Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Book Expo 2019 - Day 3 (Friday)

Kathy (aka Bermudaonion) and I were up bright and early again. We had big plans for our last full day at Book Expo, and we had a relatively early morning meeting with Kaitlyn from Sourcebooks. I actually should say that Kathy had a meeting scheduled and I kind of tagged along. Remember that bagel place that I loved on Thursday? Well, we stopped there again for breakfast since it was so convenient... and so good!

If I'm being entirely honest, I haven't read a whole lot of books published by Sourcebooks over the past couple of years. And I am the first to admit that I haven't done a very good job of keeping up with their new releases. SHAME ON ME! Kaitlyn went through their new releases and they have some awesome books coming out this fall! Of course, I was drawn to the thrillers and mysteries, but they also have some awesome historical and women's fiction that caught my eye. Here are a few of my favorites:

PRETTY GUILTY WOMEN by Gina Lamanna

Summary: our Women. Four Confessions. One Murder.

Something has gone terribly wrong at the Banks wedding. A man is dead. Four different women rush to offer confessions, each insisting that they committed the crime — alone.

Ginger is holding her family together by a thread, and this wedding weekend is not the fabulous getaway she anticipated.

Kate has enough money to buy her way out of anything. Well, almost anything.

Emily can’t shake her reputation or her memories, and she’s planning to drown this whole vacation in a bottle.

Lulu’s got ex-husbands to spare, and another on the way — as soon as she figures out what the devil the current husband is up to behind her back.

Why would they confess to the same murder? Only they know — and they’re not telling. This page-turning novel explores the depths of friendship and the truths we love to ignore.


LADY CLEMENTINE by Marie Benedict

Summary: New from Marie Benedict, the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room! An incredible novel that focuses on one of the people who had the most influence during World War I and World War II: Clementine Churchill.



CHASE DARKNESS WITH ME by Billy Jensen

Summary: ***With an exclusive behind-the-scenes conversation between Billy Jensen and retired detective Paul Holes on the Golden State Killer, their favorite cold cases, and more***

Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked? Put together the pieces? Identify the suspect?

Journalist Billy Jensen spent fifteen years investigating unsolved murders, fighting for the families of victims. Every story he wrote had one thing in common—they didn’t have an ending. The killer was still out there.

But after the sudden death of a friend, crime writer and author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara, Billy became fed up. Following a dark night, he came up with a plan. A plan to investigate past the point when the cops had given up. A plan to solve the murders himself.

You’ll ride shotgun as Billy identifies the Halloween Mask Murderer, finds a missing girl in the California Redwoods, and investigates the only other murder in New York City on 9/11. You’ll hear intimate details of the hunts for two of the most terrifying serial killers in history: his friend Michelle McNamara’s pursuit of the Golden State Killer and his own quest to find the murderer of the Allenstown Four. And Billy gives you the tools—and the rules—to help solve murders yourself.

Gripping, complex, unforgettable, Chase Darkness with Me is an examination of the evil forces that walk among us, illustrating a novel way to catch those killers, and a true-crime narrative unlike any you’ve read before.


Immediately after our meeting, Kathy and I walked to visit our favorite author Adriana Trigiani! We knew we needed to walk quickly, but that wasn't an issue for us. However, I had a slight issue on the way. I stepped in gray paint and ruined my brand-new Begonia Rothy's!!!
So not only did I ruin my brand new pale pink shoes that were a Mother's Day gift from my husband and kids, I now had to knock on Adriana's door holding my shoe! Talk about embarrassing! The always gracious (and certified stain treater!) Adriana whisked me away to her laundry room and we tried Resolve to no avail. I was kind of sick to my stomach, but I tried not to let it ruin my day!

This is a bit of an aside (and certainly not book-related) but I couldn't get the paint out when I got home either. I didn't want to throw away the shoes so I painted them! Crisis (kind of) averted but I still want pink shoes!
Once I stopped hyperventilating over my shoe, we sat down with Adriana for some quality conversation about books, movies, makeup and gossip. It's always a treat for me to visit with Adriana and Kathy, and this year was no exception. We even got lipstick lessons -- make sure you check out Adriana's Kiss Carlo lipsticks that benefit her charity The Origin Project. I definitely count this as one of my favorite things about visiting Book Expo and New York.
And then it was back to the Javits for our exciting afternoon book fun! I was walking around with one wet shoes, but what are you going to do? Seriously though, Friday afternoon at Book Expo is when my very favorite Book Expo event occurs -- Book Group Speed Dating. This amazing event, hosted by Carol Fitzgerald from Reading Group Guides, just keeps getting bigger and better!

