Saturday, December 30, 2017

Kid Konnection: Hey, Baby!

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you an adorable book about baby animals!

Summary: Sweet dreams are made of this! Join National Geographic Kids on a trip around the globe to celebrate nature's nursery. Get up close to adorable baby animals -- from the teensiest turtle hatchling to the biggest baby whales; from black bear cubs frolicking free in the Rocky Mountains to a kangaroo joey lounging safely in its mother's pouch. Readers will ooh and aah over the cute baby pictures, sweet stories, folktales, and poems in this lovely keepsake book. Ideal for reading to sleepy little ones! -- National Geographic Kids

I love every National Geographic Kids book that I read, but HEY, BABY: A COLLECTION OF PICTURES, POEMS, AND STORIES FROM NATURE'S NURSERY just might be my all-time favorite! Who can resist an oversized book (think coffee table!) about baby animals? I know I can't!

HEY, BABY is certain to provide hours of reading pleasure for kids (and grownups) who love baby animals! I think we all agree that baby animals are adorable, but when you add National Geographic's skill photographers and their amazing full color photos to the mix, you have a gorgeous and "awwww worthy" book.

HEY, BABY takes readers all over the world and teaches them about baby animals. The book is divided into chapters by areas -- Mountains and Plains Babies, River and Rain Forest Babies, Jungle and Savanna Babies, Desert and Coast Babies, Forest and Stream Babies, Tropics and Peaks Babies, Ice and Snow Babies, and Ocean and Sea Babies. And it also includes quality poetry, sweet stories, folktales! It truly is a celebration of animals!

I honestly can't even begin to explain how adorable this book is. Every single page I turn has a cuter photograph than the one before it, and I truly believe that every baby animal is precious. Even baby bison and octopuses are beyond cute! Don't get me wrong, the photographs are definitely my favorite part of HEY, BABY but I also appreciate the educational aspects of this book. There are brief summaries of the different animals as well as more detailed sidebars on the species.

I highly recommend HEY, BABY! It is not only one of the cutest animal books I've ever seen, but it's also a truly educational book. As far as I'm concerned HEY, BABY! is a must-have for school and home libraries.

Thanks to Media Masters Publicity for providing a review copy of this book.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: The Almost Sisters

Summary: With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood. 

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows. -- William Morrow

I have a few days off of work over the holidays, and I figure it's as good a time as any to catch up on some reviews. One book that I read quite awhile ago and really enjoyed was THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson. I can usually depend on Ms. Jackson's books to be entertaining, but I will admit that I like some more than others.

THE ALMOST SISTERS is my favorite Joshilyn Jackson book that I've read in some time. It tells the story of Leia Birch Briggs, a graphic novelist that hooks up with a Batman during a comics convention. This spontaneous behavior isn't typical of Leia, and she ends up paying a price for it. She's finds herself pregnant with a baby boy at 38, and she's not exactly thrilled to tell her traditional Southern family... especially since the baby is biracial!

Meanwhile, Leia's step-sister is having serious issues with her marriage, and her 90 year old grandmother Birchie is showing signs of dementia. So Leia decides it's time to go home and face the music. She wants to help her grandmother get things in order and that includes cleaning out her big Victorian house. What Leia discovers in the attic is shocking to say the least (Hint: it includes bones)! She learns that her grandmother has a huge secret that goes the whole way back to the Civil War, and this secret could affect the entire family's lives as they know it!

I really liked THE ALMOST SISTERS and it reminded me why I enjoy Ms. Jackson's novels so much. She writes Southern fiction like few do, and she really created a cast of characters in this novel that I cared about. Leia was a fantastic character, as was Birchie, and I loved their relationship. However, I also really liked the humor that she incorporated into the story. There are some scenes that are laugh out loud funny.

I thought Ms. Jackson was very clever in how she handled the themes of sisters. Of course, there was the relationship between Leia and her step-sister; however, there was also a sisterly relationship between Birchie and her best friend (and African American caretaker) Wattie that I found extremely interesting. In addition, there were some sister themes in Leia's graphic novels. She created two sister characters, Violet and Violence, who were total opposites... and maybe represented the dual elements of her own personality?

There is no doubt that this story deals with some serious issues including race in our country. I thought Ms. Jackson handled this issue in a very insightful way. I can't come up with specifics at this point, but suffice it to say, that I appreciated some of her social commentary on the subject matter. It was wise without being preachy. In addition, I thought the way she wrote about Birchie's dementia was spot on. I had a grandmother with dementia and Leia and Birchie's relationship really resonated with me. There were times I cried and times I laughed about my grandmother, and I felt the same way about Birchie when I read this novel.

I also really liked that there was a mystery aspect to THE ALMOST SISTERS. It doesn't really classify as a mystery, but there were so many secrets from the past that it almost read like one. I could figure out some things, but I still managed to be surprised. The truth that is eventually revealed is dark and a bit disturbing but certainly made for a good story.

THE ALMOST SISTERS would make an excellent book club pick. There is a reading guide available with twelve intriguing questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include relationships between sisters, family dynamics, mental illness/dementia, friendship, secrets, creativity and of course, race.

I really enjoyed THE ALMOST SISTERS. Highly recommended to fans of Ms. Jackson's as well as fans of contemporary women's fiction.

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Kid Konnection: 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 a two special books about the bible and the White House.

Summary: Welcome to the White House! Go behind the scenes to get a 360-degree view of America's most famous president’s residence, from how it was built in 1792 and the fire of 1812, to today's state dinners, celebrations, celebrity pets, and more. Discover through 1,000 fun-to-read facts what it's like to live and work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the quirky rules of the house and how the Secret Service keeps it safe. Find out how the kids who have lived there play, watch movies, and entertain friends. With a treasure trove of material from the White House Historical Association, this book presents a fascinating story of the building and the many people who have shaped its 225-year history. -- National Geographic

National Geographic Kids never ceases to amaze me. Case in point: the new book 1,000 FACTS ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE. This oversized full-color book is a terrific resource for home and school libraries as well as children who are interested in learning more about our country's first home.

1,000 FACTS ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE is a pretty fantastic book. Coming in at almost 100 pages, it makes learning about the White House fun. The book covers the topics you'd expect like the history of the White House and includes many photographs of the building through the times; however, it also includes tons of fun facts like what it's like to work there and how the Secret Service protects it.

