Month: June 2017

Review: The Dry

The Dry

Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.


I love a good suspense novel, and those three sentences are maybe some of the most attention-grabbing I’ve read. Anne Bogel recommended this book on her podcast, and when I read the description, it immediately landed on my library holds list.

 The Dry, Jane Harper’s debut novel, focuses on Federal Agent Aaron Falk and his investigation into the triple murder that left his childhood best friend, Luke Hadler, and his family dead. After receiving a note from Luke’s father, Falk decides to attend the funeral, and that’s when things start getting even more interesting. At first glance, it appears to be a murder/suicide orchestrated by Luke himself, precipitated by the drought affecting the small farming community, including Luke’s farm. As Falk and a local police officer probe further into the situation, they soon discover that the case may not be as straightforward as everyone thought. Falk must find out whether or not Luke really did kill his family, before the small town community decides that he’s done enough investigating.

This is how suspense should be done. I was hooked from the prologue and would have read straight through to the end if my family didn’t need things like food and attention. The characters, especially Aaron Falk, are so well-written, which can be hard to find in suspense novels. I felt like I really knew and trusted Falk, and was absolutely rooting for him to solve the mystery. The setting is, truly, a character in itself. It isn’t just Australia in a drought, it is small-town Australia in a drought. If you have ever lived in a small town, you know that it can be a weird bubble of a place to live. If you haven’t ever lived in a small town, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what it’s like while reading this book. Harper has created a pressure cooker of a community that is struggling to find a way to let off steam.

Adding to the tension is the side story that Harper weaves into the main narrative. Twenty years earlier, Falk was accused of murder, and he and his dad were run out of town. Luke was the only person who knew the truth. The two stories come together as Falk uncovers more mysteries from the past.

This is a brilliant debut novel from Jane Harper. She has a second Aaron Falk novel in the works (Force of Nature, out February 6, 2018), and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

(If you’re still wondering if you should read The Dry, let me just say that it won an award before it was even published. Not every novelist can make that claim!)



What My Kids Are Reading: June 16, 2017


The 6-Year-Old
Shoo, Fly Guy!

From the publisher: “Fly Guy returns home to discover that Buzz has gone on a picnic without him! Sad and hungry, Fly Guy takes off in search of his favorite food. He gets shooed away from a hamburger, a pizza, a dog’s bones, and even roadkill–leaving readers to guess what Fly Guy’s favorite oozy, lumpy, smelly, and brown food could possibly be! Why, it’s shoo-fly pie, of course!”

The Fly Guy books are great, and my 6-year-old loved reading this one to us this week! Fly Guy goes on an adventure all around town and encounters some gross (ie, funny for kids) items along the way, culminating in finally finding his beloved pile of trash for dinner. These books are perfect for this age, and amusing enough for everyone to enjoy.

The 8-Year-Old
The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose!)

From the publisher: “The class pets at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School want OUT . . . and GW (short for George Washington), the deceptively cute hamster in the second-grade classroom, is just the guy to lead the way. But when he finally escapes and goes to find his former partners in crime, Barry and Biter, he finds that they actually LIKE being class pets. Impossible! Just as GW gets Barry and Biter to agree to leave with him, a mouse named Harriet and her many mouse minions get in their way. What follows is class-pet chaos guaranteed to make readers giggle . . . and maybe look at their class pets a little differently in the future.”

This is a graphic novel from the author of Roller Girl, and we all liked it. (See my review of this Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee HERE.) My 8-year-old loves graphic novels, and I wasn’t sure if this would be too young for him, but it’s definitely not. The class pets all have funny, distinct personalities, and the humor is geared toward the older elementary school crowd. We’ll definitely be checking out her new book in this series, The Great Art Caper (Pets on the Loose!), as well!

What We’re Reading Together
Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates and Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery

These books. THESE BOOKS. They are genius. Dinosaurs in space? And they’re the good guys? And humans are the aliens? It’s like Star Wars with dinosaurs. I would be surprised to find any kid who didn’t like these books. The illustrations are amazing, and the storylines are action-packed with a little humor thrown in. If you’re struggling to find a book that holds your child’s interest, give these a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!


Summer Reading


Images from Goodreads

Summer is a great time to get a little extra reading done (although it doesn’t help my to be read pile AT ALL), and this year there are several books that I can’t wait to get my hands on! Here are a few releases that I’m excited about, and a few that I’ve been able to read already!

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
From the publisher:
“Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, is back with an uproarious new novel of a family driven by fortune, an ex-wife driven psychotic with jealousy, a battle royal fought through couture gown sabotage, and the heir to one of Asia’s greatest fortunes locked out of his inheritance.”

