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.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichart

Setting: Wisconsin
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: May 16, 2017

Sanna Lund lives and breathes apples and cider. Like others in her family, she has the ability to see the juice of her apples in terms of color. Her handcrafted ciders are great, but they've yet to catch on. Her family's apple orchard is losing money, so her brother wants to sell to a developer. Sanna and her father are adamantly against the idea.

Isaac Banks hasn't figured out how to tell his son that his mother died. Isaac is now a single dad and the cross-country trip they're taking together is the only way Isaac can process his ex-wife's death. He knows he needs to tell Bass that his mom died, but he just can't figure out how and hopes inspiration will come to him during their trip.

Isaac and Bass find themselves at Sanna's orchard. The pair will spend the summer helping out. For Isaac, it's money while Bass enjoys a summer being a kid. It grows into more, however, when sparks start to fly between Sanna and Isaac.

The Simplicity of Cider is such a (trying to come up with the best words) gentle, flowing romance. It didn't rush along like so many romances. Instead, it flowed naturally from moment to moment, situation to situation. I loved the pacing and descriptive writing. I felt like the story involved me rather than got tossed out there. I felt like part of the Lund family and could taste the ciders Sanna made. The writing was just that absorbing. Hopefully, that made some sense.

I do love when a book keeps me absorbed and not feeling like I must rush to find out what happens. For that reason, I'm recommending Amy E. Reichart's latest as one of my picks for beach reads not to miss!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Someone Else's Summer by Rachel Bateman

Setting: Iowa to North Carolina
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Running Press
Release Date: May 9, 2017

Anna and her sister Storm were as close as could be. When Storm is killed in a car accident shortly after graduation, Anna's world implodes. She's lost without Storm. Finding Storm's bucket list, Anna decides to enlist the help of their neighbor, Cameron, who also happens to be a long-time family friend. Together, Cameron and Anna head off on a road trip to the coast to live out everything Storm wanted to do.

Someone Else's Summer caught me from two angles. One, the parent in me shakes to think of a teen heading off halfway across the country. There were times I cringed. Two, the dreamer in me that fell for the characters and their goals. I loved the book for that.

The emotional pull in this book came off as so real. Anna's grief was so realistic, and her disillusion with her parents' protectiveness struck me as true. There are parts of her parents within me, and I've heard my kids say some of the same things. I also remember wishing my own parents in my teen years would loosen restrictions, so I got Anna's viewpoint.

Rachel Bateman has a great beach read here. I definitely am glad I picked it up.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Setting: England
Genre: Women's Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Atria
Release Date: April 25, 2017

Lily Monrose should be having the time of her life. She's newly married to the man of her dreams. However, he never arrives home one night. She knows something is horribly wrong, but police don't seem as concerned. When they finally do investigate, she learns an awful truth. Her husband never existed. Everything he told her was a lie.

Alice Lake's never had great taste in men. The single mom does her best to raise her kids in their quiet seaside cottage. Finding a man on the beach isn't what she'd planned, especially when that man has no idea who he is or how he got there.

Travel back more than two decades to a popular vacation spot. Teenagers Gray and Kirsty enjoy their family summers at the beach, but this year is taking a dark turn. A local teen has taken a shine to 15-year-old Kirsty. Gray's gut feeling is that nothing good is going to come of this infatuation the teen seems to have, but Gray's having a hard time convincing others that something's wrong.

Separated by time and location, these four people's lives are more connected than they could ever imagine. It's up to the reader to learn how a man who never existed, an amnesia victim, and two teenagers could end up so entwined.

I Found You takes more turns than you might imagine. I thought the mysteries would be incredibly predictable, but they're not. I found myself hooked as the clues paint a full picture of a story that goes from obsession, to romance, and back again multiple times. Discover the truth in this very addicting and very detailed novel.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sunbaked by Junie Coffey

Setting: Pineapple Cay
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: May 9, 2017

After finding her husband in bed with another woman, Nina Spark does the unexpected. She ditches her NYC apartment and buys a cottage in Pineapple Cay. She's trading dreary NY winters for sun, sand, and surf.

As she settles in Pineapple Cay, Nina quickly makes some friends, and perhaps an enemy or two. A greedy developer planned to buy the cottage she just bought, and he's not happy about it. He's determined to focus his attentions on driving her out, even pushing aside any worries when his trophy wife disappears. Nina has her suspicions and soon starts snooping with the help of her friends. Proving he murdered his wife would be one way to get the developer off the island and out of her life.

I've loved many Lake Union Publishing novels. It always surprises me when I like rather than love one of them. However, I found myself only liking this novel.

Sunbaked was a bit predictable, and I think that's my biggest issue with it. The characters were certainly colorful, but I'd solved the mystery just after it started. There was no huge surprise reveal for me. It almost came off as cliched. Had the author focused more on the romantic interest than on turning it into a mystery, I am certain I would have really enjoyed it. As was, it was okay but nothing special.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

RTR News: As I Catch Up

I want to apologize to readers and publishers/agents waiting for more reviews. I'll try to be short, but my life's taken a turn and it's been a process.

My dad used to review books for me and handle the website updates. He was also a very passionate genealogy guru, and he devoted countless hours to helping organizations within Vermont update their records and cemetery information.

We happened to share the same birthday. I was born on the day he turned 36. This year we made our plans for our usually get together on the weekend with the entire family and have a pint together. A couple days before that event, he had a seizure. The med center ran tests, found nothing alarming, and sent him home. We still had our gathering, but it was different. He was seeing things that weren't there. He had a hard time staying awake, even falling asleep at dinner. We were told it would take his body a few days to recover from the seizure and not to be worried about his excessive sleepiness.

Our actual birthday arrived, and I had a day off from my work at Costco and expected to have a quiet day of reading. Instead, I got a call that my dad had a stroke. He was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor. We all rushed to the hospital where it was determined he had a stroke and that his entire left side wasn't functioning. Despite this, his first worry was for his older sister who'd also had a stroke weeks earlier and found she had breast cancer that had spread past the point of being able to offer any treatment. We took that as a good sign, but it was shortlived.

Additional testing found my dad had a glioblastoma. This brain tumor was already the size of a grapefruit and there was nothing that could be done. They couldn't even think of treating the tumor until he could breathe on his own and swallow properly, but the stroke and tumor left him unable to do either. He was moved to a local respite house where he passed away.