Based on the cover, I was expecting more of an encyclopedia type feel to this book, but I was pleasantly surprised to open the pages and see that the format is appealing and very easy-to-read. In fact, it reminds me of the other National Geographic Kids books that I've reviewed. There are lots of photographs and bright colors, and each page spread covers a different topic. There are many lists, including 50 Facts About the West Wing, 75 Timeless Facts about White House History, and even 35 Spoonful Facts about the Easter Egg Roll. Basically, it's one of those books that provide a ton of information in a great format that makes learning fun!

I think 1,000 FACTS ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE is sure to appeal to kids of all ages (and even a few parents!) Highly recommended!

Summary: Travel back to ancient times to revisit classic Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments. Learn fascinating facts about biblical history, then explore that same landscape as archaeologists are studying it today. Unearth clues about where these stories took place and how people in that time period might have lived. Stories include the Garden of Eden, Joseph in Egypt, Moses and the Ten Commandments, the birth of Jesus, Paul's conversion, and many more. Classic paintings and photos of the Middle East today enrich the archaeological explanations. Kids don't just revisit classic Bible stories in this book ... they'll dig deeper into the history behind the tales to learn more about the biblical world. -- National Geographic

THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE: BIBLICAL STORIES AND THE ARCHAEOLOGY BEHIND THEM is another fantastic book by National Geographic Kids. This book is the same size as the one I reviewed earlier (oversized and around 125 pages), and of course, it has loads of full color photographs and illustrations. It's absolutely gorgeous!

THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE is divided into two parts -- Old Testament Stories and Discoveries and New Testament: The World of Jesus. Within in section, there are bible stories as well as facts about biblical history. I actually found the book to be extremely interesting and I loved how the history tied into the stories I've been reading for years. THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE does a great job of making these ancient times real to readers.

In addition to bible stories and some bits of history, THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE also has some interesting graphics. There are pages with maps and timelines as well as "Did You Know?" sidebars. What really brought this book to the next level for me, though, were the gorgeous paintings and present day photos of the Middle East. It's truly an impressive children's book.

THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE is wonderful resource for families who want to learn more about the bible its history. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Media Masters Publicity 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!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: Last Christmas in Paris

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War. August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris. But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him… -- William Morrow

I don't have a lot of reading time this year now that I've started working, but I wanted to make an effort to read a few Christmas novels. One that caught my eye was LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. At its heart, this novel is a love story written in letters that takes place during World War I. It's not a traditional Christmas story, but I do think its messages embody the spirit of the holiday.

LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS focuses on the stories of Evie Elliott and Thomas Harding. Evie's brother Will and his best friend Thomas enlist in the war believing that they would be home by Christmas. Evie and the guys have made plans to celebrate Christmas in Paris, but they never got the chance because the war dragged on for years.

Evie came from a wealthy family and was desperate to be a part of the war effort. She diligently wrote to both her brother and Thomas, and she even volunteered to help deliver mail; however, she still wanted more. Thomas, on the other hand, had difficulties adjusting to life as a soldier; and he was troubled by the events surrounding his family's newspaper business back at home. Evie and Thomas wrote each other regularly; and as they began sharing more and more of their feelings, they fell in love. Could their love survive the war and everything happening in their lives?

I enjoyed LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS quite a bit. The entire novel is written in letters, and I definitely enjoyed the pace of the story as well as the character development. Both of the authors did a terrific job of bringing Evie and Thomas (as well as a few secondary characters) to life, and I appreciated how they were able to develop the characters through their letter writing. Evie and Thomas were both extremely likable, and I couldn't help but root for them to not only survive the war, but also to have a future together.

Because LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS was a war story, there was a huge amount of sorrow in this book. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say, that both Evie and Thomas experienced some major losses. What I found extremely interesting about this novel was that the authors chose to have both main characters involved in the newspaper business. This allowed them to show some interesting historical aspects of the time. For instance, I had no idea that the British newspapers were spinning the war in a much better light. Their coverage didn't begin to convey to the people the horrors of the war and what the soldiers were experiencing day in a day out.

I'm not a big fan of love stories, but Evie and Thomas' relationship was very sweet. It definitely wasn't a romance novel. Rather it was a love story for the ages, and I enjoyed it. Having said that, I think my favorite aspect of the novel, though, was the history parts. I haven't read a historical fiction book for some time, and I really liked learning some new things about World War I. The authors did a very good job in incorporating historical elements to the novel that just made the story all the more real to me.

It's a little late for this year, but I do recommend LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS for book clubs. It isn't really a Christmas book, so I guess you could read and discuss it anytime! There is a reading guide available with ten thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include the effects of war, family, loss, grief, guilt, love, and secrets. As you can see, there are some universal themes in this novel that are relevant for the holidays... or any time of the year.

LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS is a touching story that's perfect for fans of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Review: The Faerie Handbook

Summary: In this exquisite anthology, Editor in Chief Carolyn Turgeon and the editors of Faerie Magazine welcome you into an enchanted realm rich with myth, mystery, romance, and abundant natural beauty. Organized into four sections—Flora and Fauna, Fashion and Beauty, Arts and Culture, and Home, Food, and Entertaining—this gorgeous volume offers an array of exquisite vintage and contemporary fine art and photography, literature, essays, do-it-yourself projects, and recipes that provide hours of reading, viewing, and dreaming pleasure, along with a multitude of ideas for modern-day living and entertaining with a distinctive fairy touch. With an inset image on the front cover, ornate silver foil patterning on the front, spine, back, and edges, and a satin bookmark, The Faerie Handbook is an eye-catching volume for fairy fans of all ages. -- Harper Design

I'm skipping out on my regular Mystery Mondays post to share with you a terrific gift idea. The book is called THE FAERIE HANDBOOK: AN ENCHANTING COMPENDIUM OF LITERATURE, LORE, ART, RECIPES, AND PROJECTS by Carolyn Turgeon (and fellow Penn State alum) and the Editors of Faerie Magazine, and it's quite the treat for fans of fairies. Fairies are huge right now as evidenced by the amount of fairies that appear in television, movies, advertisements, etc. And there's even a fairy festivals and conventions will millions of attendees! Who knew?

I am admittedly not a fairy fan. That's not to say that I don't like the occasional fairy, but I'm far from an expert! However, I have to say that THE FAERIE HANDBOOK is one gorgeous book. Every detail of this book is just perfect -- from the purple and silver cover (with silver foil book edges!), to the gorgeous front end cover, to the illustrations, to the color photographs, to the purple satin bookmark. This truly is one special book!

