Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kid Konnection: Coming Home Giveaway


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 the perfect picture book to celebrate Memorial Day!

Summary: Every day, soldiers leave their families to protect others.
We love them. We miss them when they're gone.
And we want them all to come home.
They are our heroes. -- Feiwel & Friends

With Americans celebrating Memorial Day this weekend, it's officially the start of summer. No matter what festivities you have planned, it's important to remember the real reason for this national holiday.

COMING HOME, written and illustrated by Greg Ruth, is the ideal picture book to commemorate Memorial Day. This gorgeous and touching book tells the story of a young boy waiting to reunite with his military parent at the airport. It's received some pretty terrific praise from the likes of The New York Times which said, “COMING HOME makes as strong a case as a picture book can for visual storytelling, and for making few words count.”

Check out how beautiful this book is:
I have a copy of COMING HOME available to one lucky reader courtesy of the publisher. To enter, just fill out the form below before June 5th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

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, May 21, 2015

Review: Diamond Head

Summary: A sweeping debut spanning from China to Hawaii that follows four generations of a wealthy shipping family whose rise and decline is riddled with secrets and tragic love—from a young, powerful new voice in fiction.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Frank Leong, a fabulously wealthy shipping industrialist, moves his family from China to the island of Oahu. But something ancient follows the Leongs to Hawaii, haunting them. The parable of the red string of fate, the cord that binds one intended beloved to her perfect match, also punishes for mistakes in love, passing a destructive knot down the family line.

When Frank Leong is murdered, his family is thrown into a perilous downward spiral. Left to rebuild in their patriarch’s shadow, the surviving members of the Leong family try their hand at a new, ordinary life, vowing to bury their gilded past. Still, the island continues to whisper—fragmented pieces of truth and chatter, until a letter arrives two decades later, carrying a confession that shatters the family even further.

Now the Leongs’ survival rests with young Theresa, Frank Leong’s only grandchild, eighteen and pregnant, the heir apparent to her ancestors’ punishing knots. Told through the eyes of the Leong’s secret-keeping daughters and wives and spanning The Boxer Rebellion to Pearl Harbor to 1960s Hawaii, Diamond Head is a breathtakingly powerful tale of tragic love, shocking lies, poignant compromise, aching loss, heroic acts of sacrifice and, miraculous hope. -- Harper

I'm not exactly sure where to begin with my review for DIAMOND HEAD, the debut novel by Cecily Wong. I finished this book many weeks ago and was reluctant to write a review because I'm not sure what to say about this novel. I enjoyed it and thought the writing was stellar; however, there was just something about it that kept me from loving it. I thought I'd let the book percolate awhile to see if I could understand what that was, but I'm still not entirely sure.

DIAMOND HEAD is a multi-generational story that takes the reader from the Boxer Rebellion in China to Pearl Harbor to the 1960s in Hawaii. The novel covers four generations of a well-to-do family in the shipping business but focuses primarily on the women of the family; and it weaves back and forth between their stories of the present day (which is really the 1964) and the past.

The book revolves around the funeral of Bohai Long, the son of Frank and Lin. Frank and Lin came from China to Hawaii at the beginning of the 19th century with hopes for a perfect life. Frank built a mansion for his wife and son with the Black Head volcano in the background, and even brought his sister-in-law with them and supported her after the loss of her husband in the Boxer Rebellion.

Their son Bohai is quiet and reserved (and frankly a little different), so his mother Lin decides to help him find a wife. When the family hires a photographer to take their picture, she handpicks Ann, the photographer's daughter as a potential candidate for Bohai. Ann is currently engaged to a childhood friend; however, when he leaves to fight in the war, things become complicated for them. Despite warnings from her mother about entering a loveless marriage, Ann decides to marry Bohai. This decision ultimately results in some major troubles for the family.

Bohai and Ann have a daughter, Theresa, who finds herself pregnant at 18 and unwilling to reveal the father of her baby. When she arrives at her father's funeral, along with Lin and Ann, she begins to explore her family's secrets and she is shocked by what she learns!

As you can see from my summary, DIAMOND HEAD has a lot going on! I actually found the summary difficult to write because I wanted to give background on this interesting family, but not so much information that I would spoil the story. The novel delves into the lives of Lin, Ann, and Theresa and the choices they made; and overall, I appreciated their stories.

