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Showing posts from August, 2016

The One Man by Andrew Gross

Setting: Chicago/Poland
Genre: Historic Fiction
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: August 23, 2016



I know the name Andrew Gross from James Patterson books. I liked his work in The One Man so much better.

The novel begins in Chicago where a woman is trying to get her elderly father to talk about his days during WWII. From there, it jumps to Poland, WWII, and Washington D.C.

Two men escape the confines of their concentration camp. Fearing they're about to be caught, they find the opposite when they're saved. They hold information into the truth about the concentration camps and how many men, women, and children are being murdered. Their information makes it to President Roosevelt.

Alfred Mendl, a noted physicist, and his family lose their security in a camp in France. Called out for having forged documents, they're brought to a Nazi concentration camp and separated. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is doing all they can to get Mendl out of there for he is one of two peop…

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

I love a lot about The All Saw a Cat. The narrative's rhythmic flow. The artistic illustrations that completely capture the mysterious feline. The story itself is ideally created to be complete without being too wordy. That was one issue I faced decades ago when picking stories for my kids, many times they got bored because a book was too long.

That's not the case with They All Saw a Cat. At 44 pages, this book is rich in illustrations with only a line or two on each page. Some pages simply have illustrations. As a result I see this being an excellent book for teaching a little one to read. Vocabulary is also perfect for a beginning reader. Sentences are short and simple - "The cat knew them all, and they all knew the cat." It's perfect for bedtime, teaching a child to read, and with the illustrations found on each page, even the pictures give you something to talk about. I really liked this book!

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

Setting: Bournemouth, England
Genre: British Mystery
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: August 30, 2016



I hated most everyone in The Darkest Secret. The characters in this novel are infuriating. Short of two, I didn't like the majority. It made it tough to read, yet I also couldn't look away.

Sean Jackson invited a number of friends to his lavish Bournemouth estate for his 50th birthday. The goal is to have one weekend of good times, with lots of drinking and even a bit of drug use. His daughters from his first marriage are present, not to his liking, but he doesn't want anything to spoil his weekend. And then one of his three-year-old twin daughters vanishes in the middle of the night.

Skip forward 12 years. Sean Jackson is dead and everyone who gathered at that party are back for his funeral. Mila Jackson, the younger of Sean's daughters from his first marriage, reluctantly agrees to escort Ruby, the other twin and her half-sister, to the funeral. Reuniting at the est…

Sunrise Crossing by Jodi Thomas

Setting: Crossroads, Texas
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: August 30, 2016



I have been impatiently waiting for Sunrise Crossing. Yancy is a favorite character, and I was desperately awaiting his chance to find true love.

Yancy Grey has served his time for theft, he's found out the truth about his family, and now he's rebuilding the rundown house his ancestors owned. He never expects to find a mysterious young woman hiding out in his barn. Tori's not afraid of him, she is happy helping him work on his home's repairs, and he finds himself entering new territory - romance.

Parker Lacey fears her knee pain is a sign that she, like her parents, has cancer and won't have long to live. When she finds a young artist, Tori, crying in the airport, Parker offers her home in Texas to this young woman who needs to go into hiding. Eventually, Parker will join her, and that means trusting in the help of the cowboy neighbor she's never met.

Gabe Snow…

Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan

Setting: New York City and Maine
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: August 30, 2016



There's the phrase "when life hands you lemons..." that hits hard on days like today. Yesterday, I got a letter from our credit union that they've decided to move all payment due dates on home equity loans to 15 days earlier. After looking into the legalities, they are a credit union and can do so. When I'm in the middle of a desperate job hunt and competing against thousands statewide, it's hard enough. This was a blow I didn't need. I was very, very down after the mail arrived yesterday. Then, my daughter and I both ended up with food poisoning from a local takeout. Yesterday sucked! I curled up with Sunset in Central Park, and suddenly I found that "lemonade."

