Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: Identity Crisis by Jean Hackensmith


When Brian Koski is forced to resign from the police force, he goes into business as a private investigator. His first clients are Jeff and Melody Patten, who hire Brian to deal with a man who is stalking their daughter. Collin Lanaski insists that their daughter, Angela, is his own daughter, Courtney, who supposedly died in a car crash while he was deployed to the Middle East.

Identity Crisis by Jean Hackensmith is a great mystery that kept me turning the pages wondering what was really going on. This main storyline of Brian's attempt to keep Collin away from Angela, and his subsequent search for the girl once Collin actually kidnaps her, provided plenty of suspense. Brian's second big case, in which he searches for the long-lost daughter of an elderly couple, adds some variety to the novel, which was nice.

This is actually the second book in the B.K. Investigations series, but it definitely stands alone. I have not read the first book, which is evidently about the case that forces Brian to resign at the start of this novel. But there was enough background information that I didn't feel like I missed anything.

Just about all of the characters are likeable and genuine. The truth stayed hidden for me for a long time. There was a bit of action, but mostly it's the suspense that kept me going. Overall, it was an engaging, suspenseful novel that kept my attention throughout and made me care about the characters.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Visit Jean Hackensmith's website

Watch the book trailer:



This review was written based on a copy of Identity Crisis that I received from Pump Up Your Book in exchange for an honest review. This review includes Amazon Affiliate links.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Week in Review and High Summer Readathon Recap


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Good morning! I hope you've had a great week. I'm actually on vacation today, so this will be a quick post before I head to the beach!

Starting with reading this week, I participated in the High Summer Read-a-Thon hosted by Michelle at Seasons of Reading. I finished reading  The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett. Then I read 104 pages in The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer. I'm hoping to read more of that on the beach this week!

C read The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. And M read Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel.

I did write one review, as well: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

Now it's time to hit the beach!

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline



On the brink of being kicked out of another foster home, 17-year-old Molly Ayer starts doing community service in the home of 91-year-old Vivian Daly. Her assignment is to help Vivian clean out her attic, but soon it's apparent that Vivian merely wants to look through her old things and remember her past. This past started with a young girl who was uprooted from Ireland to live in New York City with her family, and then soon after, loaded onto a train with other orphans bound for new homes in the Midwest.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline alternates between Molly's story in the present, and her interactions with elderly Vivian, and Vivian's story in the past, which shows how she came to be a widow living in Maine at the end of her life. Both stories are compelling and heart-wrenching, and the switching between them is easy to follow. There are many similarities between their experiences as orphans and as minorities of their time ~ Vivian was an Irish girl coming to America in the 1920s, and Molly is a Penobscot Indian who feels like an outsider as well. Neither feels like they have a place where they belong.

I really loved Orphan Train. I had never heard of these trains that took orphaned children from the cities and left them with whoever would take them in the Midwest. While it's nice to think of the children who fulfilled a couple's desire for a child, it's quite horrifying to think of the children who were taken in by couples who were merely looking for a farm hand or seamstress or whatever they needed for their particular business.

A beautiful combination of historical and contemporary fiction, I highly recommend Orphan Train.

My Rating: 5/5

Visit the author's website
Orphan Train reading group guide

This review was written based on a copy of Orphan Train that I borrowed from my mom. :-)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Week in Review



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It's Monday again! My work week is going to be crazy ~ at least for the first few days as we work toward a deadline on Wednesday. I'm still hoping to be able to relax in the evenings with a book.

Reviews
Last week, I wrote two reviews. One was a fun picture book called Harry and the Hot Lava by Chris Robertson. The other was a new contemporary novel called One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I really enjoyed both of them, so check out my reviews!

This week, I have one review scheduled for Tuesday. I hope to write another for later in the week too.

Reading
I finished reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This was an excellent novel about the orphan children who were taken from the city in the early 1900s and put on a train to the midwest, where they were given to basically anyone who wanted them for whatever reason ~ whether to love as their child or to put them to work. I hadn't heard about this before, so it was definitely an eye-opening novel.

