Monday, March 25, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had a relatively slow week... mainly because I didn't get any children's books!

ANYTHING BUT A DUKE by Christy Carlyle came from Avon Books

THE PATIENT ONE: THE WALNUT CREEK SERIES by Shelley Shepard Gray came from Gallery Books

THOSE PEOPLE by Louise Candlish came from Berkley

#IMOMSOHARD by Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley came from HarperOne

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Kid Konnection: I Used to be Famous

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a picture book with a main character that I just love!

Summary: Kiely’s been famous her entire life, but when a baby sister appears on the scene, she feels like a has-been. Now Kiely has to figure out how to gain back the attention of her adoring fans (her family), even if it means sharing the spotlight. -- Albert Whitman

Last year, right around this time, I reviewed the adorable picture book I AM FAMOUS by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie with pictures by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. I thought Kiely was a great character, and I loved the authors' take on Kiely being "famous" -- I mean she had paparazzi taking her picture all of the time, right?

I'm excited to say that Kiely is back in I USED TO BE FAMOUS, and my how her life has changed. She now has a baby sister, and suddenly she's a has-been! Can Kiely get the much-deserved attention she craves or is she all washed up?

Once again, I love Kiely and her special take on her life. She reminisces about being famous and how much her standing has changed since she became a big sister. The funny part of Kiely's story is that she can't understand how the baby is getting so much attention when she has no fashion sense, she smells and her singing is more like crying.

It's sweet to see that Kiely eventually comes around to appreciate her little sister. She even takes her under her wing and acts as her mentor... because Kiely knows a thing or two about being famous! I absolutely love how I USED TO BE FAMOUS combines the humor of Kiely's celebrity ego with the responsibility that comes with being an older sister.

I think I USED TO BE FAMOUS is a wonderful book for little girls who are new (or soon to be new) big sisters! Highly recommended!

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

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

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Summary: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. -- Putnam

I honestly don't know if I can thing of a book with more buzz surrounding it then WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens. I've been dying to read it for months, especially after Reese Witherspoon picked it as a Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick. It's only because I'm reading at a snail's pace lately that it's taken me so long to finally pick up this book... but I will say it was worth the wait!

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably have heard at least a little bit about WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING. This novel tells the story of Kya Clark, aka the "Marsh Girl." Kya's mother and siblings all left when she was a young girl, and soon thereafter her father disappeared too. Basically, Kya lived in the marshes along the North Carolina Coast and had to fend for herself, and she desperately craved human contact.

Kya was fortunate enough to have friends in the local store owner and his wife, but for the most part she was all alone... until she meets a teenage boy who teaches her to read. He not only opens her world to books, but he also opens her heart to love. That is, until he goes away to college and doesn't come back to visit. It's Kya's broken heart that leads her to Chase, a wealthy and popular town boy; and she begins a relationship with him that will forever affect her life.

I really want to tell you more about Kya's story, but I think it's best for me to leave it there and for you to pick up the book and find out for yourself. Suffice it to say that as sad as Kya's childhood story is, her adult one isn't any better. In fact, Kya finds herself accused of murder; and her reputation as the "Marsh Girl" and her unconventional life makes her an enigma to the townspeople.

I truly treasured this novel. It's a well written coming-of-age story (and you know how I love coming-of-age tales!) about an amazing young woman. It's both touching and hopeful, and I so appreciated Kya's story. I found myself constantly rooting for Kya -- at first for survival, and then for the chance for love and happiness, and then again for survival.

I was seriously impressed with Ms. Owens' and her storytelling abilities. It goes without saying that Kya's story is a special one, but I absolutely loved how the author chose to tell it. There are flashbacks between 1969 when the body was found and Kya's childhood backstory; and I thought Ms. Owens did a great job with transitioning between the two time periods. In addition, I really liked her character development and how she brought the setting to life. However, it was how she incorporated the nature aspects of the setting (especially the marsh and its wildlife) into Kya's personal story that brought the book to the next level for me. It really make me think about human nature, our instincts, and our behavior.

Another fantastic aspect of the novel was the mystery of how Chase died -- was it an accident or was it murder? I don't think I'm ruining anything for you to say that this novel is a bit of a murder mystery and that it does have a few surprising twists and turns. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that I loved how the novel ended!

Many book clubs are reading WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and it's no wonder! This novel is absolutely perfect for discussing, and there's a great reading guide with thirteen interesting questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore are family, loneliness, love, nature, what it means to be a woman, and more! There is also a conversation with the author and some recipes for meaningful food the story. You could throw such a great book club meeting with this kit!

I loved WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and highly recommend it!

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I am so excited about all of the books I got this week... and I know it's almost summer because I just got an ARC for Mary Kay Andrews' new book!
SUNSET BEACH by Mary Kay Andrews came from Tandem Literary

XL by Scott Brown came from Knopf Books for Young Readers

THE GOOD SISTER by Gilliam McAllister came from Putnam

I USED TO BE FAMOUS by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie with pictures by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff came from Albert Whitman & Company

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Kid Konnection: Turkey's Eggcellent Easter

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a picture book that's ideal for preparing kids for upcoming Easter egg hunts!

