Brenda Novak's THE SECRETS SHE KEPT, as well as the first book in the series THE SECRET SISTER, prior to offering this giveaway. However, you know what they say about the best laid plans... My summer has been nothing short of crazy and I haven't read near as many books as I had hoped! In the meantime, that doesn't mean that I can't share what I have learned about these two books.
THE SECRETS SHE KEPT is the second book in the Fairham Island series. The first book in the series, THE SECRET SISTER, received some fantastic reviews when it was released. In fact, the San Francisco Book Review called it, “the best romantic thriller I’ve read.” (See why I wanted to read these books?)
Here's the publishers summary for the latest book THE SECRETS SHE KEPT:
Exciting, emotional, intense. The thrilling follow-up to New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak's highly acclaimed The Secret Sister. The things that happen in families are always surprising and sometimes shocking!
The rich and powerful Josephine Lazarow, matriarch of Fairham Island, is dead. The police say it's suicide, but Keith, her estranged son, doesn't believe it.
Keith bears scars—both physical and emotional—from his childhood, but he's worked hard to overcome the past. After walking away from his mother and her controlling ways five years ago, he's built a new life in LA. He's also accumulated a fortune of his own. But as soon as he learns of his mother's death, he returns to Fairham. He feels he owes it to his grandfather to put the family empire together again—and he's determined to find his mother's killer.
Problem is…coming home to Fairham puts him back in contact with Nancy Dellinger, the woman he hurt so badly when he left before. And digging that deep into his mother's final days and hours entails a very real risk.
Because the person who killed her could be someone he loves… -- Mira
I am so excited that I have both THE SECRETS SHE KEPT and THE SECRET SISTER to giveaway to one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 10th 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!
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
In 2009, Clinton Romesha of Red Platoon and the rest of the Black Knight Troop were preparing to shut down Command Outpost (COP) Keating, the most remote and inaccessible in a string of bases built by the U.S. military in Nuristan and Kunar in the hope of preventing Taliban insurgents from moving freely back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Three years after its construction, the army was finally ready to concede what the men on the ground had known immediately: it was simply too isolated and too dangerous to defend.
On October 3, 2009, after years of constant smaller attacks, the Taliban finally decided to throw everything they had at Keating. The ensuing 14-hour battle—and eventual victory—cost 8 men their lives.
Red Platoon is the riveting first-hand account of the Battle of Keating, told by Romesha, who spearheaded both the defense of the outpost and the counter-attack that drove the Taliban back beyond the wire, and received the Medal of Honor for his actions. -- Dutton
I'd like to welcome back my dad to Booking Mama. His latest review is for the book RED PLATOON: A TRUE STORY OF AMERICAN VALOR by Clinton Romesha. Here are his thoughts:
In RED PLATOON, author and Metal of Honor recipient, Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha gives a first-hand account of the brutal attack on combat outpost Keating, the most remote outpost in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.
In 2009, the American Army’s Black Knight Troop was sent to Keating to close down the base that was set up only three years earlier. By then, the military realized that the outpost was extremely dangerous because the Taliban enemy held the high ground and rendered the location nearly impossible to defend. On October 3, 2009, only three days before the outpost dismantling was to begin, the Taliban launched a horrific attack by an estimated 300 personnel against an outpost manpower that included 50 Americans and an Afghani military force of about 30. In the ensuing 13 hour battle, 27 American soldiers were wounded and 8 lost their lives. An estimated 150 Taliban were killed in the American victory that was aided by tremendous air support. Additionally 3 Afghani soldiers perished but sadly 15 went AWOL during the battle. The one thing that touched me more than any other was the intensive effort that the survivors, some seriously wounded, made to recover the bodies of the fallen soldiers before the Taliban could take them for propaganda purposes.
In RED PLATOON, Romesha outlines the personal histories and personalities of the key members of his platoon before describing the details of the battle. This allows the reader to see these soldiers as real people who are engaged in a life and death battle.
Romesha’s account definitely captures the dangers that our armed forces are exposed to in the various military actions throughout the Middle East. His story gives the reader a close-up view of war that we don’t fully grasp in reading the daily newspaper accounts or watching TV news.
