Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: The Santangelos

Summary: Legendary mega-seller Jackie Collins chronicles passion and power in one of America's most glamorous families.

A vicious hit. A vengeful enemy. A drug addled Colombian club owner. A sex crazed Italian family. And the ever powerful Lucky Santangelo has to deal with them all, while Max-her teenage daughter is becoming The "It" girl in Europe's modeling world. And her Kennedyesque son, Bobby, is being set up for a murder he didn't commit. But Lucky can deal. Always strong and unpredictable with her husband, Lennie, by her side she lives up to the family motto-Never cross a Santangelo. Lucky rules. The Santangelos always come out on top. An epic family saga filled with love, lust, revenge and passion. -- St. Martin's Press

Summer just wouldn't be summer with a novel by Jackie Collins. This year her novel is called THE SANTANGELOS, and it focuses on that intriguing cast of characters. Like all Jackie Collins' novels, the book is filled with lots of Hollywood inside scoop, family dramas, revenge, violence, and... of course, sex!

Most of you, even those who aren't regular Jackie Collins' fans, are probably familiar with The Santangelo family, namely Lucky. And while THE SANTANGELOS follows all of the regular characters including her father and children, Lucky is still the star of the story as far as I'm concerned. Once again, Lucky is trying to run her businesses and keep her family in line... and once again, that's not an easy task with her strong-willed (and wild!) children.

Lucky's daughter Max is in Europe becoming a major fashion model, and her handsome son Bobby is being set up for a murder he doesn't think he committed. Meanwhile, Lucky is trying to handle some devastating news about her father and the effects it will have on the entire Santangelo crew. There is no doubt that Lucky is smart and strong, but these events are proving to be a challenge to her and the family.

THE SANTANGELOS is, without a doubt, a very entertaining read. I was fortunate enough to read this by the pool a few weeks ago, and I have to say it was the perfect place to take in all of the Santangelos' escapades. This family sure is something and they never cease to truly amaze me. I especially appreciated how Lucky eventually made sense of the craziness that was happening to her family and saved the day!

Fans of Jackie Collins will love the sex and drama in this book. I admit that I've been reading Ms. Collins' novels since high school, and as far as I'm concerned, there are few writers who write better sex scenes. Honestly, I'm glad it was so hot at the beach because no one could tell how much I was blushing. This novel has some very hot sex scenes that might make some readers a little uncomfortable! Although, I suspect those very same scenes attract a fair share of readers too!

One thing I appreciated about THE SANTANGELOS was the pacing of the story. This novel was close to 500 pages, and yet, I read it in less than a day. It was definitely a page turner! Not only was I interested in Lucky, Max, and Bobby's stories, but I also enjoyed how the drama escalated towards the end of the book. I don't want to give too much away, but there was so much action and excitement in these characters' lives, and I couldn't wait to see how everything worked out. And I'll give it to Ms. Collins. She definitely managed to have quite a few shocking twists in this novel!

Of course, THE SANTANGELOS isn't for everyone and it's definitely not a literary novel.... but it is a lot of fun! I actually look forward to reading a Jackie Collins' book every summer -- it's escapism at it's best!

Thanks to Get Red PR for providing a review copy of this novel.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Giveaway: Us

Summary: David Nicholls brings the wit and intelligence that graced his enormously popular New York Times bestseller, One Day, to a compellingly human, deftly funny new novel about what holds marriages and families together—and what happens, and what we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart. Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.

Narrated from Douglas’s endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves, and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger. Us is a moving meditation on the demands of marriage and parenthood, the regrets of abandoning youth for middle age, and the intricate relationship between the heart and the head. And in David Nicholls’s gifted hands, Douglas’s odyssey brings Europe—from the streets of Amsterdam to the famed museums of Paris, from the cafés of Venice to the beaches of Barcelona—to vivid life just as he experiences a powerful awakening of his own. Will this summer be his last as a husband, or the moment when he turns his marriage, and maybe even his whole life, around? -- Harper

One of the books I was most excited about after last year's BEA was US by David Nicholls. Like many of you, I adored ONE DAY, and I was anxiously awaiting his next novel. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed -- you can read my review here.

US tells the story of Douglas Petersen, a middle-aged man whose wife informs him that she wants a divorce... when they get back from their month-long tour of Europe with their son. Douglas is thrown for a loop and decides that this trip is his last chance at saving his family.

The story is told through Douglas' eyes and he is nothing if not honest. With flashbacks, the reader discovers more about Douglas' marriage and his role as a father. The story is entertaining, funny, and especially touching. Needless to say, this novel delves into some very special topics including marriage, divorce, love, loss and families.

Thanks to the fine folks at Harper, I have a copy of the soon-to-be released (like tomorrow!) paperback edition of US to share with one very lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 12th 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!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Kid Konnection: The Princess and the Pony & Giveaway

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a cute picture book about a little princess and her special friend!

Summary: Princess Pinecone knows exactly what she wants for her birthday this year. A BIG horse. A STRONG horse. A horse fit for a WARRIOR PRINCESS! But when the day arrives, she doesn't quite get the horse of her dreams...

From the artist behind the comic phenomenon Hark! A Vagrant, The Princess and the Pony is a laugh-out-loud story of brave warriors, big surprises, and falling in love with one unforgettable little pony. -- Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic

THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY by Kate Beaton is an adorable picture book about a princess who wants to be a warrior princess. So for her birthday, she wants a big, strong, fast horse instead of the cute, cozy sweaters that she usually receives. Much to her surprise, she does get a horse of sorts... it's a chubby little pony who tends to fart! (That's the author's word -- not mine!) And his eyes are looking in different directions... but only sometimes!

The princess does her best to prepare her new pony for battle, but she kind of gives up. The pony is hopeless! She ends up telling her pony to just do his best, and they head to battle. What happens during the battle is quite a cute little twist!

I really thought THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY was a funny story! I couldn't help but love the chubby pony, and I equally loved the warriors' reactions to him during the battle. It's a sweet and hilarious book that will entertain boys and girls alike... and possible even a parent or two!