I'm now about halfway through The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett, which I am enjoying.

I'm participating in the High Summer Read-a-Thon hosted by Michelle at Seasons of Reading this week, so I'm hoping to finish The Bookman's Tale and then I'm thinking about reading the first book or two  in The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer that my son read.

Update on the kids' reading
C read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. It was the Junior Classics version that we picked up in the $1 section at Target. He really liked it and started on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (also the Junior Classics version) as well.

M hasn't been reading much this week. I think I'm going to take her to the library and see if we can find anything that piques her interest. I may see if I can find a graphic novel or something short but interesting. She really shies away from chapter books. She says they take too long to read and aren't interesting. If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes


Jess is worn out. Overwhelmed. She is barely holding it together, actually. Her husband is gone, her stepson is being bullied, and her exceptionally bright daughter may miss out on an amazing opportunity because Jess is broke. Ed, on the other hand, is wealthy. At least for now. He's being investigated for insider trading, so there's a good chance that he's going to lose everything and possibly end up in jail.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes is the story of how these two very different people end up on a multi-day road trip with Jess's two kids and her huge dog. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, so we get to spend time in the minds of Jess, Ed, Nicky (the stepson) and Tanzie (the daughter). This actually works very well and doesn't get complicated. Each has their own voice and it helps to feel more connected to the characters by hearing what they are thinking.

This is my first Moyes book, but I doubt it will be my last. One Plus One is a very character-driven story about four people with individual struggles who come together for a short time and end up in a better place in the end. Themes of poverty, abandonment, living up to a parent's expectations, the difficulty of supporting a gifted child and bullying are all interwoven into a more personal story of family ~ both for Jess and her kids and for Ed.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction about family and the everyday struggles that many face, I highly recommend One Plus One.

My rating: 5/5

Visit the author's website

This review was written based on a copy of One Plus One that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This post includes Amazon affiliate links.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: Harry and the Hot Lava by Chris Robertson


As a mother, I am familiar with the game that has my children setting up obstacle courses in the family room, and then jumping from couch to pillow to cushion to chair and back to the couch without touching the shark-invested water, or perhaps lava, that is the floor. It's a fun game ~ until they try to play it at the grocery store!

Harry and the Hot Lava is a sizzling new picture book by Chris Robertson about a little boy with a big imagination who loves to play this Hot Lava game too. But with Harry, we get to see the lava of his imagination in shocking color throughout the book. In addition to Harry's wonderful face and gestures, Robertson uses text in various shapes and sizes to add a whimsical and fun feel to the book. He really takes the reader into Harry's imaginative world.

This is a wonderfully simple picture book with vivid illustrations that will definitely appeal to young kids, especially those with an imagination like Harry's.

Connect with Chris Robertson on his website, Twitter, and Facebook.
Read my review of My Yellow Umbrella by Chris Robertson

This review was written based on an advanced copy of Harry and the Hot Lava that I received from the author in exchange for an honest review. This review includes Amazon affiliate links.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Week in Review

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Thanks for stopping by! I hope you had a nice week. Work has been very busy but I got a lot of time for reading in the evenings, which was nice.

Giveaway
I have a giveaway running for a few more days. If you enjoy memoirs, check it out! It's a memoir written by Nelson Mandela's personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, called Good Morning, Mr. Mandela. I haven't read it yet, but it certainly sounds interesting. There aren't many entries yet, so check it out and enter today!

Reviews
Last week, I managed to write one review (I was hoping to write two). The one I completed is for The Curtain Call Caper by Christy Barritt and Kathy Applebee. It's a fun middle-grade detective novel.

Reading
I finished reading Identity Crisis, a detective novel by Jean Hackensmith. That review will be up next week for the book tour.

Now I'm about halfway through Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. I'm really enjoying it and am disappointed I won't make it to my July book club discussion about it.

Next up, I think I'll read a couple children's books I have for review, and I hope to start The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett.

Update on the kids' reading
I haven't updated about the kids recently. C has done a lot of reading this summer. I often find him rereading books from his shelf, but he has also gotten a few new books. Most recently, he read the first two books in The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer. He loved them and wants to read the next in the series, so we'll likely get that soon.

