Monday, September 18, 2017

Review: Best Day Ever

Summary: In the bestselling, page-turning vein of The Couple Next Door and The Dinner, Kaira Rouda weaves a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage…or a life.

“I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger seat, and I am bursting with confidence. Today will be everything I’ve promised her…and more…”

Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he's promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. -- Graydon House

Books like BEST DAY EVER seem to be the new rage. I have read quite a few thrillers lately about some pretty messed-up families; however, I do believe that this novel by Kaira Rouda stands out. It tells the story of one family who seemingly has it all, but underneath the surface, they are living in a nightmare of sorts.

Paul Strom has a wonderful career as an advertising executive. He lives in a grand home, is married to a beautiful woman, and has two great kids. Life should be perfect for this family, but appearances can be deceiving.

Paul's wife Mia has been sick for awhile, so Paul decides that he wants to give his wife the "best day ever" and take her on a romantic weekend to their lake house. However, as Paul and Mia are in route to their vacation home, the tension between them rises... and escalates into a shocking finale!

I have to say that I enjoyed BEST DAY EVER quite a bit. It's definitely a fast-paced psychological suspense story, and I can guarantee that Paul and Mia will remain in your thoughts for sometime. The majority of the story is told in Paul's voice, and he's a piece of work. Actually, he's a sociopath that couldn't be more selfish and horrible (although in fairness to Paul, he did have a difficult childhood.)

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this novel was how the story unfolded. The book begins with a husband and wife leaving for a romantic getaway weekend. The reader might sense that there is something brewing below the surface, but it doesn't seem all that out of the ordinary for a few chapters. As Paul tells more of his story, and becomes much more honest and forthcoming, it becomes apparent to the reader just how twisted he really is.

Mia, on the other hand, appears to be a woman who doesn't really see her husband for the horrible man he is. She's overwhelmed with her mysterious illness and parenting her two young sons, and it's almost if she doesn't have the energy or desire to see through Paul's lies. However, Mia isn't as weak as she first appeared. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that it's entirely possible that Paul has met his match with his wife!

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was the pacing of the novel. Overall, I'd say that the the book was fast-paced, but about half-way through, it really took off for me. The culmination of the all that tension that was building from the first chapter just exploded. I loved how manic the story (and Paul) became, and I found the ending to be pretty darn satisfying. What I liked even more was that the ending was left a little open-ended, so I'm not entirely sure that these characters won't be back in a future book.

BEST DAY EVER is an exciting story about a husband and wife and the secrets between them. Highly recommended for fans of domestic suspense and psychological thrillers.

Thanks to the Get Red PR and Wunderkind PR for providing review copies 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.
SaveSave

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Kid Konnection: Hockey Then to Wow!


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 another great book from Sports Illustrated Kids.

Summary: Hockey: Then to WOW! shows readers how the cool sport has evolved from the early days of its 19th century origins to the game as it is today. Using NHL action photographs, illustrations, stories, and trivia, the book is a journey through time both for hockey fans and those new to the game. Kids will learn how basic equipment has changed from a ball to a puck and how the evolution of game strategy has transformed the sport, players, and equipment. Players throughout history are stacked up against each other in every position so fans can dream up the perfect fantasy team with Wayne Gretzky playing alongside Patrick Roy and Stan Mikita. A fun-filled section of the book explores everything fan culture-from the best ice rinks, to the iconic hockey sweater and the hockey haircut along with key aspects of the toughest sport around. -- Sports Illustrated Kids

Hockey has really taken off in our area in recent years. I grew up in the South and I didn't know any kids who played this sport, but it seems like it's gaining popularity every year here in Central PA. Why I enjoy watching the occasional Penn State hockey game, I don't know a heck of a lot about the sport past the basics. That's why I found SPORTS ILLUSTRATED KIDS HOCKEY THEN TO WOW! to be a great resource for me.