THE FAERIE HANDBOOK is divided into four sections -- Flora & Fauna; Fashion & Beauty; Art & Culture; and Home, Food & Entertaining. It's truly amazing just how much is covered in this 240 page book. The first section tells about where to find fairies as well as other creatures who inhabit their fairy world. There are also some very interesting chapters on fairy architecture. What I found so cool is that there are some do-it-yourself projects like how to press flowers and how to make a fairy terrarium.

The Fashion & Beauty section is probably my favorite part of the book. The photographs and illustrations in this section are so pretty! There are gorgeous little fairy outfits made of flowers and description of fairy wings. There are even chapters on teeny tiny fairy shoes and fairy fragrances. The next section, Art & Culture, is sure to be a hit with fairy fans. This chapter delves into the role fairies play in literature and art. I have to say that the photographs in this section are stunning!

Finally, there is a section on Home, Food & Entertaining. I honestly had no idea what would be in this chapter, but it's exactly as described -- ideas for hosting fairy parties! There are instructions for how to construct an arbor along with recipes for lavender shortbread cookies, flower lollipops, honey ricotta tart, and more!

THE FAERIE HANDBOOK is a must-have for fairy fans, but I think it would make a great gift for anyone who appreciates beautiful books. It's a great gift idea for the holiday season!

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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Kid Konnection: Tis the Season 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 a two cute picture books that are perfect for this time of year!

Summary: In this third book in the Space Boy trilogy, Niko and his trusty dog, Tag, blast off on another outer-space adventure, when suddenly Niko’s robot copilot is captured by a snow monster (who looks an awful lot like Niko’s annoying sister, Posh). When they reach Planet Ice, Tag is captured by the snow monster as well, leaving Niko to save them both. After defeating a killer bunny and the snow monster’s army of snowmen, Niko and his crew race back to Planet Home, just in time for cocoa. lllustrated in comic-book style and featuring easy-to-read text packed with humor, Space Boy and the Snow Monster is both a thrilling adventure and a celebration of the power of pretend play. -- Boyds Mills Press

SPACE BOY AND THE SNOW MONSTER by Dian Curtis Regan and illustrated by Robert Neubecker was a perfect read for me this week -- we got hit with two tiny snowstorms! This picture book features Niko and and his trusty dog Tag and it's pretty darn adorable. It's the third book in the Space Boy series, and I think they are gathering quite the fan base.

In SPACE BOY AND THE SNOW MONSTER, Niko and Tag head out in the snow only to discover that their spaceship is covered in snow and being threatened by a Snow Monster... who just happens to resemble Niko's sister. Niko fears that his copilot has been captured and taken to Planet Ice by the Snow Monster.

When Niko reaches Planet Ice, he learns that Tag has been captured too; and he must fight to the bitter end to save his friends. He defeats a bunny and even the Snow Monster's army before returning home for a warm cup of hot chocolate.

SPACE BOY AND THE SNOW MONSTER is a very cute book that takes readers on a fun "space" adventure. The picture book is in the form of a comic book, and the illustrations are adorable. I also liked that the book has a lot of humor incorporated into the story. However, my absolute favorite part of the story was how it celebrated imagination and make-believe!

Highly recommended for kids with active imaginations!

Summary: A Parents gift guide pick for 2017!

Which elf will build the coolest sleigh for the Christmas ride? SANTA will decide!

When the elves discover that Santa’s sleigh is in a terrible state, they let their imaginations go wild—and soon there are sleighs of every kind, inspired by big rigs, motorcycles, zeppelins, and much more!

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and the celebrated illustrator of Michael Chabon’s The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man team up for spirited vehicular silliness and classic Christmas cheer in this turbo-charged read-aloud destined to become a holiday classic. -- Chronicle Books

THE 12 SLEIGHS OF CHRISTMAS by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Jake Parker is my new favorite Christmas picture book. This book has amazing illustrations as well as a fantastic story that's certain to entertain everyone in the house this holiday season.

In THE 12 SLEIGHS OF CHRISTMAS, Santa and his elves are getting ready for Christmas. The elves set out to get Santa's sleigh ready when they discover that it's in a sad state. After a bit of panic, they decide to get busy and repair the sleigh... until they get a better idea. They don't have to fix Santa's old sleigh -- they can make a new one that's better!

Well, the elf mechanics start talking about how they can make the sleigh better, and they end up making a bet. Twelve teams are formed and they have a contest for which team can build the coolest sleigh!

And what fantastic sleighs the elf mechanics make! The various sleighs are based on big trucks, fast cars, motorcycles... and they are pretty awesome. But while Santa finds them all cool, not one of them seem exactly right. Good thing one little elf thought of everything and saved the day!

I loved THE 12 SLEIGHS OF CHRISTMAS. The book is absolutely adorable and fans of construction vehicles are going to love it. It has such a cute premise, and the illustrations of these amazing sleighs are the perfect complement to the story. I especially appreciated that the text was rhyming, and that the story was extremely funny!

I couldn't agree more with the end of the publisher's description! The 12 SLEIGHS OF CHRISTMAS  is sure to become a new holiday classic!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media and 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!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Review: The Black Kachina

Summary: In the desert badlands of Southern California, Air Force Colonel Maggie Black loses a cruise missile equipped with powerful explosives, reporter Jordan Scott returns a dead shaman's magic basket, and a bitter half-breed named Asdrubal Torres hears the Great Spirit tell him to refill Lake Cahuilla, an ancient sea that once covered much of California. Colonel Maggie, by losing a powerful weapon, and reporter Scott, by restoring the local tribe's enchanted basket, provide Torres with exactly the tools he needs. Now Maggie and Jordan race against time, the desert, and Torres's cunning plan to stop a devastating flood designed to kill tens of thousands. -- Down & Out Books

Booking Pap Pap is back... and probably for the last time in 2017. His latest read was a thriller called THE BLACK KACHINA by Jack Getze. Here are his thoughts:

The main character in THE BLACK KACHINA is Lieutenant Colonel Maggie Black, a former Air Force pilot who lost her arm in a combat accident during the Iraqi War. Now fitted with a robotic prosthetic, Maggie can no longer fly but has been assigned the lead in a project developing a highly secretive new weapon. Things go well until a B-52 bomber carrying the experimental weapon goes missing near an Air Force Facility in California. Maggie career depends on her finding the weapon before it falls into the wrong hands.