The colorful illustrations in THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY are the perfect complement to this story. You can see how cute the princess and the pony are on the cover, but I wanted you to see just how fun this book is. Check out pages 3 and 4 below.
In conclusion, THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY is very funny book about a special pony! Highly recommended!

Learn more at Scholastic.com
Visit the author at BeatonTown.com
Follow Kate Beaton on Twitter

Giveaway alert: I have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY WARRIOR prize pack available courtesy of the publisher. One (1) winner receives:

· plus a $25 Visa gift card to celebrate your warrior’s next big birthday.

To enter, just fill out the form below before July 10th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Photo credit: Notker Mahr
Kate Beaton is the author of Hark! A Vagrant, her #1 New York Times bestselling collection of comics which began as a webcomic in 2007. The Princess and the Pony is her first picture book. She is the recipient of multiple Harvey awards, and her work has been featured in the New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Best American Comics Anthology. Kate lives in Toronto, and you can find her online at www.beatontown.com and on Twitter as @beatonna.

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, June 26, 2015

Giveaway: Everything I Never Told You

Summary: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another. -- Penguin

Last summer, I read a wonderful book called EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng -- you can read my review here. I adored this book, and as I re-read my review, it quickly becomes apparent that there were just so many good things about this novel. I gushed over EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU and rightly so. This novel was a New York Times Bestseller, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, winner of the Alex Award, and winner of the APALA Award for Fiction. It was also named a best book of the year by the following: NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, Entertainment Weekly, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed,  Amazon, Booklist, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Shelf Awareness, Book Riot, School Library Journal, and more!

I still remember what a powerful novel EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU WAS. I loved the complexity of the characters as well as the mystery aspect of the story. And I could just go on and on about Ms. Ng's writing. In fact, this book would make the perfect book club pick, especially since it was recently released in paperback. You can check out the reading guide here.

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU was recently released in paperback and I'm thrilled to say that the publisher is providing two copies of this novel for two lucky readers. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 9th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada addresses only. Good luck!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Danny the Champion of the World & Giveaway

Summary: Can Danny and his father outsmart the villainous Mr. Hazell?

Danny has a life any boy would love—his home is a gypsy caravan, he’s the youngest master car mechanic around, and his best friend is his dad, who never runs out of wonderful stories to tell. But one night Danny discovers a shocking secret that his father has kept hidden for years. Soon Danny finds himself the mastermind behind the most incredible plot ever attempted against nasty Victor Hazell, a wealthy landowner with a bad attitude. Can they pull it off? If so, Danny will truly be the champion of the world. -- Puffin Books

I am so excited to announce that I was chosen as a Roald Dahl featured blogger this month! Roald Dahl stories have been HUGE this year in my son's fourth grade classroom, and I think it's a wonderful opportunity to celebrate an author who has mad such a difference in children's lives!

I can't say that I've read many or even most of Mr. Dahl's books (because there are so many!), but I did read a few as a child. Over the past couple of years, I've decided that I should read stories from Dahl, "the world's no. 1 storyteller." So I read MATILDA -- you can read my review here, and just this week, I read DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. Next up for me -- MISCHIEF AND MAYHEM!

DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD tells the story of Danny and his father. Danny is a very happy kid who adores his father. He lives in a gypsy caravan and works with his father as a car mechanic. But the best thing of all is the way his dad creates wonderful stories for Danny every night.

One evening, Danny wakes up and discovers that his dad is missing. Danny's father then reveals a big secret to him... one that he has been hiding for years. Danny is thrilled to be included and soon creates an intricate (and very creative) way to help his father against the very mean Mr. Hazell! If Danny and his father succeed with Danny's plan, then Danny will definitely be "the champion of the world!"

DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD is an adorable book by Roald Dahl. I probably don't need to say much more than that! It's fun and silly and even a bit exciting, and I think kids will relate to both Danny and his father. There is enough of a mystery to keep kids turning the pages, and the illustrations by Quentin Blake are, once again, fantastic. They really complement the whimsical nature of the story!

But what I enjoyed the most about DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD was how it focused on the amazing relationship between a father and a son. It was clear that Danny adored his father and definitely wanted to impress him. However, I'm pretty sure that Danny's father felt the exact same way. These two had a special bond that definitely warmed my heart.

DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD was a terrific read, and I'm positive kids will love it. In fact, my son mentioned to me that one of the boys in his class presented his book report on this story, and the kids had a very positive reaction. High recommended!

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

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD plus some Roald Dahl themed goodies including posters, postcards, and a notebook. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 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!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Summer Secrets

Summary: When a shocking family secret is revealed, twenty-something journalist Cat Coombs finds herself falling into a dark spiral. Wild, glamorous nights out in London and raging hangovers the next day become her norm, leading to a terrible mistake one night while visiting family in America, on the island of Nantucket. It's a mistake for which she can't forgive herself. When she returns home, she confronts the unavoidable reality of her life and knows it's time to grow up. But she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to earn the forgiveness of the people she hurt.

As the years pass, Cat grows into her forties, a struggling single mother, coping with a new-found sobriety and determined to finally make amends. Traveling back to her past, to the family she left behind on Nantucket all those years ago, she may be able to earn their forgiveness, but in doing so she may risk losing the very people she loves the most.

Told with Jane Green's keen eye for detailing the emotional landscape of the heart, Summer Secrets is at once a compelling drama and a beautifully rendered portrait of relationships, betrayals, and forgiveness; about accepting the things we cannot change, finding the courage to change the things we can, and being strong enough to weather the storms. -- St. Martin's Press

Yesterday, I shared with you an amazing giveaway of a Summer Secrets Tote Bag filled with tons of goodies provided by none other than Jane Green. She is celebrating the release of her latest novel SUMMER SECRETS in a big way, and it's no wonder. Ms. Green's has done it again with SUMMER SECRETS. She's written an entertaining, yet touching, story about a woman who battles alcoholism.