Summary: Easter is almost here—and Turkey knows just how to celebrate. He’s going to win the eggstra-special Easter egg hunt! The only problem is that animals aren’t allowed to enter. So he and his barnyard friends come up with a top-secret plan. With his trademark disguises and a whole lot of help, Turkey goes undercover. Will his basket of tricks help him win a prize? -- Two Lions Publishing

TURKEY'S EGGCELLENT EASTER by Wendi Silvano and illustrated by Lee Harper is the fourth book in the Turkey Trouble series, and it's sure to be a hit for old and new fans. This picture book is so silly and hilarious that parents and kids alike will get a kick out of it!

When Turkey catches wind of an eggstra-special Easter egg hunt with eggstra-special prizes, he just knows he has to be part of it. The only problem is that animals aren't allowed to participate. That little fact doesn't stop Turkey though. With the help of his friends and a variety of clever costumes, Turkey keeps trying and trying to capture just one special egg.

I adored TURKEY'S EGGCELLENT EASTER! It's an extremely fun book that is meant to be read over and over again. I liked the premise of this picture book, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the author made this story so darn funny. Turkey is a riot with his variety of undercover costumes and just how close he comes to getting an eggstra-special egg. I couldn't stop laughing at his attempt to look like a bunny!

In addition, Mr. Harper's illustrations truly are the perfect complement to this tale. I love how he brings the animals to life and uses accessories (like sunglasses) to really bring out their personalities. The expressions on the characters faces (including the animals) are terribly cute too.

TURKEY'S EGGCELLENT EASTER is definitely a twist on traditional Easter books, but I guarantee you won't be disappointed by this silly story! Highly recommended.

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

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Guest Review: The Killer Collective

Summary: A fast-paced, page-turning novel of betrayal, vengeance, and depraved secrets in high places from the New York Times bestselling author of the John Rain and Livia Lone series.

When a joint FBI–Seattle Police investigation of an international child pornography ring gets too close to certain powerful people, sex-crimes detective Livia Lone becomes the target of a hit that barely goes awry—a hit that had been offered to John Rain, a retired specialist in “natural causes.”

Suspecting the FBI itself was behind the attack, Livia reaches out to former Marine sniper Dox. Together, they assemble an ad hoc group to identify and neutralize the threat. There’s Rain. Rain’s estranged lover, Mossad agent and honeytrap specialist Delilah. And black ops soldiers Ben Treven and Daniel Larison, along with their former commander, SpecOps legend Colonel Scot “Hort” Horton.

Moving from Japan to Seattle to DC to Paris, the group fights a series of interlocking conspiracies, each edging closer and closer to the highest levels of the US government.

With uncertain loyalties, conflicting agendas, and smoldering romantic entanglements, these operators will have a hard time forming a team. But in a match as uneven as this one, a collective of killers might be even better. -- Thomas & Mercer

Thankfully, Booking Pap Pap has had more time lately to write reviews than I do! His latest is by an author he's come to really enjoy -- Barry Eisler. Here are his thoughts about Mr. Eisler's latest THE KILLER COLLECTIVE:

THE KILLER COLLECTIVE by Barry Eisler takes on the uncomfortable subject of sexual abuse of children. The novel opens with Seattle cop Livia Lone, a survivor of child sexual abuse herself, serving as a member of a FBI-Seattle Police joint task force investigating international child pornography. Livia discovers a possible pornography link to several individuals in the Secret Service.

Livia is soon the target of an assassination attempt. After a plane goes down with two other members of the task force on board, Livia is fearful that the government may be behind the attacks and reaches out to old friend Dox, an ex-marine sniper who now resides in Bali. Being a little smitten with Livia, he quickly comes to her aid and together they assemble an eclectic group of individuals to identify and eliminate any threat to Livia. The group included John Rain, a retired assassin, his estranged lover and Mossad agent Delilah, black ops soldiers Ben Treven and Daniel Larson and Special Ops leader Scott Horton. This collection of killers is challenged to work as a team because of questionable loyalties and romantic involvements. But they must find a way if they are to take on government agencies, powerful politicians and private military contractors as they move from Seattle to Washington to Paris. D.C.

Author Barry Eisler has weaved together several differing story lines to bring THE KILLER COLLECTIVE to a thrilling conclusion. Even though his characters, particularly John Rain and Livia Lone, have been developed in other novels, the depth of the characters are a strength of the novel. The story line has its share of violence, sex and rough language but not uncomfortably so. THE KILLER COLLECTIVE is a fast paced international thriller with lots of intrigue that takes on a current but uncomfortable subject.

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I received some great kids' books this week that you're sure to see soon on my weekend Kid Konnection feature!
BIG FOOT AND LITTLE FOOT: THE SQUATCHICORNS by Ellen Potter and art by Felicita Sala came from Amulet Books

BIG NATE PAYBACK TIME! by Lincoln Peirce came from Andrews McMeel Publishing

LUCY SPEAK OUT!: A PEANUTS COLLECTION by Schulz came from Andrews McMeel Publishing

POISON IN THE COLONY: JAMES TOWN 1622 by Elisa Carbone came from Viking Children's Books

TURKEY'S EGGCELLENT EASTER by Wendi Silvano and illustrated by Lee Harper came from Two Lions

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Kid Konnection: Life with My Family

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

Summary: When a young girl gets frustrated with her chaotic life at home, she imagines what things would be like if her family were animals instead. Would life be better as a pod of pelicans, a pride of lions, or a herd of buffalo? Or is it ultimately a family of humans that she needs? In this beautifully illustrated book, young readers learn the names for groups of animals through a sweet, whimsical narrative that focuses on the importance of family. -- Penguin Workshop

I absolutely love the picture book LIFE WITH MY FAMILY by Renne Hooker and Karl Jones and illustrated by Kathryn Durst! You know how you love your family, but they can sometimes get on your nerves? Well, LIFE WITH MY FAMILY is one little girl's take on what would happen if her family were animals instead of people.

