Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Club Exchange: Ursula DeYoung

I'd like to welcome author Ursula DeYoung to Book Club Exchange. Ms. DeYoung is the author of the new novel SHORECLIFF, a story of a summer-long family reunion told by the observant (or should I say nosy?) thirteen-year-old Richard. I recently finished it and will be posting my review shortly, and I have to say that it's a well written novel about a very interesting family!

I am so glad that Ms. DeYoung has written this fantastic guest post about her experience with a book club (of sorts) as a child and the long-lasting effect it has had on her.

I’ve never been part of a formal book club, but in my childhood I spent two weeks every summer on Long Island with my younger sister and a small group of friends who—now that I look back on it—served the same purpose. When I was quite young, maybe nine or ten, we all developed an obsession with Sherlock Holmes. Every day we read aloud from Arthur Conan Doyle’s collected stories, and in the following summers we continued the tradition. Our favorites were “The Lion’s Mane” and “The Devil’s Foot,” but we must have read all of them at least once over the years. After one or two stories, summer antsiness would get to us and we would run outside to go to the beach or play Piggy Wants a Signal (inspiration, years later, for the game the Hatfield cousins play in Shorecliff), but the two battered volumes of Holmes and Watson would soon lure us back. 

When we knew every word of “The Lion’s Mane” and could cite every instance of Holmes’s amazing deductive powers, we branched out, reading G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories and bloodcurdling entries from an old copy of Mysteries of the Unexplained. Holmes remained a favorite, but as we grew older, the endless hours of our summer visits seemed to dwindle, and there was less time for reading aloud. We began our last book when we were well into our teens; we had all read it before, and reading it aloud was simply a chance to savor its genius together: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, still one of my all-time favorites. But we never finished the book, and it’s been years now since we were all in the same place at the same time. 

The pleasure of our communal reading has lasted, though—to this day I often share newly discovered literary gems with these friends. And I have something more concrete than memories from those times because for a few years, towards the end, we decided to try writing stories of our own. I was already writing independently, as were my sister and our friend Frank, but these stories were a group effort; we called them Stories in the Round. Our method was simple: I sat at a computer, frantically typing while all of us called out sentence after sentence, overlapping with each other, causing the plot to zigzag from one crazy idea to the next. Most of the time was spent laughing hysterically, and it was all I could do to stitch our shouted phrases into some sort of coherence. We usually ended with a few pages of nonsense that no one but us could understand. But I still read them every once in a while—they still make me laugh, and I don’t believe anyone has written a more bizarre and brilliant spoof than our nineteen-page story called “Harry Potter and the Fraternity of the Phoenix.” 

*****
Ursula DeYoung graduated from Harvard College in 2004 and received her Ph.D. in History from Oxford in 2009. She is the author of a nonfiction book on 19th-century physicist John Tyndall, A Vision of Modern Science. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Make sure you stop by Linus's Blanket tomorrow for the next stop in the SHORECLIFF tour!

A huge thanks to Ms. DeYoung for participating in Book Club Exchange!

If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.   

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Guest Blogger: Koethi Zan & Giveaway

Summary: For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”:  a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs.  But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan’s debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Watson. -- Pamela Dorman Books


Yesterday, I reviewed a pretty darn scary psychological thriller called THE NEVER LIST by Koethi Zan. This is Ms. Zan's debut novel and it's quite impressive, especially considering her career for the last fifteen years has been in entertainment law. I have a feeling that Ms. Zan is going to garner a lot of interest with THE NEVER LIST, and I'm so grateful that she's taken time from her busy schedule to share a few special things about herself.

Three Interesting Things—Koethi Zan 

1. I was once in a cult (sort of). While I was in college, I had a brush with a spiritual cult. My roommate and I went to regular meetings for a couple of months, where we were instructed in a bizarre cosmology and taught to be ‘present to the moment.’ It was an interesting life experience that we didn’t take very seriously. Then we reached the level where we were invited to attend a weekend retreat in honor of a visiting guru from New York City. We had to scrape the floors of a house we were renovating for the group, do special ‘sacred’ movements to music, and were expected to meditate for hours. I’m not ashamed to say I feigned illness, got out of there fast, and never went back.

2. I was a dancing queen.  When I was younger, I was a dedicated club kid.  I was too young to have lived the dream of Studio 54 in the seventies, but I was lucky enough to be living in Alabama when the gay club scene really caught fire.  And because it was still a little bit “underground,” it made it that much wilder.  My friends and I would dress up in elaborate costumes and dance all night, ending up at Waffle House at four in the morning.  We’d go to New Orleans for special weekends, hitting every kind of club: straight, gay, transvestite, fetish.  I kind of miss it.  Even now I never turn down the opportunity to dance.  I love weddings, fundraisers, and restaurant openings.  I might embarrass myself at this point, but I don’t care. I love it.

3. I’m running for political office.  Three years ago, I moved from Brooklyn to a tiny town in upstate New York. I’ve gotten very involved in the community: I’m on the boards of the hospital foundation, a child advocacy center, and my kids’ school; I started a not-for-profit to fight a high voltage power line; and I’ve been involved in a fight to stop the rebuilding of a toxic chemical plant.  Now I’m taking it a step further and running for Town Board.  One might think numbers one and two above would disqualify me from political office, but it’s 2013!  Let’s hope people are open-minded.  It’s definitely making for a hectic summer between promoting my book, going to public hearings, meeting with elected officials, and planning our canvassing efforts for my campaign.  But all of the work I’m doing now is incredibly satisfying.  I feel like I have a real purpose (or rather purposes) in life.  And yes, dancing is still one of them.

*****
Koethi Zan was born and raised in rural Alabama, then moved to New York City after earning a JD from Yale Law School. She practiced entertainment law for more than fifteen years, working in film, television, and theater, most recently at MTV. She now lives in upstate New York with her hsuband and children.