Basically, there are hundreds of us in a big room with lots of round tables. And did I mention that these tables are stacked high with books? Publicists from a variety of publishers take turns going to the different tables and doing "elevator" type pitches to us about their faves. Believe me when I tell you that it's very, very hard not to leave with too many books. Of course, each table only hears from a few publishers because of the time constraints; however, at the end, you can go around the room and get books that are still remaining on the tables. Needless to say, it's so much fun!

If you are interested in seeing what books were presented, you can check out the entire slide show here. I'm warning you that it's a bit overwhelming! I showed great restraint (but I was downloading from Netgalley and Edelweis like a crazy person. Some of the books I'm most excited about are:

SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid

Summary: A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. -- Putnam

OLIVE AGAIN by Elizabeth Strout

Summary: Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace. -- Random House

THE DEARLY BELOVED by Cara Wall

Summary: Charles and Lily, James and Nan. They meet in Greenwich Village in 1963 when Charles and James are jointly hired to steward the historic Third Presbyterian Church through turbulent times. Their personal differences however, threaten to tear them apart.

Charles is destined to succeed his father as an esteemed professor of history at Harvard, until an unorthodox lecture about faith leads him to ministry. How then, can he fall in love with Lily—fiercely intellectual, elegantly stern—after she tells him with certainty that she will never believe in God? And yet, how can he not?

James, the youngest son in a hardscrabble Chicago family, spent much of his youth angry at his alcoholic father and avoiding his anxious mother. Nan grew up in Mississippi, the devout and beloved daughter of a minister and a debutante. James's escape from his desperate circumstances leads him to Nan and, despite his skepticism of hope in all its forms, her gentle, constant faith changes the course of his life.

In The Dearly Beloved, we follow these two couples through decades of love and friendship, jealousy and understanding, forgiveness and commitment. Against the backdrop of turbulent changes facing the city and the church’s congregation, these four forge improbable paths through their evolving relationships, each struggling with uncertainty, heartbreak, and joy. A poignant meditation on faith and reason, marriage and children, and the ways we find meaning in our lives, Cara Wall’s The Dearly Beloved is a gorgeous, wise, and provocative novel that is destined to become a classic. -- Simon & Schuster


NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson

Summary: In this game, even winning can be deadly...

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance. -- William Morrow


MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Summary:  Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet na├»ve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself. -- William Morrow


It was so hard to come up with just these few books because there are literally about 20 more books that I wanted to feature!

After Speed Dating, Kathy and I rushed to mail her box of books -- it wasn't open much past the end of this event which caused quite the commotion. Notice I said "her" box of books! I decided to go the e-book route this year and only bring home one bag of books on the train. That one bag was one big and heavy bag, but it was one bag (with a few in my suitcase!) The only problem was I had to carry that big old tote from Javits back to our hotel by way of the TKTS booth. To make things even more interesting, the strap of the tote broke only a block away from Javits. It was one long walk carrying the books in my arms and then standing in line for tickets, but a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do!

Kathy and I stood in line awhile (not horrible long but still about a half hour) and kept changing our minds about what we wanted to see. This year was one of the best for musicals and it was a difficult decision because we would have been happy seeing any of about seven shows. I kind of wanted to see Come From Away something awful, but Kathy wasn't sure she wanted to see a show about 9/11. We went back and forth between Oklahoma! (so many people recommended this one!) to Tootsie, to The Prom, to Mean Girls... well you can our dilemma. Finally, after quite a few recommendations when we were in line, we decided on Come From Away!

We dropped off my books and decided to have dinner and drinks before the show. We headed out for a quick dinner at Casa Barilla. We had eaten there a few years ago and we liked how we could kind of create our own pasta meal. We were basically starving since we hadn't eaten since breakfast, and somehow I ended up with Beyond Meat meatballs. (Can you tell it was just one of those days for me?) I can't say that I loved them, but I had been wanting to try one of these plant-based meats for awhile. Next, we had a drink at our hotel bar. We wanted to sit outside on the lovely rooftop bar; however, we couldn't manage to get served so we headed back inside to sit at the bar. (Now that I'm thinking about it, I was kind of jinxed that day!)

