Saturday, October 3, 2015

Kid Konnection: Welcome to Mars

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 an interesting book about a timely topic -- the planet Mars!

Summary: Space is still the final frontier and Mars continues to make news and attract generations of young people. In this fascinating book, hero-astronaut Buzz Aldrin challenges curious kids to think about Mars as not just a faraway red planet but as a possible future home for Earthlings!

What will your new home be like? How will you get there? What will you eat for breakfast? Find out what life might be like far, far from Earth as you navigate your way through this fun and fascinating book. What kid wouldn't want to blast off with him on this (literary) journey! -- National Geographic Kids

I couldn't help but check out WELCOME TO MARS: MAKING A HOME ON THE RED PLANET by Buzz Aldrin with physicist and NASA flight engineer Marianne J. Dyson. Living on the planet Mars is an interesting idea, and WELCOME TO MARS explores this idea. It's a fascinating book, full of information, that is written by none other than Buzz Aldrin, one of the first people to walk on the moon and a huge proponent of humans settling on Mars.

The book published by National Geographic Kids is a fantastic resource for those kids (and adults) who are interested in Mars. The story is told in a fun way to keep children's interest and the photographs are out of this world -- I couldn't resist the pun! The book begins when Mr. Aldrin congratulates the reader on becoming a Martian pioneer. The specifics about Mars and what is necessary for people to eventually live there is told in second person, as if the individual reader is actually preparing for a future on Mars. I love the creative way that the information is shared!

WELCOME TO MARS is geared to 8 - 12 year olds, but I do think it will be most appreciated by kids who have an interest in science and space. I won't claim to love all things space, but I did enjoy the book. I actually was very impressed with just how much information was included. The book does cover a lot of ground and it's well written for the audience. I appreciated that it didn't dummy down the information even though it was for kids.

The book shows the reader exactly what they will find upon their arrival on Mars, but first he or she is shown how they will get to Mars on the Aldrin Cycler Spacecraft. In addition, the reader will take a tour of the Spaceport, find ways to entertain themselves on the red planet, learn about the role of greenhouses for food, and more.

This book really is about all things Mars! Buzz Aldrin is passionate about the red planet and he obviously wants to share his excitement with today's youth. Mr. Aldrin is a great proponent for a Mars settlement. He developed the orbital rendezvous technique critical to America's moon landings and the Aldrin Mars Cycler, a futuristic space transportation system to reach Mars. He also chairs his own educational organization, ShareSpace Foundation.

National Geographic publications are known for their photographs and WELCOME TO MARS is no exception. I was blown away by the gorgeous pictures in this book. In addition to the amazing color photographs, the book also includes charts, graphs, experiments, and activities. I probably don't even need to tell you how perfect this book is for the classroom. I was thrilled to find an educator's guide with class activities (by grade) and ties to standards.

WELCOME TO MARS is an incredibly interesting book about a potential settlement on Mars. Highly recommended to kids and parents alike with an interest in science and space!

Thanks to Media Masters Publicity 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, October 1, 2015

Review: Quicksand

Summary: The beginning of an engrossing new suspense series featuring Philadelphia policewoman Nora Khalil by Carolyn Baugh, acclaimed author of The View From Garden City. Officer Nora Khalil is used to navigating different terrains. As part of a joint task force set up by the Philadelphia Police Department, the FBI, and the local sheriff's offices, she works to keep Philly's mean streets safe from gang violence, while trying to honor the expectations of her traditional Egyptian-American family. She can hold her own against hardened murderers and rapists, and her years as a competitive runner ensure that no suspect ever escapes on foot.

Nora tries to keep her professional and personal lives separate, but when a mutilated body is discovered in a tough section of town, Nora must rely on both her police training and her cultural background to find out whether this is another gang-related killing or the grisly evidence of something even darker and more disturbing. -- Forge

I am always on the lookout for a new detective series especially one with a tough female protagonist, and that's exactly what I found with the novel QUICKSAND by Carolyn Baugh. This book has an intriguing main character in Nora Khalil as well as a suspenseful storyline. I'm happy to say that I am looking forward to more from this author and her characters.

