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.”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Man I Thought You Were by Leah Mercer

Setting: England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date - August 30, 2017

Released for the Kindle last month, readers looking for the paperback version of The Man I Thought You Were only have a couple weeks to go.

Anna and her husband, Mark, have everything. They're madly in love, both have steady jobs, and they're ready to start their family. Mark's excellent with their young niece, and Anna knows he'll be an awesome dad. He comes home from work, tells her he's leaving, and vanishes. He doesn't take his car, any of his clothes, or cell phone.

Anna is stunned. She's certain he'll return home in a day or two. When he doesn't, she comes across a couple secrets he was hiding. Those secrets have the power to shatter her world.

Mark wants to shelter Anna from his past and future. Doing so may hurt her, but he's convinced it will hurt her less than if he stayed. He just doesn't imagine where his journey will really lead him. Meanwhile, Anna's determined to get to the bottom of things, even if it means getting hurt.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The opening page of The Man I Thought You Were pulled me in. It doesn't start slow. Mark comes in, says he's leaving her, and that's that. It's so immediate that you can't help but feel Anna's shock. From there, I was as desperate as Anna to figure out what spurred Mark's decision.

I had a hard time liking Mark. Even knowing all I did, I remained angry at him. I can't imagine making his choices, especially when you learn part of why he does. His judgment to me seemed skewed, especially after a decade with Anna. I didn't like how easily he walked away. Despite this, I adored Anna and kept reading to see how things would turn out for her.

RTR's Bottom Line

This isn't as much a romance as it is a look into the devastation some decisions have on people's lives. It's a book that will bring tears to the eyes. If you're looking for a touching, very emotional story, you'll find what you desire in The Man I Thought You Were.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truth and Dares by Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

Genre: Non-Fiction/Humor
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release Date: August 22, 2017

I connected immediately with the author of Finding My Badass Self. Maybe the truths and dares she tried weren't always something I would have bothered with, but it never mattered. I connected with her hopes, fears, and frame of mind. I got her.

For 52 weeks, author Sherry Stanfa-Stanley pushed herself to try or do something completely out of character. From eating bugs to going to a nude beach, Stanfa-Stanley pushed herself. She was brazen and just went for it. Finding My Badass Self chronicles her experiences.

What made this book stand out so much to me? That's pretty easy. I get where she's coming from. I've been married for 26 years, thankfully we're happy together still. My kids are both in college now, though my son has moved into his own apartment at this point. I'm at that crossroads where I wonder what's next. I've been the stay-at-home mom for two decades. I get how she feels. I get the urge to do something unexpected.

In her case, her divorced triggered things. That was the one part I can't say I've experienced. I'd just gotten back into the work force - what a nightmare it is finding a job when you've been a stay-at-home mom for two decades! I wasn't sure my new job was something I wanted to do forever, but my dad's stroke and subsequent death and my mom's advancing Alzheimer's led me to quit. I'm back at that point where I need to figure things out. That's why Finding My Badass Self registered so strongly.

This book is funny, emotional, and keeps you wondering what comes next. I can't see myself going up in a hot air balloon or taking a mystery trip (Alzheimer's care and finances make that impossible), but I can live vicariously through the author. She took me away for a few hours, and I adore her for that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Motor Mix Series of Books by Emily Snape and Rilla Alexander

Genre: Board Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: August 15, 2017

There are two books in the newly released Motor Mix series. These board books have pages that are divided into three sections that allow the reader to mix up the different vehicles and create unique inventions. The first, Flight, takes things like rockets, airplanes, helicopters, and hot air balloons. Mix them up to create a rock-copter or air-loon.

The second book in the series, Emergency, showcases fire trucks, planes, plows, tow trucks, ambulances, and more. Create fire-lances, snow-planes, and others.

Each vehicle comes with text that describes its noise and where it is used. This ensures the child also has vocabulary to learn. With the creative nature and the narrative, these two books are a solid choice for a creative child.

Monday, August 14, 2017

If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

Setting: Baines Creek, North Carolina
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: August 22, 2017

There was a lot I loved in If the Creek Don't Rise. This work of fiction takes place in Baines Creek, a rural Appalachian community where few are educated and life revolves around mountain living and, sometimes, just surviving the day. The setting really came through. The education and wisdom each character had shaped them into either very likable characters or others you couldn't help but despise.

Sadie Blue is the lead in this story. She's young, naive, and ends up pregnant and married to an abusive moonshiner. Her days involve keeping out of Roy's way and avoiding the next beating. She's only been married for two weeks, and this is not the life she imagined or hoped for. Her grandmother feels helpless, as only her granddaughter can decide what to do with her life. Sadie's Aunt Marris seems to be the person in the best position to convince Sadie to open her eyes and think only of herself and her baby.

Kate's new to town. She's come to teach the children in the area. Teachers have failed in this mission, but Kate's determined to succeed. Her arrival may be the turning point Sadie Blue and many of the children in the community need.