This detailed first-hand account will place RED PLATOON alongside LONE SURVIVOR by Marcus Luttrell and AMERICAN SNIPER by Chris Kyle as excellent accounts of how our military performs when placed in harm’s way.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book and to Booking Pap Pap for his review.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
My reading time has definitely taken a hit this summer. Normally, I get a ton of books read during our weekly beach vacation, but this year, we hit Orlando so I got nothing read except one book on the plane ride. I've also found that I've been really distracted these past few months, and very few books have held my interest. That's why I needed a book like I'VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella.
I'VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES is a collection of humorous essays by mother/daughter duo Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. This is their seventh book together so you know these books must be successful and well-loved. They are a great mix of funny life stories, insightful social commentary, and even touching and heartfelt stories about family and friendship. I think the essays were especially appealing to me because I could read a few at a time without having to focus for too long -- isn't that a pitiful thing to say for a book blogger?
I enjoyed I'VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES quite a bit. I found myself nodding in agreement with their essays, and I even laughed out loud quite a few times. I don't want to give too much away, but there is one story titled "Not a Creatures was Stirring" that is absolutely hilarious in a very gross way. I was actually reading this one during a visit to the doctor's office, and I couldn't stop laughing. I'm sure the other patients thought I was absolutely crazy!
As is the case with any collection of essays, there are some that resonated with me more than others. I am actually between these two women in age, but I think I related to Ms. Scottoline's stories about aging a bit more than her daughter's story about single life in New York. Ms. Scottoline has decided that comfort is now more important than appearance, and I found her tales about soft clothes and going braless to be hilarious!
That's not to say that I didn't enjoy Ms. Serritella's stories. She goes into detail about the time she was the victim of an attack, and I loved her honesty and courage... and her mother's reaction! Needless to say, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot of humor in these parts; however, they were exactly what I've come to expect from these books. These books reflect life, both the good and the bad; and I love how these two smart and funny women share so much of their lives with readers.
I'VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES is a very entertaining book that's perfect for summer reading. Highly recommended to fans of Ms. Scottoline and Ms. Serritella as well as readers who appreciate humorous essays.
Thanks to Trident Media Group and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.
Monday, July 25, 2016
As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers--about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself--forces Katie to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream.
From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl" (Janet Maslin), You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of parental sacrifice, furtive desire, and the staggering force of ambition. -- Little Brown
This is an exciting week for fans of Megan Abbott and her thrillers! Tomorrow, her latest book YOU WILL KNOW ME will be released; and I have to say I think it's fantastic. This novel focuses on the world of competitive gymnastics. And could there be any better timing with the Olympics starting in a little over a week.
YOU WILL KNOW ME tells the story of the Knox family and how a violent death affects them. Katie and Eric are the parents of Devon, a big-time elite gymnast; and they are very involved in their daughter's life and especially her gymnastic career. Katie is continually amazed at her daughter's talents, while Eric is head of the booster club at her gym. The Knox family's entire world revolves around Devon's success.
One night after a party celebrating Devon's latest success, a tragedy occurs which affects the entire gym. The coach's niece Hailey, who is also an assistant coach at the gym, learns that her boyfriend Ryan was killed in a hit and run accident. All of the girls at the gym (and even their moms) have had slight crushes on Ryan, and the rumors surrounding his death start flying.
As sad as Ryan's death is, it also just happens to be a really bad time for Devon. The elite qualifier competition is only a few months away, and her coach is distracted. In fact, practices are being cancelled and Devon is feeling very frustrated. Her father, Eric, steps in and promises her that he will do whatever it takes for her to reach the next level.
Meanwhile, Hailey begins threatening Devon, both verbally and physically; and Katie and Eric's young son begins speaking strange words about his sister's actions. Everyone associated with the gym wonders who could have wanted Ryan dead, and Katie even begins to doubt if those she loves the most could have played a part!
I absolutely loved YOU WILL KNOW ME. That's probably not a big surprise to those of you familiar with Ms. Abbott's books. She is truly a gifted writer who undoubtedly delivers a suspenseful tale. This novel was dark and, at times, difficult for me to read (in a good way); and I was very impressed with how the tension built throughout the story and how I was kept on the edge of my seat.