Holy moly was Come From Away something special! It's based on a true story of what happened in a small town in Newfoundland after all planes were grounded immediately following 9/11. About 7,000 passengers found themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere, and this amazing town welcomed them. I know a musical based on 9/11 sounds like a major downer, but this play was so uplifting. It showed how amazingly kind humans can be to each other, and it was exactly what I needed to see. I loved the music, the characters, and the message; and I couldn't stop thinking about it for days!

Kathy and I had another amazing time at Book Expo and went our separate ways on Saturday morning. While I hated saying goodbye and having our mini-vacation come to an end, I was looking forward to going home and seeing my family again!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had a slow week, but I did mange to receive an adorable surprise box of books!

AWESOME DOG 5000 (Book 1) by Justin Dean came from Random House Books for Young Readers
How fun is this package including books, pencils, a pencil pouch, erasers, and more? This box of ACORN goodies came from Scholastic promoting their brand-new line of books for young readers. ACORN books are written by bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators including Dav Pilkey, Max Braillier, and more. These easy-to-read books have bright illustrations along with color-coded speech bubbles, so they are certain to attract even reluctant readers.

A FRIEND FOR DRAGON by Dav Pilkey

A CRABBY BOOK: HELLO, CRABBY! by Jonathan Fenske


UNICORN AND YETI: SPARKLY NEW FRIENDS by Heather Ayris Burnell and Hazel Quintanilla

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Kid Konnection: Weird But True! USA

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 fun book from National Geographic Kids.
Summary: It's weird. It's true. And now, it's red, white, and blue! Explore the wonderfully wacky side of the United States of America Weird But True! style. Calling all patriots! Get ready to explore wacky wonders, facts, stats, tidbits, and trivia about America's 50 states and territories! Did you know that there is a floating post office in Michigan? Or that a library book checked out by George Washington was returned to a New York City library 221 years late? Maybe you'd be amazed to discover that the ink used to print U.S. paper money is magnetic? In this latest and greatest edition of Weird But True!, you'll encounter all kinds of bizarre people, places, events, and things that make our country great. -- National Geographic Kids

WEIRD BUT TRUE! USA: 300 FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT THE FIFTY STATES is another great addition to the Weird but True series from National Geographic Kids. This book is an entertaining way for kids to learn about the United States, and it's perfect for summer fun! 

WEIRD BUT TRUE! USA provides strange/interesting/unique facts about America's fifty states and its territories. Each page of this pint-sized book has amazing photographs (of course -- it's a National Geographic publication!), and fun facts that are guaranteed to make you scratch your head. In fact, some of these tidbits are almost too strange to believe, and you won't believe how much material this little book covers.

Rather than try to describe this book, I think it's best to let the book speak for itself:

The United States averages 1,250 tornadoes every year -- about 10 times more than any other country.

Jell-O is the official state snack of Utah.

A study found that Americans report more UFO sightings on the Fourth of July than on any other day.

At Oregon's Great Salt Lick Contest, competitors present blocks of salt licked by cows and sheep as art.

During a hurricane, 30 flamingos at a zoo in Miami, Florida, were herded into a bathroom.

Green Bay, Wisconsin, is known as the toilet paper capital of the world.

As you can see, WEIRD BUT TRUE! USA has entertaining trivia about the good ole' USA! Kids and parents alike will enjoy sharing these interesting facts. Highly recommended!

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, June 19, 2019

Book Expo 2019 - Day 2 (Thursday)

Kathy (aka Bermudaonion) and I were anxious to spend a little more time at the Javits on Thursday, and we had an amazing schedule of events. We got up relatively early, but it was still sleeping in compared to my home schedule! Truth be told, neither one of us slept that well anyway and we had been up on and off for hours.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to get breakfast on our way to the Javits Center. If you know one thing about Kathy and me, then you know that we walk...a lot. I think we averaged close to 30,000 steps each day! Anyway... we stopped at a new bagel shop that was fantastic -- so good that I wanted to go back on Friday.

We arrived at Javits as Book Expo opened (great timing I might add!), and we took a quick walk around the show floor and grabbed a few galleys. However, the real reason we came first thing in the morning was to attend the DC Comics breakfast. This event was such a treat because they presented their new graphic novel imprints for middle grade and young adult readers; and let me tell you, these books are something special! It was a pretty intimate event with a small audience and panels of middle grade and then young adult authors/illustrators. I had an amazing time!

