Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: This Is Not Over

Summary: You’ll have your deposit within seven business days, just like it says on I’ve put through a refund to your credit card for the full amount, minus $200 to replace the stained sheets...


When 30-year-old Dawn reads Miranda’s email, she sees red. People have always told Dawn she’s beautiful, and she just hopes they don’t see beneath—to how she grew up, to what she’s always tried to outrun. She revels in her getaways with her perfect (maybe too perfect) husband, the occasional long weekend in luxurious homes, temporarily inhabiting other people’s privileged lives. Miranda’s email strikes a nerve, with its lying intimation that Dawn is so dirty you need to throw out her sheets.

Beware of your “host”

I wouldn’t have left a review at all, if I didn’t feel it was my civic duty to warn others…

57-year-old Miranda thought she’d seen it all, but she can’t believe her eyes when she reads Dawn’s review. She’s a doctor’s wife but she needs that rental money, desperately. People might think her life is privileged, but they don’t know what’s really going on. They don’t know about her son. She won’t take this threat to her livelihood—to her very life—lying down.

Two very different women with this in common: Each harbors her own secret, her own reason why she can’t just let this go. Neither can yield, not before they’ve dredged up all that’s hidden, even if it has the power to shatter all they’ve built.

This is not over.

This is so not over. -- William Morrow

I would say that I read a fair amount of psychological thrillers, so I am always looking for one with an original concept. And that's what attracted me to the new novel THIS IS NOT OVER by Holly Brown. This book tells the story of a fairly ordinary event that could happen to anyone... that takes a dramatic turn for the worse.

THIS IS NOT OVER begins with two women, Miranda and Dawn, who are fighting over a security deposit of $200. Dawn and her husband spent the weekend in Miranda's luxury beach home only to arrive home to learn that Miranda was keeping $200 of the security deposit because the sheets were permanently stained. Dawn is furious with Miranda's email because it hits a little to close to home that she doesn't belong in "nice" places, so she leaves a negative review on rental website.

Despite being the wife of a doctor, Miranda needs the income from her rental property to support her adult son. She can't afford to have a bad reputation as a renter. Her son is a drug addict who is supposedly cut off from the family, but Miranda has been secretly keeping in contact with him... and providing money to him when he asks for it.

These two very different women obviously are dealing with their own set of personal issues, and these issues make this odd email encounter escalate quickly. Neither woman can let it go (heck -- it's only $200); and as a result, their darkest secrets come to light. Will these women's persistence to destroy each other eventually destroy the lives they've so carefully built?

I enjoyed THIS IS NOT OVER, but I don't know if I'd say I loved it. I definitely appreciated the premise of the novel -- an ordinary misunderstanding that escalated into an all-encompassing nightmare; however, I had difficulties in liking the main characters. I realize that I don't have to like a character to enjoy a novel, but the characters is this book, particularly Miranda and Dawn but even Miranda's husband and son, were almost impossible to like.

On one hand, I think the author did a fairly good job of escalating the issue between the characters and then building the tension for the reader. However, on the other hand, it seemed a bit ridiculous at times. I realize that both Miranda nor Dawn were far from normal. They both had so much baggage that made them vulnerable to an encounter like this one, so I tried not to judge them based on "normal" people's behavior. I even tried to feel their pain as their complicated backstories were revealed. I just had a very hard time relating to them.

As the tension in the novel grew, I had a feeling that things were going to build to a suspenseful conclusion... and they definitely did. I'm not sure I was entirely satisfied with the ending but I did appreciate that the author managed to surprise me. Truth be told, I think I was just happy that the battle between the women came to an end... one way or another!

There were some definitely positives about THIS IS NOT OVER, and I think it's a testament to Ms. Brown's experience as a family and marriage counselor. Both Miranda and Dawn were struggling with some huge issues, and I do think the author used these life experiences to explain their crazy behavior. Her understanding of marriages and family problems definitely came in handy when building these two characters. Furthermore, I thought she did an excellent job of explaining a parent's thoughts and actions when they have a child who is an addict.

THIS IS NOT OVER would make an interesting book club pick because the main characters are so complex. There is a set of ten discussion questions in the paperback version of the book but I wasn't able to find a link on-line to the questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include paranoia, insecurity, secrets, addiction, parent/child relationships, marriage, lies, anger, validation, guilt, the age of social media, and communication.

