Category Archives: book tour
Death at Carp High
by Jeremy Gold
Jake Brown Mysteries, Book One
Jake Brown is your average, above-average kid. He generally has his mind on the usual things high school seniors think about: girls, avoiding Spanish class, girls, pizza, surfing, girls, and of course, girls. None of that changes when he and his best friend, Dean, go surfing and find a body with a hole in its head floating beyond the waves. Suddenly, Jake’s life is about to change, some of it in a good way, some of it, not so much.
Shortly after “the big discovery,” Sydney, a cross country teammate of Jake’s, asks him to go to Morp—Prom spelled backwards—a Sadie Hawkins-style dance where the girls ask out the boys. As if life isn’t exciting enough trying to solve a murder, it looks like Jake is about to have his fondest wish granted—a real, live girlfriend. Despite Sydney’s obvious attraction to him, it takes a little work to convince Jake the attraction is real. Luckily, Sydney is very convincing.
In the beginning, Jake and Dean try keeping Lily and Sydney out of harm’s way. Their concern for their girlfriends doesn’t last long. Eventually, the four of them become entangled in clues—and making sure dire threats from their prime suspect don’t pan out. Jake might not say he’s gotten himself into a life-threating situation but not wanting to say it doesn’t make it any less true.
“Death at Carp High” has as many peaks and troughs as a winter swell at Rincon, and it’s all Jake and Dean can do to avoid wiping out.
About the Author
Jeremy Gold is seventeen years old…in his mind. He lives in Carpinteria, California, a small beachside town, ten miles south of its more celebrated sister, Santa Barbara. He loves hiking, mountain bike riding, and of course, writing. Death at Carp High is the first in the six-part Jake Brown mystery series.
Jeremy and his wife, Calla, have been married since 1979. Any resemblance between their 21-year-old son, Dan, and Jake Brown is purely…understandable.
This is the Water
by Yannick Murphy
In a quiet New England community members of the swim team and their dedicated parents are preparing for a home meet. The most that Annie, a swim-mom of two girls, has to worry about is whether or not she fed her daughters enough carbs the night before; why her husband, Thomas, hasn’t kissed her in ages; and why she can’t get over the loss of her brother who shot himself a few years ago. But Annie’s world is about to change. From the bleachers, looking down at the swimmers, a dark haired man watches a girl. No one notices him. Annie is busy getting to know Paul, who flirts with Annie despite the fact that he’s married to her friend Chris, and despite Annie’s greying hair and crow’s feet. Chris is busy trying to discover whether or not Paul is really having an affair, and the swimmers are trying to shave milliseconds off their race times by squeezing themselves into skin-tight bathing suits and visualizing themselves winning their races.
But when a girl on the team is murdered at a nearby highway rest stop-the same rest stop where Paul made a gruesome discovery years ago-the parents suddenly find themselves adrift. Paul turns to Annie for comfort. Annie finds herself falling in love. Chris becomes obsessed with unmasking the killer.
With a serial killer now too close for comfort, Annie and her fellow swim-parents must make choices about where their loyalties lie. As a series of startling events unfold, Annie discovers what it means to follow your intuition, even if love, as well as lives, could be lost.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
It takes a little while to get into the style of this novel; the story is oddly told in second person and in the present tense. While this is something rarely seen in a traditional novel, it makes for a different, and sometimes intense, reading experience. But once I was sucked in to the story, I couldn’t put it down.
Most of the book takes place in or around a swimming pool. The main character, Annie, is the mother of two young girls who are competitive swimmers. The man who is the killer spends a lot of time at the pool too, watching the meets and practices and carefully choosing his next victim. While there’s never any mystery as to who the killer is, that doesn’t change the fact that the reader gets chills when getting into his mind and actually seeing him describe committing the murders.
For the most part, I think this book would have been better with the exclusion of several characters and subplots, but the addition of some others. As an example, we do not hear anything about a murdered girl’s parents and their journey through grief, but you see a random swim dad’s thoughts about how his boys are swimming in the practice. This dad never came up again in the rest of the novel, and the paragraphs from his point of view were apropos of nothing. In addition to the cheating subplot, which I felt didn’t add much or develop the story, paragraphs full of swimming jargon and descriptions of nature gave the novel an overall bloated feeling.