Frankie Cole hates weddings. She hates engagement parties. She hates bridal showers. As the florist aspect of her best friends' party planning business, Frankie does what…

The Confectioner's Tale by Laura Madeleine

Setting: Paris and Cambridge
Genre: Historical Romance/Historical Mystery
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: September 20, 2016



Oh, how I loved The Confectioner's Tale: A Tale of Paris. If you adored Moulin Rouge, this book is going to impress. Be prepared to get swept up in this star-crossed lovers' tale.

Petra Stevenson, a King's College grad student, just needs to finish her thesis. The problem is she comes across a potential scandal involving her now-deceased grandfather. She adored her grandfather and is furious biographer Simon Hall would dare say her grandfather was responsible for a scandal that rocked Paris. When she finds a photo hidden away with the words "forgive me" scrawled on the back, Petra is determined to find the truth before Simon Hall does.

Skip back to 1909. Guillaume du Frere heads to Paris to take a laborer's job. He needs to earn money to help support his mother. He ends up bumping into a beautiful young woman, and soon lear…

That Darkness by Lisa Black

Setting: Cleveland
Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: April 26, 2016



That Darkness is the first A Gardiner and Renner Novel, and it's a winner. Jack Renner is an officer on a mission to clean the streets of Cleveland. As a vigilante killer, he's determined not to get caught. Maggie Gardiner is a forensic investigator who specializes in fingerprints, and she's looking into the death of a young girl. Her investigation grows when more bodies are found and each seems to have a connection to the girl. She's hunting a killer, and little does she know that her cat and mouse game is going to involve Jack in a very big way.

The suspense angle of That Darkness is based on the investigative skills Maggie has and the steps Jack takes to get away with murder. There's no "who's the killer" angle in this book. That said, watching the pair perform a metaphorical dance while trying to either solve or hide a crime is fascination. It is the part that dr…

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko: A Novel by Scott Stambach

Setting: Belarus
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: August 9, 2016



I admit that Scott Stambach fooled me. I knew The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko was fictional, but it really does seem like you're reading an orphan's diary. I even looked up the hospital to see if it existed. Every inch of me was heartbroken for these children needed to be adopted and given a chance at a new life outside those walls.

Ivan is a 17-year-old male who has lived in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children since birth. He has Connective Tissue Disorder, which means his legs and one arm are nubs. The other arm ends in a hand with only three digits. While his body may not be complete, his mind certainly is. With the help of Nurse Natalya, Ivan reads all he can. He uses his knowledge and the occasional faked catatonic state to outwit the staff at the hospital. Nurse Natalya is the only one who never falls for his ruses.

Ivan is smart, witty, and very likable. He…

We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly

Setting: Northeast Kingdom, Vermont
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: August 30, 2016



I'll come right out and say that We Are Unprepared made me pretty uncomfortable while reading it. Vermont is coming off an incredibly warm winter where there was very little snow. We're also dealing with a hot, dry summer. In fact, as of Friday, the Burlington area was more than four inches low in terms of rainfall this spring and summer. Area lakes are clearly showing the lack of rain, especially Lake Arrowhead where I'm seeing far more silt along the shores than ever before. With that were also forecasts of flooding rains for this weekend that were supposed to be devastating, though the rains once again really skipped over my area. That's why the story hit a little closer to home than I wanted. There is a level of "this weather is so unreal" going on.

New Yorker's Ash and Pia escaped city life to live in a remote town in the Northeast Kingdom. They …

Detached by Christina Kilbourne

Suicide. It's not a topic to ignore and hide, yet I see so many do just that. Detached is a haunting look at one girl's struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as the impact of her struggles on those who love her most.



Anna is a talented artist. She's popular, has lots of friends, and has a solid family unit who loves her dearly. Since Anna's grandparents died, she's been struggling with depression. Her thoughts turn towards suicide as a means to an end. Jumping off a bridge, hanging herself, drowning... None of those seem right, but then she realizes an overdose on painkillers may be the very best way.