Each page of this adorable book features her family as a different group of animals... and it's so darn cute. There are pelicans at the beach, fish in the ocean, wombats in the grass, and bees in a meadow. What I love about these illustrations is that the animals have the family's faces on them -- even the baby has a pacifier. So darn cute!

Besides being utterly cute, this book is also educational. It teaches kids about the names of different groups of animals. There is even a page in the back of the book that provides the collective nouns used to describe many groups of different animals. I even learned a thing or two. Did you know that a group of iguanas is a mess and a group of owls is a parliament?

LIFE WITH MY FAMILY is a cute book for little ones and a good reminder that even though families can be trying, we wouldn't want them any other way!

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, March 6, 2019

Review: Before She Knew Him

Summary: Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . . -- William Morrow

I have thoroughly enjoyed every novel that I've read by Peter Swanson, so when I saw that he has a brand-new book out this week called BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM, I was definitely in! BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM is another intriguing suspense novel that's fast-paced and a terrific read.

BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM tells the story of Hen, an artist/children's book illustrator who has moved with her husband into a new house outside of Boston. She seems to be in a good place now -- she has a new home, a nearby artist studio, and her bipolar disorder is under control with her current meds. However when she visits her new next-door neighbors' house, she discovers that he has a trophy that reminds of her of a another neighbor -- one who was brutally murdered about two years ago!

Hen was fascinated with this murder but she has moved on... well kind of. When she sees this trophy and starts asking a few questions, she finds herself caught up once again in this murder. She begins to wonder if her neighbor Matthew killed this boy and if he's even a serial killer. The problem is that her husband and the police aren't sure if her concerns are based on reality or another manic episode in her life!

One evening, Hen decides to take matters into her own hands and follows Matthew. She catches him doing something unspeakable in the parking lot of a bar, and worse yet, he sees her watching him. Hen realizes that Matthew is a very dangerous man, yet she still tries to "understand" him despite putting her own life at risk!

I really enjoyed BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM! Mr. Swanson is a fantastic storyteller, and I found his characters to be extremely interesting and complex. Like his other books, this novel has terrific pacing and is a real page-turner. In fact, the only very slight issue I had was that parts of the story were a little predictable.

I think what I enjoyed the most about this novel were the characters of Hen and Matthew and the relationship between them. Matthew was certainly interesting and readers were given just enough of his backstory to explain how he became a crazy killer. Hen was intriguing in that she had a mental illness that made her behavior seem questionable at times. However, it was the scenes where they interacted that made this book so special to me. Their relationship was more than a little "off" to me, yet I appreciated how Matthew almost needed Hen and vice versa. It made for an unusual twist to what could have been a typical suspense novel.

I also enjoyed a few of the twists in this novel. While I did figure out a pretty major one (and I think most readers will!), I did like how there were many times when I wasn't quite sure what was coming next. Many of the chapters ended with mini cliffhangers which made the book hard to put down, and there were plenty of little surprises along the way. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of describing the feel of this novel, but it was a very smart thriller that constantly had suspenseful moments.

All in all, I think fans of psychological thrillers will enjoy BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-copy of this novel.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had another great book week as you can see from the picture below. (My photography skills are never good but this picture is especially bad!) I also was thrilled to get a cute card from Lisa See promoting her new book THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN. Check out the envelope!!!

THIS SCOT OF MINE by Sophie Jordan came from Avon Books

TO WED AN HEIRESS by Karen Ranney came from Avon Books

THE INFAMOUS DUCHESS by Sophie Barnes came from Avon Books

THE GIRL WHO NEVER READ NOAM CHOMSKY by Jana Casale came from Vintage

BLOOD by Maggie Gee came from Meryl Moss Media

TINY AMERICANS by Devin Murphy came from Harper Perennial

DIARY OF AN 8-BIT WARRIOR: FORCING DESTINY by Cube Kid came from Andrews McMeel Publishing

BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN by Niki Lenz came from Random House Children's Books

THE HUNT FOR THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER by Diane Magras came from Kathy Dawson Books

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Kid Konnection: Leo Lionni's Friends Books

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you two cute board boards that are filled with adorable characters inspires by Caldecott winner Leo Lionni!

Summary: A new board book for the youngest fans of Leo Lionni–inspired by his bestselling books and perfect for baby showers and springtime reading!

Spring is a time of budding trees, chirping birds, and croaking frogs. Discover these and more wonders of spring in this delightful board book inspired by the works of legendary children’s book author-illustrator Leo Lionni. With sturdy pages and colorful collage-style artwork, this spring-themed book is perfect for boys and girls ages 0 to 5.

