Sunday Morning for Kids featuring Pip the Gnome and the Forest Feast

Happy Sunday! Yesterday I was reading my blogger friend, Carla’s, post “Saturday Morning for Kids” and thought it was a wonderful idea. As you know, I’ve been reviewing kids books on Sunday because that was the time when I would chill with my neighbors and read. So, I’ve combined the best of both worlds to bring you Sunday Morning for Kids here at Macsbooks with HUGE gratitude to Carla at Carla Loves to Read. Please be sure to check out her blog – she’s terrific!! You can read her on Saturday and come here on Sunday – TADA!

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During the holidays I downloaded the most adorable book assuming it was for the Christmas season, after all, it had an elf on the cover. Silly me, it wasn’t an elf! It was a GNOME!!! I have become enamored with Gnomes recently and I should have known better but I was in an elfish kind of spirit and not thinking. Pip the GNOME and the Forest Feast by Admar Kwant, is part of series for very young or brand new readers. It encourages young children to learn very important life lessons. In the Forest Feast, Pip is gathering food from the forest for a marvelous meal that he preparing for all of his forest friends. Everyone throughout the forest is invited and they all come to enjoy what he has prepared. Soon, it becomes obvious, however, that he has left nothing at all for himself. Oh dear, his friends think, what shall we do?

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Pip the Gnome and the Forest Feast is a delightful book that helps guide children to embrace the joy of sharing so that everyone can enjoy something and no one is left with nothing. It is, perhaps, a lesson that we all need to learn. What sets this book apart from so many others is the incredible illustrations! I am, as you know, a enthusiast for great art and page after glorious page of color-washed images will keep children of all ages captivated. While I thoroughly enjoyed Pip, I suspect it might be geared more toward pre-school, early readers, those who are being read to and enjoy a nice book before bedtime.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #IngramPublishing and the author, #AdmarKwant for my copy of #PiptheGnomeandtheForestFeast

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A Stranger Here Below #CharlesFergus

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with reviews. I’ve read so many books and written so few reviews that my head is full, my blog has been sitting empty and Netgalley and Edelweiss are wondering what’s up. Please don’t hate me as I overload your feeds with extra reviews and too many comments on your blogs as I read and write my way through all that I’ve missed.

41Ri0iutn1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_amazonA Stranger Here Below is the first in what promises to be an intriguing historical mystery series set in early America. The series introduces us to Sheriff Gideon Stoltz, a man whose origins are Pennsylvania Dutch and who is still a bit of an outsider who speaks and acts differently from his fellow townsfolk. When the judge of the town commits suicide, Gideon cannot accept that any man would kill himself but especially not his friend, Judge Biddle. As Gideon discovers more about why the judge might have killed himself, his search for the truth becomes more dangerous to himself and those around him.

Fergus knows his history, has an incredible, intuitive feel for this region, the land and its people and it flows from each word in A Stranger Here Below. The prose is rich and atmospheric. Every detail, from the tools to the clothing, is impeccably accurate; I found myself immersed in the history of the tale and countryside. It took a bit of reading to get into the mystery itself. Perhaps it was because there was so much background needed to set to the proper stage for this era, rural Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. Perhaps it was the very simple writing as Gideon thought and spoke as any Pennsylvania Dutch would at the time. Regardless, I admit that I struggled with the slow pace in the beginning. As I grew accustomed to the writing, however, I liked the gentle flow of the words and the mystery itself began to build toward a rewarding conclusion.

This definitely is for a different type of reader, I won’t gloss over that. It’s not a thriller or suspense. It’s not a quick read or historical romance. My eighth-grade history teacher would have loved it and, most likely, she would have added it to an extra credit reading list – and I would have been the first one in line to sign up for it. If you’re a real American history fiend, then you will like this one, or, if you like slowly unfolding, atmospheric historical fiction you might enjoy it as well.