My mom was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment a few years ago. I've since learned that it's progressed to Alzheimer's disease, but my dad never shared that information or didn't hear the doctor say it. Dad was her caregiver. His death left a huge gap emotionally and physically. Life's become a jumble of being there for her, attending more appointments than ever before, trying to work the hours I'm scheduled, keeping up with writing work, and trying to fit in time for reading. I can't do it all.

Until everything settles down, I don't expect to post reviews daily. I barely can find time to read. I do appreciate messages I've gotten from those who know the situation. Having supportive friends and acquaintances has been a huge help. Thank you for that.

Brew or Die by Caroline Fardig

Setting: Nashville, TN
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Alibi
Release Date: April 25, 2017

The fourth book in Caroline Fardig's Java Jive Mystery series is almost out. Once again, Juliet Langley finds herself mixed up in a baffling mystery. This time, however, Juliet has her investigator license, so her sleuthing is perfectly legal.

Juliet's friend and boss, Pete Bennett, isn't thrilled with her new part-time career, but Pete ends up being incredibly thankful when a Java Jive's employee's girlfriend dies. Shane knows his girlfriend wouldn't have overdosed. He's convinced she was murdered and needs Juliet and Pete's help to prove it.

As the investigation kicks off, Juliet balances her new job investigating a local warehouse with Shane's case. Juliet's in for some huge surprises as things pick up the pace and leave her questioning those closest to her.

I've read each book in this series as soon as I could, and I've yet to be disappointed. I like some of the realism that appears. Main characters get hurt. Life isn't always sunny for them, and there isn't always a happily ever after. Despite this, they always seem to brush themselves off and never wallow like I've seen other series characters do. I also love that the characters learn from each of these situations and carry their experiences with them as life goes on.

Brew or Die is another great entry in this series that's had me hooked from the start. I do admit that there's a bit of a shake-up I didn't see coming. It's left me wanting to know a lot more right now. Waiting for the next book in this series is going to be sheer torture!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Curious Constructions by Michael Hearst and Matt Johnstone (Illustrator)

Genre: Children's Nonfiction
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: April 25, 2017

In Curious Constructions, children get to explore different structures from around the world. These are not your typical buildings and structures, they're all very unique for different reasons. There are 50 in all, and each includes details into the structure and illustrations to show what it looks like.

Within Curious Constructions are things like:

  • Biosphere 2 in Arizona
  • The Cathedral Termite Mounds in Australia
  • The Gateway Arch in Missouri
  • The International Space Station
  • Jantar Mantar in India
  • The Longaberger Building in Ohio
  • Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea
  • Stonehenge in England

There are many more to learn about, too! The terminology is a little more complex than in many picture books, so it's going to appeal to advancing readers and others who have help with some of the harder words.

This is an excellent book for any child interested in architecture or buildings and structures from around the world.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mine! by Jeff Mack

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: May 9, 2017

Mine! shares the story of two mice who each want the same thing. As they battle for ownership, they learn a very important lesson in a very unexpected way.

Jeff Mack's Mine! isn't a long story. It also is told using just the word "mine," so vocabulary is very simple. That said, the illustrations tell the story in a very bold and complete manner. There's never a question as to what is going on. Children will learn a lot from this book.

Monday, April 10, 2017

This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: May 2, 2017

This is How We Do It is a book I can completely get behind and offer high praise. In a culture where diversity should be everything, but some spin it in negative ways, I hope many parents will add Matt Lamothe's book to their children's shelves.

The book is very complex, yet never hard to read. It takes seven children from different areas of the world and introduces you to their life. You learn about their family life, the clothes they wear, what school is like, what they typically eat, and many more unique tidbits. At the end, the book delves into the real families the book is based on. You get to see real photos. That's followed by a glossary of terms for things children may not be as familiar with, such as foreign words like "abwooli."

I loved This is How We Do It. It's not an overly long book, but it does give a complete picture into a typical day in the life of children from India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Peru, Russia, and Uganda.

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: March 24, 2017

Kate has it all. Her new husband dotes on her, and they're trying hard to have a child together. When he dies suddenly at her sister's party, Kate is shocked. Now a grieving widow, Kate isn't sure how to pick up the pieces.

Ainsley is thrilled to know her boyfriend is finally going to propose. She won't admit she knows it because she found the engagement ring he'd stashed. She's certain it's bound to happen at their party to celebrate his beating testicular cancer. Instead, she finds he's dumping her and he's going to blog about her and his "new life" as a single man and cancer survivor.

Ainsley and Kate were never close, but Ainsley moves into Kate's huge house while she regains her footing. Together, they explore their own family dynamics and support each other as they move on in their own life journeys.

On Second Thought started a bit slow for me. It was filled with depressing moments, some that even irritated me. As it picked up, however, and moved into the women restarting their lives, I was hooked. It was a gorgeous story filled with a touch of romance, some real soul searching, and stories that tugged at the heart. I loved it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Daddy Dreams and Mommy Snuggles by Anne Gutman

Genre: Toddler Board Books
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: April 4, 2017, and May 9, 2017

Daddy Dreams is the first of two board books by Anne Gutman that go very well together. One each set of pages, toddlers learn how different animals go to sleep. For the horse, it's standing on his feet. But, how do animals like the bat, flamingo, and porcupine go to sleep? Daddy Dreams comes out on May 9th.

Mommy Snuggles comes out on April 4th. This toddler's board book shows how different animals snuggle their young. A tiger holds her baby in her mouth, while a penguin has her baby stand on her feet while she waddles. What about others like the kangaroo, koala, or otter?

Both of these books have illustrations by Georg Hallensleben that look like paintings that you could hang on your wall. The sentences are easy for a beginning reader to master, and it's a bit of a learning experience seeing how each animal differs.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

Setting: New Jersey
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Diagnosed with an extremely rare allergy to human contact, Jubilee Jenkins lives a very solitary life. When a kiss from a boy almost killed her, Jubilee left school, sequestered herself in her home, and hasn't set foot outside in nine years. News that her mother is dead and support checks will not longer be coming in forces Jubilee to go out into the world.