Overall, THIS IS NOT OVER is an interesting look at an ordinary event going bad. I recommend this novel to fans of psychological thrillers and those readers interested in books about dysfunctional characters.

Thanks to Get Red PR and 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.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Kid Konnection: My Washington, DC

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a picture books that's timely considering all the happenings in our nation's capital next week!

Summary: Vibrant, lush paintings full of elaborate detail bring the capital city to life! A young girl and her friend explore their favorite places in Washington, DC, from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial. They peek inside the National Air and Space Museum, glimpse the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, and bask in the beauty of the cherry blossoms surrounding the Tidal Basin.

With two giant foldout pages, a free poster of the Bill of Rights, a map of the whole city, fun facts, and seek-and-find challenges, My Washington, DC is endlessly enjoyable and educational. Kathy Jakobsen's lavish paintings invite readers to return again and again to this dazzling tribute to America's capital! -- Little Brown

I didn't see many picture books at this year's SIBA, but the ones I managed to grab are terrific. Case in point - MY WASHINGTON, DC by Kathy Jakobsen. I absolutely love this book! This illustrated picture book is the perfect way to introduce young readers, ages four to eight, to Washington, DC. MY WASHINGTON, DC takes kids on a "tour" of our nation's capital and provides some wonderful information along the way.

MY WASHINGTON, DC tells the story of a young girl and her friend as they visit the famous places in Washington. The book begins with their arrival at Union Station and follows them to various DC landmarks including Capitol Hill, Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, the National Archives, the Smithsonian, and more! On each page there are beautiful paintings of the locations as well as text on the bottom providing more specifics about each stop.

I can't rave enough about the artwork in this book. It truly is spectacular. Ms. Jakobsen's paintings are so detailed that you could look at each page for quite awhile. Truly, this illustrations alone are worth taking a peek at this book. She has gotten everything just right from the artwork on the ceilings to the ornate tiles on the floors. My absolute favorite page is the one of the Tidal Basin with the Jefferson Monument and the pretty cherry blossoms in bloom!

Not only is this book educational, but it's also a fun way to explore Washington... over and over again. The book includes foldout pages as well as a poster of the Bill of Rights. It also includes a map of the entire city, seek-and-find games, and more. It truly is a special picture book!

I highly recommend MY WASHINGTON, DC for home libraries, school libraries and classrooms. It's a gorgeous book about an incredible city, and a fun way for kids to learn about our nation's capital.

I received a copy of MY WASHINGTON, DC at this year's SIBA.

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, January 12, 2017

The Booking Mamas' January Meeting

Summary: The lives of four teenagers are capsized by a shocking school shooting and its aftermath in this powerful debut novel, a coming-of-age story with the haunting power of Station Eleven and the bittersweet poignancy of Everything I Never Told You.

As members of the yearbook committee, Nick, Zola, Matt, and Christina are eager to capture all the memorable moments of their junior year at Lewis and Clark High School—the plays and football games, dances and fund-drives, teachers and classes that are the epicenter of their teenage lives. But how do you document a horrific tragedy—a deadly school shooting by a classmate?

Struggling to comprehend this cataclysmic event—and propelled by a sense of responsibility to the town, their parents, and their school—these four "lucky" survivors vow to honor the memories of those lost, and also, the memories forgotten in the shadow of violence. But the shooting is only the first inexplicable trauma to rock their small suburban St. Louis town. A series of mysterious house fires have hit the families of the victims one by one, pushing the grieving town to the edge.

Nick, the son of the lead detective investigating the events, plunges into the case on his own, scouring the Internet to uncover what could cause a fire with no evident starting point. As their friend pulls farther away, Matt and Christina battle to save damaged relationships, while Zola fights to keep herself together.

A story of grief, community, and family, of the search for understanding and normalcy in the wake of devastating loss, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down explores profound questions about resiliency, memory, and recovery that brilliantly illuminate the deepest recesses of the human heart. -- William Morrow

On Tuesday night, The Booking Mamas met to discuss OUR HEARTS WILL BURN US DOWN by Anne Valente. This novel centered around a school shooting; and in hindsight, it might not have been the best selection to read over the holidays. I am sorry to say that it wasn't a big hit with my book club. Only a few of us actually read the entire book -- again, maybe because of the timing and subject matter? And those of us who did finish the novel had some very different opinions about the book. Having said that, because there were many different opinions, I thought we had a solid discussion about both the book and the writing.

