Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kid Konnection: Mister Cleghorn's Seal

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 lovely book by none other than the world renowned author Judith Kerr.

Summary: An exquisite new story to delight readers young and old, from a much-loved writer and illustrator.

What do you do if you find an abandoned seal pup on a rock in the middle of the sea? Well, take it home with you to your flat, of course.

At least that’s what Mr Albert Cleghorn thought, though perhaps he hadn’t considered all the complications…

This is the story of what then happened to Mr Cleghorn and Charlie the seal in their determination to find a home for Charlie and, incidentally, happiness for them both.

Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, Mister Cleghorn’s Seal is a classic in the making from the inimitable Judith Kerr. -- Harper 360

It's been 37 years, but Judith Kerr has written a new book titled MISTER CLEGHORN'S SEAL. This is her first chapter book aimed at early-middle grade readers, and I thought it was absolutely delightful. Needless to say, MISTER CLEGHORN'S SEAL is one of those books for readers of all ages.

In MISTER CLEGHORN'S SEAL, a man on vacation discovers an abandoned seal pup in the middle of the sea. Believe it or not, he names him Charlie and brings him home to live with him in his flat -- this turns out to be quite the adventure. The seal lives in the bathtub and on the balcony, but as he grows, Mister Cleghorn learns that his city apartment is far from ideal for bringing up Charlie.

Mister Cleghorn, with the help of his friend Miss Craig, set out to find a home for Charlie. In the process, Charlie and Mister Cleghorn end up finding new homes and happiness!

I adored MISTER CLEGHORN'S SEAL! It's a precious story about friendship, love, and happiness. It is both charming and touching, and I think kids will love this unlikely story about a man and a seal. In addition, the black and white illustrations by Ms. Kerr are beautiful and the perfect complement to the story.

I found it very interesting to learn that MISTER CLEGHORN'S SEAL was actually based on Ms. Kerr's own father who rescued a seal over 100 years ago. The story didn't have a happy ending, unlike this one, but it did serve as inspiration for Ms. Kerr's book. Check out this article from Publishers Weekly for additional information on the book and the background story.

MISTER CLEGHORN'S SEAL was definitely worth a 37 year wait. It's a wonderful book for early middle grade readers as well as kids who enjoy a fun read-along story. Highly recommended!

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

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Giveaway: Brenda Novak's Fairham Island Series

I had the best intentions of reading Brenda Novak's THE SECRETS SHE KEPT, as well as the first book in the series THE SECRET SISTER, prior to offering this giveaway. However, you know what they say about the best laid plans... My summer has been nothing short of crazy and I haven't read near as many books as I had hoped! In the meantime, that doesn't mean that I can't share what I have learned about these two books.

THE SECRETS SHE KEPT is the second book in the Fairham Island series. The first book in the series, THE SECRET SISTER, received some fantastic reviews when it was released. In fact, the San Francisco Book Review called it, “the best romantic thriller I’ve read.” (See why I wanted to read these books?)

Here's the publishers summary for the latest book THE SECRETS SHE KEPT:

Exciting, emotional, intense. The thrilling follow-up to New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak's highly acclaimed The Secret Sister. The things that happen in families are always surprising and sometimes shocking!

The rich and powerful Josephine Lazarow, matriarch of Fairham Island, is dead. The police say it's suicide, but Keith, her estranged son, doesn't believe it.

Keith bears scars—both physical and emotional—from his childhood, but he's worked hard to overcome the past. After walking away from his mother and her controlling ways five years ago, he's built a new life in LA. He's also accumulated a fortune of his own. But as soon as he learns of his mother's death, he returns to Fairham. He feels he owes it to his grandfather to put the family empire together again—and he's determined to find his mother's killer.

Problem is…coming home to Fairham puts him back in contact with Nancy Dellinger, the woman he hurt so badly when he left before. And digging that deep into his mother's final days and hours entails a very real risk.

Because the person who killed her could be someone he loves… -- Mira

I am so excited that I have both THE SECRETS SHE KEPT and THE SECRET SISTER to giveaway to one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 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!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Guest Review: Red Platoon

Summary: “‘It doesn’t get better.’ To us, that phrase nailed one of the essential truths, maybe even the essential truth, about being stuck at an outpost whose strategic and tactical vulnerabilities were so glaringly obvious to every soldier who had ever set foot in that place that the name itself—Keating—had become a kind of backhanded joke.” 

In 2009, Clinton Romesha of Red Platoon and the rest of the Black Knight Troop were preparing to shut down Command Outpost (COP) Keating, the most remote and inaccessible in a string of bases built by the U.S. military in Nuristan and Kunar in the hope of preventing Taliban insurgents from moving freely back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Three years after its construction, the army was finally ready to concede what the men on the ground had known immediately: it was simply too isolated and too dangerous to defend. 

On October 3, 2009, after years of constant smaller attacks, the Taliban finally decided to throw everything they had at Keating. The ensuing 14-hour battle—and eventual victory—cost 8 men their lives. 

Red Platoon is the riveting first-hand account of the Battle of Keating, told by Romesha, who spearheaded both the defense of the outpost and the counter-attack that drove the Taliban back beyond the wire, and received the Medal of Honor for his actions. -- Dutton

I'd like to welcome back my dad to Booking Mama. His latest review is for the book RED PLATOON: A TRUE STORY OF AMERICAN VALOR by Clinton Romesha. Here are his thoughts:

In RED PLATOON, author and Metal of Honor recipient, Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha gives a first-hand account of the brutal attack on combat outpost Keating, the most remote outpost in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

In 2009, the American Army’s Black Knight Troop was sent to Keating to close down the base that was set up only three years earlier. By then, the military realized that the outpost was extremely dangerous because the Taliban enemy held the high ground and rendered the location nearly impossible to defend. On October 3, 2009, only three days before the outpost dismantling was to begin, the Taliban launched a horrific attack by an estimated 300 personnel against an outpost manpower that included 50 Americans and an Afghani military force of about 30. In the ensuing 13 hour battle, 27 American soldiers were wounded and 8 lost their lives. An estimated 150 Taliban were killed in the American victory that was aided by tremendous air support. Additionally 3 Afghani soldiers perished but sadly 15 went AWOL during the battle. The one thing that touched me more than any other was the intensive effort that the survivors, some seriously wounded, made to recover the bodies of the fallen soldiers before the Taliban could take them for propaganda purposes.

