Saturday, July 14, 2018

Kid Konnection: A Home for Leo & Giveaway


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

Summary: Leo grew up in the sea. He has a family of sea lions he loves. He’s happy, but he has always known he was different. Then Leo’s suddenly reunited with his human parents, and he finds he loves them too. But he still feels like a fish out of water. Being from two worlds and having two families isn’t so easy. Leo has a lot to figure out…

Splashed with humor and grounded in heart, this brightly illustrated story explores ideas of family, home, and belonging in a way that’s as relatable as it is unique. -- Two Lions

A HOME FOR LEO by Vin Vogel is a very cute book about a boy who kind of feels like a "fish out of water." Leo grew up living in the sea with a family of sea lions. He was quite happy, but he always knew that he didn't exactly fit in. When a surprise encounter leads him back to his human parents, he feels very lucky to be loved by him... but he still feels as if he doesn't fit in. So, Leo has to find a way to merge both of his worlds!

I thought A HOME FOR LEO was a very cute story with adorable illustrations, and I'm sure young ones are going to love his antics both in the sea and on land. As a mom, I liked the resilience of this little guy -- he really managed to make the best of both situations. I also enjoyed so many of the messages of this book, especially the ones about home, family, and finding your own place in the world!

Check out the book's trailer below:


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

Giveaway: I have a copy of A HOME FOR LEO to share with one lucky Booking Mama reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 27th at 11:59 pm EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: Somebody's Daughter

Summary: From USA Today bestselling author Rochelle B. Weinstein comes an emotional novel for mothers, daughters, and anyone who has ever felt imperfect.

Emma and Bobby Ross enjoy a charmed life on the shores of Miami Beach. They are a model family with a successful business, an uncomplicated marriage, and two blessedly typical twin daughters, Zoe and Lily. They are established members of a tight-knit community.

Then, on the night of the girls’ fifteenth birthday party, they learn of Zoe’s heartbreaking mistake—a private and humiliating indiscretion that goes viral and thrusts her and her family into the center of a shocking public scandal.

As the family’s core is shattered by disgrace, judgment, and retribution, the fallout takes its toll. But for Emma, the shame runs deeper. Her daughter’s reckless behavior has stirred memories of her own secrets that could break a marriage and family forever. -- Lake Union

It's ironic that two books with the same title have been published in recent months (or days for one of them!) I have finished SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER by Rochelle B. Weinstein and am still reading the other, but there must be something special about the title SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER. I've found both books to be very entertaining... albeit in very different ways.

For now, I'll just focus on Weinstein's SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER. This book is extremely timely and will resonate with parents (especially mothers) because of the subject matter. The Ross family seemingly has it all. They live on Miami Beach and run a beautiful hotel. The parents, Emma and Bobby, are happily married; and they have two beautiful twin girls, Zoe and Lily. The have a great group of family and friends, and life seems to be about as good as it can get. Until it isn't!

On the evening of the girls' 15th birthday, Bobby and Emma throw the girls a huge party to celebrate. At the end of the evening while Emma is in the restroom, she overhears two girls talking about a viral video with a young girl in a compromising position with a boy. When Emma figures out that the girl is her quiet, introverted daughter Zoe, it tears their family apart!

SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER follows the events that take place in the Ross family in the aftermath of the scandal, and it's not pretty. Naturally, Zoe is embarrassed and devastated and doesn't quite have the skills at 15 to navigate the controversy alone. However, her twin sister Lily also has to deal with the fallout at school and her desire to protect her sister. Bobby has a very difficult time imaging that his daughter would do this, nevertheless that everyone knows about it; however, he is also dealing with issues of his own and the hotel business. Finally, Emma is sympathetic to her daughter because she heart breaks for Zoe, but she has her own secrets from her past that make her even more understanding of Zoe's behavior. Needless to say, this perfect family suddenly finds themselves in a less-than-perfect situation... and it seems like everyone in their circle of friends knows about it!

I enjoyed SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER, but maybe it's better to say that I appreciated it. The subject matter tore me apart. I mean who doesn't make mistakes when they are 15, and because of the internet, Zoe's mistake will always be out there. This book delved into so many topics that I think mothers will relate to -- from how to parent in difficult situations to how to act when your husband is shutting you out; and most importantly, how to keep your family from falling apart.

This is the first novel I've read by Ms. Weinstein, and I definitely wouldn't hesitate to read another one. I felt as if she truly captured the pain of his family, while also covering relevant issues in today's society. Her portrayals of all four family members, as well as their friends, seemed very realistic to me; and I especially enjoyed how she developed the secondary characters including the boy's parents and Zoe's friends.

The entire time I was reading SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER, I thought it would make the ideal book club selection. I wasn't able to find a formal reading guide, but rest assured, you won't need one. My book club has spoken about many of these issues over the past few years, and this novel brings them to to forefront in a variety of ways. Some of the themes you will want to discuss include cyber bullying, actions and repercussions, mother/daughter relationships, marriage, sibling love/rivalry, guilt, forgiveness, and second chances. It truly is an important and thought-provoking story.

I think fans of women's fiction will very much enjoy SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER. I highly recommend it to book clubs and moms!

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: Baby Teeth

Summary: Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied.

But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. To Alex, she’s willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she’s told.

Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn’t love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna’s subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger… - St. Martin's Press

When Kathy and I met up in late May for BEA, she was very excited about a book she was reading on the plane. It was clear that she was shocked by some things that had happened in this novel and that she desperately wanted someone to talk to about it. That book was BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage.

So of course, I had to pick up BABY TEETH, right? My best friend couldn't stop talking about it, and despite her description of the book (it wasn't really up my alley), I decided to give it a try. Wow! I really don't have much more to say than that. (Yeah right!) It was one disturbing book about one scary little girl.

BABY TEETH tells the story of one out-of-sorts family. Suzette and Alex Jensen decide to have a child even though Suzette's body is already dealing with a chronic illness. They are determined to be good parents (especially Suzette who didn't have the best upbringing); however, their young daughter Hanna is quite the challenge -- and that's saying it nicely!

Hanna is seven years old and a holy terror. She has never said a single work, but she's clearly bright because she can read and write. She refuses to socialize with other kids and has even been kicked out of schools. As a result, Suzette is forced to homeschool her... and spend an awful amount of alone time with this difficult child.