Jubilee's first contact is with a former high school classmate. Through her, Jubilee is able to get a job at the local library. It's that job that brings her into the world of Eric Keegan, a single dad who Jubilee can't help but want to get to know. However, Jubilee knows that her allergy will prevent her from every being able to get close to anyone. Can a relationship be worth it when those involved can never touch?

Close Enough to Touch creates a fictional allergy and spins a very poignant story. It's impossible not to route for Jubilee and Eric, though there really is no way for them to ever do more than talk. That leads the reader to wonder what can truly become of this friendship and possible romance.

I'm torn on the ending. Not that I can really say much without giving any spoilers, but it would have been challenging as an author to finish what the book started. There's the allergy that prevents any physical contact, the cravings Jubilee has always had to feel love or even just a hug from another person, and then Eric's bewilderment at the allergy and how anything could ever work out. With those key issues, I was hooked and wanted to know how it could possibly end for everyone.

My emotional attachment to Jubilee, Eric, Eric's adopted son, and even Jubilee's former classmate was strong. Now that it's over, I'm not sure I was ready for it to end. I'm left wanting more, a lot more!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

You and Me, Me and You by Miguel Tanco

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: April 11, 2017

A father and child fill the pages of this easy-to-read children's book. You and Me, Me and You offers a simple story about all the things a child and father do together, what they learn from one another, and how connected they are.

The illustrations were one of the first things to catch my attention. Colors are the ones recommended to parents of infants, with nothing more than shades of black, white, and yellow used throughout. The narrative is simple for beginning readers and includes lines like, "I show you how to talk to strangers..."

Overall, this is a very eye-catching and pleasing children's picture book. It's short, sends a clear message, and captures the essence of a loving relationship.

Friday, March 31, 2017

My Little Cities... by Jennifer Adams

Genre: Toddler Board Books
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: April 11, 2017

There are two books in the My Little Cities... board book collection that reached my desk and both are wonderful. My Little Cities London and My Little Cities New York take youngsters to two of the most popular cities for tourists.

First, head overseas to London where you'll visit the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and more. The book is easy to read with lines like, "Building Old. Building New." At the end of the book, however, is an in-depth look at each attraction that's more challenging for a new reader.

Second, you'll visit New York City with your toddler. Again, lines are simple, but the breakdown of the attractions at the end is harder to read. This is a cute set of books, and I hope other cities will follow in the footsteps of these travel guides of sorts for the very young crowd.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar

Setting: Africa
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Pitch73 Publishing
Release Date: January 29, 2017

Wow.  I wish I could give it more stars.  6 STARS!  I'm not the only one who thinks this should be made into a movie.  I can totally see it already and what a movie it would be!  Two broken people, bound by a tragic event, come together to help save a group of albino Tanzanian children and in the process save each other.

Jack and Rodel are two characters you won't soon forget.  Set in the Tanzanian countryside, you can see Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, feel the hot air on your face and feel the African wind in your hair.  Jack has lost his precious daughter in a bomb blast in town.  Helpless to save her, he has retreated to his coffee farm where he exists only to visit her grave in the midst of storms.  Rodel has lost her sister in the same blast, but she never got to say goodbye, only hearing her sister's desperate last voicemail to tell her it would be alright somehow.  Rodel travels to Tanzania to take care of her sister's things, and there she discovers what her sister was doing.  She was helping to get albino children to a safe house, and there were three left on the list.  So, Rodel takes on the list for her sister.  The only person that can help her is Jack Warden.  Yet, not only Jack is unwilling to help, he is bitter and full of anger.  It will take everything they have to get through the hurt and heartbreak to save these children. 

Oh, and there is romance, too.  But while it simmers at the beginning, their attraction is consuming and becomes a bright flame that surpasses the void in their lives.  It transforms them, illuminates them and leads them into the future.  Rodel has a life back in England, and she plans on returning there as soon as this mission is complete.  They must say goodbye at the end of this journey.  This isn't your average everyday romance.  No, it's a love story.  And by love story, I don't mean just Jack and Rodel, I mean love between a father and daughter, a mother and son, between sisters, and love that happens when you let go and just let your heart lead the way.   

*Big Sigh*  This story will stay with you long after you read the last page.  You can visualize it in your head, it's that powerful.  The story is based on true events of albino children being abducted for their body parts and being sold to witchdoctors.  It's a real thing.  So if that is something that bothers you, be warned.  I actually felt all sorts of emotions reading this book, and that in itself is something extraordinary.  But it's oh, so so so good!  It's the best book I have read in a long while! 

Rating: 5 Stars
Jennifer Jones

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A River by Marc Martin

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Join a young child on a very imaginative journey down the river that passes by the family home. In the imaginary silver boat, the child travels past busy cities, factories, jungles, and ends up in the ocean before returning to the very place that matters the most.

The illustrations in A River are created in shades of blues and greens that captures the outdoorsy feel you'd expect to find while journeying along the river. Splashes of orange, white, yellow, and red draw the eye to certain aspects, but you quickly find yourself mesmerized by both pages of illustrations. It's the art that really made this book special.

The story isn't hard to read, so beginning readers will have few problems with the sentence length or vocabulary used. Each page only has a few words, which I feel really makes it a great book for younger readers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Balderdash! by Michelle Markel and Nancy Carpenter

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: April 4, 2017

Balderdash shares the story of young John Newbery, man for whom the Newbery Medal pays tribute. Newbery grew up in a world where children's books were frowned upon unless they taught a some form of educational lesson. His passion for storytelling and the world around him led to children's books as we know them today.

I quickly became fascinated by a story I didn't know. My daughter, a graphic design student, found the book appealing because of its varied uses of fonts, sizing, and other design aspects. Both of us quickly said the book was a keeper.

Keeping that in mind, I did question how a younger child would feel. The illustrations are impressive, the sentence structure and vocabulary are excellent for and advancing reader, but the subject matter (a biography and history of children's books) may not be as appealing. It's a book where I feel parents will be mesmerized, but children may not share the same enthusiasm.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Falling Hard: A Colorado High Country Novel by Pamela Clare

Setting: Colorado
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Release Date: February 18, 2017

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones

Jesse and Ellie are two people who are trying to move forward after difficult tragedies in their past.  Ellie lost her husband three years ago.  Jesse, a former Army Ranger and now a ski patroller and part of the Rescue Team in Colorado, has issues with his own experiences in Iraq.  He unknowingly has been helping Ellie for the past few years by taking care of little things around her house.  When they finally meet, he realizes that he may have known her husband, who had been a Blackhawk pilot.