Most of us didn't love OUR HEARTS WILL BURN DOWN. A few didn't like the writing style, a few didn't like the subject matter, one didn't like the characters, and most didn't like the ending. Although what was extremely interesting is how much we differed on what we liked and didn't like about the novel. Two of our members just thought the book was way too long and didn't like the author's lack of quotation marks, while one of us didn't mind the writing and actually found it to be the right tone for the book.

For those of us that actually finished the book, we did agree on one thing -- we were disappointed with the ending. It's going to be hard for me to say much about this without giving away some major spoilers, but I think I can best sum it up by saying that the book took a turn that was almost too "out there." So much of the novel (really all of it) explored loss and grief on an extremely personal and authentic level... and then the book kind of went all metaphorical on us.

I can say that I appreciated both the story and the writing and thought the author did a terrific job in exploring the all encompassing feelings of grief. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say I loved the book because it was a challenging read for me at times, but I did appreciate what the author was trying to do. I will provide more of my thoughts in a later review.

Next month, we will be reading THE WICKED CITY by Beatriz Williams. I adore this author and was thrilled when our book club selected this novel! This will be the last book we read as part of the Book Club Girl Program, and I can't express how grateful we are to the fine folks at William Morrow for providing us with books for the past year!

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of A Certain Age in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz Age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family. When she discovers her husband cheating, Ella Hawthorne impulsively moves out of their SoHo loft and into a small apartment in an old Greenwich Village building. Her surprisingly attractive new neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement at night. Tenants have reported strange noises after midnight—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the place hid a speakeasy.

In 1924, Geneva "Gin" Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin becomes entangled with Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers.

Headstrong and independent, Gin is no weak-kneed fool. So how can she be falling in love with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent when she’s got Princeton boy Billy Marshall, the dashing son of society doyenne Theresa Marshall, begging to make an honest woman of her? While anything goes in the Roaring Twenties, Gin’s adventures will shake proper Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead—secrets that will echo from Park Avenue to the hollers of her Southern hometown.

As Ella discovers more about the basement speakeasy, she becomes inspired by the spirit of her exuberant predecessor, and decides to live with abandon in the wicked city too. . . . -- William Morrow

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Giveaway: The Hunting Ground

Summary: Deuce Mora doesn't shy away from fights -- she picks them. The bigger the better.

Although, to be fair, this one is brought to her by a dog with a bone in his teeth. In Jean Heller’s first Deuce Mora murder mystery, the scrappy sleuth tangled with the mob; this time out she’s on the wrong side of the NSA, the FBI and the CIA. Fans of hard-boiled female protagonists should hang onto their fedoras—this one’s an action-packed extravaganza!

The grisly discovery of a human bone while Deuce is out for a hike with handsome arson investigator Mark Hearst leads to a vast burial field, a human trafficking ring, and international intrigue. The pulls-no-punches columnist—and meticulous detective--keeps turning up information, bit by bit, only to find some Fed always in her face, at her door, emerging from the shadows, steadfastly guarding the the story. Insisting it can’t be told. Yes, the Feds are aware of the trafficking ring; yes they have a plan to move on it; no, Deuce can’t be told about the plan; and under no circumstances can she write about its existence.

This is the story of a lifetime—bigger than the one that earned her a Pulitzer, and, for once, she has the support of her editor. But the Journal’s lawyer appears daily, bringing warnings about “national security.” What, Deuce seethes, could be a greater matter of national security than the safety of children who are being kidnapped and murdered?

And this story has become very personal for Deuce, as she herself admits. The hard-hitting journalist has fallen hard for a new guy: the savvy and charming Charles, an eight-year-old boy with the face of an angel and the possibility of a bright future--but in danger of being tarnished by a life in foster care. For Deuce, every child reported missing and every new body discovered in the hunting ground has Charles’s face. But while she’s racing to break the case wide open, her life and her career are threatened on all sides. She has to wonder if there are any lines the Feds won't cross.

But break wide open it does, racing to an outrageous surprise ending that seems shockingly … plausible, and Deuce learns first-hand the lesson that sometimes the only way to accomplish a great good is to commit unthinkable evil and then learn to live with the consequences. Author Heller does a masterful job of expanding the story—and her canvas—from a simple murder mystery to an ever-widening crime thriller, and finally to an international conspiracy.