In RED PLATOON, Romesha outlines the personal histories and personalities of the key members of his platoon before describing the details of the battle. This allows the reader to see these soldiers as real people who are engaged in a life and death battle.

Romesha’s account definitely captures the dangers that our armed forces are exposed to in the various military actions throughout the Middle East. His story gives the reader a close-up view of war that we don’t fully grasp in reading the daily newspaper accounts or watching TV news.

This detailed first-hand account will place RED PLATOON alongside LONE SURVIVOR by Marcus Luttrell and AMERICAN SNIPER by Chris Kyle as excellent accounts of how our military performs when placed in harm’s way.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places

Summary: Lisa and Francesca are back with another collection of warm and witty stories that will strike a chord with every woman. This six book series is among the best reviewed humor books published today and has been compared to the late greats, Erma Bombeck and Nora Ephron. Delia Ephron said of the fifth book in the series, Have a Nice Guilt Trip, "Lisa and Francesca, mother and daughter, bring you the laughter of their lives once again and better than ever. You will identify with these tales of guilt and fall in love with them and fierce (grand) Mother Mary." This seventh volume will not disappoint as it hits the humorous and poignant note that fans have come to expect from the beloved mother-daughter duo. -- St. Martin's Press

My reading time has definitely taken a hit this summer. Normally, I get a ton of books read during our weekly beach vacation, but this year, we hit Orlando so I got nothing read except one book on the plane ride. I've also found that I've been really distracted these past few months, and very few books have held my interest. That's why I needed a book like I'VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella.

I'VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES is a collection of humorous essays by mother/daughter duo Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. This is their seventh book together so you know these books must be successful and well-loved. They are a great mix of funny life stories, insightful social commentary, and even touching and heartfelt stories about family and friendship. I think the essays were especially appealing to me because I could read a few at a time without having to focus for too long -- isn't that a pitiful thing to say for a book blogger?

I enjoyed I'VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES quite a bit. I found myself nodding in agreement with their essays, and I even laughed out loud quite a few times. I don't want to give too much away, but there is one story titled "Not a Creatures was Stirring" that is absolutely hilarious in a very gross way. I was actually reading this one during a visit to the doctor's office, and I couldn't stop laughing. I'm sure the other patients thought I was absolutely crazy!

As is the case with any collection of essays, there are some that resonated with me more than others. I am actually between these two women in age, but I think I related to Ms. Scottoline's stories about aging a bit more than her daughter's story about single life in New York. Ms. Scottoline has decided that comfort is now more important than appearance, and I found her tales about soft clothes and going braless to be hilarious!

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy Ms. Serritella's stories. She goes into detail about the time she was the victim of an attack, and I loved her honesty and courage... and her mother's reaction! Needless to say, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot of humor in these parts; however, they were exactly what I've come to expect from these books. These books reflect life, both the good and the bad; and I love how these two smart and funny women share so much of their lives with readers.

I'VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES is a very entertaining book that's perfect for summer reading. Highly recommended to fans of Ms. Scottoline and Ms. Serritella as well as readers who appreciate humorous essays.

Thanks to Trident Media Group and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: You Will Know Me

Summary: How far will you go to achieve a dream? That's the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits--until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.

As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers--about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself--forces Katie to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream.

From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl" (Janet Maslin), You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of parental sacrifice, furtive desire, and the staggering force of ambition. -- Little Brown

This is an exciting week for fans of Megan Abbott and her thrillers! Tomorrow, her latest book YOU WILL KNOW ME will be released; and I have to say I think it's fantastic. This novel focuses on the world of competitive gymnastics. And could there be any better timing with the Olympics starting in a little over a week.

YOU WILL KNOW ME tells the story of the Knox family and how a violent death affects them. Katie and Eric are the parents of Devon, a big-time elite gymnast; and they are very involved in their daughter's life and especially her gymnastic career. Katie is continually amazed at her daughter's talents, while Eric is head of the booster club at her gym. The Knox family's entire world revolves around Devon's success.

One night after a party celebrating Devon's latest success, a tragedy occurs which affects the entire gym. The coach's niece Hailey, who is also an assistant coach at the gym, learns that her boyfriend Ryan was killed in a hit and run accident. All of the girls at the gym (and even their moms) have had slight crushes on Ryan, and the rumors surrounding his death start flying.

As sad as Ryan's death is, it also just happens to be a really bad time for Devon. The elite qualifier competition is only a few months away, and her coach is distracted. In fact, practices are being cancelled and Devon is feeling very frustrated. Her father, Eric, steps in and promises her that he will do whatever it takes for her to reach the next level.

Meanwhile, Hailey begins threatening Devon, both verbally and physically; and Katie and Eric's young son begins speaking strange words about his sister's actions. Everyone associated with the gym wonders who could have wanted Ryan dead, and Katie even begins to doubt if those she loves the most could have played a part!

I absolutely loved YOU WILL KNOW ME. That's probably not a big surprise to those of you familiar with Ms. Abbott's books. She is truly a gifted writer who undoubtedly delivers a suspenseful tale. This novel was dark and, at times, difficult for me to read (in a good way); and I was very impressed with how the tension built throughout the story and how I was kept on the edge of my seat.

Another wonderful thing about this novel was how well Ms. Abbot captured the essence of the characters, especially teenage girls and their families. As a mother to a 16 year old daughter, I am always a bit uncomfortable with how she portrays girls... but at the same time, I love it because it's so intriguing! In addition, I thought her portrayal of the entire Knox family, from Katie to Eric to their young son, was fascinating. There were a lot of family dynamics going on between the pages of YOU WILL KNOW ME, and they definitely made me think about not only the Knox family but families as a whole.

And that brings me to my next point -- I love that this story was told through the eyes of Katie. As a mother, I enjoyed seeing how Katie processed the events surrounding her daughter and how she eventually reacted to them. I think the decision to feature the mother's side of this story made the family dynamic aspect of the novel much more important -- maybe even more important than the mystery/suspense aspect.

