Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review: The Immortalists

Summary: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds. -- Putnam

WOW WOW WOW! I've been on a reading roll this month, and I've read a few books that I already think will go down as some of my favorites of 2018. The latest novel that I've read and absolutely loved is THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin. It's highly unlikely that you haven't already heard about this book because it's getting some major buzz, but just in case, I'll give you a quick summary of its premise.

THE IMMORTALISTS tells the story of four siblings (Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya) who learn the dates of their deaths from a psychic in 1969. It then follows each of their lives for the next five decades as they navigate their lives "knowing" when they will die. In the early 1980s, as a teen still in high school, Simon heads to San Francisco with his older sister Klara looking for the freedom to live the life he craves. Klara is determined to become a magician and eventually leaves San Francisco to make it big in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Daniel becomes an army doctor after the U.S. is forever changed after 9/11; and Varya, the eldest child, decides to devote her life to researching longevity.

THE IMMORTALISTS is, at its heart, a family saga that covers fifty plus years of four siblings' lives. I loved discovering the paths of these four individuals' and the decisions they made when they (possibly) knew how long they had to live. The book is extremely well written -- I can't say that enough, and the characters' lives were incredibly interesting.

And I would honestly love this book just based on these characters' lives alone; however, THE IMMORTALISTS is so much more just a family saga. This novel is absolutely amazing in that it has a great storyline with intriguing characters, but it also explores an interesting idea that knowing the date of our death can affect the choices we make all through our lives. In addition, this book explores some huge themes including love, loss, and family -- topics that each reader will be able to relate to in their own way.

I could not put down this novel and I think it's one of the best books I've read in years. I loved everything (and I mean everything) about this book. Even the way the story was told -- in four major sections with one for each sibling was perfect. Each section began where the last one ended, and I appreciated how beautifully written each and every page was. All in all, I found this book to be totally engrossing!

If you are part of a book club, then I beg you to consider THE IMMORTALISTS for your next meeting. Unfortunately, I'm not scheduled to host for awhile, but I'm hoping that one of my friends will pick this book in the near future. This book is a great read, but it's an even better book to discuss among friends. In fact when I finished this book, I was sad that I didn't know anyone else who has read it yet... because I was dying to talk about it.

There is a fantastic reading group guide available with ten questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include fate/destiny, the power of belief, freedom, death, and family. There are also some recipes for fun book-related cocktails as well as a pattern for a cute paper fortune teller. I'm not exaggerating when I say that THE IMMORTALISTS is the perfect book club selection!

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher at last year's BEA.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Review: UNSUB

Summary: A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss? -- Dutton

I've been hearing quite a bit of buzz about UNSUB by Meg Gardiner for the past month -- actually for the past six or so months, so I was excited to discover that I had an early e-book copy of this novel. The sequel to UNSUB, INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE, is being released tomorrow; and I didn't have much time to catch up if I wanted to stay on track for this new series. As a result, I read the majority of the book yesterday!

UNSUB is a darn good psychological thriller. It is inspired by the real-life (and never caught) Zodiac Killer, who committed a series of murders in the Bay Area in the 1990s, and takes place about twenty years later. Caitlin Hendrix is a young Narcotics detective when the UNSUB starts murdering again. Caitlin's father, Mack, was one of the original detectives on the case; and his inability to solve the crimes basically ruined his life... so needless to say, Caitlin is especially eager to be involved with this investigation.

The murderer is back at it again with his ritualized murders, and Caitlin is determined to piece together the methods behind his madness. As she becomes more involved with catching this man, can she keep perspective rather than letting the investigation take over her life... and her mental health?

I really, really liked UNSUB. In fact, I think it's one of the best psychological thrillers that I've read in some time. There is no doubt that Ms. Gardiner is a fantastic writer (she's even an Edgar Award winner), but she's really brought it to the next level with this novel. I love that she was inspired by the real-life Zodiac killer; and this novel was just really smart from the mental state of the serial killer, to the way he plotted his crimes, to how Caitlin figured things out. Plus, she created a complicated and intriguing character in Caitlin Hendrix.

I adored Caitlin and especially appreciated how complex she was. She was the daughter of a cop who lost his mind after trying to solve a case almost 20 years ago; and as a result, he didn't really have much of a relationship with him. It was interesting to see how much she wanted to be involved in this case -- both as a way to prove herself as a newbie cop and redeem her father's name. I thought the author did a terrific job in bring Caitlin and Mack's relationship to life.

In addition, I loved that Caitlin wasn't only tough as nails, but she also had a terrific mind. The serial killer's actions were obviously based on something and he did give his fair share of clues, but no one involved in the investigation could get a grip on what he was saying or planning on doing. It seemed as if the killer was just toying with the police. That is until Caitlin became involved. She methodically figured out the puzzle-like clues that they killer was leaving, and eventually she was able to get inside this madman's mind! Words cannot express how much I loved the way the author set up this story with the murders and the symbolism -- it was brilliant!!!