Where this book did work was the way that the unique narration style allowed the reader to get into the heads of characters better. In addition to seeing Annie’s neuroses, we see her feelings of rejection from her husband, guilt about how she sometimes treats her daughters, and desire when she’s around the guy she is starting an affair with. Though Annie is the main character, we also see into the mind of the killer, and his matter of fact way of describing things is quite chilling.
As I said, this book is different from the start, and I can tell that it’s one that won’t appeal to all readers. If you can stick with it, I think you’ll be happy with the ending, even though to me it was a bit anticlimactic. This writer has talent, for sure.
About the Author
Yannick Murphy is the author of The Call; Signed, Mata Hari; Here They Come; and The Sea of Trees, as well as two story collections and several children’s books. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a Chesterfield Screenwriting Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Laurence L. & Thomas Winship/PEN New England Award. Her work has appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She lives in Vermont with her husband and children.
Find out more about Yannick at her website.
Help for the Haunted
by John Searles
It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping “haunted souls” find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church’s red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.
As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family’s past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
There were three things about the description of this book that made me want to read it: it’s a murder mystery, it has a touch of the supernatural, and it’s told from the point of view of a child. All three of these things blended together beautifully and really made the book a fun read for me.
Sylvie Mason is slowly trying to put her life back together after the murder of her parents. A freshman in high school, she’s currently in the guardianship of older sister Rose, who has been volatile in the past to say the least. As Sylvie tries to work through her jumbled feelings about the night of the murder, she eventually also starts to work out what the truth really is, both about the murders and her parents.
Sylvie is 14 years old and while at times she can seem wise beyond her years, she also still has some of her childlike innocence, even in the face of the life she has led so far. Rose, four years older than Sylvie, was named for her mother but couldn’t be any more different than her. While Rose had a lot of arguments and misunderstandings with her parents during her teenage years, for the most part she never took it out on her younger sister. Rose and Sylvie are such different girls though, that it was impossible for them to always see eye to eye.
The Masons held an unusual job: they traveled the country offering “help for the haunted,” bringing peace to those claiming to be plagued by some demon or spirit. They often brought their work home with them, and as they became more well known, it made the girls’ lives tougher. Kids teased Sylvie, telling her that her parents were crackpots and so she must be too. But it wasn’t only kids that were detractors for the Masons’ work; they had plenty of adults against what they were doing as well–within their own family as a matter of fact. All of these different aspects made it a challenge for the reader to figure out the motive and killer.
In the end, I was quite surprised by the truth–I can definitely say I didn’t see it coming. While in a way I think it was disappointing, in another way I really appreciate what the author did. Sometimes bringing something out of left field doesn’t work in a book, but when it ties everything together, it can work nicely.
I was left with a ton of unanswered questions, but then again, so was Sylvie. I enjoyed going on her journey for the truth and can only hope she puts her life together to have some semblance of normalcy for the future.
About the Author
John Searles is the author of the national bestsellers Boy Still Missing and Strange but True. He frequently appears as a book critic on NBC’s Today show and CBS’s The Early Show. He is the Editor-at-Large of Cosmopolitan. His essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other national newspapers and magazines. He lives in New York City and can be found on Facebook and also on Twitter: @searlesbooks.
Special offer for book clubs:
Book clubs that sign up to chat with John Searles about Help for the Haunted could win a tote bag of books for each member of their book club! Find out more details about John Searles’ goal to speak to a book club in each state of the United States over at Book Club Girl!
by Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark
Not too long ago, in a town that, depending on your current location, is either not super far or actually quite close… (insert Star Wars theme music here…)
It is a time of chaotic hormones.
Two nerdy gents home for winter break have discovered a female gamer at a midnight release.
During the break, the gamer trio manages to reveal the game’s secret boss, a hidden enemy with enough power to destroy anything in its path.
Pursued by other gamers who want to be the first to beat this boss, George and Katie race to level up, and, in so doing, restore decency and sexual activity to their personal galaxy…
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
As a female who plays video games (I hate the term “girl gamer”), I should be offended by a lot of the things that happen in this book; after all, a girl uses her cleavage to her advantage in the very first chapter. While I definitely hated all the ridiculous stereotypes this book is filled with, I have to admit that this book did have an original twist on boy meets girl and romance.