SUMMER SECRETS tells the story of Cat Coombs, a young journalist who seemingly had it all. She also likes to party... a lot, and her friends and family are starting to realize that Cat's partying nature might be more serious. When Cat blacks out and wakes up in a strange man's bed, she even begins to question herself. Good thing, that stranger is Jason Halliwell, a recovering alcoholic himself and a man that wants to help Cat.

Cat decides to start attending AA meetings and work a recovery plan, but her heart is never quite in it. She's more concerned with doing what Jason wants rather than really admitting that she is an alcoholic. When Cat learns that her father, with whom she had a distant relationship, wasn't really her father, she sets out to America (specifically Nantucket) to meet her "real" family. Unfortunately, her drinking gets out of control and her actions end up alienating her new family.

Cat returns to England, marries Jason, and even has a daughter. However, she can't stay sober. Jason ultimately leaves her and takes their daughter with him. When Cat reaches rock bottom, she decides that she must stay clean for the sake of everything she holds dear.

I enjoyed SUMMER SECRETS and, once again, I was impressed with the way Ms. Green tackled a difficult subject matter. She created a realistic character in Cat -- she certainly was flawed; and she also showed that partying isn't exactly glamorous especially when it turns into a life-long battle with alcohol. I especially appreciated the overall messages from the novel.

Cat was an extremely interesting character (take note book clubs!) I wasn't sure that I loved Cat, but I liked her enough; and as the story went on, it became easier and easier to understand her. As a result, I did end up rooting for to accept her problem and work the path to recovery. That's not to say that I didn't want to shake her because it was inevitable that the path she was on was one of total destruction. It's interesting that my emotions -- both good and bad -- were so strong towards Cat. I'm sure it's similar (however much much less) of how loved ones must feel when facing a friend or family member who suffers from alcoholism.

I also really appreciated how Ms. Green portrayed not only alcoholism as a disease but also the damage it does to families... and how difficult it is to stay clean. One thing that stood out to me is something that happened to Cat at the end of the novel. I don't want to give too much away but Cat was at the receiving end of some cruel behavior that was the result of something she did many years before. I liked how this part of the novel demonstrated how much damage an alcoholic can do -- just how deep the anger and hurt can go.

I also felt like Ms. Green did a good job in showing how hard it is to work the AA program and stay clean. Cat struggled for years with drinking and it was only when she hit rock bottom, when she lost everything, that she truly cared enough to stay sober. Cat's struggle, although painful at times, was a perfect way to make readers understand and emphasize with recovering addicts. In many ways, SUMMER SECRETS reminded me of  BEST KEPT SECRET by Amy Hatvany in that it showed the destructive nature of alcoholics.

And finally, I loved the messages from SUMMER SECRETS. Goodness knows, Cat did some pretty major damage to her loved ones. However ultimately, this story was about making amends, forgiveness, and redemption. I also felt a certain bit of hope after finishing it. And that's always a good feeling to have after reading a story like this one.

SUMMER SECRETS would make a terrific book club selection. I wasn't able to find an on-line discussion guide, but I'm sure your group wouldn't have any problems finding themes to discuss. Of course, there's alcoholism and addiction, but there's also lots about family dynamics that would be interesting to talk about.

SUMMER SECRETS is an entertaining book but also one that will touch your heart... and even make you think. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Giveaway: Summer Secrets Beach Bag

Summary: When a shocking family secret is revealed, twenty-something journalist Cat Coombs finds herself falling into a dark spiral. Wild, glamorous nights out in London and raging hangovers the next day become her norm, leading to a terrible mistake one night while visiting family in America, on the island of Nantucket. It's a mistake for which she can't forgive herself. When she returns home, she confronts the unavoidable reality of her life and knows it's time to grow up. But she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to earn the forgiveness of the people she hurt.

As the years pass, Cat grows into her forties, a struggling single mother, coping with a new-found sobriety and determined to finally make amends. Traveling back to her past, to the family she left behind on Nantucket all those years ago, she may be able to earn their forgiveness, but in doing so she may risk losing the very people she loves the most.

Told with Jane Green's keen eye for detailing the emotional landscape of the heart, Summer Secrets is at once a compelling drama and a beautifully rendered portrait of relationships, betrayals, and forgiveness; about accepting the things we cannot change, finding the courage to change the things we can, and being strong enough to weather the storms. -- St. Martin's Press

Today is a big day for one of my favorite authors, Jane Green (@Jane Green). She is launching is her new book, SUMMER SECRETS on June 23rd, and I can assure you it's a terrific book. I actually read it last week on my vacation, and I'll be posting my review in the very near future!

I am so excited that Ms. Green has offered me the most fantastic summer giveaway for one of you! Truth be told, I'm a little jealous! It's a large beach bag filled with Jane's favorite goodies to get you ready for summer! Inside the tote, there is a signed copy of SUMMER SECRETS and an exclusive cold carry cup with the Jane Green Summer Secrets logo! There is a fantastic face and body bronzing duo from @Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and hair cleansing cream from @Purely Perfect Products that will revolutionize the way you wash your hair - you'll never use shampoo again! Factor 35 continuous mist sunscreen from @Hampton Sun is included, and a beautiful orange glass clover pendant from @KZK Jewelry. There is also a delicious chocolate coconut almond snack bar from @Nothin' But Foods, and a tube of moisturizing no-bump shave gel from @Completely Bare Products! Isn't this a great giveaway?

For a chance to win, make sure you like Jane's Facebook page and fill out the form below before June 29th at 11:59 p.m. I will randomly select the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Second Life

Summary: From the New York Times bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep, a sensational new psychological thriller about a woman with a secret identity that threatens to destroy her.

How well can you really know another person? How far would you go to find the truth about someone you love?

When Julia learns that her sister has been violently murdered, she must uncover why. But Julia's quest quickly evolves into an alluring exploration of own darkest sensual desires. Becoming involved with a dangerous stranger online, she's losing herself . . . losing control . . . perhaps losing everything. Her search for answers will jeopardize her marriage, her family, and her life.

