99
I was fortunate enough to receive the Cinderella organizer which is a great size for my travel make-up needs. It's 8 x 3.75 x 5.25. The front and back of the bag both feature Cinderella and her price dancing at the ball, and the iridescent colors and shiny silver trim are so pretty. This bag even caught the eye of my teenage daughter!

I think these LONDON SOHO NEW YORK® Cinderella cosmetic are great gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season. How cute would one of these bags be filled with cosmetics for the young girl (or young at heart girl) in your life? Make sure you check out Walgreens for their line of Cinderella cosmetics too!

Thanks to Creative Media Marketing for providing a sample bag for review!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Pop Goes the Weasel

Summary: A man’s body is found in an empty house. A gruesome memento of his murder is sent to his wife and children.

He is the first victim, and Detective Helen Grace knows he will not be the last. But why would a happily married man be this far from home in the dead of night?

The media call it Jack the Ripper in reverse: a serial killer preying on family men who lead hidden double lives.

Helen can sense the fury behind the murders. But what she cannot possibly predict is how volatile this killer is—or what is waiting for her at the end of the chase…. -- NAL

I couldn't wait to read POP GOES THE WEASEL by M.J. Arlidge after loving his first novel in the Detective Helen Grace series EENY MEENY. EENY MEENY was a fantastic thriller that was a just-right blend of scariness and mystery; and I loved the complex characters, especially Helen Grace. I admit I was a little curious to see if the next book in the series would live up to my expectations.

And I'm so happy to say that POP GOES THE WEASEL was terrific! Once again, it had a creepiness factor (but not over-the-top) while also having an intriguing mystery. I devoured it in just two days and that's really saying something considering that I have next to no reading time.

POP GOES THE WEASEL begins with a man's body being discovered in a sketchy house and a gruesome package delivered to his wife and children. It is evident to Detective Helen Grace that this is the work of not only a brutal murderer but also a serial killer. As more men are found dead, Helen is unfortunately proven right.

All of the men have one thing in common -- they lead secret lives visiting on-line porn sites and frequenting prostitutes. As Helen and her team begin to work these murders, they are surprised to discover a female prostitute seems to be the guilty party. As Helen closes in on the murder, she also has to balance a pesky reporter who seems to be everywhere and politics with her new boss. Can Helen and her team stop this murderer before she strikes again?

I love this series and I won't hesitate to read any of the books featuring Detective Helen Grace. It's a good thing that another one is coming soon! I absolutely love the grittiness and complexity of Helen's character while also appreciated her intuition when it comes to solving horrific crimes. Helen's story is intriguing enough given her past and the baggage associated with it; however, when the author also adds strange and twisted murders to the mix, it just makes a great read!

One of my favorite things about this series (which I can now say after reading two of the books!) is that the character development is just so good. I've already mentioned how much Helen interests me, but the secondary characters are also fairly well developed. I think the author does a wonderful job of not only bringing the characters to life but also making them very human. Often times, the main character is the only three-dimensional character; however in this series, it seems like there are side stories which also have some substance to them.

As far as murder mysteries go, POP GOES THE WEASEL had it all. The author takes the reader on a fun ride full of twists and turns until he eventually reveals the culprit in an ah-hah moment. I had no clue until the very end who was responsible for the murders (probably exactly when the author wanted me to!), but it all made perfect sense. I loved how the story ended and the loose ends were tied up. 

I absolutely can't rave enough about POP GOES THE WEASEL and EENY MEENY. Highly recommended for fans of mysteries and thrillers.

Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-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, November 21, 2015

Kid Konnection: Mother Bruce

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 fun picture book about a bear who gets more than he expects for dinner!

Summary: Bruce the bear likes to keep to himself. That, and eat eggs. But when his hard-boiled goose eggs turn out to be real, live goslings, he starts to lose his appetite. And even worse, the goslings are convinced he’s their mother. Bruce tries to get the geese to go south, but he can’t seem to rid himself of his new companions. What’s a bear to do? -- Disney/Hyperion

MOTHER BRUCE by Ryan T. Higgins is absolutely adorable! I admit that I wasn't entirely sold on the concept from the book's description but this book turned out to be fantastic! I loved it!

