Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: The Mapmaker's Children

Summary: When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way. - Crown

I should probably begin this review by saying that I adore Sarah McCoy. Not only did I love THE BAKER'S DAUGHTER -- you can read my review here, but I think she's a wonderful person! I couldn't wait to read her latest novel THE MAPMAKER'S CHILDREN especially when I learned that part of the novel takes place prior to and during the Civil War, one of my favorite time periods for historical fiction.

THE MAPMAKER'S CHILDREN explores the life of two seemingly different women separated by almost 150 years. The novel gradually reveals that these two women have more in common than what first appears by revealing the ways they deal with love, loss, sacrifice, and family.

Sarah Brown is the daughter of John Brown, the abolitionist who helped slaves escape before losing his life at Harper's Ferry. After an illness leaves her unable to have children, she decides to make her life worthwhile by becoming a mapmaker for the Underground Railroad. She makes many sacrifices, some of which are dangerous, to help this worthy cause.

And then there's Eden, a woman who lives in the present day. She has recently moved from the city to an old house in a small West Virginia town and put aside her career in public relations. She is married to a good man, but because they have been struggling with fertility issues for years, their marriage is starting to feel the strain.

When Eden discovers a porcelain doll head hidden in her basement, she begins to explore the history of her house only to find that it might have been a crucial stop on the Underground Railroad. As both women's stories unfold, the reader discovers that they have some unlikely parallels in their lives.

I enjoyed THE MAPMAKER'S CHILDREN quite a bit although I'm not sure I liked it quite as much as THE BAKER'S DAUGHTER... but that would be saying a lot because I loved that story! I appreciated the quality of Ms. McCoy's writing; and I definitely enjoyed how the story went back and forth between these complex characters' lives. It was very interesting for me to discover how these two women's lives not only intersected, but also how similar some of their insights and actions were.

I mentioned earlier that one of my favorite settings for historical fiction is the Civil War. Of course, I'd read anything Ms. McCoy wrote, but this element of the story definitely piqued my interest. While I have studied and read quite a few accounts of the Underground Railroad, I really liked the approach Ms. McCoy took with featuring a woman who was responsible for much of the mapmaking. I was especially interested in learning about the role the dolls played in the story.

In addition, it was apparent to me that the author really did her research for this novel. She includes some details in the back of the book that I found rather interesting; however, she also demonstrated it through her use of the letters that went back and forth between Sarah and her friend. There is no doubt that the Civil War was a horrific time for our country, but I think Ms. McCoy did an excellent job in bringing the pain and sacrifice families faced during the war.

Another special aspect of THE MAPMAKER'S CHILDREN was how well Ms. McCoy brought Sarah and Eden's characters to life. I have to admit that I didn't always agree with how they handled everything in their lives, but I will say that I found their portrayal to be realistic. I thought Eden's struggles with infertility seemed very authentic; and as a result, I was more understanding of some of her actions.

It's no surprise that THE MAPMAKER'S CHILDREN would make an excellent book club pick! There is a reading guide available with twelve thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include infertility, loss, grief, sacrifice, second chances, motherhood, prejudice, war, social change, art, and stories. You also might want to incorporate some of the fun activity ideas for your group that are listed below the questions.

THE MAPMAKER'S CHILDREN is an entertaining book that links the past to the present. It's not only interesting from a historical perspective, but it will touch your heart and make you think. Highly recommended!

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Small Mercies

Summary: An ingeniously layered narrative, told over the course of one week, Eddie Joyce’s debut novel masterfully depicts an Italian-Irish American family on Staten Island and their complicated emotional history. Ten years after the loss of Bobby—the Amendola family’s youngest son—everyone is still struggling to recover from the firefighter’s unexpected death. Bobby’s mother, Gail; his widow, Tina; his older brothers Peter, the corporate lawyer, and Franky, the misfit; and his father, Michael, have all dealt with their grief in different ways. But as the family gathers together for Bobby Jr.’s birthday party, they must each find a way to accept a new man in Tina’s life while reconciling their feelings for their lost loved one.

In unflinching but lyrical prose, Joyce shows us one mother’s struggle to keep her family together and preserve the memory of her son. Following Gail as she moves from the corner offices of white-shoe Manhattan law firms to the blue-collar gin mills of the outer boroughs, Small Mercies reveals a different New York, one that exists in the hearts and minds of its inhabitants.

Presented through multiple points of view, Small Mercies explores the conflicts and deep attachments that exist within families. Heart-wrenching and profoundly relatable, Joyce’s debut is a love letter to Staten Island and a deeply affecting portrait of an American family. -- Viking

SMALL MERCIES is Eddie Joyce's debut novel and what a story it is! I absolutely loved this book and it will definitely go down as one of my favorites of the year. SMALL MERCIES encompassed everything I love about stories. This novel was beautifully written and had intriguing characters; however, it also managed to make me think and feel.

SMALL MERCIES tells the story of the Amendolas, an Italian-American family living on Staten Island, and how they are trying to deal with the loss of their youngest son. Bobby Amendola was a firefighter who died ten years ago on 9/11. This novel explores the lasting effects his death has had on the entire family including his mother Gail, his father Michael, his brothers Peter and Frankie, and his wife Tina. By offering each family member's points of view, the reader is given a glimpse inside this flawed family to see how each person is not only coping with the loss of Bobby but also how they have moved forward and how they interact with each other.

SMALL MERCIES is truly a gem of a novel. I was blown away by not only Mr. Joyce's powerful prose, but also his ability to bring these amazing characters to life. I immediately became swept up in the Amendola's lives, and I didn't want this novel to end... and that's a rare thing for me of late. Naturally, my heart went out to the parents, Gail and Michael, because what is worse that losing a child? And, I was also sick for Tina and her children. What actually surprised me about this novel is how realistically the author portrayed both the immediate and lasting effects of grief. I honestly don't know if I can remember reading a book that had a more honest look at loss; and as a result, this book touched me like few novels do.

Another wonderful thing about SMALL MERCIES is how the author brought the setting of Staten Island to life. I would go so far as to say that Staten Island became another character in the story; and while I'm definitely not a New Yorker, I do believe that Mr. Joyce paid a lovely tribute to his hometown. Staten Island played a major role in the lives of these characters and it was closely tied to their identities.