Giveaway alert: Thanks to the publisher, I have a copy of THE NEVER LIST to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 6th 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, July 29, 2013

Review: The Never List

Summary: For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”:  a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs.  But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan’s debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Watson. -- Pamela Dorman Books


When I read the publisher's description for THE NEVER LIST by Koethi Zan, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. Not only do I really like the authors Ms. Zan was compared to, but I also thought the timeliness of the novel, given the recent discovery of the girls who were hidden for years in Ohio, was especially intriguing. Little did I know just how disturbing, but in a good way, THE NEVER LIST would be!

I usually don't go out of my way to pick up books that will make me lose sleep; however, THE NEVER LIST ended up scaring me... a lot. It tells the story of Sarah, a young woman who is trying to find some sense of normalcy in her life after being a prisoner in a crazy man's basement ten years earlier. I say normalcy kind of tongue-in-cheek because Sarah is living pretty much as a hermit and has changed her name so one will associate her with the horrors from her past. Sarah is also dealing with a fair amount of survivor's guilt because her best friend Jennifer wasn't so lucky -- Sarah couldn't escape in time to save her.

Sarah has gone through a great deal of therapy in an attempt to recover from the cruelties of her past; however, she hasn't totally been able to escape from her captor's hold on her. He still sends her disturbing letters from prison, and things really escalate for Sarah now that he's eligible for parole. Despite her fears, Sarah is determined to keep him behind bars, and she decides to take a trip across the country to uncover many of his secrets. She contacts her fellow prisoners (who are also dealing with their fair share of demons), and together they get involved in a world of cults and sexual torture that is worse than even they could have ever imagined.

So.... have I scared you away from THE NEVER LIST with my description? I sure hope not because I think this novel is a strong debut for Ms. Zan. Yes, it's twisted and scary and even uncomfortable to read, but it's also an edge-of-the seat thriller that captured my attention from the very first page. I admit that I wasn't entirely sure where the story was going and there were times when it seemed a little outrageous, but I was willing to suspend reality given that some of the stories I've read recently in the news are just as strange (if not stranger) than this piece of fiction.

There were quite a few things I really enjoyed about THE NEVER LIST -- namely that it managed to scare the crap out of me. I read a fair amount of crime books and few have this effect on me. I think, no I know, that's a testament to the author. I appreciated about she set up the story, leaving the reader with tons of questions about Sarah's past; and then I appreciated even more how that story unfolded with flashbacks. Furthermore, I liked how there were so many twists and turns. I can't go into too much about this aspect of the novel, but suffice it to say, you will be shocked with some of the things that happen in this book!

Another impressive part of THE NEVER LIST were the characters. Naturally, I liked Sarah and my heart went out to her because of what she experienced with her psycho captor. I appreciated seeing how damaged she was but also how she was able to overcome her fears and work towards some sort of justice. I also found the women who were held captive with Sarah to be extremely interesting. They all shared their captivity, but each one dealt with the aftereffects in a different way. And then, I admit that I was fascinated by the all of the twisted characters in the story. I'm definitely not sure I understood their behavior, but I did find it interesting!

Overall, I think THE NEVER LIST is a powerful debut by a writer-to-watch. Recommended for fans of psychological thrillers.

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

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Kid Konnection: Sharkopedia


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 amazing book for fans of Shark Week!

Summary: TIME Home Entertainment, Inc has teamed up with Discovery Channel to create Sharkopedia: The Complete Guide to Everything Shark—a book full of captivating photos and the coolest facts about the world’s most astonishing and feared creatures. Sharkopedia (Time Home Entertainment, Inc.; $19.95 US) is available at www.sharkopedia.com and wherever books are sold. 


The book also includes an introduction and special contributions from shark expert and marine biologist Andy Dehart, a regular contributor to Discovery’s popular week-long TV event, Shark Week. 

This 192 page full-color book includes over 400 vivid photos and offers a wealth of information about the nearly 500 species of sharks. Sharkopedia is the ultimate comprehensive resource for shark fans of all ages and explains everything there is to know about these amazing underwater predators.  Its chapters dive into areas such as:

·         Shark Anatomy and Senses –Explore shark parts, skin, muscles, fins, gills, hearing, taste and touch.
·         Feeding Habits – What’s the name of the shark that takes small, cookie shaped bites out of its prey?
·         Record Breakers – Which shark can live over 200 years?
·         Shark Behavior – Do sharks sleep?
·        Shark Conservation – Rather than being afraid of sharks, people should be afraid for sharks, as their populations are seriously threatened. Scientists, legislators and advocates—people who love sharks—are working to protect sharks in many ways. 

In addition, Sharkopedia is filled with information about some of the most infamous sharks, including the Great White, Bull and Tiger. Learn about the two fastest-swimming sharks, how some sharks get their teeth cleaned, and why tiger sharks are known as “garbage guts.” Readers will get a close-up look at what makes sharks the most fearsome hunters in the ocean, read about the Great White “Ring of Death,” and much more.

“New advances in technology have allowed scientists to learn a great deal about sharks and one thing is abundantly clear – sharks are not the mindless monsters of the deep that many thought them to be,” said Dehart. “Whether you are fascinated or frightened by sharks, Sharkopedia showcases these amazing animals and allows us to captivate audiences year round outside of the water.” -- Time Home Entertainment

Duuun dun duuun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun BOM BOM dun dun dun dun dun dun doo dedoo doo dedoo dede doo dede doo dededoo 

Can you tell that is supposed to be the theme from JAWS? Pretty corny, right?

I know many of you are counting down to Shark Week '13. It's only a little over a week away, beginning on August 4th. I'm not sure I'd say I'm really all that interested in sharks, but because of the excitement surrounding the event, I decided to take a peek at SHARKOPEDIA: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO EVERYTHING SHARK

And let me tell you... I now get it! Sharks are absolutely amazing and this full-color book has made me a fan (or at least someone who is fascinated by sharks.) My initial reaction to SHARKOPEDIA was "wow!" because it has more than 400 incredible photos. However, I must say that the details about these animals is as impressive as the photographs. I truly can't believe how much information this book contains.