M isn't such a voracious reader. She did finish a Junie B. Jones book that she had been reading, and she's about halfway through the Frozen Junior Novel. Last night, I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to her. She has seen the movie, but hasn't read the book. I must admit that I haven't either, so I'm hoping we make it through the whole thing and maybe move on to the next one this summer.

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: Curtain Call Caper by Christy Barritt and Kathy Applebee


Gabby St. Claire is extremely excited about the upcoming school play. She and her best friend are determined to make the most of it, even though the high school kids will likely get all the big roles. They just want the chance to be in the show. But it seems like someone, or something, is trying to make sure the show does not go on. Could it be a student or a teacher trying to sabotage the show? Or is it a ghost? Gabby decides to get to the bottom of it and save the show.

The Curtain Call Caper by Christy Barritt and Kathy Applebee is a spin-off of Barritt’s adult Squeaky Clean Mysteries series about crime scene cleaner Gabby St. Claire. I haven't read that series, but I will definitely check it out. Gabby is an interesting character, at least when she's in middle school. It would be fun to see what she's like as an adult!

A bit of a klutz, Gabby is a kind girl and a good friend. Unfortunately, she has to deal with middle grade cliques and all the challenges that go along with that, but the story doesn't get too serious. It has a pretty good upbeat feeling throughout. There are plenty of characters to look up to, both kids and adults. And the mystery of why spotlights are dropping and scripts are missing is engaging.

Overall, this was a fun middle grade mystery that should appeal to late elementary and early middle school readers. There's nothing too heavy or objectionable in this one. And there's a free novel study pack available for teachers and homeschoolers, if you want to add it to your curriculum!

My Rating: 4/5

This review was written based on a copy of The Curtain Call Caper that I received from the author in exchange for an honest review. This review includes Amazon affiliate links.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Giveaway: Good Morning, Mr. Mandela: A Memoir by Zelda la Grange


Here's your chance to win the first book written by a close confidante and member of Nelson Mandela’s inner circle. From the publisher:
Tender, heartfelt, and intimate, GOOD MORNING, MR. MANDELA: A Memoir tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s long-time personal assistant and “honorary granddaughter” Zelda la Grange. In this revealing book la Grange pays tribute to Nelson Mandela as she knew him—a compassionate teacher who taught her the most valuable lessons of her life. La Grange introduces readers to the Mandela who was as kind and generous as we all imagine, but who was also stubborn and surprisingly human. She also gives us insight into Mandela’s relationships with fans and contacts, both famous and infamous: from Queen Elizabeth, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt, Bono, and Morgan Freeman to Muammar Gaddafi.
I will be reviewing this book later this summer, but for now, the publisher has graciously offered a copy of Good Morning, Mr. Mandela to one of my readers (U.S. addresses only).

Please complete the following Rafflecopter to enter to win. One winner will receive a copy of the book directly from the publisher.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 7, 2014

Week in Review

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Good morning. I hope you had a great week, and if you're in the U.S., a great holiday! We spent the afternoon and evening of the 4th at a local amphitheater, watching the NC Symphony and then fireworks. It was a lot of fun, although very hot since we were out in the sun for hours. Then we went to a great pool party on the 5th. It was a nice long weekend.

Reviews and Posts
Last week, I put together my June Month in Review post. I actually managed to do it within the first few days of the month!

I also published a review of Honolulu by Alan Brennert, a wonderful historical fiction novel.

This week, I have two reviews and a giveaway planned, so be sure to check back or follow me on Facebook to keep up with my posts!

Reading
I finished reading One Plus One: A Novel by Jojo Moyes, and I really enjoyed it. I hadn't read anything by her before.

Now I'm reading Identity Crisis, a very suspenseful detective novel by Jean Hackensmith. It's one of those books where I want to jump ahead to the end to see what the heck is really going on! But I'm trying hard not to do that!!

I may read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline next. That's my July book club selection. I can't make it to the meeting this month, but I'd still like to read the book since I've heard good things about it.

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!