A tense and unrelenting novel that explores the secret lives people lead; and the dark places in which they can find themselves Second Life is a masterwork of suspense from the acclaimed S. J. Watson. -- Harper

Let me preface this review by saying that I just arrived home from our annual Outer Banks vacation, and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I read eight books in eight days, and I'm very behind on blogging. To make matters worse, I already had a huge backlog of read books just waiting for a review. So for the next few weeks, I will try to catch up. As a result, my reviews might be a little less detailed than normal. Heck -- that might be a good thing!

One of the books that I read last week was SECOND LIFE by S.J. Watson. I enjoyed her debut novel BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP quite a bit -- you can read my review here. This book kept me guessing and definitely played with my mind. I had similar feelings about SECOND LIFE, and this novel certainly had its fair share of twists... and twisted events!

SECOND LIFE tells the story of Julia, a wife and mom who also happens to be a recovering alcoholic. Julia seems to be in control of her life despite having some pretty dark secrets from her past; however, when her sister gets murdered Julia can't rest until she figures out the "whys."

When Julia starts exploring her sister's life, she uncovers that her sister had some connections to the world of on-line dating and cybersex. Julia decides to try her hand at on-line dating and becomes involved with a very mysterious and ultimately dangerous man. As she becomes more involved with this man, she learns that he is a risk to everything she holds dear.

I devoured SECOND LIFE in less than 24 hours and I was definitely drawn into Julia's world. Julia was definitely a troubled character with a checkered past, and bits of her secrets were revealed throughout the book. Because of her past and the drinking (and drugs), I wasn't entirely sure she was a reliable narrator; however, I don't know if I'd go so far as to call her an unreliable one either. Let's just say she was a mess on so many levels, and there were many times that I wanted to shake some sense into her.

One of the things I most enjoyed about SECOND LIFE was the suspense/mystery aspect. This book was crazy with surprises and I never was quite sure about whom to trust. And because Julia was caught up with this stranger, I knew I couldn't even trust her judgment. I also really appreciated the non-stop action -- the last half of the book had a fantastic pace; and I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough

As the story progressed, I did feel as if I was figuring out all of the twists right along with Julia -- and many times before her. In some ways that was good. I enjoyed reaching conclusions about the murder and the characters, but I also thought the book was a bit predictable... even if it was only a few pages before Julia realized something. In addition, I had to wonder if Julia was even realistic as a character given how stupid her actions were and how slow she was to figure things out.

In some ways, I did feel a bit manipulated by SECOND LIFE. It often times seemed as if the twists were more for shock value than actually making sense. I also was slightly disappointed with the ending. I think it was meant to be a cliffhanger of sorts and one that readers could interpret differently, but I was just bothered that I didn't get a definitely answer.

I enjoyed SECOND LIFE and definitely recommend it to fans of suspense and mysteries. I'm worried that my review sounds a bit negative, when overall, I really enjoyed this book. While it wasn't perfect, it definitely kept my interest and managed to surprise me a few times!

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

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

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Kid Konnection: Chronicle Picture Books

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you two adorable picture books that are especially pertinent to me this week because I'm staying at a beach house and reading lots of books!

Summary: A long, long drive.
It's been a year
of dreaming, waiting.
Now, summer's here.

In a funny and heartfelt celebration of family, vacations, and the joy of the sea, Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates capture the essence of summer—building sand castles, jumping the waves, and watching the stars come out after a long day at the beach—and the love that warms every moment. -- Chronicle

BEACH HOUSE by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Amy June Bates is one of those picture books that just resonated with me. It perfectly captures the essence of arriving at the beach -- with all of the work and excitement. BEACH HOUSE tells the story of one family who arrives at the beach. While there is a great deal of excitement from the kids, the parents insist that the car get unloaded and the suitcases unpacked.

After all of the chores are down, the family rushes to the water, and the fun begins! The family does all those wonderful things associated with the beach like playing in the water, body surfing, making sandcastles, and flying kites. And then they retire to their beach house for a good night sleep!

I had to laugh while reading BEACH HOUSE because I'm the "mom" now, and I still have those feelings of frustration that I need to unpack the car and put everything away before heading down to the ocean. I especially liked how the gorgeous illustrations matched the mood of the story, and the rhyming text made the story fun.

BEACH HOUSE is an adorable book and certain to hit home with many beach-loving families!

Summary: Step One: Find a story. (A good one.)
Step Two: Find a reading buddy. (Someone nice.)
Step Three: Find a reading spot. (Couches are cozy.)
Now: Begin.

Accomplished storytellers Kate Messner and Mark Siegel chronicle the process of becoming a reader: from pulling a book off the shelf and finding someone with whom to share a story, to reading aloud, predicting what will happen, and—finally—coming to The End. This picture book playfully and movingly illustrates the idea that the reader who discovers the love of reading finds, at the end, the beginning. -- Chronicle

HOW TO READ A STORY by Kate Messner and illustrated by Mark Siegel is another terrific picture book. This one gives some pretty amazing advice -- how to read a story! Believe it or not, there are ten distinct steps starting with 1) Find a story to 10) When the book is over, say "The End."

I absolutely loved this book -- it's a keeper for sure! The entire tone of the book is fun from the words of wisdom to the adorable illustrations. And the book gives plenty of advice for how to read a story to a buddy. Personally, I think HOW TO READ A STORY might just be one of the cutest read-aloud books I've ever seen. In fact, I'm a little sad that my two kids are too old for picture books because they would have loved this one!

I hesitate to share the ending but I figure the audience for this book won't be reading my blog any time soon. While there is plenty of great advice for reading, the ending was especially sweet... and all too perfect for toddlers. The author recommends that if you thought the story was a really good one, then you can go right back to the beginning and start all over again!