And finally, I loved how the author told this family's touching story. It might seem as if I covered this earlier; however, I want to stress how much I appreciated the little things he did in this novel that just brought it to the next level. For example, the different viewpoints throughout the story as well as the many flashbacks to the past worked extremely well in showing the complexities of the characters and how they relate to each other.

Another example of his terrific storytelling was the pacing of the story. Specifically, how I could feel the tension escalate as Bobby Jr.'s birthday party approached. It was a time when the entire family would be coming together and trying to put aside their other issues. The party was also a time when Tina would introduce a new man in her life. While it was only one day in their lives, it was a huge event because it symbolized something bigger for these characters. They had to accept that Bobby was gone and at the same time accept that life does go on.

It won't surprise you when I say that SMALL MERCIES would be a perfect book club selection. It truly is an honest story about love, loss and families that most readers will relate to. There is a reading guide available with twelve questions. Some of the themes that you might want to explore include grief, second chances, addiction, adultery, marriage, forgiveness, guilt, betrayal, memories, and redemption.

I can't rave enough about SMALL MERCIES! Highly recommended!

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Club Exchange: Kristy Woodson Harvey

I'd like to welcome author Kristy Woodson Harvey to Book Club Exchange. Ms. Harvey is the author of DEAR CAROLINA, a novel which will be released exactly one week from today! I read this book last week, and fans of stories about love and family are going to adore this one. My review will be coming shortly.

I am so glad that Ms. Harvey had the time during this very busy time to write a special guest post about the role of book clubs in her life... both in her past and her future.

“Book club,” to me, used to be another phrase for “chicken salad.” I grew up with “book club,” you see. My mom was in one. My grandmother was in two. And book club day meant crystal, silver, linen napkins and tablecloths, and, of course, chicken salad. Book club meant my mom and grandmother whispering in the kitchen, where I was sneaking lemon squares, about how many glasses of chardonnay so-and-so had had while so-and-so was at the dining room table talking—rather loudly—about her friend’s horrific hair-do at the beauty parlor that morning.

It wasn’t until I was eight or nine that I finally realized that the point of these stress-inducing functions where my toys had to be put away just so was to talk about a book. I knew all about books, of course, since, from the time was a baby, my mom would read to me for hours, seeing how many books she could pick up one after another before I asked her to stop. (The answer to that, she found, was that, no matter how many hours she read, I would never ask her to stop.)

In fact, back then, book club weeks were something I didn’t look forward to all. I sort of dreaded them.

There’s a supreme sort of irony in that since, now, with the release of my debut novel, Dear Carolina, impending, all I can think about is getting to go to book clubs. All I want to do is sit around in someone’s living room or a coffee shop and hear what people thought about the book. I want to know what their favorite quotes were and see if they were the same as mine. I want to know which character was their favorite, which one they most related to, what they would do if they were in Jodi’s situation. Or Khaki’s. What choices would they have made differently from the characters? Or, as it were, the author.

I have a handful of book club dates already set on my calendar, but I’m hoping to get to many, many more. I’m so looking forward to hearing about so-and-so’s daughter’s new boyfriend and learning the stories of women I’ve never met, women I never would have met if I hadn’t ever written Dear Carolina. (Although, you know the risk in that: When you tell your story to an author, it may just end up in his or her next book!)

I don’t care if there’s fancy china or starched linens or Chardonnay. I’m not sure I even like lemon squares, and those crystal goblets never hold enough water.

I will keep going to book clubs forever, no matter what they’re like as long as there is good conversation and new friends. And chicken salad. Because you can’t spell “book club” without “chicken salad.” Well, I mean, you can technically, of course. But why would you want to?

******
Kristy Woodson Harvey holds a degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in English from East Carolina University. She writes about interior design and loves connecting with readers. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three-year-old son. Dear Carolina is her first novel.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Seven for a Secret

Summary: Six months after the formation of the NYPD, its most reluctant and talented officer, Timothy Wilde, thinks himself well versed in his city’s dark practices—until he learns of the gruesome underworld of lies and corruption ruled by the “blackbirders,” who snatch free Northerners of color from their homes, masquerade them as slaves, and sell them South to toil as plantation property.

The abolitionist Timothy is horrified by these traders in human flesh. But in 1846, slave catching isn’t just legal—it’s law enforcement.

When the beautiful and terrified Lucy Adams staggers into Timothy’s office to report a robbery and is asked what was stolen, her reply is, “My family.” Their search for her mixed-race sister and son will plunge Timothy and his feral brother, Valentine, into a world where police are complicit and politics savage, and corpses appear in the most shocking of places. Timothy finds himself caught between power and principles, desperate to protect his only brother and to unravel the puzzle before all he cares for is lost. -- Putnam

I have absolutely no excuses for why it took me so long to read SEVEN FOR A SECRET by Lyndsay Faye. This novel is the followup to THE GODS OF GOTHAM -- a book that I absolutely loved. (You can read my review here.) It wasn't until I realized that the third book in this series, THE FATAL FLAME, is coming out in the very near future that I moved this book to the top of my to-be-read file!

SEVEN FOR A SECRET takes place soon after the formation of the NYPD in the mid 1850s. Timothy Wilde is a talented cop who has seen his fair share of crime and corruption; however when Lucy Adams tells him that her family missing, he discovers the dark world of "blackbirders." Blackbirds are men who kidnap free black Northerners and sell them to southern slave owners.

Timothy sets out to find Lucy's sister and son, but he soon realizes that the lines between slave catching and law enforcement are blurred. When he asks for help from his brother Valentine, a policeman who walks both sides of the laws, Timothy encounters even more trouble... including a dead body.

I thoroughly enjoyed SEVEN FOR A SECRET much in the same way that I liked THE GODS OF GOTHAM. I love the characters and the setting, and Ms. Faye is just a wonderful writer. She brings 1850s New York to life with her realistic descriptions of the city and its inhabitants; and she definitely knows to to write a compelling mystery.

One of the reasons I appreciate this series so much is the character of Timothy Wilde. I absolutely love him. He's an incredibly complex characters and I enjoy seeing him balance his work life with his professional one. His relationship with his brother Valentine is complicated to say the least, and I love how Timothy is not only smart but also a man driven by his integrity. That's not to say that Timothy is perfect in his quest to solve the crimes in this novel, but he does try to do the right thing for the victims and his family.

