Posted in Alphabet Soup - A - Z Reading Challenge E-Book Challenge Reviews 2017 Wisconsin Author Wisconsin Setting You Read How Many Books Challenge

Early Review – The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen

My First Book Read in 2017

The Mutual Admiration Society: A Novel
by Lesley Kagen
Fiction/Family Life
Setting – Wisconsin
Lake Union Publishing (February 1, 2017)
Paperback: 282 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1503941038
Kindle ASIN: B01G50QX2C




From the New York Times bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark comes an unforgettable novel that illuminates the sweet and brittle bonds of family, the tenderness of growing up, the heartbreak of longing for what we’ve lost, and the poignancy of finding love.

FACT: Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head.

PROOF: After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list.

Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” And, of course, there’s the problem of steering clear of the kidnapping murderer if they have any hope of solving the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of life.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

FACT: Lesley Kagen captures the voices of children in a profound way.

PROOF: This story!

Set in Milwaukee Wisconsin, we meet 11 year old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, her younger sister, Birdie, and her “fiancee”, Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield. They make up the Mutual Admiration Society. Tessie is sure she saw a crime committed and the society needs to start its investigation right away. They just need to get around some house rules and Gert Klement, their next door neighbor, who is not their biggest fan. In fact, she believes they need to be sent away.

These characters were first introduced to readers in The Undertaking of Tess, released in 2014. While the author does give plenty of details so that this book can be read on its own, you may want to read the prior story first for more background on the Finley’s. 

As a mystery lover I enjoyed Tessie and her lists and methodical investigation and that Birdie found a key clue and really helped Tessie figure out the suspected murder. Through the eyes of children in the late 1950’s I was able to see things in a different way. It was quite an adventure. Tessie has already dealt with so much in her young life and is responsible for watching over Birdie every day. Her lists do get a little repetitive but through them readers clearly see the way her mind works.

Kagen has crafted a heartwarming story but at times it is heartbreaking too. Her characters are so unique and the dialogue is true to a child’s voice and sprinkled liberally with humor. The world has changed since 1959. It was wonderful to escape back in time and tag along on this adventure with the Mutual Admiration Society.

I have enjoyed everything I have read by this author. She is an extremely talented storyteller.

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Find out more about Lesley Kagen and her books on her webpage here

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Giveaways Guest Posts Wisconsin Author Wisconsin Setting

Very Special Guest Lesley Kagen Answers My Questions (Giveaway too!)

One of joys of blogging is getting to “meet” authors. You know how much I love to feature authors from my home state of Wisconsin. Last year another Wisconsin author Rochelle Staab recommended a book by Lesley called Whistling In The Dark and I fell hard for the characters and setting. The book brought back many of my childhood memories. Good Graces is the sequel to that book and it was released in paperback on May 1st. As soon as I heard about this release I contacted Lesley and I couldn’t believe she said “Yes!” when I asked her to drop by for a few questions. I did a little research and tried to come up with some good questions to ask her. I hope you agree as we get to know a little bit more about the author the writes these wonderful stories. I will post my review of Good Graces after we spend a little time with Lesley!

Hi Lesley!

Hi Everyone! It’s great to spend a little time here today!


1. Is it harder to write from a child’s perspective as an adult? You do it so well.

Thank you! The most important part is slipping on my little girl tennis shoes, so that I can write as authentically as I can. It’s important to me to get it right. I don’t find it difficult. Actually, pretty relaxing. Aren’t all of us adults just kids at heart?

2. How did you decide to visit Troo and Sally again, was it the original plan or did you decide there was more to their story that needed to be told?
I received so many wonderful emails from readers all over the world after Whistling In the Dark was released. Thankfully, they wanted more…more…more of the O’Malley sisters. My standard line was…Thank you, but no way. I’ll write a sequel over my dead body. Ha! After I had written Land of a Hundred Wonders and Tomorrow River, both novels set in the South, I got homesick and wanted to set my next book back in Wisconsin. I yearned to pay the old neighborhood another visit, but was worried that I would be unable to re-capture the characters voices and the setting, but when I sat down to write Good Graces, there my girls were…standing on a Vliet Street corner, blue transistor radio in hand, just waiting for me to show up.

3. You started out in music, what kind of music is your favorite? What would we find on you Ipod or in your CD player right now?

Gosh, depending on my mood…I like blues and R & B, country, and, of course, old school rock ‘n roll. The Dixie Chicks are on my player right now.

4. I can’t believe it, you were on Laverne and Shirley in the episode Take Two, They’re Small where Lenny and Squiggy set up Laverne and Shirley on dates with little people. I tried to find the episode, but no luck there. What part did you play? What was it like being on actress on television?
I guest-starred with another actress, Debbie White, on L & S. We played good-for-nothing sisters. It was fantastic fun. I love acting, but not as much as writing.

5. Can you give us some hints about you next book and when it will be coming out?
My next book is entitled THE MARE’S NEST. It’s a mother/daughter story set in the horse world. After I finish it up (almost) my agent will try to find an interested publisher. Once it’s been sold, it’ll take a little over a year for it to be released.

6. If you are ready to “escape into a good book” who are you reading?
There are so many authors I love! Tough to pick just one, so I’ll tell you what I’m reading now. Alexander McCall’s,The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Fabulous!


1. Favorite Ice Cream?

2. Favorite Color?

3. Favorite Restaurant?
Mama Mia’s Pizza, a childhood favorite.

4. Best thing about living in Wisconsin?
Hands down…the people. They’re one of a kind.

Thank you Lesley! I hope you will come back when you new book comes out or whenever you like. You have an open invitation to stop by and chat anytime!

To find out more about Lesley Kagen be sure to visit

Now let me tell you about this book!!!

Good Graces
Dutton/New American Library
Published by The Penguin Group

Kagen takes us back to Milwaukee in this sequel to the National Bestseller Whistling In the Dark. One year has passed and Sally is still trying to deal with her escape from a child molester and murderer and the loss of her father. She promised her dad she would take care of her rebel sister Troo and keep her safe. Troo is not making the promise very easy to keep as she gets in trouble at school and sneaks out of their bedroom in the middle of the night.

The neighborhood is having a crime wave with several burglaries. Then an orphan boy goes missing and Troo’s arch enemy has escaped from reform school. Is Troo involved in these incidents? Is she going to hunt down the boy that escaped and try to get revenge? Is she the “cat burgler”? Sally will do anything to save her sister even if it means putting herself in danger.


Dollycas’s Thoughts
Life through the eyes of a child. Lesley Kagen is a master at writing from these young viewpoints.

Funny from having to write the charitable story over the summer to turn in on the first day of school to Troo pretending she is French and wanting to be called “Leeze”, visits to the Latour house where they have so many kids an extra one or two is never noticed and the muu-muu wearing granny who looks like George Washington. The childhood games and songs, the old sayings we all heard time and time again going up like “when it rains it pours and “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”.

Sad as the zoo moves across town, dealing with the changes that have come about since their fathers death.

Mysterious as we learn there is something going on at the church.

Kagen takes us on a time back in time. I would love to be sitting with Ethel on the porch or go to all the happenings at the park.

This is a completely charming novel just like Whistling In the Dark. Wonderfully drawn characters with engaging stories that all blend together with perfect precision. I think this one is even better than its predecessor! Escape to Milwaukee 1960 this summer, you will be glad you made the trip!!

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Thanks to the people at Penguin I have
one brand new paperback copy to give away.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”