Leo’s Lionni’s Friends is a series of fresh, fun board books inspired by the classic works of author and illustrator Leo Lionni to introduce his work to a new generation of readers. -- Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary: ABOUT A LITTLE BOOK ABOUT ABCS A new board book for the youngest fans of Leo Lionni–inspired by his bestselling books and perfect for baby showers and anyone looking for an alphabet book to help teach the little ones in their lives the ABCs!

Discover alligators, beautiful butterflies, chunks of cheese, and lots more in this delightful alphabet book inspired by the works of legendary children’s book author-illustrator Leo Lionni. With sturdy pages and colorful collage-style artwork, this ABC board book is perfect for boys and girls ages 0 to 5. -- Random House Books for Young Readers

I woke up two days in a row to snow and I am so done with it! Hopefully by featuring A LITTLE BOOK ABOUT SPRING by Leo Lionni and illustrated by Leo Lionni and Julie Hamilton, I will send some positive thoughts to Mother Nature!

Another adorable book in this series is A LITTLE BOOK ABOUT ABCS. Both board books are geared towards children ages 0 - 3, and I just love them. A LITTLE BOOK ABOUT SPRING takes readers on a journey with two fun little mice who feel exactly like I do right now -- "Hello, Spring. I'm so glad to see you." The story features all the wonderful things associated with that season like blooming flowers, chirping birds, sweet smells, and more.

A LITTLE BOOK ABOUT ABCS might even be cuter... if that's possible. It's a traditional ABC book with different animals for each letter. I especially loved the "J is for joyful jellyfish" page. The collage-style artwork make the jellyfish appear to be textured -- so cute. Little ones (and parents) will appreciate these colorful illustrations... as well as the simple text.

I thinks it's wonderful that the publisher has created new Leo Lionni books for the next generation. I highly recommend these two books (as well as the entire Leo Lionni's Friends series).

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, February 27, 2019

Guest Review: The Spy and the Traitor

Summary: The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation’s communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union’s top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States’s nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky’s name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain’s obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets.

Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky’s nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre’s latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le CarrĂ©, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man’s hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations. -- Crown

I guess I'm not alone with reading less lately. Booking Pap Pap is in the exact same boat. Neither one of us are pounding out books like we used to; however, he did manage to get a few books read recently... so you'll see a few guest reviews from him in the next few weeks! One of the books he read was a spy story called THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR by Ben Macintyre. Here are his thoughts:

 THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR, The Greatest Espionage Story of The Cold War, is a non-fiction thriller about Oleg Gordievsky, a Soviet KGB agent who turned to spy for England. Oleg grew up in a family dedicated to the communist party and therefore were privileged and secure. In 1961, at age 22, Gordievsky was sent to Soviet controlled East Berlin for a six-month work experience which coincided with the building of the Berlin Wall to prevent mass defections to the west. The image of the wall and what it stood for made a lasting impression on Oleg. Never considering any other career, he followed his father and brother into the KGB ranks in 1962. After several years of mundane work at the KGB headquarters, in late 1965, Gordievsky was assigned to a post managing a network of undercover spies in Denmark. It was during this assignment that he became somewhat disillusioned with the Soviet system after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia and became enamored with the West. In 1970, Oleg returned to his old desk in the Soviet Union only to be reassigned to Denmark in late 1972 and later, in 1982, promoted to head the London office. It was during this time in Denmark that Gordievsky was willingly recruited and cultivated by Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6. Gordievsky worked as a double agent for 11 years until in 1985 he was recalled to Moscow for a meeting. It was upon arrival that he realized he had been betrayed and was under suspicion by the KGB. Gordievsky made an incredible escape from Moscow with the help of MI6. He left his family in Moscow and was reunited six years later; however the marriage did not survive the turmoil. He learned much later that he was “outed” by American double agent Aldrich Ames. Today he resides in England under a sentence of death from Russia.

Oleg Gordievsky is probably the highest ranked KGB intelligence officer ever “handled” by any Western country. He provided intelligence that impacted Soviet/Western nation relationships during one of the most critical periods of the Cold War. Decisions made by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev were largely influenced by information provided by Gordievsky.

THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR is a great example of the “wheres and whys” of espionage as it existed during the Cold War. I was amazed at the number of Soviet and Western spies who were double agents. I was also surprised to read that the tactics we often see in spy movies like dissolving paper, message drops in strange places and miniature cameras were actually part of real-world espionage. This thriller, based on a true story, is fast-paced and rivals any fictional novel for intrigue and adventure. I would recommend THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR to any reader who has interest in the operation of the KGB and MI6 or has an interest in history.

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I didn't realize how many books came this week -- I guess they trickled in! Once again, I got mainly picture books, but I'm not complaining. They are perfect for my weekend Kid's Konnection posts!