Maggie’s hunt is complicated by Asdrubal Torres, a member of the Cahuilla Native American tribe. It seems that Torres, under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, sees the wreckage of the B-52 as a sign that he has been chosen by Kachina, the Spirit, to refill Lake Cahuilla, long ago destroyed by the building of Hoover Dam and the rechanneling of the Colorado River waters. His mission is to find the weapon and use it to destroy Hoover Dam and restore the lake.

In addition to featuring a physically handicapped middle-aged woman as his main character, author Jack Getze creates some other interesting characters. There is no question in understanding which characters are heroic and which are villainous. Torres is characterized as a crazed killer who will stop at nothing to fulfill his “destiny”. Torres partner, Henry Melancon, is a psychopath ex-con who has had significant Navy-Seal type training while serving in the Mexican military. Jordon Scott, young San Diego newspaper reporter, meets Maggie while writing a report on the lost weapon and becomes romantically involved. Jordon is further tied to the story when he returns a water basket that his family has had for years, to the Cahuilla tribe and learns that his great-grandfather may have killed to get the basket. According to Cahuilla legend, the basket may have been used to fill Lake Cahuilla.

Although the characters and story line may be a little far-fetched, Getze does bring some attention to the risk of the Southern California water supply which is totally dependent on the Hoover Dam.

The Black Kachina is an exciting suspense thriller interspersed with romance and humor. The interesting characters and the unusual storyline makes it a worthwhile read.

Thanks to Saichek Publicity for providing a review copy of this novel and to Booking Pap Pap for his review.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: A Season to Lie

Summary: In Emily Littlejohn's follow-up to her acclaimed debut Inherit the Bones, a twisted killer stalks his prey in the dead of winter.

On a cold dark night in February, as a blizzard shrieks through Cedar Valley, police officer and new mother Gemma Monroe responds to an anonymous report of a prowler at the local private high school, The Valley Academy. In her idyllic Colorado small town, Gemma expects the call was just a prank by a bored teenager.

But there in the snow lies the savaged body of a man whose presence in town was meant to be a secret. And a disturbing message left by his killer promises more death to come.

This is only the beginning . . .

Nothing is as it seems in Cedar Valley and stories, both fact and fiction, ensnare Gemma as her investigation moves from the halls of an elite academy to the forests that surround Cedar Valley.

Against a backdrop of bleak winter weather, stymied by those who would lie to protect what is dearest to them, Gemma hunts a ruthless killer before he strikes again in A Season to Lie. -- Minotaur Books

I am usually reluctant to start a series with book two; however, I made an exception to the new novel A SEASON TO LIE by Emily Littlejohn. The book sounded like one I'd enjoy, and I am always on the lookout for a new-to-me author and a new-to-me mystery series. Even though this is the second book in the Gemma Monroe series, I had absolutely no problem following the story. In fact, there were just enough teasers about what happened in the first book in the series, INHERIT THE BONES, that I want to go back and read that one!

A SEASON TO LIE takes place in the dead of winter in Cedar Valley, Colorado. Gemma Monroe is a police officer in Cedar Valley who is back after staying at home for a few months with her new baby daughter. On her first day back, Gemma is expecting some snow-related accidents, but she definitely wasn't ready for what she had to face -- a brutal murder of a famous author at the local private high school. To make things even more mysterious, there is a note left in his mouth saying, "This is only the beginning..."

Gemma jumps right into the investigation of this murder and suspects that it has something to do with the Valley Academy. She investigates the author's background to see why someone would want him dead, while also looking into some strange (and evil) behavior at the high school. Fearful that she has a serial killer on her hands, she worries that she must find out who's responsible before he or she strikes again.

I really enjoyed A SEASON TO LIE. I absolutely loved the character of Gemma Monroe, both in her professional and personal lives. She was extremely relatable as a new mom and a woman concerned with trusting her boyfriend, but I also enjoyed how she mingled with her co-workers. Needless to say she is extremely human and definitely devoted to tracking down the murderer. She's also very insightful and I enjoyed seeing how her mind worked through the crimes in this story.

I also found the murder mysteries to be intriguing. I actually figured out who was responsible for the murder fairly early in the novel... and I even realized the motive which is highly unusual for me. In addition, there was a side mystery that I solved; however, I couldn't figure out how this storyline tied into the murder. What surprised me the most about this novel was that even though I had a feeling where the story was going, I still really enjoyed the ride. I just loved the characters, the setting, and Ms. Littlejohn's writing; and I now consider myself a fan of this series!

A SEASON TO LIE is a solid mystery that's sure to entertain fans of stories with smart female characters. 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.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Kid Konnection: Ultimate Dino-Pedia

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 two fun books that are perfect gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season.

Summary: Dinosaurs continue to fascinate kids, and although these amazing creatures roamed the Earth ages ago, new dinosaur discoveries are still being made today! The new edition of the popular Nat Geo Kids Dinopedia includes all the latest species and is the most complete, up-to-date dinosaur reference available. Find favorites, like the fierce T-rex and the gentle Brontosaurus, plus audacious new finds, like the Anzu, Kosmoceratops, and Yi. Every dino profile is colorfully illustrated and features descriptions of when they roamed the Earth, how they lived, what they ate, and more. There are more than 600 dinos featured in all, including 10 profiles of recently discovered dinosaurs and new entries in the Dino Dictionary. Reports from paleontologists present the latest news and insights from the field. -- National Geographic Kids

Booking Son was never really "into" dinosaurs, but I remember one little friend of his that was. I used to go into Booking Son's kindergarten class, and there was one boy (Guiseppe) who liked dinosaurs... and by like, I mean was obsessed! I used to help him with kid writing, and I would actually have to get out my phone and google the names of the dinosaurs that he wanted to include in his writing. This kid was five years old, and I think he was almost an expert on dinosaurs.

Guiseppe is now thirteen years old, and I wonder if he still likes dinosaurs. (I bet he does!) One thing I know for sure is that the five year old Guiseppe would have loved the ULTIMATE DINO-PEDIA: THE MOST COMPLETE DINOSAUR REFERENCE EVER by "Dino" Don Lessem and illustrated by Franco Tempesta! This book is a whopper of a book. It's a beautiful hardcover book, coming in at almost 300 pages; and it is a must-read for kids who are interested in all-things dinosaur.

