Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Review: The Sign In The Smoke

The Sign in the Smoke (Nancy Drew Diaries #12)Author: Carolyn Keene
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Aladdin
Series: Nancy Drew Diaries # 12

Nancy and her friends are faced with another chilling mystery in this twelfth book of the Nancy Drew Diaries, a fresh approach to the classic mystery series.

When Bess asks Nancy and George to be counselors at her old camp, they’re a little wary. After all, running around after a bunch of little kids doesn’t exactly sound like fun! But Bess promises that the girls will get to enjoy nature, relax by the lake, and play some sports. Plus, it will give Nancy a much-needed break from solving mysteries.

But trouble always finds Nancy Drew! After hearing the disturbing tale about a camper who had drowned in the lake years ago, Nancy dismisses it as a ghost story. But then something pulls her under water during a swim lesson—something eerily human, with long, silvery hair. And the next night her entire cabin's sleeping bags disappear—only to show up at the lake, soaked.

Now Nancy isn’t so sure if she believes in ghosts! All she knows is she has to do everything within her power to make sure her campers—and her friends—are safe. Which means she’d better get to the bottom of what’s happening at Camp Cedarbark.

I don’t want to believe it could be her. But I need to look into this.

Well, I thought, straightening up as the words lifelong enemy replayed in my mind, you certainly won’t be the first.

As nervous as I was this morning, I thought camp is really starting to feel like home.

I have rediscovered my childhood! I loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries when I was a kid, and while these books are nowhere near as suspenseful as the others, they are just as loveable. I just discovered not too long ago and decided that I needed to start reading these, and I am so glad I did. Nancy is her same spunk, spry self and really brings back the feeling of comfort and warmth to her readers. The mystery was a bit more juvenile than those that I am used to, but charming and enjoyable nonetheless. I know that middle school girls and maybe even a bit younger will really enjoy these stories. This one takes place at a summer camp, so it gives readers that perfect segue into summer. School is almost out, but that doesn’t mean kids need to stop reading! These books would be wonderful for a timid or hesitant reader.

 Not only is this book filled with a great mystery that is sure to keep young minds entertained, but it is also full of practical advice about friendship and growing up. There is a young girl named Harper that is written to be “different” or more “quiet” than the other girls. While trying to solve a spooky mystery, Nancy also bridges the gap between these girls and helps Harper make friends and not feel so left out. Nancy is someone that the girls in the book can really relate to and I think this and her actions make her a great role model for young readers. I am very excited for more of these cute, fun-filled reads.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Aladdin in exchange for an honest review***

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book Review: The Weekenders

The WeekendersAuthor: Mary Kay Andrews
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Some people stay all summer long on the idyllic island of Belle Isle, North Carolina. Others come only for the weekends-and the mix between the regulars and “the weekenders” can sometimes make the sparks fly. Riley Griggs has a season of good times with friends and family ahead of her on Belle Isle when things take an unexpected turn. While waiting for her husband to arrive on the ferry one Friday afternoon, Riley is confronted by a process server who thrusts papers into her hand. And her husband is nowhere to be found.

So she turns to her island friends for help and support, but it turns out that each of them has their own secrets, and the clock is ticking as the mystery deepens...in a murderous way. Cocktail parties aside, Riley must find a way to investigate the secrets of Belle Island, the husband she might not really know, and the summer that could change everything.

Told with Mary Kay Andrews’ trademark blend of humor and warmth, and with characters and a setting that you can’t help but fall for, The Weekenders is the perfect summer escape.

“In times like these, I think it's a good policy to hope for the best, but expect the worst.” 

“Right on time,” Scott murmured. “Let the fun begin.”

“That bastard Wendell. I swear to God, if he weren’t already dead, I’d kill him myself,” Billy said. “My only regret is that somebody beat to me the punch.”

She’d find out for herself soon enough, and that would be the end of his stupid folly, of thinking that he could have it all – the island, the girl, the family, the life.

When I say this is the perfect read, I mean that you will stay on the beach all day until you have finished reading it! You might find yourself a little burnt once you have finished! I thought that this story had a different spin than what Andrews usually writes, but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I was reading a mystery and a loveable chick lit novel. Riley Griggs is on her way to the coast of North Carolina when her world starts to fall apart: she runs into her ex-boyfriend, her husband is a no show for their family vacation, and her much loved beach house has been foreclosed. From this point, you are hooked and it only gets better from here. This book tackles some tough topics, so please do not think that because I said it was the perfect beach read that it’s all light and fluffy. Riley and her daughter, Maggy, have a tough road ahead of them once they learn of Wendell’s murder. However, as always, Andrews makes readers feel right at home.

