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.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or galley copy of the book. I have no material connection to the publisher, agent, or author whose book/s I am reviewing. 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.”

Friday, September 30, 2016

Wrecked by Maria Padian

Genre: Teen/Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: October 4, 2016



Quick parent moment. Everything within Wrecked captures my biggest fear each time my daughter leaves the house to go to college. The novel scared me, made me angry, and at the same time left me hopeful that teens will read it and realize they can change things. This novel, however, is for the young adult reader, so it will evoke similar, yet I'm sure different, emotions.

Haley's geeky roommate has always been a little different, but since Jenny came home in the wee hours, she's never been the same. After hearing her roommate's been raped at a college party, Haley agrees to be Jenny's support person, even if her parents think Haley needs to back off and let someone else handle it.

Richard knows his friend hooked up with a freshman during a party. When Jordan asks him to hide that he ever said that, Richard agrees to keep silent, but only if authorities don't ask him. Richard's not going to lie to authorities, not even for a friend.

When Haley and Richard meet, neither realizes they are connected through this alleged rape. It's going to tear at their emotions and make them question those around them.

Rape on campus is a very real situation. It's not something any girl or guy for that matter should hide. There's no reason for the rape victim to feel shame, yet so many do. With the absurd sentencing Brock Turner received, it's even more maddening.

I hope teens read Wrecked and take it to heart. There is never a reason to force someone into something. If you are the victim of a rape, don't be afraid to speak up. I enjoyed seeing how things played out, even if I did get frustrated from time to time. It's simply that real.



Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Promise Kitchen: A Novel by Peggy Lampman

Setting: Georgia
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: September 27, 2016



Shelby Preston is a single mom and currently living with her mother. She needs a change from the life she's always led in rural Georgia. This isn't the life she wants, so when she sees an ad looking to send one lucky person to culinary school, she jumps at the opportunity.

Mallory Lakes is still mourning breaking up with her boyfriend. Her job as a food writer seems to be on tentative ground. She comes up with an idea that she hopes will boost her career.

That's the main premise of The Promise Kitchen. Characters come to life on the pages, each having her own quirks, weaknesses, and strengths. The settings of Atlanta and rural Georgia also drew me in.

Despite liking the characters and the setting, there's something about the writing style that just never grabbed me. I think it came down to some of the descriptions becoming too wordy. I wanted to experience the characters' lives, not get bogged down in the writing. As a result, I often found it easier to walk away for a bit than try to keep forcing myself to read. It took me far longer to read this novel than is typical, which I found frustrating.

In the end, I liked The Promise Kitchen, but I never loved the story. I wish there had been more focus on the action than on the descriptions.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Life After Coffee by Virginia Franken

Setting: California
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: September 13, 2016



Amy O'Hara's built a career in find the very best coffee beans. Her latest trip is cut short when her boss calls her into the office. She's going to miss her flight, but she goes there and learns she's being laid off.

Her days of tastings and negotiating deals with farmers are over. Instead, she's now the stay-at-home parent while her husband attempts to revitalize his career as a writer. Her kids are not thrilled with her rules, and area moms certainly don't warm up to her quickly.

When a former ex offers to give her husband a chance writing scripts for a new television series, Amy's appreciative, but it looks like her ex has more in mind than simply hiring her husband. He seems to want Amy back in his life, even if they're both married with kids.

I've loved many of the books coming from Lake Union Publishing. Life After Coffee is another engrossing story, but there were points where the story dragged a bit too much for my taste and I wondered if that scene was truly necessary. I didn't love Amy's character as much as I'd hoped to. She is flawed, especially when she's tossed into being an at-home parent. That said, the reappearance of her ex-boyfriend, especially when his intentions become clear, well I didn't like that aspect.

Life After Coffee has humorous moments and some very realistic ones. It's not a bad read. It's just not one I'd put on the keeper shelf.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Girl Number One by Jane Holland

Setting: Cornwall
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: September 27, 2016



When she was just six years old, Eleanor witnessed her mother's murder. She's all grown up and back teaching in her hometown. On the anniversary of her mother'd murder, she takes a jog through the woods where her mother was killed. Her usual route's been shut, so she takes the path that leads right by the site where her mother died. To her shock, she finds the body of a woman with "3" written on her forehead.

Police reach the scene after interviewing Eleanor. There's no body. They suspect Eleanor is imagining things. When Eleanor does find another body, this one with a number 2, it's clear that Eleanor's past is catching up with her.