The other two narrators in the story are Anna's best friend and her mother. Both sense a change in Anna, but they can't place it as being more than hormones and typical teen struggles. It's when she attempts suicide that they question everything they may have overlooked.

Detached is Christina Kilbourne's in-depth look at suicide and t…

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

Setting: Penny Gate, Iowa
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: August 9, 2016



Missing Pieces is now out in paperback, and like many of Heather Gudenkauf's novels, this one is going to keep you up till the wee hours.

Sarah Quinlan knows her husband Jack has never forgotten his mother's death. Raised by his aunt and uncle, Jack rarely returns to his hometown. He only does so now when he learns his aunt has taken a bad fall. They arrive in Penny Gate and soon get caught up in a mystery. Jack's aunt apparently didn't fall, she was attacked. The aunt soon dies while in the hospital. When Jack's sister is accused of her murder, Sarah begins looking into the aunt's death. The more she learns about the Quinlan family's past, the more she finds that nothing is as she thought it was.

There is a touch of romance in this book, but not enough for me to call it a romantic suspense novel. It is primarily about the aunt's death and the family's his…

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman by Brady Stefani

Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Thriller
Publisher: SparkPress
Release Date: June 7, 2016



At 15, Courtney Hoffman should be enjoying her teen years. Instead, she lives in fear. She's seeing aliens, as did her grandfather. There's only one reason she could be seeing aliens and hearing/seeing an imaginary friend, and that's that she's becoming crazy like her grandfather. Her mother and her mother's boyfriend will not tolerate her being mentally ill. Courtney's only option is to try to keep what she sees and hears hidden.

When her mother has enough and has Courtney admitted into a psychiatric hospital, Courtney spies her imaginary friend - real and in the flesh. Agatha claims to have visions, and she certainly has a bond with Courtney. Perhaps with Agatha's help, Courtney can finally unravel the truth and find the peace she longs for.

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is at times creepy and very engrossing. I liked Courtney's character, though her mother ann…

Explore Vermont in the Pages of Susan Wiggs' New Novel

Setting: Switchback, Vermont
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: August 9, 2016
Susan Wiggs is a favorite author of mine. She writers with emotion. I'm pulled into her stories and settings and find myself at home. Given that, Family Tree: A Novel caught my attention as it is set in Vermont. No matter how impartial I try to be, I have to admit that I tend to be more critical of books set in my home state. I know the ins and outs of life here. I know the people. Therefore, I also know how we act, think, and talk. All of that is in my head when I read books set in my state. This review is going to point out exactly what caught my attention. No fears, it's in a very good way!


Annie Harlow seems to have it all. Her culinary-themed television show is a huge success. Her husband, a culinary wizard, is the star of said show. They have a gorgeous Los Angeles home. Best yet, Annie learns she is pregnant. Fate steps in and Annie wakes up from a coma one year …

Arrowood: A Novel by Laura McHugh

I've been on a kick of reading books about missing infants or children recently. Arrowood: A Novel is another one.



After her father's death, Arden Arrowood learns the family estate is now hers. She gets both the Iowan estate home that sits on the banks of the Mississippi and a trust fund meant to cover the home's repairs and upkeep. Recent events at her college have Arden reeling for change, so she packs up her belongings and moves back to the estate she left many years ago.

When Arden was a young girl, her twin sisters vanished. Arden had been playing with them outside. She turned her back for just a fraction of a minute and the toddlers disappeared. The only clue police had was that Arden was sure she saw a gold car drive away and that she saw pale blonde hair in the backseat. That clue never helped police find her sisters, however.

Now that she's back, Arden teams up with the owner of an unsolved disappearances website. With his help and the help of her childhood f…

Patrick Griffin's Last Breakfast on Earth by Ned Rust

Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: August 2, 2016



While sci-fi/fantasy is not my preferred genre, there is something endearing about young Patrick Griffin and the incredible journey he finds himself taking in Patrick Griffin's Last Breakfast on Earth.