ULTIMATE DINO-PEDIA is such a fun way to learn about dinosaurs. This reference book includes more than 600 different species of dinosaurs (even the new ones!) There are many you will recognize, and a few more that I guarantee will be new-to-you. There is easy-to-read text describing each type of dinosaur as well as fact bubbles and sidebars to enhance the basic information. All of the details are presented in a very appealing way... which makes learning about these creatures so fun!

This book has so much information that kids would love! Each dinosaur is profiled and includes such interesting data as the size of the dinosaur, what they ate, when they lived, where they lived, and more. There is also some history about how scientists learned about each dinosaur species. There are even some fun (and gross) facts that kids will want to share with others.

Usually at this point in my review, I would take the time to describe just how beautiful the photographs are -- National Geographic Kids books always have gorgeous color photos. However, since the subject matter of this book is animals that no longer roam the earth, there aren't many real pictures. Instead, there are some wonderful full color illustrations. In fact, there are beautiful drawings of every dinosaur described in this book!

One of my favorite things about the ULTIMATE DINO-PEDIA is the Dino Dictionary at the end of the book. This section is a quick and dirty look at every type of dinosaur known to man. The dinosaurs are alphabetically listed and appear in a grid format. Columns for each dinosaur include the meaning of the name, the geological age, where they were found, the size, and even how to pronounce the name. It's a one-stop shop for dinosaur basics!

I think budding paleontologists are going to love the ULTIMATE DINO-PEDIA. Highly recommended for home and school libraries.

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!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Review: Most Requested Recipes

Summary: Take the guesswork out of cooking with Taste of Home Most Requested Recipes! Each of the 633 dishes in this mouthwatering collection is a Five-Star dish as rated on, won a recipe contest and/or received raves from Taste of Home readers! Whether whipping up a family favorite on a busy weeknight, creating an attention-getting dish for an office potluck, serving crowd-pleasing munchies for a weekend party or a planning a spread for a special occasion, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. After all, these are the foods today’s home cooks serve and share time and again. Each tried-and-true recipe has been tested and approved by the experts in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen, offers easy-to-follow instructions and calls for ingredients you likely have on hand! Serve your family nothing but the best! With Most Requested Recipes at your fingertips, it’s never been easier! -- T of H Books

Remember a few weeks ago, when I shared with you my review of TASTE OF HOME 365 DAYS OF COOKIES? I love this cookbook. Well Taste of Home has done it again! Their new cookbook is called TASTE OF HOME MOST REQUESTED RECIPES, and it's fantastic. This giant bound cookbook contains over 600 recipes (633 to be exact!) that have garnered five-star reviews. So basically, this cookbook is a great collection of "best of" recipes!

I'm not going to lie. MOST REQUESTED RECIPES is a little bit overwhelming. I mean that in the best way though. There are so many amazing-sounding recipes that I hardly know where to start... although the editors do make it easier given how they organized the book. It's divided into normal chapters by dish -- Appetizers, Snacks and Beverages, Breakfast & Brunch, Soups & Sandwiches, Side Dishes, Salads & More, Hearty Main Dishes, Casserole Entrees, Slow Cooker Dinners, Breaks & Rolls, Cakes, Pies & Desserts, Cookies & Candies, and Seasonal Specialties. However, the recipes are also noted with helpful hints like 5 Ingredients, Fast Fix, Freeze It, Slow Cooker, and more. That way, I can skim right over the more complex recipes when looking for quick weekday meals!

And what's not to love about the beautiful photos? One of my must-have requirements for cookbooks is color pictures, and MOST REQUESTED RECIPES doesn't disappoint. Of course, there aren't pictures for every recipes (because at 633 recipes, you wouldn't be able to lift the book), but there are hundreds of them. Just looking at this book makes me hungry!

Last but not least, this cookbook has detailed step-by-step instructions that are super user-friendly. It's perfect for cooks at any level, and you know every recipe is tested and approved by the Taste of Home test kitchen. In addition, there are reader reviews which often times give helpful hints like ingredient substitutions and serving suggestions. I especially like that the book is a lay-flat binding so I don't have to balance jars on the pages to keep them open.

TASTE OF HOME MOST REQUESTED RECIPES is amazing -- believe me! Highly recommended for gifts this holiday season, but make sure you pick up one for yourself too!

 Thanks to Dalyn Miller Public Relations for providing a review copy of this cookbook.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Summary: Lies She Told

Summary: Sometimes the truth is darker than fiction.

Liza Cole has thirty days to write the thriller that could put her back on the bestseller list. In the meantime, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. With stresses weighing her down in both her professional and her personal lives, Liza escapes into writing her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth is a new mother who suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home alone caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she sets out to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes it, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.

Then the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the same river and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including herself. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own. -- Crooked Lane

I'm far from an expert when it comes to reading thrillers, but I do read quite a few of them... and I definitely have opinions on them! And that brings me to my latest read, LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan. This novel is definitely entertaining and I appreciated that it had a unique premise!

LIES SHE TOLD ME tells the story of mystery writer Liza Cole. Her first novel was a huge bestseller, but she hasn't exactly found much success ever since. She has thirty days to write her new novel and give it to her publisher; however, Liza is experiencing some personal issues which make it even harder to write. She is struggling with infertility issues and her husband's best friend and business partner is missing. It's no surprise to anyone when his body is found in the East River...

Liza isn't quite certain what story she ultimately wants to write, but she has started a novel about a woman named Beth. Beth is a new mother who discovers that her husband is cheating on her. She decides that she wants to surprise both of them and get her husband back... but her plans go awry and the "other woman" ends up murdered. Strangely enough, her body is found in the exact same river...

LIES SHE TOLD ME goes back and forth between Liza's life and Beth's life which is written as Liza's novel. Both stories are interesting in their own right, but as the book progresses, the lines between the stories begin to blur. At first I had absolutely no issue with the transitions between the chapters and keeping everything straight; however, I admit that there were times later when I confused the storylines. That might sound like a knock on the novel, but I suspect that's exactly what the author had in mind!

LIES SHE TOLD ME is most definitely a page-turner. The murders in the novel are suspenseful, but I think it was the character of Liza that held my interest the most. I wasn't sure whether she was a reliable narrator or not, and as I realized that the lines between the stories were blurring, I really began to wonder what to believe about her. Liza was all out of sorts because she wanted to conceive a baby so badly and was on some experimental hormones. She also felt the pressure of having to write a quality novel, and then there was the unspoken baggage from her past! It's no wonder Liza was having a hard time facing reality and eventually began hearing Beth (the character in her novel) speaking to her.