Last year, I featured the novel THE SOMEDAY FILE by Jean Heller. This novel was the first in a new series starring Deuce Mora, a columnist for the Chicago journal. The book had political intrigue, some criminal elements, the Chicago mob, and lots of suspense. Ms. Heller's second novel starring Deuce Mora, THE HUNTING GROUND, is now available... and free to those of you with Kindle Unlimited!

THE HUNTING GROUND sounds like a good one. Deuce is trying to get some exercise and fresh air when she makes a shocking discovery -- someone is kidnapping and murdering children. Deuce is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, but she finds herself hitting wall after wall. The police won’t act or even talk about the crimes; and neither will the mayor, or the medical examiner, or the Department of Children and Family Services. All the organizations who should be helping the city's children seem to be helping those responsible for the crimes.

These crimes become personal for Deuce as she tries to make sense of the violence. Just how far is Deuce willing to go to get to the bottom of these horrific crimes?

I am excited that I have a copy of THE HUNTING GROUND to share with one lucky reader courtesy of the author and Saichek Publicity. To enter, just fill out the form below before January 23rd 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!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Her Every Fear

Summary: The author of the wildly popular The Kind Worth Killing returns with an electrifying and downright Hitchcockian psychological thriller—as tantalizing as the cinema classics Rear Window and Wait Until Dark—involving a young woman caught in a vise of voyeurism, betrayal, manipulation, and murder. The danger isn’t all in your head . . .

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

But soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves . . . until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment—and accidently learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? And what about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself . . . So how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Yet the danger Kate imagines isn’t nearly as twisted and deadly as what’s about to happen. When her every fear becomes very real. And much, much closer than she thinks.

Told from multiple points of view, Her Every Fear is a scintillating, edgy novel rich with Peter Swanson’s chilling insight into the darkest corners of the human psyche and virtuosic skill for plotting that has propelled him to the highest ranks of suspense, in the tradition of such greats as Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, Patricia Highsmith, and James M. Cain. -- William Morrow

Almost two years ago, I read and enjoyed THE KIND WORTH KILLING (my review) by Peter Swanson so much that I immediately got my hands on a copy of his first novel THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART. I loved Mr. Swanson's writing and creative storytelling, and I promised myself that I'd read every book he writes.

Fast forward to September of last year when I attended SIBA. I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Mr. Swanson was going to be a speaker at the Harper Collins breakfast! Of course, I had to be there! He discussed the inspiration behind his latest novel HER EVERY FEAR and gave us a few teasers about the plot. I couldn't wait to read it.

I am happy to say that I wasn't disappointed with HER EVERY FEAR. I don't have to tell you that sometimes that happens after enjoying an author's first couple of books. HER EVERY FEAR tells the story of Kate, a young woman from London, who does an apartment swap with Corbin, her cousin in Boston whom she's never met. Kate, who isn't exactly the most stable individual because of a past trauma involving an ex, is looking for a fresh start and a break from her current life. Little does she know that her arrival in Boston coincides with the discovery of a woman's dead body in the apartment next door to her.

Kate is naturally distraught, especially given her past; and she begins to wonder if her cousin could be involved in the woman's murder. Her questions take on a new urgency after she meets Alan, a fellow neighbor who admits to watching the woman's apartment from his apartment across the courtyard. He tells Kate that he saw Corbin in the woman's apartment and embracing her; however, Corbin denies any relationship. Kate also meets another mysterious man who claims he was a longtime friend of the murdered woman, and his behavior also causes Kate to doubt Corbin's story.

Kate isn't sure what to believe or whom to trust... including herself. Because of her past, she tends to think that disaster is around every corner; however, this time Kate has a reason to fear for her life as she tries to find the truth about the woman's murder.

I really enjoyed HER EVERY FEAR. The book was suspenseful and the characters were interesting, and I appreciated the author's homage to the movie Rear Window. I found the book to be extremely well written, and the pacing was excellent. It was a very quick read for me because I was "forced" to keep turning the pages.