SHARKOPEDIA is divided into loads of chapters and sub-chapters which make it easy to find exactly what you are looking for. For example, there are chapters on  Shark Anatomy; Shark Orders; Angelsharks; Habitats; Carpetsharks; Senses; Frilled Sharks and Cowsharks; Extinct Species; Bramble, Roughsharks, Lantern Sharks, and Other Dogfish Sharks,; Feeding Habits; Catsharks; Life Cycle; Hammerhead Sharks; Shark Behavior; Smoothhounds, Topesharks, Whiskery Sharks, and Other Houndsharks; Sharks and Humans; Requiem Sharks; Shark Research; Weasel Sharks; Shark Conservation; Horn and Bullhead Sharks; Record Breakers; Mackerel Sharks; Shark Bites; Sawsharks; and New Sharks. And those are just the main chapters! Each chapter has multiple sub-chapters too!

Needless to say SHARKOPEDIA is a great resource for anything and everything shark-related. But the real beauty of this book is in how the information is presented -- it's extremely fun. I mentioned that there are over 400 color photographs and captions. This makes the book so interesting for readers... of all ages! There are also sidebars which detail the highlights on different topics, various fun (or fin) fact blurbs, and "did you know?" and "guess what?" sections among other interesting bits of trivia. There are even some quotes by Andy Dehart, a contributor to Shark Week.

SHARKOPEDIA is sure to keep your kids entertained for hours and tide them over between Shark Weeks. Highly recommended for fans of sharks as well as "future" fans of sharks (like me!)

Thanks to Goodman Media 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!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Giveaway: Tigers in Red Weather

Summary: Nick and her cousin Helena grew up in a world of sun bleached boat docks, tennis whites, and midnight gin parties at Tiger House, the family home on Martha's Vineyard. In the wake of the Second World War, the two women are on the cusp of starting their "real lives": Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage to the charismatic Avery Lewis, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own husband, Hughes Derringer, about to return from the war. The world seems rife with possibility.

The gilt soon begins to crack. Avery is not the man he seems to be, and Hughes has grown distant, his inner light curtained over. On the brink of the 1960s, Nick and Helena-with their children Daisy and Ed-try to recapture that earlier sense of possibility. But then Daisy and Ed discover something truly awful, and the dark thread of the family's history slowly starts to unravel. The secrets and lies that each member thought long buried begin to surface.

Brilliantly told with the tempestuous elegance of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the suspenseful dark longing of Patricia Highsmith, Tigers in Red Weather is an almost unbearably compelling story of liars, lust, and secrets. It heralds the arrival of a fierce literary talent. - Little, Brown & Co

When I saw that TIGERS IN RED WEATHER by Liza Klaussmann was recently released in paperback, I had to smile. I fondly remembered reading it last year while I was vacationing in the Outer Banks, and it was one of the best books I read during my rainy (yet book-filled) trip. It is a wonderfully written novel about a dysfunctional family and there was even a bit of a murder mystery thrown in -- or at least an event that set lots of things into motion! I loved how the author brought this time period to life, and it even reminded me a bit of THE GREAT GATSBY. If you are interested, you can read my more detailed review here.

To celebrate the paperback release of TIGERS IN RED WEATHER, I have a copy (courtesy of the publisher) to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 8th 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 25, 2013

Big Girl Panties House Party

Last Saturday evening, I hosted a Big Girl Panties House Party! You might be wondering what a Big Girl Panties House Party is, and that's exactly the same reaction my friends had when they received their invitation. Basically, it's a party to celebrate the release of the new novel BIG GIRL PANTIES by Stephanie Evanovich. Fortunately, I was chosen to host this party for twelve people through House Party!

I ended up having nine of my friends (plus me!) at the party, although the photo above is missing my sister and her friend. Since Harper Collins provided hardcover books for everyone a few weeks ahead of time, I was able to hand out the books as my friends RSVPed and almost all of them got the book read by the party! I also received items for goodies bags, a recipe for a themed drink called The Big Girl Panty-Dropper, and a reading guide with discussion questions. However, the highlight of the evening was a video chat with the author Stephanie Evanovich.
My party began at 7:00 so we had about an hour to talk about the book (and everything else under the sun) before the scheduled author chat. Everyone agreed that the book was a fun summer read -- my review will be posted shortly; and a few of my friends were already sharing their book with others. I was excited to hear that a book club made up of a friend of a friend already selected BIG GIRL PANTIES for their next read!

At 8:00 on the dot, Stephanie appeared along with her editor. Both were a hoot and it was apparent that there was a very fun party going on in the background -- a woman dancing, a shirtless guy, etc! We thought Stephanie and her editor were extremely fun and very open with the Q&A part of the chat. I was lucky enough to be one of the viewers whose question was read out loud! Needless to say, I was excited... and my friends were quite impressed. HA!
Of course, a party wouldn't be a party without some yummy food! I served cheese and crackers, fruit salsa and cinnamon pita chips, Southwestern salsa with tortilla chips, and a hot spinach and artichoke dip. For dessert, I made a coconut cake and had mini Milky Ways -- you'll understand the Milky Ways after you read the book.
As each of my friends left for the evening, I handed them a little bag filled with goodies that included a coupon for Cosabella, a gift certificate for a 15 day trial of Barre3 online workouts, a Barre3 bracelet, a bookmark, a pack of Chia Seeds and recipes, a reading group guide for BIG GIRL PANTIES, and a cute tattoo!
I had a wonderful time at my Big Girl Panties House Party and I hope my friends did as well!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Rod: The Autobiography (Audio)

Summary: Rod Stewart was born the working class son of a Scottish plumber in north London. Despite some early close shaves with a number of diverse career paths ranging from gravedigging to professional soccer, it was music that truly captured his heart - and he never looked back.