Finally, I appreciated how the author brought to life the world of gymnastics (both the good and the bad.) As the Olympics rapidly approach, I always find myself drawn to stories about the athletes; and I know I'm not alone. While I hope the world of gymnastics isn't quite this cut-throat, I would be naive in not acknowledging the almost desperate nature of these young woman. I realize that the desire to reach the pinnacle of the sport requires a pretty intense individual as well as a family who will support her no matter the cost.

Overall, YOU WILL KNOW ME is an outstanding thriller that takes place in the world of competitive gymnastics. I love that it not only was suspenseful but that it also focused on the inner-workings of very complicated family. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Tandem Literary for providing a review copy of this novel.

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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Kid Konnection: More from National Geographic Kids

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 more fantastic books from National Geographic Kids.

Summary: Ready to exercise your brain? Let zany superbraniac Ima Genius be your guide in this interactive book full of fascinating brain facts, puzzles, games, and challenges. Learn what type of thinker you are and the geniuses that share your special type of intellect. Discover why your brain does what it does, and how that affects vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, spatial reasoning, language, memory, and problem solving. Each chapter is filled not only with fun and games, but also famous historical cases, crazy quizzes, exciting experiments, and a glossary of Genius Jargon, invented for advanced brain-related vocabulary. -- National Geographic Kids

Booking Son thinks MASTER-MIND: OVER 100 GAMES, TESTS, AND PUZZLES TO UNLEASH YOUR INNER GENIUS by Stephanie Warren Drimmer with puzzles by Julie K. Cohen looks fantastic. In fact, he's waiting for me to finish writing my review so he can "have" it! I have to say that I totally agree with him that MASTER-MIND looks like a lot of fun.

MASTER-MIND is another great release from National Geographic Kids. This book, aimed at kids ages 8 - 12, is full of puzzles that will work your brain. But it's more than just puzzles and games. It also teaches children how their brain works. I remember my parents buying me many puzzle books when I was a kid, but I never remember learning the processing mechanisms of my own brain. I think that's a wonderful concept!

The book has a very fun vibe. It's printed on colorful pages with cute graphics, cartoons, and more. There are also fun facts listed along with over 100 games, tests, and puzzles. I liked the quiz at the beginning of the book that helps identify "What Kind of Genius Are You?" as well as the pages that describe the basics of the brain.

And then the fun begins with all of the fun games! There are time trials, mazes, multiple choice, experiments and more. I know there are only a few weeks left in the summer, but this is a great way to get kids' brains thinking before school starts. And the extra bonus in my house is that every minute Booking Son spends playing with this book is less time that he's playing X-Box.

I seem to love all of the books that National Geographic Kids publishes, but I promise you that MASTER-MIND is a treat! Highly recommended!

Summary: Can you tell the truth from a tall tale? Spot a phony photo a mile away? Figure out a fib in five seconds flat? Put your amateur detective skills to work in this fun and wacky book. See if the truth triumphs as you encounter suspicious stories, fishy facts, lying lists, and more. You'll also learn about history's greatest hoaxes, secrets behind a good fake, internet urban legends, plus bonus information that will leave you second-guessing everything you've ever read. Complete with awesome photos and hilarious collage art, this is one book that you have to read to believe...or not! -- National Geographic Kids

REAL OR FAKE?: FAR-OUT FIBS, FISHY FACTS, AND PHONY PHOTOS TO TEST FOR THE TRUTH by Emily Krieger and illustrated by Tom Nick Cocoons is another great addition to the National Geographic Kids library. This is a small book (about 6 x 6 inches) but that doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of fun information in it. In fact, it's the perfect size to keep in the car for long road trips!

REAL OR FAKE? tests kids' abilities to discern truth from fiction. It encourages kids to pay attention to details and use their brain, but it also recommends going with their gut. This book has some fantastic photographs including some that are very strange, and I think children will love the concept of playing detective and determining what's real... or fake.

I want to give you a few examples of the tests in REAL OR FAKE? The very first one shows and describes an octopus that lives in trees and asks if it is real or fake? I don't want to give too much away but I'm sure you have your own guess. The following page tells readers the answer as well as giving some fun facts about the it. Some other questions are whether Cleopatra had her own secret way to communicate and whether plants make music.

In addition to the real vs. fake sections of the book, there are a few other fun "tests." I liked the Identify the Lie ones. On these pages, there were a list of statements (along with funny pictures) and readers are asked to find the one that isn't true. I am pretty sure that there will be more than a few surprises on these pages... and pretty much throughout the entire book.

REAL OR FAKE? is a fun way to learn, and that's what makes this book so special. I can see kids sharing these fun facts with their siblings, friends, and parents. Highly recommended!

Thanks to Media Masters 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, July 21, 2016

Review: Jane Doe January

Summary: Emily Winslow was a young drama student at an elite conservatory in Pittsburgh when she was brutally raped one night in January 1992. Twenty years later, a man was arrested in New York City. His DNA, recorded in the FBI’s criminal database because of an old drug conviction, had been matched to evidence from another 1992 rape that was similar to Winslow’s, and the police were able to link the crimes. The victims—one from January of that year, the other from November—were kept anonymous in the media. This is the story of Jane Doe January. 

Now a happily married mother of two living in Cambridge, England, Winslow had longed to face her attacker for years. Highly inquisitive and restless for answers, she turned her career as a crime novelist into a personal investigation—she delved into his past, reconnected with the detectives of her case, and worked with prosecutors in the months leading up to the trial. While preparing to testify back in Pennsylvania for the crime committed against her two decades prior, she was pulled between two very different worlds: a hard-boiled American drama of intense detectives and legal bureaucracy, and her rarefied new world in Cambridge, where the university’s rituals and pervasive formality were both a comfort and a challenge.

Jane Doe January is the intimate memoir of a woman’s traumatic past catching up with her. In her first work of nonfiction, Winslow vividly recounts her long quest to see her case resolved, giving way to a strikingly honest narrative about the surprise possibility of justice after twenty years. -- William Morrow

I mentioned a few days ago that my book club read JANE DOE JANUARY: MY TWENTY-YEAR SEARCH FOR TRUTH AND JUSTICE by Emily Winslow for our July meeting. I was the only one who enjoyed it, although enjoy might not be the right word given the subject matter. I found this personal story about a woman who was raped while in college in the early 1990s to be extremely moving.