Girl Number One is pretty creepy. The pacing keeps you hooked, and the characters are likable. The killer's identity didn't stump me. The ending had a few holes that bugged me. If I could see things, I certainly don't get why police were so blind. I had it pegged early on, but there are a number of characters that do keep you questioning your suspicions.

If you like the recent spate of psychological thrillers, you'll enjoy Girl Number One.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Trio of New Picture Books

Within a two-week span, Chronicle Books has a trio of delightful children's pictures books coming out. The first comes out today, September 20th, and is a whimsical story about Santa delivering presents, but he makes many mistakes along the way.


Presents Through the Window: A Taro Gomi Christmas Book has "windows" that Santa peeks in to determine who lives in each house. To a child's delight, Santa is often wrong. See what happens as you work your way through this book that's geared for ages two to five.


The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear and Chris Turnham comes out on September 27th and is a charming tale of a boy's quest to find a magic tree that will grant him wishes. This book is also for ages two to five. A young boy heads out to find a magic tree, despite his siblings' disbelief. Alone with his sled, the young boy finds far more than he ever expected.


The final book in this trio is Claudia Rueda's Bunny Slopes, also for ages two to five. In this picture book, children tap, shake, and turn the book to help the bunny make a snowy hillside to ski down. The interaction created to go hand in hand with reading the story is perfect for an energetic little one.

With Christmas quickly approaching, this trio of wintry stories is a neat gift idea. All three are aimed for ages two to five, and I agree with that assessment. They're all perfect for new readers and have stories that draw you in.






Monday, September 19, 2016

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

Setting: Australia
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: September 20, 2016



Only Daughter is best described with one word: creepy. This novel had me completely hooked from the start. This is Anna Snoekstra's first novel, and she has a release due out in 2017 that looks just as suspenseful. I cannot wait!

Eleven years ago, Rebecca Winter vanished. She was 16, and her body's never been found. Police never found any trace of her.

It's 2014. A young woman with a strong resemblance to Rebecca is held for shoplifting. Not wanting to face the other crimes she's committed, the young woman claims to be Rebecca. Welcomed back into a warm, loving home. She seems happy to take on this new role. It isn't long, however, before she receives alarming messages warning her to leave now, while she can. Keeping up her ruse is hard enough, but Rebecca's fate has never been discovered. She may have put herself into danger by filling Rebecca's shoes.

In Only Daughter, readers go on a creepy, suspenseful journey into Rebecca's past and into the present with the mystery woman. The chapters bounce back and forth with ease and you get drawn in. Was Rebecca killed? Who killed her? Can the mystery woman trust anyone? What crimes did the mystery woman commit that make her feel acting like Rebecca is her best chance for a life?

The passages from Rebecca's point of view were the most suspenseful in my opinion. You learn about her life, her family and those closest to her, and her frustrations. The mystery woman, while also a strong character, didn't muster quite the same intrigue. Yet, I couldn't stop reading. For me, this was a start-to-finish book. I ignored everything else until I'd discovered the truth. It hooked me and left me thinking about it long after the final page.




Sunday, September 18, 2016

Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay (A Jesse Stone Novel) by Reed Farrel Coleman

Setting: Paradise, Massachusetts
Genre: Crime Drama
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: September 13, 2016



It all starts with the murder of mobster Gino Fish. Peepers is back and he's looking to get even. With Gino Fish taken care of, Peepers is looking at Jesse Stone next. Jesse doesn't seem to be taking a hint though, which is not pleasing Peepers one little bit.

Stone has his own issues. His romance with former FBI agent Diana Evans is picking up, and he's pretty happy about that. His ex-wife, Jenn, is set to marry down in Dallas and really wants him to attend her wedding. He's reluctant, however, and can't understand why she's so insistent.

When it becomes clear that Peepers is back and planning his revenge, Stone decides he has no choice but to head to Dallas to keep Jenn safe.

I've never really delved into the Jesse Stone series, so I admit I did feel lost. The story itself is whole, but I felt as though I'd missed a lot of backstory into Stone and Peepers' relationship.

Robert B. Parker passed away in 2010. Reed Farrel Coleman is writing the Jesse Stone novels now. I can't say I loved the writing style. It does have that old-school crime novel feel, but it was full of trite repetition that bogged the story down for me. For instance, there's one section where it's said "his cheeks flushing with rage," and a couple lines later, it's repeated with "his face turned an ugly shade of red."

