Roundtable Reviews features little more than book reviews and book news. We don't just stick to one genre. We have varying tastes and may be after a heartwarming romance one day, a new adult novel the next, and a creepy horror the day after that. Our book reviews always take one thought into consideration -- Would I pay the asking price for this book?
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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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
Years ago, Roundtable Reviews had its own website. After a bit of a disagreement of ways, the other RTR owner took that domain and partnered with another review site and ended up ditching the site. I had talked with her over the years of taking the domain back, but the opportunity with Google appeared to purchase a new domain and they'd take care of the redirect.
I purchased a new domain, roundtablereviews.net, and will be moving the blog there. I was going to do the redirect today, but the error messages made it an annoyance that I'd rather put off to the weekend, when I don't have freelance work waiting for me. Hopefully, everything will go smoothly, but you never know.
If you get any error messages in the meantime, that is why.
After saving his life on the beach, Tara Jenkins feels a deeper bond than ever with Justin Westcroft. They were childhood friends, but Tara's move separated them. After moving back, Justin was now one of the popular kids and Tara wasn't. It was as simple as that. Yet, now that she's saved his life, the two are drawn to each other. Justin breaks up with his girlfriend and befriends and eventually begins dating Tara.
One night, tragedy strikes. The pair are in a car accident and Justin dies while Tara lives. Through her grief, she swears Justin is still there by her side. She's not crazy, though others thing she is.
What follows is a pretty emotional tale of Tara's grief process and Justin's afterlife. I loved every minute of it, until I reached the climax. I don't want to go into spoilers, but it just wasn't an ending for me. I predicted it, which isn't a good start, but it was Tara's naivety that really got to me and had me wondering how she couldn't see a certain event coming.
That niggle aside, this book is pretty powerful when it comes to the emotions. The love between Tara and Justin was pretty authentic and captured well.
In the quiet town of Honey Ridge, Julia Presley attempts to get on with her life. She throws herself into her bustling bed and breakfast - Peach Orchard Inn - and tries to ignore the memories of her son. Eight-year-old Mikey vanished without a trace six years ago.
Eli Donovan served his time in jail, but he's still haunted by his childhood. Now that he's out, finding a job is tough, but it's critical now that he's learned the mother of his son is dead. Eli is tossed into fatherhood in a hurry with a son, Alex, who doesn't know him. He finds himself at Peach Orchard Inn, accepting free room and board for himself and Alex in exchange for his work fixing up the place.
Julia and Eli soon come to rely on one another. Along the way, they discover a series of letters written by a former owner of the home, a woman who faced her own trials back during the Civil War. It's through her letters that they start to understand love and forgiveness.
The Memory House moves back and forth between the Civil War era and today. Readers learn about Charlotte Reed Portland, her son Benjamin, her often cruel husband Edgar, and the slaves they own. Charlotte's life changes drastically when Captain William Gadsen shows up at her farm and commandeers their house to turn it into a temporary hospital for wounded Union soldiers. Her bond service helping treat the "enemy" puts a real strain on her already strained relationship with her husband.
As Charlotte's story plays out, readers learn more about Eli and Julia. Eli is more secretive and his past is revealed slowly throughout the novel, as does his relationship with both his son and Julia. The big link to the modern time and the past is the appearance of antique marbles that start showing up in Julia's inn. This is where there's a bit of ghostly play that helps some characters in the book with their healing process. This touch of paranormal isn't a main focus in the story, but it's there.
I liked the switch between past and present. Both times kept me intrigued in the story and wanting to know what happened next. Without going into detail, there is one aspect that I wish had gotten more focus, but at the same time, I understand why it wasn't a major part of the plot. I'm pretty sure this is the first in a series, however, so maybe it will show up and be further discussed in future books.
Set in the '50s, 18-year-old Emmaline "Emmy" Nelson is promised to a neighbor. While she likes Ambrose, she's certainly not in love. It's her final year of high school and spending time with her new friends and suggestions from the guidance counselor shows her that there is more out there, if she wants it.