QUICKSAND is the first book in a series featuring Philadelphia policewoman and  Nora Khalil. Nora is working on a joint task force with the FBI to clean up Philly's gang violence, but she's finding it's difficult to get respect from a male-dominated task force. In addition, she's having issues on the home front because her Egyptian father wants to find her a Muslim husband and won't allow her to date a fellow officer to whom she's attracted.

Both cops and citizens believe that the rival gangs are caught up in a turf war, committing murders as paybacks for other crimes. However, when  young Muslim woman is found with her eyes cut out, the investigation begins to take another course. Nora's knowledge of the Arabic language and culture proves useful as the investigation leads to a Muslim mosque where she works to find answers to these horrific crimes.

I really enjoyed QUICKSAND! I loved the character of Nora and think she'll be a great addition to other famous female detectives. She's tough but also vulnerable, and I thought the juxtaposition between her career as a police officer and her role in her family was fascinating. I felt as if the author did a wonderful job in showing the difficulties Nora faced as she was torn between her two worlds and the obligations and responsibilities that came with both.

In addition, I was appreciated learning a few things about the Muslim culture. I was very impressed with the author's knowledge of Islam, and it's evident that she knows her stuff -- she's a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Arabic and Islamic studies. I found her portrayal of both Nora's family and the victim's life to be extremely interesting.

I also thought the author did a terrific job in bringing the city of Philadelphia to life. I loved her descriptions of the streets and landmarks in the Philly area, and I also enjoyed her details about the underbelly of the city. Since Nora was a runner, the author was able to incorporate a lot of details about the sights and sounds of Philadelphia into the story.

And finally, I thought the mystery (mysteries) in this novel were well constructed. I had a few ideas along the way but I was never quite certain which direction the story would take...  and that's a good thing when I feel as if I'm along for the ride. I appreciated Nora's intelligence and her ability to get to the bottom of the murders; and, like I mentioned earlier, I look forward to more of Nora in the future.

QUICKSAND is an intriguing mystery with a great female detective character. Highly recommended!

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Dinner Solved!

Summary: Katie Workman is a gifted cook, a best friend in the kitchen, and a brilliant problem solver. Her Mom 100 Cookbook was named one of the Five Best Weeknight Cookbooks of the past 25 years by Cooking Light and earned praise from chefs like Ina Garten (“I love the recipes!”) and Bobby Flay (“Perfect . . . to help moms everywhere get delicious meals on the table.”). Now Katie turns her attention to the biggest problem that every family cook faces: how to make everyone at the table happy without turning into a short-order cook.

Expanding on one of the most popular features of the first cookbook, her ingenious “Fork in the Road” recipe solution, which makes it so easy to turn one dish into two or more, Katie shows you how Asian Spareribs can start mild and sweet for less adventurous eaters—and then, in no time, become a zesty second version for spice lovers. She shakes up the usual chicken for dinner with Chicken Tikka Masala-ish—and feeds vegetarians, too, by offering a fork where cauliflower is used in place of the chicken. Fettuccine with Shrimp and Asparagus is a blueprint for seven other easy mix-and-match pasta dinner combinations. Crostini for breakfast—truly an aha! idea—can go sweet or savory, pleasing both types of morning eaters. Have all the ingredients on hand? Make the insanely delicious Chocolate Carrot Cake. Missing chocolate? Don’t run out to the store—the basic Carrot Cake is just as satisfying.

Katie’s voice is funny and wry, and completely reassuring. Stunning full-color photographs show every dish. The result: no more cranky eaters, no more dinner table strife, no more unsure or stressed-out cook. -- Workman

I love Katie Workman! I met her a few years ago at BEA when her last cookbook THE MOM 100 COOKBOOK was coming out -- you can read my review here. I have followed her on Twitter and Facebook, and I loved the unique (and easy) recipes that she shares.

Her new cookbook is called DINNER SOLVED! and it's fantastic. It includes 100 recipes that should keep everyone in the family happy... even the cook. I have an extremely picky family that makes cooking meals a challenge. When you add to that the food allergies that my son has to eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy protein, and sesame, it's not always fun to come up with meal ideas. I basically feel like I'm cooking the same five or six meals every few days.