Another aspect of this series that I find fascinating is the setting. The books take place when the NYPD is in its infancy. There is a great deal of corruption and not a whole heck of a lot of efficiency, and it's interesting to read about what the city was like during this time period. Often times, it's not a pretty picture with rampant crime and poverty. Ms. Faye has done a wonderful job of describing this time period and making the city come alive in my imagination.

In the case of SEVEN FOR A SECRET, the author tackled the subject matter of slavery and the crimes that occurred surrounding this institution. She showed some of the differences between the North and the South, and it was apparent that she did her research on this subject matter. This novel provided a glimpse into some of the more unusual aspects of slavery and slave catching, and I had never read a story about slavery from this angle.

And finally, I tend to get caught up in Timothy and the historical aspects of the story; however, the mystery aspect is outstanding. Ms. Faye definitely knows how to weave (and then unravel) a mystery. I loved the complexity of this one as well as the twists and turns of the story. Once again, Timothy outdid himself with figuring out the details of these crimes. I, on the other hand, was clueless about the intricacies!

Overall, SEVEN FOR A SECRET is a marvelous followup to THE GODS OF GOTHAM. Personally, I can't wait for THE FATAL FLAME next month! Highly recommended!

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, April 25, 2015

Kid Konnection: The Sky Painter & 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 gorgeous picture book about a special artist.

Summary: Louis loves to watch birds. He takes care of injured birds and studies how they look and how they move. His father wants him to become an engineer, but Louis dreams of being a bird artist. To achieve this dream, he must practice, practice, practice. He learns from the art of John James Audubon. But as Louis grows up, he begins to draw and paint living, flying birds in their natural habitats.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874–1927) is now known as the father of modern bird art. He traveled with many scientific expeditions all over the world. His best-known works—paintings for habitat exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York—are still beloved by visitors today. His art helped to encourage wildlife conservation, inspiring people to celebrate and protect the world of wings.

Poems by Newbery Honor–winning author Margarita Engle and illustrations by Aliona Bereghici capture the life of Louis Fuertes and the deep sense of wonder that he felt when he painted the sky. -- Two Lions

THE SKY PAINTER: LOUIS FUERTES, BIRD ARTIST by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Aliona Bereghici is a beautiful book with gorgeous poetic prose as well as amazing illustrations. What makes it even more special is that it tells the true story of Louis Fuertes, a famous bird artist.

I'm not sure if I'm alone when I say this, but I had never heard of Mr. Fuertes. I am not a huge fan of birds and the only bird artist I know is Audubon. That's probably what made THE SKY PAINTER so interesting to me. I was fascinated with Mr. Fuertes' non-traditional way of drawing birds.

After first learning to draw birds by posing ones that had been hunted, he decided that he wanted to let the birds live. As a result, Mr. Fuertes had to learn to paint quickly so he could capture them in their natural habitats. He eventually became quite good at this and even was able to capture the motion in their wings. He is credited with creating a new form of bird art!

I thought THE SKY PAINTER was a wonderful way to pay tribute to this special artist. The book begins when Mr. Fuertes was a young child just discovering the beauty of birds. It follows him throughout his career as he changed the way bird art was made. It's apparent that Mr. Fuertes loved nature, and especially birds; and he wanted to share his appreciation with others.

THE SKY PAINTER is an absolutely gorgeous book. It's written by a Newbery Honor-winning author and her prose is truly lovely. It's simple enough for young children, yet it also tells Mr. Fuertes' story in an interesting way. However, I thought the illustrations brought the book to the next level. They are beautiful! Each page comes alive with the bright colors and there is so much for readers to experience. I thought the pictures of the birds were especially detailed (as they should be in this book!), and I appreciated how many of them were labeled.

Because THE SKY PAINTER is both interesting and educational, it would be perfect for classrooms. There is an activity kit for teachers available on the author's website that has some unique ways to enhance children's reading experience.

I highly recommend THE SKY PAINTER!

Giveaway alert: One lucky winner will receive a copy of THE SKY PAINTER: LOUIS FUERTES, BIRD ARTIST. To enter, just fill out the form below before Friday, May 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!



Follow along on THE SKY PAINTER blog tour!

Mon, Apr 20 Library Fanatic
Tues, Apr 21 Kid Lit Frenzy
Wed, Apr 22 Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Apr 23 5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Apr 24 Teach Mentor Texts
Mon, Apr 27 Sharpread
Tues, Apr 28 The Children's Book Review
Wed, Apr 29 Cracking the Cover
Thurs, Apr 30 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
Fri, May 1 Archimedes Notebook

Thanks to the Blue Slip 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!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: Finding Jake

Summary: A heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of psychological suspense in which a parent is forced to confront what he does—and does not—know about his teenage son, in the vein of Reconstructing Amelia, Defending Jacob, and We Need to Talk about Kevin.

While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn’t. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school.

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?

Brilliantly paced, Finding Jake explores these questions in a tense and emotionally wrenching narrative. Harrowing and heartbreaking, surprisingly healing and redemptive, it is a story of faith and conviction, strength, courage, and love that will leave readers questioning their own lives, and those they think they know. -- William Morrow

I honestly don't know why I picked up the novel FINDING JAKE by Bryan Reardon. As I look back at the book's description, I must have been attracted to the psychological suspense aspect of the story. Maybe it's because they compared this novel to three books that I read and loved. But for whatever reason, I am pretty sure I didn't know how gut-wrenching this story would be to me!

FINDING JAKE tells the story of a stay-at-home father, Simon Connolly. His wife goes to work as a lawyer every day while Simon stays home taking care of his two teenage kids, Jake and Laney. One day, Simon is shocked to learn that there was a shooting at the high school. He immediately drives to the designated meeting place and waits for Jake to arrive. Jake never arrives and Simon discovers that he is a suspect in the shooting!

Simon reflects on Jake's past and present, and he begins to question if he ever even knew his own son.  Simon starts to actually doubt Jake's innocence and even blames himself for allowing Jake to hang out with one of the shooters. Simon's obsession with finding Jake's and learning the truth begins to take over his life -- eventually causing even more tension in his strained marriage.

As a mother, I have to admit that many of the events that occurred in FINDING JAKE were almost nightmarish to me. I think in today's society we all have a little fear about a kid (or kids) going crazy and being involved in a school shooting. However, for Simon that nightmare was even worse. The media and the police (and fellow students and parents) actually thought that his son Jake was part of the problem. I think it's a testament to the author that I found FINDING JAKE to be so real... and therefore so depressing.