DIAMOND HEAD is a family saga that takes place over 60 years, and it includes many secrets, betrayals, and even some mysticism. I read somewhere that some of the events in the novel are based on the author's families. I do think knowing that made the novel even more intriguing to me. These women's lives were fascinating, and I definitely enjoyed seeing how they related to each other as well as the men in their lives.

One of my favorite things about this novel was how much historical information the author was able to include in Lin and Ann's stories. I have read little about the Boxer Rebellion, and while this wasn't a major part of the book, it was an important part of it. In addition, I enjoyed learning about Hawaii in the early 1900s as well as how what occurred at Pearl Harbor affected the islands. I was very impressed with how well the histories of these places were incorporated into the novel.

In addition, I think Ms. Wong did an excellent job of bringing the female characters to life. I deeply appreciated their stories and my heart definitely went out to all of the women in this novel. The author made these women and their stories so real, and I thought her portrayal of their many relationships was outstanding. One thing is for sure, Ms. Wong definitely has established herself as a beautiful writer.

Another aspect of the story that I liked was how the novel explored the idea of fate. The author used the parable of the red string of fate to bring this concept to light. Basically, there is a red string that tethers us to our one true love. If a person denies that love, it can cause a knot in the string which will have negative implications not only on the person initiating the actions but also their descendants. This curse, if you will, was evident throughout the course of these women's stories; and the use of this parable was extremely well done.

Finally, I appreciated how the story was written and how the secrets were eventually revealed. I liked that the funeral of Bohai brought these three women together and how their stories centered around this event. It was interesting to learn about each woman as they also learned about themselves and each other. Furthermore, the transitions between the stories were smooth and the book moved at a good pace.

DIAMOND HEAD would make an excellent book club pick. There truly is so much to discuss about each of these women as well as the time periods in which the grew up. There is a reading guide available with eleven questions, and Ms. Wong is available for author chats. Some of the themes you might want to explore include love, loss, grief, mother/daughter relationships, guilt, control, choices, and fate.

I enjoyed DIAMOND HEAD a great deal but something kept me from actually loving it like I had hoped. I was hoping that maybe writing this review would help flesh it out for me, but unfortunately, I still don't know what was missing for me. The writing was absolutely outstanding and the characters and their stories were interesting. I just think maybe I didn't connect enough to the story for it to truly resonate with me. That's my best guess!

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Guest Post: Mary Kay Andrews & Giveaway

Summary: Greer Hennessy is a struggling movie location scout. Her last location shoot ended in disaster when a film crew destroyed property on an avocado grove. And Greer ended up with the blame.

Now Greer has been given one more chance--a shot at finding the perfect undiscovered beach town for a big budget movie. She zeroes in on a sleepy Florida panhandle town. There's one motel, a marina, a long stretch of pristine beach and an old fishing pier with a community casino--which will be perfect for the film's climax--when the bad guys blow it up in an all-out assault on the townspeople.

Greer slips into town and is ecstatic to find the last unspoilt patch of the Florida gulf coast. She takes a room at the only motel in town, and starts working her charm. However, she finds a formidable obstacle in the town mayor, Eben Thinadeaux. Eben is a born-again environmentalist who's seen huge damage done to the town by a huge paper company. The bay has only recently been re-born, a fishing industry has sprung up, and Eben has no intention of letting anybody screw with his town again. The only problem is that he finds Greer way too attractive for his own good, and knows that her motivation is in direct conflict with his. 

Will true love find a foothold in this small beach town before it's too late and disaster strikes? Told with Mary Kay Andrews inimitable wit and charm, Beach Town is this year's summer beach read! -- St. Martin's Press

Yesterday, I reviewed the latest novel by Mary Kay Andrews called BEACH TOWN. I thoroughly enjoyed this story about a woman trying to get a movie made in a small Florida beach town, and I liked the cute romantic storyline as well. It was just a fun summer read!

Today, I'm happy to have Mary Kay Andrews stop by with a guest post that's certain to get you in the mood for summer and a beach vacation!

THE MAKINGS FOR A PERFECT BEACH DAY
by Mary Kay Andrews
New York Times bestselling author of BEACH TOWN

Let’s face it—just about any day at the beach is pretty near perfect to start with. Unless it’s hurricane season. Assuming you’re not battling gale force winds and killer rip-tides, let’s talk about my idea of the perfect beach day.