I liked the characters and loved the pacing, but the writing just wasn't my style. It's a book I enjoyed, but can't see myself wanting to own it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fifty Places to Drink Beer Before You Die by Chris Santella

Genre: Travel Guide, Beer Guide
Publisher: Abrams
Release Date: September 20, 2016



Looking for a great gift idea for the beer enthusiast? Your search is over. Fifty Places to Drink Beer Before You Die is a bucket list for every beer enthusiast. The pictures, information, and manner in which this book is set up make it all what I consider one of the best beer-related travel guides I've ever seen, and I have seen a few.

Each state is represented in Chris Santella's book. I haven't reached every state, but I've worked my way through much of New England, so I am basing my opinion on his suggestions versus my knowledge as a local. He does start his focus on Vermont beers with The Alchemist's Heady Topper.

The Alchemist is once again open, now in Stowe. I haven't bothered going, but my brother did. After a two-hour wait in line, he was able to get Heady and Focal Banger (the far superior beer in my opinion), but The Alchemist's new DIPA was already gone. I know some are happy to wait for hours and take their chances, but life's too short IMO.

Hill Farmstead is the the state's best brewery according to many beer enthusiasts, Hill has the awards to prove it. This brewery is far from Burlington, and again, you're in for a wait. I'd rather go hang out at any number of local restaurants and have a pint there. I'll suggest The Hatchet in Richmond, Vermont. Great food, a decent beer list, and excellent prices make this a favorite. If you want to be closer to Hotel Vermont, a place Chris Santella mentions, try Farmhouse. Prices are higher there, but the beer list is incredible.

I was saddened that he talks about Greater Burlington, but really never mentions Burlington area brewers. The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lost Nation are not near Burlington. They're each about an hour away. If you really want to know where to go for beers in Burlington, try Burlington Beer Company in nearby Williston, Switchback in Burlington, Foam down on Burlington's waterfront, and so many others. He does mention Fiddlehead, which is in Shelburne, about 15 minutes down Rt. 7. You could also drive north about 30 minutes and visit 14th Star, a brewery set in an old bowling alley that's owned by veterans.

Before you start sampling, head to Vermont Brewers and get a passport. You get goodies when you've sampled a certain number of beers.

I was also surprised by the Portland, Maine, section. It mentions Geary's, which is the area's first brewery, and Shipyard, but there's no talk of Maine Beer Company, Bissell Brothers, Bunker, and so many others in and around Portland.

I think in the end, I still love this guide. I do, however, see potential in multiple editions. Perhaps one guide per region. There are so many great breweries out there, and they simply won't all fit in one book.



Friday, September 16, 2016

Outrage (Faith McMann Trilogy) by T.R. Ragan

Setting: California
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: September 20, 2016



If you haven't read the first book in the Faith McMann Trilogy titled Furious, stop reading this review. Spoilers do follow.

------------------

Faith McMann's husband died in a brutal attack. She's left with physical and mental scars. Plus, her children are still missing. She knows her 10-year-old daughter is in the hands of human traffickers, and she'll do everything in her power to stop them and get her daughter back. Her nine-year-old son's whereabouts are unknown to her.

While Faith has returned a few girls to their families during a raid on a ranch house where many girls were held captive, her own daughter was whisked away moments before the raid. Only one woman knows where the girl is now, and she's not about to tell.

Meanwhile, Faith's son managed to escape, but he's lost in the mountains. He's using every camping lesson he's had to try to get back to civilization, but his captors are on his trail and determined to get him back.

As Faith continues to make enemies, some of her family members question if it's time to give up. They've put their own lives on the line, and no one knows for sure if Faith's kids will ever come home alive.

Outrage is the second book in the series. Faith's helpers still play a huge part in trying to get her children back safely, but the closer they get, the more deadly situations become. There's a side story involving Rage, Faith's friend from the anger management group who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rage's story gets a little more focus, which helps break up some of the tension.

This latest addition is just as addicting as the first. I'm still saddened by the lack of police skill. Faith is always a few steps ahead of them. As a mother, I'd also be outraged if authorities knew there was a human trafficking ring and were always dragging their feet. I feel for Faith for that reason.

There's clearly a third book in the works that will hopefully close all the open story lines. I'm eager to see how things end for Faith and her missing children.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

Setting: California
Genre: Women's Fiction/Romantic Mystery
Publisher; Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: August 1, 2016



So far, I've loved just about every book to come from Lake Union Publishing. It's providing itself to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of fiction. Kerry Lonsdale's Everything We Keep is another gripping read. It's a touch romance, women's fiction, and mystery.