Bruce the bear is quite the grumpy bear. He lives by himself and doesn't really like anything... except eggs. And not just any eggs, fancy cooked eggs. That's right. Bruce loves to find gourmet egg recipes and make them.

One day, Bruce decides to make a recipe for hard-boiled goose eggs drizzled with honey-salmon sauce. He gathers all of the ingredients but discovers that his eggs aren't exactly ready for eating! When Bruce goes out to get wood for his fire, the eggs hatch into adorable little baby goslings.

What's even funnier is that these little baby geese decide that Bruce is their mama! Bruce tries to return the goslings to their mommy, but she has already flown south for the winter. Bruce the bear tries everything to get rid of the babies, but they always seem to find their way back to their "mama." So... Bruce reluctantly takes care of the goslings.

MOTHER BRUCE is just so adorable! The book is a sweet story about an unlikely family but there is just so much humor on almost every page. Parents and kids alike will laugh out loud at Bruce's desperation. In fact, there are a few jokes that I think are intended just for the parents. I think it's one of those picture books that you can read over and over again!

I also love the illustrations in MOTHER BRUCE. You can tell from the cover just how cute they are. Bruce's expressions are hilarious and the goslings are precious. There are only a few words per page (the pictures really do a wonderful job of telling the story), so it's ideal for even reluctant listeners.

Check out the cute gift set that my family will be wearing on Thanksgiving!
As Thanksgiving approaches, there is a fun promotion for MOTHER BRUCE. Share your "Hungry as a Bear" photos and use hashtag "FollowBruce" to help celebrate the release of this terrific picture book!
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: Don't Jump

Summary: Don’t Jump, chronicles a woman’s quest to find her place and purpose amidst sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and celebrity. It’s a story of unfulfilled potential, addiction, and bad behavior. Ultimately, it’s a story of redemption, told with levity and a wicked sense of fun.

Don’t Jump takes us backstage and off-screen with a world famous athlete, rockers, movie stars, and some of the biggest names in comedy. A unique female perspective, it’s an inside view from outsider. From the kings of late night, to America’s #1 shock jock, to the top sitcom earners of all time, we glimpse their humanity, previously unexposed.

Andi’s story drives Don’t Jump––her descent and her resurrection. The celebrities who populate her life add spice and flavor but, it’s Andi’s perceptions that fuel the narrative. Smart, sassy and sexy, she projects confidence and success. But beneath her cool exterior, she knows she's "simple, boring and fat."

Seeking solutions for her disintegrating marriage, tumultuous show biz ups and downs, her slow and painful recovery, and mid-life transition, Don’t Jump explores Andi’s journey to make her life count. -- Random Content

DON'T JUMP: SEX, DRUGS, ROCK 'N ROLL... AND MY F**KING MOTHER by Vicki Abelson is not a book that I'd normally pick up... yet the description sounded intriguing. I love tell-all books, and while DON'T JUMP isn't exactly a memoir, I suspect there's a fair amount of truth to the stories.

DON'T JUMP is a novel about Andi, a woman who experiences quite a few ups and downs as she tries to find herself and her purpose. Andi is a smart woman who tries her hand at acting, comedy and then promotion while living a pretty wild life by my standards. (In fact, she seems to have led a very similar life to author Vicki Abelson.) Andi has encounters with a popular sports star, famous musicians, actors, and comics; and she doesn't hesitate to share all of the juicy details in this novel.

Andi's life experiences are interesting to say the least. Her partying ways and then her clean up efforts are well chronicled; however, it's her insight into not only the world of celebrity, but her own personal struggles, that make this book worth reading.