Ellie has two small twins to raise, and she's been doing everything by herself, but when Jesse comes along and helps her out in a dire time of need, she's more than grateful.  Sparks fly between them, but it takes a while for them to really open up.  She still is torn about her feelings regarding a new relationship and Jesse is still fighting personal demons that he can't quite get around.  These two coming together to support each other leads to romance and more.

What an emotionally charged book.  As a fan of Ms. Clare's work, all of her stories tug at the heartstrings and this one is no different.  Set in the mountains of Colorado, we get a real feel for the area as well as Jesse's need to escape to a place where he can get lost.  He uses the adrenaline rush of extreme sports to combat his internal issues where the war is concerned.  Ellie also has some personal things to get through.  I really felt the loss of her beloved husband and trying to move on with her life.  She has feelings of guilt, of course, but also how she can move forward with two small children.  The story moves at a decent pace without becoming too bogged down in one element.  Jesse and Ellie's feelings simmer and develop naturally and it keeps the reader tuned in for more.  I zipped through this book with a few days and loved every minute of it.

4 1/2 stars

The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

Setting: South Carolina
Genre: Time Travel/Romance
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: March 28, 2017

Still mourning the loss of the husband she loved dearly and painful miscarriages, Faye Barlow needs to get away. Her second marriage was more for convenience than for love, and that marriage is over. She takes a job that brings her to the coast of South Carolina where she spends her time photographing lighthouses.

One particular lighthouse catches her eye. No one goes there, and some don't even know it exists. Bride Island Lighthouse draws her in and entices her to learn more about the legend behind the lighthouse keeper and his daughter, a young woman who ended up dying in the ocean. Little does Faye know that she's about to uncover the truth behind this lighthouse and its residents in a very unique way.

I couldn't put The Night Mark down. I was drawn into both times, present and the 1920s. Characters were vivid and felt like friends, while the setting appealed to me and made me want to be part of this quiet island.

Tiffany Reisz does a great job at bringing South Carolina to life. The romantic aspects charmed me, while the writing did a wonderful job at creating a vivid image of the setting and times. This is definitely a must-read!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Just Fly Away by Andrew McCarthy

Setting: New Jersey and Maine
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: March 28, 2017

It's confession time. I've had a crush on Andrew McCarthy since Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo's Fire, and a selection of other '80's movies. Hearing he'd written his first young adult novel intrigued me. Just Fly Away isn't all I expected, but there were parts that tore me aup a little.

Fifteen-year-old Lucy Willows is stunned when she learns her father had an affair and that she has an eight-year-old brother living nearby. She's angry with her father for having the affair, her sister for not really seeming to care, and her mother for forgiving him. Lucy's friends don't seem as concerned with this news as she does, and her new boyfriend is also not quite as shocked as she'd want.

Needing to get away, Lucy runs off to Maine. Her grandfather's there and he may have some of the answers she wants to hear. It's in Maine that Lucy must quickly grow up.

Just Fly Away is a coming-of-age novel. Lucy's a little self-centered, especially in the early portion of the book, but I grew to like her. I don't want to give away spoilers, but something happens in the book and that's where the story got to me a bit. My family is going through exactly what Lucy, her grandfather, and her father experience while Lucy's in Maine. Reading those chapters was hard, perhaps a little too painful right now. It was still gripping, but far too real for me right now.

It's that situation that also made me realize that Andrew McCarthy had the details of this event right. The characters' reactions, the struggles, and the need for some form of closure are all too real. And for that, I feel the writing was spot on.

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: March 28, 2017

Violet and Finn have it all. They're parents to a three-year-old son. They have a strong relationship and marriage. At least that's what Violet believes. Her world comes crashing down when Finn takes her son back to their hotel room for nap time and then vanishes taking their son with him.

While Violet's desperate search for her son begins, Finn's best friend, also Violet's friend, is blackmailed into housing Finn in her in-law's lakeside cabin. Caitlin is torn between her desperate need to keep secrets buried and her understanding as a mother exactly what Violet is going through.

Almost Missed You takes the reader on a journey of love, loss, and much more. I had issues, however, as I really didn't like Caitlin's response at first. If my friend's husband came to me with blackmail, I'd immediately turn him in and trust in my husband to understand whatever past secrets were there. It made it hard to relate to her.

That niggle aside, I did find the story flowed quickly and kept me engrossed. I wanted everything to turn out and couldn't stop reading until I knew.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: March 7, 2017

What's under the water? What's above it? This is what author Kate Messner explores in Over and Under the Pond. This magical children's picture book follows a young child and his mother as they travel around a pond in a canoe. From fish to turtles and birds to moose, the child sees many creatures in their natural habitat. Discover what the child discovers in this charming book.

At the end of the book is a glossary of the different animals and insects. Learn about dragonflies, otters, tadpoles, and more. While the vocabulary used in the main story is perfect for an advancing reader, the glossary section may be a little trickier, but it's also a fantastic resource for a child who wants to learn more about the animals and insects at a pond.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Crazy for You by Rachel Lacey

Setting: Haven, North Carolina
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Hatchette Book Group
Release Date: March 28, 2017

Set in the small mountain town of Haven, North Carolina, Crazy for You features Ryan Blake, a part-time bartender and aspiring entrepreneur with his outdoor sporting business with his two best friends.  The other best friend, Derek Rush, had been killed several years ago while fighting in the military.  So when he sees Derek's little sister, Emma, walk into the bar looking anything but little and a lot grown up, he knows he's in for some trouble.

Emma has always had a crush on Derek's best friend, Ryan.  The problem is that Ryan has always seen her as a pesky little sister.  Now that's she's grown up and working as a landscape designer, she wants to finally show Ryan how grown up she is.  He is one of those sexy bad boys, with good looks, tattoos and a motorcycle, and she wants to be bad for once in her life.  She has her work cut out for her, though, as Ryan is bent on staying far away from Emma in that way.  He promised Derek he'd look after her and protect her, even from himself. 

Ryan knows nothing good will come of it, but he can't seem to stop himself where Emma is concerned.  Being with her is the best thing that's every happened to him.  So when he finally decides to take a chance and see where it might lead, Emma is ready.  The only problem that might show up is love.