DINNER SOLVED! will help busy moms keep their families happy. Ms. Workman offers tons of recipes that are both simple and healthy. And then she includes what she calls a "Fork in the Road." A "Fork in the Road" shows very simple changes you can do to make the recipe more tailored to individual audiences. For example, many times she offers vegetarian options or different spice/heat options.

Katie is a busy mom and knows what comes with cooking for a family. If kids can feel like they are helping the parents cook the meal, then they are more likely to eat it and try new things. In DINNER SOLVED!, Ms. Workman provides some help with what the children can do to help prepare the recipe. I'm horrible with letting the kids help in the kitchen because of the additional time and mess, but I know many moms will love this aspect of the cookbook.

DINNER SOLVED! has a huge variety of recipes. There are twenty chapters and they pretty much cover almost anything you can think of. There are morning foods, appetizers, salads, soups and stews, various meats, pastas, one-dish meals, and even a variety of desserts. I truly believe that there is something for everyone in this cookbook.

The cookbook has gorgeous color photographs for every recipe which is a must as far as I'm concerned for cookbooks. In addition, Ms. Workman does a wonderful job explaining the background of the recipes along with special food prep instructions. She even breaks the recipes into what you can do ahead of time and what has to be done last minute.

I found many meals that I want to make over the next few weeks. While most of the recipes aren't exactly allergy-friendly for my son's allergies, I still managed to find quite a few to try. The first recipe that I tried was actually an appetizer for my book club. It's called Lemony Parmesan Artichoke Dip and it just happened to be vegetarian. I love hot artichoke dip but this recipe had a twist -- the lemon juice and lemon zest. It was easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. In fact, I had multiple people ask me for the recipe. It tasted so fresh and it was actually relatively low-fat because I used low fat cream cheese.

DINNER SOLVED! is my new go-to cookbook. I love the healthy and simple recipes as well as the flexible options. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: After Perfect (Audio)

Summary: In the tradition of New York Times best sellers What Remains by Carole Radziwill and Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey, Christina McDowell's unflinching memoir is a brutally honest, cautionary tale about one family's destruction in the wake of the Wall Street implosion. 

Christina McDowell was born Christina Prousalis. She had to change her name to be legally extricated from the trail of chaos her father, Tom Prousalis, left in the wake of his arrest and subsequent imprisonment as one of the guilty players sucked into the collateral fallout of Jordan Belfort (the "Wolf of Wall Street"). Christina worshipped her father and the seemingly perfect life they lived...a life she finds out was built on lies. Christina's family, as is typically the case, had no idea what was going on. 

Nineteen-year-old Christina drove her father to jail while her mother dissolved in denial. Since then Christina's life has been decimated. As her family floundered in rehab, depression, homelessness, and loss, Christina succumbed to the grip of alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity before finding catharsis in the most unlikely of places. From the bucolic affluence of suburban Washington, DC, to the A-list clubs and seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, this provocative memoir unflinchingly describes the harsh realities of a fall from grace. Full of '90s nostalgia and access to the inner circles of the Washingtonian societal elite, Christina McDowell's beautiful memoir is a Blue Jasmine story from a daughter's perspective. -- Audible

One of the books I discovered at this year's BEA was AFTER PERFECT: A DAUGHTER'S MEMOIR by Christina McDowell. I don't read a lot of memoirs, but this one sounded like it might be interesting. When the folks at Audible asked if I was interested in giving it a listen, I didn't even hesitate.

AFTER PERFECT is Christina McDowell's story of what happened to her and her family after her father's arrest. The Prousalis family seemingly had it all. They were living an extravagant life in the DC suburbs. Christina thought her family was just about perfect. Her father, Tom, who she idolized, was a successful attorney; and her mother served on various charities. Christina and their sisters were all popular girls who had everything money could buy...

until Tom was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement with Jordan Belfort (the "Wolf of Wall Street.") As Christina discovered more and more about her father, she realized that their entire life was built on lies. Christina, her sisters, and her mom had no idea what was going on, but it didn't take long for them to find themselves without the life-style they were accustomed to.

