Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: The People We Hate at the Wedding

Summary: Relationships are awful. They'll kill you, right up to the point where they start saving your life.

Paul and Alice’s half-sister Eloise is getting married! In London! There will be fancy hotels, dinners at “it” restaurants and a reception at a country estate complete with tea lights and embroidered cloth napkins.

They couldn’t hate it more.

The People We Hate at the Wedding is the story of a less than perfect family. Donna, the clan’s mother, is now a widow living in the Chicago suburbs with a penchant for the occasional joint and more than one glass of wine with her best friend while watching House Hunters International. Alice is in her thirties, single, smart, beautiful, stuck in a dead-end job where she is mired in a rather predictable, though enjoyable, affair with her married boss. Her brother Paul lives in Philadelphia with his older, handsomer, tenured track professor boyfriend who’s recently been saying things like “monogamy is an oppressive heteronormative construct,” while eyeing undergrads. And then there’s Eloise. Perfect, gorgeous, cultured Eloise. The product of Donna’s first marriage to a dashing Frenchman, Eloise has spent her school years at the best private boarding schools, her winter holidays in St. John and a post-college life cushioned by a fat, endless trust fund. To top it off, she’s infuriatingly kind and decent.

As this estranged clan gathers together, and Eloise's walk down the aisle approaches, Grant Ginder brings to vivid, hilarious life the power of family, and the complicated ways we hate the ones we love the most in the most bitingly funny, slyly witty and surprisingly tender novel you’ll read this year. -- Flatiron Books

One of the most memorable things that happened at this year's BEA was seeing a girl dressed as a bride handing out copies of THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING by Grant Ginder. It was just the beginning of the buzz for this novel, and since then it been on Entertainment Weekly's Summer Must-Read as well as a Publishers Weekly BEST SUMMER BOOKS, a 2017 New York Post Best Books of Summer, and Redbook's 10 Books You Have To Read This Summer!

I wasn't sure quite what to expect from THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING, but I had a few ideas based on the cover. I was expecting an irreverent look at a dysfunctional family, and that's exactly what I got. If anything, it was even funnier and more snarky than I was ever dreamed. I'm not easily offended and thought the book was hilarious, but there might be a reader or two out there that has a different sense of humor -- just a warning!

THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING tells the story of an unusual family. Donna, the matriarch is a widow living in Chicago who enjoys her wine and partakes in an occasional joint with the neighbor. Her daughter Alice is in her 30s and has an unfulfilling job, but she's livening things up by having an affair with her married boss. Next up is Paul, Alice's brother. He lives in Philly with his professor boyfriend (who's a bit pretentious to say the least and not entirely sure that monogamous relationships are normal) and works at a clinic helping people get over their fears. Finally, there's Eloise who is Paul and Alice's half sister. She's the one having the fancy wedding in London that none of them want to attend... and she's also practically perfect!

The book centers around the entire family coming together for Eloise's wedding and it's quite the wedding... and quite the family. Alice and Paul are both having personal issues in their own lives and resent Eloise for her perfect life, while Donna meets up with Eloise's father, her first husband. THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING is a hilarious look at a dysfunctional cast of characters that also shows that we can't escape our family... even if we sometimes want to!

I really enjoyed THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING. It was a fun surprise just how cutting this book was, and I appreciated how much I laughed at this family and their interactions. Their insights into their lives were truly entertaining, and their comments on each other were certainly biting. While I think (or hope) that this book was pure satire, there was a lot of truth in how they felt about each other. And that's the beauty of this novel.

At it's heart, THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING shows just how crazy spending time with our family can be. But it also shows how no one understands you the way your family does. Despite being a rather cutting story, the ending of this novel is touching and even heartwarming.

I realize this book isn't for every book club, but I do think it would make a great discussion book. I was able to find this reading guide with seven questions. Some of the themes you might want to talk about include family dynamics, sibling rivalry, marriage, divorce, second chances, and love.

All in all, THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING was a fun book that I recommend to fans of stories about dysfunctional families.

I received a copy of this novel at this year's BEA.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Giveaway: Ghosts of War

Summary: World war is on the horizon in New York Times bestselling author Brad Taylor’s tenth heart-pounding Pike Logan thriller.

The Taskforce has stopped countless terrorist threats across the globe, operating outside of US law to prevent the death of innocents. But now, along the fault lines of the old Iron Curtain, the danger is far greater than a single attack. With Russia expanding its influence from Syria to the Baltic States, the Taskforce is placed on stand-down because of the actions of one rogue operator.

Meanwhile, Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill travel to Poland, hired to verify artifacts hidden for decades in a fabled Nazi gold train, only to find themselves caught amid growing tensions between East and West. A Russian incursion into Belarus under the facade of self-defense is trumped by a horrific attack against the United States, driving NATO to mobilize even as it tries to determine who is behind the strike.

On the brink of war, Pike and Jennifer discover that there is a separate agenda in play, one determined to force a showdown between NATO and Russia. With time running out, and America demanding vengeance, Pike and Jennifer race to unravel the mystery before a point of no return is reached. Unbeknownst to them, there is another attack on the way.

One that will guarantee World War III. -- Dutton

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since Booking Pap Pap reviewed GHOSTS OF WAR by Brad Taylor, the tenth novel in the Pike Logan series. At the time, he said, "GHOSTS OF WAR is a good mixture of military action, history and technology in a fast-paced suspense thriller with plenty of twists and turns that should interest readers of this genre." You can read his full review here.

I've heard fantastic things about Brad Taylor and his novels. It seems like he definitely knows what he writes. Mr. Taylor served for more than twenty years in the US Army, including eight years in the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. Needless to say, he understands counter-terrorism and the reviews of his novels agree that he writes suspenseful and fast-paced thrillers!

If you missed GHOSTS OF WAR the first time around, then you are in luck because the paperback version is being released today! Thanks to the fine folks at Dutton, I have a copy of the newly released paperback to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before Monday, September 11th 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!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Watch Me Disappear

Summary: Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.

But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?

Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page. -- Speigel & Grau

WATCH ME DISAPPEAR by Janelle Brown has sure been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks. It's been sitting on my shelf since June; however, I finally decided to pick it up and see what all of the fuss is about. Well, I have to say, this novel is certainly a page-turner; and I think the author has written a compelling mystery. However, what I appreciated the most about this novel was the portrayal of a family in crisis.

WATCH ME DISAPPEAR delves into the story of the disappearance of Billie Flanagan, mother to Olive and wife to Jonathan. She was a stay-at-home mom who left one weekend for a solo hike and never returned. Her body was never found, and Olive and Jonathan have been reeling for the past year.