First off, let me say if you aren’t what some would call a nerd, you will not understand this book, much less enjoy it. There are references to nerd culture, video games, movies, books, and the like in practically every line. I would call myself a geek, and there were some parts even I didn’t understand. This is one thing that massively bothered me, actually: every single character in this book has snarky, geeky comments to make, which are basically the only things that come out of their mouths. The main characters sounded more like 12 and 13 year olds with all the raunchy insults they were throwing around, and that is not good because they are supposed to be in college.
Let’s talk a little about our main characters. Katie, George, and Lanyon are home during their respective semester breaks. Katie is a loner who would rather spend her time leveling up than dressing up. George and Lanyon are lifelong best friends who probably (definitely) spend way too much time together, to the chagrin of both their love lives. All three of these people are at the game store waiting on the midnight release of the hottest new MMORPG. When Katie and George both grab for the last copy of the game, it’s not exactly a love at first sight moment. But as they spend more time together both in the real world and the online gaming one, sparks slowly start to fly and they begin dating–even if Lanyon is tagging along for every one.
As I said, this book is chock full of gamer stereotypes, so many so that I have to wonder if the authors are even gamers themselves. The characters in this novel subsist on Mountain Dew, Snickers, and Denny’s, and regularly stay up for more than 24 hours at a time in front of their consoles. Not only does this sound more like the behavior of teenagers than college students, but I feel like these kids’ parents would not be letting them get away with these kinds of things during their time at home and the holiday season. Maybe I’m just a pragmatist since I’m a parent myself.
The best thing about the book is that Katie and George’s courtship was so sweet and unique. They both really have no romantic backgrounds and no idea how to let one another know how they really feel. But, they try their best, and with the help (and hindrance) of their friends they come together without the ton of drama that YA and NA romances usually have.
I think this may be best suited for an audience a bit younger than me, though I’m glad I had the chance to read a refreshing romance for a change.
About the Authors
Sarah Daltry writes about the regular people who populate our lives. She’s written works in various genres – romance, erotica, fantasy, horror. Genre isn’t as important as telling a story about people and how their lives unfold. Sarah tends to focus on YA/NA characters but she’s been known to shake it up. Most of her stories are about relationships – romantic, familial, friendly – because love and empathy are the foundation of life. It doesn’t matter if the story is set in contemporary NY, historical Britain, or a fantasy world in the future – human beings are most interesting in the ways they interact with others. This is the principle behind all of Sarah’s stories.
Sarah has spent most of her life in school, from her BA and MA in English and writing to teaching both at the high school and college level. She also loves studying art history and really anything because learning is fun.
When Sarah isn’t writing, she tends to waste a lot of time checking Facebook for pictures of cats, shooting virtual zombies, and simply staring out the window.
She has written several books, most notably Bitter Fruits, an urban fantasy in the Eden’s Fall series, and the six-part New Adult contemporary Flowering series. Her most recent release is Primordial Dust, a YA fantasy.
Pete Clark likes writing, animals, potato chips, and cheese. Midnight Riders was his first published novel, although he can also proudly say he finally finished Helix Crashing, the fantasy novel he has been working on for over a decade. In addition, he has written Across the Barren Landscape, a collection of linked Western short stories, and Tales from Midnight’s Graveyard, a collection of non-linked horror, science fiction, and fantasy stories. He also writes plays, both dramatic and comedic.
Pete’s Website: http://punchmyselfintheface.wordpress.com
Pete’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PeteClarkAuthor
Sarah’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/SarahDaltry
Pete’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/PeteClarkBooks
PURCHASE BACKWARD COMPATIBLE
Strange and Ever After
by Susan Dennard
Something Strange and Deadly, Book 3
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
This is one of my favorite series I’ve ever read. It’s also the only steampunk type series I’ve ever read. I originally started the series because of the promise of zombies, but I got into it quickly and discovered the books were about a lot more than just that.
The final novel starts out right in the middle of where the previous book left off. This can be a problem if it has been a long time since you read the books in the series, as was the case with me. The author does drop some hints about what happened to get us up to the point where we are, but I ended up having to Google to recall who certain characters were and I still found myself a bit lost at times.
