Wednesday, October 31, 2018

TLC Book Tours: Lifesaving for Beginners by Anne Edelstein

Title: Lifesaving for Beginners
Author: Anne Edelstein
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Publish Date: November 7, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "When Anne Edelstein was forty-two, her mother, a capable swimmer in good health, drowned while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Caring for two small children of her own, Anne suddenly found herself grieving not only for her emotionally distant mother but also for her beloved younger brother Danny, who had killed himself violently over a decade before. She finds herself wrestling not only with the past and her family's legacy of mental illness, but also with the emotional well-being of her children. Part memoir and part meditation on joy and grief, the book will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to come to terms with their parents, their siblings, their children, and their place in the world."

My Two Cents:

In "Lifesaving for Beginners," Anne Edelstein loses her mother, a difficult thing for anyone but what happens when your relationship has always been hot and cold with the person who dies. What if you are, as someone in this book puts it, mismatched? How do you rectify your feelings while guarding your heart? This book explores the author's road to peace and closure, two things which can be very difficult to find!

When her mother dies for unclear reasons on what is almost like a second honeymoon for her parents, Anne isn't sure how to cope. She is flooded with thoughts of other deaths she has felt the loss of like her brother and her uncle. Although her mother's death had a different cause, old wounds are still reopened throughout the book.

This book is a slow rumination on the pain of loss even of someone who caused a lot of pain. As this book shows, death is hard to cope with no matter how it comes. The pacing of the book sometimes did not work for me but there are some really beautiful descriptions and insights that kept me going.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review: How Do You Take a Bath? by Kate McMullan, Sydney Hanson (Illustrations)

Title: How Do You Take a Bath?
Author: Sydney Hanson (Illustrations)
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf for Young Readers
Publish Date: October 23, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "How do YOU take a bath?
Does your mama comb your fur?
Do you shake off all your dirt?
Do you splash and flap and quack?
Do the birdies peck your back?

Follow elephants, pigs, monkeys, hippos, and more in this charming rhyming picture book from veteran author Kate McMullan. How does a pig take a bath? It sinks in the mud! What about a chicken? It thrashes about in dust! And a cat? Why, it licks itself clean, of course! Sydney Hanson's adorable illustrations toggle neatly between animals in nature grooming themselves and humorous depictions of children attempting the animals' bathing tactics. By the end of the book, the child finally makes his way to the bathtub, no mud baths or lick baths about it!"

My Two Cents:

"How Do You Take a Bath?" is an adorable story about how different animals, including humans, take baths. It is the perfect book to urge my girls to take a bath (sometimes an easy project, sometimes not an easy project). Filled with a nice rhyme and rhythm, this book is catchy!

The highlight for me was the illustrations! They are great and my girls love pointing out the different animals and talking about how each of the animals takes a bath. This book definitely got a thumbs up from both of my three year olds!


Monday, October 29, 2018

Cover Reveal: Genevieve Graham's "At The Mountain's Edge"

SYNOPSIS for “At the Mountain’s Edge”:

From bestselling author Genevieve Graham comes a sweeping new historical novel of love, tragedy, and redemption set during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

In 1897, the discovery of gold in the desolate reaches of the Yukon has the world abuzz with excitement, and thousands of prospectors swarm to the north seeking riches the likes of which have never been seen before. 

For Liza Peterson and her family, the gold rush is a chance for them to make a fortune by moving their general store business from Vancouver to Dawson City, the only established town in the Yukon. For Constable Ben Turner, a recent recruit of the North-West Mounted Police, upholding the law in a place overrun with guns, liquor, prostitutes, and thieves is an opportunity to escape a dark past and become the man of integrity he has always wanted to be. But the long, difficult journey over icy mountain passes and whitewater rapids is much more treacherous than Liza or Ben imagined, and neither is completely prepared for the forbidding north.

As Liza’s family nears the mountain’s peak, a catastrophe strikes with fatal consequences, and not even the NWMP can help. Alone and desperate, Liza finally reaches Dawson City, only to find herself in a different kind of peril. Meanwhile, Ben, wracked with guilt over the accident on the trail, sees the chance to make things right. But just as love begins to grow, new dangers arise, threatening to separate the couple forever.

