Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kid Konnection: Bone Soup

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 fun book that's will get you ready for Halloween!

Summary: Three little witches and a bunch of spooky characters come together to prepare a delicious batch of Bone Soup in this Halloween tale based on the beloved fable, Stone Soup. This just-scary-enough picture book comes with a recipe for Bone Soup—perfect for Halloween eating.

Trick-or-treat? Trick-or-treat!

We’ve something usually good to eat!

One Halloween morning three witches are looking for a tasty treat and they find only a small bone in their cupboard. So they decide to go from door to door in their village to find just the right ingredients for their Bone Soup. No one in the village is convinced that soup can be made from a bone, until the littlest monster reveals just what the special ingredient should be. -- Simon and Schuster

It's never to early to share a Halloween book, right? Pumpkin Spice Lattes have been available at Starbucks for a few weeks, so I figure that means fall is here even though the weather doesn't feel like it!

BONE SOUP: A SPOOKY TASTY TALE by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and pictures by Tom Knight is an adorable picture book for kids ages 4 - 8. Three hungry witches were ready to eat, but they couldn't find anything in their cupboards. So what do they decide to do, you might ask? They decide to make some Bone Soup -- the perfect Halloween treat.

The witches go from door to door "trick or treating," but in this case they collect a variety of items to make their soup including wrinkled fingers, old toenails, a lizard's tale, and more. No one in the village really believes that Bone Soup will come of this strange concoction... but with the help of one little monster, a wonderful brew was created!

I thought BONE SOUP was adorable and perfect for Halloween read-alongs! This story is based on the traditional folktale Stone Soup and conveys the idea that something great can come when people work together. It's a fun story with adorable illustrations, and it has a fantastic message too.

The last page of BONE SOUP made the story even more special. Not only is there a note from the author about what the soup (and writing!) represent in the story, there's also a fun recipe for Naggy Witch's Bone Soup. Of course, we don't have toenails, claws, and colored flies readily available, so the authors found some substitutes that might be more palatable to the reader like cannellini beans, cloves of garlic, and red pepper flakes. I think kids and parents will have a great time making a batch of Bone Soup!

BONE SOUP is an entertaining picture book that's sure to get everyone in the mood for Halloween... and dinner!

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

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Guest Review: City of Devils

Summary: From Paul French, the New York Times bestselling author of Midnight in Peking—winner of both the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction—comes City of Devils, a rags-to-riches tale of two self-made men set against a backdrop of crime and vice in the sprawling badlands of Shanghai. 

Shanghai, 1930s: It was a haven for outlaws from all over the world: a place where pasts could be forgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, and fortunes made—and lost. 

“Lucky” Jack Riley was the most notorious of those outlaws. An ex–U.S. Navy boxing champion, he escaped from prison and rose to become the Slots King of Shanghai. “Dapper” Joe Farren—a Jewish boy who fled Vienna’s ghetto—ruled the nightclubs. His chorus lines rivaled Ziegfeld’s. 

In 1940, Lucky Jack and Dapper Joe bestrode the Shanghai Badlands like kings, while all around the Solitary Island was poverty, starvation, and war. They thought they ruled Shanghai, but the city had other ideas. This is the story of their rise to power, their downfall, and the trail of destruction left in their wake. Shanghai was their playground for a flickering few years, a city where for a fleeting moment even the wildest dreams could come true. -- Picador

I am starting a full time job this week, so it's a great time for a review from my dad! He recently finished CITY OF DEVILS, THE TWO MEN WHO RULED THE UNDERWORLD OF OLD SHANGHAI by Paul French. It seems like an interesting true crime book about gangsters in Shanghai in the 1930s. Here are his thoughts:

CITY OF DEVILS, THE TWO MEN WHO RULED THE UNDERWORLD OF OLD SHANGHAI is a true crime book covering life in Shanghai in the period from 1930 until 1941. It is a story about Jack Riley, who ruled the gambling empire in Shanghai and Joe Farren who ruled Shanghai’s nightclub scene. It is a story about their rise to power, their ultimate downfall and the trail of destruction they left behind. It is also a story about old Shanghai and its Badlands and the International Settlement (under British, French and American control) as it struggled with the Great Depression, the Sino-Japanese War that raged around them and the effects of World War II. People came to Shanghai from America, Russia and other areas; some escaping the war, some outlaws looking to get rich.

“Lucky” Jack Riley was an orphan, an escapee from an Oklahoma prison and an ex-navy boxing champion who found his way to Shanghai and became the “Slots King” of Shanghai. “Dapper” Joe Farren from Vienna’s Jewish ghetto became a great showman who produced grand chorus lines and nightclub entertainment for Shanghai’s elite. Both men were involved with show girls, gambling, prostitution, alcohol, drugs, mobsters and anything else involved with the Shanghai underworld. Jack and John were enemies, then business partners, then enemies. They were very poor, then very rich, then very poor.

Author Paul French, through an enormous amount of research and an amazing writing ability, brought Old Shanghai to life in CITY OF DEVILS. He characterized in great detail how the Badlands operated during this period. He profiled many characters who revolved around Jack Riley and Joe Farren. Sadly there were no good characters, only bad ones. Even the lawmen, whether Chinese, Japanese or American, were corrupt. As I read the book it was easy to picture the events, people and scenes that French was describing. It was amazing to read how the underworld survived even as Japan and China fought, people starved and poverty prevailed all around them. The end came for Jack Riley and Joe Farren as U.S. lawmen squeezed them and Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into the war. As a result of the war, Japan left nothing of Old Shanghai standing.

CITY OF DEVILS gave me an interesting perspective of war and how life goes on around it. It also showed how some people profit from war. If you enjoy reading about world history then I think you will enjoy the small piece of it displayed in CITY OF DEVILS.

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: Button Man

Summary: After a string of New York Times bestselling suburban thrillers, Andrew Gross has reinvented himself as a writer of historical thrillers. In his latest novel, Button Man, he delivers a stirring story of a Jewish family brought together in the dawn of the women's garment business and torn apart by the birth of organized crime in New York City in the 1930s.

Morris, Sol, and Harry Rabishevsky grew up poor and rough in a tiny flat on the Lower East Side, until the death of their father thrust them into having to fend for themselves and support their large family. Morris, the youngest, dropped out of school at twelve years old and apprenticed himself to a garment cutter in a clothing factory; Sol headed to accounting school; but Harry, scarred by a family tragedy, fell in with a gang of thugs as a teenager. Morris steadily climbs through the ranks at the factory until at twenty-one he finally goes out on his own, convincing Sol to come work with him. But Harry can't be lured away from the glamour, the power, and the money that come from his association with Louis Buchalter, whom Morris has battled with since his youth and who has risen to become the most ruthless mobster in New York. And when Buchalter sets his sights on the unions that staff the garment makers' factories, a fatal showdown is inevitable, pitting brother against brother.