Rachel Lacey knows how to captivate the reader from page one!  Her writing style is easy, colorful and her characters are complex without being overdrawn.  I loved the overall feel of this book, being from a small town, having close friends you share your goals, dreams and love life with, and this one has a great premise to it.  I've always loved friends to lovers type romances, and Ryan and Emma are perfect in their roles.  Emma has big dreams and that includes getting her degree in landscape design, so when she sets out to go to Georgia to achieve that, it's hard for her to say goodbye to her friends and to Ryan.

Ryan is a good guy who has had a hard life growing up.  The unexpected arrival of his younger half brother is a welcome surprise, but it comes with a responsibility of getting Trent to see the bigger picture.  He values Emma's input, but even then old feelings surface and he has a hard time getting past the insecurities of his younger days. 

For those who love these types of stories, friends, romances and small town life, this is a perfect book to sit and curl up with on the beach, a rainy day or anything in between.  You can't help rooting for Ryan after all he's been through, nor can you help wanting Emma to get everything she's wanted either.  Can the two meet together in the middle and both get what they want and each other?  Definitely a good read in finding out! 

Jennifer Jones
4 1/2 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Good Clean Food: Super Simple Plant-Based Recipes for Every Day by Lily Kunin

Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Abrams
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Good Clean Food's author admits from the start that while her plant-based diet truly improved her quality of life, it may not have the same effect on everyone. I appreciate that honesty. That said, I also do feel that many of the recipes in her cookbook and healthy-eating guide have incredible merit.

The book begins with a bit of insight into why she opted to start eating this way. The personal stories add depth to the cookbook and drew me in. Next up is a list of equipment you need to create the recipes within, such as a blender, food processor, and strainer. From there it goes into the ingredients that should always be on hand.

Once these informational sections are done, she dives right into the recipes. Recipes are suitable to both vegetarians and vegans. You'll learn how to make plant-based milks, like almond milk or hazelnut-hemp milk. Some have ingredients that may be difficult to find in your area. I've never seen wakame in stores and ran into my local health food store to learn they don't have it either. It would have to be purchased online.

Some recipes didn't impress me (mainly due to the ingredients that I simply don't enjoy or have allergies to), while others did. The sweet potato hash is delicious. We also adored the sesame noodle bowls with pan-fried tofu. In addition to food recipes, there are beauty product recipes like coconut mint hair treatment and a detox bath. For those recipes alone, this book is well worth the meager asking price.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

Setting: Charleston, SC
Genre: Paranormal
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: January 10, 2017

I did feel as though I'd stepped into an ongoing saga as I started The Guests on South Battery. I stopped and checked and sure enough, this is the latest in a five-book series. Don't get me wrong, the book hooked me, but I also felt that I'd missed some backstory between Melanie and Jack.

In The Guests on South Battery, Melanie and Jack's twins are now 10 months old, so Melanie's heading back to work as a realtor. It's hard enough leaving her babies, but it's even harder when Melanie's first client is a young woman who inherited a local house that seems to be haunted. Melanie's client, Jayne, only wants Melanie to sell the house and find something newer for Jayne to buy, but it's not going to be that easy. Melanie sees the spirits, but there seems to be an invisible curtain that's preventing her from getting a full sense of why this house is being haunted.

Melanie and her mother are no strangers to spirits, both see or sense ghosts who need their help. This time, however, it's going to take teamwork to figure out why Jayne's house is haunted and what they can do to set things right.

I admit that this book had the perfect mixture of creepiness, romance, and character development. I found myself hooked, even though I felt some backstory was missing. There were times I couldn't get Melanie's reluctance to be honest with her husband.

There was another thing that may have to do with me missing the first four books. Melanie is obsessed with ABBA. After a few mentions of the song "Mamma Mia" and the band itself, I felt like I was being hit over the head with ABBA references and didn't get why. I admit the music is a throwback to my younger years, so I get that, but to bring it up almost every chapter was tiresome.

Despite these niggles, I was hooked by The Guests on South Battery and couldn't put it down. That in itself deserves very high praise and is a good reason to get this and the other books in this series.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Take Me Back by Rosalind James

Setting: Paradise, Idaho
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: February 28, 2017

Hallie Cavanaugh never planned to step foot back into Paradise, Idaho.  When her father suddenly dies, she is required to attend his funeral or else.  That was the way of her father - his way or no way.  She learned that all too well when she was younger.  Her mother divorced her father way back when, leaving her alone to face the full brunt of his ruthlessness.  Still, she went to see what it was all about, planning on returning to Washington as soon as it was over.

However, Henry Cavanaugh was even ruthless from his grave.  In order for her get her inheritance, she had to stay in Paradise, in his house, for six months straight.  That might be all fine and good except the will also stated she couldn't have sex with Jim Lawson for the said six months, among other things.  Well, she had no plans on doing that (again).  She remembered all too well what happened last time.

Jim Lawson, widower, father and deputy sheriff of Paradise, also had no plans on having sex with Hallie again.  He had only showed up for the will hearing because his half-brother Cole was required to attend.  Seeing Hallie again, even after all these years, brings back memories he'd rather forget.  He has a daughter now and can't afford to get tangled up with Hallie.  Except you can't always choose what your heart wants, even fighting hard against it knowing no good will come of it.  Yet when it becomes clear that Hallie's life is in danger, Jim will do everything in his power to make sure she's safe.

A mix of intrigue, romance, and family drama, TAKE ME BACK has a bit of everything that keeps the pages turning.  Jim and Hallie's previous relationship plays a big part of who they are today.  Hallie's father wasn't a nice man, and there is a bit of intrigue as to how he died, who wanted him dead and then comes after Hallie.  (This is not a spoiler because it happens in the first chapter of the book.)  The story follows Jim and Hallie's rediscovery of each other as well as other secondary characters who support the storyline.   Each one is complex, with unique personalities and reasons for being in the story.  The sexual tension is quite palpable and the drama unfolds nicely to escalate into a climactic ending.  Overall, well written and full of little twists and plenty of action.   

