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Showing posts from March, 2015

Always by Emma Dodd

Release Date - August 2014 Emma Dodd Templar/Candlewick Press Book Review by Bob Walch This cute picture book illustrates the unconditional love a parent has for her/his child. No matter the situation or how the little elephant behaves, his mother will always love him. The simple pictures embellished with foil and combined with some eye-catching colors will attract the child’s attention and he/she will love paging through this book. Always would also make the perfect transition volume from board books to more traditional books. Smaller than a regular book and printed on sturdy paper, it will be easy for the toddler to handle and provide plenty of enjoyment.

Echoes by Laura K. Curtis

Release Date - March 17, 2015 Laura K. Curtis InterMix (Penguin) Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth Echoes is the first book in Laura K. Curtis's Harp Security series. I see this series having huge appeal to fans of romances where the hero is former military and determined to the woman he loves safe. The novel begins with the murder of a young woman. It's written from the killer's perspective, and readers get drawn into the crime in this fashion. You have no idea who the killer is as the story shifts to Callie Pearson's arrival on the island of Saint Martin in the French West Indies. Callie is a freelance travel writer, and she's here to do a write up on a five-star resort that draws many celebrities. She never expects to find staff staring at her or to learn that she apparently looks just like the hotel owner who has disappeared. This leads Callie to her own secret. Her parents are both dead, but in her father's belongings, she came across a photo of

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

Release Date - March 31, 2015 Amy Krouse Rosenthal Tom Lichtenheld Chronicle Kids Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth I Wish You More . What a lovely message in a very charming children's book.  Lines like "I wish you more ups than downs. I wish you more we than me." The message is of love is clear from start to finish. The artwork is equally appealing. Gentle pastel colors form the skies and clouds, while bolder shades capture the magic of a tug-of-war on a warm sunny day. Bottom line for me, if I had younger kids, this book would quickly go on the keeper shelf. I highly recommend it.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Release Date - March 2015 Alice Hoffman Wendy Lamb Books Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth Twig and her mother return to the family home in Sidwell, New York, following a tragic accident. Twig's mother will take over the family business. One thing is made very clear to Twig, she must keep the family's secret. When they gain new neighbors, Twig becomes close to one of the girls, but her mother informs her that many, many years ago, the new neighbors' ancestors placed a curse on Twig's family. She cannot befriend this family. Twig isn't as convinced, especially now that she has her first friend, and she sets out to change things. Readers will learn new information as the book progresses, so I'm sticking to information that is only gained in the first few chapters. The book's setting is clearly magical and comes to life. I've always loved Alice Hoffman's books for that. Between the settings and characters, she certainly does draw you into the

War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

Release Date - February 2015 Tamar Cohen MIRA Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth With almost 30 years of marriage to celebrate, Selina Busfield is stunned when police show up in the middle of the night to tell her her husband is dead. He wasn't even in the country, so she simply cannot believe they have the correct identity of the body pulled from the river. When she goes to identify him, the corpses's wedding ring is not Simon's, so she's convinced they made a huge mistake, until they lift the sheet and she can see his face. Lottie Busfield is stunned to learn that her husband's funeral is being arranged. She hasn't even been notified of his death, so someone is making a huge mistake. With 17 years of marriage between her and Simon, Lottie feels she knows everything about Simon. With this impending funeral and still no death notification, she heads to the funeral for what is about to be the shock of a lifetime. Simon Busfield married two women. These

Mr. Samuel's Penny by Treva Hall Melvin

Release Date - November 2014 Treva Hall Melvin Poisoned Pencil Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth Lizbeth Landers and her younger sister are sent to her aunt and uncle's home in North Carolina to experience life outside of New York City. While she isn't sure what to expect in this sleepy town, things definitely look up when she stumbles onto a big mystery. A local woman's husband and baby are pulled from the river, after driving off it. The big mystery is that the 1909 wheat penny the driver was clutching in his hand is missing. With this one clue, Lizbeth sets out to explore what really happened to neighbor Miss Violet's husband and child. With a bit of a Nancy Drew feel for the younger generation, I think Mr. Samuel's Penny will appeal to the budding mystery reader. Lizbeth at 14 is, of course, younger than Nancy Drew, but she's just as smart. The story is set in the 1970s, a time period I am familiar with, and the close bonds shared by many in the tow