Rod started out in the early 1960s playing the clubs on London’s R&B scene before his distinctively raspy voice caught the ear of the iconic front man Long John Baldry, who approached him while he was busking one night on a railway platform. Stints with pioneering acts like the Hoochie Coochie Men, Steampacket, and the Jeff Beck Group soon followed, paving the way into a raucous five years with the Faces, the rock star’s rock band, whose onstage and offstage antics with alcohol, wrecked hotel rooms, partying, and groupies have become the stuff of legend. And during all this, he found a spare moment to write "Maggie May", among a few other tunes, and launch a solo career that has seen him sell in excess of 200 million records, be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, and play the world’s largest-ever concert. Not bad, as he says, for a guy with a frog in his throat. 

And then there is his not-so-private life: marriages, divorces, and affairs with some of the world’s most beautiful women - Bond girls, movie stars, and supermodels - a struggle with steroids, and a brush with cancer, in which he almost saw it all slip away. 

Rod’s is an incredible life, and here - thrillingly and for the first time - he tells the entire thing, leaving no knickers under the bed. A rollicking rock ’n’ roll adventure that is at times deeply moving, this is the remarkable journey of a guy with one hell of a voice - and one hell of a head of hair. -- Random House Audio

Yesterday, I mentioned that I received two credits for books from Audible.com. My first choice was ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY. I admit I'm not the biggest Rod Stewart fan (although I do love Maggie May); however, as a child of the 1980s, I had heard some interesting stories about Mr. Stewart. And then I read Sandy's review of the book, and I just knew I had to give it a try.

ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY definitely exceeded my expectations. I wouldn't exactly say I was necessarily interested in Mr. Stewart's life or his music; however, I was so entertained by this book that I found myself looking forward to my exercise times just so I could listen to it. Mr. Stewart begins his book with a humorous story about a close call with an airplane accident and uses it as an example of just how lucky he's been in his life. When I was laughing out loud within the first five minutes, I had a feeling that I was in for a treat.

Mr. Stewart then takes us from his youth in England following World War II to his glamorous life as a huge rock star. And believe me when I say, there were many ups and downs during those years. What I loved the most about this book is Mr. Stewart's honesty. He cleared up many of the misconceptions about his life... and boy were there some strange ones. But he also showed a fantastic sense of self-deprecating humor when he reflected on his life.

And I know this is going to sound awful, but when I think of Rod Stewart, I don't think of his music. Rather, I think of his relationships with tall, young blonds. In ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Mr. Stewart provided lots of juicy details about his numerous marriages and flings with beautiful women. However, despite his record, I believe that he genuinely loved each of these women. I also appreciated that he went into some details about the love he has for his children.

In addition, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed learning about Mr. Stewart's music history. Sometimes when I read book's by famous rock stars, I get a little bored with all of the details about each song and each performance, blah, blah, blah... That wasn't the case with ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Maybe it's because Mr. Stewart didn't spend a huge amount of time on every stinking detail of his career, or maybe it was just the funny way he had of describing every life situation, but I actually liked learning the background on his various albums and concerts.

I have to say that I found Rod Stewart actually growing on me the more I read this book -- and you could have knocked me over with a feather. Of course, he was a pretty big rock star and he does have a rock star ego; however, he came across in this book as being somewhat down to earth... for a rock star. Some of my favorite parts of this book were when he talked about his relationship with Elton John, and I found myself cracking up at their friendly competitions.

However, this book also explored some of Mr. Stewart's more troubling times. He is up front about his relationship with drugs and alcohol as well as his brush with cancer. And it was in these events that I found myself truly liking Mr. Stewart. He has certainly gained some perspective in his 70 years and I feel as if he's learned from his various life experiences.

I absolutely, positively adored ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY; and I'm quite certain listening to the audio book was one of the major reasons why. The book was read by Simon Vance, and I now know why he's such a "rock star" for audio book fans. He was amazing! I got so caught up in his accent and his perfect timing that I forgot that it wasn't Rod Stewart telling me his story. I hope I can say I'm a huge fan of Mr. Vance's after only one book; and now I'm on the hunt to find more of his work!

I highly recommend ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY for fans of Rod Stewart's (and even those of you like me who weren't exactly crazy about him.) It's a wonderful look at a very interesting rock star and I can pretty much guarantee that you'll find yourself laughing at his antics. And if nothing else, you might find yourself liking Mr. Stewart a bit more after reading his story.

Thanks to Audible for providing a copy of this audio book.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Audible.com


A few months ago, I was contacted by Audible.com and asked if I would like to review their service. They offered me two free credits for audio books, and I selected ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY and THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON. I am finished listening to both books and my reviews on the book will be posted shortly. In the meantime, I'd like to share a little bit about my experience with Audible.com.

For those of you who don't already know this, Audible.com is an Amazon owned subsidiary and the world’s largest seller and producer of online audio books with over 135,000 titles. Needless to say, their selection is incredible! My husband is already a huge fan of Audible.com and downloads the audio books he listens to on his commute on a regular basis. I, on the other hand, wasn't at all familiar with Audible.com!

I can certainly see why my husband will no longer get his audio books from any source besides Audible.com. It's just so quick and easy! I don't know about you, but every time I receive an audio book, it's a major hassle to get it into iTunes and then onto my iPhone. I don't know if I've ever had one single time where everything went well on the first try.

So here's how Audible.com worked for me.. After receiving my two free credits from Audible.com, I shopped their huge "inventory" of audio books. I chose two books, checked out, and basically that was it. I, then, downloaded the free Audible app to my iPhone, opened up the app and saw the books in my library. I downloaded both of them with the touch of a button and shortly thereafter started listening. So darn simple!

I might be the only one with this problem, but when I listen to audio books on my iPhone, I tend to lose my place in the middle of a chapter. For example, when I recharge my phone at night and then start playing the book the next morning, sometimes (not all of the time), it will go back to the beginning of the track rather than start from where I last stopped listening. It drives me nuts! Well, with Audible.com, that problem has been eliminated!

Audible.com's audio books are available for download on virtually every digital audio listening device including smartphones, tablets and readers, and books you've downloaded remain in your library for life. You also have the ability to go back and forth between your audio book and the Kindle version if that's something you like to do!