Weather, of course, is key to maximum beach enjoyment. I like a sunny day, mid-80s, with a light breeze and low humidity. And as a lifelong Southern girl—let me just say, I don’t do that whole arctic plunge thing. I prefer ambient water temperature equivalent to a hot tub.

Next, let’s talk about who’ll be with you at the beach. Your bff of course, is the ideal beach companion. Unless she’s a dead ringer for Sofia Vergara. Nobody likes a show-off. Or a whiner. Nothing worse than somebody kvetching about sand in her cocktail or expired sunblock. Your perfect beach companion is game for anything, whether it’s strolling for hours picking up seashells, or deconstructing the last episode of MAD MEN. If you simply must take your children to the beach, try to take a friend—or ideally, a babysitter along for them—so the little darlings don’t distract you from important discussions about the best self-tanning products.

Now let’s talk base camp. Proper equipment is vital to maximum beach day enjoyment. Since I can no longer gracefully extract myself from a beach blanket without attracting stares and guffaws from bystanders, I like a sturdy folding chaise lounge.

Last year, for Mother’s Day, my family gifted me with a pair of these amazing Sun in Comfort chairs designed specifically for women, with these built-in slings made of stretchy bathing suit-like material where you can rest your, um, girls, when sunning face-down. The Florida woman who designed these things should, at the very least, get a Nobel Peace Prize. Here’s a link to their website.

http://www.sunincomfort.com/

An umbrella is nice if you’re planning an extended stay, and of course, a decent cooler is absolutely essential. No Styrofoam, please, unless you’re a college freshman on spring break.

I have a dear friend whose husband claims to have majored in cooler at Georgia Tech. He knows the right amount of crushed ice, has layering down to a science, and never, never skimps on adult beverages. The man is a genius, so we have forgiven his taste in loud bathing attire.

Tunes. No beach day is complete without good tunes. Gone are the days when you toted a suitcase-sized “ghetto blaster” over the dunes. Nowadays, you simply tuck your smart-phone—equipped, of course, with a sand and water-proof case, into your beach bag. I realize music is a matter of generational taste, but that said, at the very least you should include a sampling of the Drifters, and the Beach Boys along with your hipper Kid Rock, Katy Perry and Bananarama. Here’s Rolling Stone magazine’s playlist of best summer beach songs ever. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/best-summer-songs-of-all-time-20130701/miserlou-dick-dale-19691231 

Finally, there’s the matter of recreation. Some people like to throw a Frisbee, play paddle-ball or whiffleball, or even Cornhole. Fine. Play away, friends. Me, I like a good book. A beach read, if you’ll forgive the phrase. Nothing too angsty, gory, lurid or terrifying. I want something irresistible, that will keep me turning pages, sort of the literary equivalent of a Beergarita. Dare I suggest, a Mary Kay Andrews title—like my latest? BEACH TOWN???

*****
Mary Kay Andrews is the New York Times bestselling author of SAVE THE DATE, LADIES’ NIGHT, CHRISTMAS BLISS, SPRING FEVER, SUMMER RENTAL, THE FIXER UPPER, DEEP DISH, BLUE CHRISTMAS, SAVANNAH BREEZE, HISSY FIT, LITTLE BITTY LIES and SAVANNAH BLUES.

A former reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, under her “real” name, which is Kathy Hogan Trocheck. Her mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Awards.

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida (and a diplomate of the Maas Bros. Department Store School of Charm), she started her professional journalism career in Savannah, Georgia, where she covered the real-life murder trials which were the basis of MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL.

As a lifelong “junker” the author claims to know the location of every promising thrift store, flea market and junkpile in the Southeastern United States, plus many parts of Ohio.

She has a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia (go Dawgs!), and is a frequent lecturer and writing teacher at workshops including Emory University, The University of Georgia’s Harriet Austin Writer’s Workshop, the Tennessee Mountain Writer’s Workshop and the Antioch Writer’s Workshop.