Riley’s family is very chaotic, but tight. They support and care for each other, even if getting on each other’s nerves while doing it. It was most interesting to me to see how Riley, her daughter, her mother, and her brother handle the imploding catastrophe. Riley is a modern woman who does what she can to hold her life together as it crumbles all around her. Her relationship with Maggy was one of my favorite things to watch unfold. She is very concerned for Maggy’s well-being as everything begins to crumble around them, obviously, and even though Riley is fed up with her lying husband, she tries her best to keep her daughter from being more hurt than she already is. Riley was a great leading character and even better mom! I loved every piece of this book! Please do yourself a favor and introduce your senses to Mary Kay Andrews, if you haven’t already done so.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review***

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Book Review: Rock-A-Bye Bones

Rock-a-Bye Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney, #16)Author: Carolyn Haines
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Series: Sarah Booth Delaney # 16

Sarah Booth Delaney and her friends are still recovering from the attack on Scott Hampton's blues club in Zinnia, Missippia, and Sarah Booth herself is still overcoming her grief at ending things with her fiancé. One bitterly cold night at her family's ancestral home in Zinnia, Sarah Booth hears what sounds like a kitten as she passes the front door. She opens the door to find a newborn baby in a basket on her front porch - with bloody footsteps leading up to the door and back down the driveway. As soon as she steps outside, a loud engine guns and a dark colored vehicle takes off. It's too far away for Sarah Booth to get a good look, and besides, the baby is now her first priority.

After rushing the baby to the hospital and calling the police, Sarah Booth and Tinkie Richmond, her partner at the Delaney Detective Agency, know they need to do everything they can to find the baby's mother...even if they are starting to fall in love with the baby themselves. But as she tracks the baby's mother, Sarah Booth soon begins to suspect the woman might be in danger; in fact, she might be running for her own life. And following in the woman's footsteps, Sarah Booth might be next.

I pushed that thought away and jumped in the car. I had a human baby to care for. We’d need diapers and everything else on the long list Doc had written.

“Motherhood is the most blessed of all conditions,” she said in a light, pleasant voice. “I have been blessed with a passel of children, all smart, all eager to journey into the world.”

“Just goes to show when you raise your boys to be outlaws, you can’t expect ‘em to come when you call.”

Sarah Booth Delaney and her funny friends are some of my favorite characters to rejoin every year when a new book is released. I very much enjoyed this story because it leads us to believe that Sarah Booth may be making some big life changes soon and because we are finding out more and more information about the murder of her parents. Their story is a subplot to the larger mystery at hand, but it is so intriguing and has me dying to know exactly what happened. In the latest installment, Sarah Booth is trying to find the mother of the infant that has just been left on her doorstop. Well, of course, you can imagine that all types of chaos follows this – and you are right! We have reappearances from all of the gang: Jitty, Tinkie, Sheriff Coleman, and more! It is always so hard for me to put these books down – they are laugh out loud hilarious and Sarah Booth has become almost like a friend to me.

There was so much going on in this story for me not to love it: kidnapping, a mystery, jealously, physical and mental abuse, temporary insanity, love, and so much more. What I love most about these books is that even if you have not read another one, you are guaranteed to find it entertaining and jump right in with the characters. They are by no means standalone books, but they can be enjoyed without having read the others. I know I said that these books are funny, but they are often equally emotional. There is always a strong amount of love and friendship, and this book doesn’t disappoint in that area. I am so connected to these characters and whenever this series does end, I will hate to see them all go!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Minotaur Books in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, May 13, 2016

Book Review: The Pursuit of Pearls

The Pursuit of Pearls (Berlin #4)Author: Jane Thynne
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Series: Berlin #4

Perfect for fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, Robert Harris, and Susan Elia MacNeal, here is the next thrilling historical novel featuring Clara Vine, the British actress and special agent who glides through the upper echelons of Nazi society, covertly gathering key intelligence—and placing herself in mortal peril.
In the spring of 1939, the drums of war beat throughout Europe, but nowhere more ferociously than in Berlin. The film studio where Clara Vine works is churning out movies, but each day that she stays in Germany is more dangerous than the last. Spying on the private life of the Third Reich, passing secrets to contacts in British intelligence, falling into a passionate affair—any of these risky moves could get Clara shot. So she is wholly shaken when someone close to her is murdered instead. The victim is Lottie Franke, an aspiring costume designer and student at the prestigious Faith and Beauty finishing school that trains young women to become the wives of the Nazi elite. While the press considers Lottie’s death in the Grunewald forest the act of a lone madman, Clara uncovers deeper threads, tangled lines that seem to reach into the darkest depths of the Reich—and to a precious discovery that Hitler and his ruthless cohorts would kill for.