Of course, HOCKEY THEN TO WOW! isn't geared towards middle-aged adults, but it is a quick and fun look at the sport. It's actually aimed at kids ages nine to twelve, but I would say that kids of any age would enjoy aspects of this picture book. HOCKEY THEN TO WOW! is a terrific book that does a great job of introducing hockey to newbies.

HOCKEY THEN TO WOW! shows kids just how much hockey has changed since it was created in the early 19th century. It delves into the the rules, the equipment changes, the origins of the players, the passion of the fans, and more. This book is so interesting, not only because of what it teaches, but because it has amazing color photographs that almost pop off the page. (The creators of this book cut around the figures to give it this fun appearance!) The book also provides information in many unique ways including time lines, graphs, and charts. I love the overall look and feel of this book because it's both fun and educational!

Another great thing about HOCKEY THEN TO WOW! is that it has loads of hockey trivia. I found this part of the book to be especially interesting because I don't know much about the sport. Outside of knowing the major players and teams in hockey, I really know next to nothing. I liked seeing the various graphics about hockey player's record setting achievements, and I also appreciated learning the basic rules of the game. Kids like Booking Son who love sports history will definitely embrace the sections that provide statistics and records.

Overall, HOCKEY THEN TO WOW! is a great book to introduce hockey to kids (and some adults!). It is highly entertaining because of the way the information is presented, and it also has some fantastic full color photographs. Highly recommended!

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Booking Mamas' September Meeting

Summary: The breakout novel from the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Who I Was Supposed to Be and Why They Run the Way They Do—when a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.

What happens to the girl left behind?

A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith the girl left behind.

After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive, and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.

Like Everything I Never Told You and Room, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is edgy and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime. It is a dark, beautifully rendered, and gripping novel about coping, about coming-of-age, and about forgiveness. It is also a beautiful illustration of how one family, broken by tragedy, finds healing. -- Simon & Schuster

Last evening, my book club met to discuss THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW by Susan Perabo. I haven't been doing these meeting recaps now that we aren't one of Book Club Girl's book club; however, this meeting was so much fun that I had to share it with you! We were fortunate enough to have the author, Susan Perabo, join us... and it was one of our best meetings in fifteen years.

Prior to the announcement that we would be reading THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW, I had already read and loved the novel -- you can read my review here. While I was under the impression that this book would be a thriller and, therefore, perfect for my Mystery Mondays feature, it was definitely more of a literary fiction book. And while it did have an element of a mystery, it was truly a look at how one family was coping with a tragedy. And a fantastic look at that!

I loved having the opportunity to talk with Susan last night about... pretty much everything. She is an professor at Dickinson College, so she's only a half hour away. I honestly wish we hadn't waited so long to invite her. She was extremely gracious, both when we complemented her and challenged her; and I appreciated her honestly. I had already loved this novel, but I appreciated it even more after hearing her thought processes for the characters and the major events in the book.

One of the highlights of the evening was learning why Susan chose to write the ending the way she did. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that some of the feedback she's received wasn't always positive. Many readers didn't appreciate that the novel wasn't tied up neatly with a big red bow. Her reasons for doing this made total sense to me, but I have a feeling that not everything was as okay with it as I was. What I do think everyone walked away with from the meeting last night was how much thought went into every decision in the novel. So even if they didn't agree, they understood and respected her artistic decisions!

Another interesting part of the evening was learning about her writing process for this novel. THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW wasn't the book that she was "supposed" to write. She actually thought she'd write one about Little League baseball and the families that are involved in the sport. (She's a huge baseball fan!) However, when she tried to write this book, she couldn't get anything down on paper. What she did feel she could write was THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW because these characters kept floating around in her mind. Once she committed to this novel and these characters, it only took her six months to write... and it obviously was meant to be!