Jonathan has quit his high-paying job and is writing a book about his and Billie's marriage, while Olive attends an all-girls school that Jonathan can no longer afford. Billie appears to have been the glue that held the family together because both Olive and Jonathan are struggling with her disappearance and their relationship with each other.

And then things really turn upside down for these two. Olive begins having seizures and ultimately visions of her mother. She believes that Billie is alive and in trouble somewhere, while Jonathan has given up on all hope of her survival. However between writing the memoir and listening to his daughter, he starts to think that maybe there's more to her disappearance than just a hiking accident. He learns that his marriage wasn't as strong as he had thought and his wife was definitely keeping some major secrets from him. Both Olive and Jonathan are determined to discover the truth about Billie... even if that truth ends up being painful.

I enjoyed WATCH ME DISAPPEAR, but I'm not certain I loved it like some readers and reviewers. Maybe it was unfair expectations, but I didn't end up loving it despite strong writing and a solid plot... and I can't say exactly why. There is nothing negative that I can say about this novel so maybe it was just my mood while reading it.

The mystery of Billie's disappearance in WATCH ME DISAPPEAR is definitely intriguing. From the get-go, I wondered if she were really dead or had chosen to leave her "perfect" family. As Billie's story was gradually revealed, there were layer upon layer of secrets revealed. I definitely suspected that there was something very fishy about her life... and her death. The author did a great job of giving clues to the reader, and the ending, which was rather unexpected, was extremely satisfying in my opinion.

However, I found the real beauty of this novel to be the portrayal of the family -- both before Billie's disappearance and after. The book was written in flashbacks (many times through Jonathan's draft of his memoir), and I appreciated how the author used this technique to give insight into their family life as well as Billie's childhood and early adult years. Billie was a fascinating character who never seemed to be at peace with her life as a Berkeley mother and wife.

In addition, because Billie's body was never found, her family had no closure. In many ways, there weren't able to move on with their lives. Olive, being a teenage girl who desperately missed her mother, even began having supernatural visions of her. Naturally, she believed Billie was alive and asking for help. Meanwhile, instead of trying to move one, Jonathan was focusing on writing a book about the past and his marriage with a very dynamic woman. As a reader, I could understand how these two needed to move on but my heart also broke because how could they? There was just so much they didn't know about Billie's life and death.

Because the dynamics of this family were so interesting, I believe WATCH ME DISAPPEAR would make a fantastic book club selection, especially if your group enjoys mysteries. I was excited to find this reading guide with nine thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include grief, secrets, father/daughter relationships, marriage, psychic abilities, love and healing.

Overall, I do think WATCH ME DISAPPEAR is a highly readable thriller. I definitely recommend it to fans of womens fiction and mysteries.

I received a copy of this novel at this year's BEA.

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, August 26, 2017

Kid Konnection: Weird But True! Daily Planner

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 daily planner that's as fun as it is useful!

Summary: Prepare to be amazed each day with weird-but-true facts that will impress your friends and stump your parents. Turn the page and record your school work, keep track of activities, and plan your social life, all while learning wild and wacky things about the world around you.

Fun prompts invite you to celebrate weirdness. Plus there are homework help sections and tons of space to write or doodle your daily schedule any way you wish. With beautiful full-color artwork and engaging information and activities, this is the must-have planner. It's a great way to stand out from the crowd! -- National Geographic Kids

School is in full swing here in Central PA, and I'm remember how busy our family is during the school year. Between assignments, work, karate, football games, etc., we have a heck of a lot going on. And that's where the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS WEIRD BUT TRUE! DAILY PLANNER: 365 DAYS TO FILL WITH SCHOOL, SPORTS, FRIENDS, AND FUN! will come in handy!

This daily planner is fantastic! I absolutely love it and can't wait to use it... unless Booking Son hijacks it! Truth be told, I am featuring the WEIRD BUT TRUE! DAILY PLANNER as part of my Kid Konnection feature because it is geared towards kids ages 8 - 12 years old; however, I intend to use this planner to track our family's activities. It's a spiral bound book that can be used for any year, not just 2018, and it has big spaces where I can jot down our to-do lists. It begins on August 1st and runs to July 31st... so perfect for right now and the start of school!

As I'm writing this review, I'm beginning to feel a little guilty about keeping this daily planner for myself. It really is so much fun for kids, and I know Booking Son would love it. There are pages to track a school schedule and an intro section with fill-in-the-blanks asking a few fun facts about the owner of the book, like "What do you smell like right now?" and "Name Your Spirit Animal." There are also gorgeous photographs, pop quizzes, questionnaires, and some weird fun facts thrown in too! Did you know that humans are the only animals with a chin?
The end of this daily planner has a great resource titled "Homework Help." Here kids will find a world map (with a few weird but true facts) and an explanation of longitude, latitude, scale and direction as well as information about taxonomy and useful charts for distance, volume, and weight. There are also some steps to school success including how to make oral reports easy and how to write a report.

The WEIRD BUT TRUE! DAILY PLANNER is a great way to help keep kids organized this school year while still learning and having fun. Highly recommended!

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

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

Guest Review: The Boy in the Shadows

Summary: 1970: In an overcrowded Stockholm subway station, a harried father and his two boys are late for their train. Joel, the youngest, is howling in his stroller and his seven-year-old brother, Kristoffer, refuses to take the elevator.

A woman approaches and helpfully offers to lead Kristoffer up the stairs. Reluctantly his father agrees, but when he arrives on the platform Kristoffer and the woman have vanished without a trace. The kidnapping becomes a national sensation, but the boy is never found …

Today: Joel, now an adult, goes missing in suspicious circumstances. His frantic wife turns to Danny Katz—an old friend with a troubled past—for help. A brilliant computer programmer and recovering heroin addict, Katz is also the divorced father of two young girls. Katz begins to dig behind the digital veil in search of Joel, even though the investigation quickly interferes with his duties as a parent. Before long, Katz discovers he isn't the only one trying to find Joel.

The deeper Katz digs, the more upsetting the secrets he uncovers about the wealthy and powerful family at the heart of the investigation. Chillingly, the case takes a violent turn that reveals a disorienting connection to Katz's own troubled childhood—soon there will be no backing out of his unofficial investigation. -- Quercus

I'm still reeling from the first week of school... and missing my college girl! So it's with much relief that Booking Pap Pap is back with a review of THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS by Carl-Johan Vallgren. Here are his thoughts:

THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS is a Swedish novel written by Carl-Johan Vallgren that is expertly translated into English by Rachel Willson Broyles.