Inspired by history as rich as the Klondike’s gold, At the Mountain’s Edge is an epic tale of romance and adventure about two people who must let go of the past not only to be together, but also to survive.

Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Review: The Girl Who Wouldn't Die by Marnie Riches

Title: The Girl Who Wouldn't Die
Author: Marnie Riches
Format: Ebook
Source: Author

What's the Story?:


When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer.

But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear.

And the killer has a very special part for George to play…"

My Two Cents:

"The Girl Who Wouldn't Die" is the story of Georgina, called George by very select friends, who falls into solving who bombed the library at the University of Amsterdam. A skilled criminologist, George is committed to solving the crime but she may soon find herself in the line of fire. This was a good thriller that kept me on my toes.

There is something about fall that makes me crave thrillers. I'm not one for scary horror stories but something about having your heart beat a little faster during this time of year. This book definitely fit the bill. Georgina is a character that you will fall for very quickly. She is sharp and imperfect but committed to a job well done. I loved following her through this story. There are also some great secondary characters like Ella.

The writing of the book is good. The thriller is well paced although it takes awhile to figure out how things come together and where the events are going. This book feels like a slow burn in the beginning but really heats up midway through. The book is told through three different lenses and at first, I was fixated on figuring out how they were all connected. All I have to say is that patience pays off and when they come together, they work great.

I also have to mention the setting of the book. So many times, the setting of a thriller is really just background. Here Amsterdam itself becomes a great character in of itself. I loved all of the detail and how you are able to picture Georgina's world because of it.

Overall, this was a good thriller. This is only the first book in the Georgina McKenzie series and I am looking forward to more!


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: The Girl from Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

Title: The Girl from Berlin
Author: Ronald H. Balson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: October 9, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…

Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna―though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.

What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope―the ending of which is yet to be written."

My Two Cents:

"The Girl from Berlin" is the fifth book in Ronald H. Balson's Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart series. It is a story told in dual times. One takes place in the present day as Liam and Catherine are trying to solve the mystery and help a friend in Italy. The other takes place as the Nazis are consolidating power in Germany and Ada, a young woman, is making her way through the ranks of an orchestra that will take her all over Europe.

The story in this book is fascinating although I was much more interested in Ada's story. She captures the fear of watching all that she has known change under the Nazis as well as her excitement to be a part of the orchestra and to travel to places she has never been before. She watches as the continent of Europe is marred by war. The present day story was okay but did not have the same draw for me as Ada's story.

The writing of the book was alright. There were many places in the book both in the present day story and the past story where too much was told rather than showed. It worked okay for the past story where Ada told her story in first person point of view so that the telling rather than showing almost gave her part of the book a diary-like feel. It did not work so well for the present-day story and really made the narrative drag in some places.

This was an interesting story but it would have been nice for the detail to have been better woven in.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: The Burn Zone: A Memoir by Renee Linnell

Title: The Burn Zone: A Memoir
Author: Renee Linnell
Format: Paperback
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publish Date: October 9, 2018
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "After seven years of faithfully following her spiritual teacher, Renee Linnell finally realized she was in a cult and had been severely brainwashed. But how did that happen to someone like her? She had graduated magna cum laude with a double degree. She had traveled to nearly fifty countries alone before she turned thirty-five. She was a surf model and a professional Argentine tango dancer. She had started five different companies and had an MBA from NYU. How could someone like her end up brainwashed and in a cult?"

My Two Cents:

"The Burn Zone" is a memoir by Renee Linnell, a smart woman who ends up in a cult. Cults have always been fascinating to me. Whenever I read about them, I always wonder about whether or not I would be able to recognize what I was walking into and getting away from it or would I be sucked in? Linnell's story shows just how easily it can happen. This was a fascinating memoir that was scary and absorbing but luckily, ends up well.