HOW TO READ A STORY is a must-have for families who share a love of books and reading. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for providing review copies of these books.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Guest Review: Worthy Brown's Daughter

Summary: Known for his critically acclaimed contemporary thrillers, New York Times bestselling author Phillip Margolin explores intriguing new territory in Worthy Brown's Daughter, a compelling historical drama, set in nineteenth-century Oregon, that combines a heartbreaking story of slavery and murder with classic Margolin plot twists. One of a handful of lawyers in the new state of Oregon, recently widowed Matthew Penny agrees to help Worthy Brown, a newly freed slave, rescue his fifteen year old daughter, Roxanne, from their former master, a powerful Portland lawyer. Worthy's lawsuit sets in motion events that lead to Worthy's arrest for murder and create an agonizing moral dilemma that could send either Worthy or Matthew to the hangman.

At the same time, hanging judge Jed Tyler, a powerful politician with a barren personal life, becomes infatuated with a beautiful gold-digger who is scheming to murder Benjamin Gillette, Oregon's wealthiest businessman. When Gillette appears to die from natural causes, Sharon Hill produces a forged contract of marriage and Tyler must decide if he will sacrifice his reputation to defend that of the woman who inspired his irrational obsession.

At Worthy's trial, Matthew saves Worthy by producing a stunning courtroom surprise and his attempt to stop the deadly fortune hunter ends in a violent climax. -- Harper

WORTHY BROWN'S DAUGHTER by Phillip Margolin has been sitting on my shelves for quite some time. I know my dad is a big fan of Mr. Margolin's, so I decided to pass it along to him. Of course, he read it in a much more timely manner than I ever could have. Here are his thoughts:

WORTHY BROWN’S DAUGHTER will be the sixth Philip Margolin novel I have reviewed. While this novel includes Margolin’s common themes of attorneys, court scenes and murders, this one is different in that it takes place in 1860 Oregon rather than in modern times.

WORTHY BROWN’S DAUGHTER is loosely based on a true story of a slave owner who moved to Oregon from Missouri before it became a state in 1859. At the time, Oregon was very anti-black and their constitution banned free slaves from living in Oregon unless they resided there prior to the constitution. The slave owner promised freedom for his slaves if they helped raise a barn but reneged on his promise and kept several children as servants. The free slaves found a white attorney who successfully defended their rights to get their children back.

In Margolin’s novel the freed slave is Worthy Brown whose daughter Roxanne is being held in servitude by ruthless lawyer, Caleb Barbour. Brown asks white attorney Matthew Penny to help him free his daughter in exchange for some information about a case Penny is defending against Barbour and Benjamin Gillette, the richest man in Oregon. When Worthy Brown is later found standing over Barbour’s dead body, he becomes the prime suspect in the murder. With Barbour dead, Penny’s focus turns from freeing Roxanne to defending Worthy Brown. Only Brown and Penny know the truth about the murder, and Penny has to find a way to separate truth from justice to free Brown. Although this story-line is the main theme of the book, several other interesting stories that involve Matthew Perry overlap it. In one story-line, Penny, who has mourned his wife since her death on the wagon trip from Ohio to Oregon, is enamored by Gillette’s daughter, Heather. The second involves Sharon Hill, a scheming murderous prostitute from San Francisco who finds her way to Oregon. Margolin smoothly blends these story-lines into a cohesive novel.

Using extensive research material, Margolin’s re-creation of Oregon and San Francisco life of the early 1860s is very picturesque. The inclusion of the state of racism at the time and the early legal system with its judges riding the circuit provide the reader with a historical perspective of how these issues impacted the transaction of the law. With this as the background, the court scenes become very colorful and entertaining.

As with his prior novels, Margolin displays his ability to develop great characters, perfect timing and an outstanding plot. WORTHY BROWN’S DAUGHTER is a well written legal thriller based on a historical perspective with plenty of twists and turns to satisfy any reader.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: Eight Hundred Grapes

Summary: A breakout novel from an author who “positively shines with wisdom and intelligence” (Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I leave You). “Laura Dave writes with humor and insight about relationships in all their complexity, whether she's describing siblings or fiancés or a couple long-married. Eight Hundred Grapes is a captivating story about the power of family, the limitations of love, and what becomes of a life’s work” (J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine).

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

Bestselling author Laura Dave has been dubbed “a wry observer of modern love” (USA TODAY), a “decadent storyteller” (Marie Claire), and “compulsively readable” (Woman’s Day). Set in the lush backdrop of Sonoma’s wine country, Eight Hundred Grapes is a heartbreaking, funny, and deeply evocative novel about love, marriage, family, wine, and the treacherous terrain in which they all intersect. -Simon & Schuster

Over the years, I've really come to appreciate Laura Dave's novels; and her latest is another good one! It's called EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES and tells the story of a daughter of a winemaker and her family. Not only did I enjoy ready about this extremely special family, but I also learned a thing or two about winemaking. Did you know that it takes 800 grapes to make one bottle of wine?

EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES tells the story of Georgia Ford. She seemingly has it all -- a loving family, a great career in Los Angeles, and a terrific fiancé  However, a week before her wedding, Georgia discovers that her fiancé has been keen keeping a huge secret! Rather than trying to work through this issue, Georgia runs home to her family's vineyard hoping to find some comfort. What awaits her is far from comforting. Her parents long-time marriage seems to be unraveling, her twin brothers are in love with the same woman, and her father wants to sell the vineyard.

Georgia tries to make sense of the chaos that is now surrounding her. She if forced to examine her own relationships and accept the faults and desires of others. In many ways, it's a coming-of-age story for Georgia... and you know how I love a good coming-of-age story!

EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES was most definitely a great read for me. I tend to enjoy stories about complicated families, and the Ford family fit the bill. Having said that, this novel was also really well executed. I loved how the author incorporated so much about winemaking into the novel while also showing the similarities between making wine and living life.

Another wonderful thing about EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES was the setting. One of my dreams is to visit Northern California and tour vineyards, so I was in seventh heaven reading about this part of the country. It's apparent that Ms. Dave did her research on wine-making, and her descriptions of the land and the wine-making process itself seemed authentic.