Readers can probably tell from UNSUB's description that the murders in this novel are particularly gruesome. The book is very well written, but I do want to warn you that it's not for the faint of heart. The killer is one of the most twisted and disturbing characters I've encountered in a book. And as far as mysteries go, this one is gritty and disturbing (and oh so good!), but I did feel squeamish reading a few of the scenes.

Even after Caitlin figured out who was responsible for the killings, the book was far from over. It was an extremely interesting pursuit (to say the least!), and the pacing of the end of the book was incredibly. I couldn't put it down. And to make things even more interesting, there is a twist or two at the end that pretty much assured readers that another UNSUB novel would be coming! Personally, I can't wait to read the next one, INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE!

I loved UNSUB and am super excited that Ms. Gardiner has started a series with this fabulous cast of characters! Highly recommended to fans of psychological suspense!

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, January 27, 2018

Kid Konnection: New National Geographic Kids Books

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you two new fantastic National Geographic Kids books!

Summary: Love to tell scary stories around the camp fire? Like to solve mysteries? Brave enough to hear the truth about some pretty freaky phenomena? Then cuddle up with this spooky spine-tingler, filled with delightfully frightful true stories of real-life monsters, doomed domains, menacing mysteries, strange disappearances, and so much more.

Meet ghosts, ghouls, and zombies. Go inside haunted houses, hidden graveyards, and deadly secret passages. The Fright-o-meter rates each story for its level of scariness. Full of thrills and chills, this book will have you sleeping with a nightlight for sure. Read if you dare, but don't say we didn't warn you! -- National Geographic

I decided to feature DON'T READ THIS BOOK BEFORE BED: THRILLS, CHILLS, AND HAUNTINGLY TRUE STORIES by Anna Claybourne on my blog because I'm sure there are kids who will love this book. Honestly, it's not exactly up my alley because I'm way too chicken; but I will say that I did read through it and there are some pretty amazing stories!

DON'T READ THIS BOOK BEFORE BED is 140+ pages of scary (but true) stories about real-life monsters, mysteries, disappearances and more! There are some seriously strange stories in this book! Like all National Geographic Kids books, the information is presented in a way that makes it fun for readers. There are lists, quizzes, and snippets about creepy things, and of course, there are terrific full color photographs that are perfect complements to the stories.

There are some really cool things about DON'T READ THIS BOOK BEFORE BED including the Fright-o-meter. That's right -- it's a cute graphic of a gauge that measures how scary the stories on the page are! I also really liked some of the topics covered including a page on zombie ants, a haunted building in London, and creeps of the deep (disgusting underwater creatures!)

DON'T READ THIS BOOK BEFORE BED is a book that will definitely appeal to kids who love scary stories. I love that it's a fun book that's also educational... and it will get even reluctant kids to read!

Summary: Why were the Easter Island heads erected? What really happened to the Maya? Who stole the Irish Crown Jewels? The first book in this exciting new series will cover history's heavy-hitting, head-scratching mysteries, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the Bermuda Triangle, the Oak Island Money Pit, Stonehenge, the Sphinx, the disappearance of entire civilizations, the dancing plague, the Voynich manuscript, and so many more. Chock-full of cool photos, fun facts, and spine-tingling mysteries. -- National Geographic Kids

HISTORY'S MYSTERIES: CURIOUS CLUES, COLD CASES, AND PUZZLES FROM THE PAST is another fun (yet educational) book from National Geographic Kids; and if I'm being honest, one that appealed to my tastes a bit more than the book above. I guess I just love mysteries of all types!

HISTORY'S MYSTERIES attempts to explain a lot of life's mysteries in a clear, concise way that's perfect for middle school (and high school) readers. I think the chapter names in this book give a great idea of what's between the covers: Vanished Civilizations, Unexplained Deaths and Disappearances, Creatures of Myth and Legend, Freaky Phenomena, Mystifying Monuments, Cryptic Codes and Lost Languages, and Treasure troves.

HISTORY'S MYSTERIES is the first book in a new series that provides some explanations for mysteries that have plagued the earth for years. I was fascinated by this book and the mysteries it contains! HISTORY'S MYSTERIES is part science lesson/part history lesson, and the information is presented in a very easy-to-read way. There are also tons of pictures and drawings that make these mysteries even more appealing to readers.

This book has so many interesting topics that I'm having a hard time just focusing on a few for this review. I loved the chapter on Unexplained Deaths and Disappearances which included a few pages on Amelia Earhart, but I also found some of the Freaky Phenomena mysteries to be pretty darn interesting. This section covered some strange stuff like flying saucers, strange footprints, and even a mummy!

HISTORY'S MYSTERIES is proves that life is, indeed, stranger than fiction. Highly recommended!

Thanks to Media Masters for providing review copies of these books.