This new novel is equal parts historical thriller, rich with the detail of a vibrant New York City in the 1920s and 1930s, and family saga, based on Andrew Gross's own family story and on the history of the era, complete with appearances by real-life characters like mobsters Louis Lepke and Dutch Schultz and special prosecutor Thomas Dewey, and cements Gross's reputation as today's most atmospheric and original historical thriller writer. -- Minotaur Books

I'm pretty sure that I've never reviewed a book quite like BUTTON MAN by Andrew Gross for my  Mystery Mondays feature. However, this book is being called a historical thriller... and therefore it counts. (It's my weekly feature so I can determine that, right?) As the description above says, BUTTON MAN is part historical thriller and part family drama -- two of my favorite genres!

BUTTON MAN tells the story of a Jewish family in the 1920s and 30s whose lives are turned upside down when the Jewish mob inserts itself into their lives. Morris, Sol and Harry are three brothers in the Rabishevsky family. The Rabishevsky family was poor; and Morris, the youngest brother, was forced to quit school and start working at a clothing factory when he was only twelve years old. Sol, the eldest brother went to accounting school, while Harry fell in with a neighborhood gang.

When Morris reached 21, he decided to go into business with Sol making economical women's coats; however, Harry felt more comfortable with the mobster Louis Buchalter, Morris' enemy from childhood. Eventually, Harry joins his brothers but he still is drawn to the money and power of the mobsters.

The Jew mob has set its sight on garment workers, and Morris and Sol have stood up to them time and time again... even when their friends are getting hurt by these same mobsters. As tensions rise, it becomes clear that Harry will have to make a difficult decision that will affect not only the company but his brothers as well.

I enjoyed BUTTON MAN quite a bit. It reminded me a bit of some books that I read years ago when I was obsessed with reading anything (fiction or non-fiction) about New York mobsters. I found the history of the garment workers, the unions, and the mobsters to be fascinating; and I appreciated how the author incorporated so many real characters into the story. The historical aspect alone of this novel made it a worthwhile read.

However, what brought BUTTON MAN to the next level for me was the family saga part of the plot. I appreciated how the author developed these characters by providing some background stories about their childhood, and I enjoyed the interactions between the three very different brothers. I especially liked Morris' strength and determination and found his rags to riches story to symbolize the American Dream.

BUTTON MAN was an entertaining (and educational!) read. I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction as well as readers who enjoy family sagas and mob stories!

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

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Kid Konnection: Little Scientist Board Books

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a set of tiny board books that are terrific!
Summary: Mudpuppy’s Little Scientist Board Book Set is comprised of colorfully illustrated portraits of scientists who have made a historical impact on the world. Illustrations by Lydia Ortiz and words by Emily Kleinman introduce children to these important people in history with images that are fun for youngsters and also realistic. The Board Book Set includes 4 mini board books, 8 chunky pages per book, packaged in a slipcase box. -- Mudpuppy

I know it's a little early to start thinking about stocking stuffers, but the LITTLE SCIENTIST BOARD BOOK SET would make a great one! This cube-shaped box of four little board books about famous scientists is so cute... and it's educational too!

The LITTLE SCIENTIST BOARD BOOK SET includes four small and sturdy board books that are perfect for toddlers. These books are first and foremost durable! However, it's what between the pages of these cardboard pages that makes these books great. The four books cover a wide variety of scientists: LITTLE SCIENTIST ASTRONOMERS, LITTLE SCIENTIST PHYSICISTS, LITTLE SCIENTIST CHEMISTS, and LITTLE SCIENTIST EARTH & LIFE SCIENTIST.

These small books are made up of eight pages so they don't require much attention span, thereby making them ideal for little ones. Each page spread provides a sentence about a famous scientist. For example, LITTLE SCIENTIST ASTRONOMERS is about Carl Sagan, Carolyn Porco, Vera Rubin, and Edwin Hubble. As someone who doesn't follow astronomy much at all since my difficult freshman class in college, I admit that I learned a thing or two. I probably shouldn't admit that in books that are geared towards kids ages 1-5, right?

There are a few things that I really appreciated about the LITTLE SCIENTIST BOARD BOOK SET. I love that the books were about both men and women who were successful in their fields. (This publisher definitely gets it -- their first collection was the LITTLE FEMINIST BOARD BOOK SET.) In addition, I really like that the books' illustrations are so adorable and fun. They are just cute enough to engage little ones, but they also teach them by introducing some famous and very important scientists.

I can't rave enough about this collection of board books. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing review copies of these books.

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review: Copycat Cooking

Summary: OVERVIEW The popular Six Sisters’ Stuff bloggers come to the rescue with a new collection of more than 100 easy-to-make recipes of popular restaurant dishes and takeout favorites for busy families.

With more than fifty recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less, this cookbook can help make meal planning a breeze as you mix-and-match side dishes from one restaurant with main courses from another and finish it off with a dessert from a third.

Save money while spending more time with your family. Change dining-out to dining-in for a memorable experience your whole family will enjoy.

Includes copycat recipes for Texas Roadhouse Cactus Blossom, Panda Express Orange Chicken, Olive Garden Chicken Parmesan, Disneyland Monte Cristo Sandwich, Chili’s Molten Hot Lave Cake, Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcakes, and Universal Studios Butterbeer. -- Shadow Mountain Publishing

When I received an email about the new cookbook SIX SISTERS' STUFF COPYCAT COOKING: 100+ POPULAR RESTAURANT MEALS YOU CAN MAKE AT HOME, I jumped at the opportunity to take a look at it. For one thing, I've saved (and made) quite a few recipes from the Six Sisters' blog over the years. But I also love the concept of a copycat cookbook based on some popular restaurants' most well-known dishes.

COPYCAT COOKING is fantastic! I absolutely love this cookbook. Not only do the recipes look terrific, but the cookbook itself is fun to look at. (I have a thing for browsing through cookbooks. I inherited it from my grandma!) There are plenty of full page color photographs of the finished product (which is a must in a cookbook, right?), and I was thrilled to see that over half the recipes are 30 minutes or less.

One great feature of this cookbook is that it makes eating some of the delicious meals actually affordable. I don't know about you, but I think it's expensive to take the entire family out of dinner. But what's equally great about COPYCAT COOKING is that you can eat these meals even if you don't live near the restaurants! For example, there is a recipe for Butterbeer from Harry Potter World at Universal Studios and a Monte Cristo Sandwich from Disneyland.