Jennifer Jones
4 1/2 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Girl 99 by Andy Jones

Setting: England
Genre: General Fiction/Humor
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: February 14, 2017

When his girlfriend dumps him right before Christmas, Tom's not as devastated as one might think. He's had plenty of experience with women - from affairs with co-workers to distant acquaintances - and Sadie was number 85, so she's definitely not the first and won't be the last. It's this little tidbit that leads to the dare Tom accepts.

His friend sets an unusual wager on the table. Tom has a few months to bring the total number of women he's slept with to an even 100. He takes on the challenge, as he knows it won't be any problem at all.

Just as everything's going great, Tom comes across number 99. Verity is more than he ever expected to find. She may just be the woman he's been looking for.

The humor in Girl 99 is there and definitely has the British wit I grew up with and appreciate. That said, I did struggle to connect with Tom. I loved him at first, especially at Christmas when he interacted with his much younger sister. When it came to women, however, I had a hard time liking him, and then the bet wasn't something I admired either.

That said, the characters did come to life and definitely had me either loving them or really disliking them. The writing was very slow to start, but as I settled in, it became hard to put down. Over all, this is a book I liked, but I'm a step away from saying I loved it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Turn Towards the Sun by Emma Davies

Setting: Rowan Hill, England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: February 9, 2017

After spying a job ad seeking a helper in a quiet community that's home to several artists, crafters, and such, Lizzie hopes she'll land the job. Her childhood and young adulthood were a mess, and Rowan Hill offers the chance to start anew. Her interview goes well and she lands the job, but in reality, her troubles are only beginning.

It isn't long before things happen within the community and all eyes look at Lizzie as the cause. From ruined handmade furniture to missing orders, Lizzie's place within the community is threatened. She's certain she's not to blame, but can she unravel the truth before she's fired and sent on her way?

Turn Towards the Sun got off to a bit of a slow start. This is actually the second book in the Rowan Hill series, so I had to adjust to the characters' relationships and the community itself. When the mysterious happenings occur and the actual mystery starts to pick up, I was already well into the book. But, the pacing also allowed me to really get to know the characters. From Ellie and her frantic wedding planning while her fiance is away to the very pregnant Jane, I felt as though I became part of the community.

As for the mystery, I was never that puzzled by the "whodunit" aspect. I had the guilty party pegged early on. Watching others realize it drew great satisfaction for me. I'd known for a while and wanted them to finally get it.

I found myself enchanted by Rowan Hill. It's exactly the type of community I'd love to be part of, and that setting in itself is a great reason to let the book sweep you away for a few hours.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

After You Were Gone by Alexis Harrington

Setting: Gila Rock, Texas
Genre: Western Romance
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Set in the small Texas town of Gila Rock, Mitchell Tucker has come home after spending seven years in prison.  His only goal is to make amends with Julianne Emerson and then get the heck out of there.  Some things are harder said than done because Julianne wants nothing to do with him and won't even let him come near her.  He doesn't really blame her, after all he killed her husband all those years ago and went to prison for it. Setting fire to the barn had been done in a fit of jealousy, but he'd never meant to hurt Wes.  He just wants a chance to do whatever he can to help her now.

Julianne can't believe Mitchell thinks to show up and get forgiveness from her.  She lost not only her husband in the fire, but afterwards she lost the baby as well.  Times have changed and she no longer can afford to feel for Mitchell what she used to feel.  She now has to sell her family farm and try and make a go of it with the town store her uncle left her.  She has her good friend Cade to help, but when Cade breaks his arm, she has little choice to accept the free help Mitchell is offering to get her life on track.

Mitchell is grateful for the work, even if it's little consolation for the hurt he's caused Julianne.  His family hasn't changed much and he wants nothing to do with his mean brother Darcy or his equally rotten father, Earl.  After taking the stray dog from the house with him, he moves into town to help Julianne.  However, people and things from the past all seem to conspire against him and Julianne ever being able to make amends.  Yet with someone threatening Julianne, he knows he has to stay close to keep her safe.  When all the truths are exposed and the lies uncovered, there may be more destruction ahead.  Will they be able to overcome it all together, or will their love go down in flames?

I've been eagerly awaiting the next book by Alexis Harrington after I  read nearly all her books in a row after discovering her.  She takes a break from the historical and brings the readers to modern day Texas.  With her unique storytelling ability, she's able to transport the reader to the dry, dusty little town of Gila Rock where we can almost feel the burning sun and taste the dust in the wind. 

Vivid imagery and colorful characters bring this backdrop to life, creating the perfect environment for these two lost souls trying the reconnect after all the years.  The lively secondary characters, as well as Jack the dog and the townsfolk, give this story a well-rounded appeal.  The suspense is equally thought out, and even though it wasn't about who was doing what, the suspense of what was going to happen next kept the pages flying.  Mitchell and Julianne's romance simmers quietly before reigniting full flame. 

I highly recommend this modern-day journey of forgiveness, redemption and second chances. 

4 1/2 stars
Jennifer Jones

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sugar by Kimberly Stuart

Setting: New York and Seattle
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Release Date: February 7, 2017

As the talented pastry chef at New York's L'Ombre, Charlie Garrett is tired of being underappreciated. When her former beau offers her a position in Seattle in his new restaurant, she jumps at the chance to move across country. There, she has creative freedom to come up with a new dessert menu. What he doesn't tell her is that she's also about to be dragged into a reality cooking show that will change her life.

When Charlie meets Kai, a local diner owner, she falls hard. However, balancing her new job and celebrity status with a new romance is tougher than she could ever imagine. She may have no choice but to really decide if a personal life is more important than her dream career.

Sugar hooked me from the start. I don't always agree with Charlie's decisions, but I loved seeing how she'd come out. I was definitely rooting for her and Kai and kept reading to see what would happen next.

There's very little I didn't like about Kimberly Stuart's contemporary romance. The only thing I might think of changing was the addition of a few recipes. So many of the desserts Charlie whips up had my mouth watering and had me wanting to go into the kitchen and get baking.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fly! by Xavier Deneux

Genre: Board Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Fly! is a Touch, Think, Learn book. It's a lot of fun to read and play with. While the story tells the tale of a couple of birds that meet and have a family together, there's an interactive nature thanks to the removable pieces that children will move from page to page to act out the narrative.

Geared for ages three and four, I found myself really enjoying the story too. It's colorful and easy to read, which is perfect for the beginning reader. Sentences are never too long ("Bird arrived at the foot of the tree.") and the pictures capture the action. Pieces children can remove include birds, the sun, different sections of the nest, the egg shell pieces, and then the apple from an apple tree.