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: Still Me

Summary: From the sensational #1 New York Times bestselling author Jojo Moyes, a new book featuring her iconic heroine of Me Before You and After You, Louisa Clark

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She is thrown into the world of the superrich Gopniks: Leonard and his much younger second wife, Agnes, and a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and New York life within this privileged world.

Before she knows what’s happening, Lou is mixing in New York high society, where she meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. In Still Me, as Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets–not all her own–that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places? -- Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

If you are anything like me, then you'll be thrilled that Louisa Clark, from ME BEFORE YOU and AFTER YOU by Jojo Moyes, is back in STILL ME! I absolutely love Louisa, and I could hardly wait to see what was next for Louisa as she travels to New York for a new job... and maybe a new life.

STILL ME picks up where AFTER YOU leaves off. (It's definitely not necessary to read the first two books to enjoy STILL ME, but why wouldn't you want to?) Louisa has just left her serious boyfriend Sam to travel to New York to work as a caregiver/personal assistant for the very wealthy Agnes Gopnik. She and Sam are determined to keep their romance alive, but Lou also wants to take advantage of everything Manhattan has to offer!

Lou begins attending some pretty high falutin' social events with Agnes and meets the very charming Joshua Ryan... who also happens to have an uncanny resemblance to Will from ME BEFORE YOU fame. Lou finds that long-distance relationships come with their set of challenges, and absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder.

When Lou makes the decision to protect Agnes from a shocking secret about her past, she finds that life as she knows it in New York has been turned upside down. Can Lou find a way to survive in New York while also staying true to herself... and can she work things out with Sam who is thousands of miles away?

I so enjoyed STILL ME! I absolutely adore Louisa and it was so much fun to see her adventures in Manhattan with an entirely different crowd. Lou is absolutely delightful and I love how she always figures out a way to make the best of every situation. She's just quirky enough to make things interesting, and I love how much humor the author is able to infuse into the novel through this character.

Having said that, I think the beauty of STILL ME (and the other Lou stories) is that the author writes entertaining stories while also tackling some serious issues. I guess you could call in smart (very smart) chick lit -- and I mean that in the very best way. In the case of this novel, the themes of class structure, wealth, and loneliness were all addressed in a thought-provoking way. In addition, there were major storylines about Lou's relationships (and her sister's!) that showed the reader that there are all types of ways that love can conquer all (although it's not always an easy to get to that point!)

Another thing I really enjoyed about STILL ME were the new characters. Lou lives in a posh high rise in Manhattan and finds herself in contact with an elderly woman and her dog as well as a doorman who is a happily married family man. I loved both of these characters and, even more, I loved how Lou was able to learn about herself (and what is important to her) by engaging with them.

I'm not entirely sure if there were be another novel about Lou; although at the end of this one, she is embarking on another exciting opportunity. But what I do know is that I love Lou and her crazy cast of friends and family... and I will continue to read everything Ms. Moyes writes about her life. (Honestly, I'll read anything Ms. Moyes writes... period!) Highly recommended.

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

Review: The Wife

Summary: From New York Times bestselling author Alafair Burke, a stunning domestic thriller in the vein of Behind Closed Doors and The Woman in Cabin 10—in which a woman must make the impossible choice between defending her husband and saving herself.

When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look—at both the man she married and the women she chose not to believe.

This much-anticipated follow-up to Burke’s Edgar-nominated The Ex asks how far a wife will go to protect the man she loves: Will she stand by his side, even if he drags her down with him? -- Harper

One of the benefits of hosting Mystery Mondays is that I've discovered many fantastic authors. Case in point: Alafair Burke. I have yet to read all of her novels, but the ones I have read are terrific. Her latest is THE WIFE, and it's a domestic thriller with an unreliable narrator... one of those books that seem to be so popular right now with readers.

THE WIFE tells the story of Angela, a woman working as a caterer in East Hampton when she meets the dashing Jason Powell, an economics professor at NYU. Within a year's time, they were married; and Angela and her son were able to leave her complicated past behind.

Six years have passed and Jason is a media darling due to his bestselling book and his appearances on television -- not exactly the quiet life Angela tried so hard to have. When a college intern makes a sexual harrassment complaint against him and then another woman comes forward with an even more serious accusation (and then goes missing on top of it!), Angela's life starts to fall apart. Jason proclaims his innocence to Angela, and Angela stands by him -- she even seems to believe him; however, these accusations force her to take a closer look at everything she once believed about her husband.

I flew through THE WIFE over Christmas break! I actually read this novel on the train up to New York for a mini-vacation with my husband, and I couldn't put it down. It was so engrossing that I didn't even mind when our train going into the city got delayed... and that's really saying something. It was everything I've come to expect from Ms. Burke -- fast-paced, well-developed characters, and a plot that kept me guessing.