Maisy's Castle by Lucy Cousins

Release Date - September 23, 2014 Lucy Cousins Candlewick Book Review by Bob Walch This latest Maisy book includes a medieval castle that folds out of the back of the book and some play pieces that feature all the characters dressed up in palace finery. There is a minimal narrative in Maisy's Castle that precedes the pop-out castle and the publisher did include two pockets to store the play figures but, although a pretty decent size when open, young children will find that this castle is a bit difficult to play with. And if the child isn’t careful, the castle will be all but impossible to fold back into the book. You just might wish to set it up, lock the walls in place, and leave it folded out. Our family loves the Maisy series, but this one didn’t do it for us. It has also been receiving very mixed reviews, so check it out before making a purchase!

Note From Roundtable Reviews

Years ago, Roundtable Reviews had its own website. After a bit of a disagreement of ways, the other RTR owner took that domain and partnered with another review site and ended up ditching the site. I had talked with her over the years of taking the domain back, but the opportunity with Google appeared to purchase a new domain and they'd take care of the redirect. I purchased a new domain,, and will be moving the blog there. I was going to do the redirect today, but the error messages made it an annoyance that I'd rather put off to the weekend, when I don't have freelance work waiting for me. Hopefully, everything will go smoothly, but you never know. If you get any error messages in the meantime, that is why. Tracy

The In Between by Olivia Pierce

Release Date - November 2014 Full Fathom Five Digital Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth After saving his life on the beach, Tara Jenkins feels a deeper bond than ever with Justin Westcroft. They were childhood friends, but Tara's move separated them. After moving back, Justin was now one of the popular kids and Tara wasn't. It was as simple as that. Yet, now that she's saved his life, the two are drawn to each other. Justin breaks up with his girlfriend and befriends and eventually begins dating Tara. One night, tragedy strikes. The pair are in a car accident and Justin dies while Tara lives. Through her grief, she swears Justin is still there by her side. She's not crazy, though others thing she is. What follows is a pretty emotional tale of Tara's grief process and Justin's afterlife. I loved every minute of it, until I reached the climax. I don't want to go into spoilers, but it just wasn't an ending for me. I predicted it, which isn't

The Memory House by Linda Goodnight

Release Date - March 31, 2015 Linda Goodnight Harlequin Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth In the quiet town of Honey Ridge, Julia Presley attempts to get on with her life. She throws herself into her bustling bed and breakfast - Peach Orchard Inn - and tries to ignore the memories of her son. Eight-year-old Mikey vanished without a trace six years ago. Eli Donovan served his time in jail, but he's still haunted by his childhood. Now that he's out, finding a job is tough, but it's critical now that he's learned the mother of his son is dead. Eli is tossed into fatherhood in a hurry with a son, Alex, who doesn't know him. He finds himself at Peach Orchard Inn, accepting free room and board for himself and Alex in exchange for his work fixing up the place. Julia and Eli soon come to rely on one another. Along the way, they discover a series of letters written by a former owner of the home, a woman who faced her own trials back during the Civil War. It's

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe

Release Date - March 10, 2015 Amy Scheibe St. Martin's Press Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth Set in the '50s, 18-year-old Emmaline "Emmy" Nelson is promised to a neighbor. While she likes Ambrose, she's certainly not in love. It's her final year of high school and spending time with her new friends and suggestions from the guidance counselor shows her that there is more out there, if she wants it. Breaking up with Ambrose, however, does not please her mother. She's banished from the family, and it's the separation from her father and her younger sister Birdie that is really hard to take. On her own, living with an aunt she doesn't know, she ends up landing a job with the local paper, and that's where Emmy really starts to learn about the people she knows and loves and the community surrounding them. It's a time of the KKK, bigotry, and horrifying events that have Emmy questioning everything. A Fireproof Home for the Bride star

Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

Release Date - November 2014 Monica McInerney NAL Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth Every year, by midnight on December 1st, Angela Gillespie sends out her yearly Christmas email. This year, she is lacking inspiration. Her marriage seems to be in ruins, her three adult daughters are all having issues of their own - ranging from publicized affairs with married men, to high amounts of debt with no job, to a career that is in jeopardy due to an issue with Hollywood gossip. Then there is her 10-year-old son Ig who has an imaginary friend and just doesn't seem as normal as she'd expect of a 10-year-old boy. Following her best friend's advice, Angela types out a long narrative discussing the family's issues, knowing she will never send it. Unfortunately, there's an accident with Ig, Angela must rush him to the hospital, and in the meantime, her husband sees the letter, fails to read it, and sends it to the people on their Christmas mailing list. As people start

The Tell-Tale Heart: A Novel by Jill Dawson

Release Date - February 2015 Jill Dawson Harper Perennial Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth He doesn't have long to live, not without a heart anyway. Thus begins the story of Patrick Robson, a professor of American Studies. The unbelievable occurs when a motorcycle accident kills 16-year-old Andrew Beamish. The heart Patrick so desperately needs is here, and surgeons decide to attempt beating-heart surgery to keep the heart alive until it reaches the hospital where Patrick is admitted. After the surgery is deemed a success, Patrick begins to change. He's not happy with the way his life was. He's been given a tremendous gift, and he decides he wants to know more of this kid whose life ended so tragically. There are really three stories in one in The Tell-Tale Heart: A Novel . Of course Patrick's story takes center stage, but there is also the story of Andrew and the events leading up to his crash. Going back more than a century is also the story of one of Andr

A Sister to Honor by Lucy Ferriss

Release Date - January 2015 Lucy Ferriss Penguin Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth A Sister to Honor takes place in both Pakistan and New England. In Pakistan, Farishta and Tofan Satar are raising their younger daughters and Tofan's nephew, Khalid. Meanwhile, their two older children have left the nest for an education in the United States. Shahid is a star athlete at Enright, and there is talk that Harvard Business School wants him. With his success, Shahid persuades his parents to let the oldest of their daughters come to Massachusetts to study medicine. Afia, 19, is doing just as well at Smith College. It's not to last, however, when a photo of Afia holding hands with an American boy is publicized on the school's website. Khalid sees it and soon everyone in the family knows of the shame she's brought upon her family. Her actions will lead to consequences no one could imagine. The setting is extremely familiar to me. I loved how the author made the area co

Secret Harbor by Anna Sullivan

Release Date - February 24, 2015 Anna Sullivan Forever Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth The third and final entry into Anna Sullivan's A Windfall Island Novel completes the saga of the missing heiress to the Stanhope fortune. Residents of Windfall Island believe that the descendant of Eugenia Stanhope must be one of three women who have grown up on the island. Maggie Solomon's story was first, then came Jessi Randall. In Secret Harbor , Hollywood star Paige Walker is the focus. After a decade in Hollywood, Paige is back to hide from media following a huge scandal. The last thing she needs or even wants is to fall for Alec Barclay, an attorney who comes from a very prominent and wealthy Boston family. She cannot deny her maddening attraction to him, however. While she struggles with her growing feelings, there is also the issue of who is the Stanhope heiress, if it's even true that Eugenia was stolen and raised on Windfall Island. There are people who will go to

Textastrophe by Matt Andrews

Release Date - February 17, 2015 St. Martins Griffin Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth Textastrophe was born from moments of boredom. During his shifts at a cell phone kiosk, Matt Andrews used the phones he worked with to text people who posted ads in places like Craigslist, restaurant receipts, etc. These text pranks turned into the fodder for both Textastrophe and numerous sites Reddit and BuzzFeed. I grew up in an era where prank calls were common. The whole, lame "Is your refrigerator running?" calls that many kids would do and thought were hilarious. Realistically, Matt Andrews' pranks are no different, though they are longer. From the text he sent a restaurant manager about "food poisoning" to pranking a company that rents bouncy castles, included in this book are the actual texts and how they played out. In the end, the pranks' popularity turned out to be the book's downfall. I'd already seen/read many of these pranks on BuzzFeed.