Aimee Turner has it all. She's a chef, her parents own a restaurant, and she's about to marry the love of her life. That's not how the story goes, however. Instead, on the day she's meant to be marrying James Donato, she's instead attending his funeral.

In a surprise, last-minute trip to Mexico, James falls into the water and drowns. It's just not that easy though. A mystery woman comes up to Aimee as she leaves the church and announces that James is alive.

Hoping to move on with her life, Aimee finds herself questioning what she's been told. What if he really is alive?

The premise to Everything We Keep is engrossing. I also really enjoyed Aimee's new relationship with a photographer that progresses long after James' funeral. That said, there were aspects of the book that I didn't find as convincing.

Without giving away too much of the plot, there's a scene where Aimee is thrown to the ground with her face pushed into the dirt, and she mentions landing on her back. That doesn't mesh. I wasn't fond of the resolution either, but I can't go into that without giving spoilers.

In the end, I still really enjoyed Everything We Keep. I loved the romance between Aimee and Ian. I wish it had remained more of the focus in the second part of the book.






Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Furious (Faith McMann Trilogy) by T.R. Ragan

Setting: California
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: March 22, 2016



Her son's ninth birthday is a day away. Faith McCann, a fourth grade teacher, just needs a moment to herself. Her husband is home, but he failed to mow the lawn. Sending her kids inside ahead of her is one of the worst decisions Faith could make.

Inside, three men hold her husband and children captive. Faith walks in and finds herself attacked while one of the men asks her, "Where is it?" Faith has no idea what he's talking about. Within a short time, the attackers slit her husband's throat and then try to kill her. Faith wakes up in the hospital. Her children are missing, her husband's dead, and she must summon the courage to go on.

Days later, Faith is angry. No, she's Furious, hence the book's title. Police aren't putting everything she thinks they have into the investigation. The lead detective can't even get her daughter's name right. Rather than wait for them to slowly work the investigation, she teams up with members of her anger management group and looks into her children's disappearance. She'll do whatever it takes to get them back.

I loved Furious. Faith kicks behind and deservedly so. The story delves deeply into deception, human trafficking, and abuse/rape. It's disgusting, but it also happens, so you can't ignore that it happens.

I don't want to give away spoilers, so I'll end with this. Be warned that this is the first book in a trilogy. To get the full story, you're going to have to keep reading the other two books.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Lost Stars by Lisa Selin Davis

Genre: Young Adult/Teen
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Release Date: October 4, 2016



At 16, Caraway, she prefers Carrie, has seen far too much sadness. Her passion for astrophysics once ruled her life. After her older sister died, Carrie's spent a lot of time with her sisters friends, doing drugs and having sex with any guy who offers. She's on a destructive path with an absentee mother and a father whose disciplinary measures simply fuel her rage.

Things begin to change when a mysterious neighbor moves in. Dean seems just as lost as she is. He may be the answers she's been seeking. Pair that with a wilderness-related job her father forces her to take, Carrie starts to question the path she's on and if she has the power to change things.

I loved Lost Stars. This poor girl has been through a lot, so it's easy to sympathize with her anger, frustrations, and fears.

The book does have realities today's teens - and teens of the 1980s when the book is set - face. Readers will encounter drug and alcohol use, and it's portrayed in a real manner. Sex is delved into in an honest way.

What I really loved though was the use of music to help them all cope with the loss they encountered. Some of today's teens may not know a lot of the music, but I was delighted to see songs like one of my all-time favorites "Fourth of July" mentioned. Wasn't easy to play and replay a song on a cassette tape, but I certainly did that!

Lost Stars has appeal to teens and their parents. I enjoyed the novel and felt for both parent and teen in this one.



Monday, September 12, 2016

Come Twilight (Long Beach Homicide) by Tyler Dilts

Setting: Long Beach, California
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: August 23, 2016



Detective Danny Beckett is finally seeing things go right. He and his partner, Detective Jennifer Tanaka, have successfully closed cases handed to them. He's also finding himself head over heels with his girlfriend, Julia. It's simply too good to be true. Danny's latest investigation isn't as cut and dry as one would hope. The suicide he and Jennifer investigate isn't a suicide at all.

Shortly after questioning the victim's daughter, Danny learns someone planted a bomb and blew his car up. He's pushed to the sidelines until the Long Beach Police Department can solve the suicide case and figure out who is after Danny and why.

This is my introduction to Danny, so I did feel as though I was jumping in a bit. His backstory definitely takes shape over the previous five novels, so I have some catching up.