Emily Winslow was in the drama program at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University when she was brutally attacked and raped by a stranger. The man responsible was never arrested... until over twenty years later when he was arrested for another crime and his DNA matched that of a rapist in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s. The police were able to link the crime with the author's crime, and Ms. Winslow's was desperate to see justice served.

Ms. Winslow had moved to Cambridge, England, and was now happily married and the mother of two young sons when she learned that the man responsible for the rape had been found. As a writer of true crime books, Ms. Winslow put her research skills to the test and began a personal investigation into his life. She thoroughly researched his past while also working closely with the police and prosecutors responsible for putting him in jail for his crimes with the hopes that justice would eventually be served.

JANE DOE JANUARY is an up-front and personal look at one woman's quest for justice twenty years after a horrific crime. It wasn't always easy to read for me and I can't say I was satisfied with the ending... but that's not a testament to the author. Rather, I was extremely impressed with Ms. Winslow's honesty in telling a difficult story as well as her inner strength and courage. So while it was an uncomfortable read at times, I found it to be inspirational and extremely honest.

I will agree with many of my friends that the book was a little slow in places especially in the parts that dealt with the legal intricacies of the trial. I have always been a fan of true crime as well as legal thrillers so I can't say I minded these parts; however, it was an eye-opener in just how tedious and slow-moving our legal system is. What I took away from these parts (besides the sometimes unfair rules) is just how difficult it must be for victims to go through this entire process.

One thing I appreciated about this story was the way Ms. Winslow juxtaposed what was going on in the States concerning the case against her rapist and her life in Cambridge. Needless to say, while both Pittsburgh and Cambridge are "college towns," they couldn't be more different... especially when it came to the people living there. I found her struggles to understand the people in Cambridge to be extremely interesting as was the way she juggled the various players in the case when she returned to Pittsburgh.

Probably the main reason this book was so interesting to me was because I could totally understand the author's passion in learning everything there was to know about her rapist. While many in my book club found Ms. Winslow's writing to be kind of repetitive, I appreciated the honestly of it. Believe me when I say that I think I would be just like Ms. Winslow in her pursuit to uncover anything and everything about this man. And the "repetitiveness" of the book resonated with me because I actually could feel the sense of urgency that Ms. Winslow had.

Despite my group's misgivings about reading JANE DOE JANUARY for a book club meeting, I still recommend it for the "right" groups. There is a reading guide available with five discussion questions as well as a "Behind the Book Essay." Some of the things you might want to discuss are our judicial system, victims' rights, living as a victim both immediately after the crime and decades later, and justice.

I will admit that JANE DOE JANUARY might not be an ideal read for all types of readers; however, I definitely appreciated the story and especially the honesty of the author. Recommended to fans of true crime and memoirs.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: All the Time in the World

Summary: An unforgettable debut about a young woman's choice between the future she's always imagined and the people she's come to love.

Charlotte, a gifted and superbly trained young musician, has been blindsided by a shocking betrayal in her promising career when she takes a babysitting job with the McLeans, a glamorous Upper East Side Manhattan family. At first, the nanny gig is just a way of tiding herself over until she has licked her wounds and figured out her next move as a composer in New York. But, as it turns out, Charlotte is naturally good with children and becomes as deeply fond of the two little boys as they are of her. When an unthinkable tragedy leaves the McLeans bereft, Charlotte is not the only one who realizes that she's the key to holding little George and Matty's world together. Suddenly, in addition to life's usual puzzles, such as sorting out which suitor is her best match, she finds herself with an impossible choice between her life-long dreams and the torn-apart family she's come to love. By turns hilarious, sexy, and wise, Caroline Angell's remarkable and generous debut is the story of a young woman's discovery of the things that matter most. -- Henry Holt

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked up ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD by Caroline Angell. Obviously, I was interested enough in the plot to read the novel; and I'm really glad I did. I was immediately caught up this novel, and I both cried and rejoiced as the main character dealt with tragedy and, in the process, rediscovered her passion.

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD tells the story of Charlotte, an extremely talented musician and composer who ends up working as a nanny for an Upper East Side Manhattan family. After someone Charlotte trusted betrays her in a very bad way, she decides that she needs a break from her music career. She ends up taking a job being a babysitter to two adorable little boys, George and Matty.

Charlotte ends up loving these two kids as well as the entire family, and she learns that she is good with kids -- really good. When an unthinkable tragedy occurs, Charlotte realizes that George and Matty needs her now more than ever. She immerses herself into their lives at the expense of her own family and friends; and she begins to realize that she just might have to give up her musical dreams for these two little boys... and their dad.

I loved ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD -- it was so smart and refreshing! I loved the relationship between Charlotte and the boys, and I also appreciated all of the challenges that Charlotte faced. I found the characters in this novel to be very real, and I loved how the story worked all of my emotions. I actually did cry for Charlotte and the family, but I also celebrated Charlotte's little joys and her path to self-discovery.

Despite sounding like a sad story (and don't get me wrong, it was really sad!), I have to mention just how funny and playful this book was. Needless to say, I wasn't really expecting this. Charlotte is a young woman living in New York, and I found her dating experiences to be rather entertaining. In addition, as many moms will know, taking care of kids can provide a few chuckles, especially (in hindsight) when it comes to missing toys, puking incidents, and toddler tantrums.

One thing that definitely impressed me about this novel was the way the story was told. The novel is written in Charlotte's voice, which is absolutely perfect with its honesty and purpose; and it really helps readers relate to the character. In addition, the novel goes back and forth in time starting with the tragic accident, back to when Charlotte first met the family, further back to her time as a graduate student, and to the future when Charlotte and the family were forced to adapt to their loss. It might sound confusing, but it wasn't at all -- again a testament to the author. In fact, I think the back and forth between time periods made for a fast paced story and definitely kept the novel moving.

As I was "along for the ride" with Charlotte, I was concerned that the ending of this book would be a disappointment. I wasn't always confident that Charlotte would find her way. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that I was happy with it -- more than happy with it. I loved the life lessons that Charlotte learned. I loved that she realized what was important in her life. And I loved that she was able to find some happiness and contentment.

I do think ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD would make a terrific book club selection. I didn't even begin to touch the depth of this novel. It does have a lot going on and, therefore, would make for a great discussion. There is a reading guide with fourteen thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include parenting, grief, loss, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, passion, marriage, relationships, money, family, and self-discovery.