Another wonderful thing about this novel was how well Ms. Abbot captured the essence of the characters, especially teenage girls and their families. As a mother to a 16 year old daughter, I am always a bit uncomfortable with how she portrays girls... but at the same time, I love it because it's so intriguing! In addition, I thought her portrayal of the entire Knox family, from Katie to Eric to their young son, was fascinating. There were a lot of family dynamics going on between the pages of YOU WILL KNOW ME, and they definitely made me think about not only the Knox family but families as a whole.
And that brings me to my next point -- I love that this story was told through the eyes of Katie. As a mother, I enjoyed seeing how Katie processed the events surrounding her daughter and how she eventually reacted to them. I think the decision to feature the mother's side of this story made the family dynamic aspect of the novel much more important -- maybe even more important than the mystery/suspense aspect.
Finally, I appreciated how the author brought to life the world of gymnastics (both the good and the bad.) As the Olympics rapidly approach, I always find myself drawn to stories about the athletes; and I know I'm not alone. While I hope the world of gymnastics isn't quite this cut-throat, I would be naive in not acknowledging the almost desperate nature of these young woman. I realize that the desire to reach the pinnacle of the sport requires a pretty intense individual as well as a family who will support her no matter the cost.
Overall, YOU WILL KNOW ME is an outstanding thriller that takes place in the world of competitive gymnastics. I love that it not only was suspenseful but that it also focused on the inner-workings of very complicated family. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Tandem Literary for providing a review copy of this novel.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.
Saturday, July 23, 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 two more fantastic books from National Geographic Kids.
Booking Son thinks MASTER-MIND: OVER 100 GAMES, TESTS, AND PUZZLES TO UNLEASH YOUR INNER GENIUS by Stephanie Warren Drimmer with puzzles by Julie K. Cohen looks fantastic. In fact, he's waiting for me to finish writing my review so he can "have" it! I have to say that I totally agree with him that MASTER-MIND looks like a lot of fun.
MASTER-MIND is another great release from National Geographic Kids. This book, aimed at kids ages 8 - 12, is full of puzzles that will work your brain. But it's more than just puzzles and games. It also teaches children how their brain works. I remember my parents buying me many puzzle books when I was a kid, but I never remember learning the processing mechanisms of my own brain. I think that's a wonderful concept!
The book has a very fun vibe. It's printed on colorful pages with cute graphics, cartoons, and more. There are also fun facts listed along with over 100 games, tests, and puzzles. I liked the quiz at the beginning of the book that helps identify "What Kind of Genius Are You?" as well as the pages that describe the basics of the brain.
And then the fun begins with all of the fun games! There are time trials, mazes, multiple choice, experiments and more. I know there are only a few weeks left in the summer, but this is a great way to get kids' brains thinking before school starts. And the extra bonus in my house is that every minute Booking Son spends playing with this book is less time that he's playing X-Box.
I seem to love all of the books that National Geographic Kids publishes, but I promise you that MASTER-MIND is a treat! Highly recommended!
REAL OR FAKE?: FAR-OUT FIBS, FISHY FACTS, AND PHONY PHOTOS TO TEST FOR THE TRUTH by Emily Krieger and illustrated by Tom Nick Cocoons is another great addition to the National Geographic Kids library. This is a small book (about 6 x 6 inches) but that doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of fun information in it. In fact, it's the perfect size to keep in the car for long road trips!
REAL OR FAKE? tests kids' abilities to discern truth from fiction. It encourages kids to pay attention to details and use their brain, but it also recommends going with their gut. This book has some fantastic photographs including some that are very strange, and I think children will love the concept of playing detective and determining what's real... or fake.
I want to give you a few examples of the tests in REAL OR FAKE? The very first one shows and describes an octopus that lives in trees and asks if it is real or fake? I don't want to give too much away but I'm sure you have your own guess. The following page tells readers the answer as well as giving some fun facts about the it. Some other questions are whether Cleopatra had her own secret way to communicate and whether plants make music.