I am glad that I read DON'T JUMP and I definitely enjoyed parts of this novel. The writing was smart and hilarious which I appreciated, but there were also parts of this story that were very tender and heartwarming. I especially liked that the story showed both the ups and downs of Andi's life and career and that ultimately it was one of redemption.

I certainly was shocked by Ms. Abelson's honestly, which was brutal at times, in telling this tale. (Here, I'm assuming that many of Andi's stories were, in fact, the same as Ms. Abelson's.) Having said that, I enjoyed these scenes which were no doubt interesting! Whether is was stories about her bosses, the men in her life, or even her own personal issues, these descriptions were truly honest even if that portrayed Andi in a bad light. In fact, there were some scenes that were so "honest" that they were almost difficult to read!

I will admit that there were parts of this book that just didn't hold my interest like I had hoped -- namely some of the parts about her career. I definitely enjoyed the stories about her early acting career and I really liked the ones about her attempts at comedy; however, once she began describing her promotion work at clubs, I found my interest waning. Overall, I think the book was a little too long and a few sections could have been cut, but that's just my opinion.

DON'T JUMP is a roller coaster ride through one woman's life. Recommended to fans of roman a clefs and celebrity tell-alls!

Thanks to Get Red PR for providing a review copy of this book.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: The Time Garden & The Time Chamber

Summary: A dazzlingly beautiful coloring book for all ages, The Time Garden will sweep you away into a whimsical cuckoo clock–inspired world, created in intricate pen and ink by the internationally best-selling Korean artist Daria Song. Then, explore the magical world outside the clock through the eyes of a fairy in the sequel, The Time Chamber: A Magical Story and Coloring Book.

Journey through the doors of a mysterious cuckoo clock into its inky innerworkings to discover a magical land of clock gears, rooftops, starry skies, and giant flying owls—all ready for you to customize with whatever colors you can dream up.

Cuckoo . . . cuckoo . . . cuckoo . . . When the clock strikes midnight, you’ll wonder, was it all a dream?

The Time Garden features extra-thick craft paper, ideal for non bleed-through coloring, and the jacketed cover with flaps is removable and colorable. Special gold-foil stamping on the cover and spine and a To/From page make it perfect for gifting to adults and kids alike. -- Ten Speed Press

You would have to be living under a rock not to notice all of the coloring books that are available for adults. My sister has even jumped on the bandwagon and bought herself coloring books -- she says it's relaxing. Well, I could certainly use a way to relax while watching television in the evening with my family. (I usually bead Christmas ornaments or make scarves!) I'm not really sure I even know how to relax!

So when Ten Speed Press offered to send me a copy of THE TIME GARDEN: A MAGICAL JOURNEY AND COLORING BOOK by Daria Song, I jumped at the chance. This "adult" coloring book is absolutely beautiful. Honestly, I was blown away by Ms. Song's drawings. Just check out two of the pages from this coloring book.

THE TIME GARDEN begins with a short story about a young girl who has an amazing imagination. When her father brings home a cuckoo clock, she decides to check it out. She discovers a little fairy inside the clock and is so startled that she falls flat on her back. After she recovers, she ends up chasing the fairy and discovering new worlds full of beauty and mystery!

I love that THE TIME GARDEN tells a story, first with worlds and then with detailed drawings! The beautiful story makes it perfect for children of all ages and adults, and the various illustrations (some more detailed than others) are guaranteed to keep color enthusiasts busy for some time. I can see why the coloring craze is here!

I had great plans to take pictures of the pages I colored; however, I do have my pride. Since I haven't really colored for almost 40 years, I think I need some practice before sharing my artwork with others. I will tell you that I did find the coloring very relaxing (for the most part -- I am Type A personality after all), and I loved the assortment of illustrations. Depending on my mood and patience level, I could always find a page that I wanted to color.

There is a sequel to THE TIME GARDEN. It's called THE TIME CHAMBER: A MAGICAL STORY AND COLORING BOOK, and I admit that I was thrilled that this book unexpectedly showed up last week! Like THE TIME GARDEN, this book is gorgeous and entertaining.