It's clear that Hanna's behavior is getting worse. She lashes out and her mother and even starts deliberately trying to hurt her. The only time Hanna is even slightly sweet is when her father is around. He just sees his little girl as a strong-willed child, and he doesn't even come close to realizing how challenging Hanna is for his wife.

Things are tense in the Jensen house with Hanna causing the vast majority of the pain. However, Hanna's treatment of her mother escalates until it becomes a life-or-death situation for Suzette!

Now that you've read this description you are probably scratching your head a bit. Or at least that's what I did after Kathy told me about this book. It's creepy, right? But if you're a mom who had a strong-willed child, then this book is like your worst nightmare. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to enjoy this book, but I definitely wanted to see what it was all about.

Truth be told, I only liked this book (and liked is probably the wrong word.) While I didn't love this book, I was certainly intrigued (and scared as hell). BABY TEETH is a page turner -- no doubt about it. With alternating narratives between Suzette and Hanna, it's extremely interesting to follow their stories... and see how each one interprets similar events.

I have to wonder about the twisted nature of this story and what it says about the readers who like it. I'M JUST KIDDING, KATHY! There is a great deal to like about this novel from the writing, to the character development, to the pace of the novel, to the suspense. It all is quite well done, especially for a debut author. I just thought it was all a little uncomfortable, but then again, I'm not usually one to read creepy books (or watch creepy movies for that matter.)

And that brings me to my next point... I do think BABY TEETH would make a fantastically, scary movie. The novel even read and moved a bit like a movie. It was fast-paced with lots of action, and there were quite a few surprises in store for the readers. This is probably a testament to Ms. Stage, but I could visualize this little devil and her petrified mother perfectly!

One thing that left me scratching my head was the ending. It was not quite what I expected; and I'm not sure if, because of that, I liked it or not. I'm still trying to figure that out. Either way, I do think the author set us up for a potential sequel to Hanna's story. And I think that's a good thing because Hanna is one of those characters that you just want to understand... and see what other horrible things she can think of to do!

So... I had mixed feelings about BABY TEETH but I do think it's a well-written engaging story about a horrible child. I definitely recommend it to fans of thrillers and horror.

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, July 7, 2018

Kid Konnection: Baby Code! 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 cute series of board books!

Summary: It’s never too early to get little ones interested in computer coding with this unique series of board books!

How do you explain coding to a baby? By showing how it’s all around them, and how they can take part in it, of course! By using items common in a baby’s world, like a teddy bear and electric train, this charming board book full of bright, colorful illustrations is the perfect introduction to coding for babies and their caregivers–and is sure to leave them wanting to learn more! -- Penguin Workshop

Summary: How do you explain coding in playtime to a baby? By showing how it’s all around them, and how they can take part in it, of course! By using items and experiences in a baby’s world, like an electric swing or a ride at the amusement park, this charming board book full of bright, colorful illustrations is the perfect introduction to coding in active play for babies and their caregivers–and is sure to leave them wanting to learn more! -- Penguin Workshop


Summary:& How do you explain coding in music to a baby? By showing how it’s all around them, and how they can take part in it, of course! By using experiences common in a baby’s world, like hearing a melody from a mobile or tapping on an electronic xylophone, this charming board book full of bright, colorful illustrations is the perfect introduction to coding in music for babies and their caregivers–and is sure to leave them wanting to learn more! -- Penguin Workshop



Summary: How do you explain coding in art to a baby? By showing how it’s all around them, and how they can take part in it, of course! By using items in a baby’s world, like a camera or a block made from a 3D printer, this charming board book full of bright, colorful illustrations is the perfect introduction to coding in art for babies and their caregivers–and is sure to leave them wanting to learn more! -- Penguin Workshop

Of course, I love featuring new books but every once in awhile I get really excited about sharing them with you. Case in point are the BABY CODE! books Sandra Horning and art by Melissa Crowton. These four board books will be available later this month and they are positively adorable.

THE BABY CODE! board books consist of the following: BABY CODE!BABY CODE! PLAYBABY CODE! MUSIC, and BABY CODE! ART. Honestly, they are all super cute so I can't really say I have a favorite. BABY CODE! introduces the concept of coding by relating it to everyday objects like playing with pets, answering phones, and counting toys. BABY CODE! PLAY shows how coding is used to enhance a baby's world through rides at amusement parks and capturing baby's special moments. BABY CODE! MUSIC demonstrates how coding is used to record voices, set musical phone ring tones, and more. While BABY CODE! ART shows how coding is used to make art from 3D printers and cameras. All four books even include examples of real coding!

As cute as the concept of coding is in board books, I should also mention just how precious the illustrations are. They are both simple and interesting with the bright colors and patterned textures. The babies faces and expressions are especially cute and certain to keep even the youngest of toddlers interested.

I love the entire concept surrounding not only these four board books but partnership between Penguin Young Readers and Girls Who Code. Together, these two have a multi-format, cross-imprint set of books that encourage youngsters (no matter the age!) the value of learning the importance of coding and how it fits into our world. (Make sure to check out other books in the series if you have kids who are past the board book stage!)

BABY CODE! books are both cute and educational. Highly recommended for future coders!

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!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Kid Konnection: The Ultimate Book of Sharks


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 book that's perfect for Shark Week which is only a few weeks away!

Summary: Dive into the wild world of sharks! Get up close to learn the truth behind these fantastic, ferocious fish with famed National Geographic photographer and explorer Brian Skerry. Join this amazing underwater adventure to track the sharks of the world, from the teeniest dogfish to the everfeared great white. This ultimate book features every species of shark on the planet, with awesome photos, fascinating facts, the latest science, and firsthand stories of real-life encounters with these incredible creatures. Learn how sharks live, how they eat, the challenges they face, and whether or not you are actually on the menu! -- National Geographic Kids

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SHARKS:YOUR GUIDE TO THESE FIERCE AND FANTASTIC FISH by Brian Skerry is one of those books that doesn't exactly appeal to me... because I am terrified of sharks. However, if I put aside my irrational fears, I have to admit that this is one very cool book!

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SHARKS is a gorgeous (yes gorgeous!) oversized, hardcover book that has more information about sharks than you could ever imagine... making it perfect for kids who want to learn more about this fascinating animals. This book also has hundreds of shark photographs throughout which are truly incredible (although I've come to almost expect that from a National Geographic book.)

The author, Brian Skerry, is a National Geographic photographer and explorer; and it truly feels as if he's taking readers on an underwater adventure to learn more about every species of shark in the world. Naturally, there are details on the different varieties of sharks, but there are also interesting sections on shark conservation and real-life encounters by the author.