I am extremely impressed with Ms. Holahan's writing. LIES SHE TOLD is her second novel, and I definitely am interested in reading her first one -- THE WIDOWER'S WIFE. She's definitely clever and knows a thing or two about writing a suspenseful story. I really appreciated how the stories became more and more blurred... and just how much it affected me as a reader. And I also appreciated the surprising twists and turns she threw into the ending -- those really kept me reeling!

Overall, LIES SHE TOLD is a smart and well-written psychological thriller. Highly recommended!

Thanks to McCartin Daniels PR 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, December 2, 2017

Kid Konnection: National Geographic Kids Gift 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 fun books that are perfect gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season.

Summary: Even Christmas can be weird -- it's true! Get ready to celebrate the holiday season with wacky facts, stats, tidbits, and traditions about the most wonderful time of the year. Did you know that Santa's reindeer are probably all female? Or that artificial snow can be made from seaweed? Or that "Jingle Bells" was the first Christmas carol sung in space? Every kid will ho ho ho when they unwrap this fun and festive little gift book, perfect for stocking stuffers or under the tree. -- National Geographic Kids

WEIRD BUT TRUE! CHRISTMAS: 300 FESTIVE FACTS TO LIGHT UP THE HOLIDAYS is great book for kids who are interested in learning more about the holidays! This softcover book comes in at over 200 pages, and it's chock full of fun facts about Christmas.

I think this little book is just adorable. I honestly learned quite a bit from this book, and I'm certain curious kids will too. There are some interesting facts as well as some pretty strange ones, but they all focus on the holiday season. For example, did you know that there is an 18 mile frozen stretch in British Columbia, Canada, that is the longest ice-skating trail on Earth? Or did you know that bakers in Norway made a 1,435 round gingerbread man?

As you can see, there are some interesting fun facts in this book; however, I think the photos and other graphics really make this book appealing. National Geographic Kids are known for fantastic photographs, and this book is no exception. There is also a wide variety of colorful fonts to make each page inviting... and loads of fun!

I highly recommend WEIRD BUT TRUE! CHRISTMAS to entertain your kids this holiday season!

Summary: Can't get enough hilarious jokes from National Geographic Kids? Never fear! With this brand-new bigger, better Just Joking book, you'll get loads of laughs to keep you ROFL and to share with friends and family. It's jam-packed with 1,000 jokes, including knock-knocks, puns, riddles, and tongue twisters, plus more than 1,000 photos of cool animals, silly situations, and more! Get hundreds of fun facts about all the coolest creatures and some of the craziest info about the history of funny business. It's the right formula for laughing, learning, and maybe even launching your stand-up comedy career! -- National Geographic Kids

Boy oh boy! I'm not sure that I'm going to share JUST JOKING JUMBO: 1,000 GIANT JOKES & 1,000 FUNNY PHOTOS ADD UP TO BIG LAUGHS with Booking Son. This big old book has loads of funny jokes and photos, and I'm sure my kid would love to share them with me... all the time... and then laugh out loud with that fake laugh!

But seriously, JUST JOKING JUMBO is perfect for the budding comedian in your life! There are almost 300 pages in this softcover book with 1,000 jokes. You will recognize many long-time favorites like knock-knock jokes, puns (our favorite!), and riddles, but there are also tongue twisters and laughable lists.

I will admit that some of the jokes are downright corny. But what'd you expect from a kids' jumbo joke book? For example, what was the name of the Egyptian ruler who always felt gassy? King Toot! Here's another one. What did the small green fruit say after it was put in a pickle jar? "I guess olive."

One of my favorite things about JUST JOKING JUMBO is that there are amazing full-color photos in this book -- over 1,000 if you can believe it. There are also funny facts about animals and even a little bit about this history of comedy. This book truly is a must-have for kids who love to make others laugh!

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!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review: Christmas in London

Summary: Set during London's most festive time of year and filled with delicious food Anita Hughes' Christmas in London is about love and friendship, and the season's most important lesson: learning how to ask for and give forgiveness.

It’s a week before Christmas and Louisa Graham is working twelve hour shifts at a bakery on Manhattan's Lower East Side. When a young cooking show assistant comes in from the rain and begs to buy all the cinnamon rolls on her tray, she doesn’t know what to do. Louisa is just the baker, and they aren't hers to sell. But the show burned the rolls they were supposed to film that day; so she agrees.

The next morning, Louisa finds out that her cinnamon rolls were a hit, but the star of the show was allergic, and the whole crew is supposed to leave for London that afternoon. They want Louisa to step in for their annual Christmas Eve Dinner TV special at Claridge's. It’s a great opportunity, and Digby Bunting, Louisa’s famous baking idol, will be there. Even if he does seem more interested in her than her food.

And then there’s Kate, the show's beautiful producer. On their first day in London she runs into the skinny boy she jilted at St. Andrew's in Scotland ten years ago. Now he’s a handsome, brilliant mathematician, and newly divorced. Their familiar spark is still there, but so is the scar of how they left things. Kate and Louisa are busy preparing for the show, but old and new flames are complicating their work. -- St. Martin's Press

I am not getting a ton of reading done right now, but I did make it a priority to read CHRISTMAS IN LONDON by Anita Hughes over the Thanksgiving weekend. First of all, I adore holiday books and wanted to read something light that would get me in the mood for Christmas. Second, I knew I needed to read it early so I could share my thoughts with you in time to get this book before Christmas!

CHRISTMAS IN LONDON tells the story of two women who travel to London the week before Christmas for their jobs and ending up finding love along the way. Louisa is a baker who works long hours in a Manhattan bakery to save enough money to one day open her dream bakery. When Noah, a cooking show assistant, comes in from the rain and wants to buy all of her newly baked cinnamon rolls for the show, Louisa doesn't feel as if she can sell all of the store's specialty. However, Noah gives her an offer she can't refuse!

Louisa is thrilled to learn that her cinnamon rolls were a huge hit, but the star of the show was allergic to her secret ingredient and her lips blew up. Needless to say, the star can't appear on air looking like that... and even worse, she can't go to London to film their annual Christmas Even Dinner TV social at Claridge's. Noah offers Louisa the chance of her lifetime -- he wants her to go to London and film the show. To make things even more tempting to Louisa, her foodie idol Digby Bunting will be there!

Kate is the show's beautiful producer who is extremely career driven. However, her very first day in London provides some distraction for her. She runs into Trevor, her best friend (and love interest) from her days at St. Andrew's in Scotland over ten years ago. He is now all grown up and a famous mathematician... and newly divorced. Both Kate and Trevor still feel the attraction, but there is a lot of leftover baggage from how they parted.