I received my copy from @Edelweiss and @SkyhorsePub

The Good Detective

I should tell you that once I picked up The Good Detective that it was so gripping and thrilling that I could not put it down until I finished it. I should tell you, but I can’t. The fact is that I started this book twice, two months apart, and each time I read the first chapter, got so incensed that I put the book down and didn’t finish it. But there was something about the blurb that kept pulling at me, reeling me back in; something that kept saying “read it, c’mon, you know you want to.” So, on the third try I vowed to get past the second chapter regardless of how angry I became. You know what happened, right? I didn’t put the book down until I completely finished the book! I stayed up all night long and finished reading it. I cannot believe how stupid I was to think I wouldn’t absolutely love this book – because I absolutely LOVED this book!!

51Bg7iOP81L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_amazonThe Good Detective is P.T. Marsh, a “rising star” in a southern Georgia police department, at least he was until his wife and young son drowned in an accident that either was or might not have been a horrible accident. For over a year, P.T. has been a semi-functioning drunk. While in a bar, more like a strip club, he promises a dancer that he will have a talk with her abusive boyfriend. His “talk” actually means that PT beats the crap out of the guy after which he goes home to drink the remainder of his night away. Imagine his surprise when PT is called out the next morning to a murder scene and it is the boyfriend who is murder victim. This is the part that made me so angry. I have no tolerance for police brutality even when the person on the receiving end is a Neo-Nazi scumbag. However, all of this takes place on just a few pages at the very beginning of the book and the remainder of the book is incredibly fascinating! Read on…..

The death of the scumbag leads PT and his partner to the lynching site of a young African American boy. As they begin to search for the boy’s killer – since the best witness and/or suspect is now dead thanks to possibly PT- they begin to uncover something very sinister in their small rural, Georgia town, something that has been happening for centuries and it is dark and conspiratorial, and dangerous and of the very worst sort of nightmare that you can possibly imagine. I wouldn’t even attempt to perceive such atrocities except that I lived in the south and my father was from rural Georgia so I know that this horror does exist and that is what made this book so terrible and fascinating all at the same time. It was like watching a train derailing. I didn’t want to know, didn’t want to see the travesty that was unfolding but I couldn’t stop either.

McMahon has created characters on both sides of the fence that are perfectly conceptualized. They are not pretty, they are not good, they have flaws and some are so awful you won’t want them in your room, not even on your pages. I’m not sure you can create characters like this unless you have encountered them at some point in your lifetime. There were times that this read like something out of the 1930s or 40s, but then I remembered that there are parts of the rural south that still are very much like this. Who am kidding? There are places like this all over the US, not just the south. That’s what is so disturbing. This is happening everywhere, not just in small towns or in a particular region. In the end, there was a small amount of justice and a bit of redemption for PT as well. I can only hope that we will find this type of redemption for America soon. The quote below summed up the ending of book as well as my feelings for my history with the southern US:

There’s no place I’d rather travel than in the South…Even with our history, when I’m at Publix buying groceries, I see interracial couples. Lots of us. So as much as we struggle here with race, in some ways our struggle is closer to the surface and I hold out hope that this means it’s easier to fix. 

I know this was a bit of a rambling review. This was a very emotional book for me. The one thing I can say is that I highly recommend it and hope that you will read it, even it takes you a time or two to get started.

I owe much appreciation to #Edelweiss, @PutnamBooks, #JohnMcMahon and @PenguinPublishingGroup for my advanced copy of #TheGoodDetective

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun #DanaReinhardt

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun is a marvelous written piece of women’s fiction that humorously explores a woman’s life as she realizes that she has reached “middle age,” and her life is not as perfect as she had planned.

51Z11MUh0oL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_amazonJenna Carlson has planned the perfect birthday party for her husband, Peter. Each year Peter and his best friend, Solly, celebrate their birthdays together but this year, their 50th, has to be the best ever! Jenna has been planning for more than a year for the couples, she and Peter; Solly and his second wife Ingrid, to vacation for a week at a luxurious villa in Puerto Vallarta. Joining them will be Jenna and Peter’s daughter, Clementine, Solly and Ingrid’s out-of-control 5-year-old son and Solly’s teenage son, Malcolm from his first marriage. Malcolm has recently has been expelled from school but we don’t talk about that. It sounds like a real delight, doesn’t it? The bottomless, perfect margaritas do help, really, just keeping drinking those. What doesn’t help is that Peter insists on taking “work calls” from his gorgeous assistant back in the states, Solly is incredibly overbearing and Clem is glued to her phone the entire trip – except when she’s trying to seduce Malcom. At the point that a drug cartel disrupts the local town and the villa loses both internet and phone connectivity, the nerves of everyone are frayed. An emotional explosion is inevitable; what the fall out will be may surprise you.