I really liked how THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SHARKS was organized. Rather than have a page detailing each shark variety (which could get a little redundant), the book is divided into the following chapters: Spectacular Sharks, Exploring Shark Anatomy, The Secret Lives of Sharks, The Fintastic Ten, Shark Myths Busted!, Colossal Fossils, Super Sharks, and Be a Shark Defender. Readers will find information about their favorite (or not-so-favorite!) varieties, but they will also learn about general shark anatomy and the extreme sharks including the largest, the deadliest, and the funkiest!

I decided to give this book a try despite not being entirely comfortable seeing so many photos of these creatures. I have to say that this is one excellent resource for anything and everything sharks. The information is presented in clear, concise way, but it's also fun and easy-to-read either straight through or in snippets. Of course, the photographs are breath-taking (as are the stories about the author's interactions with sharks which are captured in Skerry Encounters sections!). And I think many kids will enjoy the statistics, the interesting details, and the stranger but true stories about the amazing animals!

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SHARKS is a must-read for kids who love sharks and are excited about Shark Week. However, I also think school libraries and classrooms need this book on their shelves.

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, June 27, 2018

Review: Lighthouse Beach

Summary: From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Noble comes a heartrending and uplifting novel about friendship, love, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for our dreams. What was supposed to be an idyllic wedding leads to an unexpected journey of self-discovery…

When Lillo Gray pulls up to Kennebunkport’s most exclusive hotel wearing a borrowed dress and driving a borrowed VW van, she knows she’s made a big mistake. She’s not even sure why Jessica Parker invited her to her posh wedding. They haven’t seen each other since they were unhappy fourteen-year-old girls at fat camp. And now they’re from two completely different worlds. There’s no way Lillo fits in the rarefied circles Jessica travels in.

Jess isn’t sure she’s ready to go through with this wedding, but she’s been too busy making everyone else happy to think about what she wants. But when she and her two closest friends, Allie and Diana, along with Lillo, discover her fiancé with his pants down in the hotel parking lot, she’s humiliated…and slightly relieved. In a rush to escape her crumbling life, Jess, Allie, and Diana pile into Lillo’s beat-up old van and head up the coast to Lighthouse Island. Once there, she hopes to figure out the next chapter in her life.

Nursing broken hearts and broken dreams, four lost women embark on a journey to find their way back into happiness with new love, friendship, and the healing power of Lighthouse Beach. -- William Morrow

Last week, I was in the Outer Banks. I always get a lot of reading done, and it's a great opportunity for me to read some books that I might not pickup at home in Central PA... especially "beachy books." One of those books was LIGHTHOUSE BEACH by Shelley Noble. This novel takes place on the coast of Maine, and it was a heartwarming story about self-discovery.

LIGHTHOUSE BEACH begins when Lillo Gray shows up to a posh Kennebunkport hotel for a childhood friend's wedding. She doesn't exactly fit in with her beat up, borrowed van and her borrowed dresses; and truth be told, she's not even sure why she was invited because she hasn't seen Jessica since they were teens at summer camp.

Every summer, Jessica came to a summer camp for fat kids that Lillo's parents ran; and she was a bit of a lost soul. Her parents were extremely critical (and still are), and the saving grace was getting to hang out with Lillo. So when it came time for her to get married (to a man she isn't sure is right for her but her parents adore), she wants her old friend there to help her get through it.

Well, it's a good thing Lillo came because the first night she is there, they see Jess's fiance "with" a waitress in the hotel parking lot! Between Lillo and Jess's friends Allie and Diana, they convince her to not go through with the wedding. Much to Jess's parent's dismay, all four hop in Lillo's beat up van and head to Lillo's house on Lighthouse Island.

These four woman are a somewhat unlikely set of "friends," and Lillo isn't really sure she's ready to let anyone into her some after everything she's been through. However, within a few days, these four become extremely close, and they all learn some important things about themselves in the process.

I liked LIGHTHOUSE BEACH and I did have the ideal setting to read this "beachy book." I don't know if I'd go so far as to say I loved it, but it was a fun and quick read with some good messages. All four of these women had some serious issues in their lives, and it was through the healing effects of Lighthouse Beach and friendship that helped them find hope and move forward.

Lillo was definitely the main character in this story, but Jess, Allie, and Diana were also fun (and likable) characters. Lillo didn't fit in at all with these women, and she was still reeling from a past trauma that isn't apparent to the readers until later in the story. When it's finally revealed, it's a doozy; and it's no wonder that she was hesitant to forgive herself and truly live again.

Jess, Allie, and Diana all had their far share of problems too, and it was interesting to see how they worked through them. Jess learned to finally stand up for herself and follow her dreams, while Allie was eventually able to move on after the early loss of her husband. Diana was a piece of work who provided some humor in the book, but I think it's safe to say that she found her softer side and maybe even love.

Another wonderful aspect of LIGHTHOUSE BEACH was the setting of the novel. I loved how the author brought this area of Maine to life. It's not your typical beach locale because the economy is depressed, but the beauty of the area was still apparent. I especially appreciated how the author focused on the social problems of this town and how so many of the town's residents were helping to keep their town (and the children who live there) alive and well.

All in all, LIGHTHOUSE BEACH was a fun vacation read that also had some depth. It warmed my heart in a time when it's nice to see the good in people, and the resounding message of hope is one that is always welcome!

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Bring Me Back

Summary: She went missing. He moved on. A whole world of secrets remained—until now.

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him...even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

A tour de force of psychological suspense, Bring Me Back will have you questioning everything and everyone until its stunning climax. -- St. Martin's Press

Last year at BEA, I had the opportunity to meet the woman who writes as B.A. Paris. Despite the disturbing nature of her novels, she really was quite delightful. So when I received her latest novel, BRING ME BACK, I thought it would be appropriate to read it on my train trip to this year's BEA.

BRING ME BACK tells the story of Finn, a man whose fiancee Layla disappeared almost ten years ago, and his wife Ellen... who just happens to be Layla's sister. Layla mysteriously disappeared at a service station while Finn was using the restroom -- or at least that's the story he told the investigators. Finn was initially a person of interest; however, nothing was ever found to link him to Layla's strange disappearance.

Finn was deeply affected by the loss of Layla, but he eventually was able to move on. After working through Layla's disappearance, Finn and Ellen became quite close and are now engaged to be married. Finn loves Ellen, but he doesn't have quite the same passion he once had for her sister. In fact, he's never truly understood her and something just seems a little off about her.