HER EVERY FEAR was told through the eyes of multiple characters including Kate, Corbin, and even the killer. I thought Mr. Swanson did a good job in bringing each character's voice to life, and I found his portrayal of the killer's thoughts to be pretty darn scary. I have to admit that I had my doubts about whether I would appreciate this novel when I realized that Kate might or might not have been the most reliable of narrators (I hate feeling manipulated with the storytelling technique!); however, that wasn't an issue for me in this story. I especially liked that the author "explained" away some of my doubts about Kate's sanity by the end of the novel.

It wasn't exactly a whodunnit for the entire novel, but I admit I was kept guessing for the first half. Once it became evident what was going on, I felt as if the author did a great job of providing the clues as well as the background of the characters. I will say that the story did seem a little farfetched at times (or at least I hope farfetched), but I was more than willing to embrace the craziness and twisted nature of these characters.

Overall, I definitely recommend HER EVERY FEAR to fans of psychological suspense novels. The book has some creepy characters and an intriguing storyline, and it will keep you guessing about whom you can trust.

Thanks to the publisher and Goldberg McDuffie Communications for providing review copies 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, January 7, 2017

Kid Konnection: I am Jim Henson

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 new picture book in an already fantastic series!

Summary: We can all be heroes. That’s the inspiring message of this New York Times bestselling picture book biography series from historian and author Brad Meltzer. This volume focuses on Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets and Sesame Street.

This friendly, fun biography series focuses on the traits that made our heroes great–the traits that kids can aspire to in order to live heroically themselves. Jim Henson, for example, was always dreaming up something new, and always expressing his belief in the goodness of people. Henson was a born performer with a terrific sense of humor, and he used those talents to help create two of the most beloved programs in television history: The Muppet Show and Sesame Street. Through his Muppets, Jim showed the world that there’s nothing more beautiful than imagination, especially when it’s accompanied by laughter and kindness.

Each book in this series tells the story of one inspiring individual through lively text and art that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers. At the back are an excellent timeline and photos. -- Dial

I am so excited to share with you the latest book in Brad Meltzer's "Ordinary People Change the World" series -- I AM JIM HENSON! I absolutely adored the other books that I've read in this series, and this one holds a near and dear place in my heart because it's about Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets and Sesame Street. I am a huge fan of both the Muppets and Sesame Street, and many of my fondest childhood television memories are centered around these characters.

I AM JIM HENSON is an outstanding book -- there is no other word for it. This picture book, aimed at ages 5 - 8 (and of course 47 year olds too!), tells the story of Jim Henson's life... in his words. The book explains how Mr. Henson developed his imagination, his sense of humor, and his love of movies and costumes. It also shows the important role his grandparents played in his life and how his grandma encouraged him to tell stories.

I AM JIM HENSON also details how Mr. Henson discovered that he wanted to work in television -- there's a great lesson about persistence here. Readers will also get a glimpse into the creation of Kermit the Frog (Hint: Mr. Henson made him from his mother's old wool coat!) as well as the origins of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.

I love every single thing about this book -- from the story, to the cartoon bubbles, to the photos; however, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you just how adorable the illustrations are.  Christopher Eliopoulos is the illustrator for all of the books in the "Ordinary People Change the World" series, and I love his work. This book has the most adorable little Jim Henson. He's actually looks like his full bearded adult self even when he's a little kid. And I thought Mr. Eliopoulos did an excellent job in drawing all of the Muppets.

But here's what made I AM JIM HENSON extra special to me...  the overall messages in this book. Of course, we all know that Mr. Henson was an amazing creator; however, he also had a beautiful life philosophy. He believed that there is good in all of us, no matter how different we might seem. He also challenged individuals to create something new, share what you love, and find others with the same dreams. We could all use a bit more of Mr. Henson in our lives, right?

I AM JIM HENSON is my new favorite picture book, and Mr. Meltzer's "Ordinary People Change the World" series is one of my all-time favorite series. I love how these books teach kids that it's perfectly normal to have dreams, be successful, and be a good person. Highly recommended!

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, January 5, 2017

Review: The Flood Girls

Summary: This snappy, sassy redemption story set in small-town Montana is “a wild and crazy debut novel by a talented young writer” (Jackie Collins), filled with an uproarious and unforgettable cast of characters you won’t want to leave behind.