I am beginning to think that I like unreliable narrators... if they are done well; and I think Angela as definitely a great character. There were some pretty serious secrets from her past that came out throughout the story, and without giving too much away, let's just say it's no surprise that she was a complicated character. My thoughts about her were all over the place in this novel. First, I felt bad that she was living with her husband's indiscretions; and then I felt even worse when I learned what she went though in her past. However, there were also times that I was really puzzled by her desire to believe her husband; and there were even a few moments when I just wanted to shake her. By the end of the novel, I actually felt as if I knew her even less than I did at the beginning... if that makes any sense!

Another character that I really appreciated was the woman investigating the allegations against Jason, NYPD Detective Corrine Duncan. She methodically worked the cases, as well as the missing person case, and in the process uncovered the disturbing secrets in Angela's past. The ending of the book gets rather complicated, and Corrine was able to figure things out. I really liked her and wouldn't be opposed to reading another book with her as an investigator.

The conclusion of Jason and Angela's story did get a little complicated, and I'm not embarrassed to say that I didn't see where this book was going. On some level, I guess a had a feeling, but in no way was I able to figure everything out. And that's one of the things that made this book so enjoyable -- the way the stories unfolded with a few surprises.

Overall, I think THE WIFE was a great read and ever so timely given the background story of sexual harrassment. I highly recommend it (and all of Alafair Burke's novels) to fans of mysteries and 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, January 20, 2018

Review: Anne of Green Gables, A Graphic Novel

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 spin on a classic that I reviewed last weekend!

Summary: The magic of L.M. Montgomery’s treasured classic is reimagined in a whimsically-illustrated graphic novel adaptation perfect for newcomers and kindred spirits alike.

When Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan who can help manage their family farm, they have no idea what delightful trouble awaits them. With flame-red hair and an unstoppable imagination, 11-year-old Anne Shirley takes Green Gables by storm.

Anne’s misadventures bring a little romance to the lives of everyone she meets: her bosom friend, Diana Barry; the town gossip, Mrs. Lynde; and that infuriating tease, Gilbert Blythe. From triumphs and thrills to the depths of despair, Anne turns each everyday moment into something extraordinary. -- Andrews McMeel

I'm all about Anne of Green Gables lately! First, I finally read the novel and got around to reviewing it last week; and now... I finished ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A GRAPHIC NOVEL adapted by Mariah Marsden and illustrated by Brenna Thummler. I think this graphic novel is a terrific complement to the original book.

I think most of you are already familiar with Anne and her story, so ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A GRAPHIC NOVEL should be a treat. I know it was for me! However in hindsight, I also think those of you new to Anne will appreciate this book. It's a fantastic way to "meet" Anne and her friends; and I do think it will encourage younger readers to pick up the larger full sized novel.

This 228 page graphic novel features all of the highlights of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES including some beloved scenes with Mrs. Lynde, Gilbert Blythe, and her bestie Diana Barry. Of course, there is also plenty of Matthew and Marilla! I enjoyed seeing images of the people and places that I have grown to love, and the panels of fun color illustrations were a good fit with the feel of the story.

For those of you who are fans of Anne as well as those of you are who new to Anne, you won't want to miss this gorgeous adaptation of her early life at Green Gables. Highly recommended!

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, January 17, 2018

Review: The Shortest Way Home

Summary: In her debut novel crackling with humor, heart, and an unforgettable cast of characters, Miriam Parker follows one woman’s journey from Iowa to New York City to California wine country, to figure out what being true to oneself really means.

After years of dreaming of and working toward a life more stable than the one she grew up in, Hannah is finally about to have everything she ever wanted. With a high-paying job, an apartment in Manhattan, and a boyfriend about to propose, all she and Ethan have to do is make it through the last couple of weeks of grad school, and the future they had planned will be theirs to keep.

But when they take a romantic weekend trip to Sonoma, and Hannah is spontaneously offered a marketing job at the first (and seemingly financially unstable) winery they visit and doesn’t immediately refuse, their meticulously planned forever comes crashing down around them. And then Hannah impulsively does the unthinkable–she turns down her job in New York and decides to stay in California.

Abandoning your dream job and life shouldn’t feel this good. But for Hannah, it is an eye-opening experience; and she realizes that maybe, after all her dream-chasing, she hasn’t actually been caring for herself. And this new life certainly seems like a dream come true–living in a picturesque cottage overlooking a vineyard in lush Sonoma; new friends with pasts and hopes the likes of which she’s never encountered before; and William, the handsome son of the winery owners and an aspiring film director who captures Hannah’s heart only to leave for the very city she let go.

The mission to rescue the failing winery becomes a mission to rescue Hannah from the image of herself she thought she wanted. The young girl who ached to escape Iowa and leave her past behind for a glamorous life is now given the chance to come to terms with the upbringing that made her who she is. The Shortest Way Home is a heartwarming story of one woman who sheds expectations in order to claim her own happy ending. -- Dutton

I rarely review (or even read for that matter!) books months before their publication date; however, I had to read THE SHORTEST WAY HOME by Miriam Parker. This novel won't be available until August 2018, but I wanted to share my thoughts with everyone now! I read THE SHORTEST WAY HOME over the Christmas holidays (I actually saved it a few weeks so I'd have a special present!), and I absolutely treasured each and every page. This novel is delightful!