As their wedding date approaches, things start getting weird for Finn. First, he receives a call that Layla is alive -- that someone saw her near their old house. But that's just the beginning. Little trinkets from their past begin showing up at Finn and Ellen's home, and then Finn starts getting text messages from Layla. The messages reference things that only Layla could have known. Finn isn't entirely sure what to believe. He wants to settle down and be a good husband to Ellen, but if Layla is alive...

Finn is determined to find Layla and discover what really happened to her all those years ago. He goes back and forth between reflecting on their past and trying to figure out the clues she is now leaving for him. In the process, Finn begins to question everything he thought he knew about his life, and what he finally discovers is most shocking!

For the most part, I enjoyed BRING ME BACK. I'm not sure I enjoyed it quite as much as Ms. Paris' first two novels, but thought the premise of the story was terrific. At the beginning of the book, I thought the pacing was perfect and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough; however, there were other times when I felt as if the story was kind of slow. I think maybe the cat and mouse games between Layla and Finn just went on a little too long for me.

Having said that, I did like the book's plot of this missing woman returning to Finn's life after ten years and when he had finally moved on; and I really wanted to find out why she went missing in the first place. I definitely enjoyed that this novel was so complex -- there were actually mysteries inside of mysteries. There was the obvious question of what actually happened to Layla all those years ago and whether Finn was responsible, but there was also the mysteries surrounding whether she was still alive and why she would come back to Finn now.

BRING ME BACK definitely kept me guessing on so many fronts, and that's probably why I enjoyed it as much as I did. First and foremost, Finn was an unreliable narrator and Layla was truly an unstable person. I wasn't quite sure who or what to believe. As I started to figure a few things out, I wasn't even entirely sure whether to believe my gut feelings about the characters. Finn, Layla, and Ellen all seemed to have so many secrets... and none of them were very likable which made it even more difficult for me to assess their actions!

Finally, I did appreciate how the author decided to unravel the mysteries in this novel. The story went back and forth between Finn's views of the present and the past, but as I mentioned earlier, I wasn't entirely sure his version of events were accurate. He was definitely keeping some secrets, and as the crazy truth became more apparent to me towards the end of the novel, I learned that other individuals were just as secretive. It was a rather shocking ending that I'm still not certain I loved... or found totally believable.

All in all, BRING ME BACK was a suspenseful read with a few strange characters and a lot of twists and turns. Recommended to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers.

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, June 23, 2018

Kid Konnection: I Wanna Be a Cowgirl


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 cute picture book with even cuter illustrations!

Summary: Grab your boots and spurs and hat—it’s time to be a cowgirl!

Way out west, the warm winds blow.
The grass grows high, the sun hangs low.
I’ll find a farm, there I’ll go,
and I’ll become a cowgirl.

From sun up to sun down, the girl in this story pretends to be a cowgirl as she pulls on her (rain) boots, saddles up her (stick) horse, and gallops off through the (backyard) hills. Filled with humor and imaginative play, this sweet story from Angela DiTerlizzi captures the dream of zillions of little girls everywhere—the dream of being a cowgirl! -- Beach Lane

I mentioned a few days ago that I was lucky enough to attend a Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing breakfast. One of the authors that I heard speak was Angela DiTerlizzi. (She was delightful in case you were wondering!) Her new picture book  JUST ADD GLITTER wasn't available yet, but I was thrilled to see that she was signing one of her earlier books, I WANNA BE A COWGIRL, after the breakfast.

I WANNA BE A COWGIRL tells the story of a little girl who uses creativity to make herself into a cowgirl. She wears her boots which are actually rain boots and her spurs which look an awful lot like pompoms, and she heads out to the hills on her horse-on-a-stick. Her jump rope serves as her lasso, and gloves on the clothesline serve as cow udders. And as you can clearly see, she makes the most of her imagination to play cowgirl for the day.

I love I WANNA BE A COWGIRL. It's a fun, rhyming story that is sure to capture kids' and parents' hearts. The illustrations by Elizabet Vukovic are positively adorable with the bright red accents whimsical characters. As a mom, I appreciate that the story encourages creativity and imagination... and outdoor play. Maybe kids will want to use things around their own house to play make-believe after reading this book!

I think I WANNA BE A COWGIRL is too cute! Highly recommended to little ones ages 4 -8.

I received a copy of this book at the 2018 Book Expo.

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, June 20, 2018

Book Expo 2018 - Day 3 (Friday)

Kathy and I figured we could sleep in on Friday -- we had nothing pressing, but if you know either one of us, then you know that we don't sleep in! We were up bright and early, so we decided to go to breakfast at Junior's Cheesecake on 45th Street. We had already visited for some cheesecake before the show on Wednesday, but I wanted a hearty breakfast in the hopes that we could skip lunch!

Once again, we hit the showroom floor running and gathered some great Fall 2018 books. I was especially excited to get a copy of the novel DEAR EVAN HANSEN (although I got knocked into a woman in a wheelchair while grabbing a copy), BEARSKIN (which came with some yummy gummy bears), I KNOW YOU KNOW, and the thriller THE SILENT PATIENT! My son was excited that I brought home THE STORM RUNNER and THE GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAMS OF ALL TIME. We also circled back through the autograph area and pick snagged some goodies.

Around mid-day, Kathy and I decided to get some fresh air. We headed back to our favorite beer joint, AS IS, and had another beer and some olives for lunch. We really didn't have much time because we needed to get back for one of the best Book Expo events ever.. Book Group Speed Dating hosted by ReadingGroupGuides.com. Last year we missed this event because I had to get home for my daughter's high school graduation, so the long wait made it even more special!

The Speed Dating event is huge. There are about eight book lovers (bloggers, librarians, book sellers, etc) seated at each round table, and publishers take turns coming around and sharing (for ten minutes) their favorite book club books for the fall and winter! Since there are far too many tables for each publisher to visit, you only get a sampling of the books. However, there is an amazing handout with all of the books listed.

Did I mention that the publishers bring copies of their books to each table? Yes -- you read that right! Truthfully, not every book is on the table but lots of them are. It's amazing to hear the publishing folks share their favorites, and it's hard not to take every single one of them home! And then after the event (as if you don't have enough books in your tote bag), they encourage you to visit other tables and take whatever books you want from the leftovers. It's like a dream come true for people like me who love new books!