In addition, Ms. Dave's writing is just so polished. That wasn't a surprise for me because I have enjoyed a few of her other novels, but I thought she did an excellent job of telling this story. I liked how she used flashbacks to bring the reader up-to-date on how the members of the Ford family got themselves into these situations. I also really appreciated how she showed the various characters'  viewpoints. It allowed me to understand them better while also feeling some compassion towards them... even when it seemed like they were at fault!

And finally, I really loved how I got caught up in the lives of the Ford family. There is no doubt that these characters were intriguing, but I was a bit surprised by how much I ended up caring about them. This book tugged on my emotional heartstrings, and I think that's a credit to how well developed the characters were.

EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES would make an excellent book club selection. There is a reading guide available with thirteen discussion questions as well as some ideas for enhancing your book club meeting. Some of the themes you might want to explore include family, marriage, fate, synchronization, sibling rivalry, forgiveness, regrets, and love. It also would be interesting to discuss the various characters' relationships and actions with each other. And I probably don't need to mention this, but... a wine tasting at the meeting would be an absolutely perfect tie-in to the novel. Here are some wine pairing recommendations.

In addition, there is a great promotion going on. The publisher is running a sweepstakes for a chance to win a visit from Ms. Dave herself, as well as a gift card to Harry & David (Ms. Dave will visit 1 book club in NYC—Manhattan and Brooklyn only—1 book club in Los Angeles, and will Skype with 1 book club located anywhere in the U.S.)! To enter, you must post a message on Twitter about EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES using the hashtags #EightHundredGraps and #entry, and fill out the sweepstakes form.

I really, really liked EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES. I highly recommend it for fans of stories about dysfunctional families!

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Books of BEA 2015

I love BEA for so many reasons, but I'd be lying if I didn't say discovering new books is one of the best! This year was no exception and I attended quite a few book-related events where I found some exciting new reads. This content could probably be divided into a few days' posts to ensure I give proper attention each and every book, but I'm just going to list those that I have to read. You can click on the titles for more details about the books.

Harper Collins BEA Blogger Presentation

THE RACE FOR PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton
ORPHAN #8 by Kim van Alkemade

BEA Show

SAINT MAZIE by Jami Attenberg
THE HIRED GIRL by Laura Amy Schlitz
EARLY ONE MORNING by Virginia Baily
BECOMING MARIA by Sonia Manzano

BEA Book Group Speed Dating

Algonquin Books
THE FALL OF PRINCES by Robert Goolrick
THE LAST SEPTEMBER by Nina de Garment
THE MURALIST by B.A. Shapiro


IF I FALL, I DIE by Michael Christie


Farrar, Straus &Giroux
THE CLASP by Sloane Crosley

Grand Central

THE SUNRISE by Victoria Hislop

Harper Perennial
THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA by Katy Simpson Smith

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
DIETLAND by Sarai Walker

EILEEN by Ottessa Moshfegh

THE LAST PILOT by Benjamin Johncock

Ballantine Books
THE SAME SKY by Amanda Eyre Ward


FATES AND FURIES by Lauren Groff

Simon & Schuster
A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan

Scout Press


HOUSE OF THIEVES by Charles Belfoure
ALL THE WINTERS AFTER by Sere Prince Halverson

St. Martin's Press
EVERYBODY RISE by Stephanie Clifford
A GOOD FAMILY by Erik Fassnacht

THE SECRET CHORD by Geraldine Brooks

Note: I know this looks like a lot of books, and I only saw presentations from a few publishers. Had I seen more, I'm sure there would have been additional books on this list.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: The Wrong Man

Summary: She wanted to be more daring, but one small risk is about to cost her everything—maybe even her life. Bold and adventurous in her work as owner of one of Manhattan's boutique interior design firms, Kit Finn couldn't be tamer in her personal life. While on vacation in the Florida Keys, Kit resolves to do something risky for once. When she literally bumps into a charming stranger at her hotel, she decides to make good on her promise and act on her attraction. But back in New York, when Kit arrives at his luxury apartment ready to pick up where they left off in the Keys, she doesn't recognize the man standing on the other side of the door. Was this a cruel joke or part of something truly sinister? Kit soon realizes that she's been thrown into a treacherous plot, which is both deeper and deadlier than she could have ever imagined. Now the only way to protect herself, her business, and the people she loves is to find out the true identity of the man who has turned her life upside down. Adrenaline-charged and filled with harrowing twists at every turn, The Wrong Man will keep readers riveted until the final page. -- Harper

I am a pretty big Kate White fan! I've read most (if not all) of her novels, and I can honestly say that I really enjoy them. I even had the opportunity to meet her at last year's Harper Collins' party at BEA, and she was just delightful. This summer, she has a new suspense novel coming out called THE WRONG MAN. I recently read this novel in anticipation of tomorrow's release, and it's a good one!

THE WRONG MAN stars Kit Finn, a talented interior designer who decides that she needs to "spice up" her personal life. When she leaves Manhattan for a vacation in the Florida Keys, she decides to take a chance and go out for dinner with a handsome stranger named Matt. There is quite a bit of chemistry between the two, and Kit ends up going to bed with him... knowing that nothing will come from this night. However, that's not exactly the case!

On her way to the airport, Matt calls her and says he has to see her when they both return to New York. When Kit goes to his apartment, a different man answers the door claiming that he is actually Matt. Kit doesn't know what to think! Is this a crazy joke? Who is the real Matt? Why would he lie about his identity? Who was the man in Florida? You can only imagine her confusion!

Kit quickly realizes that she's involved (like it or not!) in a chain of terrifying events, and she's determined to get to the bottom of it. To save her reputation, her business, her friends, and even herself, Kit delves into discovering the true identity of this man and finds that, in the process, she is risking her own life!

I absolutely devoured THE WRONG MAN. Granted, I have been on quite the reading streak since returning from BEA; however, I couldn't put this book down. (Guess I was revitalized by the talk of so many good books!) I read this book in less than a day, and it would have been one sitting had I not been interrupted with my duties as a mom!