When I received the invitation for this event, I couldn't help but notice that the new books looked fantastic, but also that there were some pretty big names associated with the books. (Check out the image below!) What I didn't realize is that all of the people mentioned in the invitation were there! I almost died when Meg Cabot (one of Booking Daughter's favorite authors) sat down for the first panel with Michael Northrop. They spoke about their creative processes for writing these books since they are a little different than what they've done in the past, and Mr. Northrop managed to make me shed a tear when he talked about how much graphic novels and comics meant to him as a child. He was truly inspirational and gave me a lot to think about!
The second panel was Marko Tamaki, Danielle Page, Kami Garcia and Isaac Goodhart. They were equally informative, funny, and so entertaining. Once again, I was extremely interested in how they worked with their illustrators to bring these stories and characters to life, and how they researched the history of their characters. I can't wait to dig into a few of the books, especially the ones with strong female characters, and share my thoughts with you. Here are two that caught my eye:

BLACK CANARY: IGNITE by Meg Cabot and illustrated by Cara McGee -- I want to read this one because it's, well, Meg Cabot!

Summary: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Princess Diariescomes Black Canary: Ignite, Meg Cabot's first graphic novel! With expressive and energetic art by Cara McGee to match the trademark attitude and spunk of Meg Cabot's characters and dialogue, this mother-daughter story embraces the highs and lows of growing up without growing out of what makes us unique.

Thirteen-year-old Dinah Lance knows exactly what she wants, who she is, and where she's going. First, she'll win the battle of the bands with her two best friends, then she'll join the Gotham City Junior Police Academy so she can solve crimes just like her dad. Who knows, her rock star group of friends may even save the world, but first they'll need to agree on a band name.

When a mysterious figure keeps getting in the way of Dinah's goals and threatens her friends and family, she'll learn more about herself, her mother's secret past, and navigating the various power chords of life.

Black Canary: Ignite is an inspirational song that encourages readers to find their own special voices to sing along with Black Canary!

HARLEY QUINN: BREAKING GLASS by Mariko Tamaki and illustred by Steve Pugh -- I found this author to be intriguing and everyone made her sound like a graphic novel rock star!

Summary: Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass is a coming-of-age story about choices, consequences, justice, fairness, and progress and how a weird kid from Gotham's poorest part of town goes about defining her world for herself. From Eisner Award and Caldecott Honor-winning author Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer, Supergirl: Being Super).

Harleen is a tough, outspoken, rebellious kid who lives in a ramshackle apartment above a karaoke cabaret owned by a drag queen named MAMA. Ever since Harleen's parents split, MAMA has been her only family. When the cabaret becomes the next victim in the wave of gentrification that's taking over the neighborhood, Harleen gets mad.

When Harleen decides to turn her anger into action, she is faced with two choices: join Ivy, who's campaigning to make the neighborhood a better place to live, or join The Joker, who plans to take down Gotham one corporation at a time.

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass is at once a tale of the classic Harley readers know and love, and a heartfelt story about the choices teenagers make and how they can define--or destroy--their lives. 

These are just two of what looks like an amazing set of new graphic novels. I think kids, and even reluctant readers, are going to love these new books! Did I mention that DC Comics provided us with tote bags filled with signed books from the new imprints -- DC Zoom and DC Ink. This DC Comics breakfast was definitely one of the highlights of 2019 Book Expo!

And then it was back to the show room floor for Kathy and me. Book Expo, Day 2, definitely had a more exciting vibe that Day 1; however, it still seemed a little different and less crowded this year. There were definitely less galleys available than in the past; and if you wanted books, you had to wait in lines for autographs or galley drops. Having said that, there were still some great books that I managed to gather including:

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

Summary: Too cool for school . . . or the least groovy girl in the grade?

Sunny's just made it to middle school . . . and it's making her life very confusing. All her best friend Deb wants to talk about is fashion, boys, makeup, boys, and being cool. Sunny's not against any of these things, but she also doesn't understand why suddenly everything revolves around them. She's much more comfortable when she's in her basement, playing Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of new friends. Because when you're swordfighting and spider-slaying, it's hard to worry about whether you look cool or not. Especially when it's your turn to roll the 20-sided die.

Trying hard to be cool can make you feel really uncool . . . and it's much more fun to just have fun. Sunny's going to find her groove and her own kind of groovy, with plenty of laughs along the way.

HOPE PROJECT MIDDLE SCHOOL by Alyssa Milano with Debbie Rigaud

Summary: Meet Hope Roberts. She's 11 years old, and she wants to be an astrophysicist. She loves swimming, Galaxy Girl comic books, and her two rescue dogs.