Summary: This second book in the bestselling Time coloring series features the voyage of a fairy who, when the cuckoo clock chimes midnight, enters the human world. To the tiny fairy, everything seems enormous and magical, from the curtains to the chandelier to a mystical rowboat that takes her further into an inky adventure. With her she packs her favorite items, which colorers can find throughout the book’s pages: an owl-feathered pen, a star-scented spray, a time tape measure…even the key to the time chamber itself!

Filled with the imaginative, intricately detailed illustrations Song’s readers have come to love, The Time Chamber presents a view of our world made new—and ready for coloring.

The Time Chamber features extra-thick craft paper, ideal for non bleed-through coloring, and the jacketed cover with flaps is removable and colorable. Special gold-foil stamping on the cover and spine and a To/From page make it perfect for gifting to adults and kids alike. -- Ten Speed Press

Both THE TIME GARDEN and THE TIME CHAMBER make perfect gifts for the holiday season. You will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of these coloring books, with their heavy pages and gold-foil embossed covers (which are removable for easier coloring.) In addition, there is a To/From page in the front which makes it ideal to share with someone special in your life.

I can't rave enough about these two coloring books. Highly recommended!

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: Christmas Bells

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini celebrates Christmas, past and present, with a wondrous novel inspired by the classic poem “Christmas Bells,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day/ Their old familiar carols play/ And wild and sweet/ The words repeat/Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

In 1860, the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow family celebrated Christmas at Craigie House, their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The publication of Longfellow’s classic Revolutionary War poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” was less than a month hence, and the country’s grave political unrest weighed heavily on his mind. Yet with his beloved wife, Fanny, and their five adored children at his side, the delights of the season prevailed.

In present-day Boston, a dedicated teacher in the Watertown public school system is stunned by somber holiday tidings. Sophia’s music program has been sacrificed to budget cuts, and she worries not only about her impending unemployment but also about the consequences to her underprivileged students. At the church where she volunteers as music director, Sophia tries to forget her cares as she leads the children’s choir in rehearsal for a Christmas Eve concert. Inspired to honor a local artist, Sophia has chosen a carol set to a poem by Longfellow, moved by the glorious words he penned one Christmas Day long ago, even as he suffered great loss.

Christmas Bells chronicles the events of 1863, when the peace and contentment of Longfellow’s family circle was suddenly, tragically broken, cutting even deeper than the privations of wartime. Through the pain of profound loss and hardship, Longfellow’s patriotism never failed, nor did the power of his language. “Christmas Bells,” the poem he wrote that holiday, lives on, spoken as verse and sung as a hymn.

Jennifer Chiaverini’s resonant and heartfelt novel for the season reminds us why we must continue to hear glad tidings, even as we are tested by strife. Reading Christmas Bells evokes the resplendent joy of a chorus of voices raised in reverent song. -- Dutton

I know it might seem a little early to be reviewing a Christmas book here at Booking Mama, but I can promise you that the holiday will be here before we know it. And what's better to get you in the festive spirit than a heartwarming Christmas story? New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini has written a sweet novel called CHRISTMAS BELLS that's just perfect for this time of year!

CHRISTMAS BELLS was inspired by the classic poem "Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The story goes back and forth between the present and the past and links the stories of various church members with Longfellow's life in the 1860s.

The novel begins in Boston with Sophie, a music teacher whose life isn't going exactly to plan. The music program at her elementary school has been cut due to budget constraints and she will soon be out of work. In addition, she has some personal issues (i.e. her love life) that she needs to figure out. She manages to push aside her concerns as she prepares the children's choir for their Christmas Eve concert. Naturally, the kids will be performing the carol "Christmas Bells" written by local artist Henry Wadsworh Longfellow.

CHRISTMAS BELLS also shows Longfellow's life in 1863 when a horrible tragedy hits his family. To make matters even worse, the country in on the brink of war. Longfellow struggles to keep his patriotism, faith and family together despite the troubles they face.