Audible.com has a variety of membership options to meet any user's needs. For example, you can select a 1 book a month option which is $14.95 a month (with the first three months being $7.50 for new members), or you can select a 2 books a month option for $22.95. There are also annual plans available for either 12 or 24 books a year. In addition, Audible.com's customer service is outstanding. They have 24 hour a day customer service, and they allow members to pause, cancel, or upgrade at any time.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to experience the simplicity of Audible.com for myself. Highly recommended way to purchase and listen to your audio books.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Killer Ambition

Summary: When the daughter of a billionaire Hollywood director is found murdered after what appears to be a kidnapping gone wrong, Los Angeles Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight and Detective Bailey Keller find themselves at the epicenter of a combustible and high-profile court case. Then a prime suspect is revealed to be one of Hollywood's most popular and powerful talent managers--and best friend to the victim's father. With the director vouching for the manager's innocence, the Hollywood media machine commences an all-out war designed to discredit both Rachel and her case. KILLER AMBITION is at once a thrilling ride through the darker side of Tinseltown and a stunning courtroom drama with the brilliant insider's perspective that Marcia Clark is uniquely qualified to give. -- Little, Brown & Co

I always have a list of books that I want to get at Book Expo America, and this year, one of my must-haves was KILLER AMBITION by Marcia Clark. Despite numerous walk-bys past Hachette's booth, I either missed it or they weren't giving them out. And then, lo and behold, I learned that Ms. Clark would be signing at the Mystery Writers of America booth. So Kathy and I went to the signing and discovered that there were hundreds of people who had the exact same idea. We decided not to wait; however, we lucked out when we walked by during the last ten minutes of her signing and found the line to be much shorter -- maybe five people. Bottom line, I was able to score a copy of KILLER AMBITION and it's autographed to boot!

KILLER AMBITION is the third novel in the Rachel Knight series. I have read the prior novels and was extremely impressed with Ms. Clark's storytelling abilities. I loved how she set up the mystery and incorporated a few twists and turns. And it didn't hurt that Rachel Knight and her best friends kick some major butt!

In this novel, Rachel finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a famous Hollywood director's teenage daughter. Needless to say, it is an extremely high profile case and one that is near-and-dear to Rachel's heart. When the girl and her boyfriend are both found dead, the prime suspect is a former childhood star and current manager of the victim's father... and his best friend. As Rachel works to put this man behind bars, she has to face many impediments including a reluctant witness in the victim's father as well as a media frenzy that is deliberately trying to discredit Rachel and her case.

I enjoyed KILLER AMBITION quite a bit, but I'm not sure I'd say it's my all-time favorite Rachel Knight book. This is going to sound terrible, but I thought the book, at 450+ pages was just too long. I found my attention wavering in the first half of the story and felt as if it could have been shorter. Having said that, I am the first to admit that maybe it was just me.

However, I loved the second half of the story -- the part when Rachel actually went to trial with her case. That part of the novel was so well done and rang so true for me. I adored how Ms. Clark showed what went on both inside and outside the courtroom, and it's apparent that she knows a thing or two about Hollywood and high profile cases. The dialogue as well as the legal explanations were spot on and, truly, made this book special. In fact, I hope the next Rachel Knight novel has lots of courtrooms scenes too.

KILLER AMBITION had a different feel that the other two novels and I liked that Ms. Clark was able to switch things up a little in this series. Rachel and her friends weren't quite as tough and their actions to "solve" the crime weren't as suspenseful. However, I still found these women to be pretty darn amazing. I love how intelligent and determined they were and that they supported each other. The female friendship angle isn't typical in books like this, and I appreciate how this novel explored their feelings... and especially Rachel's.

For those of you wondering, KILLER AMBITION does work as a stand-alone, but why wouldn't you just start from the beginning of this fantastic series? Recommended to fans of mysteries, legal thrillers, and crime fiction!

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 20, 2013

Kid Konnection: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library


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 wonderful new middle grade novel!

Summary: Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience. -- Random House


I don't read all that many middle grade novels now that Booking Daughter is a teenager and Booking Son is still a little young for them; however, I made an exception for the new book ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein. I admit I was intrigued by the unique premise, but then I saw a comparison to one of my all-time favorite books THE WESTING GAME. Sold!

Quite honestly, all of the accolades I've seen for ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY don't do it justice. This book is so good and ideal for middle grade readers -- even those reluctant ones. It's funny, interesting, intriguing, imaginative, original and thought-provoking; and better yet, it's a page turner.

ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY tells the story of twelve sixth graders who are locked into a brand spanking new library for a night of adventure, food and fun. The brainchild behind this event is Luigi Lemoncello, the most famous gamemaker in the world. However when the kids wake up the next morning, they discover that they are locked into the library and can't leave until they figure out the escape route.

This middle grade novel is so clever. It's filled with puzzles -- ones that the characters in the book figure out and another one that is hidden in the novel specifically for the reader. In addition, it takes place in a state-of-the-art library with so many imaginative features that, hopefully, will encourage kids to realize just how amazing libraries can be. Furthermore, I appreciated that this novel had so many references to books and even some familiar quotations.

I just adored ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY and I think it's perfect for schools and/or book clubs. There is a wonderful website with so many fun activities and ideas. There are even cute mugs and tee-shirts. I especially appreciated that there is a reading guide as well as comprehensive questions, activities and vocabulary words.

One last thing... the book trailer:



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!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Club Exchange: Andrea Thalasinos

I'd like to welcome author Andrea Thalasinos to Book Club Exchange. Ms. Thalasinos's new novel TRAVELING LIGHT is currently available, and I think is sounds wonderful. It's described as "an inspiring story about fate, family, and healing." By all accounts, that should make it perfect for book clubs!