I think my enjoyment of this novel is a credit to Ms. White. I feel like she just keeps getting better and better. In the case of THE WRONG MAN, she created a very likable character in Kit which definitely helped lure me in. I found Kit to be an interesting character, and it didn't hurt that there was so much talk about interior design! However, it was the suspense aspect of the story that kept me turning the pages. I'm not sure that the basic premise is all that original, but Ms. White's execution of it was definitely something special.

I appreciated how involved I got in Kit's life and her story -- I just had to know the identity of this man. Much like Kit, I felt as if I were on a roller coaster with all of the emotional ups and downs. In addition, I kept asking myself why this man had targeted Kit... or not! After a few clues came to light, I actually think I was even more confused. Despite having some general ideas about the identity of "Matt," I didn't know who or what to believe for most of the story.

And that's probably what I liked the most about THE WRONG MAN -- never really knowing what was coming next! Just when I started to figure things out (or should I say when I thought I was starting to figure things out?), there would be a twist that threw me for a loop. I was quite impressed with how this story unfolded and how Ms. White managed to keep me involved for the entire 300+ pages.

THE WRONG MAN is certainly a page-turner and a lot of fun for fans of suspense. Highly recommended!

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

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Kid Konnection: Mischief and Malice

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 sequel to a book that's over 35 years old!

Summary: Set in New Orleans on the eve of World War II, Mischief and Malice is a brand new work from an iconic figure in young adult literature.

Following the death of her Aunt Eveline, fourteen-year old Addie—who we first met in Berthe Amoss’s classic Secret Lives—is now living with her Aunt Toosie, Uncle Henry, and her longtime rival cousin, Sandra Lee. A new family has just moved into Addie’s former house, including a young girl who is just Addie’s age. Meanwhile, Louis, the father of Tom, Addie’s lifelong neighbor and best friend, suddenly returns after having disappeared when Tom was a baby. Between school dances, organizing a Christmas play, fretting about her hair, and a blossoming romance with Tom, Addie stumbles upon a mystery buried in the Great Catch All, an ancient giant armoire filled with heirlooms of her family’s past, which holds a devastating secret that could destroy Louis and Tom’s lives. Once again, Berthe Amoss has created an indelible portrait of a young girl coming of age in prewar New Orleans. -- Lizzie Skurnick Books

I am just thrilled to be reviewing a book from Lizzie Skurnick Books! I have been a fan of Ms. Skurnick's since I hosted the Shelf Discovery Challenge a few years ago. Ms. Skurnick now has her own imprint under Ig Publishing, and she's bring back some oldies but goodies along with a few new books. One of those new books is MISCHIEF AND MALICE by Berthe Amoss.

Even though MISCHIEF AND MALICE was recently released, this novel is a sequel to SECRET LIVES...which I did not read. I can honestly say that you don't have to have read SECRET LIVES to appreciate MISCHIEF AND MALICE, but so want to now. I loved 14 year-old Addie and would certainly enjoy sharing some more time with her.

In MISCHIEF AND MALICE, Addie's Aunt Eveline has recently died so she is now living with Aunt Tootsie, Uncle Henry, and Sandra Lee, her cousin who isn't exactly nice to her. There are many changes in store for Addie. A new family, with a girl Addie's age moves into Addie's old house; and her best friend Tom's father Louis has returned to town after leaving when Tom was a baby. Addie is confused about her feelings towards Tom -- does she like him as more than a friend?, but she's pretty sure she's fallen hard for the very charming Louis.

Given all that Addie is facing, she's a pretty typical teenage girl. She's trying to find her way amid problems at school and with her cousin, while also planning a Christmas play and trying to figure out Louis' intentions. When Addie uncovers a mystery that exists in a huge armoire that once belonged to her family, much is at risk for Louis and his past. Addie soon realizes that Louis' attention to her might have had more to do with the secret he's hiding than his actual feelings toward her.

Despite not being the ideal age for MISCHIEF AND MALICE (ages 9 - 14), I really enjoyed it. Addie is just a fantastic character and I loved seeing her grow up in pre World War II New Orleans. She is such a sweet (and innocent) young girl, and I thought the portrayal of her was spot on. While the story took place many decades ago, I still think today's girls will relate to Addie. Addie' confusion about love and romance, along with her the way she handled the drama at school and with her cousin, definitely resonated with my memories of teenage years.

I have to admit that I'm partial to Addie and her character development. While there was a mystery in MISCHIEF AND MALICE, in my opinion, it wasn't the strongest aspect of the story. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but it wasn't great. Having said that, I rarely read MG or YA mysteries so it's possible I'm judging the mystery based on adult books. Bottom line: I just appreciated Addie's coming-of-age story more than anything else!

MISCHIEF AND MALICE is a terrific read for MG or even YA girls. I highly recommend it and need to get my hands on SECRET LIVES!

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

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, June 12, 2015

Giveaway: The Cake Therapist & Bake Happy

Summary: A fiction debut that will leave you wanting seconds, from an award-winning cookbook author.

Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.

Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself. --- Berkley

Summary: Colorful, flavorful home-baked treats just say “happy,” and Bake Happy is all about adding a bit of joy back into your kitchen. A sweet baking book that will bring a smile to the dessert table, Bake Happy includes 100 recipes for cheerful cupcakes and cookies, bars and brownies, tarts and turnovers, and delicious cakes that are speckled, marbled, and striped.

This cookbook can be used year-round and will satisfy your sweet tooth and your soul. Whether you’re in the mood for creamy chocolate, colorful cake layers, tasty cake batter, or special occasion desserts, you’ll find recipes for Citrus Glazed Sunset Cake, Rustic Cherry Pudding, Secret Filling Devil’s Food Cupcakes, and more. There are also various options for color and flavor combinations, and 30+ full-color photos throughout. -- Running Press

I am so excited to share this amazing giveaway opportunity with you! It's for two gorgeous books --
THE CAKE THERAPIST and BAKE HAPPY by Judith Fertig. Could these covers be any more beautiful?