Eli, the community's preacher, is taken by Kate. For the first time, he's wondering if romance is something he shouldn't be turning his back on. Meanwhile, his sister is just as determined to get this woman she is happy to label as a heathen out of their community.

Finally, there's Birdie, a mountain woman who seems smarter than them all. Birdie's experiences and knowledge make her a trusted resource as Kate tries to fit into a community that doesn't seem to want her here.

The different characters tell the story, so you get a feel for the community in a very involved way. Each character has a unique dialect and way of speaking, so it takes a little of time adapting to the vocabulary.

The biggest reason I can't say I loved this story. It felt so unfinished. I have to wonder if this is the first in a series. While some of the story was resolved, other aspects went ignored. I was disappointed by the rushed ending and wonder what happened. Maybe this is the first in a series and I just don't know it. I hope that's the case anyway.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello

Setting: Rhode Island and Montana
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: August 22, 2017

Skye Littleton's in love. She never imagined, after so many years of waiting for Mr. Right, that she'd find him online. After Vance arranges to meet her on the East Coast, Skye knows he's the one. She sells her car, quits her job, packs everything, and takes his offer to move to Montana.

She's not even in Montana when she gets her first hint that all may not be perfect. The guy sitting next to her, Harvey Wright, lives in Billings and knows Vance. He apologizes and tells her that Vance is nothing but a shady character. Skye doesn't want to believe it's true until she arrives at the airport and gets stood up.

With no friends in town, no housing, and very little money to her name, Skye needs to decide. Does she decide to give Littleton a chance or return home to a family who told her she was being ridiculous? With Harvey's help, Skye may be able to reinvent herself and finally be comfortable with who she is. But, to do so means she'd have to trust another man she barely knows.

Big Skye Littleton is more a mix of coming of age and romance. Skye may be a 30-something heroine, but she's one who has struggled to figure out what she wants from life. To that extent, the story was very much a coming-of-age theme. I enjoyed seeing her grow comfortable with herself.

I just came back from Narraganset and Block Island, so Skye's hometown was very familiar and enjoyable. I've been to Montana but was to young to remember it. The descriptions in this book made me want to go. I can't imagine a more freeing experience than dropping everything to find oneself in a new town.

It's an enjoyable story and held my interest from start to finish. If you're looking for a breezy romance with great settings, you can't go wrong. Pick up Big Skye Littleton on August 22nd.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: August 1, 2017

I both love and hate when a book keeps me up all night. I'm tired, but I'm so glad I didn't stop. I needed to know how this story played out. I hated some characters, but I really loved others. When it comes to a suspenseful mystery, Kathleen Barber nailed it in Are You Sleeping.

Josie Buhrman keeps her past locked deep in the past. Not even her boyfriend knows the truth, though she's always wanted to find a way to tell him. It's just really hard.

The truth is Josie's father was murdered. A neighbor was arrested. After the murder, Josie's mother walked away on her twin daughters leaving Josie and Lanie to be raised by their aunt. Lanie's rebellion after the murder drove the sisters apart. It's all in the past, however.

Then a rather intrusive journalist decides to take a close look at the murder in a weekly podcast. The podcast goes viral, and the entire nation wants to get to the truth. When Josie learns her mother died, she's forced to return to her hometown and face her sister for the first time in years.

The last thing Josie needs is to start listening to the podcast, but it's what she does. The more she listens, the more she questions everything she remembers.

There are parts of Are You Sleeping that drove me batty. The podcast journalist, just ick. I know that investigative reporters can be slimy. Kathleen Barber did such a good job making this woman unlikable. She's pushy, arrogant, and was so easy to hate.

The story itself keeps you reading with almost an urgent sense. I couldn't wait to get to the next podcast, no matter how much I loathed that fictional reporter. I wanted to see what would be revealed and try to figure out the murder along with everyone. I was truly engaged from start to finish.

It's been a while since I've pulled an almost all-nighter reading a book. I'm glad I did! It was worth it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett

Setting: England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: August 8, 2017

When Gavin and Lou move into their neighborhood, Sara finds herself wishing she was more like them. Their somewhat bohemian ways really appeal to Sara. She longs for more excitement in her life. Gavin and Lou just moved back to England after years in Spain. They have great careers as artists.

Soon Sara and her husband, Nic, form a solid friendship with the couple. Sara's helping out with their kids, joining Gavin on morning walks to the school, and both couples gather regularly for wine and dinner. That friendship, however, may not end up being everything Sara imagined. Soon, she realizes that some friendships aren't always ideal.

Mixed feelings came into play with The People at Number 9. I wanted to like Sara, but the more involved she became with Lou and Gavin, the more I questioned how she couldn't see the truth right there in front of her face.

I never liked Lou or Gavin and that made it equally hard. From the start, I had a good sense of them and what they were going to be like. They're not my, as the saying goes, cup of tea.