In June, 1970 a father and his two sons are at a train station in Stockholm, Sweden when circumstances lead to the kidnapping of the oldest son, Kristoffer. The kidnapping was never solved and the parents die 10 years later of an apparent suicide leaving the younger son Joel to grow up under the care of his wealthy grandfather Gustav Klingberg. Moving forward 42 years to 2012, the younger of the sons, Joel, now active in the Klingberg business empire, goes missing. Joel’s beautiful wife, Angelina, asks Danny Katz, a successful translator and previous heroin addict to help find Joel. At one time Joel Klingberg and Katz worked together as interpreters for the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It seems Klingberg spoke highly of Katz to his wife and she reached out to Katz for help. Although he had no investigating experience, the need for money drove Katz to accept the job.

The investigation takes Katz on a bizarre journey that not only puts his life in danger but exposes him to many of the secrets of the Klingberg family, including their history of voodoo. The case takes him from the underground drug world of Stockholm to the Dominican Republic to Haiti. Katz is pulled back into memories of his drug induced past and when he is accused of murder he seeks help from the two best friends of his youth, Eva Westin, now a public prosecutor and Jorma Hedlund, recently released from prison. Katz soon discovers that he is a bigger part of the case than he could have ever imagined.

In THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS, author Carl-Johan Vallgren has developed very strong but flawed characters, and many of them have dark and chilling personalities. There are no “white hat” characters in this novel. Vallgren has created a well-executed plot that takes the reader through a myriad of twists and turns that keeps the final conclusion a secret until the very end. This is a very good addition to the thriller genre. I think that in Dannie Katz and Eva Westin, Vallgren has created characters that readers may see again.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: The Dating Bender

Summary: A hysterical dramedy about a woman unhinged and at a crossroad. “Julian’s debut takes an unabashed look at a failed marriage, divorce, and dating under the scrutiny of a less than supportive family.” —former San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Adair Lara. 

 Here I am, on my knees in front of the Trevi Fountain, hoping like hell the legend is true. That the fountain gives you solace and love by a mere toss of a coin. 

Why am I here, exactly? Let’s see… 

 It started with my parents telling me to get married. Of course, being the good Catholic girl I am, I did. 

Needless to say, that marriage nosedived, and my parents weren’t exactly happy about it. 

Newly ditched and shamefully disowned, I decided to follow the advice of Babs, a tart-of-a-mentor, who offered me a job in Colorado. 

Her advice? Sex…and lots of it. 

The temptation of freedom, to do whatever—whoever—I wanted was too damn strong for me to say no. 

And that’s how it all started. The men, the sex, the journey… 

The dating bender. 

Because everybody deserves a do-over. 

THE DATING BENDER is a hilarious satire about dysfunctional family relationships, women who love the wrong men, and one epic hunt for happiness. -- Limitless Publishing

If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you might be a little surprised to see a review for THE DATING BENDER by Christina Julian. I am the first to admit that this isn't my typical reading fare. It's not a thriller nor literary fiction. Rather it's a sexy romance -- definitely not my genre of choice. However, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and give it a try.

THE DATING BENDER tells the story of Samantha, a woman who is definitely at some sort of crossroads in her life. The book begins with her wedding, and it's clear that her parents don't exactly approve of her husband. It seems like Samantha is finally escaping her difficult childhood with her marriage; however, things go bad quickly and Samantha's marriage is over. She heads back home only to learn that her very Catholic parents immediately disown her!

Her mentor Babs, who also happens to be a bit trashy, offers her a job in Colorado... and she recommends that Samantha have lots of sex. Obviously, Samantha is all out of sorts because she takes Babs' advice to heart and starts a life of excess, especially when it comes to men and sex. Hence the name of the novel -- THE DATING BENDER.

I hardly know where to start with this review. THE DATING BENDER definitely isn't my type of book, so I'm not going to go into what I didn't like because I knew what I was getting into when I picked up a book with this description. Suffice it to say that I am not the target reader. What I will share is that the book is pretty dirty with lots of sex talk and sex scenes. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I know there's an audience out there for this book.

Instead, I will focus on the beginning and the ending of the novel -- the parts where Samantha wasn't experiencing her dating bender. I actually thought the wedding scene, and especially Samantha's terribly dysfunctional parents, were pretty funny. I also enjoyed the beginning and end of Samantha's marriage... if you can actually say "enjoy" when her marriage was falling apart. I also really enjoyed the ending of the novel -- the time when Samantha came back to earth and finally found some perspective on her life. She even had some good words of wisdom!

I also thought the debut author did a good job with writing in Samantha's voice. While I got frustrated pretty quickly with Samantha, I did think she was funny at times. I also appreciated that the story was told through her eyes. I actually think that the author's portrayal of Sam's messy life was one of the strengths of the novel.

Overall, I'm not exactly sure what my final thoughts of THE DATING BENDER are. It's definitely not a book that I'd usually pick up and I'm probably not the best person to assess its merits. What I can say is that it does have some funny scenes and I think some readers will appreciate the sex talk.

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

Summary: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating. -- Doubleday

I rarely read non-fiction, so I was excited when my book club decided to read KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON: THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI by David Grann. I first heard about this book during my visit to SIBA last September, and the story sounded almost unbelievable to me. I had to wonder why I had never heard about the horrific events surrounding the Osage Indian nation in the 1920s.

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is a jaw dropping story about the richest people per capita in the world in the 1920s -- the Osage Indian nation. They struck oil on their land and many of the Osage lived a life of luxury... until they started being killed off one by one. Mollie Burkhart's family was hit especially hard as her mother and sisters were poisoned and shot; however, most members of the nation were affected in one way or another by the deaths.

When the death toll reached 24, the FBI decided to take the case. It was one of their first major homicide investigations and it didn't go well. FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover decided to assign a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to solve the case. White assembled an undercover team that tried to immerse themselves into the region and figure out what the heck was going on. The story becomes more and more amazing as they discover clues during their investigation!

I am still reeling from KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON! It truly is an amazing story that's not only shocking but also extremely sad. I can't believe that not one of the members of my book club had ever even heard of what happened to the members of the Osage Nation, and I think they says quite a bit about our country's relationship with Native Americans... but more on that later.

The reactions on this book were mixed among my book club friends. All of us agreed that the story is truly remarkable (I am running out of adjectives!), but some of us appreciated the book more than others. I will admit that I felt as if the story carried the book, but I understand some of the issues with the writing. There were parts that were a bit dry, but it is non-fiction so I was fine with that. Others not so much!