Thankfully, the action in Strange & Ever After is immediate, and I found myself once again lost in Eleanor’s world. You can tell that Eleanor has changed so much, not just over the course of the series, but actually from one book to the next. She has experienced so much loss at the hands of Marcus, that her singular fixation is on making sure he is destroyed. She doesn’t intend to let anyone get in her way, be they friend or foe.
The reader can tell Eleanor’s magic has changed her as well. She is no longer tentative about using it, even though internally she is struggling with the thought of taking it too far. Her use of necromancer magic has many effects: it physically drains her; it puts her at odds with her fellow Spirit Hunters; it makes her forget any sense of propriety she ever had. I’m not going to say I didn’t like Eleanor in this novel, but her new demeanor did take a lot of getting used to, and I felt bad for some of the interactions she had with other characters.
I’m still undecided on whether I liked the ending. I think I’m going to go back and give it a second glance and maybe change up this review a bit. I will say that I’m happy I read this series; as I stated before it’s one of my favorites from start to end. I definitely recommend it to steampunk fans, zombie fans, romance fans, and anyone who loves to see the main characters grow and change throughout a series. Very well done, Ms. Dennard.
About the Author
Mother Daughter Book Reviews is pleased to be coordinating a Book Blast for the first book in The Maisy Files mystery chapter book series by Elizabeth Woodrum, “Maisy and the Missing Mice”. Book 2 in the series, “Maisy and the Money Marauder” is coming August, 2014. If you haven’t checked out Book 1, you can grab a copy for only 99 cents from Amazon!
About the Book
Summary: Maisy Sawyer is not your average fourth grade student. She is a detective with a special skill for solving mysteries. She loves black and white mystery movies, cherry lollipops, and her dog, Reesie. When a thief known as The Black Boot steals the school’s mascots and her lollipops, Maisy sets out to solve the case. Can she help return the mice to their home in the science lab? Will she ever see her beloved lollipops again? Find out in the first book in The Maisy Files series.
PURCHASE FOR 99 CENTS
The Buzz About the Book
“Maisy and the Missing Mice is a fun chapter book featuring a smart and sassy tween girl as the title character; a solid and interesting plot featuring age-appropriate intrigue and suspense; and some terrific writing that carries the reader on a journey as a detective uncovering clues and solving the mystery of who stole the missing mice. I highly recommend this book as a read aloud book for children between the ages of 6 and 10 or for independent readers between the ages of 7 and 12 who love to read mysteries.” ~ Renee, Mother Daughter Book Reviews
“Woodrum certainly knows her target audience and does a very nice job with the character development of Maisy. This is an incredibly kid-friendly story that makes a great introduction to the genre of mystery for newly independent readers. It’s a quick page turning read that encourages kids to think outside of the box.” ~ The Children’s Book Review
“The delights from this book start with the cover art and continue with a fun story that is well-written.” ~ 5 Star Review, R. Johnson, Amazon
“My name is Kat. I am 9 years old. I would rate this a five because I like everything about it, the mystery the most. It was fun to read. My favorite part was the mystery and the end. I love this book so much. I think other kids would love it too because it has mystery and most kids would like mystery books. Most mystery books have a good mystery. I would love to read the whole series.” ~ 5 Star Review, Heather A., Amazon
“What an Amazing book. I totally love it. I admire the author dedication for writing an incredible book. While reading this book, it was very clear that author understand kids. I’ve always been an avid reader and this book is one of the best books I have read in 2014. This book grabs my attention from the very start of the book and couldn’t put it aside till I finish it.” ~ 5 Star Review, KristinT, Amazon
“I knew I would love this book simply because I knew it would remind me of the mystery books I read in my childhood. I really love how much trust the teachers and community as a whole put in Maisy. She is well deserving of their admiration as the way she finds clues and finds the mascot for the school is well thought out. This is a story any child would love to read. I hope Maisy continues to solve mysteries…” ~ 5 Star Review, Josh, Amazon
About the Author: Elizabeth Woodrum
Elizabeth Woodrum is an elementary teacher in Ohio. She came to love writing when she was in elementary school, but more recently began writing material for use in her classroom. From that writing, grew the desire to write books for the general population of children and adults alike. The Maisy Files, a children’s series, is the first series that she has published.