I can't wait to make a few of these recipes... especially since I don't live near a Cheesecake Factory or a P.F. Changs.  In addition to these popular restaurants, this cookbook also has recipes from Chili's, KFC, TGI Fridays, Outback, Chick-Fil-A, Sonic, Starbucks, and many more! There really is something for everyone in this cookbook!

COPYCAT COOKING is divided into normal chapters -- Copycat Appetizers & Side Dishes, Copycat Main Dishes, Copycat Desserts, and Copycat Drinks; and each section is chock full of recipes. Every single recipe has a full page photograph -- of course, my finished meals never look quite like theirs, but still....

As you might imagine, the recipes in this cookbook aren't for the individual who is dieting. Most of the recipes are exactly what you'd expect - lots of fat and calories, but I would argue that a low-fat copycat cookbook just wouldn't meet anyone's expectations! There isn't even nutritional information listed, but that's ok... Most of us aren't calorie-counting when ordering food like this in a restaurant either!

Before I finish this review, I thought I'd give you a little idea of the recipes in this cookbook. This is just scratching the surface, but here are a few that appealed to me: Chick-Fil-A Chicken Nuggets, P.F. Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Applebee's Honey Grilled Salmon, Chili's Cajun Chicken Pasta, and Starbucks' Lemon Poundcake. This list is far from complete, but it does give you an idea of the assortment.

I think COPYCAT COOKING is a great cookbook with 100+ delicious copycat recipes. Highly recommended to people who want to replicate popular restaurants' dishes anytime from their home and without breaking the bank.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Trust Me

Summary: Trust Me is the chilling standalone novel of psychological suspense and manipulation that award-winning author and renowned investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan was born to write.

CAN YOU SPOT THE LIAR? An accused killer insists she's innocent of a heinous murder.

A grieving journalist surfaces from the wreckage of her shattered life.

Their unlikely alliance leads to a dangerous cat and mouse game that will leave you breathless.

Who can you trust when you can't trust yourself? -- Forge

TRUST ME, the new psychological suspense novel, by Hank Phillippi Ryan is certainly a novel that will make you question... well, everything. I just finished this book a few minutes ago, and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. There was a lot going on and more twists than I could count, and I probably should have waited a few days to process everything that happened.

TRUST ME is one of the most convoluted thrillers that I've ever read, and I mean that in a good way. It's already received a ton of great buzz including the Amazon Editors' Pick Best Mystery/Thriller of the Month and a Booklist Starred review. It's also a Real Simple Magazine Top Thriller of 2018, a Book Bub Top Summer Thriller of 2018, a POPSUGAR Top Summer Thriller, a CrimeReads Most Anticipated Thriller of 2018, and a New York Post Best Thriller of the Summer!

Mercer Hennessy is a journalist/writer who is deeply traumatized from an accident that took her husband and young daughter's lives. She is still counting the days since their deaths and isn't doing much of anything with her her life. She ends up accepting a job to write about a book about the trial of the "Baby Boston" case, and she is determined to tell the story of the little girl's mother, Ashlyn Bryant, whom Mercer is sure killed her daughter. (Think the Casey Anthony story!)

Mercer is following the trial and working diligently on the book, even though it's difficult to cover a story about the death of a little girl. Mercer is one hundred percent sure that Ashlyn is guilty; however, things begin to get complicated when the jury finds Ashlyn not guilty of the crime.

Mercer is forced to examine her initial reaction to the crime and Ashlyn; and what she begins to learn after talking with Ashlyn makes her question everything about not only the crime itself, but her own life!

Nothing is what it seems in this book. Absolutely nothing! I had my doubts about Mercer as the narrator because she was still reeling from her family's deaths, but she seemed like she had a decent grip on the Ashlyn. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that Mercer was actually one of the most unreliable narrators I've ever encountered in a psychological thriller. After about a hundred or so pages, everything I thought she knew was upended... and everything I thought I knew was thrown out the window!

The author does a great job of blurring reality for the reader; and most of the time, I really appreciated the twists and turns. Having said that, there were times I felt a little manipulated. (But if you follow my reviews, you know that I'm super-sensitive to unreliable narrators.) All in all, I'd say that the surprises and the deceptions made for a fun and interesting read!

Another thing I really liked about TRUST ME was how Ms. Phillippi Ryan explored the concept of truth. There were lots of insights into what is truth and how we define it in our lives that made this book a little more special than a typical psychological thriller.

TRUST ME is an entertaining "roller coaster ride" of a book. Highly recommended!

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

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

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Kid Konnection: Eliza

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 soon-to-be-released picture book about Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

Summary: For fans of the musical Hamilton, here is a stunning picture book biography about Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s extraordinary wife and an important figure in her own right.

We all know the story of scrappy Alexander Hamilton and his rise in American politics–but how much do we know about his workmate, inspiration, and stabilizing force, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton? Margaret McNamara employs the letter-writing style of the period to tell the story of Eliza Hamilton, who was born into a family of considerable wealth, power, and influence in Albany, New York, in 1757. Eliza was expected to marry into a similarly powerful family . . . until she met and fell in love with the charismatic Hamilton. She stood by him throughout his tumultuous life, and after his death, she single-handedly collected his papers and preserved them for historians and musical-theater writers of the future. Eliza outlived Hamilton by fifty years; during that time she founded the first orphanage in New York State, raised funds for the Washington Monument, and kept the flame of her husband’s memory and achievements alive. Featuring Esme Shapiro’s exquisite, thoroughly researched art, which mirrors paintings from 18th-century America, this is a beautiful and informative biography with extensive back matter. -- Schwartz & Wade

ELIZA: THE STORY OF ELIZABETH SCHUYLER HAMILTON isn't available until October 2nd, but I loved this book so much that I didn't want to wait to share with you! ELIZA is a picture book biography about Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton with words by Margaret McNamara and artwork by Esme Shapiro, and it's very special. I knew next to nothing about Eliza Hamilton, and I found this book to be extremely interesting. In fact, it piqued my interest so much that I want to read some more about this fascinating woman.

ELIZA was married to Alexander Hamilton and is only now getting the credit and fame she deserves. This picture book is written as a letter from Eliza to her unborn grand-daughter, and it details the major highlights of her life. She begins the letter with her birth to a wealthy family and then follows the story through her childhood and her marriage to Hamilton. She even shares some of the major things she contributed to our society after her husband's death. (She ended up outliving him by 50 years!)