Of course, we didn't only talk about the novel -- that wouldn't be typical of my book club. Any time you get a bunch of moms together, you always end up talking about kids and parenting. However, this fit perfectly into the discussion of this novel. The mother character in this novel, Claire, definitely is a controversial one. Ms. Perabo has received some pretty interesting feedback in criticism of her. Ironically enough, I loved her and found her to be the most realistic character in the novel -- or at least the one that resonated with me the most. Everyone in my book club agreed with me! Naturally, the discussion of Claire led to some talk about our own lives; and isn't that one of the reasons we all read and belong to book clubs? There is nothing better than reading a well-written novel, thinking about it long after we finish, and then discussing it with friends!

All in all, I had a fantastic time last night and I highly recommend reading THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW. The hardcover is available now and the paperback is coming out in the spring. There is even a reading guide with fifteen questions.

I also want to suggest that maybe your book club invite an author (in person or via Skype) to a future meeting. It's guaranteed to be a special discussion and just might give your regular monthly meetings a little boost!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Good Me Bad Me

Summary: Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother's daughter. -- Flatiron Books

The past few weeks, I've seen the novel GOOD ME BAD ME by Ali Land popping up everywhere -- especially my Facebook feed. I was drawn to the cover, but the description made this book irresistable to me. I was a big fan of the television series Dexter, and I loved the psychological aspect of the character. I had a feeling that I'd feel the same way about this book.

GOOD ME BAD ME tells the story of Milly, a teenage girl whose mother is a serial killer. Milly saw some pretty scary things and decided that the best thing would be to turn her mother into the police. She is now living under a new identity with a foster family, but Milly is tormented because she still loves her mom.

Life isn't exactly easy for Milly despite living with a wealthy family and attending a good exclusive school. Her new "sister" is less than thrilled that she's there, and she doesn't exactly fit in with the other girls at school. As her mother's trials approaches, Milly is nervous/excited about seeing her and testifying, but she's even more worried about the girls at school discovering her identity.

As the tension in the novel ratchets up, Milly becomes more and more conflicted between the good aspect of her personality that did the right thing by turning her mother in and the bad aspect that resembles her mother.

Sounds pretty good, right? And GOOD ME BAD ME is fantastic! It's hard to believe that this novel is Ms. Land's debut. It's that good. The story is suspenseful and the writing is outstanding. There is no doubt that Ms. Land is one talented writer, and I look forward to more of her books in the future. She's definitely one to watch out for!

There are so many positive things to say about GOOD ME BAD ME, but what really stood out to me was the premise of the story. How intriguing is it to write this story from the mind of a teen-age girl who turned her mother in for being a serial killer! In addition, I was so happy that even though Milly wasn't the most reliable of narrators, I didn't feel manipulated by her like I often do.

Another fun thing about this novel was that it delved into the nature vs. nurture debate. I was attracted to that question of Millie's personality, although I'd argue that watching your mom kill little kids puts her at risk for both nature and nurture personality issues. In addition, I appreciated the wild ride of Millie's internal tug-of-war -- the struggle between being good and bad, and I loved the constant doubts about her that I had while reading this book!

And finally, I really liked Ms. Land's writing style. The book was highly readable, and that's a credit to not only the story, but the way it was told. In addition, I thought this psychological suspense novel was very smart... and gave me quite a bit to think about. One thing I definitely appreciated was how the author wove the themes of LORD OF THE FLIES into the novel. The comparison of the characters in the play with the girls in the school is extremely interesting. I also enjoyed how the author showcased that all families have secrets... even the ones that look perfect.

I probably don't even need to say this, but GOOD ME BAD ME would make a terrific book club selection. There is a reading guide with twelve intriguing questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include hereditary behavior, nature vs. nurture, second chances, family dynamics, secrets, bullying, and forgiveness.

In summary, GOOD ME BAD ME is a disturbing and suspenseful novel that entertained me from the first page. Highly recommended to fans of psychological thrillers!

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, September 9, 2017

Kid Konnection: There's a Monster in Your Book


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 and adorable picture book written by a YouTube star!

Summary: Shake, wiggle, and tickle the monster out of this book—an interactive bedtime read-aloud by a YouTube star, musician, and children’s book author!