Breaking up with Ambrose, however, does not please her mother. She's banished from the family, and it's the separation from her father and her younger sister Birdie that is really hard to take. On her own, living with an aunt she doesn't know, she ends up landing a job with the local paper, and that's where Emmy really starts to learn about the people she knows and loves and the community surrounding them. It's a time of the KKK, bigotry, and horrifying events that have Emmy questioning everything.
A Fireproof Home for the Bride started a little slowly for me. I just couldn't bring myself to like Emmy's strictly Lutheran mother or the belief that the Catholics, Jews, and black people moving to their small town were ruining it for everyone. I couldn't stand Ambrose, either, and cheered when Emmy set off on her own. It's that point where I really started to get into the story.
Nothing in Emmy's life comes easy. Even after she's on her own, she still has struggles to face. The book shifts from general/historical fiction with a touch of romance to more of a mystery. Emmy teams up with a reporter to get to the bottom of a number of fires, starting with the fire of a theater owned by a Russian man and the place Emmy was working prior to the newspaper offices. It's really no surprise to the reader who is behind everything.
In the end, I liked but never really loved A Fireproof Home for the Bride. If anything, it saddened me how little we've really come when it comes to the suspicion, hatred, and bigotry towards immigrants. It is an excellent look at the times, the arranged marriage seemed a little odd to me as my dad and his sisters grew up in that period and had free choice on who they married, but I was able to overlook that. In the end, it's Emmy's character that stole the show and made this book worth reading. I wouldn't mind reading more about her in the future.
Every year, by midnight on December 1st, Angela Gillespie sends out her yearly Christmas email. This year, she is lacking inspiration. Her marriage seems to be in ruins, her three adult daughters are all having issues of their own - ranging from publicized affairs with married men, to high amounts of debt with no job, to a career that is in jeopardy due to an issue with Hollywood gossip. Then there is her 10-year-old son Ig who has an imaginary friend and just doesn't seem as normal as she'd expect of a 10-year-old boy.
Following her best friend's advice, Angela types out a long narrative discussing the family's issues, knowing she will never send it. Unfortunately, there's an accident with Ig, Angela must rush him to the hospital, and in the meantime, her husband sees the letter, fails to read it, and sends it to the people on their Christmas mailing list.
As people start to read the letter, the embarrassment for the Gillespie family grows. Soon the letter is being forwarded to strangers. This sets off a chain of events that will change the family forever.
Hello From the Gillespies is an addicting story. I couldn't put it down, which was odd because many of the characters drove me nuts. The younger daughter, Lindy, was the first to really get to me. She's a bit of a self-centered whiner who I hated reading about. The twins, they were a little more likable. It was really Ig who stole the show. That precocious kid was so much fun.
There is a big plot turn a while into the story that changes everything. That's when the story got really good, and I couldn't wait to see how it all turned out!
He doesn't have long to live, not without a heart anyway. Thus begins the story of Patrick Robson, a professor of American Studies. The unbelievable occurs when a motorcycle accident kills 16-year-old Andrew Beamish. The heart Patrick so desperately needs is here, and surgeons decide to attempt beating-heart surgery to keep the heart alive until it reaches the hospital where Patrick is admitted.
After the surgery is deemed a success, Patrick begins to change. He's not happy with the way his life was. He's been given a tremendous gift, and he decides he wants to know more of this kid whose life ended so tragically.
There are really three stories in one in The Tell-Tale Heart: A Novel. Of course Patrick's story takes center stage, but there is also the story of Andrew and the events leading up to his crash. Going back more than a century is also the story of one of Andrew's ancestors, Willie Beamiss the oldest and only boy of six children born to a cobbler and his wife. Each of the stories revolves heavily around the heart in some way.
The Tell-Tale Heart: A Novel is a very emotional, touching story. You do have to get used to the shifts in stories, Patrick's character who was not an admirable guy, and the language itself. The author is British, this is a British novel, and there is going to be some terminology that some Americans may not know. It didn't phase me, but I've heard others say they struggled a bit.
If you're expecting a retelling of Alfred Hitchcock's famous story, you won't find it here. You will find a story woven with incredible detail that captures the story of three men and their struggles and triumphs.