I should probably give you a little background on why I am so excited about this book. The author, Miriam Parker, was the first person who ever sent me a book to review on my blog... so needless to say, she holds a near and dear place in my heart. Throughout the past ten years, I've met with Miriam almost yearly (along with Kathy aka Bermudaonion) and we've talked books and life in general. I am so excited that she is realizing her dream of being a published author!

When Miriam announced that her book was being published by Dutton, I also learned that her editor was Maya Ziv. I also love Maya and many of the books she's edited over the past few years. (Small world because I really don't personally know many editors!) I guess what I'm trying to say is that I knew THE SHORTEST WAY HOME was going to be a treat because this duo is special -- so smart and so talented!

Before you judge me and think that I might be a bit biased about THE SHORTEST WAY HOME, I  swear I had real concerns that I wouldn't love it. (And then what, right?) However, I shouldn't have worried, this novel was entertaining and had terrific characters. It was both funny and touching... and even better, it made me think. All in all, I'd say that it was exactly what I want from a book!

THE SHORTEST WAY HOME is in many ways a coming-of-age story, albeit the character is a woman who has just finished grad school and already has an amazing job in Manhattan. Hannah is finally living her dream... or at least what she thinks her dream should be. She has a great fiancé, a cool apartment, and a high-powered job that is the envy of her friends. But before she moves from California to New York, she and her boyfriend decide to take a quick vacation to Sonoma. And that's when Hannah's life takes a drastic (and unexpected) turn.

When Hannah visits a small winery, she immediately feels at home. The owners (and their very handsome son) have been running this family-owned business; and while they make amazing wine, they are struggling financially. It's apparent that they could use some help, and Hannah has some ideas that just might bring in more business. She can't explain why, but Hannah wants to work there for the summer... and that means turning down her job, giving up her apartment, and even staying behind without her fiancé. As unstable as her childhood was, Hannah, for the first time in her life, feels like she belongs.

As Hannah becomes more involved with the business of the winery, she also becomes more involved with the family who owns it (and especially the handsome son.) She loves her new cottage, her job and her new friends; and she is forced to question whether her life-long desire to live a past-paced, high-powered life in Manhattan is truly what will make her happy.

THE SHORTEST WAY HOME is such a terrific novel, and it definitely lived up to my expectations (and then some!) I loved that this novel was entertaining without being entirely predictable, and that it was so smart. The characters were complex and the story was very well written. But best of all, this novel was about life, love, and self-worth -- things that will resonate with all readers!

One of the reasons that I enjoyed this novel so much was that I immediately felt an affinity with Hannah. While I'm much older than Hannah, I could relate to her insecurities as well as her desire to prove her success (as well as her love of books); and I think most female readers will feel the same way. Fortunately for Hannah, she realized earlier on than I did that it's not necessarily the job or the apartment or even the money that brings happiness. It's being true to yourself!

Another aspect of this novel that was so much fun was the setting. The novel takes place in wine country, and I do love wine! I haven't made it to Sonoma yet (it's on my bucket list), and this novel made me even more desperate to visit. Miriam's descriptions of the wineries and vineyards, not to mention the deliciousness of the various wines, were sheer perfection. Just a warning for when you read this novel (and you seriously need to pre-order it now!), you might want to have a glass of your favorite vino ready!

I honestly am so excited for my friend and my fellow book lovers because THE SHORTEST WAY HOME is as special as a great glass of wine! Highly recommended!

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: The Woman in the Window

Summary: For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock. -- William Morrow

I know we are only halfway through the month of January, but I'm pretty sure that THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn will be one of the best psychological suspense novels that I will read the entire year. I was super-excited to read this book after hearing all of the buzz about it at last year's BEA, and it's definitely worth all of the fuss. I even loved the story behind the author. (In case you haven't heard, A.J. Finn is a pseudonym for a William Morrow editor... and no one even knew that he was the author of the book until after they acquired it!)

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW tells the story of Dr. Anna Fox, a psychologist who is suffering from agoraphobia. It's obvious to the reader that something happened to trigger her inability to leave her New York City home (however, it's not clear until later in the book as Anna's complicated past is revealed). Anna takes lots of pills and drinks a lot of red wine, and she entertains herself by watching classic mystery films, playing on-line chess, and (get this!) spying on her neighbors.

One day, the Russells move into a nearby house, and Anna is intrigued by this seemingly happy family. And then one night while looking out her window, she sees her new friend bleeding with a silver object sticking out of her! Anna tries to help, but she is unable to get to the house because of her agoraphobia. When she tries to tell the police what happened, they aren't too sure what to make of this strange woman. Truth be told, she isn't exactly the most reliable of narrators!