With the irresistible pull of HervĂ© Tullet’s Press Here and the charm of The Monster at the End of This Book, Tom Fletcher’s inviting interactive read-aloud will have kids tilting, spinning, and shaking the book to get the adorable little monster out! That’s right! He’s out of the book . . . and in their room somewhere. Uh-oh!!

The co-author of the Dinosaur That Pooped series has created a monster that readers will fall in love with—and want to play with—again and again! It will get your own little monster tuckered out and snuggled in!

Tom Fletcher has a huge social-media presence, with over a million followers on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. His videos “Buzz and the Dandelions” and “My Wedding Speech” went viral and have been viewed tens of millions of times all over the world. -- Random House

The cover alone of THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK by Tom Fletcher and illustrated by Greg Abbott won me over. How darn cute is this little blue monster? I'm happy to say that the cuteness overload on the cover is just the beginning. This picture book aimed at little ones 3 - 7 years old is absolutely delightful, and I'm pretty sure kids are going to have a blast with this little guy.

The premise of THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK is just that -- there's a blue monster with pink horns living between the pages of this picture book. As you read this book to you kiddo, he or she can try to get rid of him by shaking, tilting, and even spinning the book. When the monster finally leaves the book (and is on the loose in your child's bedroom!), you begin to think that maybe he's better off back where he started -- right in the middle of the book! Can your child lure him back to the book in time for bedtime?

I love this book! If you read the publisher's description of THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK above, you might have recognized the comparison to two of my all-time favorite books PRESS HERE and THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK (starring furry, lovable Grover!). I don't disagree with that assessment, but THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK is terrific in its own right. The interactive text is fun for children, and the book is pretty exciting for a bedtime story... although I have a feeling that playing with this monster may not have been the best choice for a relaxing bedtime routine. On the other hand, maybe all of the excitement will poop out your children!

THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK is written by Tom Fletcher, the same Tom Fletcher who is a YouTube sensation with over one million followers on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram -- @TomFletcher. I think it's pretty obvious that he's found great success as a musician, but I also think he's definitely on to something when it comes to writing picture books!

All in all, THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK is an extremely fun book that I highly recommend to preschoolers... and their parents!

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

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review: News of the World

Summary: It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. 

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. 

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land. 

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust. -- William Morrow

I am extremely late in writing this review for NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles. My book club read this book over the summer, and even though I've had this book for months, I didn't get around to reading it until a few days before our meeting. Boy, was I missing out. I probably don't need to tell you this because NEWS OF THE WORLD was a finalist for the National Book Award, but this book is fantastic -- one that is not to be missed.

NEWS OF THE WORLD tells the story of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an older man who travels through Texas reading the news to paying audiences. He is a widow and has fought in two wars, yet he is fairly content with his travels and job. However one day, he is offered $50 to deliver a young girl to her relatives in San Antonio, and his life is drastically changed.

The young girl named Johanna was kidnapped four years ago by the Kiowa Indians in a raid where they killed her parents and sisters, and she's been living with them ever since. She has recently been traded for by the U.S. Army, but she has no memories of any family but her Kiowa one. Needless to say, this poor girl speaks no English, is a terrified and a bit wild.

Captain Kidd and Johanna make a dangerous 400 mile journey together which is difficult and frustrating for both of them; however, throughout the course of their travels, they learn to trust each other and even depend on each other for their survival.

However, when they arrive in San Antonio, the reunion with Johanna's family doesn't go quite as expected. Her aunt and uncle, whom she doesn't even remember, are bitter and resentful about having another mouth to feed. Captain Kidd is forced to make a horrible decision -- to leave Johanna with her family or take her and become a criminal in his own right.

I loved NEWS OF THE WORLD and my book club members agreed. This novel is beautiful -- from the gorgeous prose, to the complex characters, to the touching story. It's a relatively short novel, coming in at a little over 200 pages, and it's truly amazing what Ms. Jiles accomplished in so few pages. Each word is meaningful and, basically, perfect... and I honestly can't recommend this novel enough.