Christina took her father's incarceration particularly hard. She moved to Los Angeles to try her hand at an acting career. Her life fell apart as she began drinking too much, taking drugs and falling into bed with men. Fortunately she was able to get the help she needed, come to terms with her father's deceptions, and put her life back together.

AFTER PERFECT is definitely an interesting story about a family's tragic fall. I was extremely impressed with the author's honesty, sometimes brutal, about her father and her own life. The story was very sad and I found myself hoping that Ms. McDowell came to her senses before doing some permanent damage. There were times that it was almost difficult to listen to her path towards self-destruction. And many of the scenes with her father just made me sick. He really did shatter Ms. McDowell's world and it wasn't just because of their financial ruin.

However, if I'm going entirely honest, there were also times when I had a hard time feeling pity for Ms. McDowell and her family. That's not a knock against Ms. McDowell or her story. It's just that they had so much and took so much of it for granted. As I reflect back on Ms. McDowell's privileged childhood, I realize that this life is all she and her sisters ever knew. There would be almost no way possible that they could just up and change their lifestyles after their father's fall.

And I think that's actually the beauty of this book. Ms. McDowell is so darn honest about herself and her family's circumstances that it's almost hard to be resentful towards them. (I say the term family without including her father!) Her story is one about redemption and it's hard not to respect her by the end of her story. Despite the challenges she faced, she eventually found the inner strength to make the changes she needed to and get herself out of the mountain of debt she was facing.

I listened to the audio version of this book which was read by the author. Normally I would be hesitant to listen to a book narrated by the author, but Ms. McDowell has worked as an actress so she's not the typical author reading her story. I thought she did a great job. Her voice definitely lent an air of authenticity to the story and you could actually hear her pain.

I enjoyed AFTER PERFECT and recommend it to fans of memoirs.

Thanks to Audible for providing a review copy of this audiobook.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Pretty Girls

Summary: Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it. -- William Morrow

Karin Slaughter has done it again in PRETTY GIRLS! It's not surprising that she's managed to write a compelling story with memorable characters -- she's kind of established herself as "that kind" of author. However, I was blown away by this novel. The storyline is incredibly dark and the tension is palpable throughout the entire novel. It's really a very well written book that takes readers on an amazing ride!

PRETTY GIRLS tells the story of Claire and Lydia, two sisters whose lives have grown apart after their teenaged sister Julia disappeared over twenty years ago. Both women are still reeling from he loss and the devastating effect it had on their family. Claire is married to a successful architect and living a life of the wealthy. Lydia, on the other hand, is a single mother who dates a mechanic (who also happens to be an ex-con) and a recovering drug addict.

The book begins when Claire's wealthy husband is brutally attacked and murdered right in front of Claire. In the days following his death, Claire makes a shocking discovery -- her husband had porn on his computer, and it wasn't just your everyday porn. It was violent porn where the victim appeared to be murdered... and the film looked real.

In addition to the startling discovery about her husband, Claire is also being pressured to turn over information to her husband's business partner. The police aren't willing to help or seem suspicious, and Claire doesn't know what to do or where to turn. She eventually turns to her estranged sister Lydia for help. Little did Lydia know what she was getting herself into!

PRETTY GIRLS is a special book for fans of suspense stories. The story is fast-paced and action-packed and definitely has it's fair share of twists and turns. However, it also delves deeply into the dynamics of a damaged family. The author managed to accomplish all of these things in a terrific novel!

I mentioned early on that PRETTY GIRLS is a dark book and that's pretty much an understatement. This book provides some pretty disturbing scenes in the crimes being committed, but it also delves into the dysfunction of a deeply troubled family. And in many ways, those scenes were as dark or darker than the horrific crime ones. The twists and surprising plot reveals were crazy... crazy good that is. And I'm torn whether I appreciated the mystery aspects of the story or those dealing with the sisters' relationship.

For purposes of this review, I'm going to explore how well Ms. Slaughter portrayed Claire and Lydia's relationship... or lack thereof. These women had so much baggage after the disappearance of their sister. Like many families, the parents' marriage fell apart. Their father was driven to find out what happened to his daughter and eventually ended up committing suicide. The girls went their separate ways and chose to live very different lives. They had little in common and could barely speak civilly to each other.