Kathy and I are always seated at different tables, but we've come to realize the benefits of this! We hear about different books, collect different books, and sometimes we even grab a few to share. I have to say that we talk about this event all year long, and we've decided that it's the one thing we would miss the most from Book Expo!

I could easily list about 50 books that from Speed Dating that look terrific, but I'll feature a few of my favorites:

Algonquin
THE COLLECTOR'S APPRENTICE by B.A. Shapiro

Summary: It’s the summer of 1922, and nineteen-year-old Paulien Mertens finds herself in Paris—broke, disowned, and completely alone. Everyone in Belgium, including her own family, believes she stole millions in a sophisticated con game perpetrated by her then-fiancé, George Everard. To protect herself from the law and the wrath of those who lost everything, she creates a new identity, a Frenchwoman named Vivienne Gregsby, and sets out to recover her father’s art collection, prove her innocence—and exact revenge on George.

When the eccentric and wealthy American art collector Edwin Bradley offers Vivienne the perfect job, she is soon caught up in the Parisian world of post-Impressionists and expatriates—including Gertrude Stein and Henri Matisse, with whom Vivienne becomes romantically entwined. As she travels between Paris and Philadelphia, where Bradley is building an art museum, her life becomes even more complicated: George returns with unclear motives . . . and then Vivienne is arrested for Bradley’s murder.

B. A. Shapiro has made the historical art thriller her own. In The Collector’s Apprentice, she gives us an unforgettable tale about the lengths to which people will go for their obsession, whether it be art, money, love, or vengeance.

Ecco
THE CAPTIVES by Debra Jo Immergut

Summary: The riveting story of a woman convicted of a brutal crime, the prison psychologist who recognizes her as his high-school crush—and the charged reunion that sets off an astonishing chain of events with dangerous consequences for both
As an inmate psychologist at a state prison, Frank Lundquist has had his fair share of surprises. But nothing could possibly prepare him for the day in which his high school object of desire, Miranda Greene, walks into his office for an appointment. Still reeling from the scandal that cost him his Manhattan private practice and landed him in his unglamorous job at Milford Basin Correctional Facility in the first place, Frank knows he has an ethical duty to reassign Miranda’s case. But Miranda is just as beguiling as ever, and he’s insatiably curious: how did a beautiful high school sprinter and the promising daughter of a congressman end up incarcerated for a shocking crime? Even more compelling: though Frank remembers every word Miranda ever spoke to him, she gives no indication of having any idea who he is.

Inside the prison walls, Miranda is desperate and despairing, haunted by memories of a childhood tragedy, grappling with a family legacy of dodgy moral and political choices, and still trying to unwind the disastrous love that led to her downfall. And yet she is also grittily determined to retain some control over her fate. Frank quickly becomes a potent hope for her absolution—and maybe even her escape. Propulsive and psychologically astute, The Captives is an intimate and gripping meditation on freedom and risk, male and female power, and the urges toward both corruption and redemption that dwell in us all.

Random House
THE ADULTS by Caroline Hulse

Summary: Meet The Adults.

Claire and Matt are no longer together but decide that it would be best for their daughter, Scarlett, to have a “normal” family Christmas. They can’t agree on whose idea it was to go to the Happy Forest holiday park, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did—and it’s too late to pull the plug. Claire brings her new boyfriend, Patrick (never Pat), a seemingly sensible, eligible from a distance Ironman in Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life, Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, who is seven, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He’s a giant rabbit. Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Forced Fun Activities, drink a little too much after Scarlett’s bedtime, overshare classified secrets about their pasts . . . and before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends where this novel begins—with a tearful, frightened call to the police.

What happened? They said they’d all be adults about this. . . .

Simon & Schuster
A CLOUD IN THE SHAPE OF A GIRL by Jean Thompson

Summary: A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a poignant novel about three generations of the Wise family—Evelyn, Laura, and Grace—as they hunt for contentment amid chaos of their own making.

Evelyn set aside her career to marry, late, and motherhood never became her. Her daughter Laura felt this acutely and wants desperately to marry, but she soon discovers her husband Gabe to be a man who expects too much of everyone in his life, especially his musician son. Grace has moved out from Laura and Gabe’s house, but can’t seem to live up to her potential—whatever that might be.

In A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl we see these women and their trials, small and large: social slights and heartbreaks; marital disappointments and infidelities; familial dysfunction; mortality. Spanning from World War II to the present, Thompson reveals a matrilineal love story that is so perfectly grounded in our time—a story of three women regressing, stalling, and yes, evolving, over decades. One of the burning questions she asks is: by serving her family, is a woman destined to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, or can she transcend the expectations of a place, and a time? Can she truly be free?

Evelyn, Laura, and Grace are the glue that binds their family together. Tethered to their small Midwestern town—by choice or chance—Jean Thompson seamlessly weaves together the stories of the Wise women with humanity and elegance, through their heartbreaks, setbacks, triumphs, and tragedies.


Sourcebooks
THE 7 1/2 DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton

Summary: Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin...
***
Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others...

The most inventive debut of the year twists together a mystery of such unexpected creativity it will leave readers guessing until the very last page.

St. Martins Press

DAUGHTER OF A DAUGHTER OF A QUEEN by Sarah Bird

Summary: The compelling, hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

“Here's the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my Mama never let me forget it."

Missouri, 1864

Powerful, epic, and compelling, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen shines light on a nearly forgotten figure in history. Cathy Williams was born and lived a slave – until the Union army comes and destroys the only world she’s known. Separated from her family, she makes the impossible decision – to fight in the army disguised as a man with the Buffalo Soldiers. With courage and wit, Cathy must not only fight for her survival and freedom in the ultimate man’s world, but never give up on her mission to find her family, and the man she loves. Beautiful, strong, and impactful, Cathy’s story is one that illustrates the force of hidden history come to light, the strength of women, and the power of love.

Ballantine

A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult

Summary: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

After this event, we lugged an embarrassing amount of books to the shipping area. We packed up our large boxes, often times having to make tough decisions about what to send (or not send) home. We waited in line for quite awhile sharing book recommendations with others, and then we had major sticker shock when we learned what it would cost to ship home our "free" books.

Just because we didn't want to miss anything (even if it was during the last hour of the last day of Book Expo), we hurried up to the Hachette booth to see Elin Hilderbrand. She was signing copies of her new novel THE PERFECT COUPLE and handing out Coronas. Unfortunately, we were a little late to the signing and they ran out of books... but we did get a beer!