Given that, I still found myself engrossed. I really liked the characters and the setting. The mystery kept me guessing.

Writing in Come Twilight (Long Beach Homicide) is crisp and flows smoothly from one scene to the next. I can see this being very popular with fans of Robert Dugoni. It's a great mix of characters you want to get to know and a mystery that keeps you on your toes.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book

Genre: Adult Coloring Book
Publisher: Lark Crafts
Release Date: September 6, 2016



Coloring eases stress, as proven in a 2006 study of cancer patients given coloring books. I love coloring and know many other moms in my circles who agree. We loved getting down on the floor with our kids and spending hours coloring.

In recent years, an explosion of adult coloring books hit the market. From books with patterns to those with animals, coloring books tap into all interests. Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book is a recent release that my daughter, a graphic design major, immediately called one of the best coloring books she's ever seen.

Throughout the coloring book are intricate pictures to color and some of Poe's greatest works. Some of them were new to me, such as The Black Cat, while favorites like The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum made appearances.

Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book is a must-have. You'll find dozens of images to color, and the stories simply add to the appeal.






Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley

Setting: Detroit/Burtchville, MI
Genre: Coming of Age
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: August 23, 2016



Told from the viewpoint of nine-year-old Jasper, The Buried Book is part coming of age and part mystery. It's a historic fiction novel for adults, but I'd say it's suitable for older teens.

Jasper's awoken and urged by his mother to get ready. She quickly packs him up, takes off to her brother's farm in Burtchville, and then leaves him there saying she'll return when she can. Her urgency worries Jasper. When she doesn't return as quickly as he expected, he becomes very concerned.

On his uncle's farm, Jasper is expected to help with the daily chores. He does what he's told, but he still wonders what happened to his mother. He's told to keep his nose out of it, but for Jasper that's impossible. When he stumbles upon his mother's diary, he finds himself questioning her disappearance even more.

The Buried Book is long. It went on a lot longer at times than I expected. There were a few scenes that added to the coming-of-age aspect, but I wondered just how necessary they truly were to the plot, such as the trouble Jasper gets into at school. I could have lived without those sections.

Jasper is a likable character. He's young, but pretty smart for his age. He encounters things no nine year old should have to, and he's too immature to really understand what's happening. I found those situations sad, but they drove the plot.

The mystery wasn't really too hard to solve, in my opinion. Despite that, the one-liner hooks at the start of every chapter and the situations Jasper found himself in kept me hooked. This was an enjoyable read with plenty of suspense.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

All the Good Parts by Loretta Nyhan

Setting: Chicago Suburbs
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: September 20, 2016



Leona Accorsi hasn't really gotten in far as life as she expected to be. At 39, she's a college dropout, returning to school to gain a nursing degree. She lives in her sister's basement and helps with her nieces and nephew. She's never really found Mr. Right. Everything goes haywire when a visit to the doctor informs her she's in the early stages of menopause. Leona still wants to have a child, and it's clear that time is running out.

With this new knowledge, Leona decides it's time to tackle her future, and all she needs is a sperm donor. There are not many men in her life, but she has it narrowed to three options: a guy in her online class, the local homeless man who is tutoring her niece, or spend the money and by some sperm from a sperm bank. Armed with a DIY insemination kit, Leona sets off on a mission to become a mom.

From the plot, you can tell there is bound to be humorous moments in All the Good Parts. In her spare time, Leona works as a home health aide. Her best charge, an older Vietnam vet, was a hoot. I really, really liked him. The homeless guy is smart as a whip and also an enjoyable character. There are others you'll meet along the way, and all characters worked well to advance the plot and keep the book's mood light and enchanting. Leona's sister is really the only downer in the book, but I think it all came down to overprotective sister mode, so I was able to get by my dislike for her character.

I won't go into how things turn out for Leona, but the story made me laugh and brought some tears to my eyes. It was another really good novel from Lake Union. I'm quickly finding that I can trust in their publishing company's selection of authors and titles.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Finding Libbie by Deanna Lynn Sletten

Setting: Minnesota
Genre: Women's Fiction/Romance
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: September 6, 2016



I have to say, the number of books issued by Lake Union Publishing that have delighted me has been pretty amazing. Finding Libbie is another winner from this division of Amazon's publishing services.

While helping her grandmother organize for a move to a senior living community, Emily Prentice stumbles upon some pictures of her father with a mystery woman. She's stunned to learn her father was married to another woman, long before she was born. Emily sets out to learn everything.