So when Claire was at wit's end and didn't know whom to trust, she asked Lydia for help. It wasn't easy for either woman and there were definitely some trust issues that had to be worked through. Those issues would be difficult enough for the sisters, but given the incredible circumstances they were immediately thrown into, they had no choice but to depend on each other. Both women had to find strength that they didn't even realize they had.

PRETTY GIRLS had so many secrets and the way they were revealed was perfect. There were times when I could see how the story was progressing, and I almost couldn't continue reading because it was so dark. And then, I couldn't stop reading because I was so caught up in the story and needed answers. I hope I've conveyed just how much of a master Ms. Slaughter is!

Ms. Slaughter does appear to be getting better and better. PRETTY GIRLS is a truly entertaining book that plays with your mind and your heart. Highly recommended!

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

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 t

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Kid Konnection: The Day the Crayons Came Home

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 an adorable picture book that is a companion to the #1 mega bestseller THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT.

Summary: I’m not sure what it is about this kid Duncan, but his crayons sure are a colorful bunch of characters! Having soothed the hurt feelings of one group who threatened to quit, Duncan now faces a whole new group of crayons asking to be rescued. From Maroon Crayon, who was lost beneath the sofa cushions and then broken in two after Dad sat on him; to poor Turquoise, whose head is now stuck to one of Duncan’s stinky socks after they both ended up in the dryer together; to Pea Green, who knows darn well that no kid likes peas and who ran away—each and every crayon has a woeful tale to tell and a plea to be brought home to the crayon box.

Look for a special glow-in-the-dark picture [Note: make sure to “charge” it under a light first]. -- Philomel

Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers have done it again! This time it's the hilarious picture book THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME. This is the companion book to THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT which I also loved -- you can read my review here. This picture book is guaranteed to make both kids and adults laugh out loud.

Duncan's crayons are definitely hard to please. In the last book, he smoothed things over when his crayons were threatening to quit; and in this edition, Duncan is once again facing crayon troubles. THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME consists of colorful postcards written to Duncan from his crayons. Maroon Crayon isn't happy that she was stuck in the couch and then broken in two when Duncan's dad sat on her. In addition, Turquoise Crayon is stuck to a sock after going through the dryer while Brown Crayon isn't happy with the "thing" Duncan drew with him. Burnt Sienna was chewed on by the dog, and so on and so on. Duncan's crayons aren't a happy set of crayons and they just want to come back home to their crayon box.

I adored THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME. The illustrations are positively adorable and the  postcards from the crayons are super funny. Booking Son was home sick from school the day the book arrived and I forced him to sit down and read it with me. He insisted he was too old, but I read it to him anyway. He still thought he was too old, but he did find Brown Crayon's postcard to be especially funny.

As a mom, I love books like this one. THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME is cute and fun, but it also is smart enough for parents to enjoy. It might be because my kids are 16 and 11 and I don't get to read out loud with them anymore, but I don't think I'd ever get tired of reading this book. It's just fantastic and so original.

In addition to receiving a review copy of this adorable picture book, I also received an event kit to celebrate "Homecoming Week" which runs from September 26th (that's today!) until October 4th. The event kit included the following:

o Stickers
o Giant crayon wall banner
o Crayons
o Make your own crayon hat activity
o Event Sign
o How to host a Crayons Homecoming Parade instruction sheet
o How to build your own crayon fort instruction sheet
o Reproducible postcard template

All of the items were pretty darn cute, but my absolute favorite was the sticker sheet.
When I showed these items to my son, he rolled his eyes at me; and there was nothing I could do to get him to color or even make the crayon hat. So... I enlisted the help of my two adorable nephews who are HUGE fans of the books. Check out how much fun they had with the posters and activity sheets.
THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME is a sure-fit hit! 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, September 24, 2015

Review: A Window Opens

Summary: Fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette will cheer at this “fresh, funny take on the age-old struggle to have it all” (People) about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.