I am so glad that Ms. Thalasinos agreed to take time from her busy schedule to write this guest post about her experiences with book clubs! I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

My first experience with book groups taught me that I was not book group material. After having been invited by co-workers to participate as a guest I ended up dominating the entire evening with ideas, thoughts and even crossed swords with the President of the College where I taught at the time. Somehow the idea of respecting protocol or rank hadn’t seemed relevant. Me, a probationary sociology faculty, the College President, a larger than life figure (who wore floor-length capes and cowboy hats) that everyone else knew better than to challenge—but what did I know. All was fair when it came to books, ideas and the expression of truth. Or so I thought. 

“Big mouth,” my mother used to call me. “You always have to have the last word.” Okay, so maybe there was (and is?) some truth to that. In retrospect, I did manage to keep my job though I wasn’t invited back.


Then it happened a second time, a few months later, only this time with people down the street—essentially my neighbors. This time I held back, was polite, let others take the lead in discussion. By the time it was over I left with the beginning of one hell of a whopping headache that blossomed on the walk home. At the time I blamed it on my being a displaced New Yorker in a mid-sized Midwestern city where people are more likely to think before they speak, let others take the lead in talking and most importantly, not interrupt. That was also the time I started writing fiction and discovered that I fared much better as a visiting author than a participant. 


I still read like a fiend and my interests take me to favorite authors such as Daniel Woodrell, J.M. Coetzee, Marilyn Robinson, Russell Banks to name a few. I read to become a better writer, to see how others structure stories, develop scenes and characters, and whether they strike that most elusive of chords—having the burn of truth.  I always know when they hit it because their stories follow me for days, exhorting me to examine my motives and sense of honesty a little more carefully.   


I’m always scouring book shelves, asking others for tips on stories. And I count on writers who’ve come before me to help show the way, to humble and make me glad that I get to do this most demanding of crafts.  


Writing, whether novels, journals or stories of any kind, leaves you with a record of what your life is like in a given time. You will freeze frame a moment. It always strikes me with a sense of relief yet discontent when I finish a story. “Okay for now, but next time I’ll get closer to my own burn of truth.” Maybe that’s why I’ve come to love writing more than talking.  


*****
Summary: Paula Makaikis is ashamed of her marriage. Driven out of their bedroom by Roger’s compulsive hoarding, she has spent the past ten years sleeping downstairs on her husband’s ratty couch. Distant and uninspired, Paula is more concerned with the robins landing on her office window ledge than her hard-earned position at the university.

Until a phone call changes everything.

A homeless Greek man is dying in a Queens hospital and Paula is asked to come translate. The old man tells her of his beloved dog, Fotis, who bit a police officer when they were separated. Paula has never considered adopting a dog, but she promises the man that she will rescue Fotis and find him a good home. But when Fotis enters her life she finds a companion she can’t live without. Suddenly Paula has a dog, a brand-new Ford Escape, an eight-week leave of absence, and a plan.

So Fotis and Paula begin the longest drive of their lives. In northern Minnesota, something compels her to answer a help-wanted ad for a wildlife rehabilitation center. Soon Paula is holding an eagle in her hands, and the experience leaves her changed forever.

An inspiring story about fate, family, and healing, this novel explores what is possible when we cut the ties that hold us down and the heart is free to soar. 


Traveling Light by Andrea Thalasinos is an inspiring story about fate, family, and healing. -- Forge
 
Andrea grew up in the New York area as the daughter of a Greek American family. Her early love of animals was confined
mostly to luring home stray dogs by surreptitiously feeding them and then trying to keep them hidden from her parents. Kostantino and Mary were not keen on dogs!

After taking a creative writing course in high school her life was changed. Working in the school library, she'd cut classes and sneak out with an armful of books, hitchhiking down to Jones Beach even in winter to read and write.

Through a quirk of fate she later moved to the northern Great Lakes and began attending the University of Wisconsin Madison where she completed a PH.D. With academic training in sociology, she compares the excavation of history, people and events to, "discovering diamonds in a place one would never expect, embedded into stories that are yet to be told. It's exhilarating as information and story weave together to form new ways of seeing previously unexamined or unknown things."

She remembers telling a close friend after graduation, "Whew, glad that's over, now I can write fiction and get a dog!"

Currently, Andrea lives in Madison, Wisconsin where she is anxiously awaiting the publication of her second novel, Traveling Light, scheduled for release on July 16, 2013 by Forge Books, (Macmillan). Traveling Light is available for pre-order. An Echo Through The Snow was released in August of 2012 and is available for purchase. Andrea is working on her third novel.

A huge thanks to Ms. Thalasinos for participating in Book Club Exchange!

If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: The Lemon Orchard & Giveaway

Summary: Year after year, Luanne Rice’s fans eagerly await her next book. Their enthusiasm is soon to be rewarded with The Lemon Orchard, Rice’s romantic new love story between two people from seemingly different worlds.

In the five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. She expects to find nothing more than peace and solitude as she house-sits with only her dog, Bonnie, for company. But she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share? The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heartbreaking story of his own loss—a pain Julia knows all too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto’s daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope.

Set in the sea and citrus-scented air of the breathtaking Santa Monica Mountains, The Lemon Orchard is an affirming story about the redemptive power of compassion and the kind of love that seems to find us when we need it most. -- Pamela Dorman Books


After having a recent conversation with my friend, I realized that I had never read a novel by Luanne Rice. Needless to say, she was pretty surprised! I figured that I needed to see for myself why Ms. Rice has sold so many novels, so I picked up her latest book THE LEMON ORCHARD. After finishing this book in just a few hours, I can see why she her stories appeal to so many readers.

THE LEMON ORCHARD tells the story of Julia, a middle-aged woman who is still reeling from the loss of her daughter's and husband's deaths. She decides to head to Malibu and house-sit for her aunt and uncle at their lemon orchard and hopefully find some peace of mind. However, when she meets the very attractive Roberto, the (undocumented) overseer of the orchard, she realizes that they have something in common -- the loss of a child.