Patrick is the middle child of seven children, so he's used to being quiet and keeping out the way. When he gets up to find the entire house empty, it's odd. More disturbing is that the frozen waffles his mother bought the day before are gone. Someone ate his share. With an empty house, there's no one to stop Patrick from making his own. After all, cooking is like chemistry and Patrick loves chemistry!

Once he's eaten his fill, Patrick decides to keep going. He takes just about every household cleaner and personal grooming item he can get his hands on, mix them together, and see what happens. He never expects his weird mixture to produce a vile green gas, a gas that …

Toby: A Novel by David Johnson

Setting: Tennessee
Genre: Women's Fiction/General Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: July 26, 2016



The puppy she found as a child has been Symphony Nelson's best friend since she was a preteen. Over a decade later, Symphony works for a local nursing home. She's made bad choices, but she's trying to improve herself and make something of her life. Her father abandoned Symphony when she was young, and since that day, she's been the main caretaker to her mother, a woman suffering from mental illness. It's made things very hard for Symphony.

Soon Symphony learns she has a "guardian angel." Who is he and why is he making his appearance known now? He may be the only person who can keep her safe, however, when she finds herself in over her head.

For the first few chapters of Toby: A Novel, I admit I struggled. The plot seemed bland. Just a woman who worked all day, came home to her dog and mentally ill mother at night. Repeat. It takes a …

Always and Forever by Soraya Lane

Setting: California
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: July 26, 2016



I supposed it had to happen. I have found the first Lake Union Publishing release that didn't wow me. There were moments, but overall, I felt the story fell flat.

It's been a long time coming, but Matt and Lisa are finally expecting their first child. They've been happily married for a number of years. They have a great house, great jobs, and a love that is unfailing. In one extraordinary moment, their world shatters.

Hoping for a fresh start, Matt and Lisa head off on a road trip in a red Cadillac. Matt hopes they'll start anew. Lisa wants to be as positive as Matt, but she seems to be struggling with events more than he does. Can they really find happiness while traveling through California?

I really don't know how to review Always and Forever without giving away a spoiler, so I want to warn that what follows is a partial spoiler. I'm going to try to …

Santorini Sunsets by Anita Hughes

Setting: Santorini, Greece
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Release Date:August 2, 2016



With her wedding day quickly approaching, the last thing Brigit Palmer needs is her ex-husband's intrusion. However, she quickly learns that her fiance, a popular movie actor, sold exclusive rights to HELLO! Magazine to help his charity. As fate would have it, her ex-husband is the reporter assigned to the big day.

That's not the only issue at hand. Brigit's ex-husband is bad enough, but she also learns her husband-to-be has been keeping secrets. Brigit isn't sure a marriage built on secrets is what she wants or needs at this stage in her life.

That's the key story in Santorini Sunsets, but there are two other key characters. Brigit's sister is falling for the photographer sent in by HELLO! Magazine. It's her sister's big day and not her time to shine, but can she really turn her back on what feels like true love?

Brigit&#…

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: August 23, 2016

After Gone Baby Gone, I noticed a whole lot of new psychological suspense/mystery novels coming out. Some hit the mark, some didn't. The Couple Next Door hits that mark in a very big way.



At the heart of this story is something I can related to. Anne Conti and her husband Marco have been invited to their neighbor's house for a birthday dinner. When their babysitter cancels at the last minute, they have few choices. They can either bring the baby, cancel for the night, have Anne stay home while Marco goes alone, or leave the baby sleeping in her crib while they bring a monitor and do 30-minute checks. Anne's not 100%, but Marco swears it will be fine. It's not fine. They return home after the dinner party and their six-month-old daughter is missing.

What follows is the police investigation and desperate attempt to unravel the truth. As is true in any missing child case. Suspicion falls…