There really is so many positive things to say about this novel, but I'll focus on just a few of my highlights. One of my absolute favorite things about this novel was Captain Kidd. He's an extremely interesting character because of his life experiences, but also because of how he handles Johanna. Captain Kidd is a pretty old man for the 1870s, and he had no idea what he was getting into when he said he'd return Johanna to his family; however, he was also a principled man who was determined to do his best for the girl. I absolutely adored him!

Another wonderful thing about this book was the relationship that developed between Captain Kidd and Johanna. The way these two managed to grow closer as they traveled together was extremely heart-warming. At first, they realized that their relationship was mutually beneficial for survival, but then they actually became quite fond of each other.

I also loved Ms. Jile's writing. Not only did she create an interesting story with complex characters, but she wrote with such beautiful prose. I've read books by this author before, and I've always had major respect for her, but she outdid herself with this novel. There is no doubt that this book was worth of being a National Book Award Finalist!

And finally, I loved how NEWS OF THE WORLD explored some interesting ethical issues. There is a great deal to think about (and discuss) in this novel, but none more special than delving into Captain Kidd's dilemma when he returned Johanna to her relatives. Some other interesting themes from this novel include the history of Native Americans in our country, parent/child relationships, and trust. There is also a reading guide available with eleven thought-provoking questions if your book club members like to use a formal guide.

In summary, NEWS OF THE WORLD is a beautiful novel that I highly recommend for fans of historical and literary fiction.

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Review: The Address

Summary: Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota—New York City’s most famous residence.

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else…and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in…and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives—and lies—of the beating hearts within. -- Dutton

One of the books I was most excited to receive at this year's BEA was THE ADDRESS by Fiona Davis. I had thoroughly enjoyed her first novel THE DOLLHOUSE, and I really appreciated how Ms. Davis blended modern day and past stories while also weaving a terrific mystery. In addition, I loved how she brought the Barbizon Hotel for Women to life, almost making it another character in its own right!

Sometimes when I like a book so much, I'm almost afraid to read the author's next one. I'm sure you know what I mean -- it juts might not live up to my expectations. However, I am thrilled to say that I found Ms. Davis' second novel THE ADDRESS to be highly entertaining. This time, she tells the stories of two women, separated by 100 years, who both live in The Dakota, the Upper West Side apartment building widely known as the home of John Lennon and the place where he was assassinated. Once again, there is also a compelling mystery at the heart of the novel.

It's 1885 and Sara Smythe is an Englishwoman who is hard at work trying to become the head housekeeper of a swanky London hotel. Her fortunes change one day when she saves the life of a guest's young daughter. After that, Theodore Camden is very impressed with her and wants her to come to New York to work at the state of the art apartment building that he's designing. Needless to say, she jumps at the chance to be the manager of The Dakota... and for a better life in America.

Fast forward to 1995 and Bailey Camden, an interior designer, is just getting out of rehab for her drug and alcohol problem. Despite her grandfather being the ward of Theodore Camden and his wife, Bailey has no money because her grandfather wasn't a blood relation and, therefore, didn't inherit any money... and also because she blew everything she ever had on her party girl lifestyle.

Bailey's cousin, Melinda, though, gains to inherit the family fortune; and she asks Bailey to redo her lavish apartment in The Dakota. With no other options, Bailey accept the offer despite having issues with Melinda's tacky taste. As Bailey is working on the renovation that is basically eliminating all of the historic elements of the apartment, she also starts to think about the building's past including the murder of Theodore Camden by a crazy woman named Sara Smythe. When she discovers some trunks in the basement, Bailey really begins to delve into this mystery and, in the process, learns some shocking things about her family's past!

I loved THE ADDRESS and I can guarantee that fans of Ms. Davis' first novel THE DOLLHOUSE won't be disappointed. There are many great things about this novel, but I particularly love how the author created stories surrounding two very different women divided by 100 years while also linking  their lives with one interesting mystery. The novel has a little bit of something for every reader. At it's heart, this story is a mystery but it's also a great example of historical fiction... and there's even a bit of romance thrown in!