While Julia's daughter is dead from a tragic accident, Roberto doesn't know what happened to his daughter so he continues to hope that she is still alive. Julia decides to assist Roberto is tracking down what happened to his daughter after they were separated in the desert while trying to enter the United States. As Julia and Roberto work together to find out the truth, they find themselves grower closer, seeking comfort from each other, and possibly even falling in love.

Overall, I enjoyed THE LEMON ORCHARD and I think fans of Ms. Rice's will be thrilled with her latest novel. It is a touching story about two people each trying to recover from a devastating loss, but it's also a story about hope, new beginnings and redemption. While the novel was somewhat outside of my typical reading fare, I definitely appreciated that it made me think!

I am the first to admit that one of the reasons that I hadn't read a book by Ms. Rice is that I considered them to be romance novels. Not to say that I don't occasionally pick up a love story (especially during the summer), but I don't tend to seek them out. And when I started reading THE LEMON ORCHARD, I wasn't entirely sure that this book was for me. I had a feeling that I could predict where the romance aspect of the story was heading, and I almost dreaded that it seemed so predictable.

However, I quickly realized that Ms. Rice is a skilled storyteller and that THE LEMON ORCHARD had much more depth to it than typical love stories. I was impressed with Ms. Rice's character development and dialogue. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised by the seriousness (and do I daresay, relevance?) of the immigration theme that was so prevalent throughout the story.

I'm sure the love story aspects of THE LEMON ORCHARD were very good, but I'm not the best judge of that -- I'll leave that to readers who enjoy romance novels a little more than I do. What I do feel I can attest to is how well the author presented both sides of the immigration issue in our country. Most importantly, I loved that Ms. Rice humanized the story of individuals trying to find a better place for their families. To her credit, the author didn't shy away from presenting the heartache associated with not only getting into the United States but also living here as an undocumented worker. While I'm not sure this novel provided any answers for me concerning this difficult topic, it did cause me to think and it even allowed me to see multiple sides of this issue... and for that, I am very glad I read it.

Because of the way this book explored immigration issues in our country as well as the complexity of the characters and their actions, I do think THE LEMON ORCHARD would make an interesting book club discussion. There is a reading guide with twelve thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you  might want to explore include loss, grief, guilt, hope, love, dedication, forgiveness, and redemption. In addition, if you're game, you can also discuss our country's views on immigration and even debate what we should do!

THE LEMON ORCHARD is a touching novel that also addresses some very serious issues. Recommended to fans of romance and women's literature.

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

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of THE LEMON ORCHARD and a matching tote bag to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 25th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: All the Summer Girls

Summary: In Philadelphia, good girl Kate is dumped by her fiancĂ© the day she learns she is pregnant with his child. In New York City, beautiful stay-at-home mom Vanessa finds herself obsessively searching the Internet for news of an old flame. And in San Francisco, Dani, an aspiring writer who can't seem to put down a book—or a cocktail—long enough to open her laptop, has just been fired . . . again. 

In an effort to regroup, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani retreat to the New Jersey beach town where they once spent their summers. Emboldened by the seductive cadences of the shore, the women begin to realize just how much their lives, and friendships, have been shaped by the choices they made one fateful night on the beach eight years earlier—and the secrets that now threaten to surface. -- William Morrow

My beach vacation is still a few weeks away, but I actually read a novel a few weeks ago that is absolutely, positively perfect for a beach read. It's called ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS by Meg Donohue; and not only is it a book about female friendships, but it takes place at the Jersey Shore. I can pretty much guarantee that this novel will be the perfect addition to your beach or pool bag.

ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS tells the story of three friends -- Kate, the perfectionist lawyer who finds herself pregnant and dumped by her fiance; Vanessa, a stay-at-home mom who is looking for a little excitement in her life; and Dani, a writer who is experiencing a serious case of writer's block along with a penchant for alcohol. The three women agree to meet at the Jersey Shore where they spent their summer together. As they try to come to terms with their current situations in life, they also discover that a traumatic event from their past has affected each one of them more than they realize.

I enjoyed ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS quite a bit. For those of you who know me (or regularly read my reviews), you already know that I'm a sucker for stories about women and especially as it relates to their friendships with each other. Furthermore, I appreciate books where the main characters find themselves facing difficult times and have the courage and strength to change or evolve. So given my inclination towards stories like this, I was entertained by ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS.

In fact for much of the novel, I was impressed with Ms. Donohue's grasp of women's feelings and how she portrayed these characters. There were a few times when I thought the characters were almost stereotypes of "friends" and then something would occur that would change my mind. I especially liked that I was surprised by the complexity of their characters. So while I said earlier that ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS is an ideal beach read, keep me mind that it does deal with some serious issues and it's not just a light and fluffy story.

However, I did have a small issue with one thing about the book... and that was the ending. I don't want to say that I was disappointed with how things worked out for the characters, but I did think things were wrapped up a little too neatly (and quickly) for my liking. Given how flawed and complex the characters were, I guess I wanted a little uncertainty or something surprising to happen. Does that make sense? I just wanted more...

Having said that, I do think ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS would make a good book club selection. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way about the ending, so that would be interesting to discuss. Furthermore, the characters' actions are most definitely interesting and perhaps even controversial. Some of the topics you might want to explore include friendships, parent/child relationships, new beginnings, honesty, guilt, forgiveness and redemption.

Overall, I enjoyed ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS and think it's a terrific summer read. Recommended to fans of women's fiction and smart chick lit.

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Giveaway: Cedar Cove Prize Pack

Summary:  Don’t miss the new primetime series based on the bestselling books by Debbie Macomber starring Andie MacDowell & Dylan Neal. Watch CEDAR COVE Saturday nights at 8p/7c beginning July 20 only on Hallmark Channel!

In "Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove," Andie MacDowell plays Judge Olivia Lockhart, whose Cedar Cove Municipal Court is the professional milieu and social microcosm of issues the judge will face in her own day-to-day life with family and friends. Jack Griffith (Dylan Neal), the editor of the Cedar Cove Chronicle, is a new friend and potential love interest for Judge Lockhart.