A Sister to Honor takes place in both Pakistan and New England. In Pakistan, Farishta and Tofan Satar are raising their younger daughters and Tofan's nephew, Khalid. Meanwhile, their two older children have left the nest for an education in the United States. Shahid is a star athlete at Enright, and there is talk that Harvard Business School wants him.
With his success, Shahid persuades his parents to let the oldest of their daughters come to Massachusetts to study medicine. Afia, 19, is doing just as well at Smith College. It's not to last, however, when a photo of Afia holding hands with an American boy is publicized on the school's website. Khalid sees it and soon everyone in the family knows of the shame she's brought upon her family. Her actions will lead to consequences no one could imagine.
The setting is extremely familiar to me. I loved how the author made the area come to life, and in that setting were characters you could not help but bond with. There is definitely a clash of cultures, and that played a huge part in this story. It can seem unbearable to read, but this is truly how girls/women are taught to behave in many countries. While it can seem maddening, be thankful you don't live in a country where arranged marriages, keeping covered, and not having any intimacy with another male until you are married are expected behaviors.
Lucy Ferriss's novel ended up being a powerful look at the two cultures and definitely impacted the emotions. I recommend it to anyone who likes romance, general fiction, and even world events.
The third and final entry into Anna Sullivan's A Windfall Island Novel completes the saga of the missing heiress to the Stanhope fortune. Residents of Windfall Island believe that the descendant of Eugenia Stanhope must be one of three women who have grown up on the island. Maggie Solomon's story was first, then came Jessi Randall. In Secret Harbor, Hollywood star Paige Walker is the focus.
After a decade in Hollywood, Paige is back to hide from media following a huge scandal. The last thing she needs or even wants is to fall for Alec Barclay, an attorney who comes from a very prominent and wealthy Boston family. She cannot deny her maddening attraction to him, however.
While she struggles with her growing feelings, there is also the issue of who is the Stanhope heiress, if it's even true that Eugenia was stolen and raised on Windfall Island. There are people who will go to any length to keep the truth from being revealed, and that means Paige could be the next of the Windfall Island women to be in danger.
I have relished each book in Anna Sullivan's series, so I was eager to see how it would end. If you haven't read the others, I recommend reading them in order. There's a lot of background that you'll miss out on if you do not.
All in all, I wasn't quite as thrilled with Secret Harbor as I'd been with the previous two novels. The truth behind Paige's scandal seemed silly to me. She comes off as a very headstrong, opinionated person, yet she hid from this scandal. That didn't match up with the way her personality was. I'm definitely glad to learn the truth about Eugenia, but in the end, this romance was a letdown.
Textastrophe was born from moments of boredom. During his shifts at a cell phone kiosk, Matt Andrews used the phones he worked with to text people who posted ads in places like Craigslist, restaurant receipts, etc. These text pranks turned into the fodder for both Textastrophe and numerous sites Reddit and BuzzFeed.
I grew up in an era where prank calls were common. The whole, lame "Is your refrigerator running?" calls that many kids would do and thought were hilarious. Realistically, Matt Andrews' pranks are no different, though they are longer. From the text he sent a restaurant manager about "food poisoning" to pranking a company that rents bouncy castles, included in this book are the actual texts and how they played out.
In the end, the pranks' popularity turned out to be the book's downfall. I'd already seen/read many of these pranks on BuzzFeed. Therefore, only a few were new to me. I did snicker at a few, but overall, they were too familiar for me. If you've never read any of Matt Andrews' pranks before, you'll love this book. If you have, you're unlikely to find much in the way of new pranks here.
The first of the two books I wanted to spotlight has a fun interactive feature that involves moving a cut out bunny (it's secured by a thick ribbon to prevent a choking hazard) through different situations. You and your child may have to move the bunny over blue rocks or under green bushes. Not only is your child then going to learn the action, but there are the colors to learn too.
The narrative in Hop, Hop Bunny is simple and perfect for reading to youngsters who do not often sit still for long. There are just six pages, so the story itself is short, sweet, and perfect for reading sessions.