Needless to say, these two women headed to London to help their careers and quickly realize that there are more important things in life than work!

I thought CHRISTMAS IN LONDON was delightful. It's a very sweet story about love and friendship that takes place in a fabulous setting. What could be better than London at Christmastime? I enjoy Ms. Hughes' novels, and I think fans of her books won't be disappointed with this one. I will say that the story is kind of/sort of predictable, but I think that's fine. CHRISTMAS IN LONDON is meant to entertain and tug on the heart strings... and it does!

One of my absolute favorite things about Ms. Hughes' books are the settings. She does a fabulous job of bringing different locations to life, and London in the book sounds positively heavenly. I could visualize the city perfectly with her vivid descriptions, and I loved how she had the characters visit many of the major tourist spots. In addition, Ms. Hughes is so good at describing food. Seriously! I was thrilled when the characters worked in the food industry because I just knew that there would be amazing descriptions of desserts and pastries!

I also really liked both of the main characters in this book as well as their love interests. They were young and very driven, but they also were sensitive and kind. Their romances were sweet and had just enough tension to make them interesting. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of romance, but these two women's stories were interesting and heartwarming.

CHRISTMAS IN LONDON is a lovely story that's guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit. Recommended to fans of romance and contemporary women's fiction.

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: A Simple Favor

Summary: She’s your best friend.

She knows all your secrets.

That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother's life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems. A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page. -- Harper

I am beginning to hate the comparisons to GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Don't get me wrong -- I enjoyed both of those books, but why oh why do all thrillers with a female protagonist have to be compared to these two books? It's just not fair. I'll admit that I was tempted to push A SIMPLE FAVOR by Darcey Bell aside after reading the description above, but my curiosity got the best of me. The book sounded like one I'd enjoy. Booklist gave it a starred review, and the film rights have already been sold to Fox 2000. Why not give it a try, right?

A SIMPLE FAVOR begins with just that... a simple favor of one mom asking another mom to watch her child. Stephanie, a stay-at-home mom to five-year-old Miles as well as a mommy blogger, was asked by the glamorous Emily to pick up her son Nicky from school and watch him until she can get back. Stephanie considers Emily her very best friend, so of course, she agrees to this "simple favor."

The kicker is Emily doesn't come back nor does she respond to Stephanie's many calls and texts. This behavior isn't typical of Emily, so Stephanie immediately expects the worst. She blogs about the entire experience to her audience of moms while also reaching out to Emily's handsome husband Sean. When Emily is found dead, Stephanie and Sean take comfort in each other. Yep -- you know where this one is going?

Stephanie is happy with her new situation as mom to Nicky and Miles and lover to Sean; however, she does harbor some guilt. She begins to suspect that Emily isn't dead... and that Emily wants revenge for trying to replace her so soon after her "death." Stephanie isn't quite sure what to think about Emily's death or Sean's involvement in it, but she fears her life and her son's life just might be at risk.

A SIMPLE FAVOR was one messed story that I found quite entertaining. I can totally see it as a movie, and as I was reading, I was trying to picture who would be cast as the three principal characters. The novel is fast-paced with lots of twists, and I liked how the author told the story through the eyes of the Stephanie, Emily, and Sean. I also thought the inclusion of Stephanie's blog posts gave some additional insight into the insecurity of Stephanie's character. However, I have to say that the characters were rather unlikable (or at least, that's how I felt), and I really didn't root for them or even care what happened to them for that matter.

One thing I will say about the two women in this story, Stephanie and Emily, is that they were both pretty complex. They had similar dysfunctional childhoods which could have been a bonding experience, and they also had many, many secrets. As a result, I wasn't entirely sure who to believe -- both narrators were a little unreliable. As the novel progressed, I found myself not entirely believing that either of them were realistic characters, but they were interesting!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I had an unusual reaction to certain parts of this novel. There were a few times when the plot just didn't seem to ring true to me. I can't put my finger on any specific examples, but I do remember thinking that some of the actions of the characters just didn't make sense. I don't know that these things affected my overall appreciation of this novel, but they did stand out to me enough that I was thinking there were a few plot holes.

If you are willing to suspend reality for a bit and just want to be entertained by a twisted story, then I think you'll enjoy A SIMPLE FAVOR. It's a great blend of secrets, lies, betrayals, and love that I definitely found to be a page-turner!

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kid Konnection: My Miniature Library

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a delightful set of miniature books that makes the ideal holiday gift!

Summary: My Miniature Library is a kit to make a complete collection of tiny books that you can really read! With stories ranging from illustrated fairytales to well-loved nonsense rhymes and books of butterflies, birds and flowers, plus blank books for you to complete yourself, you'll have everything you need to make a little library of beautifully illustrated books. The books are simple to make – just cut, fold, and glue. The kit comes with a miniature bookshelf to press out and make, and easy-to-follow, fully illustrated instructions. Plus the box transforms into a beautiful library scene! -- Laurence King

I actually have never seen anything like MY MINIATURE LIBRARY: 30 TINY BOOKS TO MAKE, READ, AND TREASURE by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini. This boxed set is mined at kids seven years old and up; however, I think any book lover will appreciate this as a gift during the upcoming holiday season. This gift set looks like a large book, but it contains 20 teeny tiny books in a box that you can assemble to look like a home library. There is even a punch-out bookcase you can assemble to hold the tiny books! It's beyond adorable! MY MINIATURE LIBRARY has a fantastic collection of abbreviated versions of fairy tales, classics, natural history volumes, and even ten blank books that are begging for your own budding author's prose. The tiny books include BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, CINDERELLA, SLEEPING BEAUTY, THE FROG PRINCE, and more. I should probably mention that each book does require some assembly using cutting, folding, and gluing skills, so little crafters will enjoy this gift as well.
I am not exactly sure I'm doing a good job of explaining just how adorable this gift box is. I think this video does a much better job than anything I can write... so enjoy! Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this gift set.

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!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review: 365 Days of Cookies

Summary: Make life a little sweeter with a cookie for every day of the year from Taste of Home 365 Days of Cookies!

