Thursday, September 17, 2020

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #9 - The Ghost at Dawn's House

Hi!

Book Nine in the series sees Dawn as the main character/narrator, it's the second book from her. You may remember from previous recaps that her last main storyline was when she became a twelve-year-old personal assistant/secretary/divorce mediator/childminder to Mrs. Barrett, who had impeccable fashion sense but a poor grasp on what "babysitting" actually constitues. 




In this book, we hear a little more about Dawn's family life. She lives with her mother Sharon and her nine year old brother Jeff in Stoneybrook, while her Dad lives in California. Dawn and Jeff shun the usual kid-favourite snacks in favour of "health food" like tofu, cottage cheese, salad (all I can hear is that guy from Hocus Pocus saying "they're very health conscious in Los Angeles") and crackers. I should keep track of how many packets of crackers Dawn and Stacey eat over the course of this series, because it's literally all they ever have while the others are eating Rolos from a shoe or wherever Claudia has hidden them. 

Dawn calls her Dad a "Disneyland Daddy" - a term that was so widespread at one point that it was defined on several legal websites. It's essentially a term used to describe a parent who, due to having less custody of a child, slips into the role of "entertainer" in order to make up for not being around for the mundane parenting tasks. I don't know if this made much of an impression on me as a kid - my own Dad wasn't around but it was highly unlikely he'd ever be taking us to Disneyland (spoiler: he did not) so I don't remember having any particularly strong feelings about Mr Schafer one way or the other. 

We pick this book up two weeks after the last book, in which we discussed the holiday that saw Stacey have her first kiss (thankfully not with the eighteen year old man she was crushing on), and Dawn is feeling a bit left out because Stacey and Mary-Anne keep talking about the holiday. I can relate, when I was in Secondary School a group of my friends all went to work in Mosney for the Summer (before it was a Direct Provision centre) and it was all anyone talked about for the first couple of weeks back at school. 

The main storyline of this one is that Dawn's house is old and creepy, and she is convinced that there's a secret passage somewhere on the land. There is, and when she finds it, it leads.......straight to her bedroom. The girls all get scared because they think there's a ghost, in particular the ghost of some guy who went missing (it's all very Now and Then-y) that Dawn reads about in the wonderfully titled "A History of Stoneybrooke" by the even more wonderfully titled "Enos Cotterling", who sadly is not real. 

As with many of the Babysitters Club books, this one  has a couple of incredible life lessons, one being the way Dawn speaks about the children she minds. She describes how the club never ask "what is this?" when looking at a picture or piece of art made by the kids. Instead, they ask "tell me about it" so they don't hurt their feelings and end up calling a picture of someone's Granny "a beautiful drawing of an elephant". This is something I still do with my own children, and it ensures that they are always proud of what they create and never embarrassed or ashamed that they did something "wrong". 

One thing that I loved about this book, and something I could identify with in every possible way, was that one of the kids Dawn babysat had a cabbage patch doll. The doll was named Cindy Jane but her "real name" was Caroline Eunice. Cabbage Patch dolls were HUGE in the 1980s, and they came with an adoption certificate as opposed to any kind of ownership certificate. The doll would be pre-named, which didn't always go down well. My own Cabbage Patch doll arrived to me christened Avis Freddie. She was, from that day to this, known as Mavis. 

At this point in the proceedings, I feel like I have to mention Babyland General Hospital, which has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity due to Tik Tok. The mere thought of it gives me the creeps, but should you want to witness the "live birth" of  Cabbage Patch dolls from a "mother cabbage", knock yourself out: 


I need to get me some of that imagicillin. 

That's really it for this book - some positive representation for children of divorced parents, with some spook thrown in. And thankfully, very little of Kristy. 

Unfortunately, we also get very little of Claudia, which means the style is thin on ground this time, the only mention being:

"A ring with a fierce green dragon's head on it"  that I imagine looked exactly like this


Snack watch, however, was much more successful.


A bag of chocolate kisses from a hollow book on her shelf
I feel like everyone my age, at some point in their life, wanted the following things: A metal detector, A Mr. Frosty, Clarks Magic Steps shoes, and a hollow book. I have still yet to own any one of these things. I'm presuming that chocolate kisses are the Hershey's ones that come wrapped in foil. 


There were a LOT of movies and books mentioned in this installment, the most notable being:

The Odd Couple
Dawn compares her and her mother to Felix and Oscar, the titular couple from the TV Series produced in the 1970s (which, incidentally, was co-created by Garry Marshall, who appeared in Hocus Pocus as the devil)

European Vacation
Or to give it the full title, National Lampoon's European Vacation. Released in 1985, starring Chevy Chase, directed by Amy Heckerling (who also directed Clueless).