We all want to be accepted and needed. Both of those things are such basic human desires. Linnell had an incredibly difficult childhood and young adulthood and was looking for a path to being accepted and loved. She thinks she finds the path to that in a meditation group. The leader and her co-leader start out giving Linnell whats she thinks she needs but as she gets deeper into the group, the leaders get more controlling. I thought the author did a really good job of capturing the push and pull of wanting to totally belong while not being sure of this path.

The writing of the book was good. It's nicely paced and you're rooting for Linnell along the way. She was a great person to follow through a situation like this. One thing that tripped me up was the timeline of the book jumps back and forth between different points in Linnell's life. At some points, it wasn't clear what time the book was talking about, which was a little confusing. Overall, this was a great memoir!


Thursday, October 11, 2018

HFVBT Review: Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd

Title: Lady of a Thousand Treasures
Author: Sandra Byrd
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publish Date: October 9, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.

The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured."

My Two Cents:

In "Lady of a Thousand Treasures," Eleanor is struggling. Her father has passed away and her uncle is ill. She wants to keep the family business alive but it's the 1870s and women don't have an easy time of it. Can Eleanor find a way to keep the business while protecting her heart from a man that she once loved. Part romance, part mystery; this book had a lot to like!

Eleanor is a great main character. She's smart. She's driven. Her father and uncle trained her keen eye to look for priceless antiquities and she loves the job. Although the antiquities business at the time was rarely a woman's game, Eleanor wants to keep her family's business going. You're rooting for her the whole time!

This book has a fantastic romance in it. Enter Harry, who Eleanor once had a romance with. When the book opens, Eleanor wants to do everything to keep her heart intact. But the chemistry between them is uncanny and I found myself wanting them to fall for each other through all the difficulties they go through throughout the book!

The book also has a good dose of mystery, which made for the book moving very quickly. I was fascinated by the world of antiquities collecting back in Victorian times. It was a brand new world for me and made for some good fodder for the central mystery in this book (don't want to give anything away).

This was a great ride and another good one from Sandra Byrd!


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo

Title: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow 
Author: Alyssa Palombo 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.

But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.

Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all."

My Two Cents:

"The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel" is a retelling of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." I've never read the story but am familiar through it from the numerous movies and books related to the story. I was looking forward for a fresh take on the story and that you definitely got. I was also expecting something different, something perhaps more creepier or a little more supernatural. You get a bit of magic but it is subtle. Most of the book had to do with the romance between Ichabod Crane and the title character, Katrina Van Tassel.

Forbidden love stories are always attractive to me. I was interested to see Palombo's take on the Ichabod/ Katrina duo. Much of the book seems to follow a very standard guy and girl meet, fall in love, girl is promised to another but can't let go of the one she loves. Then everything changes one night but it takes us awhile to get there (like a long while). Once everything changes, the book stars moving much faster.

The book isn't scary but does have a gothic feel to it, which I liked. One of the high points of the book was the setting. I was just in New England for vacation and the author really captured the feeling of the location.

Overall, I wish the first part of the book were a little more streamlined but the atmosphere is still worth the trip.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

HFVBT Review: The Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland

Title: The Game of Hope
Author: Sandra Gulland 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Viking Books 
Publish Date: June 26, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Paris, 1798. Hortense de Beauharnais is engrossed in her studies at a boarding school for aristocratic girls, most of whom have suffered tragic losses during the tumultuous days of the French Revolution. She loves to play and compose music, read and paint, and daydream about Christophe, her brother's dashing fellow officer. But Hortense is not an ordinary girl. Her beautiful, charming mother, Josephine, has married Napoleon Bonaparte, soon to become the most powerful man in France, but viewed by Hortense as a coarse, unworthy successor to her elegant father, who was guillotined during the Terror.

Where will Hortense's future lie? For Napoleon regards all his family as pawns to be used in his rise."

My Two Cents:

"The Game of Hope" is the story of Hortense, who is mostly concerned with managing her friendships and getting through school. This is made a lot more difficult by her stepfather, Napoleon Bonaparte. Hortense goes to school with his sister, which makes having her own life even more difficult than it would be. Her every move is watched. While Hortense's mother, Josephine, is utterly devoted to Napoleon, Hortense regrets him taking the place of her beloved father. This was a great take on a story that I haven't heard before!

