Note to Readers

Roundtable Reviews receives many galley and ARC copies for review. Please understand that the finished copy may differ from the copies we have reviewed.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Always by Emma Dodd

Release Date - August 2014

Emma Dodd
Templar/Candlewick Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

This cute picture book illustrates the unconditional love a parent has for her/his child. No matter the situation or how the little elephant behaves, his mother will always love him.

The simple pictures embellished with foil and combined with some eye-catching colors will attract the child’s attention and he/she will love paging through this book.

Always would also make the perfect transition volume from board books to more traditional books. Smaller than a regular book and printed on sturdy paper, it will be easy for the toddler to handle and provide plenty of enjoyment.

Echoes by Laura K. Curtis

Release Date - March 17, 2015

Laura K. Curtis
InterMix (Penguin)

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Echoes is the first book in Laura K. Curtis's Harp Security series. I see this series having huge appeal to fans of romances where the hero is former military and determined to the woman he loves safe.

The novel begins with the murder of a young woman. It's written from the killer's perspective, and readers get drawn into the crime in this fashion. You have no idea who the killer is as the story shifts to Callie Pearson's arrival on the island of Saint Martin in the French West Indies.

Callie is a freelance travel writer, and she's here to do a write up on a five-star resort that draws many celebrities. She never expects to find staff staring at her or to learn that she apparently looks just like the hotel owner who has disappeared.

This leads Callie to her own secret. Her parents are both dead, but in her father's belongings, she came across a photo of herself and her mother on the island. The photo was taken before her date of birth, so she's baffled and has come to the island hoping to find answers. She never expects to become embroiled in a mystery. She also never expects to find herself falling for the missing woman's husband, a man who is one of two suspects in his wife's disappearance.

The opening murder scene is quite graphic and definitely sets the mood for this murder mystery/romantic suspense. It does seem to be a bit more of a mystery at first, but the romance presents itself soon enough and the perfect mix is born.

As an avid mystery reader, I liked the fact that Echoes did blend the mystery and the romance perfectly. Mac Brody is a sexy hero, though it took time to see it, especially given how he treats Callie at first. My opinion of him quickly changed, however, and I found myself rooting for them.

At the same time, I found the mystery behind the killer's identity ended up being too easy to figure out. I had it pegged before I was even halfway through the book. That was the one disappointment I found in this otherwise gripping romantic suspense.

Monday, March 30, 2015

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

Release Date - March 31, 2015

Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I Wish You More. What a lovely message in a very charming children's book.  Lines like "I wish you more ups than downs. I wish you more we than me." The message is of love is clear from start to finish.

The artwork is equally appealing. Gentle pastel colors form the skies and clouds, while bolder shades capture the magic of a tug-of-war on a warm sunny day.

Bottom line for me, if I had younger kids, this book would quickly go on the keeper shelf. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Release Date - March 2015

Alice Hoffman
Wendy Lamb Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Twig and her mother return to the family home in Sidwell, New York, following a tragic accident. Twig's mother will take over the family business. One thing is made very clear to Twig, she must keep the family's secret.

When they gain new neighbors, Twig becomes close to one of the girls, but her mother informs her that many, many years ago, the new neighbors' ancestors placed a curse on Twig's family. She cannot befriend this family. Twig isn't as convinced, especially now that she has her first friend, and she sets out to change things.

Readers will learn new information as the book progresses, so I'm sticking to information that is only gained in the first few chapters. The book's setting is clearly magical and comes to life. I've always loved Alice Hoffman's books for that. Between the settings and characters, she certainly does draw you into the story. With Twig, there is an innocence to her that readers will appreciate. She knows she's been uprooted from New York City. She's in a town where people do not treat her as she would expect to be treated, and her mother keeps insisting that she cannot reveal a secret. Twig has a hard time with that secret, too.

At first, I was baffled by Twig's mother's standoffish ways. She treats old friends coldly, she wants to have no communications with the townspeople, she's much of a hermit really. As you read, the pieces of the puzzle are revealed and it does start to make sense. You just have to get a few chapters in before you get it.

Nightbird is a charming story that I think is ideal for the middle reader. It's filled with magic, great vocabulary, and characters that you want to befriend.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

Release Date - February 2015

Tamar Cohen

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

With almost 30 years of marriage to celebrate, Selina Busfield is stunned when police show up in the middle of the night to tell her her husband is dead. He wasn't even in the country, so she simply cannot believe they have the correct identity of the body pulled from the river. When she goes to identify him, the corpses's wedding ring is not Simon's, so she's convinced they made a huge mistake, until they lift the sheet and she can see his face.

Lottie Busfield is stunned to learn that her husband's funeral is being arranged. She hasn't even been notified of his death, so someone is making a huge mistake. With 17 years of marriage between her and Simon, Lottie feels she knows everything about Simon. With this impending funeral and still no death notification, she heads to the funeral for what is about to be the shock of a lifetime.

Simon Busfield married two women. These two women and their children are thrown together in the most tragic circumstances. This war has just begun.

War of the Wives is at times hilarious and others downright tragic. It can seem hard at first to understand how these woman never suspected anything, but keep reading at it makes sense. I loved the growth both Lottie and Selina go through as they come to terms with Simon's death and then the question if he committed suicide or was murdered. This mystery leads to a shocking conclusion that threw me. It was an excellent and emotional read that I'm glad I did not miss.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mr. Samuel's Penny by Treva Hall Melvin

Release Date - November 2014

Treva Hall Melvin
Poisoned Pencil

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Lizbeth Landers and her younger sister are sent to her aunt and uncle's home in North Carolina to experience life outside of New York City. While she isn't sure what to expect in this sleepy town, things definitely look up when she stumbles onto a big mystery. A local woman's husband and baby are pulled from the river, after driving off it. The big mystery is that the 1909 wheat penny the driver was clutching in his hand is missing. With this one clue, Lizbeth sets out to explore what really happened to neighbor Miss Violet's husband and child.

With a bit of a Nancy Drew feel for the younger generation, I think Mr. Samuel's Penny will appeal to the budding mystery reader. Lizbeth at 14 is, of course, younger than Nancy Drew, but she's just as smart. The story is set in the 1970s, a time period I am familiar with, and the close bonds shared by many in the town reminded me of my own childhood.

All in all, this is a charming story that captures a bit of a coming-of-age story and a juvenile mystery. Marketed for the 12 to 18 range, I feel that is spot on.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Maisy's Castle by Lucy Cousins

Release Date - September 23, 2014

Lucy Cousins

Book Review by Bob Walch

This latest Maisy book includes a medieval castle that folds out of the back of the book and some play pieces that feature all the characters dressed up in palace finery.

There is a minimal narrative in Maisy's Castle that precedes the pop-out castle and the publisher did include two pockets to store the play figures but, although a pretty decent size when open, young children will find that this castle is a bit difficult to play with.

And if the child isn’t careful, the castle will be all but impossible to fold back into the book. You just might wish to set it up, lock the walls in place, and leave it folded out.

Our family loves the Maisy series, but this one didn’t do it for us. It has also been receiving very mixed reviews, so check it out before making a purchase!