And she guessed, whatever this meeting was about, it would certainly be no party.

The Fuhrer’s fiftieth birthday had been a moment of excitement, a firework flash against an ever darkening horizon.

She might as well have proposed flying to the moon.

“I hear Elizabeth Arden’s Velvet Red is his absolute favorite.”

This book is such a beautiful story from start to finish. The words are so eloquent and the language just flows swiftly off the page. I am such a huge fan of books set in WWII Berlin that I was unable to put the book down; it killed me to be away from the characters for more than a few hours. I tried to read as slowly as I could muster in order to savor every last word. Clara Vine is a German actress who is secretly working for the British Intelligence Agency in order to uncover the Nazi Party and their deepest secrets and plans. The portrayal of Hitler and Nazi Germany is what kept me so enthralled with my reading. I imagine that everything on these pages was exactly how it was in 1939 Berlin. It is obvious that Thynne did extensive research into everything WWII related. This book shows the hatred that the Nazi party inflicted upon many and how they punished those who spoke out against them.

The Pursuit of Pearls is everything you want in a good book. It is blindingly obvious that Jane Thynne would make a great conversationalist. I found myself having to stop reading and just sit and ponder over the many beautiful words that she strung together as she was telling this story. Another of my favorite pieces about Thynne’s writing is the fact that she intertwines real people from history into her pages. We see appearances by Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, and a young John F. Kennedy in this book. She makes this world that is far in the past seem so real as if it is happening all over again all around you. I did not realize that this book was part of a series when I sat down to read it, and I must say that it was pleasant to read thinking it was a standalone novel. It is actually the fourth book in a series, so I have some reading to catch up on!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Ballantine Books in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Book Review: The Girl From Summer Hill

The Girl from Summer Hill (Summer Hill, #1)Author: Jude Deveraux
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Series: Summer Hill # 1

The first book of a new contemporary romance series set in the mountains of Virginia in a town with full of family legends, romance, and secrets from New York Times bestselling author of the Nantucket Brides trilogy.

Sparks fly as fiery Casey Reddick and brooding Hollywood actor Tate Landers clash in the Virginia summer heat. A chef who puts her career first and her love life second, Casey doesn’t see what every girl in town is swooning over. She made up her mind the moment she met Tate—he’s gorgeous, but stuck-up, nothing like his ex-brother-in-law, Devlin who’s playing the Wickham to Tate’s Darcy in local production of Pride & Prejudice. Casey makes the perfect Elizabeth Bennett—how could she be star-struck when she’s heard Devlin’s damning stories about Tate? As they rehearse together, however, Casey finds herself attracted to Tate—he’s much more down-to-earth than she expected and any physical contact between the two of them literally gives her a tingling, electric shock. As opening night draws near, Casey has some difficult decisions to make. Whom should she believe? The seemingly sincere, slighted Devlin or Tate, whose rough, arrogant exterior may only be skin deep. She’s come to love that jolt she gets when they touch—but will she get burned?

Smiling, Kit turned away. He’d always meant for young Tatton to play Darcy. He just wasn’t sure who would be Elizabeth. But now he was almost certain that he’d found her.

He’d used his best smile on her and she’d felt nothing. As had he. They were destined to be friends and nothing more.

As snotty as Tate Landers was, he’s probably throw the food out. It wouldn’t be good enough for someone so grand and glorious.

“You Summer Hill people are a lusty lot,” Jack said as they ran, and they all laughed together.

Pride & Prejudice is without a doubt my favorite book/movie ever (sitting beside, Harry Potter, of course). I have read multiple retellings of the charming tale over the years, and this one is just another fast, fun read to add to my list. Summer is right around the corner and this book goes onto the Beach Read List as well. It is so light, fun, and has characters that have quirks that make them unforgettable. The romance between Casey and Tate in this book was much like the romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I think what I enjoyed the most was that Tate took some getting used to just like Mr. Darcy. I loved getting past his cold exterior because he was really such a passionate, loving character.

My favorite part of this book was Casey! She was a really funny leading lady. Just like Elizabeth, she was spunky and outspoken. Casey had all the quirks that make Elizabeth Bennet one of my favorite characters of all-time. There are parts of the story that feel slower than others, and if I am being honest, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that I was going to really be able to get into the book when I first started. However, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with this romantic comedy and wish I was on the beach while reading it! I am very excited for more from this author and in this series!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Ballantine Books in exchange for my honest review***