If you regularly read my reviews, you might be surprised to see me raving about a book with an unreliable narrator. I tend to get frustrated by this method of storytelling (maybe that's because I read a lot of thrillers?), and I rarely find it done well. However, the character of Anna, while being one of the most unreliable of narrators, is superbly written. I will admit that, like the police, I seriously doubted her and questioned her sanity; and there were even times I thought she was responsible for everything suspicious in her life.

But the author's ability to create a convincing unreliable narrator is just the tip of the iceberg about what I loved about this book. Everything is just so good... and the story is so well written! The mystery itself was outstanding... and I rarely say that. Of course, I'm a bit biased because I wasn't able to figure out everything and managed to be very surprised with the ending. And even though I started to suspect a few things and even figure out on plot twist, I still think the author manipulated me in a perfect way. I seriously loved all of the twists and turns!

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is definitely reminiscent of a Hitchcock thriller from days long ago. (In fact, there are even some nods to classic Hitchcock movies like Rear Window, Vertigo and more!) The story itself will keep you on the edge of your seat, and you won't be quite sure who or what to believe. However, the book is only the beginning for this story. The movie based THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is already in development at Fox, and I absolutely can't wait to see who they cast in the major roles!

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is an outstanding novel of psychological suspense, and it's a must-read for fans of books like GIRL ON THE TRAIN and GONE GIRL. 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, January 13, 2018

Kid Konnection: Anne of Green Gables

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 classic that's taken me way too long to read!

Summary: The beloved coming-of-age tale of a spunky heroine named Anne “with an E”, for the first time as a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, with a foreword by bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan.

L. M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan mistakenly sent to a pair of siblings who intended to adopt a boy to help work on their farm in Prince Edward Island. Yet Anne’s quirky personality and good-natured spirit causes the siblings to grow to love her anyway, and soon the entire town falls for the precocious little girl with bright red hair.

Cherished by both children and adults, Anne of Green Gables is a celebration of fierce individualism, and the families we create, rather than the ones we are born into. This Deluxe edition is enhanced with a foreword by bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan, and an introduction and suggestions for further reading by Benjamin Lefebvre, as well as a selection of early writing by L. M. Montgomery about the process of writing Anne.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators. -- Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition

It's embarrassing to admit (and a little mind-boggling) that I had never read ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery. It's one of those books that so many authors mention when they discuss books that influenced them to write. So when I was given the opportunity to review the newest edition of the novel, which is part of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, I decided it was high time to see why this book is so important to so many people.

This version of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES is absolutely delightful. Of course, the story of the young orphan finding a home with a family on Prince Edward Island is charming, but this book has so much more. As you can see the cover is fantastic. The art is by Siobhán Gallagher, whose artwork has been featured in US Weekly, Lenny Letter, Bustle, and more. It's hard to see from the picture above, but it has teeny images from the story as well as a few of Anne's special sayings. In addition, there is a forward by J. Courtney Sullivan (one of my favorite authors!), an introduction by L.M. Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre, and a selection of early writing by the author herself.

I focused on the presentation of this Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition because it really is a special book... and honestly, who am I to review ANNE OF GREEN GABLES? All I feel that I can do is mention just how much this book touched me. I absolutely loved it! Anne and her infectious personality captured my attention from the first few pages, and I just fell in love with her and the other interesting cast of characters.

For those of you who haven't read this book (maybe there are a few of you), ANNE OF GREEN GABLES tells the story of Anne Shirley, a young orphan who desperately wants a home; however, she is sent by mistake to a pair of siblings who were expecting a boy to help them with their farm. They are certain (well, almost) that they need to send her back and have another male orphan sent to them, but Anne charms them with all her talk of hopes and dreams... and the rest is history.

Anne is one of the most memorable characters I've ever encountered. In fact, the entire time I read this book I wanted to meet her. She talked and talked and talked (which I found hilarious), and she wasn't afraid to say anything that came into her mind (much to her detriment at times!) But it was her optimism and the way she saw the things around her that made her so fantastic. I swear I began seeing not only the world in Ms. Montgomery's novel through Anne's eyes, but I saw my surroundings as well. She really became a presence in my life. (I realize that sounds weird, but she's just such a special girl!)

I adored seeing Anne learn the lessons of the world and grow into a amazing young woman. I laughed with her and cried with her, and truly treasured each and every page of this novel. I'm still kicking myself that I didn't read ANNE OF GREEN GABLES when I was younger, but I'm ever so glad I discovered her now. Highly recommended for girls (and women) of all ages! I promise you will fall under Anne's spell!

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, January 10, 2018

Guest Review: A Conspiracy of Ravens

Summary: James Hicks has spent his entire life and career fighting on the front lines of terrorism for the clandestine intelligence organization known as The University. Hicks has learned that enemies can appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, and allegiances shift like the wind. But now, Hicks has finally discovered his true enemy: the criminal organization known as The Vanguard.