As a reader, Elizabeth prefers the fantasy genre, but she enjoys realistic fiction as well. Some of her favorite authors include JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, and Nicholas Sparks. Originally from Indiana, Elizabeth currently resides near Dayton, Ohio with her two pets: a cat named Butterscotch and a dog named Reese Cup.
* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *
Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)
Contest ends: August 7, 11:59 pm, 2014
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Elizabeth Woodrum and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.
About the Book
Title: A Different Kind of Safari | Author: Helen C. Hipp | Publication Date: March 19, 2013 | Publisher: A Different Kind of Safari LLC | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 5 to 10
Summary: What do you need to feel happy about being different? Based loosely on real life experiences, this heartwarming and powerful book illustrates how self-awareness, and courage help a young boy named Raymond learn the difference between seeing things as they appear to be and seeing things as they are. Feeling “different and lonely” Raymond befriends a hippo while on Safari in Africa. Unlike other grey hippos, this hippo is pink. Ray is soon carried into a world beyond labels and challenging assumptions. You will never guess what happens next!
The Inspiration Behind the Story by Helen Hipp
Inspired by real-life adventure, the story behind the story unfolded when I went on an African safari back in 2001. The trip was lead by my father whose dream was to share the safari experience with his family. Little did I know that this trip was going to incite me to write a children’s adventure book but it did.
The storyline made it appearance when my family spotted a pod of hippos and one was pink! My son Ray fourteen at the time immediately named her “Rosie”. Curious and wanting to learn more about this hippo we asked the guide many questions about hippos and hippo behavior. Specifically I wanted to know why the pink hippo stood so far outside of her pod. The familiarity of the guides answer took me by surprise, he explained that “Rosie” was tolerated but not necessarily accepted by the herd because of her differences. As a parent of a child with special needs I immediately felt a strong affiliation with Rosie’s situation as did my son Ray who has experienced his own challenges with acceptance. Inspired, I decided to share the story with the world by weaving them into a children’s adventure book that celebrates differences. The book is entitled “A Different Kind of Safari”. Find out what you can learn from Rosie the pink hippo, and how you can share those lessons with the children in your life.
The Buzz About the Book
“A timeless book, that will speak to everyone. To be enjoyed over and over again! A fun, yet very thought provoking story for all ages. If books had a satisfaction guarantee, this one would be on the top of the list. ” ~ 5 Star Review, Adden B. Chrystie, Amazon
“A Different Kind of Safari is truly a different kind of children’s book! The beautiful artwork bring a very special story to life and I am excited the book is now available in audio format for an added bonus while driving kids around town! I particularly love the message of the book, which teaches us to celebrate our unique differences through Rosie the Pink Hippo rather than allow them to keep us from exploring our potentials. I highly recommend this book to all parents and special needs educators in particular. Thank you for writing this wonderful story!” ~ 5 Star Review, missladyjane, Barnes and Noble
“I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations were beautiful. I found this book to be very interesting and it was written from real life experiences. A Different Kind of Safari draws you in along with Ray on his journey to find his happiness and the answers to his questions. I recommend this book to children that are of grade school age but yet many younger children may enjoy the illustrations.” ~ 5 Star Review, Whittle House, Goodreads
“The book has a great story. The illustrations are amazing!!!!! Get this book! All children from the young to the old will love this book. ” ~ 5 Star Review, Mel, Amazon
“A Different Kind of Safari is not only a good book, but a great story! It is not only for caregivers, teachers and parents, but for anyone who has ever felt out of place. A pink hippo named “Rosie” and her friend “Ray” take a journey and explore their similarities and differences on the river of life. Self- acceptance and the acceptance of others is exquisitely conveyed in a fresh, FUN way through this sweet tail. It is a prize for all libraries!” ~ 5 Star Review, Anna Wood, Barnes and Noble
About the Author: Helen C. Hipp
Helen Hipp’s experience raising a special needs child led her to an M.A. in clinical psychology and certification as a life coach. She began her career as a psychotherapist to help people find answers for their life problems. Her work eventually evolved into a coaching practice, WithinU Life Coaching, focusing on individuals with special needs and their families. Helen uses her 13+ years of counseling experience and 20+ years’ experience as a successful advocate for individuals with special needs by helping them reveal their innate ability to solve difficult situations. Her debut book ” A Different Kind of Safari” puts into words the essence of Helen’s teachings addressing the many questions life asks by offering up lighthearted, ever-changing perspectives that transform personal challenges into opportunities.