What I most appreciated about this novel (because enjoy just isn't the right word) is how honest it was. I actually could feel Simon's pain and fear, and I know I might have reacted the exact same way if I were ever in a similar situation. We all think we know our kids, but do we really? And as far as doubting my own abilities as a parent, I am absolutely 100% sure that I would be doing that as well!

FINDING JAKE was a difficult read for me. Between Simon's concerns about Jake, Jake missing, and the tension in Simon's marriage, I just felt uncomfortable for most of the novel. Fortunately, the ending made the entire read worthwhile. Had FINDING JAKE not had some positive themes of faith, healing, and redemption, I would have either cried my eyes out or thrown the book at a wall.

Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was the mystery surrounding the school shooting and Jake's disappearance. I felt that Simon's feeling and Jake's behavior through the years was the primary focus of the novel; however, the suspense aspects were very well done; and they definitely contributed to my appreciation of the story.

FINDING JAKE would make an excellent book club pick. There are so many things to discuss, especially for parents of teens! There is a reading guide available with fourteen thought-provoking questions. Some of the topics you might want to explore include parenting, marriage, faith, personality, introverts vs. extroverts, responsibilities, and judgments.

I appreciated FINDING JAKE and recommend it to fans of literary fiction and/or mysteries.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: The Travels of Daniel Ascher

Summary: Who is the real author of The Black Insignia? Is it H. R. Sanders, whose name is printed on the cover of every installment of the wildly successful young adult adventure series? Or is it Daniel Roche, the enigmatic world traveler who disappears for months at a time? When Daniel’s great-niece, Hélène, moves to Paris to study archeology, she does not expect to be searching for answers to these questions. As rumors circulate, however, that the twenty-fourth volume of The Black Insignia series will be the last, Hélène and her friend Guillaume, a devoted fan of her great-uncle’s books, set out to discover more about the man whose life eludes her. In so doing, she uncovers an explosive secret dating back to the darkest days of the Occupation.

In recounting the moment when one history began and another ended, The Travels of Daniel Ascher explores the true nature of fiction: is it a refuge, a lie, or a stand-in for mourning? -- Other Press

THE TRAVELS OF DANIEL ASCHER by Deborah Levy-Bertherat, translated from the French by Adriana Hunter, is really unlike any book I've ever read. I've seen comparison to a SARAH'S KEY/THE BOOK THIEF mashup; however, this little novel is special in its own way.

THE TRAVELS OF DANIEL ASCHER really is a short novel, about 180 pages, that explores stories, storytelling, secrets, and the truth. However, it's also a touching story about one man whose life was forever changed as a result of the Holocaust. That might sound like a lot for a little book, but Ms. Levy-Bertharat accomplishes that and much more.

Helene is a young woman who moves to Paris to continue her studies in archeology. She stays in her great-uncle's apartment because he is away traveling much of time. Her uncle is Daniel Roche, an author who writes the popular Black Insignia series under the pen name H.R. Sanders. Helene was never that interested in her uncle or the books he writes; however, when she starts dating a fellow student named Guillaume, a huge fan of the series, she begins reading the novels... and becoming more interested in learning about her strange and eccentric uncle.

All Helene knew about her great uncle was that he was a Jewish boy adopted by her family during World War II. His name was Daniel Ascher but most of his life is a secret. As Helene delves into understanding her uncle and his past, she discovers more questions than answers.

THE TRAVELS OF DANIEL ASCHER packs a powerful punch. It's part historical fiction in that it takes the reader back to the Nazi occupation and part mystery because Helene is searching for clues about her great-uncle, but it's also a bit of an adventure story. Daniel was a very unique individual for many reasons, and he incorporated some aspects of his life in his stories and books. I loved how everything eventually came together to make an interesting read.

Despite being such a compact book, THE TRAVELS OF DANIEL ASCHER does make readers think... and that's why I enjoyed it so much. I've read quite a few book that take place during World War II and explore the Holocaust, but this one was different. The author used both the character of Daniel and his creative storytelling to tell this story. The novel provides quite a bit food for thought on many important themes including memories, secrets, identity, and the power of stories.

One thing I appreciated about THE TRAVELS OF DANIEL ASCHER is that it was a book for both adults and teens. I actually think it's a wonderful book for teens, and I would love it if my daughter had to read it for English or History class! There is an in-depth teaching guide that would help instructors present the important themes from this novel to their students.

Overall, THE TRAVELS OF DANIEL ASCHER is a wonderful book. It's a mix of history, adventure, and mystery that's sure to entertain both adult and teen readers. Highly recommended.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Guest Review: A Scourge of Vipers

Summary: To solve Rhode Island's budget crisis, the state's colorful governor, Attila the Nun, wants to legalize sports gambling; but her plan has unexpected consequences. Organized crime, professional sports leagues, and others who have a lot to lose--or gain--if gambling is made legal flood the state with money to buy the votes of state legislators.Liam Mulligan, investigative reporter for The Providence Dispatch, wants to investigate, but his bottom-feeding corporate bosses at the dying newspaper have no interest in serious reporting. So Mulligan goes rogue, digging into the story on his own time. When a powerful state legislator turns up dead, an out-of-state bag man gets shot, and his cash-stuffed briefcase goes missing, Mulligan finds himself the target of shadowy forces who seek to derail his investigation by destroying his career, his reputation, and perhaps even his life.

Bruce DeSilva's A Scourge of Vipers is at once a suspenseful crime story and a serious exploration of the hypocrisy surrounding sports gambling and the corrupting influence of big money on politics. -- Forge

Earlier this month, award-winning author Bruce DeSilva wrote a fantastic guest post about his writing process for Booking Mama readers. Since then, his fourth book in the Liam Mulligan series, A SCOURGE OF VIPERS, was published; and my father had the chance to read it. Here are his thoughts:

The governor of Rhode Island has a plan to propose legislation to use legalized sports gambling as a means to offset budget deficits. The plan attracts several interested outside parties such as amateur and professional sports leagues, current out-of-state sports gambling sites and organized crime. All these special interests are pumping substantial money into Rhode Island to influence the outcome of the legislation.

Liam Mulligan is an investigative reporter for The Providence Dispatch, a Rhode Island newspaper that is a shadow of itself under its new owners who appear more interested in profits than in running a good newspaper. Liam is asked to investigate two recent deaths, one a body fished out of water and the other a body found in a small plane crash. Liam, working against the directive of his editor, soon links the bodies to the recent proposal to legalize sports gambling. Of interest is the fact that the governor is an ex-nun and a personal friend of Liam.