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
Originally published in 1930, this book was adapted for film a few times, most recently in 2019.

Harold and the Purple Crayon
A children's book by Crockett Johnson originally published in 1955 about a little boy who creates the world he wants with a crayon.

Chutes and Ladders
A board game called Moksha Patam that originated in India in the 13th century to teach children Hindu Dharma and Hindu values. The British took the game to England in 1892 and changed it to suit themselves, renaming it to Snakes and Ladders (never not at it). It was then brought to the US by board game giants Milton Bradley in 1943 where it was rebranded "Chutes and Ladders". 


Until next time,



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Monday, July 27, 2020

Blog Tour - The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony

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Only links marked with * are affiliates

Hi!

I have a couple of Blog Tour spots coming your way over the next few weeks, as well as some other book related stuff. Hopefully I'll be able to restart the Babysitters Club recaps again soon, I think I may finally have the collage situation under control!

Today I'm focusing on The Kids are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony. 


The death of Thomas and Savannah McClair's mother turns their world upside down. Raised to be fiercely curious by their grandmother Maggie, the twins become determined to learn the identity of their biological father. And when their mission goes viral, an eccentric producer offers them a dream platform: a fully sponsored podcased called "The Kids are Gonna Ask". To discover the truth, Thomas and Savannah begin interviewing people from their mother's past and are shocked when the podcast ignites in popularity. As the attention mounts, they get caught in a national debate they never asked for - but nothing compares to the mayhem that ensues when they find him. 

I really, really enjoyed this book. I thought the plot was current, and really fresh. As a fan of podcasts, I could see myself listening to something like this - it really made me think about the morality of some of the ones I DO listen to (cough*ToLiveAndDieInLA*cough). We, as a society, are so desperate to know the intimate details of each others lives, that every single undisclosed piece of information, unsolved case or mystery drives people to do hours and hours of deep dives, research, and brew conspiracy theories. It's so easy to find someone now, due to advances in technology, DNA and public social media profiles. This made the story really believable and engaging. 

I enjoyed Maggie, the matriarch of the family, immensely. She struck me as someone who would have lived an incredibly colourful, interesting life, and her dinner parties would have been legendary. I liked the social commentary, which came in the form of the twins juggling their normal lives and their new-found digital fame, and I appreciated that the author also touched on the treatment of young women in the media and how harmful viral content can sometimes be. 

I'd recommend this to anyone who wants something different from their fiction, if any of us were going on holiday I'd say bring it with you, but I enjoyed it every bit as much just sitting on my couch. 

Recommended. 

The Kids are Gonna Ask is published on July 28th and can be found (or ordered in) at any good bookstore, your local library, or at the links below. 








You can keep up to date with the author on her Website, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram

Thank you to Harlequin & Park Row Books for having me as part of their Summer Reads Blog Tour. 





Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Blog Tour - He Started It by Samantha Downing

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Only links marked with * are affiliates. 

Hi!

Today I have another blog tour spot, this time for Samantha Downing's latest thriller, He Started It. 


Beth, Portia & Eddie Morgan haven't all been together in years. And for very good reasons - we'll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fultill his final wish and - more importantly - secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It's even harder when you're all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory - a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won't stop following your car - and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there's a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.

I don't know if anyone else is currently watching White Lines on Netflix, but the style of this reminded me of it a lot - a slick, twisted, dark crime/thriller/mystery/adventure that revealed itself slowly. It was one of those books that I wanted to keep reading, one that you think about when you're not reading it. 

The characters aren't likeable - but they don't pretend to be. Right from the start, Beth tells you herself that she's no heroine. In fact, this novel doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't - it's just a straightforward, no-nonsense good time. Beth is a great narrator - she's twisted, you can't really trust a word she says, and her utter contempt for her family is hilarious at times in its accuracy (listen, I love my family, but this quarantine is already testing us, never mind the thought of a road trip with them). 

You can order He Started It via the link below. You can also ask your local bookseller, and don't forget your local library (they're due to reopen in Ireland on June 8th, all going well). 



You can find an excerpt of both the book and audiobook here, and you can check out the other stops on the blog tour by visiting the sites mentioned in the below graphic. 




Thank you to the publisher for having me on the blog tour and for the advance copy of the book.

If you'd like to keep up with Samantha Downing, you can check out her website here




Thursday, May 14, 2020

Blog Tour: This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

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Amazon UK Link is an Affiliate

Hi!