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD was one of my favorite books of the summer. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy literary fiction and especially coming-of-age stories for adults!

Thanks to FSB Associates for providing a review copy of this novel.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Booking Mamas' July Meeting

Summary: Emily Winslow was a young drama student at an elite conservatory in Pittsburgh when she was brutally raped one night in January 1992. Twenty years later, a man was arrested in New York City. His DNA, recorded in the FBI’s criminal database because of an old drug conviction, had been matched to evidence from another 1992 rape that was similar to Winslow’s, and the police were able to link the crimes. The victims—one from January of that year, the other from November—were kept anonymous in the media. This is the story of Jane Doe January.

Now a happily married mother of two living in Cambridge, England, Winslow had longed to face her attacker for years. Highly inquisitive and restless for answers, she turned her career as a crime novelist into a personal investigation—she delved into his past, reconnected with the detectives of her case, and worked with prosecutors in the months leading up to the trial. While preparing to testify back in Pennsylvania for the crime committed against her two decades prior, she was pulled between two very different worlds: a hard-boiled American drama of intense detectives and legal bureaucracy, and her rarefied new world in Cambridge, where the university’s rituals and pervasive formality were both a comfort and a challenge.

Jane Doe January is the intimate memoir of a woman’s traumatic past catching up with her. In her first work of nonfiction, Winslow vividly recounts her long quest to see her case resolved, giving way to a strikingly honest narrative about the surprise possibility of justice after twenty years. -- William Morrow

The Booking Mamas met last Friday night to discuss JANE DOE JANUARY: MY TWENTY-YEAR SEARCH FOR TRUTH AND JUSTICE by Emily Winslow. Normally we meet on Tuesdays, but our hostess decided to do something a little special this month. Check out this spread:
And one of my friends made two amazing desserts. Isn't that lemon meringue pie incredible? And she "claims" it's her first attempt with meringue. Seriously?
If I'm being entirely honest, as far discussions go, it wasn't much of one. I had heard from a few members prior to our meeting that they didn't enjoy the book, and we had one who didn't read it and another few who only read the beginning and the end. I was probably the only one who actually thought the book was good... but I was the one who picked it!

Many of my friends complained that the book was too repetitive, and they got bored with it. I do think books dealing with the subjects of rape and justice are never easy to read; however, I actually appreciated the author's honesty. I didn't really find the book repetitive like the other members, but I did feel that her style conveyed just how much this event lived with her for decades. I will go more into my thoughts on this book later this week when I review it!

I also think the subject of rape just hit a little too close to home for us. The author was raped when she was in college in Pittsburgh. Almost all of us have daughters between the ages of of 15 and 17, and they will be heading off to college in just a year or two. Many of us found this book to be scary, and I know it's not something many of us want to think about.

I think my book club's biggest issue was that it's summer and everyone just would have preferred a lighter, more fun read. I thought it would be interesting to read something a little different for our group, but I obviously was the only one.

For August, we will be reading MARLENE by C.W. Gortner. I am a huge fan of Mr. Gortner's novels for years, and I adored his previous novel about Coco Chanel. I am truly thrilled that my book club all agree to this one!

Summary: From the cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the dazzling film studios of Hollywood’s golden age, an enthralling novel of a glamorous legend Maria Magdalena Dietrich was born for a life on the stage. Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, the willful teenager vows to become an actress and singer, trading her family’s proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited decadence of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses—and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention—until she finds overnight success in her breakthrough film role as the cabaret singer Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel. 

For Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler rises to power, she sets sail for America. Her image as an erotic temptress captures worldwide attention, and she becomes one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, starring in one high-profile film—and affair—after another. Though Hitler tries to lure her back to Germany, Marlene chooses instead to become a citizen of her new nation, even as America enters the war against her fatherland.

But one day, she must return to Germany, escorted by General George Patton himself. In the devastated cities and the concentration camps, she comes face-to-face with how the evils of fascism transformed her country, and the family she thought she knew.

Lushly descriptive, as alluring as the lady herself, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged a path on her own terms. -- William Morrow

Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: Lacy Eye

Summary: A haunting, evocative novel about a woman who might have to face the disturbing truth about her own daughter.

Hanna and Joe send their awkward daughter Dawn off to college hoping that she will finally "come into her own." When she brings her new boyfriend, Rud, to her sister's wedding, her parents try to suppress their troubling impressions of him for Dawn's sake. Not long after, Hanna and Joe suffer a savage attack at home, resulting in Joe's death and Hanna's severe injury and memory loss.

Rud is convicted of the crime, and the community speculates that Dawn may also have been involved. When Rud wins an appeal and Dawn returns to live in the family home, Hanna resolves to recall that traumatic night so she can testify in the retrial, exonerate her daughter, and keep her husband's murderer in jail.

But as those memories resurface, Hanna faces the question of whether she knows her own daughter-and whether she ever did. -- Grand Central

A few weeks ago, my good friend mentioned that she really enjoyed the novel LACY EYE by Jessica Treadway. I quickly remembered that I already had a copy, so I grabbed it out of my book stash. It wasn't a traditional mystery (my friend claims to hate mysteries!), so I figured it was more of a psychological thriller. I admit to not loving the title or the cover, although I think the book was released with a new cover (which is much better in my opinion); however, I decided to take her word for it that it was an intriguing read.

Here's the new cover just in case you're interested:
LACY EYE is a disturbing story about a woman trying to heal both physically and mentally from a brutal attack that left her almost dead and claimed the life of her husband. I say disturbing because the book really examined a mother's love and the difficulties she had with coming to terms about the likely truth about her daughter.

Hanna and her husband Joe always felt that their daughter Dawn was a little different. Their other daughter seemed to have it all, but Dawn really struggled to make and keep friends. When they sent her away to college, they hoped that she'd find her way. Instead, she brought home a guy named Rud who was extremely odd and far from the man they wanted for their daughter.

Soon after meeting Rud, Hanna and Joe are brutally attacked in their own home. There were signs that it wasn't a typical break-in, and the intruders had inside knowledge of the house and alarm system. Joe is beaten to death while Hanna is permanently scarred and suffers from memory loss. Rud is convicted of the crime while Dawn is free to go on with her life.