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON has received tons of great reviews, and I think I heard that there are plans for a movie. It is definitely a story that needs to be heard. As my friends and I discussed this book, we couldn't help but focus on how our country treated Native Americans, and especially the Osage Nation. It was a horribly sad time in our nation's history, and I would like to think we've learned from it and changed, but...

As a fan of crime books, I actually enjoyed the parts of the book that focused on the FBI and their investigation techniques. It was a fascinating time with lots of changes. Keep in mind that it wasn't far removed from the Wild West! It was interesting to see an early J. Edgar Hoover's management techniques, as well as Tom White's devotion to the case.

Overall, I highly recommend KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON. It's definitely going to be one of the most unbelievable true stories that you will read this year!

I received a review copy via Net Galley.

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, August 19, 2017

Kid Konnection: National Geographic Kids U.S. Atlas

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 terrific atlas for kids.

Summary: Kids will have fun learning about every U.S. state in this amazing atlas, packed with maps, stats, facts, and pictures. National Geographic's world-renowned cartographers have paired up with education experts to create maps of the 50 states, U.S. territories, and Washington, D.C., that pinpoint the physical features, capitals, and towns and cities of each state. Discover the latest data and trends along with colorful photography of each state and the people who live there.

Key points reflect the latest information about land and water, people, and places. Lively essays cover each region of the country. Eight specially themed maps on nature, population, energy, climate, and more, delve deeper into key issues. State birds and state flags add to the high visual interest. This is a great reference for home and school with all the basics kids need to know to succeed in middle school, high school, and beyond. -- National Geographic Kids

National Geographic Kids has done it again, but that really shouldn't be a surprise if you regularly follow my blog. Their latest release is NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS UNITED STATES ATLAS, and it's fantastic. This oversized paperback book, aimed at ages 8 - 12, is a Parent's Choice Award Winner as well as a terrific resource for home and school libraries!

This atlas is perfect for kids (and adults) who want to know more about the U.S.A.! Not only does it have over 75 maps, including ones for each of the 50 states, but it is full of facts, photos, and statistics about the United States. I know I say this all of the time, but National Geographic Kids makes learning fun.

The book is divided into sections based on regions -- The Northeast, The Southeast, The Midwest, The Southwest, The West, and The Territories. Within each section, there are maps that you'd expect from an Atlas with physical and political data, but there are also lots of photographs and fun facts about the areas. Each state within the region is then broken down with specific maps and economic information. There truly is so much to look at on each page!

I really enjoyed the beginning section of the atlas. It teaches kids how to use the atlas, but it also provides some very cool maps of the U.S. including a physical one, a natural environment one, a natural hazard one, a political one, a climate one, and a population one. It even features Washington D.C., the nation's capital.

Overall, I can't rave enough about the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS UNITED STATES ATLAS! It's a book filled with so much important information, but it's presented in a way that makes discovering things about our country fun. Highly recommended!

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: Busy Family 2018 Planning Calendar

Summary: Keep your family's schedule organized and track up to five family members while enjoying charming season artwork by Alison Cole. The large calendar grid, colorful reminder stickers, and handy storage pocket make it fun and easy to manage everyone all year long! -- Rock Point Gift & Stationery

I mentioned yesterday that school starts for both of my kids on Monday. That means my daughter will be a freshman at Penn State, and my son will be starting seventh grade. Needless to say, we are definitely in back-to-school mode which means over the next 10 months, I'll be making lots of lists and tracking many activities.

And that's where the BUSY FAMILY 2018 PLANNING CALENDAR will come in handy! This 17-month calendar (which runs from August 2017 through December 2018) has everything a busy family needs to be organized. This wall calendar is really adorable... and of course, practical. Each month has a large calendar grid with different colored lines on each day. These lines can be used for each family member's activities, but I just like that they make my to-do list easier to read.

The BUSY FAMILY 2018 PLANNING CALENDAR is a terrific. The whimsical artwork is positively adorable with different scenes for the various months. For example, August has some sea creatures while January has some woodland animals. In addition to the cute artwork, the calendar includes reminder stickers for birthdays, doctor and dentist appointments, half-days, and more. There are also fun stickers for school breaks, family fun time, and vacations. And this might just be my favorite "mom" part of the calendar -- there are stickers for chores and dinner that are large enough to customize.

I love the BUSY FAMILY 2018 PLANNING CALENDAR and I think it would be a great help to busy families! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a sample of this calendar.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: Color for Calm All Year Long 2018

Summary: Our lives become busier with each passing day, and as technology escalates, so does our access to work, obligations, and stress. Constant stimulation and expectation have left us burnt out and distanced from the present moment. Color for Calm All Year Long 2018 offers over 300 coloring templates all designed to help you get coloring and get relaxed throughout the year.

This boxed calendar has a unique feature of five double sided colored pencils attached to the back stand. This will make it easy to color yourself calm all year long! -- Rock Point Gift & Stationery

With school starting for both of my kids on Monday, I'm definitely starting to think about fall and football! But it also means that the holidays are right around the corner, and I do like to get a head-start on Christmas shopping. One gift that I always received as a kid (and tend to buy for my own children) is a yearly calendar.

The COLOR FOR CALM ALL YEAR LONG 2018 is a really great box calendar that has a different coloring template for each day of the year. Not only can you color a different calming image every day, but this boxed set also includes a set of 5 double-sided colored pencils that attach to the base. The designs by Carrie Stephens are absolutely adorable and guaranteed to give you at least a few minutes of "calm" each day as you color the calendar page... you know, before life gets crazy!

I know it's still August, but it's never to early to discover fun (and reasonable) gifts for the holiday season. I just love the COLOR FOR CALM ALL YEAR LONG 2018 calendar, and I think it's both a practical and entertaining gift for the person in your life that needs a little calm in their life... and really, who doesn't need a little calm?

Thanks to the publisher for providing a sample of this calendar.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: Goodbye, Vitamin

Summary: Her life at a crossroads, a young woman goes home again in this funny and inescapably moving debut from a wonderfully original new literary voice.

Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she'd realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth's father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief. Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life. -- Henry Holt

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I picked up GOODBYE, VITAMIN by Rachel Khong. All I knew was that it was appearing on some Best of Summer lists, and it had a unique cover and title. It ends up that this book is pretty unique in its own right.

GOODBYE, VITAMIN tells the story of Ruth, a thirty-year old woman whose fiancé has recently broken up with her. After receiving a call from her mother, she decides to quit her job and return to her childhood home for the holidays. What greets her there is startling -- her father, an esteemed history professor, is suffering from memory loss and in denial; and her mother is trying to cope with things in some unusual ways.