Hope believes it's always a good day to champion a cause, defend an underdog, and save the future. And most of all, she believes in dreaming big. That's why she's enrolled in all of the advanced classes at her new middle school. She's smart and confident in her abilities. But though Hope seems super strong on the outside, there's another side of her, too. She's just a regular girl trying to survive middle school.

This first book starts with the beginning of sixth grade, and Hope's BFF Sam made some new friends over the summer. Hope doesn't know how to handle it. She and Sam have always been inseparable! Then Hope meets her new lab partner, Camila, and they get off on the wrong foot. And even though Camila is great at science, she doesn't want to join the science club. The club is all boys, and she doesn't feel welcome.

When Hope hears that, she's determined to recruit more girls into the science club, including Camila. Hope knows that sometimes changing the world starts small. So now Hope has a mission! Can she turn the science club into a place that's welcoming for everyone and make some new friends along the way?

Hope's relatability, kindness, empathy, and can-do attitude will inspire a generation of do-gooders. This new series is a response to the very palpable feeling that not only can young people save the world — they will!

THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes

Summary: Set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond, from the author of Me Before You and The Peacock Emporium

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job–bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

NOTHING TO SEE HERE by Kevin Wilson

Summary: Kevin Wilson’s best book yet—a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with remarkable and disturbing abilities

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?

With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

Kathy and I decided that we wanted to get away from the craziness for a little bit. All day at Book Expo is exhausting! So we walked over to the Haymaker for a quick bite to eat and an adult beverage. Kathy is a walking encyclopedia of beer, so I let her pick one for me. It was a nice break but we wanted to get back to see some more books and authors!

Fortunately, we had early evening plans thanks to John Karle, the Associate Director of Publicity at St. Martin's Press. Kathy and I and a few other bloggers were invited to spend an hour at an escape room with the author of THE ESCAPE ROOM, Megan Goldin
We went to Mission Escape Room and I admit it wasn't what I was expecting. We took an old elevator in an old building up to the floor, and the light on the elevator was burned out. I wasn't exactly comfortable with this because of the premise of the book. But it was just an old elevator and my overactive imagination! 

We met some fellow bloggers, which is always fun. And then we learned about our mission (and the rules!) Our mission was called "Escape the Hydeout" -- you can read more about it here. I had a fantastic time and I am proud to say that not only did we finish, but we had over 8 minutes to spare (and one clue left)! I'm not sure what that tells you about a group of book bloggers, but I was seriously impressed with our detective skills!
After we were finished, a few of us (including John and Megan) headed over to District Social for some snacks and drinks. It was pouring down rain so good thing it was close. It was a great bar, one I'd definitely go back to; and I was fortunate enough to sit next to the author! Just by chance, I had already read this book during my vacation to Orlando back in January, so I had a few questions about the book and her writing style. Megan was lovely and I can't wait for the book to be released on July 30th! I haven't reviewed the book yet, but I will say that it's a good one... if a bit terrifying. I can't imagine being stuck on an elevator for hours with my co-workers "playing" as if our lives were at stake!

Summary: Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive. 

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost. 

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival. 

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

As if we didn't have enough fun for one day, we still had one more party to attend. Thankfully it was very close because it was still pouring down rain! (I probably don't need to tell you that I looked like a drowned rat for much of this trip!) I was Kathy's plus one for the Kensington 45th birthday celebration. We went to the 40th party a few years back, and we both remembered it as one of the best BEA parties we had been to. This year's took place at the Canopy Room at Versa. The venue was amazing, but we couldn't fully appreciate it because of the weather.
It was once again a party to remember! There was some delicious food and even a special Kensington blue drink. We managed to mingle with a couple of authors and some publicists, and I have to say that Kensington has some great books coming out this fall!

So that's a wrap for Day 2! I probably don't even need to mention that Kathy and I both were pretty tired and had absolutely no issues sleeping that night!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I got some fantastic books this week including one wrapped up with a beautiful bow!
THE DREAM DAUGHTER by Diane Chamberlain came from Tandem Literary and St. Martin's

A LADY IN DISGUISE by Lynsay Sands came from Avon Books

WEIRD BUT TRUE! USA came from Media Masters and National Geographic Kids

THE PEACOCK SUMMER by Hannah Richell came from Harper Books

DEATH AND OTHER HAPPY ENDINGS by Melanie Cantor came from Viking Books

STONE COLD HEART by Caz Frear came from Harper Books

HOW DO YOU DANCE? by Thyra Heder came from Alfred A. Knopf BFYR

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Kid Konnection: Build Your Own Theme Park

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 book that allows kids to use their imagination to create their very own theme park.