In addition to Longfellow's and Sophie's stories, the novel also features vignettes of various members of St. Margaret's church. The reader is introduced to the challenges that children in the choir, their parents, parishioners, the priest and even a nun face. All of the stories in CHRISTMAS BELLS are linked in some way and promise to touch your heart this holiday season.

It's been awhile since I've read a novel by Ms. Chiaverini, and I was quickly reminded why I loved her novels so much. She manages to link the present and the past effectively, but she also weaves beautiful tales about people. I knew next to nothing about Longfellow's life, so I found his story to be fascinating; however, it was the touching stories about the present day church members that really warmed my heart.

And that's what I most loved about CHRISTMAS BELLS -- the way this book made me feel. During the holiday season, it's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and the preparations. I need books like this one to ground me and remember the what's important to me during this time of year -- family, friends, and church. Ms. Chiaverini really brings the various church members to life through these vignettes and their stories will definitely resonate with readers.

CHRISTMAS BELLS would be a great pick for your December book club. While the book does present Longfellow's story which many will find interesting, it really shows the kindness of the human heart... and who doesn't need an uplifting story like that during the holidays? Highly recommended!

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: The Crossing

Summary: Detective Harry Bosch has retired from the LAPD, but his half-brother, defense attorney Mickey Haller, needs his help. The murder rap against his client seems ironclad, but Mickey is sure it's a setup. Though it goes against all his instincts, Bosch takes the case. With the secret help of his former LAPD partner Lucia Soto, he turns the investigation inside the police department. But as Bosch gets closer to discovering the truth, he makes himself a target. -- Little, Brown

Hands down -- one of my favorite authors is Michael Connelly. I have read every single one of the books starring Harry Bosch; and for the most part, I have loved each and every one of them. His latest Bosch novel is titled THE CROSSING and it's absolutely terrific!

Bosch finds himself in a bit of a different situation at the start of THE CROSSING. He is no longer employed by the L.A.P.D., and if truth be told, he's not exactly feeling like himself. Harry is a cop through and through so when his half-brother Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer himself, asks for him to help investigate his latest client who is accused of murder, Harry can't help but look into it.

The thing is... Bosch is reluctant to help Mickey because he feels like a traitor and he's worried what his old friends on the force might think. Mickey swears that his client is innocent despite the DNA evidence that is pretty convincing, so Bosch agrees to check it out; however, he finds that it's not as easy to investigate a crime when you don't have your police credentials. He gets a little help from his ex-partner Lucia Soto and starts to think that maybe Haller's client was set-up.

Bosch gets consumed with the case (big surprise there!), and he uncovers more than he expected. The case is quite complex and eventually takes him to his old home -- the L.A.P.D. As Bosch gets closer and closer to the truth, he finds himself and his family at risk!

I loved THE CROSSING!!! I have been in the mood for mysteries lately, and this novel was exactly what I needed. Connelly is a master of crime novels and his characters are so well developed. Once again, he wrote a brilliant mystery that kept my interest; however, I really think it's Bosch's character that I really adored.

For those of you who have read a Harry Bosch novel, then you already know what a special character Bosch is. If you aren't familiar with him yet, then what are you waiting for? Bosch is a deeply flawed man who is also a brilliant investigator. I love that he's willing to do what it takes to get to the root of a crime... even if that means walking a fine line with the law.

However, it's Bosch's personal struggles that really interest me. I loved how well the author portrayed the issues Bosch was having with his transition to civilian life as well as his reluctance to handle the case with his brother. I also appreciated the way Connelly portrayed the challenges Bosch faces with his teenage daughter.

I thought the mystery aspect of THE CROSSING was outstanding. The story was extremely complex and I thought the way it was revealed was so good. I honestly couldn't put this book down. The mystery was much more twisted than I was expecting which also added to my appreciation of the novel.

Overall, THE CROSSING was an outstanding novel but I wouldn't expect anything less from Michael Connelly. 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.