As Liam continues the investigation against the newspaper’s wishes, more people turn up dead and Liam becomes a prime suspect. At the same time outside forces are working to derail his investigation and ruin his reputation as a reporter.

In A SCOURGE OF VIPERS author Bruce DeSilva writes a terrific mystery novel that combines a great plot, great writing and great characters with a lot of fast-paced action. DeSilva also uses the novel as a social commentary on the sad state of daily newspapers and the influence of outside money in corrupting the political process.

If you are a fan of mystery novels then you will definitely enjoy A SCOURGE OF VIPERS.

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: Death of a Liar

Summary: Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is alarmed to receive a report from a woman in the small village of Cronish in the Scottish Highlands. She has been brutally attacked and the criminal is on the loose. But upon further investigation, Hamish discovers that she was lying about the crime. So when the same woman calls him back about an intruder, he simply marvels at her compulsion to lie. This time, though, she is telling the truth. Her body is found in her home and Hamish must sort through all of her lies to solve the crime. -- Grand Central Publishing

I feel as if I am so late to the game on the Hamish Macbeth mystery series. But better late than never, and that's definitely the case with DEATH OF A LIAR by M.C. Beaton. DEATH OF A LIAR is the 30th book in this series -- isn't that amazing? I was very hesitant in starting with book 30; however, I am happy to say that I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. It's no wonder that this series has been so long-running and so successful.

In DEATH OF A LIAR, Sergeant Hamish Macbeth receives a call from a woman in Cronish, a small village in the Scottish Highlands. She claims she was attacked and that the man escaped. Hamish is quite alarmed but soon realizes after investigating that her story doesn't add up. In fact, it seems this woman not only lied about her attacker, but she also has quite the reputation of being a story-teller.

When this very same woman calls back and claims there is an intruder on the loose, Hamish doesn't believe her. However this time, it seems like she was telling the truth! The woman is found dead outside her home, and Hamish has to start separating fact from fiction in this strange case.

While all of this is happening in Cronish, things are also heating up in Lochdubh. A couple relatively new to the area is found murdered. Hamish is kept away of this case because of office politics, but he's too smart and knows too much about the town to keep him away from trying to solve this case too!

I really liked DEATH OF A LIAR. I loved the setting of the novel, in a Scottish Highlands village; and the characters were definitely... well, characters! Unfortunately I've never been to Scotland, but I loved the vivid images described in the novel as well as the odd assortment of townspeople.

I mentioned earlier that this was my first experience with Hamish Macbeth, and I have to say that he was a fantastic character. I loved his Scottish "tendencies" as well as the way he dealt with both the victims, the townspeople, his co-workers, and even the women from his past. There were more than a few laughs in this novel; however, Hamish was all business when it came to figuring out the crimes!

In addition to the beautiful setting and interesting characters, DEATH OF A LIAR had some intriguing mysteries. I admit that I didn't figure anything out about either one, but I was more focused on just loving the rest of the book to worry about solving any crimes. I was pleasantly surprised by how Hamish worked through the murder mysteries and also by how much suspense was incorporated into this book.

Overall, DEATH OF A LIAR was a very fun read -- I wouldn't hesitate to read any of the other 29 books in the series or any future ones. Recommended to fans of mysteries and cozies.

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, April 18, 2015

Kid Konnection: Fun Mom & Dad 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 cute picture books that are a perfect way to celebrate both Mother's and Father's Day!

Summary: In this adorable kid’s-eye view of what would happen if Mom went to school, a little girl imagines Mom School, where all moms learn their amazing skills, like fixing a bike tire and baking cupcakes. With warm, funny illustrations and a fun role-reversal story in which moms act like kids, young readers will love imagining what would happen if their own moms went to Mom School. -- Doubleday

MOM SCHOOL by Rebecca Van Slyke and illustrated by Priscilla Burris is just an adorable book that celebrates moms! MOM SCHOOL tells one little girl's ideas of what her mom might have learned when she went to school.

Of course, moms learn to do such things as go grocery shopping without losing any kids, read stories, tuck kids into bed at night, and go on scary rides at the fair. In addition, she probably learned how to pitch slowly, make cupcakes, and why vegetables are important -- although the little girl wished she'd been absent on that day! She concludes that her mom was the best student at Mom School!

I really liked both the story and the illustrations in MOM SCHOOL. The pictures are both fun and entertaining, and I loved the use of the assorted colors. In fact, I think the illustrations were the perfect complement to this sweet story.

MOM SCHOOL is absolutely adorable and the ideal book to celebrate the upcoming Mother's Day holiday. It's also a sweet reminder to both moms and kids alike that being a good mom is the best job in the world!

Summary: Do you ever hear strange noises in your house? (The bathroom in particular.) Are hairy creatures raiding the fridge at midnight? Does some animal keep leaving the toilet seat up? YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Join one little girl on her quest to catch the wild beasts in her home that HONK and ROAR and BELCH at all hours. Or... could it just be Daddy? This hilarious (and yet heartwarming) salute to real daddies everywhere is crafted with contemporary parents in mind and will have readers laughing out loud as they recognize and relish many familiar family moments that most books for children leave out! -- Little Brown

DADDY SAT ON A DUCK by Scott M. Cohn is a book that celebrate fathers -- albeit in an unusual way! You can probably imagine what this book is about based on the title, but the author assures readers that "contests are 100% humane, hilarious, and odor-free!

DADDY SAT ON A DUCK is a book that my son would have loved as a little guy. For some reason, Booking Son has always appreciated potty humor; and I'm told that's not unusual for little boys! This very cute picture book tells how one little girl discovers the variety of animal sounds that come from their house like a quack, a roar, and braaahhh. She also finds some other clues that indicate an animal lives there like smells, pieces of hair, and more.

As the little girl begins to investigate, she discovers that the wild animals living in her house might not be so wild after all. They might just be her daddy She quickly realizes that it's kind of fun to live with animals especially when a furry bear can tuck her in at night!

I thought DADDY SAT ON A DUCK was a very fun book. The story is rather funny and the illustrations are adorable. I loved the pictures of the family and the animals, and I even thought how the author drew the details of the house were interesting.

DADDY SAT ON A DUCK is a cute way to celebrate dads... even if it celebrates some of the more "wild" things about them. I can pretty much guarantee a few giggles will occur when reading this book, and that's probably because more than a few readers will relate. Recommended for families whose dads like to live a bit on the "wild" side.