Married to her high school sweetheart, Tom, she has two adult children and two grandchildren. After a three-year hiatus in Raleigh, NC, she and her husband moved back to their old neighborhood in Atlanta. She also owns two restored beach cottages on Tybee Island, GA, both of which are named for fictional locations in her novels.

http://marykayandrews.com/
https://www.facebook.com/marykayandrewsauthor
https://twitter.com/mkayandrews

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of BEACH TOWN to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before June 2nd at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: Beach Town

Summary: Greer Hennessy is a struggling movie location scout. Her last location shoot ended in disaster when a film crew destroyed property on an avocado grove. And Greer ended up with the blame.

Now Greer has been given one more chance--a shot at finding the perfect undiscovered beach town for a big budget movie. She zeroes in on a sleepy Florida panhandle town. There's one motel, a marina, a long stretch of pristine beach and an old fishing pier with a community casino--which will be perfect for the film's climax--when the bad guys blow it up in an all-out assault on the townspeople.

Greer slips into town and is ecstatic to find the last unspoilt patch of the Florida gulf coast. She takes a room at the only motel in town, and starts working her charm. However, she finds a formidable obstacle in the town mayor, Eben Thinadeaux. Eben is a born-again environmentalist who's seen huge damage done to the town by a huge paper company. The bay has only recently been re-born, a fishing industry has sprung up, and Eben has no intention of letting anybody screw with his town again. The only problem is that he finds Greer way too attractive for his own good, and knows that her motivation is in direct conflict with his. 

Will true love find a foothold in this small beach town before it's too late and disaster strikes? Told with Mary Kay Andrews inimitable wit and charm, Beach Town is this year's summer beach read! -- St. Martin's Press

Summer is quickly approaching! I can definitely tell because the weather here has been unseasonably hot and humid, but I also know because BEACH TOWN by Mary Kay Andrews is now available. It seems like Ms. Andrews always has a fun book just in time for summer escape reading. This one is no exception.

BEACH TOWN tells the story of Greer Hennessy, a movie location scout, who is trying to prove herself after a bad experience on her last movie. She is tasked with finding the "perfect" beach town on the Florida coast for a major motion picture; and by "perfect," I mean undiscovered. Not exactly any easy thing to do in Florida where every town seems to be built up for tourists!

Greer eventually finds the perfect town on the Florida gulf coast where's there an old hotel, a marina, and a fishing pier with a deserted casino. All of it is absolutely perfect for the director's vision -- even the deserted casino is ideal for the film's climax where he wants to blow up a building. It all seems to good to be true!

And then Greer meets the pesky (and very handsome) mayor Eben Thinadeaux. Since BEACH TOWN is part rom com, it shouldn't surprise you that there is some tension between Greer and Eben. They disagree on destroying the casino... among other things! However, the chemistry between the two complicates things; and they aren't entirely sure what's right and what's wrong when it comes to saving the casino and their feelings for each other!

One thing's for sure when you pick up a Mary Kay Andrews' novel -- you know exactly what to expect. Her tried-and-true formula for writing fun and sweet books has worked has given her a great deal of success. And BEACH TOWN certainly fits right in with what fans have come to know and love about her novels. This book is very entertaining and a wonderful way to spend some time by the pool or beach!

I enjoyed BEACH TOWN quite a bit. My only regret was reading it before my vacation next month. I  liked Greer and found her job to be interesting -- it was fun to get a glimpse into the world of movie making. I also really liked Eben and especially the on and off again relationship between the two. It was funny, and at times, a little sweet. Of course, the course of true love never did run smooth; and Greer and Eben certainly had to overcome a lot, including some pesky people who wanted to keep them apart.

Another good thing about BEACH TOWN was the setting. I loved this little beach town hidden on the Florida coast and it was the perfect place for this story to take place. It was almost as if this town was stuck in the past... and I mean that in a good way! The buildings and the town's citizens were eccentric and extremely interesting, and I found myself wishing I could experience this town.

My only issue, if you can really call it that, with BEACH TOWN was the length of the novel. This was a pretty big book coming in at over 400 pages. As cute as I thought the book was, I could have done with a little less pages. But remember, I'm of the mindset that most stories can be told in 300 - 350 pages.

BEACH TOWN is a great summer read, filled with humor and romance! Highly recommended to fans of Mary Kay Andrews and rom com books!

Thanks to Tandem Literary for providing a review copy of this novel.

Make sure you stop by tomorrow for a fantastic guest post from none other than Mary Kay Andrews as well as a giveaway for BEACH TOWN!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: The Forgotten Girls (Audio)

Summary: Four days later, Louise Rick still had no answers.