Xavier Deneux's book is a must-have. It's one of the better books to cross my desk, and one that I'm so glad came my way.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward

Setting: Texas
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: February 21, 2017

A history of severe mental health issues keeps Suzette Kendall from wanting to pass on her genes to any child, but she and her husband still want kids. Together, the couple finds a surrogate and begin the journey to parenthood.

Dorrie seems like the perfect woman to carry their child to term, but nothing in this journey goes as planned. What follows is a very emotional journey full of twists and turns.

The Nearness of You is told from several perspectives. Each chapter begins with a clear announcement of who is speaking, so there's never any confusion. I found myself engrossed in their story and all the problems and celebrations they encounter along the way.

Amanda Eyre Ward painted a very emotional story of motherhood. It starts in the present, goes back in time, and then travels forward again with an ease that lures you to keep reading. It's definitely a one sitting kind of book that made me very happy I chose it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Always by Sarah Jio

Setting: Seattle, Washington
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Kailey seems to have it all. Her fiance, a man who comes from a rather prominent family, is taking her out for another romantic dinner. She never expects their night out to take a shocking turn. While waiting for Ryan to get the car, she spies a homeless man sitting on a nearby bench. Looking into his eyes, she realizes she's found her long-missing boyfriend, Cade McAllister.

Kailey was madly in love with Cade. They were soul mates, and she never could figure out why Cade vanished. He was the partner in a very successful record label, had plenty of money, many friends, and seemed to be sitting on top of the world. Yet, one day, he just vanished without a trace, leaving Kailey shocked and heartbroken.

As a reporter, she's already working on a case involving Seattle's homeless, so she dives in to uncover what happened to Cade. Along the way, she must make the choice between the men who love her.

Always switches back and forth between present day and a decade earlier as Kailey and Cade form their very passionate relationship. The switches are seamless, so push aside fears of the switches being jarring and taking you from the current emotions.

While the relationships take center stage, there's also plenty of focus on the plight of the homeless, and the fact that addiction is not the only reason so many end up on the streets. I like that the book focused on that aspect.

In the end, I knew Kailey had to make a choice, and I found it hard to decide who she'd end up picking. The ending is just as emotional as the progression through the stages of her research and involvement in Cade's life as a homeless man. This is an emotional story that I am very glad I read.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Setting: England
Genre: Chick Lit
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Katie Brenner's trying to live out her dream of working for a top marketing and design firm in London. She just wishes she had it all like her boss, Demeter. Demeter has the perfect husband, family, house, and job. Katie just needs to get Demeter to recognize her skill and, perhaps, her name. Especially now that there's a guy in Katie's sights that makes London more fun than ever. It all goes awry when Katie is fired. With nowhere to turn, she returns to her father's farm and helps her stepmother and father launch their holiday retreat, complete with yurts and farm animals.

With her skills, Katie's able to create promotional materials that draw flocks of people to their newly opened vacation retreat. When Demeter shows up and doesn't seem to recognize Katie, Katie has the chance to get even, but the more she learns of Demeter, the more she realizes she may have misjudged everything she thought she knew.

My Not So Perfect Life takes a little bit to get going. I was drawn into Katie's life, but the romance with the mystery man was a little slow to build and then the flurry of Katie being fired hits and the story changes for the better.

I loved the retreat her family creates with her help. I could imagine myself in Somerset among the sheep, cows, chickens, and horses. I found myself enjoying watching Katie grow in ways she would have never grown in London. When Demeter enters the picture, the story really kicks off and I was hooked.

There's plenty to enjoy in My Not So Perfect Life. Katie's relationship with her dad, her co-workers, and the mystery man all make for an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Somebody Like You by Donna Alward

Setting: Darling, Vermont
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Set in the fictional town of Darling, Vermont, Donna Alward's latest romance makes me wish spring would seriously arrive, sooner rather than later! The setting certainly captures the charm of many smaller Vermont cities and larger towns, and the characters draw you in and make you feel like part of the community.

At the age of five, Laurel Stone and Aidan Gallagher's sweet childish pose on Darling's Kissing Bridge became a great way to market the town's allure. It's been 20 years, and in that time, Aidan broke Laurel's heart. Back in town after a painful divorce, Laurel wants nothing more for her nursery/gardening store to thrive.

Unfortunately for Laurel, her return to town is plagued by vandalism and theft. As Aidan is a member of the town's police force, Laurel finds herself seeing far more of him than she wants. He's grown up and is incredibly tempting, but Laurel is not going to fall for him a second time.

When the town approaches the pair about posing on Kissing Bridge again, the pair cannot deny there is an attraction to one another. The Kissing Bridge is supposed to bring couples together forever, could the magic be working on this pair?

I tried to place the town that Darling was modeled after, but really never got a strong connection. It could be so many places. The author does a great job creating the feel of a Vermont city/town and the people within in. Even after finishing Somebody Like You, I found myself wanting to keep reading. I wanted to see more of Aidan's family return for their own romances. Luck is on my side as there are two more Darling, Vermont, romances coming out this spring that will focus on Ethan and Rory Gallagher. I'm excited!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Flora and the Chicks by Molly Idle

Genre: Toddler Board Books
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Teach your child to count with Molly Idle's Flora and the Chicks. In this board book, young Flora keeps finding more and more chicks as they hatch from the next. Pages flip open to show another chick and narrative is nothing more than each number.

If you're looking for a fun way to teach a toddler to count, Flora and the Chicks is a perfect choice. The illustrations are colorful and appealing. The narrative is very easy for any child who is just starting to associate words with pictures. This book is a definite win.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt

Setting: Aurora, Texas
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 7, 2017

The Good Daughter is a book I really struggled with, yet I also felt compelled to keep reading to see what on earth was happening. Given that, I'm really torn on how I feel about this Alexandra Burt novel.

After 15 years away, Dahlia Waller returns to her mother's home in Aurora, Texas, hoping to finally get answers. Dahlia remembers snippets of her childhood, many snippets that don't make sense. What she's certain of is that she's grown up never having identifying paperwork, being able to hold a job that didn't pay under the table, or having a mother who didn't live in fear.