In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want? -- Simon & Schuster

It's so nice that I seem to be reading a lot of what I collected at this year's BEA. One of the books that I didn't want to leave without was A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan. I was immediately drawn to this novel when I saw the author autographing copies, and the description sounded like something I'd absolutely love. As the reviews and press started rolling in, I had a feeling that this book was for me!

A WINDOW OPENS tells the story of Alice Pearse, a wife, a mom of three, and part-time books editor at a women's magazine. She loves that she can balance both the working mom and the stay-at-home mom lifestyles; and she really appears to have it all... at least to this reader who totally envied her lifestyle!

I should have known things were too good to be true for Alice. When her husband gets overlooked for partner in his law firm and decides to quit and start his own firm, Alice decides that she needs to work full-time. Fortunately (maybe?) for Alice, an amazing career opportunity arises. She is offered a job working with books at Scroll, a start-up company that plans to change the future of reading!

Alice is thrilled to be "doing it all" despite misgivings from her best friend, who just happens to own the local bookstore. However, she quickly realizes that the job at Scroll is much more demanding than she expected. In addition, her husband is struggling to get his new firm off the ground... which just adds to Alice's pressure at work and home. She sees her kids less and less, depends more and more on her babysitter, and finds that she's not at all happy. And then Scroll changes strategic direction and Alice is forced to evaluate what she really wants out of her life!

I absolutely adored A WINDOW OPENS. I liked Alice and I really was able to relate to her even though our lives aren't all that similar. It didn't hurt that she had a love of books, and I admit I relished with all the "book talk." I also appreciated how entertaining the novel was... while also being heartwarming. All in all, I think it might be one of my favorites of the year!

I found A WINDOW OPENS to be highly readable -- I honestly couldn't put it down. And then, I was sad when it ended. I think the author's ability to create a character like Alice is what made me enjoy it so much. Alice was very real to me. She was a wife, mother, friend, and daughter; and she took these roles very seriously. However, Alice also wanted to have a career. She honestly thought she could have it all, and in many ways she did... until she didn't. (And in this way, A WINDOW OPENS reminded me a bit of author Allison Pearson's I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT -- note the similar name.) I guarantee that Alice will resonate with many women in today's society.

I really appreciated the humor in the story. While A WINDOW OPENS touches upon some very serious issues, it also kept me smiling. The novel was written in Alice's voice and I loved her insight into not only her life but others too. In addition, there were many references to pop culture and current social trends that were laugh out funny. The author's descriptions of PTO moms, bratty kids, and more were spot on.

Another thing I enjoyed about A WINDOW OPENS was how it focused on books and literature. As a book blogger and lover of books, this really made the novel extra-special to me. Ms. Egan is the books editor at Glamour, and I'd love to meet her! There were many references to books (including the "tribute" to I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT), and the initial concept of Scroll even made me excited. (Once again I could relate to Alice's passion for her role in the company!) I also loved that the author had Alice's best friend be the owner of the local bookstore. Needless to say, there were a few important dilemmas presented about the roles of major companies vs. independent stores.

But what I loved the most about A WINDOW OPENS were the messages from the story... or at least the ones that I took away with me after I finished the novel. Alice tried to have it all and found the it's almost impossible. Like many women, she was a mom to three busy kids, a daughter to aging parents, a wife to a troubled husband, and a full-time corporate worker. She had to deal with constantly being exhausted as well as the guilt of being a working woman, and I don't think she ever felt like she was able to do her best. My heart broke for her and my initial envy of her life quickly became a reality check (and eye opener) for my own situation. I felt Alice's pain and truly appreciated that she was able to look at her life and discover what was most important to her.

A WINDOW OPENS would make a wonderful book club pick especially if your group if made up of moms. The book really explores the issues of both stay-at-home and working moms which can be a touchy subject. (I think some women are their own worst enemy!) There is a reading group guide available with fifteen topics for discussion as well as some ideas to enhance your book club experience. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, family, duty, career, friendship, literature, sacrifice, guilt, parent/child relationships, technology, communication, choices, grief, and self awareness.

I loved A WINDOW OPENS! It was both smart and entertaining, but most importantly it touched my heart. Highly recommended.

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