The body of an unidentified woman was discovered in a local forest. A large, unique scar on one side of her face should have made the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. As the new commander of the Missing Persons Department, Louise risks involving the media by releasing a photo of the victim, hoping to find someone who knew her.

Louise's gamble pays off: an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a "forgotten girl." But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates more than thirty years ago. Aided by her friend journalist Camilla Lind, Louise finds that the investigation takes a surprising and unsettling turn when it brings her closer to her childhood home. And as she uncovers more crimes that were committed--and hidden--in the forest, she is forced to confront a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed. -Hachette Audio

A few years ago, I read  ONLY ONE LIFE by Sara Blaedel in preparation for meeting her during the week of BEA. I really enjoyed the story and was very impressed with how she wrote not only an interesting mystery but also managed to touch upon some relevant issues in Denmark. I also enjoyed discussing the novel with her albeit very briefly at a party!

So when THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS was released in the United States, I was certain that I wanted to read it... or listen to it! THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS stars detective Louise Rick and reveals a horrific murder mystery. It's both intriguing and disturbing, and I was even more disconcerted to learn that the story is actually based on some true incidents. That totally creeped me out!

THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS begins when an unidentified woman is found dead in the woods. The police are stumped when no one is reported missing; however, she does have an identifying mark on her face -- a large scar. Louise, the new commander of the Missing Persons Department, definitely has her hands full so she releases a photo of the victim to the media in the hopes that someone will come forward.

An older woman calls the police and says the victim is Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution. Lisemette, along with her twin, were issued death certificates more than 30 years ago! How strange is that? As Louise returns to her childhood hometown to investigate the murder, she makes some startling discoveries while also dredging up some things from her past.

THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS was a terrific mystery and I have to admit that I was absolutely shocked by how the events played out. I loved the complexity and "twistedness" of this story, and I am still reeling from Louise discovered. As far as creepy mysteries go, this was most definitely a good one!

However if I'm being entirely honest, I felt as if the side story of Louise's personal life wasn't as strong. I didn't love the romantic aspect of the story -- it was just a little too predictable. In addition, I found the role of her friend Camilla, a journalist who was helping her with the mystery, to be odd. One on hand, she delved into the case and uncovered some interesting clues. But on the other, the circus surrounding her marriage was just weird.

Maybe it was the juxtaposition of Louise's current life with the serious nature of the crime, but something just seemed off. I am the first to admit that the crimes in this novel were brutal and the book might have needed some lighter moments. I'm just not sure Camilla's marriage and Louise's hookup were the right ones.

The audiobook of THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS was read by Christine Lakin. She also read GLORY O'BRIENS HISTORY OF THE FUTURE which I listened to (and enjoyed) a few months ago. As much as I loved her performance in GLORY O'BRIEN, I was a little disappointed with it in this book. I think she had the right tone for the story, but I found myself distracted by some of the accents she used. Granted, the book seemed to require some complex accents because it took place in Denmark; however, I wasn't convinced that her accents sounded authentic.

Overall, I appreciated THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS and am glad that I listened to it, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I loved this story. The mystery was intriguing though, and for that reason, I do recommend it to fans of mysteries and thrillers.

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. 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, May 16, 2015

Kid Konnection: National Geographic Kids Almanac 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 fun and educational resource for kids!

Summary: This New York Times bestseller is packed with incredible photos, tons of fun facts, crafts, activities, and fascinating articles about animals, science, nature, technology, and more. New features include a special section on animal friends; an updated "Fun and Games" chapter filled with all-new games, jokes, and comics; a new "Dino Myths Busted" feature; all new weird-but-true facts, crafts, and activities; a new special "15 Facts" feature in every chapter; updated reference material, and much more! And, this is the only kids' almanac with mobile media features that allow kids to access National Geographic videos, photo galleries, and games. -- National Geographic Kids

I am really excited to share the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2016. This full color, paperback book is full of gorgeous photos and interesting facts about science. All of the information is presented in an easy-to-read format that makes learning fun for kids!

I realize that I'm about 35 years or so past the target audience, but I love this book! There are so many fun facts and games about animals, history, nature, technology, and more. Each page is totally different from the other ones, and I have a feeling that it's one of those books that kids pick up again and again.