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, April 16, 2015

Review: Walking on Trampolines

Summary: Praised as “a tender exploration of friendship, families, and first love” (Liane Moriarty, New York Times bestselling author of The Husband’s Secret), this coming-of-age novel from bestselling author Frances Whiting is equal parts heartwarming, accessible, and thought provoking.

“Tallulah de Longland,” she said slowly, letting all the Ls in my name loll about lazily in her mouth before passing judgment. “That,” she announced, “is a serious glamorgeous name.”

From the day Annabelle Andrews sashays into her classroom, Tallulah ‘Lulu’ de Longland is bewitched: by Annabelle, by her family, and by their sprawling, crumbling house tumbling down to the river.

Their unlikely friendship intensifies through a secret language where they share confidences about their unusual mothers, first loves, and growing up in the small coastal town of Juniper Bay. But the euphoria of youth rarely lasts, and the implosion that destroys their friendship leaves lasting scars and a legacy of self-doubt that haunts Lulu into adulthood.

Years later, Lulu is presented with a choice: remain the perpetual good girl who misses out, or finally step out from the shadows and do something extraordinary. And possibly unforgivable…

It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce. -- Gallery

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES by Frances Whiting. The cover was sure pretty and I so love coming-of-age stories, so I had a feeling that I'd at least like it. What surprised me is just how readable this book was... and that's saying something because my attention span these past few months isn't what it used to be.

WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES is most certainly a coming-of-age story for Tallulah de Longland, called Lulu for short. The book begins when Lulu wakes up with a serious hangover next to her ex-boyfriend and the love of her life... the day after his wedding to her childhood best friend Annabelle Andrews. I honestly didn't know what to make of Lulu!

The novel takes the reader back to when the girls were twelve years old and met for the first time. Lulu was absolutely enamored by Annabelle and her life. The girls quickly became inseparable and shared everything... even Lulu's boyfriend! When Lulu discovered this betrayal the day of their high school graduation, she was devastated; and needless to say, things were never the same for the two girls.

After Lulu sleeps with her ex (who is also now Annabelle's husband), her life takes a tragic turn for the worst. Not only does she have to deal with her guilt on a personal level, but the story hits the papers and television. WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES shows how Lulu, with the help of her family and friends, works through her life problems... including some very heavy baggage from her past.

I really, really liked WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES. The book was a quick read for me because I got very caught up in Lulu's life. The cast of characters was interesting, as were the dynamics between them; and the writing was strong. However, I think what I enjoyed the most about this book was how it portrayed friendships, self-discovery, and forgiveness.

I have to admit that Lulu was a very complex character, and I wasn't sure I liked her after what she did to Annabelle. That changed pretty quickly when I discovered the truth about her childhood and how damaged she was. In fact, I grew to really like Lulu a lot! Despite her little encounter with her ex, I knew she was a good person; however, I also recognized that she had a lot of growing up to do! And that's where one very special character came in!

Lulu began working for a famous radio host named Duncan, and this character was larger than life. I loved Lulu and Duncan's relationship -- both learned and grew as a result of it; and I definitely think they were able to bring out things in each other that no one else could. Duncan's huge dog was also a fun character that helped Lulu heal. Duncan and his dog also provided some humorous scenes to the story!

As Lulu began to accept herself and what happened to her in the past, she really blossomed into a fantastic character. Naturally she was hesitant to enter new relationships, mainly because she thought she was so damaged and couldn't forgive herself. I appreciated seeing how much she grew by the end of the novel, and I was glad to see her move forward with her life.

WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES was a great read but it was also one of those stories that tugged at my heart. I don't want to give too much away, but this story does deal with some serious issues as well as some major pain in Lulu's life. I found myself tearing up at a few scenes in this novel and wondering how Lulu would be able to recover from them.

I'm pretty sure you can tell by now that WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES would make a wonderful book club pick. There is a reading group guide available with thirteen questions along with a few ideas to enhance your book club. Some of the themes you might want to explore include female, friendship, love, family, mental illness, marriage, betrayal, heartbreak, first love, fear, self-discovery, and forgiveness.

WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES is an interesting coming-of-age story that deals with love, loss, and forgiveness. I highly recommend it to fans of women's fiction.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: The Book Drop from Bethany Beach Books

I recently discovered a wonderful gift idea and a great way to "shop" for books! It's called The Book Drop and it's a terrific subscription box service offered by Bethany Beach Books, an independent bookstore on the beach in Bethany Beach, Delaware, for over 25 years!

The Book Drop is a brand new subscription box service that provides subscribers with a hand-chosen book once a month. The Book Drop makes life easier for book lovers! Let's face it, it can be difficult for many of us to pick out one really good book each month when there are so many options. The Book Drop helps with that. Each month an employee at Bethany Beach Books will pick one of their favorite new reads that you may not have discovered otherwise. They personally mail the book to you and it arrives on your doorstep packed in a cute little box. All you have to do is read it!

It's so easy to get started! First you pick the books that are most suited to your taste.There are four different subscription offerings you can choose from, so the books are customized to you. Pick from The Jane (Contemporary + Historical Fiction, with a sprinkling of Literary Fiction books. All paperback.), The Ernest (Thriller + Action novels, with a sprinkling of Non-Fiction books. All paperback.), Children 8-12 (Our favorite paperback books perfect for children ages 8-12.), and Young Adult (Paperback books appropriate for readers with a maturity level of age 14-15.) For the Children 8-12 and Young Adult options, there are additional questions to best customize to the reader's tastes.

Then, you select the term. There are month-to-month options, a three month prepay option, a six month prepay option, and a twelve month prepay option. The six and twelve month options do offer a discount, and all four options offer free shipping.

Finally, you enter the recipient's address (that can be you!) and your payment information. That's all -- it's really that simple!


I was so excited to find a package from The Book Drop on my front steps, and I was even more excited to find out what was inside. Who doesn't love a surprise book? I chose The Jane package and received a copy of SECRETS OF THE LIGHTHOUSE by Santa Montefiore, a book I didn't have; and quite honestly, one I wasn't familiar with!