Moving back in with the parents at 30 years old with no job and no fiancé is never ideal, but Ruth has an interesting take on her life. GOODBYE, VITAMIN is her story, both touching and funny; and it definitely gives readers a glimpse into the things that life can throw your way... and how important it is to keep things in perspective.

I thoroughly enjoyed GOODBYE, VITAMIN, and I am extremely impressed with Ms. Khong's writing. The novel is written in Ruth's voice and readers get a peak into her life through vignettes. What starts as brief accounts of her life, full of stories about her parents and her father's memory loss, eventually turns more insightful as Ruth begins to reflect on her own past. It's almost as like Ruth's memories become more important in her life as her father's disappear.

I really can't express how much of a pleasant surprise Ms. Khong's writing was to me. I didn't have a lot of exceptions, but I ended up being really moved by how well she brought this story to life. I had a grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer's so parts of Ruth's story really resonated with me. And I'll be the first to admit, that Alzheimer's is a terrible disease for both the victim and the family; however, it's true that my family has many hilarious memories of my grandmother's behavior. I think we had to laugh or we'd go crazy, and the author certainly captures those feelings in this story.

Finally, I want share how much I loved so many of the messages in this novel. There weren't in your face themes, but they were messages that stayed with me long after finishing this book. It's true that we see our parents in a different light the older we get, and Ruth certainly saw her father differently that she did as a child -- and that was both good and bad for her. But this novel also focused on universal themes like loss, love and family; and I especially appreciated how insightful the story and characters were.

I highly recommend GOODBYE, VITAMIN to fans of literary fiction and especially those that enjoy novels about families.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kid Konnection: Duck and Hippo Lost and Found & Giveaway

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

Summary: Duck and Hippo have a picnic and a new adventure!

Duck and Hippo invite their friends Turtle, Elephant, and Pig to a picnic at their favorite pond. Yippee! It’s time to dance and sing, swim and eat. Everyone brings goodies to share…except Hippo. He didn’t bring ANYTHING. So Hippo sets off into the forest to find some berries. But he is gone a long time, and Duck begins to worry that Hippo is lost. What should his friends do to find him? Join Duck and Hippo on another fun adventure! -- Two Lions

The cute characters Duck and Hippo are back in DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND by Jonathan London and illustrated by Andrew Joyner. In this picture book installment, Duck and Hippo invite their friends to a picnic at their favorite pond. Duck brings an basket of goodies, while Elephant brings peppermint peach juice and a watermelon. Pig brings a pizza and Turtle brings chips, paper products and a blanket. Everyone contributed to the fun... everyone that is except Hippo! Hippo felt as if he couldn't join in their celebration because he forgot to bring something to the picnic.

Hippo gets the bright idea to pick some wild berries in the forest, but it took him quite awhile to return. His friends get concerned and head off in search of Hippo. Nighttime is rapidly approaching and the critters still can't find Hippo because Hippo is still searching for the berries. When they finally find Hippo, he's naturally relieved to see his friends... and he even gives each one of them a berry. They return to their picnic site and the festivities (and eating) can finally begin!

I thought DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND was another cute depiction of these two friends' adventures. The story is very sweet and the illustrations are the perfect complement to the fun text. Once again, Duck and Hippo demonstrate the power of friendship... friendship between two unlikely characters, and I think both parents and kids will appreciate the messages in this picture book.

I think Duck and Hippo and their friends are adorable, and I love how much fun their stories are. There is quite a bit of humor incorporated into this story, especially through Hippo's words and actions. In addition, the illustrations so cute. They are bright and whimsical, and I think they convey the personalities of the various characters. All in all, I think DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND is a picture book little ones will love!

If you can't get enough of Duck and Hippo, then check out these free downloadable activity pages.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this book.

I'm excited to say that I have a copies of DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND and DUCK AND HIPPO IN THE RAINSTORM to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before Friday, August 25th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Review: Lost and Found Sisters

Summary: From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes her first women's fiction novel—an unforgettable story of friendship, love, family, and sisterhood—perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover, Susan Mallery, and Kristan Higgins.

They say life can change in an instant…

After losing her sister in a devastating car accident, chef Quinn Weller is finally getting her life back on track. She appears to have it all: a loving family, a dream job in one of L.A.'s hottest eateries, and a gorgeous boyfriend dying to slip an engagement ring on her finger. So why does she feel so empty, like she's looking for a missing piece she can't find?

The answer comes when a lawyer tracks down Quinn and reveals a bombshell secret and a mysterious inheritance that only she can claim. This shocking revelation washes over Quinn like a tidal wave. Her whole life has been a lie.

On impulse, Quinn gives up her job, home, and boyfriend. She heads up the coast to the small hometown of Wildstone, California, which is just a few hours north, but feels worlds apart from Los Angeles. Though she doesn't quite fit in right away, she can't help but be drawn to the town’s simple pleasures…and the handsome, dark-haired stranger who offers friendship with no questions asked.

As Quinn settles into Wildstone, she discovers there's another surprise in store for her. The inheritance isn't a house or money, but rather something earthshattering, something that will make her question everything she thought she knew about herself, about her family. Now with a world of possibilities opening up to Quinn, she must decide if this new life is the one she was always meant to have—and the one that could finally give her the fulfillment she's searched so long for. -- William Morrow

I'm not a reader of romance novels, but I guess Jill Shalvis is a huge fan favorite! I've been hearing about her for years, and I'm amazed by not only her following but how much she's written. Ms. Shalvis has written nine different series. That's not novels -- that's series! Amazing! Her latest story, LOST AND FOUND SISTERS is actually her first foray into women's fiction, and I figured it was high time for me to give her books a try!

LOST AND FOUND SISTERS is touching story about a women who discovers that her life is a lie -- basically, she isn't who she thought she was! Quinn Weller is a chef who seemingly has it all. She has a terrific family, a great job in an L.A. restaurant, and a gorgeous boyfriend. However, life hasn't always been this great. Quinn has worked hard to bounce back from her sister's death in a car accident.

One day, Quinn's life turns upside down when a lawyer tracks down Quinn and reveals a secret that makes Quinn question everything. He surprises Quinn by revealing that she has a mysterious inheritance from someone she never knew, and this information throws Quinn into a tailspin. She ends up dropping almost everything from her life and heads north to the small town of Wildstone. It's very different than L.A., but Quinn feels like she belongs there. Of course, the hot stranger who shows up doesn't hurt either!

Quinn doesn't inherit a house or money. Rather, it's a small cafe that needs some work. Quinn also learns that she has a teenage sister named Tilly who basically is all alone. Now, Quinn has to face that her life is far different from what she's thought... and decide if her new life in Wildstone is the right one for her.

