Saturday, September 29, 2018

Kid Konnection: Who Eats Orange?

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 book that teaches little ones about food and colors!

Summary: Who eats orange—a chicken? A bunny? A bear? Find out in this unique exploration of colors and animals’ favorite foods.

Animals eat a rainbow of different foods. Gorillas in the mountains eat green, octopi in the ocean eat red, and toucans in the canopy eat purple. Young animal enthusiasts will love digging into this lively journey around the world to explore the colorful diets of many animals, from the familiar to the exotic. -- Beach Lane Books

WHO EATS ORANGE? by Dianne White and illustrated by Robin Page is fun book that allows children to learn about animals and the colorful foods they eat. Bunnies, chickens, goats and pigs all eat orange foods, while other animals like gorillas and giraffes eat green foods. Of course, animals of all sorts eat foods of many different colors... and WHO EATS ORANGE? takes you around the world to see these animals and their diets.

I thought WHO EATS ORANGE? was a beautiful book that will definitely appeal to parents and kids alike. The story is fun and allows kids to participate in identifying colors and animals while reading the book. They can also learn about what particular foods are favorites of the different animals. And I should mention that there were some animals (and food) in this book that might be new to children, or at the very least, ones they don't often see.

I absolutely loved the illustrations in WHO EATS ORANGE? The colors in the book are vivid and fun to look at. The animals are also gorgeous and their fur, hides, feather, etc. almost appear textured. See the fur on the gorilla? It's so cool!
The text is very simple and it should be able to hold the attention of even the most active toddlers. However, this book will also appeal to older children because the back of it has a resource section which delves into animals, their habitats and their diets.

WHO EATS ORANGE? is a beautiful book that also teaches kids about nature. Highly recommended!

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

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Guest Review: Bum Deal

Summary: They don’t call us sharks for our ability to swim.

Second-string linebacker turned disillusioned defense attorney Jake Lassiter finally switches teams. Appointed special prosecutor in a high-profile murder case, he vows to take down a prominent surgeon accused of killing his wife. There’s just one problem…or maybe three: no evidence, no witness, and no body.

But Lassiter’s used to fighting impossible battles on the gridiron and in court. After all, he’s not totally burned-out—just a little scorched.

Standing in Lassiter’s way are the defense lawyers: slick-talking Steve Solomon and blueblood Victoria Lord, who have their own complicated history with the defendant. Not to mention the specter of CTE, the lethal brain disease Lassiter may have contracted banging heads in the NFL. Drained of his mental edge just when he needs it most, Lassiter must do whatever it takes to win this case—even if it costs him his life. Because law is a contact sport, and you don’t get trophies for trying. -- Thomas and Mercer

I know my dad really enjoys the Jack Lassiter series by Paul Levine because he talked about these books over dinner last week. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that the main character is an ex-Penn State linebacker! He recently read the 13th book in the series BUM DEAL -- here are his thoughts:

BUM DEAL is the 13th and maybe final book in the series featuring Defense Attorney Jack Lassiter as the main character. Lassiter is an ex-Penn State/ Miami Dolphin linebacker who earned a law degree in night school after his playing days and suffers from early symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with severe head trauma. Lassiter, now 50 years old, is a tenacious defender of his clients and often crosses the line between proper and outrageous behavior in the courtroom.

In BUM DEAL, Lassiter reluctantly switches sides and becomes a special prosecutor for the District Attorney in a high profile murder case against Clark Calvert, a famous orthopedic surgeon accused of killing his missing wife. The problems Lassiter must overcome in his case against Calvert are that there is no body, no evidence and no witnesses. To compound Lassiter’s challenges, Calvert has hired his two best friends, Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, as his defense team. Lassiter has been a mentor to these two and they’re well-versed in his courtroom tactics.

Author Paul Levine does a fantastic job of bringing this story to life. His characters are well developed and the interplay among characters is very well done. Levine’s prior experience as a sports writer at Penn State, allows him to add real-life detail to Lassiter’s playing days at Penn State and in the NFL. His knowledge of CTE is evident in the ways he describes Lassiter’s behavior as it relates to memory loss, irritability and confusion. Even though Lassiter’s best friends are his adversaries in this case, there is still plenty of witty remarks among the three. Levine adds a complexity to the storyline as he reveals a prior history between Valerie Lord and Calvert which could complicate her defense tactics and roil the relationship with fiancĂ©e and partner Steve Solomon. The case is further complicated when the District Attorney brings a political element into the proceedings when his biggest donor for his campaign for higher office happens to be the father of the missing wife. The courtroom scenes are very interesting and when Lassiter has his back against the wall, things get really bizarre.