When it comes to smile-fetching sweets you can’t go wrong with cookies! From soft and chewy to crisp and crunchy, the buttery sensations always get thumb-up approval. Now you can satisfy your sweet tooth all year with this brand-new, fun-loving collection, Taste of Home 365 Days of Cookies! Featuring hundreds of full-color photos, this must-see edition offers after-school snacks, coffee-break bites, classroom treats, bake-sale favorites and holiday delights that are perfect throughout the year. You’ll even find cookies that celebrate days such as National Potato Chip Day (March 14), Jelly Bean Day (April 22) and National French Toast Day (November 28). Best of all, a Christmas- Cookies Bonus Section makes this cookbook a home baker’s dream come true! -- T of H Books

Cue the music! It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I think it's safe to say that it's officially the holiday season! I spend a lot of time decorating, shopping and wrapping gifts -- not exactly my favorite parts of Christmas. However, I also spend quite a few hours baking. And by baking, I mean hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies!

Of course, I have a few tried and true family favorites that I have to make, but I also try a few new recipes every year. To find my new cookies recipes for 2017, I have to look no further than TASTE OF HOME 365 DAYS OF COOKIES! I love anything and everything Taste of Home-related, and I truly think you can't go wrong when making their recipes.

365 DAYS OF COOKIES is just a terrific cookbook. I am in the holiday mood so my favorite section is the bonus one at the end of the cookbook that is specifically geared towards Christmas cookies, but this cookbook can be used year-round (hence the name of the cookbook!) There are cookie recipes for every occasion you can think of including bake-sale treats, after-school snacks, and more. There are also cookies that commemorate some pretty funny holidays include World Nutella Day and National Gumdrop Day.

I can't rave enough about 365 DAYS OF COOKIES! I'll admit it's a bit overwhelming because there are hundreds of cookie recipes (I mean that in the very best way), but Taste of Home has done a great job in presenting them in a clear way. There are chapters divided into seasons -- Cozy Bites, Celebrate Spring, Summer Fun, Fall Flavors, and the bonus holiday cookie section. Plus, there is a great explanation of cookie-baking basics as well as storage tips in the front of the cookbook. There is even a Short & Sweet icon to identify quick and easy cookie recipes.

One of my favorite things about 365 DAYS OF COOKIES is the full color photographs. Every cookie is pictured with such beautiful photos that it's hard not to get hungry while reading this book. I particularly like the pictures of the decorated cookies -- there are some terrific ideas. Of course, my cookies never look quite like the pro's, but at least I know what I'm aiming for!

I also really like the structure of the cookbook. You're probably thinking what the heck does she mean by "structure?" The cookbook is spiral bound inside of the cover, so it still looks nice on your bookshelf. In addition because it's spiral bound, the cookbook can lie flat while you're using it -- no need to balance a heavy jar to keep the pages open.

There are just so many little details about 365 DAYS OF COOKIES that make it special. I want to mention just a few things that bring this cookbook to the next level for me. There are step-by-step instructions so even rookie bakers can follow. In addition, there are baking tips and how-to's, shipping instructions, and ideas for gifting and displaying. And the index.... what can I say except that it's super friendly. Every cookie recipe is listing by type and major ingredients.

I wanted to share 365 DAYS OF COOKIES with you while you still have plenty of time to get that holiday baking done. When you're out shopping on Friday, remember to pick up a little something for yourself -- I highly recommend 365 DAYS OF COOKIES!

Thanks to Dalyn Miller Public Relations for providing a review copy of this cookbook.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: Pekoe Most Poison

Summary: In the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs, Theodosia Browning attends a “Rat Tea,” where the mice will play…at murder.

When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston’s most prominent hostesses, to a “Rat Tea,” she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston, where the cream of society would sponsor so-called rat teas to promote city rodent control and better public health.

But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen’s entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat.

The distraught Doreen soon engages Theo to pursue a discreet inquiry into who might have murdered her husband. As Theo and her tea sommelier review the guest list for suspects, they soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse… -- Berkley

I will be the first to say that my reading has taken a nosedive since I started working part-time. When you add the upcoming holiday prep and football games that I had to watch this weekend, I knew I needed a light, fun book, so I decided to pick up one of Laura Childs' Tea Shop Mysteries -- PEKOE MOST POISON.

I am a big fan of Laura Childs' cozies and I always can count on her to write entertaining novels. She has an uncanny ability to create intriguing mysteries that take place in a great setting. In addition, she has very likable amateur sleuths. Win win, right?

Although I've read quite a few of Ms. Childs' mysteries, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I had never picked up one of her Tea Shop Mysteries. The main character, Theodosia Browning, owns a tea shop... and I adore all types of tea; and the books take place in Charleston, SC. Given that Ms. Childs' cozies always seem to include recipes and tips, I dug right in.

PEKOE MOST POISON finds Theodosia attending a "Rat Tea" hosted by the socialite Doreen Briggs. The servers were dressed as white-gloved rodents and served the attendees tea and finger sandwiches. You might be asking yourself what a "Rat Tea" is (I sure did!). These parties date back to the early 20th century when the wealthy Charlestonians hosted teas to give attention to rodent control and public health issues.

Doreen's "Rat Tea" turns deadly! At first, it's just a centerpiece catching on fire, but Doreen's husband ends up convulsing... and then dying. It sure seems like poison -- could it be rat poison? Doreen asks Theodosia to begin her own investigation into who would want her beloved husband dead. As Theodosia gets closer and closer to the truth, she finds that whoever is responsible for this murder (and another one!) wants her out of the picture!

I enjoyed PEKOE MOST POISON. It was exactly what I needed to read this busy weekend. It was a quick read with a unique mystery and plenty of suspects. It also had a terrific amateur sleuth in Theodosia -- she's quite the spunky one! All in all, I found this novel lived up to my expectations of a Laura Childs' cozy.

I hate to admit this, but I definitely thought I knew who was responsible for Doreen's husband's death... and I was flat out wrong! I love it when that happens. I think I finally caught on to the murderer and the motive right about the same time that Theodosia did. I liked how the book wrapped up nicely, and I look forward to more of Theodosia's sleuthing as well as her potential romance!

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much I enjoyed both the setting of Charleston as well as the setting of the Indigo Tea Shop. The author managed to capture the essence of Charleston with her vivid descriptions of the stores and buildings. I also thought it was so much fun to visualize the tea shop and dream about all of the amazing teas they served there. I especially appreciated that there were recipes included in the back of the book as well as lots of tea tips!

PEKOE MOST POISON is an entertaining mystery that's sure to be a hit among cozy fans as well as tea lovers.

Thanks to the author 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.