LOST AND FOUND SISTERS is a heartwarming story about loss, family, and second chances... with some romance thrown in. I understand that this novel is classified as women's fiction, and rightly so, but there is enough romance thrown in to please Ms. Shalvis' fans (I think -- I'm definitely not an expert on romance novels!)

I liked LOST AND FOUND SISTERS, but I don't know that I'd say I loved it. It's certainly entertaining and I couldn't help but like Quinn... and I was definitely interested in everything going on in her life. However, it's not a book that's likely to stay with me. Overall, I guess I'd say that it was a fun summer read!

There were a couple of things that stood out to me about LOST AND FOUND SISTERS. I actually liked most of the characters in the novel. Quinn was a lot of fun, although I did feel sorry for her at times. It seemed like she was not even over the loss of her sister when she had to face that her parents were keeping some pretty big secrets from her. I definitely liked her love interest Mick (and his smelly dog) as well as many of the quirky people who resided in Wildstone. I even liked the "supernatural" appearance of Quinn's dead sister Beth!

I also appreciated the theme of sisterhood in this novel. Obviously, Quinn didn't set out to find a replacement for her sister, but she ended up discovering that she had Tilly. Quinn's devotion to Tilly was certainly admirable -- it's never easy to raise a teenager, and I had to love her sense of responsibility for her. I also liked seeing how Quinn depended on Beth (or Beth's ghost!) to help guide her to do what was right.

Finally, it was fairly obvious to me that Ms. Shalvis is a writer of all things romance. There were more of those scenes that most women's fiction books (which makes it a good summer read!); and while I'm not really a good judge of love scenes, I could tell that these were way above average. She did a great job of creating chemistry between Quinn and Mick, but she also described their love for each other in a sweet (and sometimes passionate!) way.

There is a reading guide in the back of LOST AND FOUND SISTERS to help enhance book club discussions although I wasn't able to find an on-line link. Some of the topics you might want to discuss include Beth's ghost and the effect it had on Quinn, parent/child relationships, sisterhood, family, friendships, second chances, loss, grief, love, and forgiveness.

LOST AND FOUND SISTERS is a sweet (and fun) story about sisters, family, friendship, and love. I think fans of Ms. Shalvis' will enjoy this book as well as readers looking for a good escape read.

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Guest Review: A Divided Spy

Summary: Thomas Kell thought he was done with spying. A former MI6 officer, he devoted his life to the Service, but it has left him with nothing but grief and a simmering anger against the Kremlin.

Then Kell is offered an unexpected chance at revenge. Taking the law into his own hands, he embarks on a mission to recruit a top Russian spy who is in possession of a terrifying secret. As Kell tracks his man from Moscow to London, he finds himself in a high stakes game of cat and mouse in which it becomes increasingly difficult to know who is playing whom.

As the mission reaches boiling point, the threat of a catastrophic terrorist attack looms over Britain. Kell is faced with an impossible choice. Loyalty to MI6—or to his own conscience? -- St. Martin's Press

Booking Pap Pap is finally back -- it's been awhile! His latest read is A DIVIDED SPY by Charles Cumming. Here are his thoughts:

Thomas Kell, a retired British M16 spy, has been depressed since the death of his girlfriend/agent a year earlier and wants nothing more than to avenge her death. He sees an opportunity for vengeance when he learns that the Russian agent responsible for her death may be vulnerable to an effort to turn him. It seems that Russian agent, Alexander Minasian, currently married to the daughter of a powerful Russian oligarch is also in a homosexual relationship with a German business man. Delivering Minasian to M16 would satisfy Kell’s desire for vengeance. His ex-boss at M16, Amelia Levene, reluctantly agrees to Kell’s plan but offers little enthusiasm or manpower support.

As Kell approaches Minasian and they play their game of cat and mouse, they show signs of mutual mistrust as well as mutual respect. As a sign of Minasian’s willingness to cooperate on at least a minimum level, he shares some information with Kell about a possible terrorist attack in a British city. It appears that Shahid Khan, a British born son of a Pakistani immigrant has been radicalized by ISIS and plans a serious attack in the British sea coast city of Brighton.

When Kell reports this information, M16 hesitates to act on it believing that Kell is being used by Minasian. Kell is now divided (thus the book title). Does he continue to satisfy his personal thirst for vengeance by working Minasian or does he attempt to stop a possible attack that threatens thousands of people? Author Charles Cumming nicely weaves these two seemingly independent issues in an exciting spy novel that contains the requisite danger and twists and turns.

I found it interesting that Kell is not the only character that is divided in this story. Minasian is divided between love for his wife and his homosexual tendencies and Shahid Khan is divided between his death mission and the love he has for the woman he met in Brighton.

A DIVIDED SPY is the third book by Charles Cumming featuring M16 agent Thomas Kell but definitely stands on its own. Not having read the prior novels, a little more background on Kell may have actually been helpful. Kell appears to leave M16 for real this time my guess is that a fourth book seems unlikely.

If you’re into spy novels, A DIVIDED SPY should be added to your reading list.

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Review: Bring Her Home

Summary: In the breathtaking new thriller from David Bell, bestselling author of Since She Went Away and Somebody I Used to Know, the fate of two missing teenage girls becomes a father’s worst nightmare….

Just a year and a half after the tragic death of his wife, Bill Price’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Summer, and her best friend, Haley, disappear. Days later, the girls are found in a city park. Haley is dead at the scene, while Summer is left beaten beyond recognition and clinging to life.

As Bill holds vigil over Summer’s bandaged body, the only sound the unconscious girl can make is one cryptic and chilling word: No. And the more time Bill spends with Summer, the more he wonders what happened to her. Or if the injured girl in the hospital bed is really his daughter at all.

When troubling new questions about Summer’s life surface, Bill is not prepared for the aftershocks. He’ll soon discover that both the living and the dead have secrets. And that searching for the truth will tear open old wounds that pierce straight to the heart of his family… -- Berkley

It's hard to believe that I've been doing Mystery Mondays for quite a few years now and haven't yet reviewed a book by David Bell. I have read that he's a "skilled storyteller" (Houston Chronicle), and I even remember one of his books being featured at the Speed Dating Panel at BEA. Well, I finally discovered for myself what all the fuss was about while reading his latest book BRING HER HOME.

BRING HER HOME tells the disturbing story of a father who is living an absolute nightmare. Around 18 months ago, Bill Price's wife was found dead after a freak household accident. Naturally, nothing is the same for him and his daughter Summer; however, recently they've been having a bit of a difficult time communicating. Bill doesn't think it's that out of the norm... until Summer goes missing. Three days later, they find the girls in a park -- Haley is dead and Summer was beaten so badly that she's fighting for her life.