The writing was solid, the setting reminded me a lot of my mom's hometown in England, but I never warmed up to the characters. In the end, I'd figured out how things would turn out long before the story ended and that made it an okay read but nothing that truly wowed me.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Working Fire by Emily Bleeker

Setting: Broadlands, Illinois
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: August 29, 2017

Ellie Brown left her hometown for med school, but she has to return when her father, a respected fire chief, has a stroke. She and her sister, Amelia, split his care. When she's not caring for her dad, Ellie works as a paramedic in a town she wants to escape.

Ellie's world is shattered when she and her partner are called to the scene of a shooting. Ellie knows the address. It's her sister's house. Both her sister and her brother-in-law have been shot. Ellie now must do everything she can to save her sister's life. At the same time, Ellie wants to get to the bottom of what really happened.

It's no secret that I love to support Lake Union Publishing. Short of a couple of books, everything this publisher releases has been outstanding reads. Working Fire is emotionally charged from the start. It's clear that there's more to Amelia's story than meets the eye, but it's presented in a natural way. You find out clues as Ellie stumbles across them or Amelia reveals things in the weeks leading up to the shooting.

Most of Working Fire is best categorized as general fiction, but there clearly is the mystery involved in who shot Amelia and her husband. When that's revealed, I felt the same shock as Ellie. I liked being that drawn into the story.

The fast pace and enjoyable characters kept me hooked. I won't say that every chapter thrilled me. There were a few aspects that I didn't like, but, Emily Bleeker's story still had me hooked.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Setting: Connecticut and Maine
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: August 8, 2017

Three years ago, Emma and her younger sister Cass vanished into the night. All that was found was Emma's abandoned car. Detectives are unable to find any trace of the girls.

Three years later, Cass returns begging detectives to find Emma. She tells forensic psychiatrist Abby Winter that she and Emma were held on a remote island off the coast of Maine. Her details check out, but something about her story doesn't add up. Abby's determined to unravel the truth. And, in this dysfunctional family, getting to the truth is more difficult than one might imagine.

Emma in the Night is told from Cass's viewpoint and Abby's. Readers are privy to clues that the detectives don't know, but it's still quite a mystery to unravel. I loved trying to decide what was real and what wasn't. I had parts of the mystery solved early on, but other aspects baffled me. When Abby figured it out, I was just as surprised.

This is great read with one of the most twisted families I've come across. My teen years were spent reading the Flower in the Attic series, so I've read about disturbed families many times over the decades. Cass's family top the list as one of the worst!

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Dad for Charlie by Anna J. Stewart

Setting: Butterfly Harbor, California
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Release Date: August 1, 2017

A Dad for Charlie is part of the Butterfly Harbor series. Paige Cooper does everything she can to stay one step ahead of her past. She's determined to keep her daughter, Charlie, safe, too. Deputy Sheriff Fletch Bradley is the father figure Charlie needs, but Paige cannot fall for him. He's the last person she needs in her life.

Fletch is deeply attracted to Paige and wants to break through the walls she puts up. A string of vandalisms and break-ins lead to Paige and Fletch having to work together. Is this going to be the chance she needs to reveal her secrets?

I needed something light and emotional to pick up my spirits. A Dad for Charlie was exactly what I needed. Charlie is precocious and likable. Fletch and Paige are both wounded and formed the perfect pair, if only they could see it.

I haven't read the other books in the series. There's some backstory with other characters that I'd like to catch up on. The town itself was very appealing and made me wish I lived there. I loved the setting, the characters, and am so glad I came across this book. It's sweet and very enjoyable.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel by Tess Gerritsen

Setting: Boston, Mass
Genre: Mystery/Police Procedural
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: April 15, 2017

Rizzoli & Isles is a show I binge watched last fall. My husband and I were hooked and watched every season in the span of two months. I Know a Secret is the latest title in the book series about Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles.

The novel starts with a woman who realizes acquaintances from her childhood are dropping dead. While their deaths are accidental, the woman questions this. That's all an aside for a bit. Jane's called in to investigate the death of a young movie producer. Another case a few days later has Jane taking a closer look. No cause of death is found in either case, but both victims had alcohol in their stomach and mild doses of a date rape drug. Those doses are not high enough to have killed them.

As the team gets to work trying to figure out the how and why, Maura's also struggling on a personal front. Her birth mother, a serial killer, wants to see her and may be connected to this case. Meanwhile, Jane's trying to make sense of her parents' dysfunctional marriage.

I had to shake off a few things. The TV versions of Jane and Maura are very different. Jane's married with a child (weird!), while Maura's birth mother was a serial killer and not a respected forensic pathologist. Maura's mobster father doesn't exist in the books. Detective Frost (his departure from the show and the actor's suicide in real life broke my heart) is nothing like his TV character. Even Jane's siblings are different.

Once I'd adjusted to the differences, I loved this story. I was pulled in. I wanted to figure it out but couldn't get my finger on the killer's identity until the last handful of chapters. Now that I've finished and felt very satisfied with the entire ride, I need to go back and read every book in this series. I miss the show, but I could get to know the characters all over again in the books!