This shadowy group has operated as a deadly organization comprised weapons dealers, drug runners, and money launderers for decades, but has now decided to add regime change to their catastrophic agenda. But knowing the enemy is one thing. Being able to defeat it is another matter entirely. When Hicks uncovers a solid lead on his new adversaries, his world explodes. His home base is attacked, his operatives in the field are wiped out, and, for the first time, The University finds itself in open combat against an unknown enemy. In a battle that rages from the streets of Manhattan to the halls of power in Washington, D.C., to the dark alleys of Berlin, Hicks will have to use every resource at his disposal to defeat A Conspiracy of Ravens. -- Polis Books

Booking Pap Pap has left for Florida for the winter, but he's still reading... and writing reviews. His latest, A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS by Terrence McCauley seemed like an entertaining read. Here are his thoughts:

A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS is author Terrence McCauley’s third thriller featuring James Hicks as the main character. Now acting as the leader of the University, an elite top-secret group of international operatives, Hicks is focused on a new enemy known as Vanguard, the world’s largest crime syndicate. He soon discovers that Vanguard considers the University as a threat and attempts to destroy the organization by bombing their main facility in New York and wiping out the entire University presence in Moscow.

Hicks accelerates his effort to eliminate Vanguard which leads Hick and his operatives on a chase through New York, Washington D.C., Germany and China. Vanguard seems to be able to match all the skills and technology that the University can bring to the fight, including OMNI, University’s ultra-advanced computer system. Against his better judgement Hicks finds it necessary to involve the CIA in the pursuit. What results is a series of gun fights, car chases, torture and explosions that leads to a final confrontation.

Although the author has included many characters in the story including the leaders of Vanguard, members of the CIA and the University’s team, the significant characters are limited to Hicks, a few members of his team and OMNI. My one criticism with A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS is that the reader could use some additional background on the University and its team. This is one case where the reader would definitely benefit from reading the prior novel, A MURDER OF CROWS.

As in his prior novel, McCauley comes up with a curious title. In this case, I found that conspiracy is one name that is used to describe a group of ravens.

A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS is a fast paced, somewhat realistic spy thriller with plenty of action and surprises that nicely blends old school spying with modern technology. Since the ending left some open issues, it’s possible we will see future confrontations between the University and Vanguard. Fans of the thriller genre should enjoy A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS.

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

Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: 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.

Read between the lies. -- St. Martin's Press

I have been a big fan of Sarah Pekkanen and her woman's lit novels for year. I even had the pleasure of spending some quality time with her during a BEA a few years ago. So needless to say, there was not a doubt in the world that I'd be reading her new thriller THE WIFE BETWEEN US. She wrote this book with long-time editor Greer Hendricks (which makes it interesting on another level for me), and it's been getting amazing reviews including a starred one from Publishers Weekly. I'm happy to say that this novel did not disappoint!

THE WIFE BETWEEN US is full of twists and turns -- more than I can really count... and that's what  makes it hard for me to describe this novel to you. I'm at a loss about what to tell you because the basic premise of the novel isn't what it seems, and I'm afraid I will give away too much about the plot. Instead, I'll refer you to the publisher's summary above, but that's not going to give you much idea about what's going on in the novel either.

So... at the most basic level, THE WIFE BETWEEN US tells the story of an ex-wife named Vanessa who is kind of a mess. Once married to a dynamic and wealthy man (and oh yeah -- a very controlling and abusive one), she now lives with her Aunt Charlotte, works as a personal shopper at Saks, and drinks too much. She is determined that her ex's new fiancee, her replacement if you will, will never marry him; and she will do whatever it takes to make that happen. I think that's enough for me to say about this very complex story!

I really enjoyed THE WIFE BETWEEN US, and I was excited to learn that the film right have already been purchased by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners. (It should be a great movie, although I admit I'll be curious as to how they convert some of the novel to film.) Nothing about this book is what you think. Nothing. And that's what made it such a fun and smart read!

I will admit that this book did remind me quite a bit of one I recently read and reviewed -- THE LAST MRS. PARRISH. I was even prepared to be disappointed by the ending because I was expecting something similar to that novel. However, this book had loads of surprises for me. (See why I say nothing is what it seems about this book!) The way the novel was written, with alternating chapters between two characters, gave new meaning to the term "unreliable narrator." And when a few things were revealed about this characters, I almost wanted to start over to see how I missed it or if I could have figured it out. (Hint: there are a few very slight clues!)

In addition to the twists and turns in THE WIFE BETWEEN US, I also felt as if the character of Vanessa was very well drawn. I appreciated the complexity of her character as well as her background story. There is a secondary plot about her past that's teased to the reader, and I enjoyed that suspense aspect of the novel too. I could definitely see the authors' experiences with women's lit shining through with Vanessa's character.

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!

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, January 6, 2018

Kid Konnection: Bet You Didn't Know!