Since I really knew very little about Eliza Hamilton, I was stunned to learn that she was the one responsible for keeping all of her husband's letters for future generations. She also raised money for the building of the Washington Monument as well as finding the first orphanage in the state of New York. She even met with all fourteen presidents. Eliza Hamilton sounds like she was one strong and amazing woman!

As much as I enjoyed this story in ELIZA, I also loved the artwork. The illustrator, Esme Shapiro, tried to make the pictures look like 18th-century paintings. How cool is that? These gorgeous illustrations really contributed to the overall "feel" of the book.

The picture book includes an afterword from Phillipa Soo, the original Eliza in the Broadway musical Hamilton: An American Musical, where she describes how she researched her famous role. It also has some additional details about Eliza's life that fill in some of the information provided in this picture book.

ELIZA is a terrific picture book that kids, especially fans of Hamilton, will love. Highly recommended for both classroom and home 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!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Review: The Late Bloomers' Club

Summary: A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small town's efforts to do right by the community, and the power of a lost dog to summon true love

Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what's "the usual." But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her free-spirited, younger sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town's beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.

Kit, an aspiring--and broke--filmmaker thinks her problems are solved when she and Nora find out Peggy was in the process of selling the land to a big-box developer before her death. The people of Guthrie are divided--some want the opportunities the development will bring, while others are staunchly against any change--and they aren't afraid to leave their opinions with their tips.

Time is running out, and the sisters need to make a decision soon. But Nora isn't quite ready to let go of the land, complete with a charming farmhouse, an ancient apple orchard and the clues to a secret life that no one knew Peggy had. Troubled by the conflicting needs of the town, and confused by her growing feelings towards Elliot, the big-box developer's rep, Nora throws herself into solving the one problem that everyone in town can agree on--finding Peggy's missing dog, Freckles.

When a disaster strikes the diner, the community of Guthrie bands together to help her, and Nora discovers that doing the right thing doesn't always mean giving up your dreams. -- Pamela Dorman Books

I loved THE CITY BAKER'S GUIDE TO THE COUNTRY by Louise Miller -- you can read my review here. So when I learned that she has a new novel out called THE LATE BLOOMERS' CLUB, I jumped at the chance to read it! I am thrilled to say that there was no followup novel let down -- I loved this charming little book!

THE LATE BLOOMERS' CLUB tells the story of Nora and her younger sister Kit. Nora is the owner/manager of a small town diner in Guthrie, and she takes great pride in serving her regular customers. She always knew she'd end up running the place after the death of her father, and she's never really thought about doing much else. However, when she and Kit inherit the home and land of Peggy Johnson, the town's cake lady, her life is turned upside down in an instant.

The two sisters learn that Peggy was thinking about selling her land to a developer who wants to build a big box store on the property. Kit who is a bit of a free-spirit (to say the least) is thrilled that she will have an immediate windfall of cash to help her fund her aspiring movie making business, but Nora isn't quite sure what to do. The town is definitely divided with some wanting the inflow of money that the store might bring while others want to keep their small town the same.

Nora and Kit don't have much time to decide what's best for them and Guthrie, and Nora finds that she actually loves this little house with the orchard and the hidden artwork. To make things even more complicated, Nora is falling for Elliot, the developer's guy on the ground who is trying to buy the land. When Nora's beloved diner faces a disaster, she is forced to make some difficult choices, but she also realizes just how special her life and the people in it are.

I adored THE LATE BLOOMERS' CLUB. It's a feel good book about a small town and what's important in life. I am tempted to use the words charming, delightful, etc to express my thoughts about this book, and they are all definitely true; however, those words almost seem to trite to explain just how good this book made me feel. The overall messages in this novel are ones of love, family, dreams, and finding peace in one's life... and I just really needed a book like this right now!

In addition to this novel being a type of coming of age story about Nora, it also had a few neat twists that brought the book to the next level for me. Nora really didn't know much about Peggy and was actually quite surprised to inherit her land. When she first visited the place, she discovered a hidden treasure trove of unique art. As the novel progressed, Nora realized who created these works of art as well as the special story behind them.

There was also a side story about Peggy's dog. When Peggy had the accident that took her life, her dog was in the car with her. He escaped and was on the run, too scared to let anyone near him. Nora (and eventually Elliot) were determined to capture the dog and assist him. Their desire and near-miss attempts to catch the dog were a recurring theme throughout the story, and I appreciated how the dog and this quest to catch him symbolized some other things that were occurring in Nora's personal life.

I am positive that fans of women's fiction, especially ones who enjoy Adriana Trigiani and Fanny Flagg, will appreciate this novel. Highly recommended!

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

Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: Feared

Summary: In the new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Mary DiNunzio’s ruthless nemesis Nick Machiavelli is back...with a vengeance.

When three men announce that they are suing the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm for reverse sex discrimination—claiming that they were not hired because they were men—Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato are outraged. To make matters worse, their one male employee, John Foxman, intends to resign, claiming that there is some truth to this case.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer is Nick Machiavelli, who has already lost to Mary once and is now back with a vengeance —determined not to not only win, but destroy the firm. It soon becomes clear that Machiavelli will do anything in his power to achieve his end…even after the case turns deadly. The stakes have never been higher for Mary and her associates as they try to keep Machiavelli at bay, solve a murder, and save the law firm they love…or they could lose everything they’ve worked for. Told with Scottoline's trademark gift for twists, turns, heart, and humanity, this latest thriller asks the question: Is it better to be loved, or feared...

Feared, the sixth entry in the acclaimed Rosato & DiNunzio series, expertly explores what happens when we are tempted to give in to our own inner darkness. -- St. Martin's Press

It's been a long time since I've read a book from Lisa Scottoline's Rosato and DiNunzio series. FEARED is the sixth book in the series, and the two female lawyers are back with a vengeance. Actually, it's Nick Machiavelli, the thorn in Mary DiNunzio's side, that is back with a vengeance... and this time he's going after the all female law firm.

The novel begins with Mary's baby shower; however, it quickly turns to trouble when the lawyers are served notice that they are being sued for reverse sex discrimination. Three male attorneys think they weren't hired by the almost all female Rosato & DiNunzio law firm because they were men. And guess who their lawyer is? None other than Nick Machiavelli. He not only wants to sue these women (especially Mary), but he wants them to lose their entire firm!

When the lone male at Rosato & DiNunzio winds up brutally murdered, the women are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Things get even more complicated when they learn that the third partner, Judy, was secretly dating him. She quickly becomes a suspect because she was seen and heard arguing at this home just hours before his body was discovered.

In true Bennie and Mary form, these two women work to save their partner and their law firm from total destruction!