I am heading to the Outer Banks tomorrow and THE CAKE THERAPIST is already packed! I can't wait to read it. It tells the story of a pastry chef who can "taste" feelings. And BAKE HAPPY looks positively terrific. There are 100 recipes for all types of baked goods including cupcakes, cakes, tarts, and brownies. Based on the cover, I bet the photographs of these goodies are beautiful too!

To enter, just fill out the form below before June 25th 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, June 11, 2015

BEA 2015 - Days 3 and 4 - (Friday, May 29th and Saturday, May 30th)

Kathy and I woke up bright and early on Friday because we wanted to get to BEA right as it opened at 9:00. We were invited to a Scholastic Backstage Pass Event and I couldn't wait to go. Not only were R.L. Stine and David Baldacci supposed to be there, but Sonia Manzano, Maria from Sesame Street, was too! I loved Sesame Street as a kid, and having the opportunity to meet "Maria" was definitely going to go down as one of my 2015 BEA highlights!

The Scholastic Backstage Pass Event had a nice breakfast setup including fruit smoothies, fresh fruit, bagels, and muffins; and Kathy and I were starving! As we were in line for our food, I could hear "Maria" talking and exclaimed to Kathy, "I hear her and she sounds just like Maria!" I know it sounds weird, but this was definitely an exciting moment for me. After Kathy and I talked with David Baldacci for a few minutes, who by the way is the nicest man, we were introduced to Sonia Manzano by none other than Andrea Davis Pinkney. I gushed and probably embarrassed myself, but Ms. Manzano was so gracious. She even asked for a picture! It didn't turn out well because of the lighting, but it's MARIA!

Sonia Manzano and me at Scholastic Breakfast
After the Scholastic Backstage Event, Kathy and I hit the floor again and managed to do some damage with books! I have a one box limit plus whatever I can carry on the train so I was trying to be selective. We planned to ship around lunchtime and I already knew I was in trouble. I ended up setting aside quite a few good books that wouldn't fit.

We did have another meeting planned for Friday. It was with the folks at Big Honcho. I have worked with Big Honcho for a number of years, and I love visiting with them at BEA. Notice I said "visiting" because that's exactly what we did. We talked briefly about books over some Starbucks drinks, but mainly ended up talking about Broadway shows. In fact, I ended up using TodayTix to score "cheap" seats to Hedwig and the Angry Itch for later that day.

By the way if you are looking for tickets to a show, I highly recommend TodayTix. I did everything on my phone -- check out what's playing, select ticket location, and even pay! All I had to do was meet a TodayTix representative at the show a half hour early and get my tickets from her. It couldn't have been easier, and I think the seats were quite reasonable! But I digress...

At 2:00, Kathy and I attended what is one of our all-time favorite parts of BEA -- the BEA Book Group Speed Dating Session. This was the 15th anniversary of Readinggroupguides.com so they had special giveaways. I was lucky enough to win a boxed set of teas -- and I never win anything!
There were 27 publishers there and about 200 attendees. It was crazy... good that is! Thankfully, we were all presented with a copy of the Powerpoint slides which listed every book featured because there was no way we had time to hear every presentation. This event is the single best place to learn about and collect books! There is just too much to even discuss in this recap post. I'll share more with you when I feature "The Books of BEA 2015" later next week!

One book I specifically want to mention was featured by Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books. It's called BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande. The publisher brought copies of this book for every attendee... because it's that important! That's never been done before! My husband actually listened to this book last month and he totally agrees. He says it's one of those books that every person should read and talk about! It's life-changing! I can't wait to read it even though I know it won't be easy!

As if the BEA Book Group Speed Dating Session wasn't enough, Kathy and I still had one more party to attend. This one was hosted by Atria Books and it was a Blogger Meet & Greet. It was a small party but so much fun because we had a lot of one on one time with authors and publicists. I ended up talking for quite awhile with Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, authors of the newly released book THE STATUS OF ALL THINGS and best-selling contemporary romance author Colleen Hoover.

Liz Fenton and me at Atria Blogger Meet & Greet
We stayed at the party until the lights started blinking -- the folks at Javits obviously wanted us out of there! Unfortunately, we left right as the lines for the hotel shuttles were crazy long. We waited for at least a half hour and then were told that the buses would be stopping at 6:00. Kathy and I reluctantly left the bus line to begin our walk (with heavy bags of books!) to the subway. As soon as we left, the bus arrived. You wouldn't believe how quickly two middle-aged women can run when they have to!

Kathy and I arrived back at the hotel, dropped off our books and freshened up before heading out to dinner. We went back to the Academie Barilla where we ate last year to get a quick bite of pasta before heading to Hedwig and the Angry Itch. Like much of our trip, our timing seemed to be just about perfect; and we arrived at the theater at almost the same time as our tickets did.

Well... one of the reasons I picked Hedwig and the Angry Itch was because Darren Criss (from Glee!) was starring in it. I'm pretty sure Kathy and I weren't the target audience for this show, but I really enjoyed it. I was absolutely blown away by the performances, and it definitely goes down as one of the most unique shows I've ever seen. It was a fantastic way to end our last night in New York.
Kathy and I managed to sleep in a little on Saturday morning. My train was for 10:52, so we had time to grab breakfast. We found a little deli near our hotel called Bread & Company and decided to try it. Not only did we have a really good omelet for breakfast, but I ended up getting a sandwich to-go for my train ride home.

It was with more than a little sadness that Kathy and I headed back to our hotel after breakfast. Even though we "talk" every day, we love spending a few days with each other. And since BEA is in Chicago next year, neither one of us is planning on going. We are determined to find some way to visit with each other next year -- maybe it will even include books, New York, and Broadway musicals!

I had a very uneventful train ride home. I finished THINGS YOU WON'T SAY (hint: it's really timely and good!), and I started THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS for my June book club. As sad as it was to say good-bye to both BEA and Kathy, I knew I had some special people waiting for me... and that certainly made it easier!