Starring Andie MacDowell, Dylan Neal, Teryl Rothery, Bruce Boxleitner, Barbara Niven, Brennan Elliot, Paula Shaw, Sarah Smyth. -- Hallmark Channel

Just a few days ago, I was reading my latest Entertainment Weekly magazine and I was so excited to see an ad for the new television series Cedar Cove. I don't have a lot of free time lately but I still manage to find the time to follow a few television series. And one that has captured my attention is Cedar Cove starring Andie MacDowell.

Cedar Cove is based on the best-seller books by Debbie Macomber, and it sure has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, I haven't read any of the Cedar Cove books; but from what I can tell, Ms. MacDowell plays a judge in Cedar Cove. I'm assuming the show will feature both Judge Olivia Lockhart's courtroom actions as well as her personal life.

I am a child of the 1980s and Andie MacDowell certainly had some memorable film roles during my teen years. I am so happy to see her back in the spotlight where she belongs!

Cedar Cove will air on Saturday nights at 8 p/7 c beginning this Saturday (July 20th) on the Hallmark Channel!


You can learn more about Cedar Cove by clicking on the links below:

Like Cedar Cove on Facebook                   
Watch the trailer, clips and more on YouTube                   
Follow @CedarCoveTV on Twitter #CedarCoveTV




Thanks to the Hallmark Channel, I have a terrific Cedar Cove Prize Pack valued at $45 to share with one lucky reader. Here's what it includes:  
  • $15 Amazon Gift Card to start the Cedar Cove book series
  • Recyclable shopping tote
  • Debbie Macomber’s 16 Lighthouse Road Book
  • Micro-Fleece winter beanie 

To enter, just fill out the form below before July 24th at 11:59 p.m. ET. 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, July 15, 2013

Guest Review: Duel with the Devil

Summary: Duel with the Devil is acclaimed historian Paul Collins’ remarkable true account of a  stunning turn-of-the-19th century murder and the trial that ensued – a showdown in which iconic political rivals Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr joined forces to make sure justice was done. Still our nation’s longest running “cold case,” the mystery of Elma Sands finally comes to a close with this book, which delivers the first substantial break in the case in over 200 years.
            
In the closing days of 1799, the United States was still a young republic.  Waging a fierce battle for its uncertain future were two political parties: the well-moneyed Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the populist Republicans, led by Aaron Burr. The two finest lawyers in New York, Burr and Hamilton were bitter rivals both in and out of the courtroom, and as the next election approached—with Manhattan likely to be the swing district on which the presidency would hinge—their  animosity reached a crescendo. Central to their dispute was the Manhattan water supply, which Burr saw not just as an opportunity to help a city devastated by epidemics but as a chance to heal his battered finances.
             

But everything changed when Elma Sands, a beautiful young Quaker woman, was found dead in Burr's newly constructed Manhattan Well. The horrific crime quickly gripped the nation, and before long accusations settled on one of Elma’s suitors, handsome young carpenter Levi Weeks. As the enraged city demanded a noose be draped around the accused murderer’s neck, the only question seemed to be whether Levi would make it to trial or be lynched first.

The young man’s only hope was to hire a legal dream team.  And thus it was that New York’s most bitter political rivals and greatest attorneys did the unthinkable—they teamed up.

At once an absorbing legal thriller and an expertly crafted portrait of the United States in the time of the Founding Fathers, Duel with the Devil is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction. -- Crown


Here's something a little different for Mystery Mondays -- a review for a non-fiction mystery book. And better yet, it's written by Booking Pap Pap. I knew the minute I saw DUEL WITH THE DEVIL: THE TRUE STORY OF HOW ALEXANDER HAMILTON AND AARON BURR TEAMED UP TO TAKE ON AMERICA'S FIRST SENSATIONAL MURDER MYSTERY by Paul Collins that my dad would be interested in this story.

As most of us know from our schooling, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were generals who served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. They were bitter political enemies and Burr killed Hamilton in a duel in 1804. What I learned from reading DUEL WITH THE DEVIL, is that in 1800 Hamilton and Burr, both highly regarded New York attorneys, set their personal feelings aside and teamed up to defend Levi Weeks, a man charged with murdering Elma Sands, a young Quaker women. I guess you could say they were the original legal “Dream Team”. What is so astounding to me is that this trial took place when their disdain of each other was at a peak and only a short time before the presidential election of 1800 when each man was the leader of their respective political party and obviously played important roles in the election. Could you picture today’s politicians doing something like this?

Because of the participation of Burr and Hamilton and the nature of the crime (she was found dead at the bottom of a well), this became one of the first sensational murder mysteries in the United States. The case became more interesting once it was revealed that the well was built by a company owned by Aaron Burr to provide water to New York City. Additionally, the money for Levi’s defense was provided by his brother Ezra, an influential architect who worked for both Burr and Hamilton.

Author Paul Collins gives the reader a great picture of New York City as it existed in the late eighteenth century with its population of 60,000, its battle with yellow fever and its efforts to supply clean water to the people. Collins also provides a political and social perspective of the day as he describes the nation’s reaction to the death of George Washington in 1799; Burr’s effort to undermine the Federalists Bank of the United States by forming his own Bank of Manhattan; the passing of the eighteenth century; the political climate with the Federalists led by Hamilton and the Republicans headed by Burr; and the controversial election of 1800, the first election where the candidates actually campaigned.

Relying on newspaper accounts, personal diaries and court transcripts Collins provides an interesting look at the legal system that existed at the time. For example, Levi Weeks had his trial within three months of the crime; most trials lasted only one day (this three day trial was very unusual); and in addition to the attorneys, the judge and jury were able to question the witnesses. It’s interesting to compare these processes and others to today’s legal proceedings. It was also the first court case in the United States that a full record of the proceeding was made.

DUEL WITH THE DEVIL is a thoroughly researched, excellent true story murder mystery with an interesting perspective on the social and political climate of the time. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys early American history or enjoys a good crime mystery.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel and to Booking Pap Pap for his terrific review.

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.