This book was a venture into the realm of YA by Sandra Gulland! I think she found a great in for younger readers to introduce them to the world of Napoleon and Josephine. Although most of the book is focused on Hortense's school life and her thoughts about what she is going through in her letters to her brother, Gulland does give a little taste of the palace intrigue surrounding Napoleon and his family and the way that Napoleon is able to ingratiate himself in France in such a way to rise to the highest heights.

This book was slow paced in some parts but I really liked seeing how Hortense deals with normal, every day school girl drama as well as some much deeper drama as Napoleon climbs to power. Overall, I liked the story and liked seeing Napoleon and Josephine in a different light than I have read about them in before.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Review: The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

Title: The Kennedy Debutante
Author: Kerri Maher
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: October 2, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "London, 1938. The effervescent "It girl" of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy moves in rarified circles, rubbing satin-covered elbows with some of the 20th century's most powerful figures. Eager to escape the watchful eye of her strict mother, Rose, the antics of her older brothers, Jack and Joe, and the erratic behavior of her sister Rosemary, Kick is ready to strike out on her own and is soon swept off her feet by Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire. But their love is forbidden, as Kick's devout Catholic family and Billy's staunchly Protestant one would never approve their match. When war breaks like a tidal wave across her world, Billy is ripped from her arms as the Kennedys are forced to return to the States. Kick gets work as a journalist and joins the Red Cross to get back to England, where she will have to decide where her true loyalties lie--with family or with love . . ."

My Two Cents:

When I read books like "The Kennedy Debutante," I always wonder why there isn't more historical fiction about the Kennedy family. To some degree, the family still looms large in the American psyche. There are still Kennedys in Congress and on the world stage. It's hard to give the "right" treatment to such famous subjects that loom so large in our collective memories but as Maher shows in this book, it can definitely be done and be done well.

Our main character, Kick, may not be the most famous Kennedy but she is definitely interesting and very worthy of her own story. I loved seeing how she goes from high society in London to trying to carve out a life for herself outside of riding on the Kennedy name. She is definitely a woman before her time - willing to put herself out there, take a stand, and make her own way in the world.

I loved all of the historical detail that the author packed in and the wonderful story that she was able to weave. This book is a debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive. This book will definitely appeal to those who avidly follow the Kennedys (like me) and those who don't know much about them at all. I can't wait to see what else Maher writes!


Review: Giraffe Problems by Jory John, Lane Smith (Illustrations)

Title: Giraffe Problems
Author: Jory John, Lane Smith (Illustrations)
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: September 25, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Can you guess what's making this giraffe self-conscious? Could it be . . . HIS ENORMOUS NECK Yes, it's exactly that--how on earth did you figure it out?

Cyrus the giraffe can't understand why his neck is as long and bendy and, well, ridiculous as it is. No other animal has a neck this absurd. He's tried disguising it, dressing it up, strategically hiding it behind bushes--honestly, anything you can think of, he's tried.

Just when he has exhausted his neck-hiding options and is about to throw in the towel, a turtle swoops in (well, ambles in, very slowly) and helps him understand that his neck has a purpose, and looks excellent in a bow tie."

My Two Cents:

Like Nora Ephron, Cyrus the giraffe feels bad about his neck. Yeah, he's a giraffe but he wants nothing to do with his super long neck. When he meets a new little friend in the form of a turtle, Cyrus realizes that having a super long neck is actually quite a good thing. This is a sweet story about how friends bring out the best of us and how important self-acceptance is.

As many of you know, I have toddler twins and thank goodness, they love books! Story time is a big deal in our house and this is such a perfect book. Between the good messages, the sweet friendship, and the great illustrations, this book has quickly become a bedtime story favorite in our household. There is always something more to talk about when reading the book and it's become a great jumping off point for having age appropriate discussions about self-acceptance and being a good friend.

This is a wonderful story and it got thumbs up from my whole family!

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