Check Out These Two Excellent Toddler Books

Release Date - March 2015 Betty Ann Schwartz Lynn Seresin Neiko Ng Chronicle Kids Book Reviews by Tracy Farnsworth The first of the two books I wanted to spotlight has a fun interactive feature that involves moving a cut out bunny (it's secured by a thick ribbon to prevent a choking hazard) through different situations. You and your child may have to move the bunny over blue rocks or under green bushes. Not only is your child then going to learn the action, but there are the colors to learn too. The narrative in Hop, Hop Bunny is simple and perfect for reading to youngsters who do not often sit still for long. There are just six pages, so the story itself is short, sweet, and perfect for reading sessions. Release Date - March 2015 Sara Gillingham Lorena Siminovich Chronicle Kids On My Beach is a finger puppet book. Within the center of the book is a small crab puppet that the parent can move around while reading. This board book is also six pages, so again

Polar Bear's Underwear by Tupera Tupera

Release Date - March 2015 Tupera Tupera Chronicle Kids Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth There's a bit of a weirdness factor when reading Polar Bear's Underwear . Before you can read the book to your child, you must pull Polar Bear's underwear off. Once I got by that, the book itself is cute and well illustrated. Polar Bear is sad. He cannot find his underwear, so his friend mouse agrees to help him. The two set off spying underwear, only to find it belongs to someone else. Where did Polar Bear's underwear go? The illustrations are colorful, and before you see the actual animals wearing the different pairs of underwear, there's a peek-through effect that only allows the child to see the colorful print. This makes it easy to guess what kind of animal would be wearing the underwear. If you are searching for a book to read to your child that has an interactive aspect and vocabulary that will not perplex a beginning reader, Polar Bear's Underwear is a

Farewell Floppy by Benjamin Chaud

Release Date - March 2015 Benjamin Chaud Chronicle Kids Farewell Floppy is a reissue. The original release was in 2010, under the French title Adieu Chassette . This poignant tale tells the story of a boy and his rabbit. Fans of The Velveteen Rabbit may find a lot to love in Floppy's story. Figuring it unfair to keep his rabbit, the boy wanders deep in the woods where he plans to leave Floppy behind. Floppy can start a new, happy life with other rabbits and wildlife. Only, when Floppy actually leaves, the boy has changed his mind. It may be too late to get his best friend back. Not only has Benjamin Chaud written a poignant tale about pets being more than pets, he's also illustrated it beautifully. Colorful images paint the story, so even for children who cannot yet read, they'll still be able to look at the pictures and get an idea of what is happening on each page. 

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle

Release Date - January 2015 Katie Coyle HMH Books for Young Readers Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth The end of the world is coming and Vivian Apple's parents have bought into it. Vivian doesn't believe it, however, nor does her friend Harp. Yet, thousands if not millions are buying into the words of the Church of America, including Vivian's parents. When rapture happens, true believers will be taken to heaven and everyone else will stay and watch the earth come to an end. After a New Year's Eve party, Vivian returns home the next morning to find her mother and father gone. Two holes in the roof are the only things that remain. Thousands of other believers also vanished, thought not all of them. Vivian is stunned, and soon finds herself with the maternal grandparents she barely knows. It's there that she gets a weird phone call where the caller never speaks a word, but she's convinced it must be her mother. She teams up with Harp and a boy she met at

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal

Release Date - March 2015 Kate Messner Christopher Silas Neal Chronicle Books for Kids Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt is such a fascinating and creative way to teach children about the aspects of gardening. Most kids think of the seeds, the water, and then the sprouts. This book delves into the insects preparing the soil below ground, the creatures that rely on the insects for sustenance, and even goes into the different seasons. The illustrations are vivid and help paint the picture that children will love reading about. It's also a great way to start getting kids excited for the gardens to come, as hard as it is for many dealing with a frost line that's reaching five-feet deep or more.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud

Release Date - March 3, 2015 Davide Cali Chronicle Books Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth One teacher's simple question leads to an exciting tale of the adventures a boy encounters on his trip to the school. From blobs to dinosaurs and ninjas to giant ants, the boy weaves an incredible saga of everything he encountered while simply trying to get to school on time. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School reminded me a little of Dr. Seuss's And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street . It had the same imaginative story weaving. That's one aspect I loved about this book. The illustrations by Benjamin Chaud are visually pleasing and will have kids exploring every page to see what the boy has encountered. All in all, if my kids were young, I'd have this book for my keeper shelf.