HER OTHER SECRET by Helenkay Dimon came from Avon Books

IMMORAL CODE by Lillian Clark came from Knopf

THE EAST END by Jason Allen came from Park Row Books

LET'S LEARN JAPANESE by Aurora Cacciapuoti came from Chronicle Books

LUPIN LEAPS IN: A BREAKING NEW CAT ADVENTURE by Georgia Dunn came from Andrews McMeel Publishing


A FRIEND FOR HENRY by Jenn Bailey and illustrated by Mika Song came from Chronicle Books

HIDE-AND-SLEEP by Lizi Boyd came from Chronicle Books

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Kid Konnection: Fox & Chick The Quiet Boat Ride

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you an adorable picture book about two unlikely friends.

Summary: In the second book of this lauded series, Fox and Chick are off on three new adventures involving a boat ride, a mysterious box, and an early morning trip to see the sunrise. Despite the antics ensuing from their opposite personalities, the contradictory duo always manages to find a happy center. This early chapter book in comic-book form is perfect for emerging readers, while the sweet and funny characters and captivating art hold appeal for picture book audiences as well. -- Chronicle Books

I fell hard for the picture book FOX & CHICK: THE QUIET BOAT RIDE AND OTHER STORIES by Sergio Ruzzier. Even though it's not available for another few weeks (March 5th), I couldn't wait to share it with you. This picture book/early chapter book/graphic novel has three chapters, each of  which is an entertaining little story about two unlikely friends.

First of all, I can't tell you how much I adore Fox and Chick. They are so cute together... and total opposites. The way Fox handles Chick's incessant questions is hilarious, and even though they are very different, they manage to work things out. There are definitely important messages in this book about friendship and respect!

I'm not sure which story I liked the best. The first one is "The Quiet Boat Ride" which tells the story of how Chick "ruins" Fox's plan for a quiet boat. The second story is "Chocolate Cake" which shows how much better it is to share a cake with a friend that to eat it by yourself. And the last story is "The Sunrise" which shows how Chick manages to almost ruin Fox's plan to see a sunrise.

I think FOX & CHICK: THE QUIET BOAT RIDE will appeal to both picture book and early reader fans. The book is set up in three chapters in a comic strip format so it's easy to read for beginner readers. In addition, there are lots of adorable pictures which also make it fun for little ones. Given that the stories are funny, parents and kids alike should appreciate this book.

After I finished reading FOX & CHICK: THE QUIET BOAT RIDE, I learned that this book is the second in the Fox & Chick series. There is also a book called FOX & CHICK: THE PARTY. I'm going to have to check this one out too because I love the dynamics between these two characters!

FOX & CHICK: THE QUIET BOAT RIDE is so much fun. 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, February 20, 2019

Review: The Silent Patient

Summary: The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word. Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.... -- Celadon Books

If you've read a few of the "big" reviews for THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides, you might find some very different opinions. Well, I am coming down with the ones who thought this novel was a very fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed this psychological thriller and thought it had some great twists!

THE SILENT PATIENT tells the story of Alicia Berenson, a famous painter married to a highly successful fashion photographer. She seemingly has it all until she shoots her husband Gabriel five times in the face. No one has a clue why, and Alicia isn't helping matters -- she hasn't spoke a word since the shooting! Needless to say, the mystery surrounding this crime is huge!

All of that intrigue attracts the attention of Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist who is desperate to work with Alicia. He is determined to get her to talk and reveal the truth behind the murder. Theo definitely becomes "too involved" in the case, and his personal issues become somewhat blurred with events from Alicia's past. As Theo builds his relationship with Alicia, the reader begins to question Theo and what his motivations actually are!

I haven't been reading as many thrillers lately since I started working full-time, but I will say that I had a great time reading THE SILENT PATIENT. I don't want to say too much about the plot beyond what I described above, but suffice it to say that this book has some major twists. (Notice that I said twists with an "s")! I honestly didn't see them coming until I was almost right up the reveal, and I loved how much this book kept me guessing.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the way the author revealed events from the past. Alicia kept a journal that she shared with Theo, and these entries gave a lot of insight into her marriage and her past. I especially appreciated how the journal was used to reveal the last-minute twists too!

This is Mr. Michaelides' first novel (and it's a great debut), but he does have experience as a screen writer. I have little doubt that THE SILENT PATIENT will be made into a movie... and it would be a great one in my opinion. I don't know what I'm looking forward to more -- the movie or Mr. Michaelides' next book!

If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, I highly recommend reading THE SILENT PATIENT!

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! Happy President's Day! My husband and son are home today, but I'm back at work bright and early this morning. I had a great book week with mainly children's books but also a few interesting grown-up ones -- check out the one on the bottom of the stack!

THE SCOUNDREL IN HER BED by Lorraine Heath came from Avon Books

THE HAPPINESS PLAYLIST by Mark Mallman came from Saichek Publicity

OPERATION FROG EFFECT by Sarah Scheerger came from Random House


NO ONE HERE IS LONELY by Sara Everett came from Knopf

TRAPPED IN A VIDEO GAME: THE FINAL BOSS bu Dustin Brady came from Andrews McMeel Publishing

KING OF KINGS by Wilbur Smith came from Zaffre

SAMANTHA SPINNER AND THE SPECTACULAR SPECS by Russell Ginns came from Delacorte Press

THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON by Sara Collins came from Harper

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Kid Konnection: Make This!

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you another great book from National Geographic Kids.

Summary: Create your maker space with this fun and instructive book, chock-full of hands-on activities and cool experiments to get kids thinking and tinkering.