“[The Flood Girls] includes barfights and AA meetings, a parade, a wedding, and a black bear, all of which Fifield juggles beautifully...The Wild West earns its name all over again in this lovable chronicle of small-town insanity.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Welcome to Quinn, Montana, population: 956. A town where nearly all of the volunteer firemen are named Jim, where The Dirty Shame—the only bar in town—refuses to serve mixed drinks (too much work), where the locals hate the newcomers (then again, they hate the locals, too), and where the town softball team has never even come close to having a winning season. Until now.

Rachel Flood has snuck back into town after leaving behind a trail of chaos nine years prior. She’s here to make amends, but nobody wants to hear it, especially her mother, Laverna. But with the help of a local boy named Jake and a little soul-searching, she just might make things right.

In the spirit of Empire Falls and A League of Their Own, with the caustic wit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette thrown in for good measure, Richard Fifield’s hilarious and heartwarming debut will have you laughing through tears. -- Gallery Books

I've been in quite the reading slump over the holidays. I am way behind in reading and therefore writing reviews; however, one book I managed to read and really enjoy was THE FLOOD GIRLS by Richard Fifield. I wasn't quite sure that to expect from the book's description, but I admit I was willing to give it a try based on the blurbs, reviews, and accolades that this novel has received. I am happy to say that I wasn't disappointed. THE FLOOD GIRLS had a little bit of everything... and it was both heartwarming and funny!

THE FLOOD GIRLS tells the story of the quirky residents of Quinn, Montana, and one zany women's softball team. Rachel Flood returns home after almost a decade. She has worked the AA program and has reached the step of making amends to those she hurt. It's obvious right away that Rachel left some damage in her wake when she left Quinn, namely the relationship with her mother. Rachel doesn't want to spend much time in Quinn, but she feels like she needs to set some things straight before she can move on with her clean and sober life.

Rachel's mother, Laverna, is a piece of work. She owns the local bar named The Dirty Shame and definitely isn't familiar with the term customer service. The bar tends to the locals including a lot of firemen named Jim and a group of lesbian miners. And get this... Laverna doesn't serve mixed drinks because they are too much work -- it's a beer only kind of place.

When Laverna is injured in a crazy accident, Rachel decides the best way she can make amends is help her run the bar. It just about kills her to deal with an unforgiving and bitter Laverna, and things become even worse when Laverna forces her to join Quinn's women's softball team made up of a band of unforgettable misfits.

Rachel is trying to reconcile her past with her future and, in the process, she experiences a wide range of emotions. Thank goodness Rachel has managed to make a few friends in town including a fashionista preteen boy named Jake. With Jake's help, Rachel discovers many things about herself while also discovering what it means to be part of something bigger than herself.

I found THE FLOOD GIRLS to be absolutely delightful. The book had one of the quirkiest cast of characters that I can remember in recent memory, and the story was pretty unique too. (I mean that in the best possible way!) Even though I knew from the start that the book was dealing with a recovering alcoholic who was trying to make amends with a mother she obviously wronged (although you could argue that the turmoil in their relationship was definitely two-sided), I found the first few scenes in the book to be hilarious. The author has a way with both storytelling and prose, and there were many laugh out loud moments. Needless to say, this is one book that I could definitely see as a movie!

However, THE FLOOD GIRLS was also pretty heartbreaking which was not what I was expecting. Rachel was deeply troubled; and as her story was gradually revealed, it became more and more apparent just how messed up she was. And poor Jake's situation with an abusive stepfather just broke my heart. And I don't want to give any spoilers away, but there is something that occurs at the end of the novel that took my breath away... not in a good way! What I loved so much about this book is that the mix of humor and poignancy were so well done. I experienced a wide range of emotions while reading this novel and it was a fantastic ride!

I know THE FLOOD GIRLS would make an outstanding book club selection! Seriously, this one is terrific because of the complexity of the characters. There is a reading guide with twelve questions as well as some ideas for enhancing your book club meeting like watching A League of Their Own prior to discussing the novel. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include alcoholism, forgiveness, friendship, religion/spirituality, and mother/daughter relationships. Of course, the characters are worthy of a great deal of discussion as is the setting itself.

Overall, I can't rave enough about THE FLOOD GIRLS. It's a terrific story about redemption that will entertain readers and also touch their hearts. Personally, I'm hoping to see this quirky town and its residents again in a sequel...hint, hint, Mr. Fifield.

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