Bill won't leave his daughter's side, despite her being unconscious and basically unresponsive. She will only utter the word, "no." And Bill can't make sense of what she's trying to tell him. Bill begins to wonder what happened to his daughter... or if this beaten girl is even really his daughter!

As police begin investigating Summer's life and what could have happened to her, Bill is forced to face that he doesn't truly know his daughter -- she's been keeping some secrets from him. Bill decides that he has to get to the bottom of what happened to his daughter... even if that means he reopens some painful wounds from his past!

I enjoyed BRING HER HOME quite a bit, and I understand why Mr. Bell is an award-winning writer! This novel was a true-page turner and the twists and turns were top-notch. There were so many major surprises in this novel. I was shocked with the first one (and pretty impressed), only to find that there were more in store. There is no doubt that Mr. Bell takes his readers on a wild ride!

One thing that impressed me with BRING HER HOME was how well Mr. Bell made Bill's pain so real. I can't imagine losing a wife and then just a few months later going through this tragedy with his daughter. Of course it would be easy to feel bad for Bill; however, the author made Bill a complex character. He definitely had some anger management issues, and truth be told, I didn't always like him... or even trust him. I liked that I had some doubts about the main character in this novel.

In fact, I had an overall sense of unease while reading this book... I mean that in a good way though. Needless to say, as a mom of a teen, this book's subject matter was disturbing for me -- not only what happened to the girls, but also that Summer had so many secrets from her dad. However, it also the sense of nervousness I had surrounding Bill and many of the secondary characters. I thought they were possibly shady and their actions struck me as strange at times. Bill, especially, was so erratic -- wavering between anger and sadness -- and so desperate that I was constantly on edge.

Despite thinking this novel was a fast-paced thriller, I did have a few slight issues with BRING HER HOME, though. I'm not sure I can articulate my thoughts, but there were times when I thought the characters were almost too insightful. For example, Bill's sister just seemed to figure things out that I thought were a stretch... and she did it quite a few times. This wasn't a major complaint for me, but it did strike me as a bit too convenient.

BRING HER HOME would make an interesting book for book clubs if you're looking for a thriller to read. I was happy to find a reading guide with ten thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include secrets, father/daughter relationships, anger management, family ties, denial, marriage, memories, and trust.

Overall, I think BRING HER HOME is an intriguing thriller with lots of twists and turns. I definitely recommend this novel to fans of Mr. Bell's as well as readers who enjoy suspense novels.

Thanks to Get Red PR and 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, August 5, 2017

Kid Konnection: The Football Fanbook & Giveaway

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a timely book for football fans! 

Summary: So you’re a football fan and now you want to take your passion for the game to the next level? Sports Illustrated Kids The Football Fanbook is just what you need. A key addition to every young sports fanatic’s library, The Football Fanbook is filled with fun trivia and unique lingo to impress your friends, illustrated behind-the-skills how-to’s, important game-winning strategies, and much more. Readers will sound like experts in no time. -- Sports Illustrated Kids

When August hits, there is definitely building excitement for the Booking Mama Family -- it's almost football season! We are huge Penn State football fans; and now that Booking Daughter will be a freshman there, we finally decided to bite the bullet and get season tickets. My husband and Booking Son are major fantasy football players, so Red Zone is on non-stop in our house every Sunday. In fact, our fall weekends kind of revolve around football.

So when THE FOOTBALL FANBOOK: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO BECOME A GRIDIRON KNOW-IT-ALL by Gary Gramling arrived, Booking Son was beside himself. Truth be told, I wasn't entirely sure he'd be interested in it because he already considers himself a "gridiron know-it-all." However, he was extremely excited because "this book has stats." Actually, THE FOOTBALL FANBOOK is aimed at kids who are interested in the sport, and it's a little more detailed that some of the other kids' sports books that I've covered on this blog.

THE FOOTBALL FANBOOK is an excellent book full of trivia about football and the teams... and it does include lots of statistics. In fact, the first chapter is titled Know These Numbers -- the starts and figures NFL fans should recite by heart. It is followed by these chapters: Obscure Facts, Skills to Master, Think Like a Coach, He Reminds Me Of..., Team Tidbits, and Talk the Talk. There is plenty of football lingo and even some coaching terms and strategies for kids wanting to go to the next level with football knowledge.

As a mom, I liked quite a few things about this book too. First, I love that it's aimed at an older audience. The book is geared for kids, but it goes way beyond the basics. There really aren't a lot of kids' sports books like this one. I also loved the overall look and feel of this book. There are so many colorful photographs and unique ways to teach kids about the game. For example, there are charts, graphs, and illustrations which provide the basics, but there are also some really funny captions and explanations that make learning fun!

I had to grab this book out of my son's room to prepare this review. Usually, he waits until I review a book before claiming it but I think he couldn't help himself with THE FOOTBALL FANBOOK. It really is the perfect book for him... and other kids who love sports. I highly recommend this book for home and school libraries!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this book.

Lucky for you, I have a copy of THE FOOTBALL FANBOOK to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before Friday, August 18th 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!

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: The Shark Club (Audio)

Summary: A warm and wonderfully vivid novel about taking second chances—in life and in the sea

One summer day on the beach in Florida, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is bitten by a blacktip shark.

Eighteen years later, Maeve has thrown herself into her work as a world-traveling marine biologist discovering more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. But when Maeve returns home to the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses where she was raised by her grandmother, she finds more than just the blood orange sunsets and key lime pies she’s missed waiting for her.

While Maeve has always been fearless in the water, on land she is indecisive. A chance meeting on the beach with a plucky, irresistible little girl who is just as fascinated by the ocean as Maeve was growing up leaves her at a crossroads: Should she re-kindle her romance with Daniel, the first love she left behind when she dove into her work? Or indulge in a new romance with her colleague, Nicholas, who turns up in her hometown to investigate an illegal shark-finning operation?

Set against the intoxicating backdrop of palm trees, calypso bands, and perfect ocean views, The Shark Club is a story of the mysterious passions of one woman’s life: her first love and new love; the sea and sharks that inhabit it. -- Penguin Audio

Just when I think I've reviewed all of my "beach books," I find another one! I know, I know -- you'd think I'd be more on top of the books I've read this summer. I have a bit of an excuse with this one because it's an audio book... so it wasn't in my need-to-be reviewed pile. The book is called THE SHARK CLUB by Ann Kidd Taylor, and it's been on almost every recommendation list for the summer.