I admit that I, in my 50s, obviously am the target demographic for Tomorrow There Will Be Sun. I found Jenna to be so completely relatable. Her fears, her worries, the things that annoy her – even the words that she makes “off-limits” – all are things that I completely understand and do and say. Okay, there is a lot of Jenna in me. I found the other characters reprehensible and it almost got to the point that I couldn’t finish the book because I, quite literally, despised Solly so much. I’m also very VERY glad that I no longer have teenagers in my world because the more that I read about them in fiction, the less I like them as a whole. When the book finally reaches its crescendo, I am right there with Jenna. I get it! But then, I also totally understand what she does next. Why? Because I’ve been there and done that. Not that my husband did what Peter did, but when you get to be my age and your entire life has been committed to raising your children, your career was set aside for them and them alone, you wake up and realize that the comfortable life you enjoy is very much wedded to the income of the partner that you have. Would you dissolve a business partnership over something like this? It’s questionable. Would you learn to make compromises so that you each had what you wanted in the end? Maybe. Every person involved makes the decisions that are right for them and that is exactly what Jenna does in the end. My gosh, the author does an amazing job conveying the emotions, the fears and worries of every woman who ever has found herself in Jenna’s circumstances.

I loved the book, I loved Jenna and most of all I LOVE that women are writing books about real, live women, warts and all, who are not in their twenties , rather, those who are faced with the ugly parts of life! This was a stellar read for me and I hope it will be for you as well.

Much gratitude to #Edelweiss, #PamelaDormanBks, @PenguinBooks and #dsreinhardt for this incredible read!

The Municipalists by Seth Fried

I’m slipping this review in on a lazy, stormy Sunday afternoon because, honestly, I don’t normally review books that I didn’t finish. The Municipalists, however, is an interesting dystopian tale that comes so close to being really good that I think there may be those out there who enjoy it far more than I did and for that reason I want to bring it to your attention.

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Set in the near future, man has achieved its dream of creating a near perfect city, Metropolis, that is run, along with its sister city, by the United States Municipal Survey. It’s all quite perfect, logical, white button down, starched shirts and a place that makes our protagonist, Henry Thompson, the ultimate bean-counter, very VERY content. Until the day when a series of bombs are detonated and begin to systematically destroy the infrastructure that keeps Metropolis running, including its very important artificial intelligence systems. Henry Thompson, along with his wise-cracking AI, OWEN, are tasked with hunting down the suspects, including a former US Olympian and daughter of one of the top bureaucrats.

The Municipalists has such a great premise and a cast of wonderful characters. The dialogue between Henry and OWEN is almost worth the time it takes to read the book. The problem is that no idea in itself is ever fully developed. The characters, aside from OWEN, ironically, never are fleshed out so there is no attachment to them. The idea of this world crumbling around these happens so quickly in the beginning of the book that the satire, which should be present, is not. You recognize that it should be there, and the void it leaves it palpable. There are thrills, shoot-outs, and adventures for Henry and Owen but because you are not invested in their characters, these incidents don’t really matter. In essence, the words are there, the premise is there but they are not woven together into material that is strong enough to capture and hold your attention.

I really would like to see more from this author and can recognize that there is talent here but perhaps not wholly realized just yet.

Thank you to #PenguinPublishingGroup and #Edelweiss for my copy of #TheMunicipalists.