In addition to the real vs. fake sections of the book, there are a few other fun "tests." I liked the Identify the Lie ones. On these pages, there were a list of statements (along with funny pictures) and readers are asked to find the one that isn't true. I am pretty sure that there will be more than a few surprises on these pages... and pretty much throughout the entire book.
REAL OR FAKE? is a fun way to learn, and that's what makes this book so special. I can see kids sharing these fun facts with their siblings, friends, and parents. Highly recommended!
Thanks to Media Masters 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!
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Now a happily married mother of two living in Cambridge, England, Winslow had longed to face her attacker for years. Highly inquisitive and restless for answers, she turned her career as a crime novelist into a personal investigation—she delved into his past, reconnected with the detectives of her case, and worked with prosecutors in the months leading up to the trial. While preparing to testify back in Pennsylvania for the crime committed against her two decades prior, she was pulled between two very different worlds: a hard-boiled American drama of intense detectives and legal bureaucracy, and her rarefied new world in Cambridge, where the university’s rituals and pervasive formality were both a comfort and a challenge.
Jane Doe January is the intimate memoir of a woman’s traumatic past catching up with her. In her first work of nonfiction, Winslow vividly recounts her long quest to see her case resolved, giving way to a strikingly honest narrative about the surprise possibility of justice after twenty years. -- William Morrow
I mentioned a few days ago that my book club read JANE DOE JANUARY: MY TWENTY-YEAR SEARCH FOR TRUTH AND JUSTICE by Emily Winslow for our July meeting. I was the only one who enjoyed it, although enjoy might not be the right word given the subject matter. I found this personal story about a woman who was raped while in college in the early 1990s to be extremely moving.
Emily Winslow was in the drama program at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University when she was brutally attacked and raped by a stranger. The man responsible was never arrested... until over twenty years later when he was arrested for another crime and his DNA matched that of a rapist in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s. The police were able to link the crime with the author's crime, and Ms. Winslow's was desperate to see justice served.
Ms. Winslow had moved to Cambridge, England, and was now happily married and the mother of two young sons when she learned that the man responsible for the rape had been found. As a writer of true crime books, Ms. Winslow put her research skills to the test and began a personal investigation into his life. She thoroughly researched his past while also working closely with the police and prosecutors responsible for putting him in jail for his crimes with the hopes that justice would eventually be served.
JANE DOE JANUARY is an up-front and personal look at one woman's quest for justice twenty years after a horrific crime. It wasn't always easy to read for me and I can't say I was satisfied with the ending... but that's not a testament to the author. Rather, I was extremely impressed with Ms. Winslow's honesty in telling a difficult story as well as her inner strength and courage. So while it was an uncomfortable read at times, I found it to be inspirational and extremely honest.
I will agree with many of my friends that the book was a little slow in places especially in the parts that dealt with the legal intricacies of the trial. I have always been a fan of true crime as well as legal thrillers so I can't say I minded these parts; however, it was an eye-opener in just how tedious and slow-moving our legal system is. What I took away from these parts (besides the sometimes unfair rules) is just how difficult it must be for victims to go through this entire process.
One thing I appreciated about this story was the way Ms. Winslow juxtaposed what was going on in the States concerning the case against her rapist and her life in Cambridge. Needless to say, while both Pittsburgh and Cambridge are "college towns," they couldn't be more different... especially when it came to the people living there. I found her struggles to understand the people in Cambridge to be extremely interesting as was the way she juggled the various players in the case when she returned to Pittsburgh.
Probably the main reason this book was so interesting to me was because I could totally understand the author's passion in learning everything there was to know about her rapist. While many in my book club found Ms. Winslow's writing to be kind of repetitive, I appreciated the honestly of it. Believe me when I say that I think I would be just like Ms. Winslow in her pursuit to uncover anything and everything about this man. And the "repetitiveness" of the book resonated with me because I actually could feel the sense of urgency that Ms. Winslow had.