Just because the prosecution didn't press charges against Dawn doesn't mean that many in the community, including Hanna's other daughter, believe she is guilty. Hanna can't remember details but she's confident that Dawn would never have harmed her and her husband.

When Rud is granted an appeal, Dawn returns home to live with her mother; and Hanna welcomes her with open arms. Meanwhile, the prosecutor wants Hanna to work on remembering the night of the accident so she can move forward with her case against Rud. Hanna quickly agrees because she wants to make sure Rud stays in prison for a very long time... and that she can exonerate her daughter once and for all. As Hanna begins to have flashbacks to that horrific evening, she starts to question not only her memory of the past but also what her daughter is capable of.

If I'm being entirely honest, I enjoyed LACY EYE but I didn't love it. I think based on my friend's recommendation as well as the book being selected as a Target Club Pick, I might have set my expectations a little to high. The book was good and I'm glad that I read it. I just didn't love it like I had hoped.

There were many things very well done in LACY EYE. Probably the most impressive to me was the way the author explored family dynamics. I appreciated both the present day portrayal of Dawn and Hanna's relationship as well as the way they got along (and didn't get along) in the past. It was a very interesting (and to me disturbing) relationship because, in my opinion, Dawn was angry and crazy... and that was a very dangerous combination.

What bothered me a little bit about LACY EYE was the way Hanna was portrayed. On one hand, I understood her desire to believe in her daughter. What mother wants to think the worst about their child? As a mother, it broke my heart to see Hanna come to terms with the possible truth about Dawn. But on the other hand, she was almost unbelievable with the extent of her denial. What was initially pity turned into almost disdain as she refused to see what was happening around her.

Having said that, though, I do think LACY EYE was a very good example of a novel that showed how a family was torn apart (both literally and figuratively) over one of its family members. I definitely recommend this novel to fans of literary fiction and psychological thrillers.

Thanks to the author and her publicist for providing a review copy of this novel.

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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kid Konnection: More National Geographic Kids 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 educational books that are also a lot of fun!

Summary: Fans of Disney Pixar's Finding Dory and Finding Nemo movies will love meeting the real underwater critters behind the film in this colorful, fact-filled nonfiction book. From life in coral reefs, to sharks and rays, to sea birds, kids will meet incredible sea-based animals in action, including the blue tang fish and clownfish. It's all captured with beautiful underwater photography and features cool info about our oceans -- including fascinating facts, maps, and marine conservation tips and efforts. -- National Geographic

The time couldn't be better for the new book OCEAN ANIMALS: WHO'S WHO IN THE DEEP BLUE by Johanna Rizzo. With so many kids going to the movie Finding Dory this summer, this book is sure to be a hit for those who want to learn more about the various ocean animals that appear in the movie.

OCEAN ANIMALS: WHO'S WHO IN THE DEEP BLUE is full of incredibly beautiful photographs... as is the case with all of the National Geographic Kids books that I've been featuring these past few months. This book, however, is so amazing because it also has tons of facts about these  interesting creatures. I don't know what's more impressive, the pictures or the educational information!

The book begins with the various oceans in the world and moves to the different layers of life in the water. Then the sections about the living parts of the oceans begin. There are chapters for Coral Reefs, Sharks & Rays, Marine Mammals, Whales & Dolphins, Marine Reptiles, Marine Birds, Bizarre Creatures, and Ocean Habitats. There are also sections on the Pristine Seas Project and 20 Ways You Can Protect the Ocean.

I just love how the information in presented in this book. There are sections of fun facts, comparisons between animals, maps, charts, and more. Each page provides something different for inquiring minds, and I do believe the book can be appreciated by either skimming it or reading it from cover to cover.

I have always loved aquariums and OCEAN ANIMALS: WHO'S WHO IN THE DEEP BLUE is like having your very own aquarium in your library. Highly recommended.

Summary: Going on a road trip? See the silly side of travel as you explore the wackiest landmarks from around the world -- a place where you can walk in real dinosaur tracks, a hotel where you sleep in an igloo, a crazy beard festival, a UFO museum, and so much more. You won't believe our world is full of so many bizarre and wonderful places! -- National Geographic

125 WACKY ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS is another fun addition to the National Geographic Kids library. This book is perfect for summer travels because it includes 125 of the craziest landmarks around the world!

I found this book to be incredibly interesting. I had no idea that these places existed, and I loved that these wacky places were combined into one resource book. For example, there is a hotel where giraffes can come through the window and share your meal and a hotel in Turkey where the rooms are all underground. There is a museum of bad art and a corn palace in South Dakota. The list could go on and on!

Of course, it's highly unlikely that your travels will take you around the world to visit all 125 wacky roadside attractions; however, the book is a great addition to your summer travels. For each of the 125 attractions, there is a paragraph telling readers where they can find it as well as a brief description. I couldn't believe the assortment of attractions they identified... or truly the assortment of attractions that exist around the world!

125 WACKY ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS is another entertaining and educational book for inquisitive kids! Definitely a fun addition to the summer reading list!

Thanks to Media Masters 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, July 14, 2016

Guest Review: The Insider Threat

Summary: In the eighth action-packed thriller in the New York Times bestselling Pike Logan series, ISIS, the most maniacal terrorist organization the modern world has ever seen, is poised to make their most audacious strike yet.

The United States has anticipated and averted countless attacks from terrorist groups—thanks in large part to the extralegal counterterrorist unit known as the Taskforce. But in The Insider Threat, a much more insidious evil is about to shatter the false sense of safety surrounding civilized nations. While world powers combat ISIS on the battlefield, a different threat is set in motion by the group—one that can’t be defeated by an airstrike. Off the radar of every Western intelligence organization, able to penetrate America or any European state, they intend to commit an act of unimaginable barbarity. Only Pike Logan and the Taskforce stand in the way of an attack no one anticipates, a grand deception that will wreak unthinkable chaos and reverberate throughout the Western world. -- Dutton

Booking Pap Pap is back! He's had a busy summer filled with lots of travel, but he's still managed to read a few books. The latest one is the thriller THE INSIDER THREAT by Brad Taylor. Here are his thoughts:

THE INSIDER THREAT by Brad Taylor is his eighth book featuring Pike Logan. Logan is the team leader of a secret American counterterrorism unit called the Taskforce.