Jack Prentice fell in love with Libbie long before she even acknowledged him. As a car mechanic's apprentice, Jack's social status was clearly not acceptable enough for Libbie's wealthy family. Despite it all, the pair fell in love and married shortly after graduation. Before the newlyweds really have a chance to settle into their lives together, Libbie's personality changes. Soon, Jack doesn't know how to help keep his wife from slipping away.

Mental illness is at the very heart of Finding Libbie. This book is very honest, at times completely frustrating, and incredibly poignant. The story is set in the 1960s and 1970s, so there is a bit of the historic feel to their romance. Lots of women were not supposed to work and were supposed to keep a perfect home and have dinner ready and on the table for their husbands' arrival at night. It's just the way things were. My heart broke for Libbie and Jack. It was so clear what was going on, but thinking back to my childhood, I knew of classmates' moms who were a lot like Libbie. At the time, they were scary, but now I look back and feel bad that no one really understood their troubles.

I wasn't fond of Libbie's family, but again, it was all part of the times. The ending came in a little too swift, but I was glad to see how everything turned out and am so glad I picked this novel up! It's another great Lake Union release.

Two Charming Children's Books Released Today

Two children's picture books come out today. The first is a charming wintry story and the other is a board book that offers a new spin on a classic tale.



First Snow caught my eye thanks to the illustrations. Bomi Park's debut shares a tale of a young child who wakes up after hearing snow crystals hitting the window. The child heads off into the night to explore the wintry wonderland. The recommended age group for this one is two to five years.




Cozy Classics' The Nutcracker is a board book for one to three year olds. Each left-side page has one word describing the scene. Both pages have vivid photographs that tell the story of The Nutcracker, a popular holiday movie and tale.

Both of these books have great appeal with the eye-catching art found within. The board book is ideal for teaching a child to read, while First Snow is a little more challenging only because it has more words. They're often simple words, however, that are ideal for a child who is in the early stages of learning to read. Sentences like "Boots. Coat. Scarf. Hat." or "Through the woods." are not going to be too hard for a beginning reader.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Faultlines by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Setting: Texas
Genres: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: September 6, 2016



It's seriously a parent's worst nightmare. Sandy Cline gets a call that her son and nephew have been in a car accident. It's a bad accident and things do not look good. Sandy and her husband arrive at the hospital to learn the both young men have serious head injuries, and Sandy's son is suspected of drunk driving. Sandy's sister is furious that her son is in critical condition all because of her nephew. This seems like enough to handle, but there are secrets about to come to light that may tear multiple families apart.

The book is told from two points of view. There's Sandy, who is desperate to prove her son couldn't be the monster so many feel he is. There's also a mystery woman whose role is made clear a few chapters into the story. Her presence really starts kicking the novel into high gear.

I read every page of Faultlines on the edge of my seat. I did figure a good portion of the "mystery" out early, but that doesn't make the story itself any less painful. There is so much emotion and truth in Barbara Taylor Sissel's novel that it was hard to put down and also hard to read at times. I've yet to find a book by this author that hasn't had the "wow" factor and this is another excellent read.




Friday, September 2, 2016

Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohue

Setting: New York City and Ireland
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: August 30, 2016



In Ashes of Fiery Weather, readers meet different women in the O'Reilly and Keegan family. The story begins in the early 1980s as Norah O'Reilly attends her husband, a firefighter's, funeral. While others give their condolences, Norah can't help but worry about her and her children's futures, especially the future of her unborn child. The story ranges from the early part of the 20th century all the way to present day.

Also featured in Ashes of Fiery Weather is Delia, Norah's mother-in-law, who keeps her children close and hides her own secrets. Eileen, Norah's sister-in-law is the first female to make it onto the NYFD, and her experiences on 9/11 also play a part in this story. There's Norah's daughter, Maggie, and a mystery woman who has her own place in the story. These are just some of the characters, in order the stories told feature:


  • Norah O'Reilly
  • Delia Keegan O'Reilly
  • Mattie Starwaif Cullen
  • Annie-Rose Devlin Keegan
  • Maggie O'Reilly
  • Eileen O'Reilly Maddox
  • Katie McKenna


I was drawn into Norah's story from the first sentence. It was easily to feel her pain and uncertainty. Her children's anger and grief was equally apparent. Here's the problem. Norah's story ends and the novel jumps to a new character and time period. I didn't like that aspect. The shifts came too frequently and drew me from the story. I really would have preferred if the focus remained on Norah.