Summary: Get the fun going for makers of all ages with Build Your Own Theme Park with just scissors, glue, and your imagination! The first in a "Build Your Own" series of dynamic, interactive 3D activity books that combine engineering and creativity in an accessible way.

Kids and adults alike will love the creativity and 3D thinking that comes with this paper cut-out theme park. Based on Lizz Lunney’s characters and illustrations, build your theme park from the ticket booth to vending machines, arcade games, food stand, a carousel, a water ride with frogs, and mountain roller coaster. Invent your own ride additions for the park, make it your own, and share it online with #BuildYourOwn. -- Andrews McMeel


LIZZ LUNNEY'S BUILD YOUR OWN THEME PARK is such a great activity for kids this summer! This activity book allows kids to use their STEAM skills (and some paper engineering) to create their own unique theme park. This book contains all of the pieces they need to make rides including a castle, roller coaster, a merry-go-round, train, and more. Just add scissors, glue sticks (or tape), and a little creativity and your child can create their very own masterpiece.


I can guarantee that BUILD YOUR OWN THEME PARK will entertain your child for hours! There are hundreds of colorful pieces to cut out and assemble into 3D versions of theme park attractions. Each little piece is beautifully drawn and colored by Lizz Lunney, and I absolutely love the variety of characters and the little details in her drawings.

I'm not going to lie to you. The cutting out and assembly of pieces requires some patience on the part of your child (and maybe you too!) This book is definitely geared towards older kids rather than younger ones; however, I will say that there are great instructions and helpful hints. The book also has fun text and adorable pictures (like a map of the park) which are entertaining too look at good for generating some ideas.

I'm not sure my review is expressing just how adorable these attractions are once they are assembled. I'll just let this picture do the talking:
LIZZ LUNNEY'S BUILD YOUR OWN THEME PARK is a great activity book that helps to build STEAM skills. 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, June 12, 2019

Book Expo 2019 - Day 1 (Wednesday)

Kathy (aka Bermudaonion) and I once again decided to visit Book Expo together. It's kind of a tradition for us and I think we've attended the last nine out of ten years together. (Well the first year we went with our husbands and met up but close enough!) It's always a welcome mini-vacation to head to New York, see one of my closest friends in the world, attend a few Broadway shows, and learn about books! Talk about the perfect girls' trip!

I always take the train from Harrisburg to Penn Station, and this year was no exception. As many of you already know, I treasure my train ride. I always love the three and a half hours of peace and quiet, and I can do some major damage to a book. This year's read was  VERY VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani in preparation of the Lifetime movie and visit with the author -- you can read more about it here.

Kathy managed to get to the hotel before I did... as usual! She always starts walking down 7th to meet me halfway from Penn Station. Unfortunately, we got a little turned around on the way back to the hotel -- I know, I know that it's pretty easy to navigate Manhattan. We ended up walking almost twice as far as we had to because we were so busy chatting!

This year, we stayed at the Novatel in Times Square. I was concerned because we had never stayed there, but fortunately, it was perfect. The location was amazing -- right next to Mean Girls and The Cher Show, the room was extremely quiet (and had two double beds), and there was even a gorgeous rooftop bar. If you're visiting New York, I highly recommend it!
The first thing we did after we unpacked and got settled in our room was head to lunch at Patzeria Family & Friends. I've eaten there a few times and have never been disappointed. Unfortunately, there's a first time for everything because their pizza wasn't up to their usual standards. I felt horrible because I convinced Kathy to go there instead of our usual John's Pizza.

We then headed over to BEA to get our badges and walk around for a bit. This year, the floor of BEA was open on Wednesday afternoon for a few hours... and of course, there was the Editor's Buzz Panel. The books featured at the panel this year seem to have a theme of being on the dark side, but I still can't wait to read most (if not all) of them.

THE SECRETS WE KEPT by Lara Prescott is probably the one I'm most looking forward to reading.  It's about secretaries who turned into spies inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia. I even managed to snag a signed copy of it later in the week! I'm also dying to read MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russell. I've seen some buzz for this book already on social media! MY DARK VANESSA is a coming-of-age story about a fifteen year old girl and her relationship with teacher. Finally, SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid sounds amazing!