I really enjoyed FEARED. It's a quick read and fans of this series will be glad to see Bennie and Mary back and in rare form trying to save their business and reputations. Ms. Scottoline brings Philly and its people to life, and I had to chuckle at her rendition of Mary's very Italian family. In an otherwise dark plot where their employee was brutally murdered and their partner was the major suspect, the Italians in the story kept things light.

Who doesn't love Mary and Bennie? They are certainly two characters! Mary was actually the main character in this novel, and it was interesting to see her as a pregnant, working woman. I could totally relate to her feelings about the pregnancy, and I really enjoyed a chapter near the end of the book where she gains perspective on family and motherhood.

I thought the mystery in FEARED was solid, and I have to admit that I didn't see the ending coming. I liked being surprised, but I do think the twist was a little far-fetched. But heck, I liked this novel a lot, and I'll take the ending if for nothing more then surprise and the final resolution!

FEARED is a great addition to the Rosato & DiNunzio series. Highly recommended for fans of Ms. Scottoline's!

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

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

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Kid Konnection: Fall 2019 Dawn Publications Picture Books

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you two fun and educational picture books from Dawn Publications.

Summary: “If you were an animal—wild or tame, would you know your daddy’s name?” Every page answers this question with a different animal. Meet a joey riding piggy-back whose daddy is a sugar glider, a calf whose daddy is a towering giraffe, and a tiny fry floating next to its seahorse daddy. Children will be delightfully surprised by the animal in the middle of the book, and dads will especially appreciate the scene on the last page. Rhyming verses describe animal characteristics, and watercolor illustrations capture the feeling of all the different habitats, making every page a teachable moment. Additional animal information and matching game in the back of the book extends the learning. -- Dawn Publications

HE'S YOUR DADDY! DUCKLINGS, JOEYS, KITS, AND MORE by Charline Profiri and illustrated by Andrea Gabriel is a beautiful book that teaches young ones about baby animals and their daddies. Each page spread introduces a different baby/father pair including cygnets and swans, kits and beavers, and fawns and stags.

I think HE'S YOUR DADDY! is a great way to learn the names of baby animals and their "daddies." I will admit that I even learned a thing or two. The illustrations are gorgeous and provide kids with a lot to look at. There are even some special pages at the back of the book that take this book to the next level. There is a matching game as well as additional details about the various animals. Also included are additional names for daddy animals, some of the responsibilities of daddy animals and science and math fun!

HE'S YOUR DADDY! is a fantastic way to teach children about the names of animals. Highly recommended for school and home libraries.

Click here for a fun matching game!

Summary: Deserts are full of surprises! An amazing array of animals calls this driest place on Earth their home. Through rhythm and rhyme, children meet a new animal on every page. They won’t be able to resist getting in on all the action as animal parents teach their babies how to live in this unusual place—camels kneel, armadillos dig, dingoes sniff, and jerboas jump. Cut paper collages capture the subtle beauty of the desert and also “hide” more animals for young eyes to find. Additional information, a world map, and tips from the author give parents and teachers all they need to make learning fun. One part song, one part story, and one part sheer delight! -- Dawn Publications 

OVER ON A DESERT: SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Jill Dubin is another fun, yet educational, picture book for youngsters. This one teaches kids about the various animals that live in the desert including dingos, armadillos, and roadrunners. Like HE'S YOUR DADDY, this book shows baby animals learning from their parents how to survive in the desert.

OVER ON A DESERT has a catchy rhyming cadence so it's perfect for read-aloud story times. In addition to introducing a variety of unusual animals, this book also reinforces counting with more and more animals appearing on each page. The pages in the back of the book are full of even more information about animals in deserts. There is a map showing the various desert areas around the world as well as clues/details about the "hidden" animals in the book. That's right! Kids can go back through the book and find the hidden animals.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fun illustrations in this book. The pictures are cut paper collages add a really cool vibe to the story. If you want even more about desert animals, click here for activities based on the book including hidden animal pages, bookmarks, and a matching game.

Parents and kids alike will enjoy reading OVER ON A DESERT. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing review copies of these books.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: The Summer Wives

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast . . .

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a na├»ve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island. -- William Morrow

I am a huge fan of author Beatriz Williams! I have read almost all of her novels (if not all of them!) and I was so excited to read her new one THE SUMMER WIVES. At its heart, THE SUMMER WIVES is a mystery but it's also a story about one woman's return to her childhood home and her attempt to have some closure from her painful past.

Like most of Ms. William's books, THE SUMMER WIVES moves between time periods. The novel begins with Miranda Schuyler moving to Winthrop Island in 1951 when her mother married Hugh Fisher, one of the wealthiest men on the island. Miranda's is thrown into a new world and her step-sister Isobel is eager to show her the ropes. Miranda isn't exactly comfortable with her new life, and she finds herself attracted to Joseph Vargas, son of the lighthouse keeper... and very, very close "friend" to Isobel.

When Miranda's stepfather is murdered and Joseph is convicted of the crime, Miranda feels the need to escape from the island. She becomes a successful Shakespearean actress, but she has never really been able to move on from her past. When she returns to the island in the summer of 1969 (around the same time that Joseph escapes from prison), she causes quite a stir. Miranda decides that she needs to get to the bottom of her stepfather's murder and prove that Joseph was wrongfully convicted of the crime.

I loved THE SUMMER WIVES! As a mystery fan, I loved the question of who killed Hugh Fisher; however, I also really appreciated Ms. William's characters and writing style. I always enjoy how she weaves stores between two time periods (in this case 1951 and 1969), but this novel also had additional characters' back stories that occurred prior to the 1950s. I think she does a remarkable job of bringing each and every time period to life with her descriptive writing.

In addition, I really liked the characters of Miranda and Joseph. Both were rather complicated and I found them to be intriguing, and I definitely enjoyed the relationship between the two of them. Through Miranda was no longer an innocent teenager, she still was trying to reconcile her past. As a result, this book was not only a mystery (and a bit of a love story) but also a woman's attempt to discover herself.

As far as mysteries go, this novel had a good one. I won't say I was entirely surprise by a few of the secrets that were revealed, but they were so juicy that I enjoyed them nonetheless. I especially appreciated how the story unfolded and the reader was given the opportunity to figure things out along with Miranda.

All in all, I thought THE SUMMER WIVES was one of Ms. Williams' best... and if you've read her novels then you know that's a mighty fine compliment. Highly recommended for fans of mysteries and fans of women's fiction.

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

Review: Y is for Yesterday (Audio)

Summary: Private investigator Kinsey Millhone confronts her darkest and most disturbing case in this #1 New York Times bestseller from Sue Grafton.

In 1979, four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.

Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find… -- Random House Audio

It is bittersweet that I finally finished listening to Y IS FOR YESTERDAY by Sue Grafton -- the last book in her Kinsey Millhone series. Ms. Grafton passed away the end of 2017, and I have been holding onto this audiobook and listening to it in very small increments. I just didn't want it to end. I probably didn't enjoy it as much as I would have if I had listened to it regularly, but I wanted to savor her last novel.

That's not to say that I didn't like Y IS FOR YESTERDAY a lot because I did. It's just difficult to come to terms that one of my favorite authors is gone. It made me listen to the book in a different light, with an almost sadness and dread rather than my normal appreciation of her writing. It's definitely true to me and all fans of Ms. Grafton's -- the alphabet now ends with Y!

Y IS FOR YESTERDAY is a mystery that was rather disturbing. The original crime takes place in 1979 when four high school boys from a prestigious private school film a sexual assault on one of their female classmates. The tape ends up going missing and the boys suspect another classmate... who just happens to get murdered. Two of the boys are convicted after one of the boys ends up cooperating with the police, and the last boy disappears without a trace.

Fast forward to the present day (which just happens to be 1989) and Fritz McCabe, one of the perpetrators, has served his time for the crime and is getting released from prison. A copy of the tape shows up at his house with a ransom note, and Fritz's parents call Kinsey Millhone to do what she does best -- investigate. Meanwhile, she is also dealing with a twisted individual from her past. Can Kinsey get to the bottom of these crimes while also saving herself from a dangerous and disturbed man?

Y IS FOR YESTERDAY is Ms. Grafton at her best. It goes without saying that Kinsey Millhone is one of the best private investigators in fiction -- I just love her. In addition, Ms. Grafton has created some fascinating characters and an intriguing mystery. She managed to transition the stories between 1979 and 1989 flawlessly, while also balancing the crimes of the teens and her personal nemesis. There's a lot going on in this novel with a lot of characters; however, it's very, very well written.

The audiobook version of Y IS FOR YESTERDAY was read by Judy Kaye. If I'm being entirely honest, I kind of wish I had read this novel instead of listening to it. I don't know if there was inherently anything wrong with the narration; however, I just didn't find her voice to be what I was expecting. It's probably my fault for even having expectations for what Kinsey might sound like, but Kinsey really isn't that old... and Ms. Kaye's voice seemed a little too mature to me.

Y IS FOR YESTERDAY is a great end to an amazing series -- but would you expect anything less from Ms. Grafton? Highly recommended.

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

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 25, 2018

Kid Konnection: Food Fight!

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 fun picture book about some adorable dinosaurs -- I also featured one last week!

Summary: Grab your knife and fork and get ready to dig in to human history through the lens of food and the struggle to acquire it with award-winning celebrity food editor and author Tanya Steel. This book includes 30 kid-tested and approved recipes inside!

Did you know that Christopher Columbus set out on his most famous voyage in search not of the new world, but cinnamon? Or that rich people in the Middle Ages served flaming peacocks and spun sugar castles to their lucky dinner party guests? Did you ever wonder why M&Ms were invented? (Hint: That candy coating isn't just for decoration!) The quest for food has inspired all kinds of adventures and misadventures around the world, and this book explores the wildest and wackiest of them all, from prehistoric times through modern day.

Hungry readers can go on a finger-licking romp through the ages to discover the origins of today's common foods, yucky habits of yore, marvelous inventions that changed the way we ate and cooked, and the weirdest menus on record. Amazing stats and fast food facts are featured throughout, along with 30 original recipes, each specific to a particular time and place. So, if you are curious about how food shaped global history and culture, put this book on the menu. -- National Geographic

I reviewed some unusual books over the years on Booking Mama, but FOOD FIGHT!: A MOUTHWATERING HISTORY OF WHO ATE WHAT AND WHY THROUGH THE AGES by Tanya Steel might just be the strangest. I don't mean that in a negative way. I just never thought I'd be reviewing a book about the history of food or what people have eaten throughout the years!

FOOD FIGHT! is a fascinating look at one thing we all have in common -- hunger and food! This oversized hardcover book begins explaining just how hard our ancestors worked to find food, and how much easier we have it now. It goes without saying that food has changed throughout time, and it's definitely different depending on where you live. FOOD FIGHT! teaches kids all about the history of food while also providing loads of fun (and interesting) anecdotes.

The book is divided into the following chapters: The Prehistoric Era, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Medieval Times, Mongols & the Silk Road, The Renaissance, America Revolts, The French Revolution, World War I, America's Great Depression, The World at War, Again. The Sixties, and Future World. It also includes 30 recipes, a food timeline, and suggestions for further reading. Personally, I can't believe how much information about food exists in FOOD FIGHT's 150+ pages!

I love FOOD FIGHT! It's a truly educational book for kids of all ages, and by all ages, I mean adults too. I learned so much and the beginning of foods we eat today as well as inventions that changed the way we eat (think fire!). In addition, there's some pretty strange stuff in the book too that's certain to appeal to even the most reluctant of readers like weirdest menus on records and some pretty disgusting food habits!

I have always been fascinated by ancient Rome so I decided to go straight to that section. This section (and every other suggestion) begins with a "Bite-Size History" of the time period and a "Day in the Life." The following pages are all about food! There's a list of common foods eaten in Rome during this period as well as some information about how the Romans got their food. There are also sections on tools, menus of the rich and famous, and a "By the Numbers" sidebar which explains the cost of food as well as what was a typical daily food portion for a Roman soldier.

And there's more! I suspect most kids will enjoy the Yucky Habits of Yore section the most. This graphic has some interesting tidbits including some about Romans and urine. (That's all I'm saying about that!) Finally, the chapter on ancient Rome includes recipes for Apicius' Apricot Delight and Hail Caesar Chicken Salad as well as a fun little quiz to see how much the reader learned!

The rest of the chapters in FOOD FIGHT! follow a similar format and are equally as interesting. I especially enjoyed the section on the 1960s which include many of my childhood favorites and some not-so-favorites! FOOD FIGHT! is one of those books that you can read straight through or flip through and take in the fun facts. It's up to the reader how to best enjoy this book, but no matter how he or she decides to read it, there are many hours of educational entertainment.

FOOD FIGHT! will be available on September 11th. It's one of my all-time favorite National Geographic Kids' book, and I think it's a must-have for home and school libraries. Highly recommended!

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

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Review: Improper Cross-Stitch

Summary: A fun, witty, nerdy, and irreverent craft book for the modern cross-stitcher.