Since we had shipped every possible book home, we didn't have much to carry back to our hotel. (It's a good thing because this year there weren't shuttles from the Javits Center to the hotels!) We grabbed a quick dinner at a little Italian restaurant that my husband and I visited back in December called Patzeria Family & Friends. We really didn't have much time because we need to get down to Soho for a party hosted by Big Honcho.

Believe it or not, it was Friday night and Kathy and I had not been on the subway yet. We walked everywhere for three days! However, because of time constraints, we decided to take the subway to the party. Through the years, Kathy and I have had some interesting subway rides, but I'm happy to say that the ride to Canal Street was uneventful. We even found the party right away!

I have had the pleasure of working with Big Honcho over the past few years. They've had some great giveaways... and a really great one that I'm currently running! The deal primarily with YA bloggers (or so it appeared when Kathy and I got to the party), but what a cute party it was. The theme was ice cream and they had yummy treats from Milk & Cereal Bar. Basically, Milk & Cereal Bar's "thing" is soft serve ice cream flavored with cereal. I had a bowl with vanilla ice cream mixed with Cookie Crisp. You could then pick from a ton of toppings including sprinkles, cookie dough, brownie bites, and more!
We stayed for awhile but we were both pretty exhausted - we really didn't stop the entire trip! We took the subway back to our hotel (which was fortunately another uneventful trip!), and called it a night. The next morning we got up early and had a quick breakfast.  Kathy was kind enough to walk me to the train station for a 9:00 train before she headed back to South Carolina. I think it's safe to say that we had an amazing time at the 2018 Book Expo!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Giveaway: The Wife Between Us

Summary: When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.

Twisted and deliciously chilling, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen's The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage - and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love. -- St. Martin's Press 

One of the first books I read in 2018 was THE WIFE BETWEEN US by  Sarah Pekkanen and  Greer Hendricks. It was a smart and suspenseful (and instant best-selling) thriller that has already been optioned for a film by the same people that made Girl on the Train. You can read my review here. I said a lot about the novel, but here's a little teaser from my review:

All in all, it's hard not to wholeheartedly recommend THE WIFE BETWEEN US to fans of women's fiction and suspense novels. It's unusual enough that it will surprise (and maybe shock) readers... and question everything they think they know about traditional thrillers!

But don't take my word for it... it's a 2018 Indie Next Pick and one of Glamour Magazine's Best Books of 2018. It also received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. It has many terrific blurbs including this one by an author who knows a thing or two about thrillers: 

“A clever thriller with masterful twists.” 
- Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author of THE KEPT WOMAN

Just check out this trailer below and then tell me that this book doesn't look awesome?



THE WIFE BETWEEN US gives new meaning to the term "unreliable narrator", and it has more twists and turns than you could ever imagine. Just when you think you have things figured out, something happens that turns your reading experience upside down! If you haven't read this novel, you won't want to miss it... and if you have already read it, you should get another copy and share it with a friend.

And that brings me to my next point... thanks to the fine folks at St. Martin's Press, I have a fantastic giveaway for THE WIFE BETWEEN US "Oh Shit Kit!" The prize pack includes:

  • an “Oh Shit Kit” cosmetic bag;
  • stemless wine glass set with corkscrew;
  • make-them-stare Mac red lipstick;
  • plus a copy of The Wife Between Us!
How awesome is this giveaway? To enter, just fill out the form below before July 1st at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with US addresses only. Good luck!
 
Want to learn more?

  • Follow St. Martin’s Press on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram
  • Read an excerpt from THE WIFE BETWEEN US
  • Watch a video of authors Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen on THE WIFE BETWEEN US
  • #TheWifeBetweenUs

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, June 16, 2018

Kid Konnection: Pet Dad


Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you an adorable picture book that is perfect for Father's Day!

Summary: Plum wants the perfect pet, but instead realizes she has the perfect dad in this charming and hilarious picture book that’s great for father’s day.

Plum wants a pet. Plum’s dad wants NO pets. So Plum, who never takes no for an answer, gets the only pet she can: a pet dad. Dad is a great pet–he loves playtime, tummy rubs, and scratches behind the ears. But every time Plum tries to get him to sit, or fetch, or chase, dad barks NO. Plum doesn’t take no for an answer. How will she train her perfect pet (without getting a time-out)?

Hilariously relatable and with ultra-cute art, Pet Dad is perfect for kids who love or want pets–or who already have the perfect parents to make up for it. -- Dial

Father's Day is right around the corner, and I have the perfect gift idea. It's the new picture book PET DAD by Elanna Allen, and it's almost too cute for words. PET DAD tells the story of Plum, a little girl who wants the perfect pet. Unfortunately for Plum, her dad wants no pets!

Plum reminds me a lot of my daughter when she was little -- she doesn't take no for an answer and she's relentless! Rather than getting a new pet, Plum decides she needs a pet dad. While dad enjoys the tummy rubs and ear scratches, he doesn't want to sit, fetch or play chase. But Plum is determined to make him into a pet... even if it means that getting into a little trouble in the process!

I adored PET DAD. The story is so cute and the illustrations are just precious! I think PET DAD is one of those books that kids and parents alike will enjoy. The story has just enough kid and adult humor to keep everyone laughing, and I do think the relationship between daddy and daughter will warm hearts.

PET DAD is a highly entertaining picture book! I definitely recommended it... especially for Father's Day.

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, June 13, 2018

Book Expo 2018 - Day 2 (Thursday)

Thursday was another busy day for Kathy and me. It started bright and early with an Author & Illustrator Breakfast hosted by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. Kathy and I love to walk when we are in the city, so we headed out around 7:00 or so to walk to the Javits Center. We keep a pretty good pace and ended up arriving early, so we took advantage of some downtime to visit with each other. Even after all of these years, we still manage to talk non-stop for our entire trip!

I'm not entirely sure how I was invited to Children's Author Breakfast because it was mainly bookseller, but no complaints here. This event was one of my very favorites at this year's Book Expo. There were so many incredible authors and illustrators. It was quite the event!
When we arrived and checked in, we learned that we would be sitting at Deb Caletti's table. I couldn't believe it! There were numerous round tables set up a "book celebrity" or two at each table. Kathy and I plopped down right next to Ms. Caletti. She was extremely gracious and fun to talk with. The event was moderated by a bookseller from Texas and she was outstanding. The program which featured about ten minutes per author/illustrator moved right along at the perfect pace and was never dull.