This book is designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and supports all kinds of kid creators: those who prefer guided instruction, those who prefer to dream up and design objects on their own, and everyone in between. With thoughtful text and bright illustrations, kids get the tools and the know-how to tackle all kinds of exciting projects: building a kaleidoscope, designing a fidget spinner, planting a rain forest, creating a musical instrument, and more. Unconventional scenarios inspired by real National Geographic explorers give kids a chance to think outside the box and apply their maker skills to real life. Chapters are divided up by scientific principle, such as simple machines, energy, and forces. In each chapter, kids can start by following step-by-step activities, or get creative by tackling an open-ended challenge. Helpful sidebars explain the science behind what's happening every step of the way.

Make This! is perfect for curious and STEM-loving kids, families looking for a fun way to play together, and anyone else who's ready to get creative and start tinkering! -- National Geographic Kids

I bet you didn't know that tomorrow is the beginning of National Engineers Week, did you? Eweek was created in 1951 and "is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers." So it's perfect timing (if I do say so myself) to share with you the National Geographic Kids book, MAKE THIS!: BUILDING, THINKING, AND TINKERING PROJECTS FOR THE AMAZING MAKER IN YOU by Ella Schwartz with photographs by Matthew Rakola.

MAKE THIS! is a wonderful book for budding engineers ages 8 - 12. With almost 160 pages, this book has instructions for lots of interesting projects that encourage creativity. For example, there are step-by-step instructions for making a skee-ball challenge using an inclined plane as well as a rain forest in a bottle. Other projects that caught my eye include a Sound Wave Stethoscope, a Color Kaleidoscope, a Water Balloon Helmet, and a Fidget Spinner. I was truly impressed with all of the fun projects and just how educational they are. In addition to the easy-to-follow instructions, there are ratings for difficulty levels, items you'll need to complete the project, and how many people it will take.

I sound like a broken record telling you every few weeks just how great National Geographic Kids books are, and MAKE THIS! is no exception. This book truly gives new meaning to the words "fun and educational." As a mom, I loved the project ideas and instructions, but there are also text boxes with explanations (What's Going On?) and questions for that require some additional thought (Think About It). These elements really bring this book to the next level by relating these various projects to real-world applications.

I even liked how this book was designed. The chapters are broken into different scientific principles like Simple Machines, Materials, Systems, Optics, Energy, Acoustics, Forces, and Motion. Each chapter has between six and nine projects so kids will have plenty of projects to try. And of course, this book has amazing photographs and illustrations which really makes it even more enticing for middle grade readers.

All in all, MAKE THIS! is an excellent book for students interested in STEM. I highly recommend it for both home and school libraries.

Thanks to Media Masters 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, February 13, 2019

Review: 99 Percent Mine

Summary: Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that's inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers. -- William Morrow

I'm not sure that I would have picked up 99 PERCENT MINE by Sally Thorne except that my sister asked to borrow it. She enjoyed the author's first novel, THE HATING GAME, and asked if I could hand it over after I read it. That gave me the push I needed to read it... plus I was in the mood for something fun.

Well, 99 PERCENT MINE was definitely fun, albeit not a typical read for me. While I was expecting chick-lit and a light-hearted romance, this novel ended up being pretty hot. I can say with certainty that I am not a good judge of these types of stories, but I suspect this novel will appeal to fans of this genre. The author created some interesting characters and a fun story, and the sexual tension between them was off the charts!

99 PERCENT MINE tells the story of Darcy Bennett, a woman who has been crushing on the "perfect" Tom Valeska for her entire life. Darcy and her twin brother Jamie befriended Tom years ago, and Darcy has been trying to win him over ever since. Unfortunately, Tom "belongs" to her brother and is, therefore, "off limits."

However, when Tom shows up to help fix up Darcy and Jamie's grandmother's cottage, all bets are off. Jamie is out of the picture and Tom is newly single. Darcy can sense the chemistry between them... and she's hoping to make Tom 99 percent hers!

I found 99 PERCENT MINE to be entertaining and pure escapism. It was definitely a cute story with lots of sparks between the characters. I liked all of the characters (even Jamie although he was a bit of a pain in the butt at times), and I especially enjoyed Tom and Darcy's romantic dalliance. I appreciated that Darcy was a complicated character, given her past and her heart condition; and I loved her spunk and witty commentary.

99 PERCENT MINE is a sweet friends to lovers story that's perfect for the Valentine Day holiday. Recommended to fans of light rom-com books!

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

Monday, February 11, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had a great book week! It was a fabulous mix of mysteries, historical fiction, women's fiction and children's books.
LADY DERRING TAKES A LOVER by Julie Anne Long came from Avon Books

AMERICAN DUCHESS by Karen Harper came from William Morrow

KILLER THRILLER by Lee Goldberg came from Thomas Mercer

BROKEN BONE CHINA by Laura Childs came from Berkley

A BEND IN THE STARS by Rachel Barenbaum came from Grand Central Publishing

SUNNY'S TOW TRUCK SAVES THE DAY! by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Christopher Lee came from Abrams Books for Young Readers

TOMORROW MOST LIKELY by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Lane Smith came from Chronicle Books

DANCING THROUGH FIELDS OF COLOR: THE STORY OF HELEN FRANKENTHALER by Elizabeth Brown and illustrated by Aimee Sicuro came from Abrams Books for Young Readers

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Kid Konnection: It's Up to You, Abe Lincoln

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a terrific book that's perfect for the President's Day holiday.