After our brief visit to the Javits Center, we headed back to Times Square to see if we could score tickets for a show at the TKTS booth. We got into line and kept checking our watches because we had a "date" with friend and author Miriam Parker. We knew we had to leave by a certain time to catch the subway to get downtown, and the line just wasn't budging. We were afraid we'd miss out if we waited until after drinks, so we decided to go straight to the box office. We walked very quickly The Cher Show and asked for what was available for that night's show. The ticket booth attendant just might be my favorite New Yorker because after asking what we wanted to spend, he said he had good seats in the sixth row center. Now, I had my doubts (and truth be told I signed the credit card receipt without putting on my glasses) that we really had seats like that for what he charged us but more on that later!

After getting turned around (again!), we asked a police officer to direct us to the right subway stop. We managed to get downtown to Nobu with a minute to spare -- that's cutting it pretty close for us considering we always take into account getting lost. The restaurant was in a beautiful building (the same one as Harper Collins), but it wasn't really marked very well. The GPS kept telling us we had reached our destination, but we couldn't see Nobu! It's kind of funny in hindsight!

We had a lovely time catching up with Miriam. Not only is she a fantastic writer, but she's a lovely person. We get together every year and there is never a loss for words between the three of us. We talk family, life, and books over a bottle of red, and it was definitely one of my highlights of this year's visit. Kathy and I rarely take pictures of ourselves, but she made an effort this year to get a few good ones. I love this picture of us (even though my hair is a mess from all of the rain!) Doesn't it look like there's a smiley face on the wine glass?
I just wish we'd gotten one with Miriam! And by the way, her book THE SHORTEST WAY HOME will be available in paperback on June 25th! Run, don't walk, to buy this book about a woman finding her true self. It's set in the wine country and I guarantee you'll want to have a glass or two while reading about Hannah, her love life, and a quaint vineyard!

After a glass or two of wine, Kathy and I ventured back to Times Square. It was still raining -- it did a lot of that on Wednesday, and we were quite drenched. We decided we needed a little something to eat before the 8:00 show, so we headed to Junior's for some soup and cheesecake since it was close to our hotel. Now, I love Junior's and it had only been a few weeks since I'd been there for my 50th birthday! I had some yummy matzo ball soup and we shared a slice of raspberry cheesecake! It was actually really cold so the soup hit the spot!
And then it was Cher time! I was super excited to see The Cher Show because I remember watching the show and listening to one of the albums with my mom when I was little. I even had a little doll named Chastity! The show was larger-than-life -- just like Cher. And the three women who played her were all so talented. And don't even get me started on the costumes by Bob Mackie! I heard the show described as a party, and that was exactly what it was. SO MUCH FUN!!!!
Remember when I said that I was a little nervous about our seats and what we paid for them? Well, this guy wasn't lying. We were in the sixth row center!!!! Kathy sat down and said, "I don't think there's a better seat in the house," and she's was totally right. After telling the story to Adriana Trigiani later in the week, she laughed and said that he gave us the house seats! How incredibly lucky were we? And we even got to see Stephanie J. Block who won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical last night. I have to say that she was incredible! She truly captured the essence of Cher from her voice to her mannerisms.

Although I was really excited after seeing The Cher Show, I admit that I was exhausted. I think we walked over 30,000 steps that day and covered most of Manhattan (or maybe it just felt like that!) Fortunately, Kathy and I both fell right asleep... which doesn't always happen! Day 1 of BEA 2019 was in the books!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! It was a great book week for me! It's odd that I get so many books without any kids' books, but I'll take it. This wee's stash has some books that I'm really looking forward to reading!

HER OTHER SECRET by Helenkay Dimon came from Avon Books



A NOEL KILLING by M. L. Longworth came from Penguin Books

TWISTED FAMILY VALUES by V.C. Chickering came from St. Martin's Press

GHOST FIRE by Wilbur Smith with Tom Harper came from Zaffre Publishing

GRAVITY IS THE THING by Jaclyn Moriarty came from Harper Books

TROUBLE THE WATER by Rebecca Dwight Bruff came from Saichek Publicity and Koehler Books

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Kid Konnection: Max Attacks

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 cute picture book about a cat who happens to attack!

Summary: Fish and birds and lizards and socks…is there anything Max won’t attack? Watch your ankles and find out in this clever, rhyming picture book about a very naughty kitty cat.

Max is a cat. He attacks. From socks to strings to many a fish, attacking, for Max, is most de-lish. But how many of these things can he actually catch? Well, let’s just say it’s no even match. -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers

MAX ATTACKS by Kathi Appelt (yes -- that Kathy Appelt!) and illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan is an adorable book about Max, a cat who likes to attack... everything! Max is always on the hunt for something to attack including pet fish, socks, shoelaces, iguanas, and more. The big question, though, is how successful is Max at attacking?

