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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Release Date - August 2015

Barbara Taylor Sissel
Lake Union Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A devastating fall left Lauren Wilder with injuries and a dependence on pain killers. Numerous counseling sessions later, Lauren believes she has ended her dependency on these drugs, but memory lapses often have her doubting herself. All of this becomes a focal point when Lauren almost hits a young man while driving. She stops to make sure he's okay, and his response, while slightly unusual, makes her call the police to do a welfare check. When she spies him getting into the car with a woman he clearly knows, she thinks all is okay.

Days later, Lauren learns the young man is missing, and she's the last person police can confirm he spoke to. Lauren's memory gaps become alarming to her. As police start eyeing her as a suspect, she urgently looks into the case on her own to discover the truth behind everything she saw that day and what really happened to Bo Laughlin.

Crooked Little Lies is general fiction, perhaps better categorized as women's fiction, but there is also a strong element of mystery to it. I did feel an urgency to unravel what happened to Bo. The issue became the subplots. So much is going on that I felt it often distracted from the mystery I wanted to explore. Lauren and her husband are on the verge of bankruptcy, so some chapters would focus more on their arguments. There are the snippets with Lauren's sister and her troubles. The character I probably liked most, Bo's sister, also tended to stray a bit from the disappearance, leaning more towards her work, her possible romance with a local man, and even her car troubles.

I'd find myself skimming through the sections to get back to the mystery regarding Bo. That part of the story had me hooked from the very beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed Bo's mystery the most.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Check Out These Action-Packed Board Books

Release Date - September 2015

Betsy Snyder
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I Can Play and I Can Dance are two new releases from Betsy Snyder. These board books have holes where parents and their children can put their fingers to act out the action taking place on the pages. Whether they're dancing the ballet, showing off their disco moves, kicking a soccer ball, or running a race, little fingers keep moving with each page.

Illustrations are bright and colorful, definitely something kids and their parents will appreciate. The story itself is enjoyable with easy phrases for beginning readers and not too many words that children will become bored before the story ends. Purchased separately or as a set, these books are ideal for children who are nearing the age where they are ready to read.

Peek-a Boo! by Nina Laden

Release Date - August 2015

Nina Laden
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Small and very sturdy, Peek-a Boo! is the latest toddler/board book by Nina Laden. The narrative is very short and ideal for the target age group - preschoolers. Plus, it's perfectly timed for the arrival of Halloween that's just a few weeks away.

Ghosts, bubbling cauldrons, jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treaters, and more take place in this book. Each page begins with the words "peek-a" and then embraces what is behind the cut out, all while celebrating autumn's and Halloween's typical decor. Celebrate the season with this gem that's perfect for the child who is just about ready to start reading.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Early One Morning by Virginia Baily

Release Date - September 29, 2015

Virginia Baily
Hatchette Book Group

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

WWII is affecting so many, and for Chiara Ravello, it's destroyed much of her family, leaving her to care for her sister, a girl prone to seizures. Her plan is to flee Rome and go live away from the battles in her grandparents' country home.

Chiara's world changes when she spies a mother and her young son being pushed onto trucks bound for concentration camps. Chiara announces that boy belongs to her sister and takes him from his mother. The plan to spare his life works, but her sister and even the boy are resentful of her actions.

Move forward to the 1970s in Wales. Sixteen-year-old Maria is floored when she learns the father she knows isn't her father at all. Her actual father is an Italian named Daniele Levi. Maria contacts the woman she believes was a landlady to her real father, Chiara Ravello, and wants to know as much about her father as she can get from Chiara.

Early One Morning is one of those books that fascinated me, but was also not easily read in one sitting. It required some processing to think about what I'd read and decide how I felt about it. I liken it to the difference between drinking something like a Bud and then switching to something with far more depth, like a complex IPA. You just can't rush it.

Time, history, and human emotions all have a part in Early One Morning. This ended up not being a book I could rush. Best put, it's a book meant to be savored and reflected upon.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Pattern of Lies: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd

Release Date - August 2015

Charles Todd
William Morrow

Book Review by Bob Walch

On leave and back in England, battlefield nurse Bess Crawford finds that a short visit to the home of a former patient, Mark Ashton, turns into another crime investigation for the amateur sleuth.

The Ashtons owned a gunpowder mill in a village in Kent that mysteriously blew up, killing over 100 workers. Now two years later, the family is having to deal with the threatening behavior of the locals who blame the Ashtons for the disaster. Things get even more critical when the head of the household, Philip, is arrested and charged with causing the explosion.

Bess has stumbled into a hornet’s nest of intrigue but knows that her friend’s parents are not to blame for what happened. Someone has decided to not only turn the locals against the family but also makes sure someone goes to prison for the accidental explosion.

The answer to who is seeking revenge lies back in France and as Bess tries to track down the person who may hold the answer to why this is happening, she places her own live in jeopardy. A couple of murders underscore the fact that Bess is getting too close to uncovering the truth and her hidden adversary has set his sights on silencing Beth too.

Set during the First World War, the atmospheric suspense stories in this series have generated a lot of interest. A growing group of avid readers are finding these well written novels with their engaging characters quite enticing and definitely worth following.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner

Release Date - April 2015

Henry Turner
Houghton Mifflin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Billy Zeets helped catch a serial killer and he's ready to share his story. The teenager pilots every moment of Ask the Dark, sharing his insight into the things he saw, the people he knows, and the lifestyle he leads, like it or not.

I adored Billy. The mom in me wanted to hug him, the reader in me was engaged from the start. Billy's mom died, and he's a handful to say the least. To keep his dad from losing the family home, Billy takes any odd job he can find, skips school regularly, and winds up in the path of a killer. You'll be avidly reading to find out everything you can about Billy and the things he faces.

Geared for teens, the language used is brutally honest and very gripping. This is a great start to a series I cannot wait to keep reading.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South by Ann Boult Walling

Release Date - July 2015


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I admit that my draw to Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South was mainly for the old-time recipes. I love to cook, but it's the recipes handed down from my grandmother that are the most cherished. I hoped I'd find the same joy from Sunday Dinner.

Author Ann Boult Walling shares her own family recipes and stories in this memoir. At first I feared the recipes I'd hoped for were absent, but they are given at the end of the book, there is not an abundance, but there are recipes I can't wait to try, such as peach preserves, scalloped asparagus, and "White Salad."

The majority of this memoir shares the author's family stories from the early history of her grandmother's home, including photos, to the 1950s when segregation ended. Photos are scattered throughout, along with very touching stories.

That said, I've often wondered how far interest in a story will stretch. I'm by no means a history buff, so my interest in the story beyond the recipes became limited. The stories are engaging, but as a northerner who grew up well after segregation, I didn't really feel connected to the time or location. If you enjoy history, however, I do think you'll love every moment of Ann Boult Walling's memoir.