Sometimes it's good to be a little...improper. Profane, funny, and smart, Haley Pierson-Cox's IMPROPER CROSS-STITCH invites the modern crafter to bring personality and humor to their cross stitch projects. From a fully designed "Damn it feels good to be a crafter" to the beautiful Art Deco inspired "f%ck," Haley's patterns are fresh, lively and just what the crafter ordered.

In this book, she'll introduce readers to the joys of stitching the naughty, the profane, the irreverent, and the just plain awesome. First, she starts with a basic lesson in cross-stitch technique, no previous experience required. Then, once readers know your way around an embroidery hoop and a skein of floss, the books moves on to the designs—35 in total, ranging from hip, to nerdy, to ironically domestic—where Haley encourages crafters to embrace their inner snark with gleeful abandon.

Her easy to follow instructions and colorful designs can make a cross stitcher out of anyone. In all her years of crafting, Haley's learned many things, but this simple fact remains one of the most important: There is absolutely nothing in this world quite so satisfying as enshrining something deeply inappropriate within the delicate stitches of a cross-stitch sampler. It's truly one of life's great delights! -- St. Martin's Griffin

I first began cross-stitching when I was about eight years old. For the next twenty plus years, I always had a cross-stitch project in the works. Needless to say, many of my friends and relatives received hand-stitched pieces over the years. I even made adorable little wall hangings for each of my kids nurseries. Unfortunately, I stopped cross-stitching awhile back -- around the same my kids were born (coincidence?).

When the new book IMPROPER CROSS-STITCH: 35+ PROPERLY NAUGHTY PATTERNS by Haley Pierson-Cox was pitched to me, I thought it would be a fun little book to review. Heck, it might even get me to start this relaxing craft again. I have to say that cross-stitch has changed quite a bit in the past few years... or at least the patterns in this book are for a "modern" cross-stitcher.

IMPROPER CROSS-STITCH is a great book with 35 contemporary patterns. There book is divided into fun chapters with titles like "Hipster Snark" and "Talk Nerdy to Me," and the patterns themselves have really unique names as well. Most of these patterns were absolutely adorable, but I have to warn you that a few of them were a bit off-color or include foul language... so I just skimmed those pages!

There are so many simple and fun patterns that are perfect for teens and hipsters. Some of my favorite patterns include the "Badass Garden Gnomes", the "Morning Cup of Chemistry", and "Stitchers Gonna Stitch". Nerds like me will also like the "Grammar Police" pattern which includes a badge, a book and a pencil (it's precious), as well as the "Squad Goals" one which includes faces of Bronte, Austen, Dickinson, and Plath. And I can't forget the "Smart is the New Sexy!"
Badass Garden Gnomes - Improper Cross-Stitch, by Haley Pierson-Cox
Squad Goals - Improper Cross-Stitch, by Haley Pierson-Cox
I really hope IMPROPER CROSS-STITCH helps bring back this fun, relaxing, and rewarding craft to today's kids, teens and young adults. The author has even included terrific instructions so beginners (of all ages) can easily learn how to cross-stitch. She also included some easy alphabets and ideas in the back so stitchers can create their own unique works of art!

I definitely enjoyed IMPROPER CROSS-STITCH (even the irreverent patterns!) Highly recommended for seasoned or new crafters!

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

Review: A Double Life

Summary: Claire is a hardworking doctor leading a simple, quiet life in London. She is also the daughter of the most notorious murder suspect in the country, though no one knows it.

Nearly thirty years ago, while Claire and her brother slept upstairs, a brutal crime was committed in her family’s townhouse. The next morning, her father’s car was found abandoned near the English Channel, with bloodstains on the front seat. Her mother insisted she’d seen him in the house that night, but his powerful, privileged friends maintained his innocence. The first lord accused of murder in more than a century, he has been missing ever since.

When the police tell Claire they’ve found him, her carefully calibrated existence begins to fracture. She doesn’t know if she’s the daughter of a murderer or a wronged man, but Claire will soon learn how far she’ll go to finally find the truth.

Loosely inspired by one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the 20th century – the Lord Lucan case – A Double Life is at once a riveting page-turner and a moving reflection on women and violence, trauma and memory, and class and privilege. -- Viking

Once again, I picked up a book this summer because of the buzz surrounding it. The latest one is A DOUBLE LIFE by Flynn Berry, and I can definitely see why it is generating some excitement. I found this novel to be both well-written and an intriguing mystery, and I guess it's loosely based on a real unsolved crime.

A DOUBLE LIFE tells the story of Claire, a woman who leads a pretty quiet life as a doctor in London. She also happens to be the daughter of one of the most famous murder suspects in England, but somehow she's managed to keep that a secret. It's pretty amazing that no one close to her knows her history because (believe me!) Claire is still traumatized by what happened when she was a young girl.

Thirty years ago, a man broke into her family's house and brutally murdered her sitter and beat up her mother. Her mother claims that it was Claire's father whom she saw in the house; and when his car was found abandoned with blood stains on the front seats, it certainly made him look guilty. He was never seen again, and his friends all maintained that he was innocent.

The police notify Claire that they think have found her father, and Claire begins her obsession with discovering whether her father was a brutal murderer or a wrongly charged man. Claire is determining to get to the bottom of this mystery even if that means putting her own life at risk!

I really enjoyed A DOUBLE LIFE. I liked that the mystery was based on a real-life murder (the Lord Lucan) case, and I thought Ms. Berry wrote a fantastic story. The murder was captivating, as was Claire's character. She was dealing with a lot of baggage; and while I wouldn't exactly call her an unreliable narrator, she definitely wasn't quite right in the head. It all made for quite the murder mystery.

I also really appreciated Ms. Berry's writing style. I enjoyed the pacing of the novel and I found it to be quite the page-turner. In addition, I found it interesting that the author incorporated some social commentary into the story, especially when it came to class and privilege in England. I also liked how she created the character of Claire. I found her to be intriguing and I was actually uncomfortable (at times) with her actions.

One of the best things about A DOUBLE LIFE was the ending. It was a shocker for me and I found it a little disturbing.... and that's all I can really say without giving away the surprise!

A DOUBLE LIFE is a well written mystery that's sure to entertain fans of this genre. Highly recommended.

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

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Kid Konnection: T. Rex Time Machine

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 fun picture book about some adorable dinosaurs -- I also featured one last week!