I truly enjoyed every minute of this event. There were some huge names in children's publishing there, and I enjoyed hearing how they found inspiration for their books. It was a fairly small event so the setting was rather intimate. Like I said earlier, I have no idea why I was invited but I'm so glad I was!

It's hard for me to feature just a few of the books from this event because each and every one of them sounded/looked wonderful. I was very excited to see Matthew Van Fleet and hear about his new book CHOMP GOES THE ALLIGATOR. He wrote a little book called ONE YELLOW LION that my kids played with/read over and over again!

Another highlight was hearing Sharon Draper and Deb Caletti speak. They are both just amazing. I was thrilled to get ARCS of BLENDED by Sharon Draper and A HEART IN A BODY IN THE WORLD by Deb Caletti -- the two books I most wanted to receive.

Another book I'm looking forward to is Leah Tinari's LIMITLESS. This book feature 24 "remarkable American women of vision, grit, and guts." Her illustrations are truly spectacular and we received a numbered print of Carrie Fisher, one of Ms. Tinari's idols. Check out this page:
There were also some gorgeous picture books presented including THE BROKEN ORNAMENT by Tony DiTerlizzi, JUST ADD GLITTER by Angela DiTerlizzi, and OCEAN MEETS SKY by The Fan Brothers. THE BROKEN ORNAMENT AND OCEAN MEETS SKY are absolutely beautiful, and JUST ADD GLITTER is adorable. Hearing about how these books were made (especially the glitter one) was fascinating! Unfortunately, none of these books were available yet, but I'll be certain to check them out when they are released.
THE BROKEN ORNAMENT
JUST ADD GLITTER
OCEAN MEETS SKY
Right after the breakfast, Kathy and I decided to head over to see our friend Miriam Parker signing her new novel THE SHORTEST WAY HOME. We usually don't spend too much time in the autographing space, but because crowds were smaller this year, we managed to snag quite a few signed copies.
Then we went to the showroom floor. It's always a bit overwhelming but I think this year's BEA was much smaller than past year's. That made it very manageable to navigate though. There were also more "book drops" than past years, and it took Kathy and I some time before we got the hang of it. We had fun collecting books and running them down to the shipping area, but we soon tired of the crowds and decided to leave Javits and get a drink on our walk home.

We stopped at As Is, and Kathy was in high heaven. She's a connoisseur of beer and this bar certainly had some unique ones. One was even brewed with hot marble. I liked it because we could order little pours and sample a few. I was pretty sure when we were leaving that we would be visiting this bar again this trip!

We headed back to Times Square and stopped at the TKTS booth again. This time, we got tickets for A BRONX TALE featuring Chazz Palminteri; and Dawn, owner of The Concord Bookshop, joined us. We ate dinner at Scarlatto and it was surprising good. (I'm always worried about walking into a restaurant without reservations!) The show was also terrific, and now I want to watch the 1993 movie by the same name. The show wasn't very long (and we still wanted to visit), so we tried to get into a speakeasy. We were turned away (don't laugh!), and we ended up at a little bar on a corner in Times Square. It was a very fun evening -- the food, entertainment and company couldn't have been any better!

And that's pretty much a wrap for Day 2!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Expo 2018 - Day 1 (Wednesday)

I was so excited to head to New York City on the train first thing Wednesday morning for Book Expo. First, it was a few days off work and a true vacation for me. Second, I knew I'd be attending some fun book events and learning about some new books for the fall. And finally, I would get to spend some time with my best book friend in the whole wide world Kathy (aka Bermudaonion)!

I left Harrisburg on the 6:45 AM Amtrak train which was pretty uneventful, but I mean that in the very best way. I took along my new Kindle Oasis and read LYING IN WAIT by Liz Nugent. I had zero interruptions and just enjoyed 3 1/2 hours of reading time. It didn't hurt that I liked the book quite a bit -- you can read my review of it here.

I arrived at Penn Station and only had to walk as far as Macy's before I got to see Kathy. She arrived much earlier from South Carolina and was already settled in our hotel. This year we stayed at the Millennium Broadway, and I was a little hesitant about trying some place new... especially given that half of their elevators were out the week before. However, everything worked out well with our stay including that we were able to check in around 10:00 AM!

Kathy and I both had been up and traveling for some time and were extremely hungry. We knew we wanted to be at the Javits Center around 1:00 - 1:30, but we had just enough time to visit John's Pizza in Times Square. We always order the exact same thing every year -- a salad and a pizza, but we switched things up a bit and ordered a Traditional instead of a Margherita. I love getting pizza in New York because I swear I still haven't found decent pizza in Central PA after 17 years!

It was a lovely day so we decided to walk to the Javits Center. (I later regretted this decision because I had new shoes that left me with some pretty nasty blisters!) We arrived in plenty of time to get our press badges and a good seat at the Adult Editors Buzz. This event is always enjoyable and we learn about six of the major fall titles. Many books are submitted and only six are chosen!  The editor of each book gets about 10 minutes to talk about the book. Needless to say, some editors are better at presenting their books than others, but I always walk away with a list of six must-read books. (Last year, I read all but one of them... and they didn't disappoint!)

Here are the six books that were presented at the 2018 Adult Editors Buzz:

THE REAL LOLITA: THE KIDNAPPING OF SALLY HORNER AND THE NOVEL THAT SCANDALIZED THE WORLD by Sarah Weinman (9/11/2018)

Summary: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.

Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.

Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic. -- Ecco

I love true crime books so this is a must-read for me! It's also fun to note that Kathy and I met the author for a few minutes after the panel!

SHE WOULD BE KING by Wayétu Moore (9/11/2018)

Summary: Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight at will, just as his mother could. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.

Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author. -- Graywolf Press

Wow -- just wow! SHE WOULD BE KING sounds like a powerful book. I will admit that this novel probably wouldn't have been on my radar without this panel, but I'm so glad I learned about it.

THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE by Casey Gerald (10/2/2018)

Summary: Casey Gerald’s story begins at the end of the world: Dallas, New Year’s Eve 1999, when he gathers with the congregation of his grandfather’s black evangelical church to see which of them will be carried off. His beautiful, fragile mother disappears frequently and mysteriously; for a brief idyll, he and his sister live like Boxcar Children on her disability checks. When Casey–following in the footsteps of his father, a gridiron legend who literally broke his back for the team–is recruited to play football at Yale, he enters a world he’s never dreamed of, the anteroom to secret societies and success on Wall Street, in Washington, and beyond. But even as he attains the inner sanctums of power, Casey sees how the world crushes those who live at its margins. He sees how the elite perpetuate the salvation stories that keep others from rising. And he sees, most painfully, how his own ascension is part of the scheme.