For more information, visit the books official website and to see a picture of the real Rosie the real life pink hippo that inspired this story, go to www.adifferentkindofsafari.com;
* Book Blast Giveaway *
Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)
Contest ends: August 6, 11:59 pm, 2014
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Helen Hipp and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.
Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader for Kids
by Bathroom Readers Institute
Normally, a blooper reel is a collection of outtakes from a comedy. What I’d like to see are funny outtakes from movies whose topics are so serious that I can’t imagine any of the actors laughing or having fun. With that in mind, here are five movies I wish had a blooper reel.
1. The Godfather
2. The Shining
3. 12 Years a Slave
5. Silence of the Lambs
The life of Gordon “Uncle John” Javna, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series, reads like one of his books. There’s a lot of fun, intriguing—often odd—information lurking around every corner. He went to art school, and then went on to become a musician, real-estate developer, writer, restaurateur, president of a pre-school, brew pub owner, and editor—not all at once, mind you, but he has been all of these things.
Eventually, though, he realized that because of his love of fascinating facts (and being a bathroom reader himself), he was naturally suited, perhaps even destined, to bring the joy of trivia to the world in a fun, informative way. He assumed the pseudonym Uncle John for the Bathroom Reader series and since then, Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader has become the longest-running, most popular series of its kind in the publishing industry. To date, there are more than 15 million Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers in print and his fanatical flock of followers span from Australia to the United Kingdom and beyond.
Guided by their obsession with unusual trivia, amazing origins, and forgotten history, Gordon “Uncle John” Javna and his staff at the Bathroom Readers’ Institute have made Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers a must-have for book and gift stores worldwide for over two decades. Gordon continues to expand his porcelain province from his throne room in Ashland, Oregon.
Monday, June 30th – Candace’s Book Blog
Tuesday, July 1st – Cindy’s Love of Books
Wednesday, July 2nd – Proud Book Nerd
Thursday, July 3rd – Bumbles and Fairy-Tales
Friday July 4th – Cassandra M’s Place
Monday, July 7th – Sweet Southern Home
Tuesday, July 8th – Confessions of a Book Addict
Wednesday, July 9th – Little Red Reads
Thursday, July 10th – Me, My Shelf and I
Friday July 11th – Bewitched Bookworms
Last Night at the Blue Angel
by Rebecca Rotert
It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is teeming with the tensions of the day—segregation, sexual experimentation, the Cold War and Vietnam—but it is also home to some of the country’s most influential jazz. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. But when her big break, the cover of Look magazine, finally arrives, it carries with it an enormous personal cost. Sensual and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet self-destructive woman whose charms tend to hurt those around her, and no one knows this better than her daughter, Sophia.
As the only child of a single mother growing up in an adult world, Sophia is wise beyond her years, a casualty of her mother’s desperate struggle for fame and adoration. Unsettled by her home life, she harbors a terrible fear that her world could disappear at any moment, and compulsively maintains a list of everyday objects she might need to reinvent should nuclear catastrophe strike. Her only constant is the colorful and unconventional family that surrounds her and her mother, particularly the photographer, Jim, who is Sophia’s best friend, surrogate father, and protector—but Jim is also deeply in love with Naomi.
Weaving between the perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a poignant and unforgettable story about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. Part stylish period piece, part heartbreaking family drama, it’s a novel rife with revelations, a vivid and propulsive page-turner—and the major debut of an extraordinary new writer.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I mostly try to stay away from historical fiction, but when this book was pitched to me I liked the fact that at its’ heart it was about a mother and daughter. The story was rich, and good in so many ways, but it fell flat in others and actually in some parts really disappointed me.