Summary: History gets hilarious in this interactive Abraham Lincoln biography that will have readers laughing while they learn. Perfect for readers of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.

Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents of all time. But what did it take to rise from frontier poverty? To lead his country through the Civil War? To alter the course of history forever?

Father-daughter team Tom and Leila Hirschfeld’s tongue-in-cheek biography explores ten crucial decisions in one amazing life. With over one hundred pieces of archival and original art, fun facts, sidebars, historical trivia, and more, this book follows Abe’s footsteps through the close calls that defined his leadership and shaped America as we know it today. -- Crown Books for Young Readers

IT'S UP TO YOU, ABE LINCOLN: HOW I MADE THE BIGGEST DECISIONS OF MY LIFE by Tom & Lelia Hirschfeld is a fantastic biography of one of our country's best (if not the best) presidents. It's a unique look at President Lincoln's life and the difficult choices he made along the way. The book focuses on how ten of Lincoln's decisions forever changed the course of his life... and our country.

IT'S UP TO YOU, ABE LINCOLN isn't your typical biography and that's why it's so fun for readers ages eight to twelve years old (but if I'm being honest, I think high school kids will appreciate this book too.) While the book includes all this important historical aspects of his life, it presents the information in an almost casual and fun way. There are photographs and pictures with little speech bubbles that make the history lessons humorous as well as sidebars with interesting tidbits.

But what I really liked about this book was that it was more than just a history lesson. I was pleasantly surprised by how much information was in this almost 300 page book, but it was presented in such a way to make readers realize just how much Lincoln's choices mattered. For every turning point in Lincoln's life (or at least the ten major ones), readers are given four options that he could have made. Even one different decision could have been detrimental to the future of the United States. It also makes young readers see history in a different light... while also making learning fun.

IT'S UP TO YOU, ABE LINCOLN is just terrific for so many reasons. Highly recommended for President's Day and every day!

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

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Review: Duck and Hippo The Secret Valentine

Summary: Join Duck, Hippo, and their friends as they uncover their secret valentines!

It’s Valentine’s Day, and something curious is going on. As the birds tweet their love songs, Hippo and his friends Elephant, Pig, and Turtle each receive mysterious, unsigned Valentine’s Day cards. Hippo wonders if his is from Duck; Elephant and Turtle think theirs are from Pig; and Pig dreams that hers is from Turtle. The cards tell the friends to come to the park at four o’clock to meet their valentines—so they’ll find out soon enough! As the clock ticks away, the friends wonder—and dream—about their valentines and make special preparations. But when they arrive…SURPRISE!

This Valentine’s Day might not go exactly the way they expected, but one thing is certain: being friends with Duck and Hippo is always a special treat! -- Two Lions

Valentine's Day is almost here so it's a great time to share the adorable picture book DUCK AND HIPPO: THE SECRET VALENTINE by Jonathan London and illustrated by Andrew Joyner. This book, starring the famous duo Duck and Hippo, is perfect for fans of this series... and also perfect for those kids who are new to these books.

DUCK AND HIPPO: THE SECRET VALENTINE is so cute. Love is definitely in the air as Hippo, Turtle, Pig, and Elephant all receive Valentine's Day cards from a mysterious someone requesting their presence in the park at 4:00. Of course, Hippo is hoping the card is from Duck while the others are busy guessing who their secret admirer is.

Each of the characters loves the anticipation as they get ready for the secret rendezvous; however, the best treat is what they find when they get to the park!

I love the Duck and Hippo books and I especially love what these books represent. Duck and Hippo are an unlikely duo, but they represent the real meaning of friendship. DUCK AND HIPPO: THE SECRET VALENTINE is extremely cute because it builds anticipation for readers. The characters are obviously thrilled to be given the Valentine invitation, and they all prepare something extra-special for each other. As the time approaches when they can finally meet their secret Valentine, the characters (and the readers) can feel the excitement. It's a sweet story with a little surprise and a fantastic message about friendship!

Check out this adorable book trailer:

If you still want more Duck and Hippo, you can find a downloadable activity page here.

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

Monday, February 4, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had a big children's book week so that's a good thing for my Kid Konnection feature. 

THE WORLD'S BEST JOKES FOR KIDS: VOLUME 2 by Swerling & Lazar came from Andrew McMeel Publishing


ONE THING I KNOW by Kara Isaac came from Howard Books

YOU ARE NEW by Lucy Knisley came from Chronicle Books

SCAMPERS THINKS LIKE A SCIENTIST by Mike Allega and illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel came from Dawn Books

WHY SHOULD I WALK? I CAN FLY! by Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Rebecca Evans came from Dawn Books


GUITAR GENIUS: HOW LES PAUL ENGINEERED THE SOLID-BODY ELECTRIC GUITAR AND ROCKED THE WORK by Kim Tomsic and illustrated by Brett Helquist came from Chronicle Books

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Kid Konnection: Heart Day Books!

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you two picture books that are perfect for Valentine's Day!