After seeing a video of four non-Arabic American Jihadists beheading several ISIS captives, a U.S. government agency assigns Pike and the Taskforce the job of preventing one of the greatest fears of American intelligence – the possibility of American Jihadists bringing their terror and hatred back home. Four Americans, known as the Lost Boys, who escaped from a Florida detention center and supposedly joined ISIS, are front and center in the investigation. Logan’s team joins forces with an Israeli team to determine if the stories about the Lost Boys are real, and if so, when and where they are planning to attack. What they find is a planned attack so barbaric and terrifying that it must be stopped.

THE INSIDER THREAT deals with a very real and current threat and the treatment of the issues is done in a way that is both believable and informative. The characters are well developed and the author mixes in some relationship issues with Logan and the only female member of the Taskforce. Additionally, the interaction among the American and Israeli team members reveals the human side of some of the characters. I suspect the Israeli team could be part of future Pike Logan novels. The tactics and methods used by the Jihadists also adds an element of reality to the storyline. The author does a good job of providing hints along the way but doesn’t reveal the ISIS target until the very end. My criticisms of the book are few and very minor. Early in the book, I found it difficult to figure out who was who because of the number of characters and the Arabic names. I also found that on occasion the author provided so much technical information that the reader can get lost in the detail. 

THE INSIDER THREAT mixes terrorism, surveillance, and military-like actions into a very good, fast-paced suspense thriller that I recommend to those who enjoy the thriller genre. Although THE INSIDER THREAT stands on its own, it may be of interest to read some of the other seven books in the Pike Logan series.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Author Interview: Hollie Overton & Giveaway

Summary: Escape was just the beginning.

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next... to Lily, to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter—and to her captor.

For fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, BABY DOLL is the most tense thriller you will read this year. -- Redhook

Just a few days ago, I reviewed the debut novel BABY DOLL by Hollie Overton. I enjoyed this suspense-filled story about a young woman who had recently escaped from a man who was holding her and her daughter as prisoners. I appreciated how the book delved into the challenges the woman faced after returning home as well as her unique relationship with her identical twin sister.

I am so excited to welcome the author, Hollie Overton, to Booking Mama. She graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions about her writing process and the novel. She even provided some great book recommendations!

1. When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer? Did you always have a knack for storytelling? 

It was a bit of a roundabout journey to becoming a writer. Growing up, my mother was our sole provider, so money was tight. When I was seven, we went to the mall, and Mom told my twin sister and I that we could each pick out one item. Ignoring clothes, shoes and jewelry, I settled on a floral tapestry-colored journal. I filled that journal and the dozens that followed with random stories, fragments of conversations and daydreams for the future. I always had a talent for writing in school. I won lots of writing contests, even placed third in the state in a high school journalism contest. But acting was my first love. It was only after years of attempting to tell other people’s stories as an actor that I finally realized I was ready to share my own with the the world.

2. I am curious about your writing process. Did you write BABY DOLL after creating an outline and organizing the plot, or is your writing more organic in nature? 

As a TV writer, the process is very structured. You have to outline because your story has to fit into a very specific format. I always imagined that writing a novel would be the same. I was wrong. I didn’t really have a full-formed idea when I started writing BABY DOLL. It was a very organic process. I had been hearing news stories about the three Cleveland women that were kidnapped and held captive for ten years by Ariel Castro. I kept thinking about my sister and what would happen if she were kidnapped and returned home eight years later. I wrote the first ninety pages of BABY DOLL in less than two weeks. It was a bit manic when I think about it. Once I got a little further along, I created an outline so I’d have a solid blueprint writing the last half of the book. It wasn’t structured at all. I’m not sure I’d advise other writers to that way but I enjoyed not being confined by any rules and just figuring it out as I went along.

3. Did you find it challenging to write chapters from different viewpoints?

I loved jumping back and forth between the various characters. There’s something exciting as a writer to be able to explore different character’s perspectives and insights and to really understand what they’re thinking. But I had to make sure that every character had their own distinct personality and their own internal monologue, that they felt unique and different. There are challenges when you’re doing that. I had to really think about where each chapter ended and how emotionally each character would respond. Sometimes I longed to go back to an earlier moment with the next character, but structurally that didn’t make sense. I also struggled initially with writing Rick, the antagonist in the book. He’s an awful human being and after I wrote his first chapter, I questioned whether I should keep writing him. In the end, Rick provided the momentum that the story needed.

4. There are quite a few surprises in BABY DOLL. Did any of the characters or their actions “surprise” you? 

I don’t want to give away any spoilers but there’s something that happens at the end of the book that surprised me, a twist I didn’t plan. But it felt completely right. That’s why I enjoyed not plotting everything out. There’s something so satisfying as a writer when a character makes a decision that you weren’t expecting. It’s a total rush.

5. I live only 30 miles or so from Lancaster, PA, the setting of BABY DOLL; and I liked recognizing some of the city’s locales. There aren’t a whole of of suspense novels that take place in or near Lancaster. What made you decide to use Lancaster as a setting? 

When I was nineteen and living in NYC, I took a train trip with my best friend to visit her grandparents, who lived in Lancaster. There was something so picturesque and safe about it, the Amish communities and people making candles and picket fenced homes. It stayed with me. When I started writing BABY DOLL and thinking about where I wanted to set it, I wanted a place that felt safe. Lancaster seemed like a town where nothing bad could happen, a place where someone with charm and good looks could hide something darker and more sinister. In some ways, I wanted Lancaster to represent any small town in America, but I’m thrilled that I captured enough specifics to make it feel familiar to a local.

6. Is Novel #2 in the works? Any hints about the plot? 

I’ve been hard at work on my second novel, THE WALLS, which will be out next summer. I’ve completed a draft and I’m in the process of editing and revising. THE WALLS is about a single mother who works for the Texas Department of Corrections, handling everything from inmate interviews to chronicling the last moments of an execution. When she falls in love and marries the wrong man, she realizes she must utilize the criminal justice system she knows so well, to get rid of her new husband — permanently. THE WALLS explores domestic violence, the morality of murder, and how far one woman will go to protect her family.