THE SHARK CLUB is a great summer read because it primarily takes place at a beach in Florida, but it's also a fun escape read because it deals with family, love and second chances. Maeve Donnelly is a marine biologist who travels the world researching sharks. Her choice of professions is interesting, to say the least, because she was actually bit by a shark as a kid... right after she was kissed by the love of her life, Daniel.

Maeve and Daniel continued a romance for years and were even engaged to be married until they weren't. Maeve threw herself into her career, often times becoming closer to sharks than people. When Maeve returns home to her grandmother's hotel (which just happens to have a literary theme - LOVE!), she is looking forward to the comfort of her hometown; however, she quickly realizes that she can't escape her past. In fact, she actually runs into a little girl who is fascinated by the ocean and sharks only to learn that she is Daniel's daughter.

Maeve is planning to leave at the end of the summer to continue her work with sharks, but she finds herself still drawn to Daniel despite recently starting something with her co-worker Nicholas. Needless to say, she has some major decisions to make like should she try again with Daniel? Should se stay back in Florida and give up her career aspirations? Would she be happy marrying Daniel and being a mother to Hazel?

As if Maeve doesn't have enough going on with her personal life, there is also something sinister going on in this idyllic beach setting. Someone is killing tons of sharks so they can sell their fins. Naturally, Maeve is outraged and decides to investigate on her own (and with the help of Nicholas who just happens to show up) even if it means that her life is in danger!

I really enjoyed THE SHARK CLUB and it was a definitely a fun way to kill time on my morning walks and runs! The story is perfect for the summer (so hurry up and read it!), and it has just the right blend of romance and action (although it's really more about Maeve and her self-awareness journey.) I found myself really liking so many of the characters (even the secondary ones) in this novel from Maeve, to Hazel, to Nicholas, to Maeve's grandmother. And of course, I loved the hotel with all of its literary references!

I admit I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of this novel. At first glance, it kind of sounds like a chick lit book (not that there's anything wrong with that!) However, Maeve's journey in this novel is actually pretty insightful. She and her brother lost their parents at a young age, and their deaths affected each one of them very differently. In addition, Maeve's return to her home forced her to confront some unfinished business from her past. I appreciated how the author delved into her psyche and how she learned from the mistakes she made.

Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was the mystery surrounding who was responsible for the illegal shark finning operation. It wasn't a major storyline but it was an interesting one with a few surprises thrown in. I also liked how the author made sharks likable... and almost lovable through Maeve's voice.

As far as audio books go, I thought Emily Rankin did a great job. She totally captured the essence of Maeve which was definitely her strength, but she also did a good job with the other characters. The novel is a little under 10 hours, and I thought it flew by! And if you know me, then you know it takes me forever to read an audio book!

THE SHARK CLUB is a truly enjoyable read and I can see what it received so much praise. Highly recommended for fans of women's fiction!

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: The Bookshop at Water's End

Summary: The women who spent their childhood summers in a small southern town discover it harbors secrets as lush as the marshes that surround it…

Bonny Blankenship’s most treasured memories are of idyllic summers spent in Watersend, South Carolina, with her best friend, Lainey McKay. Amid the sand dunes and oak trees draped with Spanish moss, they swam and wished for happy-ever-afters, then escaped to the local bookshop to read and whisper in the glorious cool silence. Until the night that changed everything, the night that Lainey’s mother disappeared.

Now, in her early fifties, Bonny is desperate to clear her head after a tragic mistake threatens her career as an emergency room doctor, and her marriage crumbles around her. With her troubled teenage daughter, Piper, in tow, she goes back to the beloved river house, where she is soon joined by Lainey and her two young children. During lazy summer days and magical nights, they reunite with bookshop owner Mimi, who is tangled with the past and its mysteries. As the three women cling to a fragile peace, buried secrets and long ago loves return like the tide. -- Berkley

I thought I was caught up with reviews on what I call "beach" books, but I found another one in my need-to-be reviewed pile! It's called THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END, and it's by Patti Callahan Henry. This novel is a story about female friendship, second chances, and love; and I found it to be sweet summer read.

THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END tells the story of three women who escape to the town of Watersend, South Carolina, for one summer. As children, Bonny and Lainey spent their summers together enjoying the water, the local bookshop and even boys... until things took a turn for the worst. Lainey's mother mysteriously disappeared, and things were never the same for either one of them.

Bonny is now a middle-aged woman who returns to Watersend to get away from her real life. Her marriage is in shambles and her teenage daughter Piper has been having some trouble at college. However, it was the mistake she made as an emergency room doctor that has truly turned her life upside down. She hopes by going back to her childhood river house that she can clear her head and figure out what she should do with her life.

Meanwhile, Bonnie asks her best friend Lainey to join her. Lainey hasn't been back since the her mother disappeared because of the painful memories, but she and her two children come to stay with Bonnie. Lainey has never gotten over why her mother left her, and she's spent her entire life searching for the truth... even at the expense of her family. Piper also needs a break from her issues at college, and she agrees to stay the summer and watch Lainey's children.

Each of these three women is dealing with their fair share of pain, and there is a sense of hope that they can find some peace. Bonnie and Lainey find themselves slipping into many of their childhood behaviors while Piper finds a new love interest. Many secrets from the past come to light as Mimi, the owner of the bookshop, shares what she knows. Can these three woman find some happiness (and closure) as they spend their days together in this idyllic setting?

I enjoyed THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END quite a bit. At its heart, it's a sweet story about the power of female friendship as well as second chances; and I found it to be both entertaining and heart warming. Quite frankly, it's a great book to put in your beach or pool bag for these last few weeks of summer.

One of my favorite things about this novel was the setting. I fell in love with Watersend and I loved how the author brought the small river town to life. It's been almost two months since I spent some time near the water, and I will say that it was a terrific escape to spend a few hours with these characters in Watersend. The town, and especially the bookstore, sounded so quaint; and I loved some of the small town's residents too!

Another thing that made THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END so special was the message about the power of friendship. I appreciated these three woman and their share of baggage, but I really enjoyed how they lifted each other up. It wasn't always smooth sailing for these three even when it came to friendships and mother/daughter relationships; however, ultimately I think these three woman were better off because of they supported each other.

I do think THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END would make a great book club selection especially for groups who appreciate women's fiction. They is quite a bit of drama, but also a sense of calm once the women start living their daily lives in the river town. They are some beautiful messages about friendship, healing, and second chances; and there are also some interesting characters to discuss. There is a reading guide located in the back of the book to help with your discussion.

Overall, I thought THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END was a sweet escape read for the summer. I recommend it for fans of women's fiction and especially ones who enjoy books with a beach setting.

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