The harder she seems to press her mother for answers, the more her mother seems to resist. This only makes Dahlia more determined to uncover the truth about her mother's past. It's a truth that could tear Dahlia's world apart.

There really seem to be two mysteries at hand in The Good Daughter. First is the appearance of a Jane Doe who Dahlia finds in the woods while out jogging. The woman is left for dead and in a coma. Dahlia feels compelled to uncover the identity of the person who left the woman for dead. This plot line made no sense to me. It triggered Dahlia to have what appeared to be visions, but none of it seemed to link up to Dahlia's past. I really can't decide why it was in the book.

The main plot is the story of a handful of women. You have Dahlia's mother and Dahlia, there's a young teen who's raped and must handle the aftermath of the rape, and there's a seer/gypsy who finds a young teen on her doorstep who is very pregnant and in need of rescuing, The chapters bounce back and forth between the myriad of characters and often gives no idea of the timeframe, so it's hard to keep up at first.

It's the main plot and all the women that kept me reading, however, I had to know how they linked together. As it's finally revealed, and nothing is revealed quickly, it makes sense and became somewhat predictable.

In the end, I only liked The Good Daughter. It had its shining moments, but there were other parts where I simply didn't get why something or someone was included at all.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: March 14, 2017

Another offering in the popular "A Funny Thing Happened..." series, this time Henry heads to the museum with his class. The story begins when Henry's teacher asks him what he thought of the museum. Like usual, he experienced things at the museum that no one else did.

This book, like the others, shares a fantastic tale of things Henry experienced. He's a precocious child with a wild imagination, so it becomes a lot of fun seeing what he got into. From being charged by a dinosaur to creating art of his own design, A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum is packed with adventures.

Targeted for the 6 to 9 age group, the "A Funny Thing Happened..." books are a lot of fun. Don't miss this latest offering or the past books.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Setting: Mill Valley, California
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: January 10, 2017

I had a rough time with The Most Dangerous Place on Earth. While it sounded a touch Gossip Girl at first, I soon found myself struggling to like any of the characters. It made it challenging to read. As the mom of two, I know what goes on in today's high schools. But in this case, I really just couldn't feel sympathy for anyone in the book.

When an incident in middle school turns tragic, the lives of a handful of kids change. Abigail enters into a sexual relationship with a high school teacher. Emma's partying ways put her love of dancing on the line. Dave is determined to please his parents with their dreams of him attending Berkeley, but it's rough when he's not much more than an average student. Calista ditches life in the popular crowd and falls in with the hippie crowd. Damon ends up in rehab and wants to prove he's better than that while struggling with his addictions. New teacher Molly wants to connect with her students, but not knowing their past proves to make it very difficult.

My heart broke when the tragedy in middle school happens. It instantly made me hate the teens in the story and that made for a rough time finishing the book. I didn't feel sorry for any of them. Karma's a bitch and all. I felt the most for the boy in the beginning of the story. His thoughts and actions broke my heart. It's a big reason why I kept reading. I wanted these other kids to feel his pain and take responsibility, but they really never did do anything that made me satisfied with the outcome.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Three Charming Board Books for Toddlers

Genre: Toddler Board Books
Ages: 2 to 5
Publisher: Chronicle for Kids

Here's a trio of board books suitable for any toddler. Stories are all charming and create a full story without using too many words. These books are perfect for the age range of 2 to 5 years.

Unlike most kids, Little Oink's parents don't push him to clean up his room. It's quite the opposite in the book Little Oink. His room is NOT a pig sty, and he doesn't want it to be. He cannot go outside until he messes his room. For this clean little piglet, messing his room seems impossible.

In Masha and Her Sisters (March 2017 release), very few words are used to capture the very essence of a set of Russian nesting dolls. Meet each sister and learn more about her in this board book.

Also coming out in March, What Do You Wear? shares what many animal friends wear when they go outside. The message in this book is meant to get toddlers excited about getting dressed, and I think it accomplishes that task in whimsical style. Find out who wears what in this board book.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Fox Wish by Kimiko Aman

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle for Kids
Release Date: March 14, 2017

Lukie and his sister, Roxie, are at home when she remembers she left her jump rope at the local park. Rushing off to retrieve it, they cannot begin to believe what they see. A group of foxes has her jump rope, though they're struggling to successfully use it.

Knowing they can't leave until they've helped, Lukie and Roxie decide to take the time to help out. Can they teach the foxes how to jump rope? Will they be able to get the jump rope back?

The lesson learned in The Fox Wish is clear. This is a book that focuses on the joys of sharing and being kind of strangers. I enjoyed that message and think it's one that really benefits children. Illustrations by Komako Sakai capture the story beautifully and draw the reader into the story. The language is easy for readers who are starting to pick up bigger words like "immediately" or "remembered."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Two Board Books from Author Junzo Terada

Genre: Toddler Board Books
Publisher: Chronicle Books for Kids
Ages: 2 to 5
Release Date: March 2017

For this review, I'm taking a closer look at two upcoming board books for toddlers from author Junzo Terada. Both are charming books that feature bright, cheerful animals who join each other for a fun event.

Animal Friends Barnyard Jamboree is the first offering. In this book for children ages 2 to 5, Cat has her banjo and is quickly joined by her friends. Who's joining the impromptu jamboree and what will that animal play?

In Animal Friends Swimming Hole Party, Monkey wants to go swimming, but he needs to decide who is coming with him.

Both books are ideal for beginning readers thanks to simple vocabulary and images that perfectly capture the action. Pages are thick and definitely can stand up to the repeat usage of any child. With only a few pages, it won't be long before children are reading along with ease.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I'm A Lot of Sometimes by Jack Guinan

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Red Chair Press
Release Date: January 1, 2017

Young rabbit shares his strengths and weaknesses, though he doesn't see them as weaknesses. Instead, the young rabbit shares his "sometimes." Whether he's slow or fast, big or small, brave or shy, rabbit embraces all that makes him special.

I'm A Lot of Somethings shares such a great message. Being shy sometimes isn't a fault, no matter what some may tell you. (And trust me, I had far too many teachers tell me being shy was a bad thing!) The message simply is to embrace yourself, through all your sometimes.

Illustrations are perfect and capture the essence of the young rabbit. The narrative is easy for a beginning reader. I definitely recommend this one!