I thought MAX ATTACKS was a fun book that captured the essence of a kitty perfectly. I remember the days when my cat Zoey would pounce on everything that moved... even my foot under the covers, and Max reminded me so much of her. Kids and parents alike will laugh at Max's attempts to conquer a variety of things around the house.

There are a few things that I really enjoyed about MAX ATTACKS. First of all, I loved the catchy, rhyming cadence of the story. There are only a few phrases per page, but they make the most of the story. There's different sizes and colors of text which make it fun to read, and the rhyming words and alliteration work so well to read out loud.

In addition, I really liked the illustrations. Max is a bright blue at and the other characters and objects are brightly colored too in yellows, greens, pinks, and reds. The illustrations are whimsical in nature and capture the essence of Max's antics perfectly. MAX ATTACKS is her first children's book, but she's done lots of other artwork for ads, magazines, products, and more.

MAX ATTACKS is a fun book that's perfect for bedtime and storytime. 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, June 6, 2019

Review: Very Valentine - Take Two!

Summary: Poignant, funny, warm, and red hot, Very Valentine is a wonderful treat for Adriana Trigiani fans—a “delightful” (Boston Globe), “romance-soaked novel” (Marie Claire) from much adored playwright, screenwriter, documentary filmmaker, and New York Times bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife, All the Stars in the Heavens and The Supreme Macaroni Company. The adventures of an extraordinary and unforgettable woman as she attempts to rescue her family’s struggling shoe business and find love at the same time, Very Valentine sweeps the reader from the streets of Manhattan to the picturesque hills of Italy. Here is yet another novel from the incomparable Trigiani that will steal your heart. -- Harper

I realized last week when I re-read VERY VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani on my train ride to New York and Book Expo that it's been 10 years since it first came out. That's kind of hard to believe, but I wanted to re-read this novel before the movie comes out. Yes -- you read that right! Very Valentine the movie will be on Lifetime this Saturday (June 8th) at 8:00 pm EST!!!

I looked back at my review of VERY VALENTINE from February 8, 2009; and much of what I said then is still true today. The book definitely stands the test of time, and it's a fantastic coming-of-age story about a late twenty-something woman. I'm not going to rehash my thoughts since they are still relevant... so if you want to learn more, then click through the link above. But suffice it to say that they novel is about family, love, food, wine, Italy, shoes! And it's written like only Adriana can do. What more can you really ask for?

One thing I do want to mention is that VERY VALENTINE would be a perfect book club selection. There is a reading guide with twenty-two questions (that just might be a record), and I promise that there is plenty to discuss. Some of the themes you might explore include family dynamics, aging, finding one's self, sibling rivalries, secrets, traditions and love. Plus, you could totally serve lots of wine and Italian food. It would definitely be a book club meeting for the ages!

Over the last ten years, Adriana has written a lot of books including two more in the Valentine series -- BRAVO, VALENTINE and THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY. I have adored all of these books and grown to love these characters, and I'm so excited to see Valentine (and her family and boyfriends) come to life on the screen! And rumor has it that there will be more Valentine books made into movies.  Adriana is one of my very favorite authors (and truth be told, people) in the entire world, and I just love that her books are finally being shared to an even wider audience. It's just so exciting!

Just last week, Kathy (Bermudaonion) and I were lucky enough to visit Adriana over coffee and pastries. Do I even need to say that it was the highlight of Book Expo for us? We talked books, movies, kids, and more as we always do; however, this time Adriana gave us lipstick lessons! She's known for her gorgeous lips and lipstick colors, and she provided much needed help with colors and application methods to Kathy and me. Seriously though, this woman can do anything and everything -- she's amazing! Check out Kathy and me (and Adriana) after our makeup lesson!
I can barely wait until Saturday evening to see Very Valentine at 8:00 pm EST on Lifetime. It's going to be an amazing movie! Make sure you also get a copy of the movie tie-in paperback -- it includes recipes!!!!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had an amazing book week even if it didn't show up in my mailbox (although I did get some fun kids' books! I spent three days in New York at Book Expo... but you'll hear more about that later over the next week or so.


SOLVING FOR M by Jennifer Swender came from Crown Books for Young Readers

BUILD YOUR OWN THEME PARK by Lizz Lunney came from Andrews McMeel

What was in your mailbox?