7. And I have to ask because I’m always on the lookout for book recommendations, what are you currently reading? What are some books that you would like to recommend to Booking Mama readers? 

I loved Before the Fall by Noah Hawley so much that I read it in one evening. The characters are incredibly well drawn and it’s a mystery that surprised and satisfied me. It’s one of those books you just have to binge. I also just finished Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, a novel about a young woman who lands a job as a waitress at a fine dining restaurant in NYC. It’s a compelling coming of age story, with exquisite descriptions about life in NYC and the struggle making it in your twenties. It encapsulated so much of my life and time in NYC, that I felt envious that I didn’t write it. Next up on my list is The Woman in the Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware and The Method 15/33 by Shannon Kirk.

A tense, unique psychological thriller, Baby Doll is a remarkable first novel from TV writer Hollie Overton, who has worked Cold Case, The Client List, and the new Shadowhunters on ABC Family.

Debut author Hollie Overton was raised by her single mother, and Hollie—an identical twin herself—draws on her unique childhood experiences for her first novel, Baby Doll. Overton's father was a member of the notorious Overton gang in Austin, Texas, and spent several years in prison for manslaughter. Hollie is a television writer and resides in Los Angeles.

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of BABY DOLL to share with one lucky reader courtesy of the publisher. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 26th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open for those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

I am so thrilled to be part of the BABY DOLL tour. Make sure to check out the other tour stops:

Monday (July 11) Hollie Overton stops by to introduce Baby Doll and share the personal experiences that inspired the book.

Tuesday (July 12) Hollie Overton guest posts on to talk about being an identical twin herself, and who her favorite fictional twins are.

Thursday (July 14) Hollie Overton – a TV writer for shows such as Cold Case, The Client List, and Shadowhunters – stops by to talk about the difference between writing a novel and writing for the screen, and how her TV experience helped her draft a suspenseful and multi-perspective thriller.

Friday (July 15) Read an exclusive excerpt from Baby Doll on

Barnes & Noble
Google Play
Kobo Books

Visit Hollie Overton’s official website
Follow Hollie Overton on Twitter or like on Facebook

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: The Singles Game

Summary: The new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Devil Wears Prada and Revenge Wears Prada—a dishy tell-all about a beautiful tennis prodigy who, after changing coaches, suddenly makes headlines on and off the court.

How far would you go to reach the top?

When America’s sweetheart, Charlotte “Charlie” Silver, makes a pact with the devil—the infamously brutal tennis coach Todd Feltner—she finds herself catapulted into a world of celebrity stylists, private parties, charity matches aboard mega-yachts, and secret dates with Hollywood royalty.

Under Todd’s new ruthless regime, Charlie the good girl is out. Todd wants “Warrior Princess” Charlie all the way. After all, no one ever wins big by playing nice.

Celebrity mags and gossip blogs go wild for Charlie as she jets around the globe chasing Grand Slam titles and Page Six headlines. But as the Warrior Princess’s star rises on and off the court, it comes at a cost. In a world obsessed with good looks and hot shots, is Charlie Silver willing to lose herself to win it all?

Sweeping from Wimbledon to the Caribbean, from the US Open to the Mediterranean, The Singles Game is a sexy and wickedly entertaining romp through a world where the stakes are high—and no one plays by the rules. -- Simon & Schuster

How appropriate is it that today is the release day for the new novel THE SINGLES GAME by Lauren Weisberger? I spent much of my weekend watching some great tennis at Wimbledon, and I was totally in a "tennis" mindset. It probably helped that I had recently finished reading the entertaining book THE SINGLES GAME. I am so in the mood to grab my racket and hit a few balls around with someone!

THE SINGLES GAME tells the story of a sweet and fairly innocent tennis star named Charlie Silver. She has a reputation for being a clean-cut girl with her ribbon woven braid, but the best she's ever been ranked is 23 in the world. Not too bad but she definitely wants more!

When she injures herself at Wimbledon one year, she disappears from the tennis world for a few months. In that time, Charlie decides to reinvent herself. She fires her long-time coach (and good friend) and hires a killer coach who won't allow her to touch her much-loved coffee. And that's just the beginning, Feltner gets Charlie a stylist, has her attend the in-parties, signs her up to participate in celebrity matches, has her eat only healthy foods (no carbs!), and makes increase her practice schedule. He even arranges for Charlie to stay in hotel rooms near the hottest male tennis player in the world.

Charlie returns to the world of tennis as a "Warrior Princess." Gone is the sweet braid and in its place are Svarokski crystal mini tiaras and an all black wardrobe. Her tennis has also improved under Coach Feltner! As Charlie moves up the tennis ranks, she realizes that the "new" Charlie isn't without drawbacks. She begins to lose sight of what's really important in her life like friends and her father, and she has to face whether being the number one tennis player in the world is worth it!

I found THE SINGLES GAME to be a very fun book, and I do think summer is the perfect time to read it. I love that the release was so close to the action at Wimbledon, and I honestly have found myself more interested in tennis than I have been for years. As I watched the tennis matches over the weekend, I couldn't help but think of the "other" side of tennis -- what goes on off the court.

Charlie was a fantastic character! Of course, I loved Charlie before her injury and redesign; and I didn't want her to change. However, I could also understand why she wanted to go all-in on a sport that she had dedicated her life to... at the expense of almost everything. It was fairly predictable that Charlie's rebirth would come with some negatives, and I certainly hoped that she would make the "right" decisions by the end of the novel.

Another fun part of THE SINGLES GAME was the relationship Charlie ended up having with Marco, the number one male tennis player in the world. They were both beautiful and, needless to say, the press went wild with their off-court relationship. It was a fun story, and although it wasn't entirely unpredictable, I think this romance will appeal to many readers looking for a fun summer romp!

Finally, I loved getting an insider's look at the world of tennis. I'm far from athletic, but tennis was one sport that I did play as a kid. For years, I have always been interested in these athletes both on and off the court. I've followed the lives of many tennis players, and I've even read a few biographies and memories about these athletes. So THE SINGLES GAME and its portrayal of the glamorous (and often times not-so-glamorous) world was so fun! It was full of juicy gossip and I bet much of it resembles the real world.

I definitely recommend THE SINGLES GAME to fans of tennis but also to readers who are looking for a fun summer read!

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