The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2016 is over 350 pages and has loads of information about anything and everything. Just to give you a little idea of what is covered in this book... there are the following sections: Your World 2016, Awesome Adventure, Amazing Animals, Super Science, Wonders of Nature, Fun and Games, Culture Connection, Going Green, History Happens, and Geography Rocks. As you can clearly see, there is something for just about everyone within the pages of this book.

I absolutely love how the information is presented in this book. There is a wide variety of layouts including pages with color photos and captions, lists, quizzes, and even jokes. Believe me when I say, there is nothing boring about these facts. This book makes learning so much fun that I'm not even sure kids will realize that this book is educational!

Another cool thing about this edition of the ALMANAC 2016 is that there are free digital extras. Included with this book are free animal videos, games, photos, and more for your mobile device or computer. But you have to "work" to get them! You and your child can hunt for clues that are hidden throughout the book. These clues unlock the digital extras at kids.nationalgeographic.com/almanac-2016.

I can't rave enough about the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2016. It's both fun and educational; and based on Booking Son's reaction, kids are going to love it!

Thanks to Media Masters 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, May 14, 2015

Review: Dear Carolina

Summary: A moving debut novel about two mothers—one biological and one adoptive—from a compelling new voice in Southern women’s fiction.

One baby girl.
Two strong Southern women.
And the most difficult decision they’ll ever make.

Frances “Khaki” Mason has it all: a thriving interior design career, a loving husband and son, homes in North Carolina and Manhattan—everything except the second child she has always wanted. Jodi, her husband’s nineteen-year-old cousin, is fresh out of rehab, pregnant, and alone. Although the two women couldn’t seem more different, they forge a lifelong connection as Khaki reaches out to Jodi, encouraging her to have her baby. But as Jodi struggles to be the mother she knows her daughter deserves, she will ask Khaki the ultimate favor…

Written to baby Carolina, by both her birth mother and her adoptive one, this is a story that proves that life circumstances shape us but don’t define us—and that families aren’t born, they’re made… -- Berkley

This might sound shallow, but I mean it in the nicest way possible. One of the reasons I picked up
DEAR CAROLINA by Kristy Woodson Harvey was the gorgeous cover. I know I shouldn't "judge" a book by its cover, but this one is seriously beautiful... and puts me in the mood for summer! I'm happy to say that DEAR CAROLINA is much more than just a pretty face. This novel was a touching story about what it means to be a mother and the importance of family in our lives!

DEAR CAROLINA tells the story of two very different women. Khaki Mason seems to have it all -- a successful career as an interior designer, a wonderful husband, and an adorable son. However, her inability to have another child puts a damper on that! Jodi is her husband's cousin whose life is on a very different track. She's 19 and pregnant... and also a recovering alcoholic. The father of the child is gone and she's pretty much scared and all alone.

When Jodi turns to Khaki and her husband for some help, the women forge an unlikely bond. Khaki finds herself becoming very attached to the baby girl, while Jodi isn't sure she's cut out to be a mother. When Jodi decides to allow Khaki to adopt Carolina, she proves that being a good mother sometimes requires huge sacrifices.

DEAR CAROLINA was a beautiful story and really touched my heart. I was impressed with Ms. Harvey's writing skills and she definitely created a cast of characters that will remain in my thoughts for some time. While I do read a fair share of women's fiction with similar themes, I liked that this book was a little different from most. By that I mean I appreciated the way she wrote this novel -- in the form of letters to Carolina from both women.

This novel was Ms. Harvey's first one and I hope it's just the beginning of a successful writing career. I was very impressed with how well Ms. Harvey created strong female characters who, although very different, were both good mothers. In addition, I respected the way she portrayed Khaki and Jodi's troubles. I found her depiction of both infertility and addiction to be very real... and I think that's why I felt as if I truly understood these characters. As a result, my heart went out to Khaki and Jodi; and I was inspired by their friendship with each other.

DEAR CAROLINA would make a wonderful book club selection. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide on-line. However, I don't think finding things to discuss will be a problem for most groups. There are many relevant issues in this story that women will enjoy discussing including family, friendship, mother/child relationships, marriage, loss, grief, addiction, abuse, and sacrifice. I also think Khaki and Jodi are interesting characters, and many people will like analyzing their actions.

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