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 sure to be a hit with curious kiddos!

Summary: Did you know that the first stop signs were black and white? Or that a litter of kittens is called a kindle? There's a lot to know and we bet you'll have fun learning these fun, far-out facts in the next super series from National Geographic Kids!

Based on a favorite department in Nat Geo Kids magazine, this book is chock-full of fascinating facts, silly stats, and catchy little knowledge nuggets in all kinds of cool categories, from astronomy and dinosaurs to revolutions and breakfast. Special features include Extreme Weirdness, Strange Places, Wacky World, and more. -- National Geographic Kids

National Geographic Kids has done it again! They've created another book that's both educational and fun, and it's called BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW!: FASCINATING, FAR-OUT, FUN-TASTIC FACTS. This hardcover book is oversized and that just means that it's full of interesting tidbits and amazing photographs!

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW! has almost 200 pages of information that will keep kids (and some adults!) entertained for hours. I have been enjoying this book so much, and I bet kids would even be more impressed with this collection of intriguing facts. This book is based on a favorite department in the Nat Geo Kids magazine, and it has hundreds of details, statistics, and fun facts.

The topics in this book cover such a wide range of categories including space, countries, animals, and food! And of course, the information is presented in such a fun way with lists, comparisons, and boxed descriptions. There are even some very strange fun facts included, so expect some laughter and even groans from your kids.

I'm not sure that I've conveyed just how much fun this book is to read. There is so much to capture a child's interest on each page because the information is presented in short sentences or paragraphs. The pages are also full of different fonts and colors, and the photographs are spectacular. (It is a National Geographic publication!)

I should probably give you a few examples of the types of fun-tactic facts included in this book. There is one page devoted to Frrr-ozen Facts to Chill You Out. (I think that one is especially appropriate this weekend.) One fact says: Melting glaciers and icebergs make a fizzy sound called "berry seltzer" or "ice sizzle." Another fun cold fact is: Nomads created ice skates made of bone at least 4,000 years ago.

There really isn't a drawback to this book... except your children might drive you crazy reading all of the fun facts to you! Seriously, I love BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW! and I'm sure kids will too! 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, January 3, 2018

Review: Flight of Dreams

Summary: From a dazzling new voice in historical fiction, Flight of Dreams is a suspenseful, heart-wrenching novel that brings the fateful voyage of the Hindenburg to life.

On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent position; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle.

Over the course of three champagne-soaked days, their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future will be revealed—and one in their party will set a plot in motion that will have devastating consequences for them all. -- Doubleday

I'm using the start of the new year to catch up on some old reviews. My book club actually read FLIGHT OF DREAMS by Ariel Lawhon a few months back, and for the most part, everyone really enjoyed it. I count myself in that group. And while I didn't love the book because of a few weaknesses in the mystery aspect of the novel, I did find it extremely interesting to learn more about the Hindenburg.

FLIGHT OF DREAMS is a fictional account of the doomed flight of the Hindenburg. I knew next to nothing about this fateful voyage outside of the destruction and loss of lives, and I was actually quite surprised that there isn't an earlier historical fiction story about the Hindenburg -- or maybe there is and I'm just not familiar with it. Either way, this novel begins on May 3rd, 1937, when 97 people boarded the zeppelin. Little did they know what would await them over the next three days.

Ms. Lawhon did a terrific job in creating interesting characters and bringing them to life. There is a stewardess with a lot of secrets, a navigator who is in love with her, a young cabin boy who is trying to establish himself for a future career (and more money for his family), a German journalist who has been blacklisted, and an American businessman. She also does a great job in detailing their interactions with each other.

As interesting as these characters were, it was apparent from the start of the novel that Ms. Lawhon wanted to weave a story full of mystery and intrigue. She provided enough secrets and hints to put many of the characters and their actions into doubt. And since we still don't know what really happened to the Hindenburg, she had plenty of room to create some interesting scenarios. I'm not sure  she wrote the tightest mystery I've ever read, but I consider FLIGHT OF DREAMS to be primarily a historical novel... and I think she was successful in providing a fictionalized account of the Hindenburg tragedy.

Since I tend to learn history from novels (I know, I know!), you'll be happy to know that I actually looked into the history of the Hindenburg after finishing this book. As far as I can tell, the author was true to the story except where she admitted to taking a few artistic liberties. The story of the cabin boy is truly the most amazing one in the novel as far as I'm concerned and that was actually based on reality. The scene where she describes what happened to him as the terror was taking place aboard the zeppelin was very well-written and dramatic... and truly remarkable!

FLIGHT OF DREAMS is a good choice for book clubs. My group found plenty to talk about between the historical aspects of the novel and the unique characters. There is a reading guide available with eight questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include class, status, Nazi Germany, secrets, love affairs, and adventure.

FLIGHT OF DREAMS is a well-written novel that is certain to entertain fans of historical fiction and readers who want to learn more about the Hindenburg tragedy.

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