I have wanted to read all of Kwan’s novels for awhile, and my plan is to pick a weekend this summer and read all three back to back. These are fun, gossipy books, perfect for summer! Crazy Rich Asians is being made into a movie, and I want to make sure to have them all read in plenty of time.
May 23

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
From the publisher:
“Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.”

This is going to be a difficult book to read because of the subject matter, but I can’t wait to read it anyway. It is based on a true story that sounds like it couldn’t possibly be true, which is makes it all the more horrifying. I’ve heard great things about this one, and a box of Kleenex will be nearby when I read it.
June 6

Camino Island by John Grisham
From the publisher:
“A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.”

What’s more perfect for summer than a new John Grisham novel? A new John Grisham novel about a library, a bookstore, and a novelist with writer’s block. This sounds perfect for book lovers, with a great mystery, and just right for the beach.
June 6

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
From the publisher:
“In a graveyard outside the walls of Old Delhi, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby suddenly appears, just after midnight. In a snowy valley, a bereaved father writes a letter to his five-year-old daughter about the people who came to her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, a lone woman chain-smokes as she reads through her old notebooks. At the Jannat Guest House, two people who have known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around each other, as though they have just met.”

This is Roy’s first novel since The God of Small Things was published in 1997, so there is most definitely an excited buzz around this book. I love character-driven books, so I can’t wait to delve into the lives that Roy has shared with her readers. This is not going to be a fluffy summer read, but perfect to curl up with on a humid, rainy day indoors.
June 6

Love Story: A Novel (The Baxter Family) by Karen Kingsbury
From the publisher:
“When John Baxter is asked to relive his long-ago love story with Elizabeth for his grandson Cole’s heritage project, he’s not sure he can do it. The sadness might simply be too great. But he agrees and allows his heart and soul to go places they haven’t gone in decades. Back to the breathless first moments, but also to the secret heartbreak that brought John and Elizabeth together. At the same time, Baxter family friend Cody Coleman is working through the breakup of his complicated relationship with Andi Ellison. He is determined to move on when a chance sighting changes his plans—and heart. Can Cody convince Andi to give their love another try, or is it time for them to say goodbye for good?”

I haven’t read any of Kingsbury’s Baxter series, but this one sounds so good! Family sagas are great for any season, but if you have time to binge read a series during the summer, this one might be the one for it!
June 6

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
From the publisher:
“Just because twins look exactly the same doesn’t mean they’re anything alike–and Tabitha and Harper Frost have spent their whole lives trying to prove this point. When a family crisis forces them to band together–or at least appear to–the twins come to realize that the special bond that they share is more important than the resentments that have driven them apart.”

Hilderbrand is the queen of summer reads, and this year’s publication looks to be just as juicy and fun as her other books. This is high on my summer reading list, and I can’t wait to devour it by a pool!
June 13

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
From the publisher:
“Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.”

So far, this is my favorite book of the summer. I absolutely loved it (Read my review of the novel HERE.), and I’ve added all of Reid’s books to my to be read list. This is a perfect summer read, but it’s not as fluffy as you might think. Be prepared to read this one from cover to cover in a couple of days, and to have the characters stick around in your head for awhile.
June 13

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall: A Collection of Outlander Fiction by Diana Gabaldon
From the publisher:
“A collection of seven short stories set in the Outlander universe, never before published together, including two original stories. This riveting, romantic collection includes: “Besieged” (original novella), “Survival” (original novella), “Virgins,” “The Space Between,” “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies,” “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” and “The Custom of the Army.””

It’s Outlander. What more do you need?! For all of us who are anxiously waiting for Gabaldon’s next Outlander novel, this is the perfect in-between book, full of short stories.
June 27

Final Girls by Riley Sager
From the publisher:
“Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. “

This is the debut novel from Riley Sager . . . but not really, since it’s a pseudonym for a previously published author. There’s another mystery to be solved there. 10 years after the Sack Man went on a killing rampage, it appears that he is targeting the Final Girls. Will they be able to escape a second time? I’ll be reading this one with ALL the lights on!
July 11

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
From the publisher:
“It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. No body—only a hiking boot—has ever been found. But then Olive starts having waking dreams—or are they hallucinations?—that her mother is still alive. Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, their family, and the stories we tell ourselves about the people we love.”

I’m in the middle of reading this one, and it is quite the page-turner! Brown slowly draws you into the story so that you are fully invested in finding out what happened to Billie, and why Olive is seeing her mother’s . . . ghost? Or something else?
July 11

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
From the publisher:
“Something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three best friends she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten. Theirs is no cozy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, after what they did. At school the girls used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. But for some, did the boundary between fact and fantasy become too blurred?”