At first glance, I didn't think Sara and Bailey had all that much in common. Of course, I could see that these two women's lives where somehow connected through Theodore Camden; however, one was a lower class woman from England and the other was a girl living the fast life in Manhattan. It actually ended up that these woman had some similar themes running through their lives. Of course, both women lived in the opulence of The Dakota, but they each were struggling to fit in and find their places in their respective worlds.

As far as mysteries go, I liked the one surrounding Sara and Bailey's stories. I knew there had to be more to the story than a "crazy" Sara killing the man who offered her a job and a new life in America.  However, I also knew fairly early on that there was something off about Bailey's heritage too. I wouldn't say I was necessarily surprised by how Bailey's story was resolved, but I did find the truth behind Sara's life to be pretty interesting.

I also really loved all of the history woven into the story, especially the parts about the history of The Dakota. Ms. Davis, once again, did a wonderful job of bringing life to the building; and I honestly count the posh apartment building as another character in the story. She also included enough famous people and stories into the book to keep fans of historical fiction happy.

I think THE ADDRESS would make a fantastic book club selection. I know my friends would love it! There is a reading guide with eleven thought provoking questions along with a recipe for a Manhattan  -- one of my favorite cocktails. Some of the themes you might want to explore include secrets, family dynamics, wealth, addictions, recovery, class structure, and mental illness.

All in all, I loved THE ADDRESS and highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction and mystery!

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.
SaveSave

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Kid Konnection: Lucy & Andy Neanderthal - The Stone Cold Age


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 the second book in the Lucy & Andy Neanderthal graphic novel series.

Summary: Neanderthal siblings Lucy and Andy are back to their paleo pranks. This time, they have to put up with more than just each other—the cave is feeling awfully cramped since the humans moved in. They’re in the Ice Age, and legroom comes at a real premium!

Jeffrey Brown skillfully blends humor and history with paleontologist sections: Timeline of Key Discoveries, Ice Age Fact vs. Fiction, Silly Cavemen Myths, and more. -- Crown Books for Young Readers

Lucy and Andy, everyone's favorite Neanderthal duo, are back in LUCY & ANDY NEANDERTHAL: THE STONE COLD AGE. I loved the first book in this graphic novel series for its blend of hilarious storytelling and science facts. Plus, who doesn't enjoy bestselling author/illustrator Jeffrey Brown's adorable illustrations?

In THE STONE COLD AGE, Lucy and Andy find themselves in a somewhat uncomfortable home situation. Not only is their cave crowded after the homo spies arrive on the scene, but it's also really cold... like Ice Age cold.

It's no surprise that I loved THE STONE COLD AGE. It's a quick read and perfect for reluctant readers. Plus, it's both funny and educational -- the best of both worlds for a middle grade book. Lucy and Andy are fantastic characters (especially Andy!), and their adventures are always exciting. Maybe the best thing I can say about this book is how excited Booking Son was when he saw it on my desk. He's not always a big fan of graphic novels, but this is one series that he enjoys!

As a mom, I really can't rave enough about these books. I have always had an interest in anthropology, and I don't remember learning much about Neanderthals in school. The Lucy and Andy series is a terrific way for today's kids to learn about the past. Much of the book focuses on the Ice Age, but there is even information about climate change and the effects it is having on us today.

The majority of the book is about Lucy and Andy's adventures, but at the end of each chapter, modern day anthropologists chime in with some fun facts about that time period. In addition, the end of the book has some terrific resources including a Timeline of Key Discoveries, Ice Age Fact vs Fiction, and Silly Caveman Myths. There is even a preview of Book 3 which comes out in summer 2018.

If you haven't seen this middle grade graphic novel series, then I highly recommend checking it out. Without a doubt, THE STONE COLD AGE belongs in home and school libraries.

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

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