Today I'm hosting a stop on the blog tour for Heather Gudenkauf's latest novel, This is How I Lied.


Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O'Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend's murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox's case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There's Nola, Eve's little sister who's always been a little.... off; Nick, Eve's ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie's husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve's last day than he's letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve.

1995: Teenager Eve Knox enters some dangerous caves near her home one evening and doesn't make it out alive.

2020: Maggie Kennedy O'Keefe, Eve's former friend, is now a Detective. Eve's case has been reopened and Maggie is assigned to investigate before she moves to desk duty in the final months of her pregnancy. With a wide circle of suspects and some new evidence, can Maggie help solve the mystery of who killed her friend all those years ago?


This was twisty, dark, fast-paced and even though I am deeply suspcious of every character in a crime novel, that worked to my advantage here. Nola, Eve's sister, was a fantastic character. She was so unpredictable, and I loved all the different aspects to her personality. I also loved the structure of the chapters, I enjoyed how the story unfolded by going back. 

I enjoyed this book a lot, I flew through it, and I'll be reading more from this author. 

Many thanks to the publisher for having me on the blog tour and for the advance copy of the book via Netgalley. 

If you'd like to get a copy for yourself, check out the links below, and don't forget your local bookshop and library!


You can keep up to date with Heather Gudenkauf at her website here



Many thanks to the publisher for granting me access to a copy via Netgalley as part of the blog tour.



Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Blog Tour: The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti

Not sponsored/paid
Amazon UK link is an affiliate

Hi!

Let me preface this by saying, I love Summer Camps. I've never been to one, I would never ever go to one, but I adore stories set at camps or involving any kind of on-campus or end-of-Summer project/performance. Freaky Friday, Dirty Dancing, that spin-off Sweet Valley High book series where Liz & Jessica became camp counsellors, right up to AHS 1984 - I could go on and on. 

I've long thought that there should be more adult stories set at camps, so this one screamed "READ ME" when I got the press release & realised that this one centered around a former Hollywood Actress who is forced to do her Community Service at a Theater summer camp of sorts. 


Charlie Savoy was once Hollywood's hottest A-lister. Now, ten years later, she's pushing forty, exiled from the film world back at the summer Shakespeare theater in the Berkshires that launched her career - and where her first love, Nick, is the artistic director.

It's not exactly her first choice. But as parts are cast and rehearsals begin, Charlie is surprised to find herself thriving: bonding with celebrity actors, forging unexpected new friendships, and even reigniting her spark with Nick despite their complicated history. 

Until Charlie's old rival, Hollywood's current "It Girl" is brought on set, threatening to undo everything she's been working towards. As the drama amps up both on the stage and behind the curtains, Charlie must put on one heck of a show to fight for the second chance she deserves in her career and in love.

So, we know I'm a fan of ye olde summer project. Do you know what else I'm a fan of? Broadway musicals and Hollywood celebrity gossip. Combine the lot and you have a winner - Charlie was an instant like for me, I really enjoyed her as a character and I felt that I knew the type of person she was and the expectations others placed on her because of her upbringing. A former wild child, the daughter of a very well respected Shakespearean actress, just trying to find herself again - I liked her a lot.

The setting is based on the real life Williamstown Theatre Festival, which happens annually in Massachussetts. This years' will go ahead in a different way - it's due to air via Audible from the end of June, according to this article in Playbill, marking the first ever time that this has happened.

Back to the book - the story itself is really good, very readable and all of the characters slot in nicely in their own way. I liked the story of the younger female character, Sierra, equally. She's a kid who really wants to shine but keeps finding herself in the background. Ditto Ethan, who lives and breathes theatre and really wants the opportunity to show his idol what he can do. No character is there just to fill a spot, they all have a purpose and they all add something to the story.

I enjoyed this a lot, it's hard to come by easy-to-read holiday/beach/quarantine reads that have unique settings and strong female characters, but this has both in spades. I flew through it, I'll miss these characters. 

"It were a grief so brief to part with thee. Farewell."



You can keep up to date with Aimee Agresti at her website here, or @AimeeAgresti on socials.

You can request The Summer Set from any good bookshop or find it at the links below. 

Don't forget your library!




Thank you to the publishers for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. 


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Blog Tour: The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick

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Amazon UK link is an affiliate

Hi!

I hope this review finds you all well, and that you're finding a way to cope with the current situation. I've well and truly gotten my reading mojo back, so I'm really enjoying the escape into worlds that don't involve quarantines and lockdowns. 