I absolutely love this concept of The Book Drop, and I truly appreciate what the folks at Bethany Beach Books are trying to do. "We started this subscription box in the hopes of reaching out to people who believe they don't have any time to read by making it easier for them to be in contact with books. We are also hoping to introduce readers to debut authors and fantastic books they may not have discovered otherwise. Basically, we sadly understand that not everyone has an independent bookstore in their neighborhood, so we are doing our best to bring the independent bookstore to them." Their mission is to spread the love of reading by exposing people to really amazing books. How great is that?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: Wolf Hall

Summary: England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe oppose him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, master of deadly intrigue, and implacable in his ambition. -- Picador

I admit that I've had WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel sitting on my bookshelf for years. I've always wanted to read it because the reviews are incredible and it won the Man Booker Prize; however, it wasn't until the start of the PBS Masterpiece series -- you can read more about that here -- that I finally took the plunge. I get intimidated by long novels, and this one definitely counts as long coming in at over 600.

WOLF HALL tells the story of King Henry VIII's reign through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, an intriguing man who worked in his court. The novel begins when Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, was a child; and follows his life as he worked his way up to become King Henry VIII's most valuable advisor. The novel is both incredibly well researched and well written, and I have to say it's one of the most impressive historical fiction books that I've ever read.

I feel as if I can't really add anything to the tons of reviews out there for WOLF HALL -- it's pretty much already been said in much more elegant prose than I could ever write! What I can tell you is that this novel absolutely knocked me off of my feet. I've read quite a few books over the years about King Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn; however, never through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. He's always been a relatively minor (albeit interesting) characters in the novels. Ms. Mantel managed to bring Cromwell to life and he was an amazing character. Having said that, her portrayal of Anne Boleyn was pretty darn good too!

WOLF HALL wasn't an easy read for me -- it was both long and very literary if you get my drift, but there is no doubt that it was a worthwhile read. Even though I knew the story of this famous "love triangle," WOLF HALL was a refreshing take on King Henry III's court. Ms. Mantel's attention to detail was spectacular, and I was blown away by the amount of research she conducted to write this novel.

In addition, I was very impressed with Ms. Mantel's ability to create a complex character in Cromwell. Usually, his character isn't exactly portrayed in a positive light; however, in WOLF HALL, the reader gets a glimpse of his softer side... or at least the love he had for his family. I still believe he was pretty ruthless and manipulative, but I appreciated that he did have another side.

And last but not least, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what a wonderful writer Ms. Mantel is. I think it's obvious by now that I think she's a great storyteller, but she's also a beautiful writer. I loved her descriptions of the court, the clothes, and more; but I was most impressed with how well she captured the politics and intrigue of King Henry VIII's court. The way she created the dynamics between the various characters was nothing short of brilliant. And even though this book took place during a very tense and serious time in England's history, Ms. Mantel managed to incorporate a great deal of humor into the story!

Overall, WOLF HALL is a brilliant novel and a must-read for fans of historical fiction. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel. Make sure you check out my fantastic giveaway for copies of WOLF HALL AND AND BRING UP THE BODIES here.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Kid Konnection: The Tapper Twins Go To War


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 fantastic middle grade book that's a features one heck of a sibling rivalry!

Summary: This brand-new series by a popular screenwriter is a pitch-perfect, contemporary comedy featuring twelve-year-old fraternal twins, Claudia and Reese, who couldn't be more different...except in their determination to come out on top in a vicious prank war! But when the competition escalates into an all-out battle that's fought from the cafeteria of their New York City private school all the way to the fictional universe of an online video game, the twins have to decide if their efforts to destroy each other are worth the price.

Told as a colorful "oral history" by the twins and their friends, and including photos, screenshots, chat logs, online gaming digital art, and text messages between their clueless parents, The Tapper Twins is a hilariously authentic showcase of what it's like to be in middle school in our digitally-saturated world. -- Little, Brown

Booking Son isn't crazy about reading -- I know, it absolutely breaks my heart; however, when THE TAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (WITH EACH OTHER) by Geoff Rodkey arrived at our house, I noticed him checking it out. Tell me that this cover doesn't appeal to kids -- it's absolutely adorable. And fortunately, the cover wasn't the only thing special about this book. I thought it was a lot of fun... and it even had a few good messages in it,

THE TAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (WITH EACH OTHER) is an account of the "war" between 12 year old twins Claudia and Reese. These two are total opposites and fight over just about anything and everything. Heck, they can't even agree to how this war started! Their battle is absolutely hilarious and neither one will stop until they "win!"

This book is part graphic novel/part oral history and provides both kids' accounts of their part in the war. The story takes them from their home to their school cafeteria to an online virtual world in a video game. There is no "agreeing to disagree" as the two continually one-up each other in this war of wills. Can this brother and sister find any common ground? Will they ever quit?

I thought THE TAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (WITH EACH OTHER) was hysterically funny and truly a creative story. I loved the characters as well as the way the story was presented, and I think even reluctant readers are going to be drawn to this book. I especially appreciated that the book included not only personal accounts from Claudia and Reese, but also photos, texts, chat logs, screenshots and more!

Of course, Claudia and Reese's pranks were entertaining; and I truly was impressed with how creative they were when it came to outsmarting (or embarrassing) each other. As a reader, it was laugh out loud funny. However as a mom, I really appreciated that there were some valuable lessons included in the story. Both kids eventually came to their senses realized that they were being unusually cruel, and they also admitted that there do have an underlying love for each other... well kind of.

I was delighted to learn that THE TAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (WITH EACH OTHER) is the first book in a new series. The next one, THE TAPPER TWINS TEAR UP NEW YORK, will be available in September. I don't know if I can wait!

THE TAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (WITH EACH OTHER) is a great addition to middle school fiction, and I highly recommend it! Check out this video to get an even better idea of the book:



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, April 10, 2015

Giveaway: Every Fifteen Minutes & $25 Visa Gift Card

Summary: Dr. Eric Parrish is the Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at Havemeyer General Hospital outside of Philadelphia. Recently separated from his wife Alice, he is doing his best as a single Dad to his seven-year-old daughter Hannah. His work seems to be going better than his home life, however. His unit at the hospital has just been named number two in the country and Eric has a devoted staff of doctors and nurses who are as caring as Eric is. But when he takes on a new patient, Eric's entire world begins to crumble. Seventeen-year-old Max has a terminally ill grandmother and is having trouble handling it. That, plus his OCD and violent thoughts about a girl he likes makes Max a high risk patient. Max can't turn off the mental rituals he needs to perform every fifteen minutes that keep him calm. With the pressure mounting, Max just might reach the breaking point. When the girl is found murdered, Max is nowhere to be found. Worried about Max, Eric goes looking for him and puts himself in danger of being seen as a "person of interest" himself. Next, one of his own staff turns on him in a trumped up charge of sexual harassment. Is this chaos all random? Or is someone systematically trying to destroy Eric's life? New York Times best selling author Lisa Scottoline's visceral thriller, Every Fifteen Minutes, brings you into the grip of a true sociopath and shows you how, in the quest to survive such ruthlessness, every minute counts. -- Macmillan Audio

I am super excited about the April 14th release of Lisa Scottoline's new novel EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES. I am a huge fan of her books, both her mysteries and her essay collections; and her latest book looks fantastic. I actually just received a copy of the audiobook yesterday, and I've already loaded it onto my phone so I can listen to it while I work out!