On My Beach is a finger puppet book. Within the center of the book is a small crab puppet that the parent can move around while reading. This board book is also six pages, so again it is ideal for toddlers who don't like to sit still for long.
The illustrations have a patchwork feel to them. The colors are bright and each scene brings a new setting, be it with a family or crabs or within the seaweed. The narrative contains a solid vocabulary that's ideal for teaching a child in these formative stages of reading.
There's a bit of a weirdness factor when reading Polar Bear's Underwear. Before you can read the book to your child, you must pull Polar Bear's underwear off. Once I got by that, the book itself is cute and well illustrated.
Polar Bear is sad. He cannot find his underwear, so his friend mouse agrees to help him. The two set off spying underwear, only to find it belongs to someone else. Where did Polar Bear's underwear go?
The illustrations are colorful, and before you see the actual animals wearing the different pairs of underwear, there's a peek-through effect that only allows the child to see the colorful print. This makes it easy to guess what kind of animal would be wearing the underwear.
If you are searching for a book to read to your child that has an interactive aspect and vocabulary that will not perplex a beginning reader, Polar Bear's Underwear is a solid choice.
Farewell Floppy is a reissue. The original release was in 2010, under the French title Adieu Chassette. This poignant tale tells the story of a boy and his rabbit. Fans of The Velveteen Rabbit may find a lot to love in Floppy's story.
Figuring it unfair to keep his rabbit, the boy wanders deep in the woods where he plans to leave Floppy behind. Floppy can start a new, happy life with other rabbits and wildlife. Only, when Floppy actually leaves, the boy has changed his mind. It may be too late to get his best friend back.
Not only has Benjamin Chaud written a poignant tale about pets being more than pets, he's also illustrated it beautifully. Colorful images paint the story, so even for children who cannot yet read, they'll still be able to look at the pictures and get an idea of what is happening on each page.
The end of the world is coming and Vivian Apple's parents have bought into it. Vivian doesn't believe it, however, nor does her friend Harp. Yet, thousands if not millions are buying into the words of the Church of America, including Vivian's parents. When rapture happens, true believers will be taken to heaven and everyone else will stay and watch the earth come to an end.
After a New Year's Eve party, Vivian returns home the next morning to find her mother and father gone. Two holes in the roof are the only things that remain. Thousands of other believers also vanished, thought not all of them.
Vivian is stunned, and soon finds herself with the maternal grandparents she barely knows. It's there that she gets a weird phone call where the caller never speaks a word, but she's convinced it must be her mother. She teams up with Harp and a boy she met at the party named Peter. They begin a cross-country trip to uncover the truth behind the reclusive founder of Church of America and find out what happened to all of the people who disappeared.
Vivian Apple at the End of the World is a bit post-apocalyptic, but not completely. With so many people left behind, things keep going, but there's definitely a shift too. It becomes an intriguing mystery to find out what happened, if there even is an explanation. You'll find yourself turning pages rapidly as Vivian, Peter, and Harp unravel the truth.
By the end of the book, I didn't really know how I felt. I can't give away spoilers, but there are aspects that from an adult viewpoint left me shaking my head. Definitely read this one and see what you think!
Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt is such a fascinating and creative way to teach children about the aspects of gardening. Most kids think of the seeds, the water, and then the sprouts. This book delves into the insects preparing the soil below ground, the creatures that rely on the insects for sustenance, and even goes into the different seasons.
The illustrations are vivid and help paint the picture that children will love reading about. It's also a great way to start getting kids excited for the gardens to come, as hard as it is for many dealing with a frost line that's reaching five-feet deep or more.
One teacher's simple question leads to an exciting tale of the adventures a boy encounters on his trip to the school. From blobs to dinosaurs and ninjas to giant ants, the boy weaves an incredible saga of everything he encountered while simply trying to get to school on time.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School reminded me a little of Dr. Seuss's And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. It had the same imaginative story weaving. That's one aspect I loved about this book. The illustrations by Benjamin Chaud are visually pleasing and will have kids exploring every page to see what the boy has encountered. All in all, if my kids were young, I'd have this book for my keeper shelf.