Even though this is the 13th story in the Jack Lassiter series, there is no need to read any of the prior novels to follow the storyline and characters. BUM DEAL is a fast-paced easy-to-read novel that will keep your attention up to the end. Levine seems to lead the reader to draw certain conclusions and then shakes things up with a surprising conclusion. Anyone interested in the legal thriller genre will really enjoy BUM DEAL.

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Review: Lies

Summary: Six days ago, Joe Lynch was a happily married man, a devoted father, and a respected teacher living in a well-to-do London suburb. But that was before he spotted his wife’s car entering a hotel parking garage. Before he saw her in a heated argument with her best friend’s husband. Before Joe confronted the other man in an altercation where he left him for dead, bleeding and unconscious.

Now, Joe’s life is unraveling. His wife has lied to him. Her deception has put their entire family in jeopardy. The man she met at the hotel has vanished. And as the police investigate his disappearance, suspicion falls on Joe.

Unable to trust the woman he loves, Joe finds himself at the mercy of her revelations and deceits, unsure of who or what to believe. All he knows is that her actions have brought someone dangerous into their lives—someone obsessed with her and determined to tear Joe’s world apart.

What if your whole life was based on LIES? -- St. Martin's Press

My advanced readers copy of LIES by T.M. Logan has a cover page prior to the real cover of the novel. It's this cover page that made me pick up this book. It asks, "What if you have the perfect live, the perfect wife, and the perfect child -- then, in one shattering moment, you discover nothing is as it seems. What if your whole life was based on lies?" Doesn't that just sound like a great book of suspense?

Actually, I'm happy to say that LIES lived up to my expectations. It was a fantastic psychological thriller that had me engaged from the very first page. Joe Lynch, a high school teacher, was driving with his young son when he noticed his wife's car entering a hotel parking garage. He thought he would surprise her but he was the one who ended up being surprised when he saw her have a heated discussion with her friend's husband Ben. When Joe confronted Ben in the parking garage, things got physical and Joe ended up leaving him on the ground bleeding from his wounds. When Joe returned to the scene, Ben was gone... and so was Joe's cell phone.

What happens next to Joe is absolutely incredible. Basically, everything Joe thought he knew about his life is proven wrong. Joe begins to doubt his wife and his marriage, and he wonders if everything in his life is based on lies.

As if that's not bad enough, Joe is pretty sure that Ben is still alive and that he's obsessed with his wife.  Joe is convinced that he's being set up by Ben and that Ben won't stop until Joe is in jail for his murder. Can Joe find Ben and prove his innocence before he is railroaded on a murder charge?

I loved LIES! It was a gripping thriller that was very well written. I thought the mystery behind Ben's "murder" was intriguing, and I loved the twist at the end. (I was definitely caught off guard in the very best way!) I also appreciated that this book was more than just a mystery. The author delved into some difficult topics, such as lies, betrayal, adultery, and more; and he was especially good at showing the pain caused by Ben's wife's betrayal.

I would love to go more into the twist and the end of LIES, but I'll just say that I was totally blown away. I had a feeling that the end was going to pack a powerful punch, but I didn't think it would be in this way! Maybe some readers will see it coming or have a few suspicions, but this one sure as heck didn't!

I actually think lies would be a great book club selection. Not only is it an entertaining psychological thriller, but it does explore marriage, infidelity and lies... and how one man comes to terms with all of it. You will, of course, want to discuss these themes, but you also might talk about deceit and trust and even forgiveness.

I loved LIES and highly recommend to fans of psychological thrillers!

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

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

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kid Konnection: Bone Soup

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

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

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

We’ve something usually good to eat!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Guest Review: City of Devils

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: Button Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Kid Konnection: Little Scientist Board Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review: Copycat Cooking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Trust Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Kid Konnection: Eliza

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a soon-to-be-released picture book about Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Review: The Late Bloomers' Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: Feared

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Kid Konnection: Fall 2019 Dawn Publications Picture Books

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for a fun matching game!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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