This tale is told from the two main characters’ points of view, ten years apart. Naomi is 17 years old in 1955, when she leaves her country home in Kansas to eventually make her way to Chicago, where through a series of her friends’ connections she ends up becoming a spectacular lounge singer. Ten years later, her daughter Sophia tells her side, of living with a mother who seems to be on the precipice of fame and leaving her daughter to fend for herself.
Though I enjoyed both girls’ chapters, Sophia’s were the most real and heartbreaking for me. Her thoughts are earnest, with all her feelings laid out bare and nothing held back; because she is so young she doesn’t really see the need to keep secrets. Sophia is scared of loss, and since it’s the 1960’s her biggest fear (at least the one she states) is that everything in the world will be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. This is a rather troubling thing for a 10 year old to be concerned about, but the reader quickly gets the sense that young Sophia may be more grown up than even her mother.
People come and go out of Naomi and Sophia’s lives, and it’s fascinating to watch how each one affects both of them. The girls do have a support system, an “adopted” family of friends who have been there through thick and thin. Jim is the closest friend they have, although his love for Naomi far exceeds what she feels for him. It’s painful to see them interact sometimes, but Jim makes his own choices and he’ll take what he can get from her.
The book is a fast read, but to me there were certain parts that dragged on far longer than they should have, and others I would have liked to see described in more detail. How Naomi got to be where she was is important background information, but I would have liked to see more about Sophia’s childhood and how she was treated by her mother during her first years of life.
As I said, there were things about the story that disappointed me, and for the most part, that would be the ending. Two terrible things happened to Sophia in a very short amount of time, and I was left wondering if she was going to be alright. Yes, she is a strong little girl, but who knows what kind of effect the tragedies will have on a girl of such an impressionable age?
Another thing I found odd was that Naomi just so happened to become lifelong friends with the first few people she met in Chicago. It was all very unrealistic, and seemed kind of forced and did not fit in with the rest of the story.
I did like the book overall and would recommend it to those who regularly read stories from this period in time.
About the Author
Rebecca Rotert received an M.A. in Literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her poetry and essays have appeared in a range of magazines and journals. She’s an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.
Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @RebeccaRotert.
Millie Fierce Sleeps Out
by Jane Manning
Millie is strong. Millie is fierce. But Millie has learned to keep her fierceness in check. And since she’s been sweet all summer long, Millie gets to have a sleepout with her friends. One where she promises to be well behaved. But things don’t go as Millie planned, and our fierce little heroine is not happy. Still, she tries her best to keep her fierceness inside. But when the scary dog from next door howls at the girls’ tent, Millie’s ferocity saves them all!
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
While I thought this sequel to Millie Fierce was cute, I don’t think that it had the heart and humor of the first book of the series.
In this tale, young Millie has put her “fierceness” away and is trying very hard to be good. She’s been so good, in fact, that she’s going to have a campout in her backyard with her two very best friends! Millie goes about preparing everything and planning the night down to a T…but things happen that are out of her control, and Millie must channel her fierceness to make things right.
This book teaches kids that sometimes it’s okay to let a little bit of your attitude show, but I guess to me the lesson seems to go over the intended audience’s head. My son is five, and I can tell you that he didn’t sit still and listen to this entire book as well as he did Millie Fierce.
Maybe it would be better if both books are read to children in quick succession, like either one after the other or one day apart, so that the lesson sinks in better. For our family, the book was okay but sadly not as much fun as we thought it would be.
About the Author
Jane Manning is the illustrator of dozens of children’s books, including Little Goblins Ten by Pamela Jane, Drip Drop by Sarah Weeks, Cindy Ellen by Susan Lowell, and the New York Times Bestselling The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches by Alice Low. She wrote and illustrated 2008?s Cat Nights (Greenwillow).
Many of Jane’s books have appeared in Scholastic Book Clubs and ALA “Pick of the Lists”. She’s won several awards for her work, including Parenting Magazine’s Reading Magic Award for Drip Drop, and The Western Writers of America Storyteller Award for Cindy Ellen.
Jane lives in Deep River, Connecticut with Tim, Tatiana, Nellie, Ziggy, and Shep. She is usually very well behaved, but every once in a while, Jane turns fierce, just like Millie.
Visit www.milliefierce.com to find out more about Jane and the Millie Fierce series.