Summary: When two hungry dinosaurs jump into a time machine, they're transported to an unbelievable, magical, surreal future: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW! On the T. Rexes' madcap voyage into the unknown, they encounter the many wonders of the modern world: Police cars! Phones! Microwaves! They don't know how they'll get home—but why would they want to? Acclaimed author and illustrator Jared Chapman combines two favorite kid topics—time travel and dinosaurs—with bold colors, big jokes, and a hilarious escapade. This raucous, laugh-out-loud adventure will delight the very young and keep older readers giggling long into the future. -- Chronicle Books

T. REX TIME MACHINE by Jared Chapman is a very entertaining picture book that's certain to keep parents and kids alike giggling. It's has a fun premise -- two dinosaurs enter a time machine and are transported to the future (which just happens to be present day!) The dinosaurs aren't quite sure what to make of all the amazing things like drive-thrus, fast food, microwaves, and more; however, they do appreciate the convenience of having food everywhere instead of having to hunt for it. There are so many wonderful things in our world that the dinosaurs aren't sure they ever want to leave... until they are!

I thought T. REX TIME MACHINE was adorable. The dinosaurs are incredibly funny and the book gives kids an insight into some of the things we take for granted in our everyday lives. Kids will definitely appreciate the dinosaurs love of all things food, and the illustrations are bright and truly the perfect complement to this hilarious story.

T. REX TIME MACHINE will be available on September 4th. Highly recommended for kids who love silly books -- and what kid doesn't love a funny story?

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, August 15, 2018

Guest Review: The Force

Summary: The acclaimed, award-winning, bestselling author of The Cartel—voted one of the Best Books of the Year by more than sixty publications, including the New York Times—makes his William Morrow debut with a cinematic epic as explosive, powerful, and unforgettable as Mystic River and The Wire.

Our ends know our beginnings, but the reverse isn’t true . . .
All Denny Malone wants is to be a good cop.
He is “the King of Manhattan North,” a, highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of “Da Force.” Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given unrestricted authority to wage war on gangs, drugs and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

Based on years of research inside the NYPD, this is the great cop novel of our time and a book only Don Winslow could write: a haunting and heartbreaking story of greed and violence, inequality and race, crime and injustice, retribution and redemption that reveals the seemingly insurmountable tensions between the police and the diverse citizens they serve. A searing portrait of a city and a courageous, heroic, and deeply flawed man who stands at the edge of its abyss, The Force is a masterpiece of urban living full of shocking and surprising twists, leavened by flashes of dark humor, a morally complex and utterly riveting dissection of modern American society and the controversial issues confronting and dividing us today. -- William Morrow

I loved THE FORCE by Don Winslow so much (my review) that I insisted Booking Pap Pap read it too. It was one of my favorite books of 2017, and I think my dad enjoyed it quite a bit too! He are his thoughts:

THE FORCE by Don Winslow is a story about Dennis Malone, an 18 year veteran of the NYPD who is considered a “hero cop”. Set in 2017, Malone is the top cop in the elite Manhattan North Special Task Force. Malone is 6’ 2”, covered in tattoos and is an arrogant, smart, violent and corrupt cop. He takes drugs, smokes marijuana, handles cash envelops to city politicians for “favors” and patrols the streets according to his standards of justice. Malone fights crime hard and parties even harder. Malone’s team is tasked with providing security to the citizens of the Manhattan North community but they also steal drugs and money from the criminals. Malone thinks of himself as the good guy and in his way of thinking, only his team cares about the downtrodden.

The book opens with Malone in jail and the reader then learns why he’s there. Malone has always considered graft as “normal business” but he crossed the line when he murdered a drug lord and kept a significant portion of the drug bust worth millions. He gets caught and is being squeezed by the Feds to rat on politicians, members of the judiciary and cops. Malone will cooperate to some extent but will do almost anything to protect his family and other cops, particularly his team

THE FORCE is a frightening book about cops, drug dealers and gangsters and how they coexist in New York City. The book is full of violence, not-so subtle racial talk and excessive profanity. It reveals the dichotomy of being a NYPD cop. On one hand he exhibits heroism through crime fighting and on the other hand he shows signs of criminal behavior through shakedowns and bribes. Author Don Winslow uses the story of “hero cop”, detective Malone, as an example of how deep corruption can run in the political and justice systems. Winslow story also reflects some stereotypical characters. For example Malone is a son of an Irish-American cop. Malone’s brother was a firefighter who dies on 9/11. Malone’s team consisted of an Irishman, an Afro-American, an Italian and a Jew. Malone has a white wife in the suburbs and an Afro-American lover in the city.

The overriding theme of the book is how good cops end up dirty. My one issue with THE FORCE is that all cops are portrayed as corrupt which I think is a gross exaggeration. The book has no likable characters but is a book you will have difficulty putting down once you start reading it. I believe the book is already under agreement to be made into a movie.

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: The Perfect Mother

Summary: An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time. 

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar, they are looking for a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed. -- Harper

I decided to pick up THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy after I saw all of the buzz surrounding this novel. It was an immediate New York Times bestseller, and it's going to be made into a movie starring Kerry Washington. I had a feeling that this would be a terrific read... and it certainly lived up to my expectations!

THE PERFECT MOTHER is about a group of moms (and one dad) who become friends because they have one thing in common -- they are all have newborns. They decided to meet twice a week in Prospect Park in Brooklyn where they bonded over their babies. It was a great break from spending 24/7 with a newborn.

As most new moms know, it's a tough job being a mother. To let off some steam, these women decided to go out one night for a few drinks. Winnie, a single mom, is reluctant to go out and leave her son Midas with a sitter. The other women convince her that nothing will go wrong? Famous last words, right? When Midas, her infant son, is taken from his crib, these new parents' lives and their friendships are heavily tested.

I really enjoyed THE PERFECT MOTHER. The premise is fantastic and I appreciated that this novel was both a terrific thriller and a social commentary on parenthood, and especially what it means to be a good mother. The character development is well done, and the writing is insightful; and I think THE PERFECT MOTHER is just a really good book on so many levels.

I really appreciated how the author decided to tell this story. The book alternates between the moms in the friends' group; and while it centers around Midas' disappearance, it also brings to light these other moms and the issues/secret that they have in their lives. Much of the characterization of these women was focused on how their lives were affected by becoming parents, but they also had some juicy secrets of their own that added to the intrigue of the story.

One fun thing that Ms. Molloy chose to do was include emails from a parenting group at the beginning of each chapter. These emails were helpful advice on how to take care of your infants, and I got a kick out of the tone of these emails. I remember reading emails just like this when I was a first time mom and swearing that they had absolutely no idea what I was dealing with!

Finally, I have to give major props to the author because this mystery was fantastic. There were so many twists and turns, and I honestly didn't know where the story was going. There was more than once when I thought I had everything figured out only to learn that I didn't. What a great feeling when reading a thriller!

I found THE PERFECT MOTHER to be smart, and entertaining, thriller. Highly recommended to fans of mysteries and women's fiction.

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

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