Summary: A charming, chunky book filled with more than 150 works we love from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The book is divided into different themes for readers to explore, including people, animals, transportation, and places. Accompanying text provides readers with insight into each piece without distracting from the beauty of the work. From paintings to collages to sculptures to photographs, I (Heart) Art helps readers discover the best that the museum has to offer. Among the artists included are Jennifer Bartlett, Romare Bearden, Rosa Bonheur, Canaletto, Mary Cassatt, Marc Chagall, Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard, Hokusai, Winslow Homer, Edmonia Lewis, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, and Andy Warhol. -- Abrams Books for Young Readers

I am featuring I (HEART) ART: WORK WE LOVE FROM THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART for Kid Konnection; however, it's truly a "picture" books for kids of all ages. When you first pick up this chunky book, you might think it's a board book for little ones. Not so fast! It's a mini coffee table book full of gorgeous art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art!

I (HEART) ART has eleven chapters (twelve if you include the index) with different art themes. For example, there is a chapter titled I (HEART) Music and another titled I (HEART) Singing and Dancing. Within each chapter, there are gorgeous works of art including paintings, photographs, sculptures, and more. Each page also has accompanying text information about the art such as dates, artists, and titles.

I really (heart) this book... and it makes me want to visit the "Met" the next time I'm in New York and see some of these gorgeous works of art in person!

Summary: How do animals show their love? By touching trunks, beaks, and noses! Toddlers will delight in adorable pairs of fish, ducklings, elephants, and monkeys as they splash, swim, dance, and swing, all while showing affection. Author-illustrator Taro Miura brings a playfulness and verve to this love-affirming board book, which culminates in the ultimate celebration of love: a child embraced by loving parents. -- Chronicle Books

HELLO, LOVE! by Taro Miura is another book to keep in mind as a gift for Valentine's Day. This book is definitely geared towards toddlers, and it features pairs of animals celebrating love. The illustrations are simple, but colorful; and the text is even simpler -- about three words per page. HELLO, LOVE! is super sweet.

What I loved the most about this book is the way the author showed how these animals show affections. For example, fish touch noses, monkeys hold hands, and parents and kids cuddle. I'm telling you... this book is adorable! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publishers for providing review copies of these picture 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 30, 2019

Review: An Anonymous Girl

Summary: Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone. -- St. Martin's Press

The talented writing duo, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, are back at it again with AN ANONYMOUS GIRL. It's beyond my comprehension how these two can write a thriller together, but it's safe to say that they definitely can. AN ANONYMOUS GIRL is a cat-and-mouse game between two women that has very serious stakes, and I thought it was an entertaining story.

AN ANONYMOUS GIRL stars Jessica, a young makeup artist living in New York who is struggling to make ends meet. As if it's not expensive enough to live in the city, Jessica also tries to help out with her special needs sister who lives back home with her parents. When Jessica learns that one of her clients is being compensated for a study on ethics and morality, Jessica decides to "highjack" her space in the study (not exactly a pillar of morality, right?). She's expecting to answer a few questions and make some quick cash; however, she finds herself involved in a life or death situation!

Jessica discovers that some of the questions are rather intense, and when she is asked to come back again, it seems like her involvement with the mysterious Dr. Shields is a little odd. Dr. Shields asks her to dress a certain way, pick up unknown packages, and go up to strange men at bars. Jessica begins to have her doubts about this study; however, she plays along with it because she needs to money (and she's kind of intrigued as well!)

As Jessica becomes more involved with Dr. Shields, she realizes that she's not sure who or what she can trust. She feels a strange affinity with Dr. Shields, but she's also frightened of what Dr. Shields knows about her life. And when she learns that an earlier subject in Dr. Shields' research was found dead, she wonders if her life is in danger. Can Jessica get to the bottom of this mystery while also saving herself from the imminent danger?

I enjoyed AN ANONYMOUS GIRL and it's no wonder that it was an instant bestseller. I enjoyed the back and forth tension between Jessica and Dr. Shields; and like Jessica, I didn't really know who or what to believe. The book definitely felt like a roller coaster ride, especially the second half; and there were definitely some scary/uncomfortable moments between the characters that made things fun. So all in all, I thought it was a solid thriller.

However, I'm not sure that I'd go so far as to say I loved it. I had some issues with the basic plot and found myself having to suspend reality. For example, I thought it was weird that Jessica listened to a client's phone message and then went to the study and impersonated her... and that happened in the first few pages of the novel. In addition, I'm not sure that Dr. Shields and her actions were altogether realistic for me (which is fine for a novel!), but I chose to not think to much about those things and just enjoy the mind games that took place between the characters.

What did stand out to me about this book was how the authors chose to explore morality. It's apparent from the first few pages that Jessica isn't exactly a goodie-two-shoes, and I appreciated how her actions were called into question with the study questions. I especially enjoyed how the questions caused discomfort in Jessica as they became more and more invasive while also ratcheting up the discomfort for the reader. In fact, there were numerous times during this story where the authors did an outstanding job with the pacing and the tension!

AN ANONYMOUS GIRL is an exciting thriller that actually delved into some interesting ethical questions. It's definitely a worthwhile read for fans of thrillers!

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via Net Galley.