Friday, June 21, 2019

Lying Beneath the Oaks ~ Kristin Wright

Wright, Kristin. 2019. Lying Beneath the Oaks. Bella Rosa Books. ISBN 978-1622681433. $15.95 USD.

I was fortunate to win a signed copy of Lying Beneath the Oaks by Kristin Wright in a giveaway sponsored by The Debutante Ball. Established in 2007, the DB is a group blog for authors making their debut in the literary world. They are currently in their twelfth season of celebrating up-and-coming authors. Former Debs include bestsellers in the genres of women’s fiction, mystery, literary fiction, nonfiction, young adult, and more. This link will tell you more about it:

In her debut, Kristin Wright has written an entertaining and tightly-paced novel, which includes sympathetic characters with distinct voices, well-written dialogue, and enough suspense to keep readers turning the pages.

The main character, Molly Todd, has secrets. A lot of secrets. Somehow she finds herself waking up married in Vegas to a stranger - a Southern gentleman lawyer from a well-respected family named Cooper Middleton. Neither remembers any of it. Deciding to return home to Charleston to see about getting an annulment, Molly finds herself staying at Cooper's family home, and keeping even more secrets.

I enjoyed the fact that the author takes her time in unveiling all of the mysteries in this novel. A few I figured out before the end, but that didn't diminish the reading experience. Molly also has some amnesia about a traumatic event in her past, and the unraveling of that mystery was one of the big payoffs for me as a reader.

There's a antagonist in this book (I sometimes refer to them as "evil bads") who is almost over-the-top in his evil-ness, but not everyone sees it right away. One of the major plot elements is Molly trying to find a way to convince others of how bad the guy really is, as he's very good at keeping it hidden.

The romantic element is a slow-burn, with a few spicy encounters. I'm not an author, but I imagine writing love scenes can be a challenge. This first-time author definitely doesn't write like one, in any way, in her debut. Other authors, such as Linda Castillo and Sally Kilpatrick, have given this novel a nice thumbs-up, and you can see more author reviews and information about the book on the publisher's website here:

I enjoyed my time spent turning the pages of this debut, and I will definitely look for more from the author in the future.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Max...Attacks by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan: Book Blitz, Review, and Giveaway!

Illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan
Children's Picture Book / Humor / Stories in Verse
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Date of Publication: June 11, 2019
Number of Pages: 40
  Scroll down for the giveaway!

Fish and birds and lizards and socks…is there anything Max won’t attack? 

Watch your ankles and find out in this clever, rhyming picture book about a very naughty kitty cat. Max is a cat. He attacks. From socks to strings to many a fish, attacking, for Max, is most de-lish. But how many of these things can he actually catch? Well, let’s just say it’s no even match.

I will start off this review by saying that I am NOT a fan of cats! We didn't have them growing up (dogs rule!), but I have known enough people who LOVE cats to tell you right now that this children's picture book is going to be special. Even as a non-cat fan, I fell in love with MAX, who we find out is based on a cat once owned by the author's son (if anyone can actually "own" a cat).

Known for being curious, mischievous, devious, and, well, often hilarious, cats have some of the best videos around on social media platforms these days, and I will admit to following a few accounts myself on Twitter and Instagram. Author Kathi Appelt gets right to the heart of these characteristics of cats in her delightful picture book Max...Attacks. 

As the book opens, Max has his one-track mind set on going to battle with some "fishies" swimming around in a fish bowl. But right off the bat, we find out that Max does NOT have a one-track mind, as throughout the rest of the book Max gets distracted by other things he wants to "attack," including a curtain, a laundry basket, a hanging shoelace, and, of course, his "bowl of crunchies." 

Using rhythmic language on every page Max...Attacks is an absolutely perfect read-aloud book that will be enjoyed by both children and adults. The tension of the book keeps one turning the pages to see what Max will get up to next, and whether those fishies will survive his stalking (spoiler, they do). The resolution to the story is very satisfying, and you will have to read it to find out why!

Penelope Dullaghan's colorful, rather free-form illustrations are a perfect fit to this entertaining story, with enough details on each page to keep both young and old(er) readers attentive. The words rove, and pounce, and trounce across the page, mimicking Max's behavior as he continually gets distracted by the next fun thing to "attack." The facial expressions of Max, the dog, and fish are distinctly rendered and allow the personalities of the characters to shine on each page.

I can't say that this adorable picture book has convinced me to get a cat of my own, but the next time I'm around someone else's I will remember this picture book with affection. I have a list of people in my life I plan to buy this book for, and I'm not even waiting for a reason!

Really well done, and a joy to read.

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Max ... Attacks

She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their six cats. She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young 
Adults program.

Penelope Dullaghan is an award-winning illustrator whose work includes illustrations for ad campaigns, book publishers, magazines, newspapers, products, videos and most recently, children. Max ... Attacks is her debut picture book.

Penelope works from her home studio in Indianapolis, Indiana where she also home schools her daughter, plays in the river behind her house, and tends to her front-yard garden.

She is especially interested in collaborating with brands that support sustainability, simplicity, and wellness. Connect with Penelope on her Website.

The real Max was neither blue, nor did he have a switchy tail. In fact, he didn’t have a tail at all. He was an American Bobtail, almost fire red, and in his prime he weighed in at over twenty pounds. For seventeen years, he served as best friend and roommate to the author’s oldest son Jacob Appelt, who adopted Max from the local animal shelter. Together they wrote music, traveled, entertained friends and family, and kept an eye on the neighborhood parrots. Even though Max was famous for attacking anything that moved, he was, and always will be, the biggest, sweetest cat ever!  And many thanks to Jacob 
for the line: “a mighty nap attacked our Max.” Best line in the book!
June 11-22, 2019
(U.S. Only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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