The Secret of Clouds @AlysonRichman

From the #1 international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours comes an emotionally charged story about a mother’s love, a teacher’s promise, and a child’s heart…

the-secret-of-cloudsMaggie Topper has left the bustling life of a New York public relations world to become a teacher on Long Island, a job she adores and one at which she is quite good. She is approached to tutor a homebound child who is too ill to attend daily classes and, although Maggie is uncertain at first due to a past trauma of her own, she comes to enjoy and look forward to her time with Yuri, the young Ukrainian-American boy who is quite ill. Soon they are bonding over baseball and their mutual love of reading and writing. As  her weekly visits become routine, Maggie discovers more about Yuri’s parents’ tragic life that they left behind in Ukraine, including their survival of the horrific Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

This is so much more than just Maggie and Yuri’s story. Told in alternating timelines, there are flashbacks to Katya and Sasha’s time spent in Ukraine. We read as their love unfolds and grows and their struggle to reach a decision about leaving their families behind to come to the US. We also have Maggie’s interactions in her private life as she struggles with relationships: private, familial and with her other students in the classroom. It is a joy to watch as she grows as a woman, as a teacher and as a friend to those around her.

The Secret of Clouds touches on so many important topics and, if there was one critique, and really there are none but if there was to be a minor one, it would be that there almost were too many important topics covered. The Holocaust is a recurring topic and a very poignant section of the book is when one of Maggie’s co-workers recounts a memorable story of an art teacher who taught Jewish children in the concentration camps, most of whom were killed. The story is tragic and beautiful but brief. There is Chernobyl and the horrific after-effects of this disaster, how even today this tragedy still is playing out physically and mentally in those who were affected and their offspring and even in their offspring. And then there is Maggie and her parents, her familial relationships, her budding romance, her work as a teacher. It was quite a lot for a short book. All of that not withstanding, Richman does an incredible job weaving it all together seamlessly and the book flows brilliantly so that it is over before you realize and far sooner than you wish for it to be.

This is a rare book about friendship on so many varied levels. It is a look at cross cultural relationships and how important it is for each of us to interact with one another. Most importantly, it is about hope and love and learning to live a life with a full and open heart. It will make you smile, cry, and laugh but, most of all, it make you ponder long after you turned that very last page.

With a grateful heart to #Edelweiss, #AlysonRichman and @BerkleyPub

Call Me Evie by JP Pomare

Call Me Evie is a very dark, very twisted psychological suspense novel. It is darker and twistier than most that I have read in the last year – and that says a lot.

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Kate, aka Evie, is a 17 year old girl whose is being raised by widowed father who is a retired rugby star. Her life is very structured, her father fairly strict – except when he isn’t strict at all. Slowly Kate’s life begins to spiral out of control as she begins dating Thom, her best friend seemingly turns against her and she turns to alcohol as a means of coping. After a sex tape appears, her life crashes all around her and ultimately there is a murder – or an accident – that send Kate on the run.

I found every single page of Call Me Evie disturbing. Every.Single.Page. There were times that I quite nearly put it down and didn’t finish it but I will admit that the book is compelling and I absolutely had to know who “Jim” was. The person I suspected was correct but there is absolutely no way for anyone to imagine how this book will end. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. I’ve been reading psychological suspense since I was 12 years old and this one has left me flabbergasted, not necessarily in a good way. You know how at the end of the movie Sixth Sense when you discover the “twist” you have this “aha” moment and it flashes back to all of the red clues and you said, “aaaahhhhh.” It made sense at that point. There was no “aaaahhhh” moment for me with Call Me Evie. There was one side, there was another side, there was an alternate side and I still don’t know what was what.

There appears to be a saturation point with authors right now who are trying to outwit, out shock, out “aha” the reader and these gimmicks simply are not working for me. I enjoy reading for what I will learn, for clever plots, for interesting characters, for realistic individuals – not for the shock value. When I look back on this story and its plot, not one page of it is plausible. Not one. This makes incredibly sad. I LOVE Putnam & Sons’ books. They are a publishing house that I almost always can count on for a really good read. Sadly, this fell far short of the mark. Also, one last note. I suspect that this should be noted as a Young Adult read. It is about a group of 17 year old kids and it was far better suited to younger readers.

I was furnished my copy of #CallMeEvie by #Edelweiss.