The flap copy for this one is sparse, and I think it is so for a reason. Sometimes it’s better to go into a book not knowing much about the plot, and Ware’s books are definitely in that category. After In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, I can’t wait to see what she’s come up with now!
July 25

Glass Houses: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny
From the publisher:
“When a mysterious figure appears on the village green on a cold November day in Three Pines, Armand Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, knows something is seriously wrong. Yet he does nothing. Legally, what can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.”

If you are a Louise Penny fan, you’ve probably already pre-ordered her thirteenth novel in the Inspector Gamache series. I’ve been putting off reading her first, Still Life, because I know I’m going to love them and want to read them all at once. This series will most likely be my binge-read this summer. Will I be able to read all 12 before this one comes out??
August 29


TBA Review: The Great Pet Escape

The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose!) written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson

Bluebonnet Author Site (with author interviews, pet information, how to create your own graphic novel, discussion questions, and a ton of fun things for kids to do)

Victoria Jamieson’s Website

I have never been a reader of graphic novels or comic books (outside of Archie when I was a kid), but having two kids growing up in an age where these novels are becoming more and more relevant, I’m learning to embrace them quickly! (Let me sidenote that by saying that I have NO problem with graphic novels. I just didn’t read a lot of them growing up, and I’m learning that they are a bit different from traditional comics.) The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose!), my fourth Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee read this year, definitely won my heart. And if there is a graphic novel to win your heart, it would be one by this author. Victoria Jamieson won the 2016-2017 Texas Bluebonnet Award for her graphic novel Roller Girl!

The Great Pet Escape begins with a fantastically sassy hamster named George Washington (GW for short). He is the second grade class pet and he wants to break out of Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School. When he finally escapes from his jail/cage, he goes to the other classrooms looking for his friends. When he discovers that they actually LIKE being class pets, he feels betrayed. They eventually agree to go with him, but a dictator-ish mouse named Harriet gets in the way. Mayhem ensues.

This book is really cute, but not in an insipid way. There are plenty of jokes in there that adults will also find amusing if they’re reading it out loud. Both of my kids loved it and have re-read it multiple times. The illustrations are wonderful, each pet has a distinctive personality, and if you enjoy reading to your kids, this is a fun one for that!

Jamieson clearly knows what she’s doing, and I’m glad that her books are opening my eyes to how great graphic novels can be. My kids, especially my 8-year-old, love them, and now I do too!


Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

“Everyone I loved is dead now. There’s no one left to protect. No one left to lie for me but me. . . . I want them to know the real story. The real me.”
“Show me the real you, then. And I’ll make sure the world understands.”


The title of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, should be enough to draw your attention. And believe me when I say that once you get beyond the cover, you will no doubt be hooked. The story of an aging Hollywood starlet, this is the juiciest Hollywood memoir you will never get to read.

Evelyn Hugo, once a Hollywood superstar surrounded by scandal and gossip in addition to her renowned career, has decided to tell the truth about her life and rise to fame. When she chooses Monique Grant, a relatively unknown journalist, everyone is confused, including Monique. As Monique listens to Evelyn’s life story in her glamorous NYC apartment, she wonders why on earth Evelyn has chosen her to write an authorized biography. Evelyn’s story begins in the 1950s and continues through to today, and by the end all of her reasons become clear.

I absolutely loved this book. When I chose it as my June Book of the Month Club pick, I was expecting a nice, light read. Something a bit fluffier than the heavier books I’ve read lately. This was not that book. This is a delicious novel, rich with well-developed characters and a fascinating story. Don’t we all wonder what’s really behind the Photoshopped perfection of Hollywood’s biggest stars? Reid does an exceptional job of creating a story for Evelyn that is both sad and remarkably enterprising. Her writing style is impressive, and she clearly loves every character.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was heartbreaking in a way I wasn’t expecting. I could really feel how immense yet devastating Evelyn’s life was. She had a BIG life with twists that I didn’t see coming. The ending is one of those twists, and I have to comment about it. (No spoilers, I promise!) These are the kinds of endings I love. Everything is kind of wrapped up, but far from neatly. Reid doesn’t shield her readers from the profoundly heartbreaking parts, and that is greatly appreciated.

This book is one that will stay with me for awhile. I can’t stop thinking about Evelyn and how lonely a perfectly-crafted life can really be. This was the first of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books that I’ve read, and if all of her other books are this engaging, she might just be my next binge-read author!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo will be published on June 13!