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge was released on April 28th, and focuses on the story of Mitchell Fisher. 



"The lovers who attached their padlocks to the bridges of Upchester might see it as a fun or romantic gesture, but to Mitchell it is was an act of vandilism."

It's single dad Mitchell Fisher's job to cut these locks off the bridges of Upchester - he sees no sentimentality in defacing historic architecture. Only his young daughter Poppy sees through his gruff exterior to the man underneath, still grieving the loss of his wife. 

When a young woman falls from the bridge while attaching a padlock, Mitchell dives in to save her - not realising who she is and that her family have been looking for her for almost a year. 

Mitchell is hailed as a local hero - but can he find the woman? Does he even want to? 

We've all seen the pictures of bridges all over the world covered in padlocks, left by people for a plethora of reasons - to celebrate love, to remember someone, to grieve. In this book, letters are important - we get to read some letters from people who have affixed padlocks to the bridge, and we get to see how letter writing is used by Mitchell as a coping mechanism. 

Image by analogicus from Pixabay

When I read the words "Basildon Bond" on the very first page, I almost had an out - of - body experience - my Nana used to use that paper (and only that paper) to write letters to her sister in America up to a few months before she died. I was tasked with buying it, and in the late 1990s it was becoming increasingly harder to find locally - I haven't thought of that little writing pad in years, and it brought me a feeling of comfort and warmth that made me immediately delighted that I had chosen to read this book. So thank you, Ms. Patrick, for that lovely memory.

Mitchell is a lovely character, we really get a sense of who he is and how he's feeling. He's carrying around a huge amount of guilt, and I found myself rooting for him straight away. I really enjoyed how the book flowed, and I liked Liza a lot - she was fun, colourful, and I felt like I knew her straight away.

I hate comparing authors, but if you like books like Elizabeth is Missing or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I think you may really enjoy this. I thought it was a lovely, easy read with lots of emotion and a good storyline.

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge can be purchased via any good bookshop, requested at your local library, or bought via the links below:

Amazon UK
Book Depository

Harlequin
Barnes & Noble
Amazon US
Books-a-Million
Powell's


You can catch up with the author via her website, or social media @PhaedraPatrick.

A massive thank you to the publishers for having me as a part of the blog tour.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Blog Tour: Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

ARC
Not Paid or Sponsored
Amazon link is an Affiliate

Hi,

Today I'm bringing you a recently released novel about sisters. My sister is my best friend on the whole planet, so I always love a good sister story - this one is set in a beautiful location, a coastal town in California called Half Moon Bay.


Sometimes, the happiness we're looking for has been there all along.

Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don't really know each other. 

When Addie dropped out of University to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.

Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn't know how to live for herself. And Justine's success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.

Neither woman knows how to start life over but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.

After a recent spate of reading fast-paced thrillers, this was a very welcome change of pace. This isn't an action-packed romp, it's a slow, meandering journey through the lives of two sisters, both coming to terms with very different life-altering events. The setting is stunning - Half Moon Bay is indeed a real place, and I was overjoyed to discover that it looks exactly the same in reality as it did when I imagined it while reading:

[Source]

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Addie and Justine have two very different situations happening - Addie is learning how to be herself again after caring for her sick parents up to their death. This is something I know a lot of people will be able to identify with, and it's something that's not spoken about enough so I applaud the author for making Addie a real, well-rounded character with real emotions. Personally, I could have done without so much mention of weight loss or weight loss support, but I appreciate that self image is something that can suffer while taking care of others and that this was a part of Addie's journey to getting back to the woman she was before she dropped out of Uni and to do something for herself to make herself feel good.

Justine's story was the one that hooked me in a little more, I just felt like I had a real handle on who she was and I enjoyed the presence of her two teenage daughters. I could feel her getting stronger and stronger as the story went on and I was really rooting for her by the time I was half way through.

As I said - this really isn't a fast-paced, action-packed read. It's a slow, relaxing, Summery story about the bond between sisters and about how different events can completely change your life no matter your age or situation. 

I haven't read anything by this author previously, but I will now keep her in mind for when I want some escapism, don't we all need some of that at the moment?

Virgin River, a series based on this authors series of the same name, is also available to watch on Netflix right now and is perfect Quarantine viewing (I actually searched for it just for this post and ended up bingeing the first four episodes). 


Sunrise on Half Moon Bay was published by MIRA on April 14th and is available from all good bookshops, plus at the links below. 



You can keep up to date with Robyn Carr at 


Thank you to MIRA/Harper Collins for having me as part of the blog tour!