There Will Be No Miracles Here has the arc of a classic rags-to-riches tale, but it stands the American Dream narrative on its head. If to live as we are is destroying us, it asks, what would it mean to truly live? Intense, incantatory, shot through with sly humor and quiet fury, There Will Be No Miracles Here inspires us to question–even shatter–and reimagine our most cherished myths. -- Riverhead

THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE is a memoir that sounds amazing! I guess the author is supposed to be extremely impressive, and it seems like this book addresses many of the issues in today's society.

MAID by Stephanie Land (1/29/2018)

Summary: Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children. - Hachette

MAID is another memoir that sounds fantastic... and it also touches upon some very pertinent issues in the United States including class structure, poverty, and more. This is one of the books I'm not excited to read!

SMALL ANIMALS by Kim Brooks (8/21/2018)

Summary: One morning, Kim Brooks made a split-second decision to leave her four-year old son in the car while she ran into a store. What happened would consume the next several years of her life and spur her to investigate the broader role America’s culture of fear plays in parenthood. In Small Animals, Brooks asks, Of all the emotions inherent in parenting, is there any more universal or profound than fear? Why have our notions of what it means to be a good parent changed so radically? In what ways do these changes impact the lives of parents, children, and the structure of society at large? And what, in the end, does the rise of fearful parenting tell us about ourselves?

Fueled by urgency and the emotional intensity of Brooks’s own story, Small Animals is a riveting examination of the ways our culture of competitive, anxious, and judgmental parenting has profoundly altered the experiences of parents and children. In her signature style—by turns funny, penetrating, and always illuminating—which has dazzled millions of fans and been called "striking" by New York Times Book Review and "beautiful" by the National Book Critics Circle, Brooks offers a provocative, compelling portrait of parenthood in America and calls us to examine what we most value in our relationships with our children and one another. -- Flatiron Books

I wasn't sure that SMALL ANIMALS appealed to me all that much when I first read the book's description; however, I think the editor of this one convinced me that it's an important book. It's another non-fiction title that delves into today's culture of parenting. I love the background for why the author wrote first a Salon article on this topic (The Day I Left My Son in the Car” ) and then the book. We were also lucky enough to run into Ms. Brooks after the panel and talked with her for a few minutes about her book.

OHIO by Stephen Markley (8/21/2018)

Summary: The debut of a major talent; a lyrical and emotional novel set in an archetypal small town in northeastern Ohio—a region ravaged by the Great Recession, an opioid crisis, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—depicting one feverish, fateful summer night in 2013 when four former classmates converge on their hometown, each with a mission, all haunted by the ghosts of their shared histories.

Since the turn of the century, a generation has come of age knowing only war, recession, political gridlock, racial hostility, and a simmering fear of environmental calamity. In the country’s forgotten pockets, where industry long ago fled, where foreclosures, Walmarts, and opiates riddle the land, death rates for rural whites have skyrocketed, fueled by suicide, addiction and a rampant sense of marginalization and disillusionment. This is the world the characters in Stephen Markley’s brilliant debut novel, Ohio, inherit. This is New Canaan.

On one fateful summer night in 2013, four former classmates converge on the rust belt town where they grew up, each of them with a mission, all of them haunted by regrets, secrets, lost loves. There’s Bill Ashcraft, an alcoholic, drug-abusing activist, whose fruitless ambitions have taken him from Cambodia to Zuccotti Park to New Orleans, and now back to “The Cane” with a mysterious package strapped to the underside of his truck; Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate reluctantly confronting the mother of her former lover; Dan Eaton, a shy veteran of three tours in Iraq, home for a dinner date with the high school sweetheart he’s tried to forget; and the beautiful, fragile Tina Ross, whose rendezvous with the captain of the football team triggers the novel’s shocking climax.

At once a murder mystery and a social critique, Ohio ingeniously captures the fractured zeitgeist of a nation through the viewfinder of an embattled Midwestern town and offers a prescient vision for America at the dawn of a turbulent new age. -- Simon & Schuster

And last but certainly not least is OHIO. This is definitely the book that I'm dying to read. It was on my radar even before I knew it was chosen for the Adult Editors Buzz, and it just sounds like a novel I will adore. So many of the themes of this book seem to be timely, especially the economic decline in rural areas; and it's also somewhat of a mystery. Sounds like the perfect summer read for me!

It's interesting to note that four of the six books are non-fiction. I've been attending this panel for some time and I don't ever remember there ever being more than one. For some reason, I found it interesting that there is definitely a trend this fall to non-fiction titles; and it was definitely apparent on the showroom floor too.
After the buzz panel, Kathy and I were fortunate enough to spend some time with Miriam Parker. Miriam is the first book person who ever send me a book to review, so she'll always hold a special place in my heart. Plus she's just a fantastic person! Miriam is the Associate Publisher of Ecco, but she's also a soon-to-be published author. Her debut novel is THE SHORTEST WAY HOME (7/31/2018) -- you can read my review here; and it's the perfect summer read. We headed over to the Gotham West Market for a cocktail and some chips and guac. Gotham West Market is such a fun place to visit while in the city, and it's nice to have somewhere like this in walking distance from the Javits.
One thing Kathy and I love to do is see musicals when we are in New York. We always just take our chances and see what tickets we can get at TKTS. Since we haven't seen a ton of shows, there are always some good tickets still available at the booth. I was a little concerned because we were heading to the booth so late that there might not be anything that we wanted to see, but never fear! We were able to get amazing seats (8th row orchestra -- smack dab in the center) for HELLO, DOLLY! with Bernadette Peters. I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this show, but I figured you have to see Ms. Peters in this role if you have the chance. She was terrific and so was Victor Garber. The show was a lot of fun, but what I found even more entertaining was when Ms. Peters did something silly during one of the scenes, and Mr. Garber had to really work not to break character. The audience was already pretty rowdy for a broadway show, and needless to say, there was a lot of laughter for the next few minutes of the show.

It was almost 11:00 PM when we got out of the theater, so we decided to call it a day. We were both pretty tired from such an early start (and such an action-packed day!) Amazingly enough, we both slept fairly well... which we never do. Maybe we are just getting old!