Despite my group's misgivings about reading JANE DOE JANUARY for a book club meeting, I still recommend it for the "right" groups. There is a reading guide available with five discussion questions as well as a "Behind the Book Essay." Some of the things you might want to discuss are our judicial system, victims' rights, living as a victim both immediately after the crime and decades later, and justice.
I will admit that JANE DOE JANUARY might not be an ideal read for all types of readers; however, I definitely appreciated the story and especially the honesty of the author. Recommended to fans of true crime and memoirs.
Thanks for the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Charlotte, a gifted and superbly trained young musician, has been blindsided by a shocking betrayal in her promising career when she takes a babysitting job with the McLeans, a glamorous Upper East Side Manhattan family. At first, the nanny gig is just a way of tiding herself over until she has licked her wounds and figured out her next move as a composer in New York. But, as it turns out, Charlotte is naturally good with children and becomes as deeply fond of the two little boys as they are of her. When an unthinkable tragedy leaves the McLeans bereft, Charlotte is not the only one who realizes that she's the key to holding little George and Matty's world together. Suddenly, in addition to life's usual puzzles, such as sorting out which suitor is her best match, she finds herself with an impossible choice between her life-long dreams and the torn-apart family she's come to love. By turns hilarious, sexy, and wise, Caroline Angell's remarkable and generous debut is the story of a young woman's discovery of the things that matter most. -- Henry Holt
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked up ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD by Caroline Angell. Obviously, I was interested enough in the plot to read the novel; and I'm really glad I did. I was immediately caught up this novel, and I both cried and rejoiced as the main character dealt with tragedy and, in the process, rediscovered her passion.
ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD tells the story of Charlotte, an extremely talented musician and composer who ends up working as a nanny for an Upper East Side Manhattan family. After someone Charlotte trusted betrays her in a very bad way, she decides that she needs a break from her music career. She ends up taking a job being a babysitter to two adorable little boys, George and Matty.
Charlotte ends up loving these two kids as well as the entire family, and she learns that she is good with kids -- really good. When an unthinkable tragedy occurs, Charlotte realizes that George and Matty needs her now more than ever. She immerses herself into their lives at the expense of her own family and friends; and she begins to realize that she just might have to give up her musical dreams for these two little boys... and their dad.
I loved ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD -- it was so smart and refreshing! I loved the relationship between Charlotte and the boys, and I also appreciated all of the challenges that Charlotte faced. I found the characters in this novel to be very real, and I loved how the story worked all of my emotions. I actually did cry for Charlotte and the family, but I also celebrated Charlotte's little joys and her path to self-discovery.
Despite sounding like a sad story (and don't get me wrong, it was really sad!), I have to mention just how funny and playful this book was. Needless to say, I wasn't really expecting this. Charlotte is a young woman living in New York, and I found her dating experiences to be rather entertaining. In addition, as many moms will know, taking care of kids can provide a few chuckles, especially (in hindsight) when it comes to missing toys, puking incidents, and toddler tantrums.
One thing that definitely impressed me about this novel was the way the story was told. The novel is written in Charlotte's voice, which is absolutely perfect with its honesty and purpose; and it really helps readers relate to the character. In addition, the novel goes back and forth in time starting with the tragic accident, back to when Charlotte first met the family, further back to her time as a graduate student, and to the future when Charlotte and the family were forced to adapt to their loss. It might sound confusing, but it wasn't at all -- again a testament to the author. In fact, I think the back and forth between time periods made for a fast paced story and definitely kept the novel moving.
As I was "along for the ride" with Charlotte, I was concerned that the ending of this book would be a disappointment. I wasn't always confident that Charlotte would find her way. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that I was happy with it -- more than happy with it. I loved the life lessons that Charlotte learned. I loved that she realized what was important in her life. And I loved that she was able to find some happiness and contentment.
I do think ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD would make a terrific book club selection. I didn't even begin to touch the depth of this novel. It does have a lot going on and, therefore, would make for a great discussion. There is a reading guide with fourteen thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include parenting, grief, loss, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, passion, marriage, relationships, money, family, and self-discovery.
ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD was one of my favorite books of the summer. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy literary fiction and especially coming-of-age stories for adults!
Thanks to FSB Associates for providing a review copy of this novel.