The audiobook version of EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES is read by George Newbern, a prominent voice-over performer and award winning narrator. It's 11 CDs and runs 13.5 hours. You can listen to a sound clip here. And you can watch the book trailer here:
 

Giveaway alert: Thanks to the publisher, I have an amazing giveaway that's really fun and a little different from normal! First, I have a copy of the audiobook EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES to give away, and then I also have a $25 Visa Gift Card. So... one lucky reader will get both the audio version of EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES and a $25 Visa Gift Card!

Now for the fun part! I am only one of the blogs participating in this giveaway. On April 14th, publication day, winners from various blogs will be announced... wait for it... every 15 minutes! Make sure you check out these blogs for their special giveaways!

EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES – BLOG TOUR

Traveling with T – 11:00AM
Liz & Lisa – 11:15AM
• Silver's Reviews  – 11:30AM
• Harlequin Junkie  – 11:45AM

• Good Books and Good Wine  – 1:00PM
• No More Grumpy Bookseller  – 1:15PM
• kritters ramblings  – 1:30PM
• Anita Loves Books  – 1:45PM

• Booking Mama – 3:00PM
• A Southern Girl's Bookshelf  – 3:15PM
• Life is Story – 3:30PM
• Jenn’s Bookshelves – 3:45PM

To enter my giveaway, just fill out the form below before April 14th at 3:00 p.m. EST. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. I will be announcing the winner at 3:00 p.m. EST on the 14th. Good luck!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Mother's Day is right around the corner and it's not too early to start thinking about ideas for the special mothers in your life... especially those who love flowers! Fortunately, I'm going to make things a little easier for you with some wonderful gift suggestions from Quarto Publishing Group!

Summary: The Libraries of the Royal Horticultural Society hold the world's finest collection of printed material on gardens and gardening and a selection of the best botanical paintings from this collection is featured here. One Hundred Flowers from the RHS gathers together the most striking images to create 100 different postcards to send, keep or frame. The earliest works of art date from the late 17th or early 18th century and are by an anonymous Italian artist and the latest are from the middle of the 20th century. -- Frances Lincoln Ltd

100 FLOWERS: ONE HUNDRED POSTCARDS FROM THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY is an gorgeous collection of botanical artwork dating from the late 17th century or early 18th century to the middle of the 20th century. There are 100 different postcards in this set featuring beautiful floral paintings from the Libraries of the Royal Horticultural Society's collection. You can send these postcards to friends, but there are so lovely that you might want to keep them for yourself and frame them!

I was not only impressed with the variety of floral art, but I was also extremely impressed with the quality of these postcards. This set is ideal for art and flower lovers alike!

Summary: Keep your thoughts and ideas in this beautifully illustrated Spring Daisy Journal. Perfectly travel-sized, this nature-themed lined notebook is the perfect place to keep your stories, poems, sketches, and quotes.

Featuring artwork by Jane Dixon, a renowned illustrator and designer,the interior has graphic illustrations of flowers, gardens, and daisies, as well as inspirational quotes from philosophical thinkers.

- 128 lined pages

- Full color artwork on every page

- 8 illustrated inspirational quotes.

- Journal: 5.8 x 8.25 in. -- Rock Point

What woman wouldn't appreciate this adorable SPRING DAISY JOURNAL featuring artwork by Jane Dixon? I certainly would love receiving this cute journal to capture my daily thoughts or even to track my reading list! This book contains 128 lined pages and includes full color artwork on every page. There are also eight inspirational quotations that appear throughout the journal.

The SPRING DAISY JOURNAL is just a perfect gift for this time of year. The gorgeous spring colors are guaranteed to brighten any mother's day!

Summary: Twenty vintage flower seed packet note cards make your relationships bloom - just add your personal message!

Modern technology has given us so many ways to contact each other. It's wonderfully convenient, but can leave a little to be desired. Messages of love, thanks, and appreciation deserve a more personal touch. A heartfelt, handwritten note will never go out of style!

Send a special note on one of these vintage flower seed packet note cards.

The collection includes Twenty cards, five each of four designs, featuring the colorful and artistic seed packet designs from yesteryear, plus a corresponding colorful envelope. The note cards are blank inside for the ultimate in personalization, but each type also has a brief description of the featured art for a little added touch of history.

An attractive, hinged-lid gift box with a magnetic enclosure keeps the cards organized. A ribbon loop makes the box easy to open. This set is great for personal use or gift-giving. The cards are perfect as thank-you cards, to include with a gift, and for dashing off a note to stay in touch with loved ones.

Don't let the impersonal nature of the Internet get in the way of your relationships. Nothing beats a handwritten note! -- Rock Point

And last but certainly not least is the VINTAGE FLOWER SEED PACKET NOTE CARDS. This boxed set includes 20 quality note cards with envelopes and has absolutely stunning artwork featuring a variety of vintage flower seed packets. There are four different note cards (that's five of each card if you're counting!) as well as pretty blue envelopes.

I am probably one of the few people who still use note cards on a regular basis, but I love having nice cards to use for a quick note or thank you note. This set couldn't be more elegant with it's hinged and magnetic storage box, ribbon flap and high quality paper. In addition, each note card has a little description of the artwork to provide some background on the individual seed packets!

As cute as these three items are, Quarto Publishing Group has many more items that are perfect for the upcoming Mother's Day holiday. There are items for just about any type of mom including ones who love literature and nature, and there are even some really cool ones for the "funky" mom in your life! Make sure you check out their collection here.

Thanks to Quarto Publishing Group for providing review copies of these items.